Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Lady from Latvia taught the Crochet Nanny to appreciate what you have

I'm so delighted that Ellen from the Crochet Nanny has agreed to let me feature her story of the Latvian Lady which is originally found at her blog on 1000 Markets. I'm sure you will enjoy it as well.

The Crochet Nanny (

I think I am a collector of stories. I am fascinated by people and their lives, and for some reason, people, even strangers, like to tell me their stories. And from them, I learn a lot, and from one lady, I learned to appreciate what I have.

These days, with the economy crashing, I am remembering a chance encounter that left a lasting impression on me, that even today makes me think,stop whining and just be happy for what you have. I call her the Lady from Latvia and here's her story.

The Lakewood ShopRite is not a place to go for a quick milk run. For me, at least, any visit there is as much for the experience, as for the shopping. You see, Lakewood is an international melting point, having perhaps as many different cultures blended there as any major urban center.

Walking down the aisles, you may feel that you have stumbled onto the ancient city of Babel. The largest rabbinical college in the world is located in Lakewood, and Hassaidic Jews from all over the world come to Lakewood to study. Men with their curly sideburns and tall black hats, rush to the "Kosher Experience" for some last minute touches for their evening meal, making sure they escape before sundown.

Middle Eastern men who crowd into single rooms after working at gas stations for minimum wage so they can send their earnings home to their families in Turkey, scour the dairy aisle for yogurt. Mexican men hide in chicken coops behind farm markets, by day picking tomatoes, and by night walking miles to buy plantains before Shop Rite closes at 1:00 a.m.

Indian women in their saris load their baskets with onions and search the spice aisles for coriander seeds to season their rich curries. You can hear the chatter of Poles, and Czechs and Russian Jews, all searching the shelves for something that reminds them of home. And they are not disappointed. Shop Rite stocks so many varieties of food that to a curious born in the USA housewife, you can get lost in the possibilities.

It was on a lazy Sunday afternoon that my daughter and I met the Lady from Latvia. We were looking at the meat case, which covers the entire back of the store, and laughing at the packages of pigs feet, pigs ears, chicken feet, and other such delicacies.

A very well dressed older woman, with shiny white hair, and brilliant blue eyes, her pale skin ashen next to the bright red lipstick painting her lips, stood next to us, fingering packets of lamb shank, examining and then selecting three. I asked her what she was going to make with the lamb shanks, since my daughter and I were always trying to come up with new recipes. She told us that she had a hard time finding lamb shanks,and when she saw them , she would buy several to keep on hand.

Her speech was very formal, slightly accented, and she held her head erect. I would not call it pride, but more an air of confidence and comfort with who she was. She started to explain her recipe, and she told me it was a very European style of cooking.

She would cover the shank with water, seasonings, and lots of vegetables and potatoes, and let it cook for hours. It would develop the most flavorful broth and tenderize the little meat on the shank. She was alone and she could get several meals from one pot. It was a dish she had made for many years.

Although she was polite, I noted that she was a bit reserved, but nonetheless I took the bold step of asking her more. I said, may I ask what country you are from? I could feel my daughter cringing with the knowledge that her mother was at it again, interrogating perfect strangers because of her desperate curiosity to know about people.

She didn't hesitate, and it almost seemed that she wanted to talk. She told me that she was from a little country, called Latvia, had I ever heard of it? And of course, I had, and told her so.

She told me that she was born there, and that she had married and had an infant son. When her son was just a baby, the Russians invaded her country, and captured her husband. She was able to flee with her son to Poland where a minister from a church offered her his help to get her to America as a refugee.

Knowing absolutely no one, she took her baby son and came to New Jersey. With the contacts that the minister had given her, she was able to get a small apartment and a job in a factory. She worked 50-60 hours a week, for over 40 years, in the same factory, putting every penny into funding a good education for her son.

Her son was now the owner of his own computer company in California, had a PhD and was a very educated and wealthy man. She told me that her son takes very good care of her, and that she lives very comfortably now in her retirement, without any worries about money. It struck me that even with this admitted comfort, she was still searching through the cheapest cuts of meat to make a bountiful old world stew.

I asked her if she ever had a chance to go back to Latvia, and she told me that she had not.

Then she paused and said , but I didn't find out what happened to my husband until just five years ago. I found out that after the Russians captured my husband, they took him to a field, and executed him by firing squad.

All these years, I had been waiting for some word from him, waiting to find him, and he had been dead from the beginning.

Her eyes seemed a little wistful , and she said to me, is this your daughter?

After acknowledging that she was, she said to both of us, America is the greatest country in the world, don't ever forget that, you are the luckiest people that you are born here and live here.

And then she said, And now you know my story.

And now so do you.

Thanks Ellen, for sharing this wonderful piece of your life. I feel like I've just met this wonderful woman myself.

