Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Am I Missing?

You know when you’ve lived somewhere all of your life and realize that you haven’t done most of the things tourists do when they come to your fair city?  Watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, I realized just that.  With the most fabulous city in the world—sorry, San Francisco; pardon, Paris—right in my backyard, I realized with shock that I am a lousy New Yorker.

Or, as many a jaded New Yorker might say, just a normal one.

I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Laura Bradford last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and asked her what her holiday plans were. 

“We are going to the parade in the morning,” she said, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

See, I’m a native New Yorker.  We hate traffic. We loathe crowds.  We avoid both like the proverbial plague.  We opt, instead, to watch parade organizers blow up the balloons for the parade rather than stand in a crowd watching aforementioned balloons drift by.  We do not go to the parade.  (Or at least this native doesn’t.)  I looked at her as if she had just said, “we’re going to search for the Loch Ness monster and then look at the eclipse without sunglasses.”

Then I realized that going to the parade sounded like a whole heck of a lot of fun, crowds and traffic be damned.  The Bradford clan had the right idea:  do this quintessential New York thing and enjoy yourself while doing it!  Now there was a novel idea, foreign to many New Yorkers.

If it weren’t for my kids’ class trips, I never would have been to Ellis Island and even though my grandparents didn’t come through its hallowed (and kind of scary) halls, it was still fascinating to visit. If it hadn’t been for a friend who worked at Windows of the World, I never would have been inside the North Tower of the Twin Towers (as we New Yorkers always called them back in the day).  A work event brought me to South Street Seaport—in 1989 and never since.  Am I lazy?  Disinterested?  Hard to know.  But I do think I need to see some of our city’s amazing sites and participate in some of its special yearly occurrences.  I am making a resolution in 2013 to do just that.

It got me thinking about the other things that are truly New York and what make our city special.  Here’s a list of things that I haven’t done:

1.     Climbed to the top of the Empire State Building.  Sure, I’ve passed it a hundred times or more while walking to another destination but I’ve never been inside its art deco walls or even climbed to the top. 

2.     Been to Coney Island.  And I’m from Brooklyn originally!  Of course, Coney Island may need a few months to get itself back up and running after Hurricane Sandy but a visit to the Boardwalk and the famed aquarium are definitely in the cards for the new year.

3.     Taken the Staten Island Ferry.  From what I gather, there is no better view of Manhattan island than from the bow of the Staten Island Ferry.  And it’s cheap!  Like a dollar or some ridiculous sum.  Why haven’t I been on the ferry?  Why haven’t I taken the kids?

4.     Visited the Intrepid.  I’ve driven down the West Side Highway a thousand times and every time, I think, “We should really go to the Intrepid.” But we never have?  Why?  Nobody knows.

5.     Walk along the Highline.  In my defense, this is a fairly new attraction but at least 90% of my friends—and their kids—have been to the Highline.  Not us!  Why?  Again, we are not sure.  Heck, it’s tough to get out of the attic (where I write); it’s even tougher to draft reluctant family members from the couch.  But we will walk the Highline in 2013.  Mark my words.

So, Stiletto friends, what fantastic sites or events in your neck of the woods have you missed?  Why?

(Oh, and by the way, EXTRA CREDIT, the seventh installment in the Alison Bergeron/Murder 101 series, publishes next Tuesday, December 4th.  Something tells me there will be a contest shortly...check back for details!)

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How can it almost be December?

By: Joelle Charbonneau

Every morning my won wakes up and asks, “Is it December, yet?”  Every morning I say, “No.  Not yet.”  But as I look at the date on the calendar, I realize I won’t get to say that for much longer.  December is coming.  There is no stopping it.  Although, I’d like to try!

I have nothing against the month.  In fact, I love snow and the festive holiday fun that comes along with the calendar turning to the final month of the year.  Never does the house look so pretty as when the halls are decked and the scent of freshly baked gingerbread makes the world feel like a happier place.

The problem is, I’m not ready for it to be December, yet!  I’m just not.  Although I already have the tree up and decorated and most of my gift-giving purchases complete, I’m not ready.  And the reason for that is simple.  I love the holidays, but at the moment I don’t have time to enjoy them.  For while I enjoy the shopping and wrapping, the baking and caroling of the holidays, work still has to get done in between.

