Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Service of More Isn’t Always Better

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Millbrook neighbor's trees 018

More isn’t always better even when speaking of food or makeup, plantings or building height. We all have stories. I’m sure you’ve seen average looking citizens sport the Lady Gaga/Tammy Faye Bakker dramatic makeup look thinking they’re glamorous when just a touch would be better.



For me there was that memorable celebratory roast beef dinner upon college graduation with a two-inch slab of meat that overwhelmed the plate and smothered my appetite. I was skinny and ate enormous quantities of food in the day but even so…too much!

Here are some recent examples.

Tree Huggers

I had to get this topic off my chest so my husband no longer has to hear me whine and see me wince every time we drive by this neighbor’s house. I feel that they have exploited their property and I can’t figure out what they are trying to achieve with their smorgasbord of trees to which they seem to add more every few weeks. I’ve not before seen anything like it on private property either here or abroad.

They have planted such a hodgepodge that they have destroyed what was once an elegant property. My photos top and bottom don’t make my point for a reason: From my photo styling days, the camera likes “more.” Driving by makes a far more crowded impression. If they wanted to live in a forest, why not buy a house in a forest?

jacket with fringeI like to postulate their reasons for rogue planting. Maybe husband or wife is a dendrologist studying what thrives in upstate NY. [Dendrologists study woody plants.] Or maybe their son or daughter owns a garden center and they want to be supportive. Or they love their [unscrupulous, untalented] landscape architect who gets paid a fee based on the cost or number of plants/installations. Or maybe this is the latest fashion and hopefully, like fringe on the edges of women’s suit jackets launched by Chanel years ago [see photo at left], it will have a short life.

Sky High

One World Trade Center. Photo:

One World Trade Center. Photo:

I’ve mentioned before that once he experienced the first east coast blackout, my father said he’d never rent an office on a floor higher than he could comfortably reach by stairs. I thought of him when I read an article in, “How tall can NYC’s skyscrapers go? You won’t believe the answer: As towers surpass 1,400 feet, one structural engineer predicts 2,000-foot spires are around the corner—and maybe even half-mile-tall spires will follow suit.” [I was puzzled by the 1,400 foot reference as according to Google, One World Trade Center has far surpassed it at 1,776 feet.] We see three skyscrapers-in-progress from our apartment windows. There are days where dense clouds obliterate the top floors making me think, “There goes the view” and “I hope there are no disoriented pilots out today.” Our apartment building has 22 floors, two passenger elevators and one service elevator. My husband arrived home one day and none were working. It happens. Imagine if you lived on the 39th floor.

What’s your favorite “too much” story?

Millbrook neighbor's trees 019

Service of It Matters

Monday, July 13th, 2015

It matters




You can be the most sensitive person in the universe and still be innocently and inadvertently indifferent to something that’s significant to another person.

A friend teaches a reading class to six first graders. Each has a book and there’s one for her. When the class was over one day, the smallest child in the class asked if she could please carry the books back to the homeroom. My friend, who reminded me that children this age love to be helpful, said thanks but that it didn’t matter as another child was doing it. The diminutive child looked her in the eye and said, “It matters to me.” So my friend asked the other child if she’d share the “load.” The child handed three of the books to her classmate, keeping the rest for herself. The little one beamed all the way back to homeroom.

In a vastly different scenario, Jim Brownell said to me: “This is a dump but it doesn’t have to look like one.” I’d just admired the transformation of the Millbrook, N.Y. transfer station [photo below]. As you approach it now there are three flags–American, Army and Marine–posted in a generous bed of mulch they’d installed. Brownell and Joseph Magnarella, who is in the photo, are the transfer attendants responsible for the makeover. Brownell is a Marine [on NCIS I learned once a Marine, always a Marine]; Magnarella is former Army.

