So: preparedness

Today’s the day in the U.S. when everyone remembers what happened on 9/11/01.

I know exactly what I was doing (getting ready for work and watching the Today show) and where I was (in our condo in downtown Toronto) when the first plane crashed. I remember going to work in the heart of Toronto’s downtown core not really knowing what was going on.  I remember getting called into a conference room and watching the tv. I remember getting told by our Managing Director to go back home, not realizing at the time that he hadn’t been able to reach anyone in our agency’s NYC headquarters.  Once I got home, I remember Bruce and I pulling our blinds shut and watching news channels all day with our bulldog Daisy snoozing on the sofa, not really knowing what was going on. I had friends and family in D.C. and PA. I had friends in NYC. I remember planes getting rerouted to various Canadian cities and people taking the frightened and passport-less Americans into their homes, giving them their bedrooms and making them part of the family without knowing when they’d be able to leave. I remember the chaos.

No one was prepared for it. How could they be?

Well, friends, one of the themes for 2013 for the Mortroski Mid-century is to be prepared. We’ve optimized and checked systems. We’ve gotten important paperwork in order for both ourselves and the 4Gs. Bruce and I attended a Pet First Aid class and now know how to do CPR on the dogs, muzzle them in an emergency and do some basic first aid.

And I’ve been building a dog first aid kit and a people first aid kit. To get it done in what I thought would be the most efficient manner, I ordered everything online from Amazon. Well, the mailroom at my office must be wondering what’s coming in all the boxes.  Amazon (and their various suppliers) have been shipping everything in bits and pieces, despite my checking of the “ship in as few boxes as possible” box.

Still, by the end of the week, I will have a very comprehensive kit for the Gs, a smaller kit to bring to work, and plenty of materials to expand our human first aid kits. Then I need to work on the emergency supplies: food, water, tools, etc.

It’s a wonder I’ve never put these emergency kits together before. Before adulthood, I lived through tornadoes in Indiana, hurricanes in Georgia, and earthquakes in California (including the big World Series earthquake in the late ’80s where the Bay Bridge and highways fell down). I remember going to the hurricane shelter and I remember being without power for a week. I remember staying with my friend Elaine as we watched San Francisco burn from across the bay in Berkeley, not knowing whether or not her dad and stepmom who lived in the Marina neighborhood were ok. She wouldn’t hear from them for full day, but luckily they were ok.

In Toronto, I should have had an emergency kit for the big eastern 1/2 of North America power grid blackout in August 2003. Instead, our bulldog Daisy and I went for a walk (Bruce was on a business trip in Quebec City and would find himself being driven back to Toronto in a day or so since it was lights out for several days). We visited with our neighbors who were all sitting outside on their stoops, drinking wine, beer and cocktails and chatting. We made our way to our friend Jeanette’s townhouse.

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Daisy and me

Glamorous Jeanette was (and still is) the hostess with the most-ess. Not only did she have a fridge full of food that she was turning into an amazing meal cooked on her BBQ for a full house of friends and neighbors, she had more wine, beer and candles than anyone I knew. It was an amazing and fun night on her back deck—a beautiful party under the stars with a huge group of fascinating people. If I remember correctly, she sent us home with plates of food, for “Daisy’s breakfast”, she said. (Her big black mutt Wade was Daisy’s pal and it was a contest to see who was the most spoiled canine.)

Daisy and I hung out with Jeanette and Wade until 1 am, going home after realizing like everyone else that the power wasn’t coming back on any time soon. Since it was August and still hot and humid outside, we slept on the sofa in our basement that night since it was the coolest place in our townhouse. And since it was so dark, we slept way past when we should have woken up.

But I didn’t make an emergency kit afterwards. Or gather up food and bottled water. Life (ok, work) got in the way and it went to the bottom of the to do list and finally just fell right off.

Maybe it’s Texas, the land of extreme weather, flash floods, tornados, lightening that burns down houses. Maybe it’s just age and realizing that with each passing year, time’s slipping away. So I’m getting prepared for the unknown.

It may not be enough. But at least I’ll have something. So if we need to help the neighbors, we can. If we need to bandage up neighborhood dogs, cats and even chickens, we can.

So on this 9/11 anniversary, I’m taking action. I’m planning ahead. Don’t worry, I’m making sure there’s wine in the kit. And candles for ambiance. Of course, there will be dogs.

And because around here, dogs are everywhere, here’s a photo from last night:

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“So, where will the 2-leggeds sleep tonight, George?”
“I don’t know, Guinness. Maybe they could both fit on the extra dog bed that Gidget and Godiva aren’t using.”

 

Sow: first tomatoes

first tomatoes

first tomatoes!