Today, I start work on a new manuscript.  While there is joy in opening a new document and typing Chapter 1, I find it hard to write during the holidays.  I’ve done it before.  I know I can, and yet, for some reason the idea of sitting in front of my computer instead of toasting marshmallows over a fire (I don’t even have a fireplace!) or sledding down a hill with my son (and freezing my tush off) makes me nuts.   Which is why every year I vow to get so far ahead in my workload that I can take the days before Christmas off.  Sadly, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to make that happen.

So this year, I have vowed to enjoy writing this new book as much as I love listening to holiday music and watching my son’s face light up when the snow begins to fall.  Of course, if you have any suggestions as to how you manage to deal with your every day work while still savoring the delight of the holidays, I hope you will share them.  Past experience tells me that I’m going to need all the help I can get!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Reading

I love the holiday season because the gifts that I enjoy the most are those that will buy me books and more books. It’s also the time of year when retailers come out with new and/or improved e-readers that my heart desires and yes, my Paperwhite Kindle is on order. I’m a reading geek at heart and I love reading books that put me in the mood for the holidays and the approaching winter. That’s right, I like seeing snow around the holiday and to laze in my recliner with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate by my side.

Below are some holiday-themed mysteries to whet your appetite for holiday cheers.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
She may be thirty-fifth in line for the throne, but Lady Georgiana Rannoch cannot wait to ring in the new year—before a Christmas killer wrings another neck…

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile, Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig.

So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie falls out of a tree, dead…. Dickensian, indeed.

Freddie’s merely a stocking stuffer. On my second day in town, another so-called accident turns up another mincemeat pie—and yet another on my third. The village is buzzing that a recent prison break could have something to do with it… that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. I’m not so sure. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.
Let it Sew by Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Down south, the holidays mean family—and for Yankee librarian Tori Sinclair, family means the Sweet Briar Ladies Society sewing circle. It may not be a white Christmas, but it’s one she’ll never forget—no matter how hard she tries…

Instead of spending a nice, relaxing Christmas with her fiancĂ©, Tori Sinclair has been drafted into Sweet Briar’s holiday Decorating Committee. And the season has brought sad tidings as well: Charlotte Devereaux, a sewing circle founding member who unraveled after her storybook marriage fell apart, has passed away.

Charlotte’s last days were foggy, distressed, and feverish… except for the sketches she produced. One detail in particular jumps out at Tori and leads to a shocking revelation: Charlotte’s husband didn’t leave her—he was murdered! And as she gets closer to the truth, Tori will discover that just about everyone in town has got notches on the naughty list this year.
Holiday Buzz by Cleo Coyle
Cleo Coyle writes "a foodie's delight...and a satisfyingly rich mystery" (Kirkus), and now the national bestselling author of A BREW TO A KILL serves up a yuletide treat in her new Coffeehouse Mystery HOLIDAY BUZZ.

Holiday time is party time in New York City, but after a sparkling winter bash ends with a murder, Village Blend coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi vows to put the killer on ice... At the Great New York Cookie Swap, pastry chefs bake up their very best for charity. Clare is in charge of the beverage service, and her famous Fa-la-la-la Lattes make the gathering even merrier. But her high spirits come crashing down to earth when she discovers the battered body of a hard-working baker's assistant. Police suspect a serial attacker whose escalating crimes have become known as "The Christmas Stalkings." Clare's boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, finds reason to believe even more sinister forces are involved. Clare isn't so sure, until she finds a second bludgeoned baker and becomes a target herself. Now Clare must investigate "Saint Nick," crash a pro-hockey party, and dodge a pair of reality TV divas--because she's not going to rest until justice is served.
The Snow White Christmas Cookie by David Handler
The newest adventure featuring the mismatched romantic crime-fighting duo of New York City film critic Mitch Berger and Connecticut State Resident Trooper Desiree Mitry presents Des with her first taste of Christmas in the historic New England village of Dorset.

And what a taste it is. Three blizzards have blanketed the village in forty inches of snow. Bryce Peck, Mitch’s blue-blooded neighbor out on Big Sister Island, has just been found dead of a drug overdose. Young Kylie Champlain has slammed her car head-on into an office building after she’s caught trying to shoplift a pair of Ugg boots. And a grinch has taken to stealing the mail from Hank Merrill’s postal route, which happens to be the main route through the historic district.