The sweet photos that Ellen graciously allowed me to include are of the items that she creates by hand and are featured in her shop:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

4 Lessons Worth Sharing

I got this today in my email and I wanted to share. Such an awesome story.

This is a first-hand account from a passenger on Flight 1549. It is an internal memo to the members of his firm. It is very well written, is descriptive, and gives this man's honest reactions to the events around him.

It's from a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles, an executive recruiting firm, who was on Flight 1549. Gerry McNamara (New
York/Charlotte) was on US Airways Flight 1549 last week. Here is his
account of the event:
Thursday was a difficult day for all of us at the firm and I left the Park Avenue office early afternoon to catch a cab bound for LaGuardia Airport.

I was scheduled for a 5pm departure, but able to secure a seat on the earlier flight scheduled to leave at 3pm. As many of us who fly frequently often do, I recall wondering if I'd just placed myself on a flight I shouldn't be on!

Just prior to boarding I finished up a conference call with my associate, Jenn Sparks ( New York ), and our placement, the CIO of United Airlines. When I told him that I was about to board a US Airways flight, we all had a little fun with it.

I remember walking on the plane and seeing a fellow with grey hair in the cockpit and thinking "that's a good thing... I like to see grey hair in the cockpit!"

I was seated in 8F, on the starboard side window and next to a young business man. The New York to Charlotte flight is one I've taken what seems like hundreds of times over the years. We take off north over the Bronx and as we climb, turn west over the Hudson River to New Jersey and tack south. I love to fly, always have, and this flight plan gives a great view of several NY landmarks including Yankee Stadium and the George Washington Bridge .

I had started to point out items of interest to the gentleman next to me when we heard a terrible crash - a sound no one ever wants to hear while flying - and then the engines wound down to a screeching halt. 10 seconds later, there was a strong smell of jet fuel. I knew we would be landing and thought the pilot would take us down no doubt to Newark Airport . As we began to turn south I noticed the pilot lining up on the river - still - I thought - en route for Newark.

Next thing we heard was "Brace for impact!" - a phrase I had heard many years before as an active duty Marine Officer but never before on a commercial air flight. Everyone looked at each other in shock. It all happened so fast we were astonished!

We began to descend rapidly and it started to sink in.

This is the last flight.

I'm going to die today. This is it. I recited my favorite bible verse, the Lord's Prayer, and asked God to take care of my wife, children, family and friends. When I raised my head I noticed people texting their friends and family....getting off a last message. My blackberry was turned off and in my trouser time to get at it. Our descent continued and I prayed for courage to control my fear and help if able.

I quickly realized that one of two things was going to happen, neither of them good. We could hit by the nose, flip and break up, leaving few if any survivors, bodies, cold water, fuel. Or we could hit one of the wings and roll and flip with the same result. I tightened my seat belt as tight as I could possibly get it so I would remain intact.

As we came in for the landing, I looked out the windows and remember seeing the buildings in New Jersey , the cliffs in Weehawken , and then the piers. The water was dark green and sure to be freezing cold. The stewardesses were yelling in unison: "Brace! Brace! Brace!"

It was a violent hit - the water flew up over my window - but we bobbed up and were all amazed that we remained intact.

There was some panic - people jumping over seats and running towards the doors, but we soon got everyone straightened out and calmed down.

There were a lot of people that took leadership roles in little ways.

Those sitting at the doors over the wing did a fantastic job...they were opened in a New York second! Everyone worked together - teamed up and in groups to figure out how to help each other.

I exited on the starboard side of the plane, 3 or 4 rows behind my seat through a door over the wing and was, I believe, the 10th or 12th person out. I took my seat cushion as a flotation device and once outside saw I was the only one who did....none of us remembered to take the yellow inflatable life vests from under the seat.

We were standing in 6-8 inches of water and it was freezing. There were two women on the wing, one of whom slipped off into the water. Another passenger and I pulled her back on and had her kneel down to keep from falling off again. By that point we were totally soaked and absolutely frozen from the icy wind.

The ferries were the first to arrive, and although they're not made for rescue, they did an incredible job. I know this river, having swum in it as a boy. The Hudson is an estuary - part salt and part fresh water - and moves with the tide. I could tell the tide was moving out because we were tacking slowly south towards Ellis Island , The Statue of Liberty, and The Battery.

The first ferry boat pulled its bow up to the tip of the wing, and the first mate lowered the Jacobs ladder down to us. We got a couple people up the ladder to safety, but the current was strong pushing the stern of the boat into the inflatable slide and we were afraid it would puncture it...there must have been 25 passengers in it by now. Only two or three were able to board the first ferry before it moved away.

Another ferry came up, and we were able to get the woman that had fallen into the water on the ladder, but she just couldn't move her legs and fell off. Back onto the ladder she went; however, the ferry had to back away because of the swift current. A helicopter arrived on station (nearly blowing us all off the wing) and followed the ferry with the woman on the ladder. We lost view of the situation but I believe the helicopter lowered its basket to rescue her.

