Friday, August 31, 2012

One Woman Faces Down One Big Storm: Happy Ending

We left Michele heading into dangerous Florida streets flooded by Isaac. Her final emails celebrate survival and gratitude as she and her neighbors clean up after the storm.

Monday Afternoon:

Going downtown to Ft. Lauderdale to call for my friend post-op, I could drive only in the middle lane as the inner and outer lanes were flooded.  In spots, the visibility was nada.  I arrived at the doctor’s office shaking.

The trip home took half the time, no problems, roads clear.  Looked like it was clearing up. Dropped my girlfriend off at her home and took my dogs out in my soggy side yard. Then, before we could get inside, the skies opened up once again and we got caught.
Call just came from Management:  We are experiencing flooding and DO NOT WALK THROUGH FLOODED AREAS.  There may be glass, bacteria and SNAKES.

Immediately finished the much needed chocolate before hubby comes home. Fortunately, this was a tropical disturbance.  I was able to laugh my way through it.  However, a real hurricane is devastating.  I’ve experienced a few of those – waiting on line and searching for water, gas and food, no electricity for days, terrible heat,  fallen trees, getting a new roof and even then we were lucky here – very lucky.
Thursday Afternoon:
Been very busy trying to get house back in order--downed tree cut and already taken away (again with son’s help), plants and yard things out of house, creepy crawlies still living here.  Management has cleaned up our property outside but there’s still a lot to be done.  There are repairmen all over the place. One hears the sounds of mowing, sees roofs awaiting to be replaced, and yet we were so fortunate. Monday, we received a foot of rain, fast and furious. 
I feel very guilty about my light-hearted approach to the storm when I see the damage it has done to the Gulf Coast and all those poor people.  Truly, when it gets really serious, so do I. Thanks for caring, everyone out there.
Here comes the sun!


Hurricanes, blackouts, earthquakes, tornadoes, and derechos (lines of heavy winds and fierce thunderstorms that swept through the Mid-Atlantic states recently),we seem to be experiencing a period of unusually intense weather. Do you have a disaster plan in place for "just in case?"  Besides the standard flashlights and bottled water, what items do you think are essential to keep at the ready? How does your disaster plan help protect you and your family? And don't forget the pets.
~ Toby Devens





Monday, August 27, 2012

One Woman Faces Down One Big Storm: Michele vs. Isaac

Michele and I have been friends since childhood. A pretty, quick-witted girl grew into a strong, bright and beautiful woman. Her town in Florida has been hit hard by previous hurricanes and this time was slated to be slammed by Isaac. Her emails began arriving Saturday night, with periodic updates since. Tinged with defiant humor at first, they turned scary today. I'll post later to let you know when she and her neighbors are out of danger.

Saturday Night:
So far, I'm having a lovely hurricane.

Thursday, my husband and his friend flew off to follow the Miami Marlins for a triple header in Los Angeles. The boys are having a blast. I'm here alone.

Thursday afternoon, our air conditioning started leaking. Repairman said we needed two new a/c systems--$9,000 and I shouldn’t use the a/c in the meantime! Temperature is in the 90’s, humidity over 1000%. And today, Isaac decided to hit the Keys.

I cannot close my shutters which we installed after Hurricane Andrew. My son is coming tomorrow A.M. (if this hurricane doesn’t strike by then) to close them. He’s as handy as I am with anything mechanical. And I have two left hands.

I've gotten drenched 3 times walking the dogs. I was almost run off the road by cars on my way to purchase water & dog food. Water in FL is more valuable than gasoline and practically sold out.

But other than that, I’m having a lovely hurricane.

I've already eaten 1/2 jar of choc. covered toffee (delish and purchased in Costco if anyone is interested) AND...7 choc. chip cookies I baked with 7 more to go.

Did I say having a wonderful time? Well let me clarify then that I hope your day is better!

I’ve got to laugh --crying will give me wrinkles.