Stealing the U.S. mail is a serious federal crime, but Des soon discovers that she’s onto something much bigger: a black-market prescription drug gang with ties to organized crime. And now a fourth blizzard is on its way. And so is another murder. And, somehow, the man in her life has managed to land himself smack dab in the middle of the whole mess. Not to mention that he’s in way over his head with Josie Cantro, the beautiful and treacherous life-coach who just may be responsible for it all. If Des doesn’t act fast, this will truly be a Christmas to remember---but for all of the wrong reasons.
Mistletoe, Merriment, and Murder by Sara Rosett
Super organizer Ellie Avery could really use some Christmas cheer when Gabrielle Matheson, a grinchy professional rival, sets up shop in the same small Georgia town. But before the halls are even halfway decked with holly, someone uses Ellie's terrifically tasteless white elephant swap gift as. . .a murder weapon!

Ellie's now a suspect. Besides playing Mrs. Santa for her Air Force pilot husband and their two kids, shielding her eyes from the garishly over-decorated house down the street, and helping a client who's a hardcore hoarder, Ellie also has to solve this ho-ho-homicide. . .and find a killer who wishes her a very deadly Christmas.

Don't miss Ellie Avery's great tips for a relaxed and stress-free holiday season!
Elvis and the Blue Christmas Corpse by Peggy Webb
Someone's ringing slay bells and Callie, her bodacious Cousin Lovie, and the basset hound who believes he's the King reincarnated must go on the hunt for a killer who's anything but jolly.

It may be Christmas in Tupelo, but there's precious little peace in the valley for the Valentine gang. Callie Valentine Jones' not-quite-ex Jack is trussed up like a holiday turkey, recovering from a shattered leg. Cousin Lovie's on the rebound, looking for love in all the wrong stockings. And Elvis the basset hound is out for revenge on the Lhasa Apso who's been singing "Merry Christmas, Baby" to his sweet French poodle behind his tail.

Everyone finally gets into the spirit when Uncle Charlie is pressed into service as Santa at a weekend charity event in the mall. But Yuletide cheer turns to Yuletide fear after a killer tries to zap Charlie back to the North Pole marked "Return to Sender"--and sends Rudolph to the big reindeer pen in the sky.

Determined to find out who's decking the mall with Christmas corpses, Elvis and the Valentines fill up their sleigh with suspects. Could it be the cookie lady who puts more than sugar into her Christmas goodies? The deranged vet who vows to barbecue Santa? Or the former beauty queen who's been stalking Charlie in her spare time? Can the Valentine gang unmask this devil in disguise in time to turn their "Blue Christmas" all Christmas-y and white?

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Perils of Dogs and Laptops

By Linda Rodriguez

For nearly a week, I have been deprived of my laptop due to the jealousy of a young male dog.

We have a Plott hound that we rescued right before Thanksgiving two years ago when he was still less than a year old and very docile--because he was almost starved to death and suffering from heartworms. I had sworn I didn't want a young, strong male dog. I wanted an older, calm female like the lovely Sharpei-Husky we'd just lost to liver cancer at 14+ years of age. But Dyson was going to be put down on the next day, and we couldn't let that happen to a dog with such soulful eyes.

In no time at all, he rebounded in health now that he had a loving home. He more than doubled in weight and regained all his strength and energy, which is far from negligible. If you want to know about Plott hounds, imagine a cross between a Great Dane and a greyhound, for he's related to both. He's the state dog of North Carolina and was bred to hunt bear and other large ferocious predators. Alas, at our house, all he gets to hunt are possums, which he darts into the hedges and pulls out in his mouth but never harms.

Dyson is also very fond of me--to the point that he will try to force his way in between my husband and me if we give each other a hug. Lately, I've been traveling a lot and doing author events in locales within day-trip distance of my home. Then when I am home, I've been meeting deadlines, so I've been monopolized by my laptop. He's conceived a real jealousy for that black plastic box.

Friday morning, I was up early, sitting in the living room working while my husband finished getting packed up for work. He leaned down from the left to kiss me goodbye. This was simply too much for Dyson, the black thing and Daddy both monopolizing Mommy, so he tried to get in between both of them and me from my right side--this dog who stands on his hind legs at the door and is taller than my tall husband--and my laptop went crashing to the floor.

It was a right catastrophe. My laptop worked wonkily for a few hours and then gave up the ghost--just as I was trying to email an important document to my agent. After many tears, I called my son who is an IT specialist, and he is attempting to repair it. Because I had many programs customized to my needs, I hope he can, and I don't have to start over with another again.