As more ferries arrived, we were able to get people up on the boats a few at a time. The fellow in front of me fell off the ladder and into the water. When we got him back on the ladder he could not move his legs to climb. I couldn't help him from my position so I climbed up the ladder to the ferry deck where the first mate and I hoisted the Jacobs ladder with him on it...when he got close enough we grabbed his trouser belt and hauled him on deck. We were all safely off the wing.

We could not stop shaking. Uncontrollable shaking. The only thing I had with me was my blackberry, which had gotten wet and was not working. (It started working again a few hours later).

The ferry took us to the Weehawken Terminal in NJ where I borrowed a phone and called my wife to let her know I was okay. The second call I made was to Jenn. I knew she would be worried about me and could communicate to the rest of the firm that I was fine. At the terminal, first responders assessed everyone's condition and sent people to the hospital as needed.

As we pulled out of Weehawken my history kicked in and I recall it was the site of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. Thankfully I left town in better condition than Mr. Hamilton who died of a mortal wound the next day! I stayed with my sister on Long Island that evening, then flew home the next day.

I am struck by what was truly a miracle. Had this happened a few hours later, it would have been pitch dark and much harder to land. Ferries would no longer have been running after rush hour and it would not have been the same uplifting story.

Surely there would have been fatalities, hypothermia, an absolute disaster!

I witnessed the best of humanity that day. I and everyone on that plane survived and have been given a second chance. It struck me that in our work we continuously seek excellence to solve our client's leadership problems. We talk to clients all the time about the importance of experience and the ability to execute.

Experience showed up big time on Flight 1549 as our pilot was a dedicated, trained, experienced professional who executed flawlessly when he had to.

I have received scores of emails from across the firm and I am so grateful for the outpouring of interest and concern. We all fly a great deal or work with someone who does and so I wanted to share this story - the story of a miracle. I am thankful to be here to tell the tale.

There is a great deal to be learned including: Why has this happened to me? Why have I survived and what am I supposed to do with this gift? For me, the answers to these questions and more will come over time, but already I find myself being more patient and forgiving, less critical and judgmental.

For now I have 4 lessons I would like to share:

1. Cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises.

2. Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don't worry about the things you don't have.

3. Keep in shape. You never know when you'll be called upon to save your own life, or help someone else save theirs.

4. When you fly, wear practical clothing. You never know when you'll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip flops and pajamas and of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else.

And I'd like to add: Fly with gray-haired pilots! ********************

Tuesday, February 17, 2009’s to life after Valentines Day!

Some talk still floating at the gym of what did everybody do for Valentine's day, and it was still all about lots of love, lots of homemade lobster tail dinners,

and lots of practicality as most people are on their ‘second chance at love’ relationships with the task of blending kids and bank accounts.

One girl even met her current flame’s ex-wife this last weekend as she was at a bowling alley with her new beau and his kids and her daughter. Well you know, cheers, I guess. What do you say to the old one, hi I'm the new one?

We talked about some single unattached people who had anti-valentines day party’s, renting horror flicks and having pizza and beer, and I thought to myself, HMMMMMM.

If it was me, I would have a national day free from housecleaning and instead of chocolate, you would treat yourself by hiring someone to come in and do it for you!

The perfect anti-valentines day gift, you would agree? I’m feelin the love…

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Beauty Staple, Lotion Bar

Beautiful bees wax, luxurious fair trade unrefined raw shea butter, creamy coconut butter and mello olive oil team up to make your new favorite beauty staple.

Totally different from any lotion you have, you rub the bar directly on your hands knuckles and cuticles, into your elbows and knees, rub directly on ankles and heels

Your body heat will warm the bar and leave a protective coating on those problem areas. You control the coverage, I do not like a heavy oily feel on my skin so I just rub lightly.

It is the perfect leg lotion in the winter or summer, just a light rub with the bar and you are set.If you have your hands in water, food service or mom or caregiver, constantly cleaning up after everybody, this bar provides a barrier beyond that of hand lotion.

No added fragrence in these, the beeswax and the coconut oil combine and share their natural intoxicating scent. I can't improve upon nature. Yum.
Big 2oz bar, not for your purse, keep on your counter, use at first sign of dryness.
Buy Handmade

amazing bee photos from

Lord help me, C.H. Spurgeon

Lord help me to glorify thee (c.h.spurgeon)

I am poor, help me to glorify Thee by contentment

I am sick, help me to glorify Thee by patience

I have talents, help me to extol Thee by spending them for Thee

I have time, Lord help me to redeem it that I may serve Thee

I have a head to think Lord, help me to think of Thee and for Thee

I have a heart to feel, Lord let that heart feel no love but Thine and glow with no flame but affection for Thee.


Blog Archive