Monthly Archives: November, 2012

Gender-Neutral Pens and Toy Catalogs: Maybe Someday

Someday I hope to live in a world where a woman can run for office and no one talks about her clothes/makeup/hair or asks her if she’s read 50 Shades of Grey. Someday I hope to live in a world where no one is stupid enough to utter a phase like “legitimate rape.”

Someday I hope to live in a world where a toy store catalog that shows boys playing with a kitchen set worthy of coverage in the Wall Street Journal. And someday I hope to live in a world where companies realize that making a product pink and charging more for it, doesn’t make it “for women.”

Today is not that day, however. Today is the day that the news gave us these two items:

First, the (kind of) good:

Top-Toy Group, a licensee of the Toys “R” Us brand in Sweden, has published a gender-blind catalog for the Christmas season. While I fully support this and have tried to encourage my nephew to not be ashamed of his love of pink and purple and my niece to play with blocks and (soon) legos, it’s frustrating that in 2012 this seems like such a revolutionary act. It’s also frustrating that it STILL hasn’t happened at a large toy store in the U.S.

From the article:
“Employees now are trained to avoid stereotypes when talking to customers. “If someone asks for a present for a 5-year-old girl, we don’t automatically take them to the dolls section,” she said. “Instead, we ask them what her interests are.”

wait. what? you mean to say that even children can have interests  just like real people? hmm…sounds pretty radical Swedes.

image

And then there was this, Ellen’s pitch perfect lambasting of bic for trying to get her to sell their “pens for women” (they are smaller for our tiny hands and pink so we will know they are for writing grocery lists).

When I was an editor at Popular Photography I wrote a monthly column about new photo products and every few months without fail some PR rep would look me in the face and try to pitch a pink fucking camera bag, “for women.”

You’d think somebody (I don’t know maybe a woman, or someone who has ever spoken to a woman) at any of these companies would speak up in one of the product development meetings and mention that women might be slightly more dimensional.

Maybe someday.

22 Things I’m Thankful For

In some of the corners of the internet that I frequent (Facebook and Pinterest) the idea for a Thanksgiving advent has been floating around. Maybe I’ll make one next year, and dole out my gratitude one day at a time. But this year you are getting it all in one heaping helping. Thanksgiving in a  national day of overindulgence after all–so here you go–gorge on my thankfulness.

Thanksgiving advent

22 Things I’m grateful for  2012 (in no particular order)

  1. My husband. I’m telling you, I picked a good one. Mark Beazley is the kindest, funniest, smartest, most loving person I’ve ever known. He cares for me in a way that honestly makes me feel grateful every single day.
  2. My family. They always say you can’t pick your family, and while I might not see eye to eye with everyone in my family at all times, I really really love them, miss them all the time, and wish we lived closer. My mom will always be the person I call the most, my nephew is the coolest little boy, who makes me smile as soon as I see him, my brother, my grandparents, my cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone in my family is good people.
  3. My in laws. I lucked out in the in-law department. The cliche is that you are supposed to dread visiting your in-laws, but mine are such lovely, sweet people, I always look forward to seeing them. They have made me feel like a welcome part of the family and I am happy and proud to be a part of the Beazleys.
  4. My friends. It’s not quantity, it’s quality, right? But I feel like I got both. I am lucky enough to have a couple of amazing women who are more like sisters, whom I’ve known for many years. And I’ve also built a close group of friends here in NYC whom I get to see pretty regularly for such fun events as book club brunches, crafternoons and slumber parties. On top of it all, my husband and I have many mutual friends, so I get to double date and hang out with tons of awesome people all at once. I love that many of my friends are also friends with each other–it makes such a close group.
  5. My job. Those who know me, know what a struggle I had being unemployed and freelancing for over a year. This year, I am very thankful that I found a full time job in my field. I am learning a lot, and using some of my skills. I like the people I work with, and I like getting up and going into work on the weekdays, and knowing once again that I have a steady paycheck coming in every two weeks.
  6. My freelance work.  It helped keep us afloat during that long period of unemployment. And even now it means that I get to explore new topics and learn new things. (Right now I’m working on a feature for AAA New York Magazine about cool museums, as well as teaching yoga privately on weekends.)