When we got home from Toronto yesterday, I was anxious to see how the Urban Farm did when we left it alone for four days. Last week was very wet, but unfortunately the weekend was not. We watered on Thursday night and rain was predicted all weekend.

No such luck.

Everything got watered well last night and again today. I think everything will be mostly ok, although several plants looked a little crispy. The okra has tripled in size.

But best of all, the first red tomatoes have appeared. The tiny ones in the picture are sweet 100s. The heart shaped one is a Celebrity. We do have some casualties though: blossom rot. It appears to still be isolated to the Burpee Big Boy plants and maybe the plants that got frost bit. I need to get out there tomorrow and clean up—harvest and compost the bad tomatoes and clean up some of the yellowing branches.

On a separate note: the Gs are exhausted from their four days of playtime with four other dogs. Their humans tired too.

So: travel light

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Over the past 6 and a bit years, I’ve learned that traveling light is truly the way to go. Thanks to my former neighbor and friend Jeanette, I learned about a wonderful carry on suitcase that can hold up to 10 days stuff for me.

My Heys X case is turquoise, one of my favorite colors. (Bruce’s is orange, his favorite color.) It makes people in airports smile and it’s an instant conversation starter. Business travelers always want to know how much I can cram in it.

I always answer: “enough to go to Spain for 10 days and still have room for souvenirs.” And usually it’s not crammed full. Bruce and I have gone to Hawaii for a week, Barcelona and Madrid for 10 days, and made countless personal trips between Dallas and Toronto, all with these tiny bags.

Bruce and I use them whenever we travel. For work I usually put clothes and personal stuff in one side and then use the other for work paraphernalia that I don’t want to schlep in my computer bag.

Today, I have multiple costume changes in one half and a metal cookie box filled with alfajores (delicious lemon sandwich cookies with dulce de leche in the middle and sprinkled with coconut–our contribution to tonight’s dinner party), an umbrella, and two hardback books (gifts). It will either be empty on the way home or filled with Canadian delicacies. Although not Kraft Peanut Butter because you know what happened the last time I tried to import a jar into the US. Maybe one of my dear Canadian friends will mail me some (hint, hint).

My X Case looks a little dirty. That’s because I take a lot of regional jets where they gate check your bag. The conveyer belts get the hard plastic shell dirty. But a Magic Eraser or even a paper towel and some kind of cleaner gets everything off. I was just lazy last night.

My carry on bag is a backpack. Right now it’s holding birthday presents for my lovely friend Reesa. They are all from Brazil, a place she really wants to visit. I’ve also got my purse in there, the required quart ziploc bag of tiny toiletries, a sweater, a convertable scarf (it can turn into a poncho, a bolero jacket, a shrug), and my trusty iPad. I will probably fold the backpack up and put it in my suitcase on the way back. Unless shopping happens.

It’s almost time to board. And start plowing through that humongous pile of magazines Bruce is hauling in his backpack. It too may be empty on the way home. Unless shopping happens…

So: to do list

Library

 

My oldest friends won’t be surprised that I still am a slave to my lists. In high school and college, they kept me on schedule and made me feel like I was in control. To this date, I have home to do lists and work to do lists. And despite my love of technology and constant grip on my iphone, they are on paper. Written in pen. In my handwriting. Usually with a brightly colored Sharpie.

One college friend pointed out to me that I don’t usually cross out. I like to check the box next to the completed task with a big mark. Because I am goal-oriented!

Today, nothing made me happier than to blow through my work to-do list. Yes, I was motivated because I promised myself if I dotted my eyes, crossed my ts and made it through my meetings with no new immediate to-dos, I would be leaving early. And I did at, wait for it, 3:20 pm. I know, not that much early, but trust me, I made my goal happen. And I was grateful (those of you in the ad biz know exactly what I mean).

Unfortunately, my next to-do list was waiting: my errands before I got home list. Luckily, that all got completed pretty quickly and now I don’t have a birthday gift rattling around in the back of my car and my dear old dad will get his Father’s Day gift on time. Whooohooo!

Now, I’m officially on vacation. Dinner has been eaten and Gs have been walked. Now, it’s time to pack, x a few household things off my list, and hopefully grab a great night’s sleep to fuel up for the fun ahead.

Truthfully I’ve never been a great “night before” sleeper, whether it was a big test, a job interview, a family vacation, a monumental occasion, etc. So, I’m in no hurry to plow through my list. I’ll need something to do later when George and I are up at 3 am.

My ipad is loaded up with several books plus lots of samples to enjoy. Yes, perhaps for tonight, if I can’t sleep. It’s my contingency plan to read at least one. Although I definitely do NOT want to sleep on the plane. Why? Because my newest, most favorite place to read, other than outside on the patio, is high above the earth in one of those Coors Light cans* in the sky.

