This Thanksgiving feels different…the love runs deeper, the need for connection to family and friends more intense. We look out our window and see that the world is a scary place, so we turn inward looking for comfort from the people, places, and traditions we hold most dear. There remains much to be grateful for, not the least of which is the America we are blessed to call home.
Our lead story provides encouragement for working mothers: No, you’re not ruining your children by pursuing your goals and helping to keep food on the table. In fact, according to a recent study, you’re giving them a shining example of focused, disciplined, and self-reliant. No more Mommy Guilt!!
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying about the life’s three greatest fears: The first on is dying, the second one is speaking in public, and the third is dying while speaking in public. If those three fears describe you, help is on the way with our list of tips and tricks to wow the crowd including joining Toastmasters.
If flowers make you feel happy, you’re not alone. Turns out the presence of flowers in our lives can lift our mood, make us more productive, and make us better friends, co-workers and partners. Suggestion: Print out the article from Perspectives and place it strategically around your home and office. Wait for floral delivery.
Our Late Summer Edition closes with a thought about how important it is to bring together the world’s young generation of future leaders which is exactly what the Global Village of Business and Industry at Lehigh University does for five weeks every summer. I was honored to participate for the twelfth year.
|The recent passing of Maya Angelou, one of America’s greatest poets, and my own modest success of having a poem published in the New York Times, led me to think that it would be fun to have a poetry contest of our own.No matter how many forms your creativity takes, from cutting edge leadership to great cooking, writing down your thoughts and observations can free your mind to fly. I believe there is a poet in all of us…
We have three wonderful judges who have volunteered to read your work and render their opinion. So dust off that old journal that’s stashed in a drawer, and get writing. And be sure to let your friends know about the contest, too. You might find you are friends with the country’s next poet laureate. The world is waiting to read your thoughts!
The “rules” are listed below; here’s the bottom line… Write about whatever speaks to your heart and soul, then send it to Pam@PamelaVarkony.com. We’ll announce the winner at the end of July.
The rules for Perspectives Poetry Contest are simple:
** The subject can be anything you like and in any form or format… from elegy to sonnet, from haiku to prose. Poems should not exceed 300 words. One submission per person, please.
** For your poem to be eligible, you will need to be a member of my Facebook page, PamelaVarkony/Speaker
** Email entries to Pam@PamelaVarkony.com, along with your contact information.
** Deadline for entries is Monday, June 30, at 5:00 p.m.
** The winner will be announced and their poem will be published on my Facebook page on Monday, July 28, and in the summer edition of Perspectives on July 30.
** The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to their favorite organic food purveyor or grocery store.
** Be sure to “like” my Facebook page to be eligible; you won’t want to miss all the updates and the big reveal.
Meet our three Judges
Bathsheba Monk – Writer, Author, Speaker
Bathsheba is the author of five novels, including a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year. Bathsheba is also a producer and program host on WDIY, an NPR Community public radio station, and a popular speaker at colleges and universities. She’s currently writing the Swanson Herbinko Cozy Mystery series: Dead Wrong, Dead Silence and Dead Karma.
Kae Tienstra – Founder, KT Public Relations & Literary Services
Kae served thirteen years as publicity director for Rodale, Inc., before founding KT Public Relations, specializing in publicity and marketing campaigns for authors and book publishers. Kae is also an avid writer; her short story, “The Plum Pudding Phenomenon,“will be included in A Cup of Christmas Cheer to be published by Guideposts Books in October 2014.
Carolyn Potser – Teacher, Author, Columnist
After a storied career as a high school English and Creative Writing teacher with a particular love of poetry, Carolyn launched her own writing career, authoring a popular book on the history of her hometown, and becoming a freelance newspaper columnist. Famous for her high standards and red pen, Carolyn’s former students range from widely read authors to editors for the New York Times.
I love the start of a New Year for the nostalgia and introspection it inspires. I have a tradition on New Years Day of reflecting on where Iâ€™ve been, the people Iâ€™ve met, the experiences that mattered and the lessons learned; the cumulative effect of victories won and wisdom gained along the way that I can take with me moving forward. Each year I seem to journey to a different time and placeâ€¦
I used to have a television program on PBS 39/WLVT called â€œA View from the Valleyâ€, of which I was quite proud. It was a â€œlive to tapeâ€ show shot with no script and broadcast a day or two later with no edits. What happened in the studio was what you saw on the screen, just not in real time. I suppose if someone had used a bad word or keeled over in their chair we might have stopped the cameras but it was never necessary. I was the executive producer and on-air host. The program aired for five years and I loved every minute of it.