  7. Our kitties. I had several pets growing up, including the best cat in the world from when I was a baby to a teenager. It’s perfect then, that the first time in my adult life that I got pets, it was two cats that look a lot like my beloved Smokey. Kermit and Jonesy may have been a  Birthday gift for Mark over four years ago (when we’d only been dating a few months) but they have always “our kitties.” They are so fuzzy and adorable very much apart of our family.
  8. Our apartment. I’ve lived in the same apartment since I moved to NYC in November 2005. Seven years in the same apartment is kind of rare in this city, especially considering how many life changes I’ve gone through here–jobs and relationships lost and gained, two different roommates, and a boyfriend that became my husband. I feel like I lucked out with this place. I didn’t know very much about New York when I moved in, but I managed to snag a place that’s in a great neighborhood, isn’t super tiny, has a good landlord, basement storage, and a backyard, that we can actually afford–in this city that’s a lifelong dream for some.
  9. My health. This is the easiest to take for granted, because when you are healthy you just feel normal, your body can do all sorts of amazing things like breath and walk and run and nothing hurts. It’s not until something goes wrong that you realize was a complicated machine you totally take for granted. So I’m not taking you for granted body–thanks for being so healthy–keep it up!
  10. Yoga. Some of my friends know my dirty little secret: My grade point average was brought down from 4.0 to a 3.95 because I got a B+ in my yoga class in college. I didn’t take the gym credit seriously. And then, just a few years later when I moved to this city I joined the Y and started taking yoga classes regularly. Now, about a decade after that B+, I’ve been practicing yoga for over six years and teaching for over a year. Yoga has integrated itself so much in my life, it’s release, it’s comfort, it’s challenge. My body and mind are grateful for yoga every day.
  11. Our luck. Especially now when so many around us have lost everything, I realize how lucky we are. We aren’t hungry or cold or unsafe. We can provide for all of our need and some of our wants, we live in a time and a country with a lot of freedoms. We got to chose where to live and work and who to marry, we have loving and supportive friends and family, we have unlimited access to information and entertainment. These things are all pretty basic, but are also pretty amazing, and I need to remember to be thankful for them more often.

  12. Good books.  My love for storytelling, reading, and the written word are among the first loves of my life. Discovering and getting lost in a good book–looking forward to when I can get back to reading it, is one of life’s great joys. Good books, good writing, well crafted sentences and phases are what made be be a writer.

  13. Weekends.  As much as I am thankful for my job, I am also grateful for weekends–time to sleep in, exercise, read, cook, go out, have people over–you know generally enjoy life.
  14. Travel in the past and future. I have tried to make up for the lack of travel in my childhood so far in my adult years–and having visited over 13 countries, I feel like I’ve been fortunate enough to see a small part of the world. But there’s still so much to see, and the move I travel, the more I want to. I feel most alive when I travel and I’m thankful and lucky that I’ve traveled as much as I have and that I married a man who wants to see the world and have adventures with me.
  15. Good food. My friends have deemed me Kate “don’t mind if I do” Davis because of my love of eating. And with Thanksgiving being a national eating holiday of sorts, it’s only appropriate that I am thankful for all the good food both made by me and my friends and family and at the many vegetarian restaurants in NYC.
  16. Possibilities. When you are in high school or college it’s easy to feel like your whole life is ahead of you and there are so many possibilities. But just because I’m in my 30s and married doesn’t mean my life is all figured out. There are still so many surprises in store–I never would have thought I would teach yoga to kindergarteners in Brownsville. Who knows what turns my life will take in the decades ahead (or even in the next year), and for that I am grateful.
  17. My age. I dreaded turning 30, not because I was vain, and not because my 20s were so great I didn’t want to leave them behind (they had their ups and downs, like most decades). I dreaded turning 30 because I felt like I hadn’t accomplished enough, like I wasn’t the person that I wanted to be. But the “wisdom” that I’ve gain a year and a half in to my 30s is: So What, nobody is. I think my 30s are going to be about coming into myself and giving up on those insecurities that plague your 20s. I’m glad I’m 31, and I have no desire to be 21 again. I’m thankful for where I am.
  18. My Little Sister. I was matched with a shy 13 year old girl nearly five years ago, and now she’s in the middle of her first semester in college, and is almost 18. It was a challenge and a huge learning experience mentoring a teenager while I was in my late 20s, but I lucked out–she’s a great girl, and I am thankful that I allowed in her life.
  19. The giving spirit of others. I’ve been so inspired these last few weeks by how giving people can be–people have completely selflessly devoted themselves to total strangers. It has renewed my faith in humanity and made me feel so thankful for other people.
  20. Our wedding. I almost considered adding that I was thankful that I no longer have to plan a wedding. While there were lots of elements of wedding planning that I did enjoy there is an insane amount of stress and craziness that is unavoidable. So yes, I’m thankful that’s behind me. But I’m also thankful for our wedding–it wasn’t perfect–it was hot and humid that day and not everything went as planned. But it was still possibly the most amazing day of my life–it was beautiful and I felt so loved and happy and lucky.
  21. Our safety net.  We had some bad luck this year, and we will no doubt have bad luck in the future. So, I am thankful that my mom raised me to be the prepared saver that I am and to always have a savings. I’m also thankful that we have a supportive family that would help us if we didn’t have the safety net.
  22. All the things I’ve crossed off my list of life goals. Learning to sew, riding a bicycle built for two, taking a ride in a hot air balloon–I’ve crossed three things off my working list of life long goals, not to shabby. And I’ve had a lot of other adventures–and for that I’m very thankful.