Why? On the plane, especially in the fancy class I’ve cashed our hard-earned points for, it’s lovely and quiet. Best of all, your needs are taken care of. Warm nuts, ma’am? Another glass of wine, ma’am? Would you like a blanket, ma’am? A pillow, ma’am? A glass of water, ma’am? A freshly baked cookie, ma’am? Would you like a mint, ma’am? Believe me, I take advantage of the offers. And I enjoy every minute. At home, Bruce will hook me up with drinks and bedding, but he draws the line at cookies. He’s not a baker, you see.

As you’ve probably gathered, I fly a lot for my job and it really is a special treat to have legroom (remember I’m only 5’2″ so that’s really unbelievable that I’d mention it), not being elbowed by the person in the middle seat who is usually a lot bigger than me, and having someone being super nice to me because I might be the manager of a washed up musical act, a captain of industry (ha!), or just a lowly ad hack who enjoys gardening and hoarding points is kind of cool. The flight attendants just know that I’m up there in the “special section”. I sure wouldn’t pay the prices that it costs in dollars with my own hard earned cash, although I’m sure I’ve “paid” for it in some other way. Nothing is free these days, except for produce from the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm (yes, that is a little commercial for my local pals—I may be setting up a u-pick situation if things get too out of control).

Don’t worry. Bruce is getting a fancy seat too, even though he’ll probably get bored with the stash of magazines we’ve saved up and watch the movie or chat with the person across the aisle from him. You know, another captain of industry!

We’re also lucky because we’re going to be horsing around at DFW with our pal Mike. He’s headed to Toronto and will be at the same dinner party we’re attending on Friday night. He’s been in Austin for the past couple of days for work and it just made a lot of sense for all of us to be on the same flight. You really don’t realize how much you enjoy spending time with your friends until those time are really few and far between because you all live so far apart now. Thank goodness for Facebook, cell phones, and the internet so you can keep up and keep in touch. And long weekends.

Ok, I’ve procrastinated enough. Produce is harvested. The forecast for the next four days is rainy/stormy so the Urban Farm will be fine. The Gs are going to have a wonderful time playing with their pals while we’re gone. Packing and my to do list are calling. And then a glass of wine reward.

Hope you’re enjoying your Thursday, the Gateway to the Weekend(TM) and that you have a fabulous weekend.

*I can’t take credit for nicknaming American Airlines’ planes. That credit goes to my Canadian pal Scott who was appalled the very first time he “enjoyed” a flight on AA from DFW to Las Vegas. They are my airline of necessity (hub is DFW) and every time I get on a plane, I hear his voice saying “flying Coors Light can”. If nothing else, it puts me in a better mood to be elbowed by the 6’4″ business man built like a linebacker crammed into the middle seat next to me.

So: special treat

So glad you enjoyed Bruce’s guest post on Saturday. It was a lovely recap of our now long ago engagement and wedding, despite a few technical issues that made him very frustrated.

Gotta love that hat and hose–what on earth was I thinking? Knowing what I know now it would have been a sundress for me and shorts and a white linen shirt for Bruce.

I was kind of busy–and far from Dallas this weekend which is why Bruce took over the post. I spent the weekend in Toronto, a city I love and lived in for 12 years. It was a very special treat to be there from Thursday night to Sunday night (I’m still not in texas though–I’m in North Carolina now).

It was made even more special by the amount of uninterrupted time I spent with my very best friends. We did all the things we always love to do when we’re together: eat, drink wine, shop, watch movies. But most of all we talked. And we talked.

Hanging out is what we do best. While we all stay in touch, mostly by text, FaceTime, Facebook, and email, nothing beats a good ol’ face-to-face gab session.

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My pals Reesa and Simone and me

It’s amazing how much ground can be covered during a 2 1/2 hour lunch. Aging parents. Siblings. Work. Changes in Toronto. Fashion. Jewelry. Movies. Kids. Family. Aging. Trips. Plans. Laughter. Memories.

We warned our server that we’d be there a while. She laughed and said it was cool with her.

Reesa and I continued the gab fest all Saturday night. We put on our pajamas and camped out on couches with a movie playing in the background. Since we talked over it the whole time, it wasn’t much more than background noise. We finally went to bed at 1 am.

I made this trip very last minute so I didn’t expect to be able to see many people. As luck would have it, my friend Clair was in town with her kids for a family event. They dropped by for a visit on their way back to upstate New York, where they live now. (Unfortunately I forgot to get a photo!)

I feel so fortunate to have spent time with these fabulous ladies. Living far from them has been tough but it’s trips like these that remind me that distance can’t break the bonds that we’ve made after close to two decades of friendship.

