Archive for the ‘Fear’ Category

Service of Waking Up in the Middle of the Night: Different Today?

Monday, April 27th, 2020


I followed for years a ritual to help me go back to sleep should I wake up in the middle of the night but it doesn’t work these days. That’s because I’d listen to the radio allowing me to keep the lights off and my eyes shut. But now news stations unsettle me with death, illness and financial stats; call-in shows disturb me for similar reasons plus rehashed political punditry is not calming. Music doesn’t distract me: my mind wanders to what is troubling me. It becomes the background to my nightmare thoughts.


When I turn on an engaging Netflix series I watch for hours, which defeats the purpose. Plus my eyes are open. They wince at the bright smartphone light if I check texts, emails, twitter and Facebook updates. I can’t respond to texts for fear of waking someone with the telltale ping. Reading a book or attacking my pile of New Yorker magazines are possibilities but they too involve lights and open eyes.

Has your foolproof solution to falling back to sleep deserted you?  What techniques do you use to quiet your mind and keep yourself from thinking negative thoughts in the middle of the night?


Service of Irritations that Irk Now and Maybe Not Before

Monday, April 13th, 2020



The pandemic has created a new set of frustrations that didn’t occur or rile as much or at all before.

Living as I do in Manhattan I listen carefully to advice to protect myself from the virus and gripe when many suggestions depend on a person’s living in a house or fully equipped apartment without alternates. “Leave an Amazon package in your garage or in the trunk of your car for a few days,” is one or “when you return home immediately wash your fabric face mask in your washing machine.” I can count on one hand the number of NYC apartments I’ve visited or lived in that have their own washer-dryer. It’s not always a question of money or space: Some co-ops don’t allow them.


The reason I love Bounty paper towel is how strong it is. Drives me nuts that after the many times I wash my hands I must toss the paper towel that dries them instead of subsequently wiping a counter or not wasting one at all as before. I formerly wiped my hands with a linen kitchen towel.  Insult to injury: finding replacement towels is still a challenge in NYC.

A Manhattan friend’s recent late night Tweet: “The streets are eerily quiet these days. So when a car with a CAR ALARM is parked nearby and blares for hours on end, it’s more infuriating than usual. Dude, how old is your car, and could you park it in NJ please?”

Another friend placed an online supermarket order for her suburban mom so her mom had only to swoop by in her car for pick up and run. Friend was disappointed to hear that there was only one box of tissues–they’d run out of the less expensive brand she’d chosen–and that the market didn’t automatically provide a substitute even if costlier. The whole idea was to cut down the number of trips for supplies. There should be an opt in box to check that clears the store to make substitutes.


In “Service of My Space: Am I Invisible?” I’ve written about the disrespect many pedestrians show others on NYC streets. Some shove in front of the elderly or disabled and cut them off not always because they are studying their phones–but because they can or don’t care. The streets in midtown are empty now yet there are those who walk in the middle of a sidewalk forcing anyone coming towards them to walk in the street or hide in a building entrance to keep six feet away. Have they not heard about the advice to social distance?

Because I must don a mask and gloves to leave my apartment–my building asks tenants to protect others and themselves in public spaces–I try to plan trips to the garbage room to coincide with a visit to the lobby for mail or a grocery store for supplies. Did I ever imagine I’d have to strategize tossing garbage?

What little irritations have you noticed that never came up before the pandemic and/or didn’t irk you? Am I even more thin-skinned than usual? Are you?


Service of Hope

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Forgiveness, grief, perseverance, guilt, disabilities, World War II, 9/11 and racism are all powerful, life-changing emotions, conditions and events that don’t always evoke hope.  Yet the books, TV programs and films that The Christophers selected for their 2018 Christopher Awards, celebrated last Thursday in NYC, characterize and exemplify optimism and courage. The 69 year old awards laud writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose films, TV/cable programs and books “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Here are just a few examples from this year’s winning books:

Dr. Edith Eger, who at 90 lives in La Jolla, Calif., was a holocaust survivor pulled barely alive from a pile of bodies when the camp that held her captive was liberated. An eminent psychologist, she maintains a busy clinical practice and lectures around the world helping survivors of abuse, soldiers suffering from PTSD and others she wrote about in her memoir “The Choice.” She experienced and observed that many live within a mind that has become a prison. She described how she achieved freedom by confronting her suffering and how she helped others do the same. Far from a Pollyanna take on her life, “The Choice” is a compelling, thoughtful–and helpful–read.