My time is up on this slow library computer, so I will post and ask you to forgive all typos.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Moments

by Bethany Maines

I’ve been enjoying this week of Thanksgiving reflections on the Stiletto Gang. Each one reminds me of my own family and all the little moments that go along with holidays. 

My grandmother’s unstoppable attraction to returning to the kitchen just as we were about to pray.
“Mama, sit down!  We can’t eat the meal until you sit down!” 
“Well, yes, but just one more thing…”

Grandpa hacking up the turkey with the electric carving knife, which gave way to Dad eyeballing the turkey with suspicion and frustration as the perfect cut always eludes him.  Until last year when my thirteen year old cousin arrived fresh from watching the cooking channel.
“Well, first you cut off the drumsticks and then you cut here, here and here.”
“You know, it sounds like you’ve got a real plan.  Why don’t you try it?  I’ll help steady the bird.”
My cousins eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, and we all admitted that his cutting job was pretty darn good.
My German cousins confusion about the fact that my mom makes an entire pan of stuffing (we all eat too much of it to make it in the turkey) and the fact that we’d never noticed that this invalidated the basic premise of stuffing until she pointed it out.
            “Yes, but what is it?”
            “It’s stuffing.”
            “But it’s not been in the bird?”
            “Oh.  Um… I guess it’s not stuffing.  It’s stuffing type stuff.”
The year my mom spontaneously invited the boy I had barely started seeing to Thanksgiving.  I really should have known better than to bring him by the house.
            “But mom, that was only our second date!”
            “But he doesn’t have anywhere to go!  And he’s from Virginia.”
            Since Grandma was born in Virginia that meant it would the height of rudeness to turn him away, since clearly he was practically family.  The Virginia argument invalidated all other arguments.
            The mad scramble every year to draw names for Christmas gifts and the year we all managed to forget, so my cousin and I became the designated pickers.
            “Aren’t we going to draw names?”
            “Well, your aunt and uncle just left, and I think Grandma’s asleep.  So I guess not.”
            “We should use a random number generator and just assign everyone.”
            “Great, I’ll get some paper and a pen.”
            That worked out quite well for me because I “randomly” managed to assign myself one of the family’s better bakers and got an entire plateful ginger molasses cookies.  She who does the picking gets to pick – just saying.

Each Thanksgiving has the same soothing routine of football and turkey and wishing I’d worn pants with an elastic waist.  But each Thanksgiving is also different as we give thanks for the new babies and the new spouses and remember the relatives that are no longer with us.  The tradition connects us with those who have gone before us and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Bethany Maines is the author of Bulletproof Mascara, Compact With the Devil and Supporting the Girls.  Catch up with her at or check out the new Carrie Mae youtube video.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

Traditions in my family have changed a lot over the years. The earliest Thanksgivings I remember were at my Grandparents’ home in South Pasadena. Grandma cooked the turkey, my mom and aunt helped with the side dishes, Grandpa carved and we ate the feast at an elegantly set table in the dining room. My sister and I were never allowed to wash or dry dishes because we might have broken the China. (Do you think our feelings were hurt?)
This was at my mom's on Thanksgiving morning, a long time ago.All the kids in picture are now grandparents.

At some point the holiday gathering changed to my parents’ home and as I remember it was after I was married. The dining room was smaller, but we managed to fit everyone around the table. My dad carved the turkey and yes, my sis and I were not only allowed to dry the dishes, but wash them too.

I remember one Thanksgiving that I had at our home in Oxnard. No way could our big family fit in our small dining alcove so the tables were set up in the living room. I’m sure I cooked the turkey and perhaps my dad did the carving since he was the “expert”. What I do know is my aunt brought her wonderful green beans (not the casserole that’s so popular these days but fresh green beans cooked with bacon and fresh mushrooms.) She also brought the candied sweet potatoes—no one could make them like she did.
My grandparents, parents and aunt have all passed on. My sister now lives in Las Vegas with most of her large family and I’m here in the foothills of California with part of my even larger family. Usually the dinner is at our house because the dining room is bigger with a large round table, and if there are more than 12 we can set up another table nearby.

We’ve had many people joining us for Thanksgiving dinner over the years. Many of the traditions have changed. Because there are so many and I don’t want to spend the whole time in the kitchen, I serve the meal buffet style with paper plates. 