When I first noticed the makeover, only the American flag and two poles were in place. Brownell expected the other two flags shortly. I left work early July 3—the dump is only open three days a week—to grab a photo for this post and only two flags flew. I asked Brownell for permission to take a photo and explained the nature of my post. He suggested I wait for the missing Marine flag, especially in light of the title. “It matters,” he said. [He was on vacation the day I returned for the photo.]

Can you share examples of something insignificant that nevertheless mattered a lot to you or to someone else? How about employees who go above and beyond because where they work–and how it looks–matters to them?

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Service of Being Overly Sensitive

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Tear 1

Support groups provide many benefits starting with comfort in knowing that others are going through what you are. For the same reason I felt enormous relief when I read Elizabeth Bernstein’s article, “Don’t Take This the Wrong Way, You May Be Highly Sensitive.” According to Bernstein, some 20 percent of the population is just like me and House Speaker John Boehner, who also weeps easily. It’s 50-50 men/women. I took the quiz linked to Bernstein’s article and if there were ever any doubts that I’m an HSP—highly sensitive person–the definitive results wipe them away.

John Boehner cryingI was surprised that this personality trait may have a genetic cause as most of my family members were/are steel-strong with upper lips so stiff as to be made of cement. I get teary at schmaltzy commercials, when I hear the National Anthem, see the American flag on holidays waving from the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie, NY, when a beloved animal dies on “All Creatures Great and Small,” and when I say goodbye to someone moving far away. “While they haven’t yet identified all the genes involved,” wrote Bernstein, “research suggests that the serotonin transporter gene—which is involved in the recycling of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that impacts emotional well-being—plays a role.” Sounds serious!

Stiff upper lip 1But there’s good news: “Sometimes called Sensory Processing Sensitivity, high sensitivity isn’t a disorder or a condition but rather an innate, permanent trait.”

And I loved this: “Mr. Hassard admits that sometimes being overly sensitive can cause problems such as ‘when you can’t hide how much arguing with idiots upsets you.’” Bernstein included Michael Hassard in the article because he also cries easily. She described him as “a former engineer for NASA, [who] hikes and camps, takes long motorcycle rides, mows his lawn, fixes leaky faucets, and loves football.”

free idiot testThe rest of the researchers’ “findings” about the trait cover their posteriors because they are extremely fuzzy. Wrote Bernstein, “They also believe that psychological factors—your temperament or personality—have an affect on your level of sensitivity, as does your physiology, specifically how you respond to stress.” Pardon this overused reaction: Duh.

A sidebar listed tips on how to get along with this type of person should one be your parent, child, sibling, cousin, friend or lover: Don’t be critical of an HSP; never say “calm down” or “why are you making such a big deal of this?” and “Recognize that…..feeling emotions of pain and joy more acutely can be a good thing.”

Do you know HSPs? Are you one?

crying at movies

Service of Clumsy Communication

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Strong people

The three people who made these errors in judgment didn’t mean to offend—I’m pretty sure. All these examples involve volunteers.

Fifth Choice

Please helpA friend whose career is skyrocketing is counseling a fledgling group in her field pro bono. Several times one of the principals of this company has called and asked her if she can do something for them on such and such a date and when she says, “Yes,” the person replies, “Good. I’ve asked five other people before you so I’ll get back if none of them accept.” She is secure in her talent but found the communication insulting and irritating enough to mention. We now laugh because the situation has happened a few times since we first spoke about it and after the last, she told her contact that she’s done helping them.

Last Choice

panel of womenThen I heard about an organization’s committee co-chair who was looking for panelists among winners of a grant. She approached my friend, a winner, the day before the event, to see if she could participate. My friend knew she was clearly a last choice and said “no.” From the start the co-chair should have asked all the winners to attend—there weren’t that many–see who could come and then select her panel and moderator. The more the merrier: Their mingling before and after the formal discussion would have benefited the other guests who were attending to learn more about the grant.