Rev. Jonathan Morris presents Meadow Rue Merrill her Christopher Award.

Meadow Rue Merrill, in “Redeeming Ruth,” wrote about her severely disabled adopted child, abandoned at birth in Uganda, whose short life she and her husband Dana and their three kids made the best possible. “She was more than just our daughter; she was an ambassador, who opened our hearts to the needs of children with disabilities in the developing world,” said the award-winning journalist. “We miss Ruth every day, but we wouldn’t trade one day we had with her for the world.” Ruth’s spirit lives on well beyond the hearts of her loving family. Proceeds from “Redeeming Ruth” support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda and Meadow and Dana Merrill are dedicated to assisting these otherwise helpless people and to drawing attention to their plight.

From left Jameel McGee, Father Morris and Andrew Collins

“Convicted” is about a crooked white police officer, Andrew Collins and the innocent African American man, Jameel McGee, he sent to jail. Collins arrested and charged McGee, who was launching a business at the time, with possession of crack cocaine. Sentenced to 10 years in federal prison McGee served three until his conviction was overturned when Collins admitted to falsifying evidence. Collins resigned due to an investigation for misconduct and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for drug possession with the intent to distribute, serving 18 months. Years following their release, the men worked together at Café Mosaic, a coffee shop and community development program in Benton Harbor. Spoiler alert**: McGee forgave Collins, they are friends today and they travelled to and attended the Awards together. **I’m being silly as the subtitle, “A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship” gives away what happened. And you thought your sister in law was unforgivable.

Children 8 and older will read about an American child who makes the decision to stay with her French grandmother, whom she doesn’t like, on a farm in Alsace just as World War II breaks out. They’ll see what happens when Nazi’s move into their home. Thanks to Patricia Reilly Giff in “Genevieve’s War,” they’ll learn about deprivation, hunger, fear and anxiety when Genevieve shares a secret with someone who may be collaborating with Germans. She was warned not to whisper a word. In addition to seeing how a clash of cultures can affect family members, they’ll observe the child’s change of heart when love and respect take the place of the disdain Genevieve once felt toward her grandmother.

This year’s Christopher Life Achievement Award winner, Ken Burns, who has also won previous Christopher Awards said that it will be through storytelling, not political debates, that people will change their minds.  “In an awards environment that is all ego, it is refreshing to have the Christopher Awards around to remind us all of the real purpose of our work. Without much fanfare or hoopla, and with the simple grace that echoes their objectives perfectly, The Christophers reaffirm the best impulses we have – that is to transform humanity for the better with our hard work, compassion and art.”

Have you read books or seen films/TV programs or experienced dire situations in which the ancient Chinese proverb “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” led the way? In addition to The Christophers, for which that proverb guides all its programs, there are other sources that celebrate people who turn negatives into positives such as “The Moth Radio Hour” on NPR and “The Kindness Challenge” on Facebook. They share instances that build people up and shed light on possibilities and solutions. Can you name others?

Authors at Christopher Awards from left Amy Guglielmo, “Pocket Full of Colors;” Kate Hennessy, “Dorothy Day;” Andrew Collins and Jameel McGee, “Convicted;” Meadow Rue Merrill, “Redeeming Ruth” and Jacqueline Tourville, “Pocket Full of Colors.”

Service of Civility II: BookTV Panel & Some Surprise Assessments

Monday, April 2nd, 2018



A day after I heard about Laura Ingraham’s bullying one of the Parkland student survivor/spokespeople, hitting him below the belt on a very touchy subject –taunting him about four college rejections—I saw a fitting panel on BookTV covering the topic of why civility is important. With Geoffrey Cowan as moderator—USC Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership—panelists were Jon Meacham, author, presidential historian and executive editor at Random House; Tim Miller, Definers Public Affairs partner and Amie Parnes, reporter and co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”

Miller started. He’d been Jeb Bush’s 2016 communications director. While calling out the current president’s attacks on his then boss’s wife, he asked where do we draw the lines while pointing out that DT wasn’t the first in politics to step over some. He didn’t offer examples of but Meacham did when it was his turn to speak. He reminded us that one reason George Washington didn’t serve a third term was because he didn’t care for the incivility in politics and the attacks on him.