When Somebody Does Something

Last night I wrote an 800-word post about my experience volunteering in Far Rockaway last weekend with Occupy Sandy. It was about my frustrations with the organization, the horrible and wonderful things my friends and I experienced and witnessed. It offered a lot of problems and some possible solutions to what I’ve noticed in the past two weeks since the storm. I hoped it offered some insight and a different story than all of the photos and status about people volunteering posted on social media patting themselves on the back.

But just as I hit save to go to bed, some sort of internet glitch ate it. It’s gone. Maybe I’ll re-write it, but I don’t think so.

The thing gist of the post, the bottom line to everything that millions of people are feeling right now is that it’s just not enough. There’s just soo much suffering, and now more than ever we live in two distinct cities, the line of the haves and the have nots has never been so clear. And while it has been draw as it always is somewhat along the lines of race and money, this time it is also so much more random.

The fact that we’ve managed to escape this disaster unscathed will forever leave a mark on my heart. I been unlucky before, I’ll be unlucky again, but for this and so many other reasons, I am so very lucky.

So I’ll skip the parts of the post that I had written about the cruel things we heard the firefighters say about the struggling residents, I’ll gloss over the looted buildings and piles of ruined homes, I give only brief lip-service to the disorganization of the Occupy movement and the waste and self-interest of the church we ended up at, and I’ll skip to the part where my friends and I got so fed up with it all that we took matters into our own hands.

We took as much food and supplies as the car would hold and went block by block knocking on doors of people who had been offered no help by all of the organizations set up nearby them that afternoon. It was an incredibly small thing. So many people that done such big heroic acts these past to weeks, so many people are devoting endless hours to important rebuilding and outreach work. I just spent a day shoveling mud and handing out sandwiches, I deserve no pat on the back.

But in the relief in the voices on on the faces of people who really needed a hat or coat or a peanut butter sandwich I saw such a beautiful part of humanity. Neighbors and strangers who took no more than they needed, told us of others that needed help (and in the case of the elderly man who lent us his flashlight so we could navigate the pitch black senior center–led us there).

Who is to say how you would act given those extreme circumstances–we all hope that we’ll never have to find out. But every person I encountered who had to endure things I hope I never have to, was grateful and gracious, something I don’t know if I could be given that plight.

I’m not fooling myself to believe that I did anything of significance last weekend. But the guilt and frustration that I’ve been feeling ever since the storm–the feeling like I don’t know what to do and everything I try feels like it’s not enough–was gone for those few hours. Those hours that we got so fed up that somebody wasn’t doing what needed to be done, and we became those somebodies.

Post Hurricane Post 3: On Climate Change and Voting

At the same time it seems likes there is both nothing left to say about the hurricane and too much left to say. Tomorrow I will go back into Manhattan for the first time in 10 days, (some) kids will be back in school. But life isn’t really returning to normal. And even though it kind of feel like it is for some people, and even though this new state of shell shock kind of feels has become familiar.

So while I’m in a strange mixed place of at a lost/too many words to say, there are two more issues that are tied to this storm that I have to kind of get off my chest.

Climate Change
Was global warming responsible for this hurricane? Quite possibly, but even if it wasn’t, it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that we’ve had two hurricanes in the last year here, a huge blizzard two years ago, followed by a winter with 50 degree weather and no snow at all (except for a snow storm in October), and more and more extreme weather events all over the world.