Choice Words

I often identify the elephant in the room which is unusual these days–has always been in fact–and many don’t know what to make of it. If I’m on a board or a committee, I feel it is my responsibility to suggest a solution when most don’t dare recognize the problem. I know when and how to be deferential and polite and to carefully word what I write or say whether I’m suggesting a different approach or pointing out an error.

mistake 2I was taken aback when a person, in front of a third person, asked me recently to first show her correspondence I was going to send about a mistake someone had made. She said she feared I’d be too harsh. [Common sense taught me eons ago to be gentle when I want something/or a correction. It works.] This was not a client—I don’t make a move without client approval on copy and for decades my clients have trusted me to write appropriately worded missives. I was distressed that this person didn’t trust my ability to distinguish between offline private chatter and communicating with others. I sent the note, copying only those affected by the error—not this person [who was only peripherally involved]. The recipient was extremely apologetic as she realized she’d made a mistake—which happens. She immediately fixed what she could. As for my relationship with the distrusting person, my mother used to advise, “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” I’ll give it a try once again.

What causes some to take down others unnecessarily? Is it thoughtlessness? A feeling of power? A case of foot in mouth disease? A misunderstanding of the dynamic in a volunteer relationship? Have you been the target of such insensitivity? Then do you forgive–how many times–or walk away?


Service of Scams on Steroids

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Scam 3

I’ve written about scams at least two times before. Have you noticed, or heard about, an increasing number of them lately? Many Oldie but goodyare of the oldie but goodie variety:

  • I just received two about friends robbed abroad in desperate need of funds. Guess the perpetrators thought we had poor memories so they dug out the old saw.
  • An increasing number of my contacts have clicked on a contaminated link that infiltrates their address book and spews out fake emails. The “From” sports the name of a person you know. The copy looks like this:

            Hi! How are you?

            News from Oprah: nasty link

            She says it works!

Name of Sender

            Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

In addition to this format that’s always the same, the crazy email address of friends and family that in no way resembles the actual one is a dead giveaway. And with all the faux emails telling you to pick up your valuable points from the drug store you use or the  department store you don’t, it’s too easy to become entrapped.

IRS ScamsAnother scam I heard of recently [but isn’t that new] comes by telephone. A voice claims to be an IRS agent and threatens the listener who is told to send money owed and in arrears, or else. According to, “it tops the IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams this year.” You may think that nobody would fall for a robocall but 3,000 people have and they’ve lost $14 million to date. If your phone identifies callers, these scammers have tricked the system to read/say “IRS!”

Have you come across any new scams lately or been barraged by familiar ones? Have you been tricked into any?

Phone scam


Service of More Ying than Yang in New York

Monday, March 30th, 2015


One of the great things about New York is that the people who work, live or visit it are singular and contradictory. Based on recent observations–the preponderance of which were positive–I wonder if I’ve detected a trend.


fender benderWalking to work last week I heard the unhappy sound of crunching steel. Nobody was going fast in morning traffic on Second Avenue, so it wasn’t a loud crash–just an “oh, no!” kind of noise. The van and the SUV were each making a right onto 45th Street. The drivers pulled over to get out of the way and each jumped out of his vehicle. The van driver said “Are you alright?” to which the SUV driver said, “This was my fault.” I didn’t see if they were local. It sure didn’t sound like a New York kind of conversation and I was impressed.

Office Support

Security desk east 45 streetThe same day, on my way into my office building, I saw the security man, Eric, run for the front doors. That’s unusual. He sits behind a large desk in a spacious entrance, [photo at left] making people sign in, overseeing the elevators, the fire alarm equipment, and so forth. Unless he’s leaving the building, he’s never by the doors. But that day, he noticed a blind woman entering. She was clutching a support cane and a tenant, who was leaving the building, held open the door for her. Eric cheerfully escorted her to an elevator and up to the floor she was visiting.