So: modern technology

It’s pretty impressive that no matter where I am I can work. A hotel. An office. A plane. A house. They’re all the same.

Well, kind of.

While I spent today working at my friend’s dining room table and I got tons done in a 9 hour period, the thing I missed was seeing people.

Sure, I talked on the phone. Answered plenty of emails. Had meetings. Did necessary things. It was a highly productive day.

However, I found myself thinking of naps. Watching tv. Reading a book. Part of that was because it was dark and rainy. Another part was because I was tired from my traveling adventures and meetings. But truly it was because I was alone.

With no people around, I lost track of time and it was noon before I knew it. I got lots done. But I missed having people pop by to say hi and tell me about their tomatoes. Or kids. Or dogs. Or the book they finished last night. Or where they were going for the weekend.

I missed the interaction. Often it signals switching tasks for me. But today, I soldiered on from a dining room table in Toronto. And waited for a 5 year old to blow the quitting time whistle.

PS: Bruce is writing tomorrow’s post. Not sure what he’s going to say so tune in. I’m going to! I’ll be taking tomorrow off for a girls’ day break with two dear friends and will resume regular programming on Sunday.

So: oh Canada

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Bienvenue au Canada!

Last night I was so happy to finally arrive at Toronto’s Pearson Airport (YYZ), that I actually got a bit misty. Customs and Immigration only took minutes since being a Canadian passport holder let me skip to the automated machines. Whoooohoooo! The super nice officer said, “Welcome home, ma’am”  as he barely glanced at my passport. The taxi driver who drove me to my hotel was happy to tell me all about what has been built, torn down or is currently under construction since I’ve been here last. And when I got to my hotel, I received an upgrade to a nicer room. There was room service to be had and it was delicious. A fine welcome back all around.

After a great night’s sleep, a productive breakfast meeting with my colleagues, and a successful (and fun) work meeting, I headed out to meet up with Fransi Weinstein from Three Hundred Sixty-Five (seems to be a week for bloggers to meet up with each other). It was just a short walk down Bloor Street to meet at her favorite Starbucks, one with big windows, bright light, and lots of academic energy from all the University of Toronto students filling the cafe.

view from the Starbucks where I met Fransi

view from the Starbucks where I met up with Fransi—yes, that is the CN Tower

A couple of details that might help our meeting make more sense: Fransi and I were introduced to each other years ago, but when I lived in Toronto, we never met or worked together. We do know a lot of people in common. And we both work in the same business. We had a lovely chat, filled each other in on a lot of stories, shared details (like which hotel I stayed at in NYC), answered each other’s questions, and made a pact to meet up when Bruce and I come back to town at the end of May for a wedding. I even managed to get a bit of excellent advice. It’s pretty darn cool that I’ve made a friend who I’ve admired from a far for a long time.

After that I went back to my hotel to collect my stored bag and went to the nearest TTC (Toronto’s subway) station to head out to the western edge of Toronto and get picked up by my favorite five year old, my godson Ben, and his wonderful momma.

Bay station in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood

Bay station in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood (I also love the Hays X-Case with all the Canadiana on it)

It’s pretty sweet  to hold hands with a five year old, especially when you know that someday soon he will be too cool show much affection to his old Auntie Julie. (Well, until he turns 19 when his momma says I can take him out for his first beer in a bar.) Once we reached his momma’s car, we zoomed to their house and he decorated my sunglasses case with stickers of fancy fish and characters from the movie Cars. It is now a one-of-a-kind work of art and a very special souvenir of my trip to Toronto.

I’m lucky to be working from their house tomorrow. I have reviews to write and conference calls to do, a meeting on Monday to prep for, as well as whatever else comes my way in the course of the day. I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to be able to work from pretty much anywhere, even a friend’s dining room table in another country. And I am thankful for wifi, cell phones, and many other modern conveniences that allow me to set up shop and be productive.

Being here until Sunday (and then leaving directly for a meeting in NC) will give me the opportunity to catch up with old friends, visit places that I love to go, and have a proper girls’ day on Saturday with a ladies’ lunch and shopping. As grueling and chaotic as business travel can be sometimes, it’s opportunities like these that make me very grateful to do it. And as nice as staying in a hotel can sometimes be, give me a guest room or sofa in a friend’s home any day. Especially if their five year old promises to provide a personal Rooster-style (can’t wait to hear it) wake up call in the morning.

 

PS: Bruce assures me that the Gs and the urban farm are doing fine despite none of the Gs really wanting to go outside in the rain this morning and the temperatures dipping to 38° F tonight (whole farm operation is covered). He tells me that he is writing the blog on Saturday so please stay tuned.