Meacham observed that civility is when “things are going my way;” that currently we are in a state of “strife and nature” and that in December, according to reporting in The New York Times, the current president told his transition staff to think of each day he is president as a TV show in which “I vanquish my enemies.” Meacham added that discord and disagreement are the oxygen of democracy. “We’re in the political equivalent of climate change: Some days hot, some cold.”

Jon Meacham Photo:

The president sets the political tone and those who reached out with hope have been the most successful, said Meacham. As examples he called out Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklyn D. Roosevelt and more recently, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan whom he called the architect of optimism. The Reagan anecdote he shared was the President’s description of a kid who finds a pile of manure in the living room and says, “There must be a pony in there somewhere.” The opposite were presidents who ran on a fist clenched in fear. This one thrives on a rhetoric of fear.

Parnes spoke of being an object of personal attack about her Hillary Clinton book and earlier when she was a journalist, with people threatening her and even attacking what she looks like. She observed that social media has made it worse. In this regard, Meacham said he’d told his kids, ages 15, 13 and nine, “don’t write on a computer what you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.” He added that keyboards have been much quieter in his house as a result. Miller blames social media less than tribalism. The common culture of the 50s and 60s was for white people, he said. Cowan chimed in that politics is determined by zip code these days.

Meacham observed that the press is far less ideologically driven than people think. “Give us a fight and that’s ideal.” The president takes advantage of this.


Back to Ingraham, who reminded me of a now well-regarded New York Times columnist who wrote a nasty piece in that paper’s Magazine section about Chelsea Clinton, all of 11, whom he called unattractive and awkward among other things. Bullying is dreadful dished out by anyone but worse when it’s adult vs. child. The Parkland student wasn’t passive—he reached out to Ingram’s advertisers and more than a dozen of them have dropped her show at this writing.

Meacham’s “civility is when things are going my way” may answer why so many feel we are in a period of incivility on steroids, sensed in politics since the 18th century.  Where do you stand?


Service of Fear

Monday, October 31st, 2016

The Shining

It’s Halloween today. I decided that nobody is interested to know about everything that scares me nor would they want to address what scares them—we’ve got too many important things to be nervous about relating to the impending elections.

So I decided to lean on the “treats” side of the celebration and write about scary movies.

Halloween IIBut scary movies frighten me so I’m not the one to write knowledgably about them. I loved “Wait Until Dark”– [anything with Audrey Hepburn] –but tend to avoid such flicks. Guess I’m normally nervous and don’t need additional stimulus.

So I asked the people in the office in which I share space. What amazed me is that everyone had a favorite and there is only one duplicate! This is their list: 

     “The Haunting” –Lee A

     “When a Stranger Calls” –Mike S 

     “The Birds,” “Psycho” & “Rear Window” & “Trump TV”—David R

      “The Conjuring” & soon, by DJ  Trump: “When Mexico Attacks” –Pat C 

            The Gate“The Gate” –Danny M 

            “The Strangers” —Brandt Z 

            “Halloween II” –Joshua C 

            “The Thing” –Stephen H 

      “The Shining” –James B AND Jeff M           

      “Poltergeist” –Dan M 

       “The House of Wax” –Bambe L

       “Bones” –Kori M 

Do you like to be frightened by movies? What is your favorite scary one? Is there a difference between creepy and scary?

The Strangers

The Strangers

Service of Blowing Smoke

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011


I haven’t smoked in a dog’s age and yet I empathize with New Yorkers who can no longer smoke in Central Park or at city beaches and even in some cooperative apartments if their boards so vote. I could be next: I eat and serve ice cream that could kill me, my family and friends.

Anyway, if someone is smoking near you outdoors, it’s easy enough to move under another shade tree or to a different patch of sand. If smoke seeps from one apartment to the next, isn’t it the fault of shoddy construction and shouldn’t there be rules/laws about this as well or instead?

smokingIt can be touchy for one New Yorker to tap another on the shoulder when one of them flaunts the law, whether they don’t pick up after their dog or smoke where they shouldn’t. Years ago a skuzzy looking youngster lit up his cigarette in the subway tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. He looked so angry and fierce that I didn’t dare point out to him that there was only a limited amount of air down there and should the subway stop for a while, we could be asphyxiated by the smoke. Laws don’t make confrontation any easier.

