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Archive for the ‘Anxious’ Category

We haven’t had particularly good weather luck here in Massachusetts this summer. Sure there have been warm, breezy, sunny days, but in the span of the past few months we’ve also experienced tornadoes and an earthquake. Now, here comes Hurricane Irene.

Last night I bought more non-perishable food and 3 jugs of water from the grocery store. In the check-out line there were mixed reactions. While chatting with the customer ahead of me, the cashier observed, “There have been people stocking up on water and food all day long! I think this is all over-blown. What happens, happens, but I’m not going to worry about it. I think they’re the ones overreacting.” I looked down guiltily at my stacks of soup, crackers, and trail mix, and wondered if I could hide a jug of water under the counter.

I’ve been tracking the hurricane all day and reading up on storm prep.  (After all, I am my mother’s daughter.) Apparently, you’re supposed to buy one gallon of water per person per day of potential captivity; a 3-day supply is listed as the minimum. A 7-day supply is the preferred quantity. Whoa, hold up — do I even have room in my apartment for that much water?! And how could I possibly drink that much in the course of a day? But after reading that, I’m concerned I won’t have enough, so I’ll be stopping at the grocery store again tonight. This time I’ll avoid the criticism and find another check-out line.

But in all seriousness, the reports show this storm could inflict massive damage, and it’s better to be over-prepared than unprepared. Here’s what The Weather Channel suggests people gather:

Essential Items

During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.

Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:

    • At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
    • Non-perishable food
    • Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
    • Manual can opener
    • First aid kit
    • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
    • Toiletries
    • Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
    • Battery-powered radios and flashlights
    • Plenty of batteries
    • Extra cash
    • Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)

Additionally, here are the steps The Weather Channel recommends people take when a hurricane threatens:

When a Hurricane Threatens

Depending on your location, you could be told to evacuate before a warning or even a watch is issued by the National Hurricane Center. Notify someone unaffected by the storm about your whereabouts.No later than when a watch is issued:

  • Fill vehicles with gas.
  • Get extra cash.
  • Fill prescriptions.
  • For mobile homes, secure tie-downs and prepare to evacuate when ordered.
  • Bring in loose objects from outside.
  • Prepare to secure all windows with shutters or plywood.

No later than when a warning is issued:

  • Secure all windows with shutters or plywood.
  • Place valuables and important papers in a waterproof container and store on highest floor
  • of home.

If you are told to evacuate:

  • Follow all instructions from local officials, and leave immediately when told to do so.
  • Bring emergency supplies listed above.
  • Bring copies of important papers such as insurance policies and list and photos of your home’s contents.
  • Bring blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games.
  • Unplug appliances, turn off electricity and main water valve.
  • Lock windows and doors of your home.
  • Go!

If you are not told to evacuate:

  • Stay at home! Leave the roads available for those who must evacuate.
  • Clean bathtub with bleach, fill with water for washing and flushing (not drinking).
  • Set fridge to maximum cold and keep closed.
  • Turn off utilities if told to do so by local officials.

During a Hurricane

  • Go to an interior room on the lowest level of the structure in which you’re taking shelter.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, even though they’re covered with shutters or
  • plywood.
  • During extremely strong winds, lie under something sturdy such as a stairwell or large piece of furniture.
  • Do not go outside, not even during passage of the eye. If the eye passes directly over you, the winds could become very weak, but only for a very short period. It will not be long before hurricane-force wind resume, blowing from the opposite direction as before the eye arrived.

After a Hurricane

  • Help might not come for up to a few days, and power could be out for days or even weeks.
  • Avoid driving on roads covered by water and/or debris. It is often difficult to determine the depth of water covering a road. Turn around, don’t drown.
  • Avoid downed power lines. Stay away from objects that are touching a downed power line, such as a fence or tree.
  • Do not touch anything electrical if you are wet. Stay out of water that could be touching anything electrical, such as in a basement with electrical appliances, or in flooded areas outside where there could be downed power lines.
  • Only use a generator in an outdoor, well-ventilated area, and closely follow manufacturer’s instructions. Many people have died in the aftermath of a hurricane from inhalation of poorly ventilated carbon monoxide from a generator.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles for light. Candles pose a serious fire hazard.