With more than a little help from my friends like Mike Bruckner of Muhlenberg College and James Harper from Lehigh University and other well-connected PR & communications buddies, I had the opportunity to interview the likes of erudite and charming Gennady Gerasimov, former spokesperson for Mikhail Gorbachev during the end of the Cold War; the magnetic and dynamic former Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres; and Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, who was the only human being Iâ€™ve ever encountered that I thought actually had an aura around himâ€¦an other-worldly light and energy. Such renowned leaders made for great interviews that to this day hold up when I see themâ€¦and when I see me.
Beyond my little walk down memory lane, the point of this exercise is how impactful it can be to look back on ones younger self in action. Not just a one dimensional photo or an often blurred memory, but a walking talking avatar of an earlier version of you. Such a journey can be rejuvenating, or not, but either way I promise it will be enlightening, and isnâ€™t enlightenment what weâ€™re striving for.
Not all of us have taped evidence of our more youthful â€œI can conquer the worldâ€ self to propel us in to a New Year. If you donâ€™t, you can still take that journey in your mind. Call up the image of you that believed in luck and miracles and immortality; turn them loose to dance across the room and in to your dreams with wild abandon. Then tomorrow, tuck them in your pocket and venture forth in to the New Year.
Wishing you the blessings of health, happiness, and love, and the wisdom of the past, in 2013.
Technology is wonderful except when it isnâ€™t. One of the times it isnâ€™t is when you need information or customer service and you find yourself hopelessly tangled in a maze of â€œPush 1 if your problem is Xâ€ options or even worse, you hear the dreaded â€œWelcome to the automated attendant service where we have answers for all your frequently asked questionsâ€ . No you donâ€™t, and I want to speak to a live person, NOW.
With necessity being the mother of desperation, I recently went online searching for a phone number that would lead me to a human being who could resolve the issue I was having with my Verizon FIOS service.
Iâ€™m a pretty savvy online explorer; being a good researcher is the life blood of being a writer. After nearly an hour of clicking every link and every page of the Verizon site map, I came to the conclusion they do not want to have those nasty customers bothering them. There was no information that would lead you to real time answers. Even the â€œautomated attendantâ€ said he wasnâ€™t available. Itâ€™s pretty bad when a cartoon character and a computer wonâ€™t talk to you.
I turned to Google and it was there that I found a wonderful place; GetHuman.com. Here is a company whose motto is â€œGet Customer Service Faster and Easierâ€! Itâ€™s FREEâ€¦.and to make it even better, it works. I typed Verizon FIOS in to the search box and up came a choice of five numbers to call and it even rated them according to site user feedback as to how effective that number is at getting a real person on the phone, average wait time, and satisfactory result of the call: Manna from Heaven.
The first number I dialed produced exactly the desired result, a very nice man who said he was located in Pittsburgh in the Pennsylvania Verizon Call Center, solved my problem in ten minutes. Why that number is not readily provided by Verizon, I have no idea.
So if youâ€™re looking for information on a product or service, or resolution to a problem, I highly recommend going to GetHuman.com. They even have an app for mobile devices. I hope the remainder of your holiday will now be merry and brightâ€¦and much more stress free.
The story of Christmas is about so many things; faith, kindness, and the triumph of the spirit even in the poorest of conditions. So is the story of saving Starâ€¦and in the process, saving ourselves.
Super storm Sandy was on her way; the weather maps showed her imminent approach. To ease my concern, I scrolled through Facebook to find comfort in the collective conscience of social media. I came upon a conversation between two acquaintances, one a realtor who had spent the day looking at potential listings. What she found in the back woods of Salisbury Township was a horse that appeared weak and underfed. Confined to a field with almost no shelter, the poor thing had only moldy food and little water…and he was about to be in the middle of a hurricane. Horses are survivors, they can withstand harsh conditions, but not if theyâ€™re malnourished or dehydrated.
I messaged the only â€œhorseâ€ friend I have, explaining the situation. Wenda Howe Boyer responded as I knew she wouldâ€¦ â€œWe have to do somethingâ€ was the consensus. We talked options: It was too late to trailer him to a safe place until the storm was overâ€¦her trailer was stored miles away, the storm was about to hit, and a horse trailer would get blown all over the road. The most practical option was to take him food and water in the hope that if properly fed, he could weather the storm.
Wenda would go to her barn for supplies, Iâ€™d get directions from the other women and weâ€™d pick a spot to meet. After multiple attempts to verbally describe the horseâ€™s location and then to find it on Google Maps, it was clear the animal was truly in the middle of nowhere. The other two women bravely offered to go along to lead us to the horse.