Pretending that there’s no such thing as climate change when there’s melting ice caps, and flooded cities isn’t going to make it go away and while some people *cough* Republicans *cough* can claim that the way to create jobs is to lift environmental regulations, it should be clear to EVERYONE that we can’t just keep doing things the way we have and then act surprised when things keep getting worse.

Which of course brings me to Obama and Romney. Bloomberg quite famously endorsed Obama last week in the wake of Sandy, basically because while Obama hasn’t done as much as many argue that he should, but really people, this one is a no brainer–your man Mitt, is quite literally ignoring the giant elephant in the room–when he gave his lip service to helping the hurricane victims at a rally and a man in the audience said “what about climate change?” he was booed, and drowned out with “U-S-A” chants.

I doubt those same people would be chanting “USA” when everything they own is swept away and FEMA lacks the funds to help them, because Romney’s decided helping people put their lives back together isn’t the government’s job.

Here’s what Bloomberg said: “Our climate is changing.  And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

All of which ties in to the next thing that’s really been bothering me:

Voting

The election is on Tuesday, and it would take a (not going to happen, hasn’t even been proposed) act of congress to move the election. But as much as everyone (myself included) is ready for this election to just be over already, I think that it should be postponed until next month. There are likely hundreds of thousands of people who would have voted who will not be voting on Tuesday–they either won’t be able to find their polling place because it’s been moved or doesn’t have power , or they will have bigger problems like having no home or power themselves.

Sure, you could argue that New York and New Jersey are solidly blue states anyway, so it’s fine that less people will be able to vote, but that’s kind of not the point of a democracy.  It’s fairly obvious who I’m not voting for on Tuesday (and yes I’ve confirmed that my polling place is still high, dry, and operational), but it’s not about who I think should and shouldn’t win (that’s a whole other loooong blog post).

The entire point of allowing every single citizen the right to vote once they are 18 is that they are actually able to vote. This is a right people fought for, and now two days before the election no one is fighting for the fact that a storm has essentially taken that right away from many people.

Post Hurricane Post 2: On Cancellations

Everyday there is more and more news in the aftermath of the storm. From news that warms my heart (and makes me cry) to news that just makes me so so sad and angry. The biggest news today in NYC seemed to be the marathon, which was scheduled for Sunday.

At first Bloomberg defiantly said that it would go on, citing Giuliani’s decision to hold the marathon after 9/11 (which makes no sense of course because that was two months after and there weren’t displaced people without homes/food/water/power and exhausted polices/EMTs who haven’t had more than a few hours rest in days). But throughout the day the pressure mounted, from the press, individuals, groups, and even runners. And by the end of the day he canceled the marathon–which I think pretty much everyone agrees is the right thing to do.

Now here’s the radical thing, I think we should have cancelled more — a lot more. The subways were still not running, half of Manhattan still didn’t have power, but New Yorkers had to “prove” that they were resilient and get back to work. So they stood spent hours waiting for shuttle buses or trapped in the worse gridlock the city has ever seen, resulting in widespread gas shortages. For what? What do most of us do? Sit in front of computers.

Schools were closed for the week because kids couldn’t get in and they were being used as shelters. I think that non-essential employees should have been given the week off as well — that New York should have been declared in a state of emergency, and that rather sitting in an idling car for 3 hours to get in to sit in front a computer, those that were lucky enough to not have been hit hard, should have had the freedom and ability to volunteer and help those in need.

After September 11, 2011, New York needed to prove to the world that they wouldn’t let the terrorists win, but after this hurricane, I think a stronger message would be–the city that never sleeps is going to put the breaks on for a week and work on helping each other out. There is more important work to be done.

Next Post: On Climate Change and Voting.

 

 

 

Post Hurricane Post Part 1: How to Help

It’s been a hell of a week in New York. And I’ve had it really easy compared to many. With the transit system shut down completely for several days and now with crippled and gridlocked commuting, I’m glad to be working from home this entire week (and possibly longer since our office building has no electricity, water, phone, or internet). Here’s the Hurricane Sandy coverage we’ve done this week.

High atop the hill here in Brooklyn, we were out of the flood zones, and despite several large trees coming down on our street (crushing a car and breaking the stained glass windows of the church), we never lost power.

Of course millions on the East Coast weren’t so lucky. From the lives and homes lost, to the thousands of people in shelters and still without power, it’s been so difficult for so many people. (below is just one of the hundreds of scary images we’ve all been pouring over the last few days–the lower east side flooded and without power).