Stay safe, stay dry, and stay hydrated and nourished. Here’s to hoping all this preparation is needless after all.

Weather: 80 degrees. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and sun.

Moods:

Anna – 7.5 out of 10. Ready to buy more supplies. Stay safe, my friends.
Hannah – 6 out of 10. Hoping everyone back home stays dry… and send some of that rain my way!

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The only thing I hated more than fire safety week in elementary school was having to watch “Night of the Twisters” in class. Both terrified me. I don’t remember whose idea it was to show the film, but I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be a treat (to be fair, Devon Sawa starred in it, and he was a hit). Instead, it caused me endless nightmares, despite the fact I lived in Massachusetts. Everybody knows that Massachusetts doesn’t have to worry about tornadoes. Except when we do. Like today.

Imagine my surprise today when I received a very serious sounding email from my mother, the weather maven, reading: “Be very, very careful about this weather situation. No joke.” Now imagine my terror when I read her follow-up email: “Tornado watch. Severe storms heading this way with major hail and winds, etc.” I spent the next hour debating whether I would be safer at home or at my office, until I finally took a deep breath and practically ran outside. The flash of lightning and clap of thunder that coincided with my exit didn’t help matters, nor did the too-dark-for-5pm skies.

I’m home now, tucked inside and listening to the news about western Massachusetts, especially Springfield. I’m hoping everyone emerges safely after the storms, although sadly, I’ve heard that one casualty has already been confirmed. The coverage is nonstop even though the tornado warnings have been lifted. Apparently we’re in store for severe thunderstorms and high winds here in Boston, but as of two minutes ago, it doesn’t sound like we’ll have our own night of the twisters tonight. Thankfully.

Springfield after the tornado, courtesy of @TheFalconsAHL

Springfield after the tornado, again courtesy of @TheFalconsAHL

Weather: Lightning, dark skies, wind…and soon enough, rain. Generally, tornadic weather.

Mood:

Anna – 5 out of 10. Happy to be inside, but nervous about funnel clouds.

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My decision making process: as represented by an engraving by Giovanni Battista Scultori, Italian, 1538.*

“You know, Hannah,” my friend David said to me once, “this may just be part of who you are.” David was referring to my tendency to fall into complete turmoil every time I am confronted with a major decision. I had just moved to my Somerville apartment after weeks of agonizing (Concord or Somerville? Central Square or Porter?) and I was disappointed that the decision had been so hard to make. I wanted my decisions to fall into numerical place, as if it really was just a matter of weighing pros and cons. Some people are capable of that. But, as David pointed out, it’s just not how my mind works.

My flight to Italy departs tomorrow night and this past week has been a plague of decision-making. There are tickets to buy, rooms to reserve, itineraries to arrange and re-arrange. Since I haven’t been working (I left Idea Platforms a week ago!), I have been faced with plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements. For better or worse. The truth is, I’ve been feeling a little bit crazy.

I’ve tried to keep David’s words in mind as I prepare to leave. My decision making process is ugly, but torturing myself over it just makes it worse. I’ve been trying, instead, to accept the chaos as part of the process. And to remember that as difficult as it seems now, it’s going to be worth it just as soon as I step on the plane. After all, the next time I post, I will be in Rome!

Weather: Chilly. Fifties and cloudy with a chance of rain.

Moods:
Hannah: 7 out of 1o on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Actually I’m feeling a little too overwhelmed to quantify.
Anna: 6.5.

*art from the met!

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It’s been exactly two years since I moved to the city.

All March, I had been frantically searching for apartments on Craigslist, trying to find the perfect place that wouldn’t break the bank, and kept striking out. Crumbling walls. Exposed wires. Crazy layouts. Possible death traps.