Iâ€™m a country girl; I know how to dress for a storm. As I appeared in the kitchen in my slicker fastened with metal bolts and my Wellie boots, my husband, with an astonished look on his face, said, â€œWhere are you going?â€ After decades of marriage, the fact that I was about to head out in a hurricane to rescue a horse didnâ€™t seem to surprise him. I heard a deep sigh as he rolled is eyes and said, Good Lord; you canâ€™t go out there alone. Iâ€™ll take you in the four-wheel drive. We traversed Allentown from the West End to the South side, picking up one of the rescuers along the way. The other would drive her car to meet us.
It was now dark out and the wind was whipping across the parking lot of a CVS pharmacy as four of us sat waiting for Wenda. When her pick up truck turned toward us, I laughed out loud: Her husband was behind the wheel: Another good man following his determined woman in to the fray.
By now, power outages were everywhere. Starting the climb up South Mountain on a narrow road it was hard to see twenty feet in front of the car. Branches and entire trees littered the road. Those that couldnâ€™t be seen could be heard crashing in the woods. A scene from the movie â€œTwisterâ€ flashed through my mind. To add to the tension, after the first two turns, I had no idea where we were.
Finally we turned onto a rutted dirt lane. It was pitch black, rain was coming in sideways, and the wind was now a steady 30 miles an hour when we pulled up to a single-wire fence.
Six flashlights began searching the darkness, when a pair of eyes caught the reflection. Heâ€™s hereâ€¦We found him. Even in those conditions; violent weather, flashing lights, loud voices, he came toward us. Wenda took the lead, carrying a fresh bale of hay in to what can only be described as a filthy, run-down lean-to. Hunger overcame shyness and he took some food from her hand, and then ran off to hide in the darkness.
Assessing the condition of the lean-to; it needed repairs and a good mucking-out, we concluded there was not much more we could do that night. Just as that consensus was reached, an enormous gust of wind, the worse so far that evening, almost knocked us off our feet. It was clear the storm was worsening quickly. We needed to find our way out of the woods and back to civilization, leaving our equine friend with fresh food, water, and our prayers.
On Emaus Avenue, our little band of rescuers peeled off one by one, wishing each other well as Sandy bore down on us. My husband and I retraced our route through Allentown and were crestfallen to turn up our street and find it in total darkness. We were cold, tired, and despite my best efforts, soaked to the skin. There would be no warm house, hot shower or cooked food.
Less than an hour after returning home, while sitting at our kitchen table, bathed in lantern light, a blast of wind with a velocity that made it sound like a jet plane, shook our entire house. The wind seemed to subside, then we heard a creaking and cracking that became louder and louder until it was a giant roar followed by an enormous bang.
My husband tried to open the back door but could only create a gap large enough to extend his arm and the lantern. I heard him gasp. The giant Hackberry tree that stood on the bank up over our patio had come crashing down on the house.
We were relieved to see the flashing lights of the Allentown Fire Dept who came to rescue us in the midst of the storm, and grateful to our friends Vic and Jody Mazziotti for offering us shelter in the middle of the night.
The next day as we surveyed the scene surrounded by engineers, contractors, and equipment, more than one expert commented on how fortunate we were that such an enormous tree had miraculously fallen at a slight angle and not straight down on top of us, how if it had, we would have never escaped unhurt.
I have always believed that the energy you put out in to the universe comes back to you.
Call it karma, or fate, or whatever you like. And so, in the middle of one of the worse storms to ever hit our region, I believe the â€œhorse angelâ€ saved us… Our personal, October version of a Christmas miracle.
Epilogue: The beautiful white horse that six adults risked their lives to save is named â€œStarâ€. Wenda visits him regularly with his favorite treat, carrots. Through her contacts she found his owners and has been able to â€œmotivateâ€ them to take a little bit better care of him, although not at the level that she and I think is appropriate. I accompanied her last week to see him and am glad to report that he has gained some weight. Heâ€™s a beautiful creature with soulful eyes and I pray for his comfort and safety. I will continue to tell you about him as his story unfolds.
Photo courtesy of Wenda Howe Boyer
After a longer than anticipated hiatus from blogging, it feels good to be back in the computer chair and filled with thoughts to share.
This new incarnation of Perspectives represents a long-held theory of mine that in life you can have it all, just not all at the same time: Life is a series of journeys, transformations and reinventions. One set of experiences, or setbacks, leads you to the next plateau where you remain until youâ€™re ready to go galloping off looking for the next challenge.
So here we go, launching once more into the blogosphere with conversations about everything from politics to womenâ€™s issues to absurdity to "life"…
I hope you’ll come along for the ride. I look forward to hearing from you, learning from you and engaging in the discourse that is at the core of our democracy.