Oh, where did I put the damn potato chips I bought for a special occasion....

Sunday Morning:
Heard from a friend in New York complaining about the humidity there. Spoiled brats!!!!!!

I went to bed at midnight. Was awakened by American Airlines cancelling husband's flight out of L.A for Monday morning.
I'd better bake a new batch of cookies before we lose electricity. Right now, high winds and flooding are predicted for this area.

However, let’s not forget the people who took the brunt of this---especially Haiti--thousands had to be evacuated. Please think about making donations to relief charities for Haiti.

Sunday Afternoon:
My darling children came over early this morning and battened down the hatches. I thought all one had to do was simply close those darn shutters. Not quite. You need a PhD in engineering to figure them out. Thanks again my sweet children.

My house is now the host for a number of frogs, chameleons and other creepy crawlers but at least they're safe from the outside elements. My pool has become a pond and there is so much water around the house that if need be, I'll be able to sail away.

Husband and friend are now due to arrive home at 4:00 tomorrow. Poor guys – they’re missing all the fun.

And oh yeah, Stein Mart is having the sale of all sales today without me. They'll probably go out of business in November because I wasn't there today.

The wind is picking up and we're under tornado watch as well.

Damn, have no more choc. chips, so can't bake more cookies. Am hunting for something high in sugar and fat.

Monday Morning:
When there’s a hurricane, I always get-in-touch via e-mail with Floridians (some are home alone) with copies to friends elsewhere who may be worried. My idea is to keep our minds occupied and our spirits high.

I don’t drink or do drugs but did share my chocolate/marshmallow/Craisins/Chinese noodles-in-lieu-of-peanuts recipe and gave out my secret of where I got the choc. toffees. You’d be surprised at how easily we surrender our deepest secrets under the threat of tornadoes and hurricanes.

Seriously, I try to make a joke of it and after a while, we're all laughing. I suppose that's the way I face the possibility of annihilation by a falling tree or the roof going airborne.

It’s still raining, pool is overflowing and we continue to be under tornado watch. But so far at least, we've been very fortunate. A lot of us have been through hurricanes before--horrendous. This was merely a tropical storm and I'm hoping it will fizzle out here. Many were not so lucky. Others are in its path. I'm thinking of them as I'm grateful for our escaping the worst wrath of Isaac. They need our thoughts and prayers.

Monday Afternoon:
I thought we'd faced the worst of the storm and laughed at its puniness. Well Isaac had the last laugh.

I'm trying to get out of the house to pick up my friend who just had surgery and Isaac’s laugh is reverberating all over the County. The walls are shaking with thunder and the rain is coming down in torrents. I keep checking my roof to see if it’s still holding.
On one hand, I know I have to leave, but on the other hand--when I hear the thunder and the power of the rain--it’s scary.

We all thought it would be over this morning and life would go on as usual. But it is lingering as if to have the last word. I’m sure the streets are flooded as my pool is past the overflow mark.

But...will this be my last missive?




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Dating Pool: Part Two, Swimming at the Deep End

After I posted last week, I received questions regarding whether I had ever made use of the suggestions on that list. Full disclosure: only one. I met my (now late) husband Jerry through mutual friends who were sure we'd hit it off. Obviously, they were right.

Most of those items listed and the ones below resulted from your emails or blog comments. So although I can't rely on a huge body of personal experience, I've got great connections who are willing to share. Thanks everyone. Here are six more.

1. Class Reunions. From Phyllis: "My suggestion for meeting men is 'Go to your class reunion.'  You might see your first crush there...and he might still see you as a 16 year old cutie. Having said that, I do know several people who reunited at their reunions and others who were so sad that the cutest guy in the class is now bald, overweight and really boring." 

Campus Erasmus Hall High School,
Spring Reunion. Photo courtesy Les Baum
The opposite situation is the nerd who turned into Prince Charming in the intervening years, remembers you as the girl he adored from afar and is thrilled to reconnect.  