Finally, in mid-March of 2009, I walked into my current place, took one look around, and asked for the lease.

At the time, I was what my mother would call “transitioning.” I had returned from Haifa the summer before, started a new job in the winter of ’08/’09, and finally put together enough pieces of the post-graduate puzzle to move to the city. The only problem was that I didn’t know anyone. Or, barely anyone.

I started joking about Friend #1, a Cornellian who was starting his PhD coursework, and Friends #2 and #3, who had recently  married each other. I had a terrible feeling I’d never meet numbers 4, 5, and 6. That I’d wander around on weekends, sit in cafes, watch the city hum with energy, and feel utterly outside all the excitement.

But things quickly fell into place after I signed for my apartment. I ran into old friends on the street, caught up with them over coffee, and began connecting with new people. Soon enough, I didn’t have to number my Boston friends anymore.

2009 seems like a lifetime ago now, but when I reach back into my memory on this two year anniversary, I can still tap into that original anxiety.

Weather: It snowed again today, and that’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10. Weekend!

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The walk from the T to my apartment isn’t terrible. It’s not great either. I live 12 minutes away from the nearest station and the walk never feels long when I’m on my way to work, but returning from an evening event, it can seem treacherous. If there’s one thing that keeps me from going out at night, it’s that 12-minute walk back to my apartment, along the cold, dark, and not particularly well-lit sidewalks of Somerville. I can deal with the time spent on the dysfunctional green, orange, and red lines. Not the thought of The Late-Night Walk.

Last night I had yet another meeting in the financial district. I stayed put after it officially ended, throwing around ideas and getting updates from friends. Then I picked up a tray of sandwiches that were going to be abandoned unless I gave them a home in my empty refrigerator, realized I had left my heavy scarf at work, and darted out of the building into the depths of South Station, emerging 30 minutes later in Cambridge, still carrying my unwieldy sustenance-laden tray. Then I set out on The Late-Night Walk.

Without my scarf, the wind was biting. And given the tray, I couldn’t exactly fold into myself to conserve heat. So I hurried along, checking my surroundings, jumping over patches of ice, and thinking “almost there” until I was, indeed, almost home. Then the wind whipped up. For an instant, I tensed, anticipating the moment when the wind would take all the wind out of my lungs, leaving me breathless. Instead, the cold air entered the collar of my coat—unfortified without my scarf—and rushed down the front of my body, escaping at the bottom of my zipper.

Instead of discomfort, the chill triggered a surge of energy. Of exhilaration. And rather than shivering and gulping air, I ran forward, full of wind-induced vigor, happy to almost be home.

Weather: Cold, but blue skies. This morning at 7:30am it was 11 degrees. But it felt like

-15 with wind-chill.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale.

Hannah – 7 out of 10. Unreasonably  happy.

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Early this fall, in a fit of energy, four friends and I set out on a mini road trip. Our first stop was Portland, Maine. There was a cold edge to the air, but the sun was shining, and we were thrilled to be adventuring. There was only one problem: one of our close friends and connector-extraordinaire, D., had just moved across the country. We felt her absence.

It was also clear that, if anything, this was going to be our last blast of summer. That the cold edge was quickly going to become an all-consuming freeze. And that soon enough, we’d be taking day trips to cross country ski, not eat and explore.

Over lunch, someone suggested we band together to throw a party. We could rent a space, invite friends, and convince D. to fly back for the celebration. But when? Our Google calendars were already crammed with back-to-the-grind fall events, then the holidays loomed. So we settled on the worst month of all, the month when everyone seems bored and slightly on edge: February.

Which leads me to this past weekend. Saturday night, it poured, but at the Four Winds, we took little notice—we were laughing and chattering and dancing. I (subtly) put my newly-acquired DDR moves to good use, which proved easy enough thanks to the infectious rhythms created by DJ Face. D. even hopped in a plane, flew 3,000 miles, and joined us for a night of sorely-needed good cheer.