Lake Leaping

man helps over puddleI was chatting about a project on my mobile phone, focusing on hearing words over sirens and other street noise, racing to catch a train. After crossing a street I was suddenly confronted by a small lake of water that reached around the curb, requiring a 2.5 foot leap from street to sidewalk. [It mystifies that this type of water backup is typical of this island.] What complicated this crossing was that it occurred at a building site. Equipment lining the street and avenue gave me a few choices: Leap over the little lake and possibly miss and twist an ankle, sacrifice one of my shoes and splash my clothes or retreat to the other side of the street which was in the wrong direction. I said, outloud, “Oh my,” as much to the person I was speaking with as to the air. Suddenly a man ahead of me, who had just cleared the moat, turned and held out his hand and said, “I’ve always wanted to help a woman like this and I’m Jewish.”  Note: New Yorkers often speak in such non sequiturs. I have no idea what he meant but was grateful. I called him “Sir Walter Raleigh,” and thanked him.

City Siren

parallel parkingThat same week, walking east on 53rd Street after dark, I heard a cacophony of sirens and honking and then noticed a procession of at least 15 police cars with flashing red lights crossing First Avenue heading west and intending to proceed up the street between First and Second Avenues. Stuck at a standstill, the siren noises ratcheted up a notch to a wild throb.

Meanwhile, a private car was taking its time parking, holding up the passenger cars behind it and the line of police cars. The driver was moving at such a remarkably slow speed that I noticed him. He was oblivious to both the ear-splitting noise and the flashing red lights that punctuated the night like a fireworks show a few feet in the air. All but one police car gave up on 53rd Street. Some backed out on to First Avenue while others swung uptown on the avenue. The parker was a poster child for a self-centered person oblivious to others or their surrounding. Too bad the police were in a rush because the parker should have received a fat summons and had his license revoked. Anyone this blind and deaf and disrespectful of the law should not be allowed to drive.

As a big fan of the city, the first three examples were thrilling. Do you think they’re indicative of a trend? Sadly I wasn’t surprised at the fourth. Are you? Have you noticed instances in New York or other cities that indicate a striking regard for others or the opposite?

Love NYC

Service of Matching a Person to the Job II

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

You're hired

I last covered this topic in 2011. A comment by my hairstylist, Stacy, inspired a reprise.

man with gray hairShe told me about a tall handsome stranger who came to the shop without an appointment asking for a trim. She had her hands full so while she would have liked to do it, she couldn’t.

When the shop owner asked another stylist, who was reading, she declined saying she was expecting a customer and wasn’t free to take the job. She was still reading long after the new customer left. She later told Stacy that she disliked working on old people. Stacy estimated that the man, with graying hair, was in his 60s. He was well dressed and very well preserved. She added that this fussy stylist hardly said a word to any of her customers and usually sported a sour look. Stacy concluded that she’d rather be working than sitting around.

hair stylist 1We agreed that not all customers want to chat. Stacy said she gauges whether a customer does or doesn’t like to talk and acts accordingly.

Do you speak with the person who cuts/styles your hair? Do you think that the perpetually silent type may not be fit for a styling career? What about someone who is picky about what customers she’ll work on—is she/he in the right business? Have you come across anyone recently who should clearly be doing something else for a living?


vintage barber shop

Service of the [Lost] Art of Grace and Gratitude

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Sir walter Raleigh 2

Waiting for the elevator at the office Monday morning I was first in an informal line having entered an empty lobby. There are four elevators in the building. Elevator 1 came and I started to enter—I was the only woman in the front hall—and was almost knocked over by two men jostling to get in first.

waiting for elevatorThe incident brought back what happened Friday night in the parking area of the Dover Plains, NY railroad station. Friends warned us Thursday to leave the city early because we might have trouble with ice. We feared a reprise of three weeks ago when we had to be towed out of our icy spot so we took their advice. Between kitty litter, my sister’s tip of putting a bag under the wheels and a guardian angel’s push, the car surprised us by jumping out of its icy spot and onto the cleared lane.