Searching for Mr. Right among the alums should never be the primary reason to attend a reunion, but strange and wonderful things can happen when the band launches into the slow-dance songs of our era. Caveat: be sure your partner is available. For all you know, the wife could be home babysitting the grandkids.

2. Online Dating Sites. Yes, I know, you'd never descend to that, but this is the twenty-first century and it's beyond acceptable, it's a rite of passage for singles. My podiatrist is on JDate. My tax preparer (male) is on And a lawyer friend met a great guy on

My favorite response is from Deb. "An online dating site (  is how I met my current husband, 13 years ago, when the online dating forum was not as mainstream and socially acceptable as it is now. It was a real leap of faith (and some other things!), but it paid off for me. I would never have found him otherwise, and I know that---and thank God for him each and every day."

Lovely. And encouraging. Sure there are horror stories, but usually even bad dates make for great anecdotes. Caveat: take his posted info with not a grain but a shaker of salt. As one woman wrote, "Mentally add ten pounds to his weight,  three years to his profile photo, and deduct two inches from his stated height." We'll devote an entire column to online dating soon, but why not begin your research now? You can browse for free on many sites.

3. Facebook and other Social Networking Sites. 'Fess up. Who hasn't looked up an old boyfriend on FB? Then sighed and moved on. Because he's married. Or he lives cross country. Or you remember why you broke up in the first place--that hyena laugh and the way he held his fork like a shovel. When old flames reappear, embers are stirred, and you can get warmed or you can get burned. You may have background in common, but foreground?...not so much. Proceed slowly. No flights to Bermuda for a first time meet after a few postings. Common sense above all.

4. Conferences. You attended them for work and it was all business. Now, they can be sources of something more. You're into genealogy? I know of a professor from D.C. who'd been on  dating sites for months but found his perfect match at a conference in Oregon where he and a likeminded woman were both shaking their family trees. Turned out she lived only a few miles from him back East. Common interests make for great conversation which makes for connections which may lead to, well, dancing.

5. Hardware Stores and other emporiums like bicycle shops and boat dealerships attract men in their most helpful mode. See comments on last week's posting.

6. Fly fishing. A new one for me. But my brilliant, beautiful cousin submitted: "Try fly fishing. Every fishing lodge is all men, all wealthy, educated and mostly single." Also golfing brings out fit, active dudes. Sports attract men. So If you have an interest, take a class, or hit the links or the courts, you may realize a bonus.

Speaking of bonuses, that adds up to one more than the originally promised ten. Nor is the list complete. If you continue sending in suggestions, I'll keep posting them. 

And, most important--as I was reminded by a thoughtful reader--sometimes the best way to look for your match, is not to look at all. If you're occupied  with activities you enjoy, and focus on being your best and happiest self, love may just find you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Diving into the Dating Pool: Part One

"It used to be so easy to meet them, but now..." my friend said at a singles (all women) cook-out last week. Over burgers and the last of the summer wine, we were talking about men. Lack of good ones. "I've given up. So many of us, so few of them." She shrugged. "Besides, who wants to cook dinner every night or pick up tossed socks...and where do you meet them anyway?"
Not where you used to. When we were young, it was raining men. In class, at dances, the boy next door. They worked with us on the college newspaper and later on the job. They were driven to mate by testosterone and mothers who wanted grandchildren stat. Back then, you had your choice: younger, older, same (choices males of every age have). But for midlifers, men are no longer low fruit on the dating tree. Sometimes you need to stretch to pluck them. Sometimes you need a ladder.

"I'll date if something wonderful comes along," a twice divorced woman declared." Trust me, " another answered, "at this age nothing, wonderful or not, just comes along unless you're extraordinarily lucky. But there are ways and means." And so the talk turned practical and produced a list of ten suggestions (in no particular order) for where to meet men at midlife, a precious list which--in the public interest--I'm passing on to you.