People kept asking why or what we were celebrating. Our answer: excellent friends who make the bleakest of months seem sunny.

Weather: Blue skies and warm-ish. Hopefully the 38-degree temperature will melt the snow and prevent more roof collapses.

Moods:

Anna – 5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Back to reality.

Hannah – 4.5 out of 10. Monday.

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As Hannah indicated, I’ve been traveling the world, or at least part of it, for the past couple of weeks. Stops included Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Thessalonike, Meteora, Athens, and Nafplion. That’s a lot of travel for only 15 nights.

Highlights included all imperial palaces, castles, summer estates, and massive Greek temples, particularly those elaborately decorated with delicate inlays and master carvings. Sort of like my apartment. Or not.

Just like home.

Despite adventuring, I realize that I’ve returned without any killer stories. There were no crazy encounters. No out of body experiences. No swashbuckling tales. But there were some tasty morsels of food, excellent birds-eye views, and more than a few masterpieces along the way.

I haven’t taken a two-week vacation from work for nearly three years. Last summer I had a week-long escape to Maine, prior to which I had had a terrible fever (which led doctors to mistakenly believe I had cat scratch fever). My body was recovering when I left, I didn’t feel up to snuff, and taking antibiotics every morning and evening of the trip did not spur relaxation. It was not ideal.

When I was a kid, my dad and brother and I would take long, leisurely vacations to tropical islands—the more remote, the better. About five or six days in, my father would declare he was finally starting to relax. A highly knowledgeable seven-year-old, I’d counsel my father to relax more quickly. Who could possibly need all that time (practically a year!) to adjust to frozen drinks and blossoming flowers?

But when I arrived in Vienna (Trip Day 5), I realized it had taken that long to stop thinking about work. Day 5 was followed by a week of actual relaxation, and also full of museum-hopping. It wasn’t until the Friday before I flew back to the States that thoughts of current and future projects again pushed their way to the surface. Fifteen nights left me with seven blissful, carefree days. And now I’m thinking that two-week sojourns may have to be here to stay.

Weather: Mountains of snow. And even when it’s not snowing, the wind whips the snow around, making it look like we’re being further buried.

Moods:

Anna – 5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Still getting back in the swing of things.

Hannah – 4 out of 10. She’s had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Luckily, it’s a Friday.

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I relaxed on Sunday. My one foray into the outside world was for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. (Of note: my favorite suburban coffee shop is closed on Sundays.) Otherwise, I read. And listened to my mother fret about the impending snowstorm. Okay, okay. She was right—blizzard.

I spent the rest of my non-reading day watching weather updates on the news, talking about plows, and eavesdropping on the telephone updates my mother received from her weather-inclined friends.

Somewhere between discussions of salt, sand, and shoveling techniques, we flashed back to the December ice storm that clobbered this area two years ago. It left us without heat, electricity, and sanity. And we were the lucky ones—our power resumed after a mere four days. Other people were off the grid for weeks.

That ice storm was an anomaly. You see, we had no idea it would be so bad. We didn’t know it was going to knock a tree onto our brand new car. Or partially sever a tree branch right over our kitchen roof. When we finally shoved the tree off the car—still driveable—and piled in on a quest for a hot cup of coffee (priorities!), the only place in town that still had power was the insurance agency. Go figure.

Now, back to last Sunday. As any good daughter would, I reminded my mother that she was acting like somebody else she knew. My grandmother.

Especially around the holidays, my grandmother used to become the queen of weather reports. Is there a possibility of snow? Ice? Freezing rain? Anything that would impact her drive from her house to ours?  When she’d finally arrive, safely, she’d relax…until her return journey neared.

I like to think weather obsession is not genetic. I tease my mom about her constant monitoring. (FYI: Monday night’s news provided another few hours of weather gluttony for her.) And I don’t have to worry about driving in bad conditions since I don’t own a car. But I’ll admit to listening to the weather report on the radio each morning before setting off for the train station—I mean, what if it’s going to snow?

Weather: Blue skies over a blinding white blanket of snow.