Different members of the family bring something. This year, my daughter will do the potatoes—mashed and sweet potatoes. I cheat and buy the turkey gravy in the jars—it tastes much better than mine.  I’m going to make the green bean casserole everyone wants these days. I always make the dressing and will again. One of my granddaughters will make the pear, cream cheese and  green Jell-O that was always my mom’s contribution. We’ll have store bought rolls,  lots of olives and pickles, and I’ll make some chocolate pies and probably buy some others.

Joining hubby and me this year will be our son, my daughter and her hubby, their daughter (our granddaughter) and her hubby, their three teenagers ( our greats) and the three young men who live at their house one is another grown grandson who belongs to our youngest daughter, a young man who was a foster kid  and had nowhere to go when he aged out of the system, and another young man whose step-mother decided she didn’t want him around anymore. (He’s still in high school.) Needless to say my granddaughter and her husband are big-hearted.

I know I don’t need fancy place settings, just lots of good food for this crowd.
In 2011 we broke tradition and went to another daughter's for Thanksgiving, hubby and I are on the end, right side.

After we’ve eaten, those who want can watch football games, the rest of us will play Estimation—the card game my mother and father loved to play—and has continued on as a Thanksgiving tradition.
So what about the rest of you, anyone else have some non-traditional traditions?

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Reason to Give Thanks

By Evelyn David

That's the title of a new short story collection we published last week – as well as how I'm feeling at the start of the holiday season.

Hurricane Sandy totally threw off my calendar. I lost a week when we didn't have power (although I did read some great books by candlelight), so it was a total surprise when my daughter started talking about our Thanksgiving menu. Turkey Day already? Didn't we just have the Fourth of July? Hot dogs and hamburgers anyone?

So I had to start from scratch, so to speak. Restock the fridge and try to figure out what to make besides the obvious gobbler, which personally I could do without. I love all the sides, but really don't care that much for turkey. Still, this is a family steeped in tradition, so turkey it is.

Anyway, it's so very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of a holiday. This one likes Brussel sprouts, this one would rather die than eat one – you all know the drill. In the midst of all the prep, it struck me that if I had learned nothing from my week without power (besides needing to buy a generator!), it's that I actually have so very much for which to be thankful, with or without electricity.

I am blessed with a wonderful family, a writing partner who is also my friend, a delightful, supportive literary community – what else do I need (save perhaps chocolate?).

Rhonda and I hope you enjoy our holiday confection, A Reason to Give Thanks. It features two Brianna Sullivan paranormal holiday stories; one Mac Sullivan Christmas mystery; a frothy romance centered around Thanksgiving; and a short-short that will intrigue and maybe haunt you! (Note: collection includes previously published Evelyn David holiday-themed short stories and novellas).

A Reason to Give Thanks includes: Giving Thanks in Lottawatah, Bah, Humbug in Lottawatah, Moonlighting at the Mall, The Fortune Teller's Face, A Reason to Give Thanks, Sneak Peek – Murder Off the Books, Sneak Peek – I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries

A Reason to Give Thanks

Most of all, we want to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Marian and Rhonda, the collective Evelyn David

Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Trade Paperback (exclusive to Amazon)
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Zoned for Murder
Kindle Trade Paperback

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle (exclusive to Amazon this month)
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Summer Lightning in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, November 16, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite (Thanksgiving) Things...

By Laura Bradford

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, one of my favorite times of the year. It's earned that spot on my personal list for a number of reasons...

# 1. It serves as the appetizer for my very favorite holiday.

# 2. I absolutely love the Macy's Day Parade. Some of the balloons still in this annual event are as old as I am (and I remember them).  

# 3. I love turkey. I don't like to make turkey as it has a way of pushing me toward the vegetarian lifestyle of which I'd starve to death. But I sure like to eat turkey.

#4. I make really amazing homemade potatoes. And the lumps are, indeed, the best part.

# 5. Love, love, love the stuffing (or "dressing" as so many people say).

But my very, very, very favorite part of Thanksgiving?

Drum roll please...