The recovery efforts have been underway since as soon as the storm passed (and even during). And since I’ve been working extra hours, I haven’t yet been able to volunteer, but I’ve been trying to keep track of all the volunteer opportunities to share them with those who are able. Luckily Yoga Dork has put together a pretty comprehensive list:

(Note: I have edited/updated and made a few additions to this list)

If you live in the NY area the NYC Parks Department needs your help. Check  NYC.gov for on the days/hours and parks in need of volunteers.

Via TimeOut NY:

The New York chapter of the American Red Cross requested volunteers prior to Hurricane Sandy making landfall to help staff its shelters throughout the region. Find out if you meet their criteria and register at this American Red Cross web page, How to volunteer for Hurricane Sandy shelters. You can also learn more about donating blood through the organization.

Mayor Bloomberg has asked you to donate your time at one of the city’s evacuation shelters. You can find a full list at this nyc.gov webpage.

The Mayor’s Office also recommends registering with NYC Service, which will notify people once volunteer opportunities are available. Per the organization’s Facebook page: “There will be various ways to volunteer to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – Want to Volunteer? Please email nycservice@cityhall.nyc.gov with your name, email address and borough. There will be ways to volunteer today and over the next week as opportunities arise.”

New York Cares has several projects set up, and is asking anyone who is interested in helping out to sign up on their website, they are a great organization, that I’ve worked with for many years (I am also a New York Cares team leader)

An organizing site, The Lower East Side Recovers, has been set up to track volunteer opportunities and needs in Lower Manhattan. Sign up to get updates and more information.

Members of Occupy NYC are using recover.org to track volunteer efforts in their communities—check out pages for Red Hook and Astoria. Occupy has also set up a Facebook page to coordinate its relief efforts throughout the city. (via the House of Yes) also you can follow #Sandvolunteer for updates of project via Twitter.

Via Brooklyn Based, you can sign up with the New York Public Advocate’s office—give a date and time that you’re available, and they’ll follow up if your assistance is needed.

Food Not Bombs is asking for assistance—both by in-person volunteering and with donations—for its chapters in the Northeast, including NYC, Boston and Philadelphia. (via the House of Yes)

Red Hook Initiative is keeping tabs on local businesses who need help in the wake of Sandy, be it with generators, manpower or other forms of assistance. The organization is also accepting donations at its Red Hook headquarters; follow the group’s Twitter feed for up-to-date info on what they need (non-perishables, clothing, etc.)

The Food Bank for New York City is looking for volunteers—sign up on their website for more information.

Solar One sent out an e-mail blast earlier about volunteering to help clean up their space, which suffered significant damage during the storm. Here are the details: “We need volunteers to help us in the park this week to aid with all clean-up efforts. Our urgent need for volunteer help is for this Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3 from 10am-4pm. Please RSVP to dina@solar1.org so we’ll know you’re coming!” They’re also accepting cash donations.

The Prospect Park Alliance is accepting donations to help fund the clean-up of the park, post-Sandy; you can also sign up to be a volunteer once the clean-up efforts begin.

There are a lot of missing pets, check out http://www.facebook.com/SandysPets, or follow #SandyPets if you have lost or found a pet. Also the ASPCA is helping animals affected by the hurricane, they are always a great place to donate (our kitties donate to them every year)

DONATING BLOOD

The New York Blood Center (800-933-2566, nybc.org) has posted a list of locations on its Facebook page. In New York City, the locations are Upper East Side Donor Center (310 E 67th St between First and Second Aves, lobby) and Citicorp Donor Center (601 Lexington Ave between 53rd and 54th Sts, lower level). Currently, these offices are not open and cannot accept donations (due to lost power from the storm), but you can call or check their website or Facebook page for updates. Once they’re operational, they will need donations.

DONATING MONEY

Money is definitely needed with billions of dollars of damage. Below are some organizations taking donations:

The American Red Cross –call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your gift enables the Red Cross to get prepared and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected.

The Food Bank for New York City (text FBNYC to 50555 to make a donation from your mobile device)
AmeriCares
The Salvation Army
The Humane Society
North Shore Animal League
New York Cares (text iCARE to 85944 to donate $10 from your mobile device)
The Bowery Mission (text BOWERY to 20222 to make a donation from your mobile device)

Since I haven’t been able to this week, I am going to try donate blood or volunteer this weekend where needed and I’ll be texting my donation to the red cross–please do what you can–and we can all do something.

Next Post: On  Cancellations