Moods:

Anna – 5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. I was a 4.5 earlier in the day, but now I’m neutral.

Hannah – 5 out of 10. Post-Christmas exhaustion.

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This is an exercise in mindfulness.

Bring your awareness to your mouth. Take pleasure in the sensation of rubbing your tongue against your teeth and the roof of your mouth. Swallow. This should feel good.

Now, take a clean glass. Spit into it. Now, drink your own spit.

Repulsive, isn’t it?

This exercise comes from Ellen Langer’s seminal book Mindfulness, one of the first to bring the concept of mindfulness into Western medical lexicon. I love it because no matter how many times I try, I can’t help but be totally grossed out. I know that rationally, there is no reason to dislike saliva. But I cannot break my constructed hatred of spit. It’s disgusting.

Langer’s point is that every day, we take thousands of actions that are not rational. Some of them, like not drinking our own spit, are fairly innocent. Others are more troubling: the ones that impact the way we act around disabled people, for example, or the elderly. (One of Langer’s  most laudable impacts has been in teaching nurses and families to recognize the difference between physical disability and mental disability.)

Mindfulness can also be helpful in improving the way we treat ourselves, especially at times when we are feeling particularly out of control. Anna is lucky in that she has totally overcome all of her Thanksgiving anxieties. But for the rest of us, this time of year is overloaded with emotional, cultural, and environmental stressors. There are childhood memories. Family expectations. Cultural pressures. The smell of snow on the wind.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed on Thanksgiving. It’s also easy to act on all of those anxieties without knowing why. To get angry at the turkey. To break down over the cranberry sauce. To lash out at an innocent great aunt or overly energetic toddler. All of which means, less time to enjoy a delicious dinner in the company of the people we love most.

Which is what Thanksgiving, at its best, can be about.

This holiday season, I’m going to try to be a little more mindful about where my emotions are coming from. And I’m going to hope that increased awareness will improve my ability to act, instead of just reacting.

But I’m still not drinking spit from a glass.

Wishing everyone a happy thanksgiving, with love from DTU.

Weather: 36 degrees, a bit overcast, and beautiful

Moods:

Hannah: 7 out of 10. Excited to go running this afternoon.

Anna: 7.5, and thrilled to have a few days to relax.

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Well, Thanksgiving is almost here, and with it, the stress of one of the most highly charged family meals of the year.

I used to hate Thanksgiving. In fact, my freshman year of college I chose to stay in upstate New York and celebrate with a friend instead of making the 8-hour bus ride home. The dining halls all closed down, which we anticipated. What we hadn’t considered was that the buses would also stop running, nearly all the restaurants would close, and we would be stranded on an empty campus without proper sustenance. So, instead of turkey and cranberry sauce and stuffing, she and I raided the vending machine, watched Zoolander, and gave thanks for the man who delivered our emergency General Tso’s chicken. It actually turned out to be a pretty fun day.

Less fun, though, are the family negotiations that seem inevitable around the holidays. Who’s going where. Who’s hosting whom. Which relatives are escaping to remote islands (or secretly wishing they were) instead of joining the rest of the extended family for football and conversation.

These days, Thanksgiving is less stressful for me. Part of it is that I’m older and I can make my own plans. Part of it is that I’ve reframed the holiday and now think of it as a big family meal as opposed to a super-charged family fest. Gathering in small groups helps, as does eating out, which is a tradition that my father started several years ago. Last year, we went to a Greek restaurant anticipating ouzo, saganaki, and moussaka, only to find they were serving turkey! This year, we’ve embraced traditional American fare and have a reservation for four at a quaint New England inn.

Whether you hate, love, or are generally indifferent to Thanksgiving, take a deep breath and enjoy the food. Remember—if things get too stressful, you can always escape for a nap and blame it on the turkey.

Weather: Cloudy skies all day, but warmer than usual for late November.

Mood:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. She ate great cheese this weekend.

Hannah – 6 out of 10. She hates November.

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