Cleaning car of iceBehind us in another row I saw and heard another couple chopping ice and spinning wheels attempting to get out of their parking place so I asked if they could use kitty litter. They said “yes,” the woman walked over to our car and I walked with her back to hers, opened the bag, sprinkled the litter strategically under her wheels and placed the bag I’d used under a key wheel. Out popped their car and I applauded.

The woman was driving; the man jumped in and off they rode. Neither of them said “thanks,” didn’t wave, the driver didn’t honk twice in recognition nor did they drive over to our side of the lot, which is where I thought they were in such a rush to go.

I hesitate to give up helping strangers—people tell me I should. It goes against my grain, though I’m tempted. Have you become discouraged helping strangers? Have you given up doing it? And do you always wait your turn in line?

help a stranger

Service of It’s Never Enough

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Falling short 2

There are certain situations and circumstances that occur that no matter what I do, I miscalculate. Either there’s never enough or I haven’t accomplished as much as I thought.

Here are two examples:

flower flat 3When I buy impatiens or other such flowers for a garden border, to surround a tree, or to fill planters and pots around our property I can buy far more than anyone might ever need and then some and yet I always come up short. Why does it matter? It means I usually can’t match the colors or types of annuals when I go back to the landscape place for more plants the next weekend. And not finishing a chore all at one time is annoying.

packers 2Here’s the second example. In preparation for a move, I combed through my belongings night after night for weeks and weeks and threw out over 100 plastic bags worth—the 30 lb size. I also brought to the fabric collecting place at the farmer’s market even more. The apartment had a clean, Zen like look to it as did almost empty drawers in bedroom, kitchen and living room cabinets and furniture yet it turned out that I should have tossed much more. Three trained moving company wrappers worked an entire day just to pack the “little” that remained which shocked me; it took days to unwrap it all from hundreds of boxes. I tossed even more after the unpacking.

I mentioned this to an acquaintance who shared a similar story. She owned a vacation house in Massachusetts that she visited only a few days a year. It had no clothes or food in it and was practically empty. When she sold the house, she ordered a small dumpster. The rental place didn’t have a small one free so she took the large size. A crew filled the large dumpster to overflowing which stunned and baffled her.

leftoversSuch lack of judgment doesn’t happen to me all the time. I buy and make enough food to give some away after a dinner party—which is what I want to do–and get all my Christmas gifts bought, wrapped–and shipped, if needs be–in time. What is it about estimating flower flats and moving that makes/made me fall so short? Has this kind of thing happened to you?

 falling short

Service of the [Very] Good, the [Extremely] Bad and the Ugly: A Real Estate Tale

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

real estate

We recently worked with two New York City-based real estate agents. Rating their performances from one to 10 they represented the top and bottom of the spectrum. One agent, Linda Gawley, Managing Director, Charles H. Greenthal Management & Residential Sales, spent hours mopping up the mess left by the other who was careless and disrespectful of both our agent’s time and of us.

Her aggressive lack of participation was clearly a cause for kudos by the agency she works for. Make money by doing and spending nothing? Congrats! That’s the crystal message we got from the executive at the major New York real estate company who responded to our complaint letter.

Do nothing and get paidIn our letter we asked that this agency refund the fee. We heard that it’s not a practice for one agency to pay another in such an instance so we offered the option to return the money to us. Their answer: “No.”

The agent lived in her client’s condo apartment and was leaving. We wanted to sublet it and to do so we needed approval of the apartment owner and the building’s board of directors. Following is an abbreviated list of her elementary mistakes that jeopardized our move-in date and caused us inordinate stress.

Our agent remained calm and courteous even when snapped at. We knew something was up when Ms. Gawley questioned the spelling of the apartment owner’s name on the lease. It was an unusual interpretation of a French name. [My father was French so I noticed it.] “It’s correct,” barked Ms. ___ during a conference call we were in on. In fact, it was incorrect, so our certified deposit checks were inaccurate as well. This kind of sloppiness followed and tripped us up throughout the process.

The  apartment’s owner–Ms. ____’s client–wanted to meet us across the street from her office/apartment. She wasn’t free so Ms. Gawley squeezed in the appointment to her schedule. Ms. ___ had not given her client a copy of the lease we signed nor had she warned Ms. Gawley to bring one so when he asked for one, Ms. Gawley appeared unprepared—something she never is.

Because of delays caused by Ms. ___’s carelessness on February 1 we did not know whether we would have access to the apartment or if we had been approved by the building’s board of directors and therefore, whether the movers would be allowed in the building on Monday February 2.

Our board package was not submitted promptly because Ms. ___ hadn’t counseled her client to sign either the standard lead paint or child guard disclosure forms, discovered at the final hour. In the response, the real estate executive did not refer to this glitch.

She brought up another one. She wrote: “Unfortunately, we sleeping at desk 2encountered a big snag at this point which caused us a delay. Upon review, the managing agent discovered that the owner of the apartment was not carrying the proper insurance. This is highly unusual, because it’s imperative for all owners to have valid insurance at all times, so of course it was completely unknown to Ms. ____. This is the purview of the managing agent, not the listing agent, and it would not be in Ms. ___’ typical scope to verify the insurance.” I underlined the words “typical scope” because I thought they were clever. What is her scope? How seasoned an agent was she?  Since she lived in the same place for a period of time, was she there legally?

We wanted to know where we would be living in the city [our weekend home requires a five hour commute round trip] but that was only the half of it. Should we cancel the movers [who had already stored our belongings for a week] and Verizon/Fios, which we ordered for move-in day so we might be connected to the world? What about business appointments  later that week–would we be free to make them or would we be waiting for the movers?

In the agency’s response, the executive wrote: “On the 30th, Ms. ____ received verbal confirmation from the Board President that the waiver had been signed, which she immediately relayed to your agent.  Did your agent not relay that information to you?”

Given Ms. ____’s slipshod track record, and the fact that the building’s managing agent couldn’t verify the information, Ms. Gawley wasn’t about to suggest that our movers park outside the building first thing Monday February 2 until she knew for sure they would be allowed in. She asked that we delay the movers to Monday afternoon. They lost a morning of work and had to leave [house rules] before they were done. When the Fios technician came he didn’t have our computer, phones and TV to connect them causing costly repercussions for us.

411 sink Feb 1“Broom clean,” was not the way Ms. ___ left the apartment. Illustrative of her modus operandi see the photos at right and below left of just some of the things we found. They don’t capture the dirty towel on the bathroom floor and filled coffee cups and water bottles. In her letter the executive wrote, “she apologizes that her movers left a few items behind.” 

Ms. ____ had told us she was moving a few blocks away as well as to Connecticut but obviously didn’t relay the former info to her employer who claimed that from Connecticut she couldn’t have conveniently checked how the movers left the apartment. Funny: We’d just moved out of a city apartment followed by a two hour drive upstate in a blizzard and left not a spec of dust behind much less garbage bags worth of stuff.

411 stuff left behindThat Ms. ___was snarky and never apologized to us for her [in]actions was as grievous to me as the time she stole from Ms. Gawley and the stress she caused us. I also had a bad reaction to the patronizing tone of the executive’s letter, i.e. “Moving is always stressful.”  Between us my husband and I have moved some 50 times, sometimes across oceans, into property we’ve rented or owned, yet neither of us has experienced a move as bad as this.

I am tempted to write “The Haggler” in The New York Times’ Sunday Business Section but I want the episode behind me. If you need a great agent to buy or sell property I’ll put you in touch with Linda Gawley. Bad agents work all over, not just in NYC—I’ve hired and heard about lousy ones. Haven’t you?

Does someone in a service business–like real estate agent, PR or advertising exec–owe counseling to their clients or has it become yet another area where the client is expected to know everything and to get zero guidance and direction from the specialist?

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