Aren’t there more harmful sources of pollution than cigarettes such as cars? Will NYC soon forbid all of them? The country has done a great job of eliminating harmful fumes from manufacturing since we don’t do much of that anymore.

I remember an instructor in freshman year of college describing an example of an unenforceable and therefore, not a very good law: Contraception, illegal in some states. Imaginations went wild: “Excuse me sir and madam, but…..”

musiciansinparkAt the same time, the city is making into quiet zones certain places where musicians are known to play. Now they are silenced. Ironically, one of the zones is Strawberry Fields in Central Park, the tribute to singer, songwriter, musician and Beatle, John Lennon. [There must be some very influential neighbors with infants who don’t sleep soundly nearby. Could music from, say, 11:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m. be a bother?]

How do you feel about smoking and quiet zone regulations in open spaces– cared for and looked after? Is micro-regulation appropriate in some instances but not in others? What else do you think we should be forbidden to do for the public good?


Service of Forecasts

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

How many days ahead do you start listening to weather forecasts when you’ve planned a beach day, picnic or pool party?

Are you involved with product introductions? Does your company belong to a color forecasting organization so that its bathroom fixtures or towels coordinate with what’s cool in ceramic tile?

Much like people who hope for positive signs or good news from a doctor as they sit by the bedside of a sick friend or relative, I read as many forecasts and prognostications about this economy as I have time for and check out every article that seems to have an answer, looking for inklings of a solid turnaround.

These days, coming to your own conclusions and becoming a forecaster is complicated! Just yesterday, a “Marketplace” headline in The Wall Street Journal screamed, “Maguire Properties Warns of Loan Defaults.” {The article says that Maguire is “one of the largest office building owners in Southern California.”}

 The same paper, on the same page, but with a smaller sized, less prominent headline, announced: “Networks Hold Back Selling Ads In Advance.” The reason? They are betting that the economy will improve and are hoping to be able to charge more than now. Before I got too optimistic, I saw in the “Money & Investing” section another bold headline: “Debt Burden to Weigh on Stocks: Consumers’ Inability to Drive Economic Growth Likely to End Big Gains.” 

My heart skipped a happy beat when, also yesterday, The New York Times declared: “Seattle Paper is Resurgent as a Solo Act,” and reported that the word “profit” is one that now falls from executive lips at the paper in the Emerald City.

And didn’t we–and President Obama–rejoice just a few days ago over the less-than-expected job loss figures? {Is this equivalent to “the patient’s fever is down to 104°?”}

When Paul Krugman agrees with a bailout, do you sleep better? Or when Alan Greenspan furrows his brow, do you follow suit?

What’s your take on forecasters? Has your faith changed? And what about your antenna for predictions–is it picking up strong signals these days?

Service of Suspicion

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I appreciate my credit card company for sending me a new card when it suspects that someone has violated its database putting in jeopardy the integrity of my account. This has happened twice in about a year. It rouses my suspicious nature causing all sorts of repercussions in the way I do-or refuse to do–business.

I won’t speak with so-called representatives from Verizon who call the office to tell me they can save me money. I get their phone number and call the Verizon number I have to confirm the legitimacy of the other number and while I’m on the line, to learn if there really is a new program that will save me money. I can’t be the only one. I’ve been getting letters from Verizon lately. [I suppose anyone can mail a fake letter…oh, my.]

E-Z pass and the IRS have sent me emails, or at least that’s what the emails claim. I won’t respond. In the former case, I called E-Z Pass to check if the query was real. In the latter, I passed along the e-mail to my CPA who said don’t touch it and don’t give my banking information to anybody over the Internet. Until there are no other options, I won’t send in my tax forms electronically.

I’m almost the only person I know who refuses to bank or pay bills by email. Everyone who does it says they are thrilled with the savings in time and postage and they boast how green they are, implying that I’m killing trees. They don’t tell me how long it takes them on the phone to right a typo when they’ve meant to pay $300 and instead, they’re in for $3,000 because they hit “send” too soon. I also want to know how long it’s taken them to find a phone number to call in the first place.