# 6 (or perhaps I should have made this # 1).  The sight of a chocolate turkey beside everyone's plate. It's one that instantly transports me back to those days when I sat on two New York City phone books to reach my grandmother's table. Sometimes, when I think back to those days when I got to pass a bowl of stuffing to my grandmother or the Lenox gravy boat to my grandfather, I get a little choked up. I miss them. I miss the sound of their voices. I miss the way they cared about me. But what wonderful, wonderful memories they gave me on Thanksgiving and so many other special days throughout the year. So this Thanksgiving, like many in my adult years, will include chocolate turkeys. And while it will be my hand that puts them there, it will be my grandmother's that I will forever see...

Now tell me, what's your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Post-Sandy Reflections

My last blog post romanticized waiting for the storm to hit.  We had wine, chocolate, and enough junk food to last a few days, so what was the problem exactly?  The problem was that the power went out and didn’t come back on for nine days. 

And we were the lucky ones.

I learned a few things during that time and they are listed below:

1.     The radio comes in handy.  I, like most Americans, listen to the radio while driving.  Otherwise, I have my iPod in, controlling the music I want to listen to, or I’m watching television. To be completely dependent on the radio for a link to the outside world was something that I hadn’t experienced ever.  My son certainly hadn’t.  He and I stuck it out until Election Night when we decided that we couldn’t take the sub-freezing temperatures in the house anymore, sleeping my big bed with our animals, listening to either news radio or sports radio until we fell asleep.  In the dark, our breath coming out in freezing puffs, we lay there and listened to the stories of people far worse off than we were as well as updates on the subways, commuter trains, and businesses in and around New York City.

2.     Living in a house that relies completely on electricity is a bad thing.  I thought of this while I stood in front of the barbecue grill, making the dog’s special food (she’s on a diet for her skin allergies that requires me to cook for her) in a frying pan. I lamented the fact that every appliance in our house runs on electricity, even the stove.  Many of my friends have gas running into their house so never lost hot water or their stoves; many, like me rely completely on electrical power.  Others, in the worst-off category, have well water and hence, couldn’t flush their toilets for up to twelve days, depending on where they lived and how quickly the local power company restored their power.  The situation at my house, however, prompted me to go to Home Depot and snag the last generator that apparently existed: one that had been returned by a neighbor of mine (I didn’t know at the time that I bought it that it had been hers), the timing of which coincided with my desperate visit.  Now we have a gas-powered generator that will help out during storms but living in an old house without a garage means nowhere to store it.

3.     Don’t underestimate the luxury of showering in your own house.  We were lucky enough to have family members and friends who did have hot water; unfortunately, going to one of their homes meant driving, in one’s pajamas, and bringing clean clothes and toiletries along for the rid.  After the thought of doing so on day five seemed too daunting, I decided I would be brave and take a cold shower, something hubby and child #2 listened to with glee; heck, the sounds I made were better than anything they were listening to on the radio.  Once you have taken a cold shower and you stop shivering, you do feel refreshed.  However, your feet are numb for most of the day and your hair really isn’t very clean. But at least you aren’t driving in your slippers, looking for a place to land.  There’s that.

4.     You start to go a little crazy.  I was fine from day one until day seven.  On day eight, I snapped.  I’m not sure what it was about that point in time, but it was on that day that I was officially broken.  I had sworn I wasn’t going to leave the house before power was restored but with the temperatures dipping into the twenties for the second night in a row, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. It was election night and I didn’t even see the returns for some of the early-voting states before my head hit the pillow at my in-laws and I fell asleep, in a warm house, for the first time in over a week.  (We got power back the next day at 11 a.m.)

5.     People are wonderful.  It’s sappy and clichĂ©d but people really do come together in a crisis.  Granted, no one here in my little village lost their home and the damage was relegated to trees and felled power lines and telephone polls, but people really stepped up the generosity and opened their doors to their cold, unshowered neighbors.  And two organizations in our village organized pot-luck suppers for people who still didn’t have power and wanted hot, home-cooked food, events that remind you that we’re all in this together.  It was an especially good reminder during an election week when the vitriol dial was turned to “11.”  Although we were uncomfortable and didn’t have our creature comforts for far longer than was acceptable, for a few days, we had each other and that reminded me of why I live here.

My heart goes out to the people who lost homes, and even worse, family members. Not having television made it hard to picture the devastation but once power was returned and I started seeing what had actually happened, I was overwhelmed.  I spent a lot of my formative years at the Jersey Shore and realize that it will never be the same.  But I hope we can build back these beautiful areas of the East Coast and hopefully weather more storms that are sure to come our way.

Maggie Barbieri