1. Fix-ups. The good news: they're your friend's brother-in-law or her husband's golf buddy so they're vetted. The bad news: ditto. Therefore, if on the first date he kvetches about hip pain or uses a toothpick or brags about his collection of Russian semi-automatics, it's going to be tough to tell the fixer-upper that this "wonderful man who's just perfect for you," well, just isn't. Solution: do a little pre-meet triaging. View his photo. Chat him up via phone. Check him out on the Net. I saved a BFF from disaster by Googling the guy who'd been referred by her cousin. I found him. On which is real website and he was a real loser.
2. Classes/interest groups. The trick is to enroll in activities that attract males. This means No to "Crafting with Lace and Sequins"  and Yes to "Elementary Auto Mechanics." No to Zumba dancing, Yes to Civil War reenactment. But do you really want to brush up on rebuilding a Corvette engine or dress up as Mary Todd Lincoln? Compromise. Take a writing course. Nonfiction. "Writing the Memoir" workshops are overpopulated by men who believe they've lead fascinating lives. It's a male ego thing. At least they're literate and you'll have background. Photography classes are largely XY. Also history of WWII, "A Guide to Fantasy Football," and cooking classes, especially barbecuing and, oddly, Asian wok cuisine. Men go for fire.

3. Fund Raisers. This is advanced technique. Single men, especially older widowed ones, attend fundraisers alone because they want a party for their money and it's not the right venue for their thirty-something sometimes-girlfriend (the one they can't introduce to their kids). Benefits: You'll know these guys are not down to their last dime, they're altruistic, and you share an interest in the orphaned alligators of the Everglades. Caution: Beware of black tie affairs. King Kong would look stunning in a dinner jacket. Don't get carried away by appearance. Tip: if you don't own real pearls, wear good fake ones.
4. Political campaigns. Lick stamps, make calls, compare bumper stickers. It's an election year for heaven's sake! Debating political issues makes men hot. Take care not to hook up with someone to the right of Limbaugh or the left of Lenin. Fanatics of any stripe are--according to the group's informal survey--lousy in bed.

5. Ballroom dancing. There are classes solely for singles. Benefits: You're learning something together. You're in his arms. If he has rhythm vertically, he just may have it horizontally. Caution: oh, the hell with caution, you're tangoing!

Now you have the first five and we haven't even gotten into the perils and pleasures of Online Dating. Tune in next time for more of the list in: The Dating Pool: Part Two -Swimming at the Deep End
Add to the where-to-meet list? Share your most horrendous/hilarious dating stories? We're all breathlessly waiting to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gravity Wins

Gravity wins, hands down

also boobs down,

jowls down,

eyelids in perpetual droop.

Here's the latest scoop:

what doesn't go down and out

(knee caps, belly buttons, derriรจres)

goes down and in

(wrinkles at the mouth, crinkles near the eye,

thigh flesh that sags first, then

makes little pockets

each big enough to fit a jelly bean in).

There are tricks to shoring up this sliding off:

aerobics, diet, avocado facials,

toxins injected into the skin, Pilates, swimming laps,

Oil of Olay.

But it's all a sleight of hand, a grand illusion--

in the sun, you're fifty-one

in the unforgiving bedside light

when the flying buttress bra is on the floor

or the froth of lace and chiffon gown is hanging on the door

you are what you've become

And if you're lucky and he's nearsighted or he loves you

it doesn't matter. Much.

Marriage is better that way

I've heard a husband say,

"For me, I'll always see the woman I first saw thirty years before."

For those of us without that all-redeeming memory

just do the best you can

work on the inside

which time improves

and as for the outside

be grateful you were never absolutely gorgeous

or you'd be really devastated now.

                Copyright ©2012 Toby Devens

I mentioned this poem in my last post about the Olympics and got some requests on the blog and via my email at to post it. Love to hear your comments!