Doesn’t everyone get daily fake warnings from banks they’ve never engaged [or heard of], telling them that their online account has been compromised or is about to close? For someone who won’t bank this way, these scams act as yet another red flag. [I’ve written some banks and visited the customer service desks of others with proof of the improper use of their logos. The swindle business must be thriving because regardless, the same email fakes keep coming.]

Speaking of frauds, social networking counterfeits abound. Because I can’t keep up with all the networks I’ve already joined, when invited to connect with a new one, I always ask the sender what the benefits are. Lately, the penalty for joining without asking is embarrassment because the perpetrators scoop up all the names in the mark’s email address book and out goes the invitation to hundreds more. Obviously, if you haven’t heard or read about the network, take care, regardless of who invites you to join.

None of this is new. I follow the path of my ancestors when on the other end of the phone the voice of a so-called policeman asks me to support a fund. To this age-old sting I say, “Mail me something, please. I don’t give money over the phone.” Click.

What are you suspicious of these days? Has your electronic bill-paying always worked for you? Have you been caught by email fraud?

Service of Silence

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

There are instances when silence is fitting. I’ve been sworn to secrecy by several who were planning to leave a company–well before they’d given notice–and I’ve also been asked for privileged information. In all cases, I’ve remained mum.

On the escape of reporter David Rohde over the weekend, I first heard that Bill Keller, executive editor, The New York Times, had encouraged news organizations to honor a news blackout about Rohde’s capture by the Taliban last November, to help save his life.

I was impressed it had been honored. News organizations’ restraint, based on Keller’s request, the Rohde family’s pleas and recommendations by kidnapping experts, was commendable. But Bob Steele, ethics instructor at the Poynter Institute, brings up the issue of a double standard.

In “Rohde: media face tough choices in kidnap cases,” on the Christian Science Monitor’s Global News blog,  Dan Murphy quotes Steele. [Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher, also interviewed Steele on this topic.]  

Steele told Murphy: “The trick is to make journalistic and ethical decisions in a fashion that is not unduly influenced by, say, pressure from terrorists, the self-interest we have in protecting one of our own, or the potential connections we have with government agencies.”

Murphy continues his quote of Steele, “As to a possible double standard, ‘I think that is a weak spot in the underbelly of the decision making in these cases. We show a preference for one of our own in journalism generally by holding back a story or elements of a story compared to how we might cover the kidnapped oil field worker or diplomat or tourist. In those cases, we might not bring as serious a deliberative process to how we’re going to cover it.'”

What are your thoughts about the press zipping their lips and turning off their computers in this case? Should they do this in all instances–not just for fellow news colleagues? Have you been in a position where you kept silent and were glad of it?

“Get to Know Me” Internet Services

Friday, June 12th, 2009

A former civil servant and a friend, WY, wrote this guest post that was inspired by an e-mail scam. It made him think of the broader implications of online meet and greet sites. [I got the same troublesome offer that he writes about from four people.]

WY submitted this post on the same week I wrote one on social networking as it applies to business. It  appeared on Christine Whittemore’s blog, “Flooring the Consumer.”

WY writes:


A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a friend, which when I opened it displayed his picture and a message saying that he’d like me to share in seeing his photo album by clicking an icon and registering to be part of his network.

I didn’t press anything, but I did write him saying that I’d be delighted to see his photos. It turned out to be spam, or a scam, or a virus, or something. We were both embarrassed: I because I had fallen for the “come on,” he because he had also and because whoever dreamed up the thing had high-jacked his e-mail address list.

It got me to thinking. We all know that there are no secrets on the Internet or even inside our own computers. Anybody in the world, if they want to, can collect virtually every kind of detailed information there is about us just by clicking their mouse a few times. But how many of us remember this when we use our computers to send messages, or to buy things, or to do research, or to be entertained? Indeed, I am appalled at what I find each time I “Google” myself! 

In light of this, I do not understand why on earth so many people recklessly subscribe to internet services that often publish quite personal data for others to read. I understand loneliness and the need to make new friends or business contacts, and I recognize that the traditional ways that people meet other people are no longer adequate, but is nobody else worried about their privacy?

Even more frightening is the thought that our government could, if it chose to, use all this information for its own purposes — like controlling us if we don’t do what it wants!

Would somebody explain to me why so few of us are not alarmed by all of this?


Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics