Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mystic Aquarium

I realized at New Years that I had a bunch of blog posts I started and never finished. I think it is because I am frustrated at not having moved yet but why pout. I have a few adventures to share :-) 

This is from a late summer trip.

After seeing this video on the news of a Beluga whale playing with some kids at the Mystic Aquarium my Mom and I decided we were due for a road trip.

As far as road trips go this was a short one at only 2.5 hours. We left the house early so that we would get to the Aquarium around 10:30-11. The drive was easy since it was basically take 95 north and two left turns.  We entered and came to the Beluga whale enclosure first. At that time though the whales were eating so we decided to continue to the other exhibits and return to the whales.

The first stop was my personal favorite: Penguins, African Penguins to be specific. And these little fellows did not disappoint.

Now little known fact not only are these penguins adorable but they are also artists. The trainers apply a non-toxic paint to the feet of the penguins and allow them to wander on canvas leaving behind adorable little foot prints. They use several different paint combinations for the paintings to layer foot prints. Each one is obviously unique because the birds are just wandering at their own will.

Photos from MysticAquarium website.

And the artist at work.  :-)

The prints are framed and available for sale on the website or at the aquarium for $199.00.

Right now I am planning where I would put one in my house. Once I am settled I will certainly get one. $199 sounds like a lot for a 16x20 but the uniqueness and fact that it goes to conservation efforts I think makes it worth the price.

If anyone sees this and is interested here is a link to the website with more information about the paintings and the aquarium's many conservation programs.  http://www.mysticaquarium.org/visit/penguin-paintings

From there we went past some seals and sea lions and a special exhibit of adorable little birds who tried to climb into the pocket of my cargo shorts. Then we reached the fish area which I usually went through very quickly when I was younger at the Coney Island Aquarium but this time we took our time and looked around. I think the fact that this was a smaller Aquarium allowed us to be more relaxed since it wasn't so overwhelming about having to see everything. Anyway, we saw the amazing jelly fish in all kinds of brilliant colors. They are very peaceful to watch swimming around.

Then we moved on to a tank that had perhaps the cutest little fish I have ever seen. It is called a Scooter Benny or synchiropus ocellatus. I mean his face when he floated up and looked straight at us was adorable.

We stayed a while at the sea horses, another underwater creature I could watch for hours. I mean watching them makes me really think it would be worth all the expense and work to have a salt water tank. Then I could always just look over and watch them, from the way they flap their tiny little fins to the way they wrap their tails around the sea grass to hold themselves steady. Just watching them makes me smile.

Actually the way they flap their fins makes me think of them as the Hummingbird of the sea. It's so fast and adorable.

Then we moved on to the Beluga whale tank. They had three different viewing areas of the tank and we settled in the middle area. Juno the whale was in full form, he swam back and forth between the three areas. Juno was definitely in a playful mood. My first video of him shows him swimming by the middle section to the right. You will see his body jerk at the end because he scared some little kids. He really is pretty funny and definitely took a few passes first to find his favorite audience.

Here is Juno after another few passes stopping to say hi to some kids to my right. Two thing are clear he is very smart and playful. I love the reaction of the kids and adults watching him. They really are amazing to watch. 

He put on a nice show of his skills as he flipped and swam upside down past the crowd. I had been there for a while and he had scanned several times so I appreciated his nice little show. I really do think he looks for cameras and children.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year and good bye 2014.

Happy New Year I wish a warm welcome to 2015!

Well 2014 is over and good riddance! I can't say I'm going to be sad to see the end of this year. It has been frustrating and heart breaking.

At the start of the year I thought for certain I would be in TN by the spring/summer. Then the pipes in my house froze and broke in multiple places. That happened very early in the year and served as a good indicator on how the year went.

Of course there are good times too. The trip we took to Italy was filled with wonderful memories and once in a lifetime type moments. I am still putting together pictures and videos from that trip to post here.

Actually over the last few months I have started several posts and just never finished them. I think part of the problem is that I really thought by now this blog would have become more about decorating my house and fun projects I had planned. Now I have just been collecting things I want to do in my house and waiting and waiting and waiting to get there.

I'll get there soon enough I know. The house in NY is empty and ready to hit the market. We have consulted with a couple of realtors and are doing research as to price and how the market is trending.

So hopefully next year as I look back at 2015 it will be from TN and I will be looking back at my first projects and memories in my house.

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Monday, December 22, 2014

I wish it was that simple, Garth.

I remember sitting in my room singing every word to every song on Garth Brook's Fresh Horses cd when it first came out. In particular I remember singing along to the song "The Change". I sang along with such passion and emotion and I thought to myself that was me. I was never going to let the world change me. Every verse and chorus spoke to my 13 year old soul. The song started so quietly with a simple story:

"One hand reaches out and pulls a lost soul from harm 
While a thousand more go unspoken for
They say what good have you done by saving just this one
It's like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm."

I mean the song raised a good question. What was the point? What did it matter in the face of so many suffering if I did anything. One person helped while dozens more took their place so why bother. But the song had an answer as to what was the point.

"And I hear them saying you'll never change things
And no matter what you do it's still the same thing.
But it's not the world that I am changing.
I do this so this world will know that it will not change me."

That was it. As pointless as it seemed in the big picture of the whole world didn't matter because there was this particular instance and in this instance I can have an effect and show the world that I would not give up. That I believed there could be a better world and I was not going to let everything going on around me change me from believing and working toward that goal. And then there was the reassurance from The Change a quick line in between the repeating chorus.

"As long as one heart still holds on then hope is never really gone."

And finally the quiet affirmation at the end.

"What I do is so this world will know
That it will not change me."

There is hope and that one heart is the singer. And I promised myself that was me. I would not change. Looking back it was a foolish child who promised myself that I would never change. I was 13 what did I know about the world? Of course I was going to change. I trusted people when I was 13. I didn't wonder about ulterior motives. If someone was nice to me I thought it was because they liked me not because they had some kind of agenda. I thought people were honest and that what they said to my face was what they really thought. That doesn't mean I hadn't met people who were nasty to me or my sister or my parents. But I remember having this theory that everyone I met whether they were good or bad to me had a purpose and something I could learn from them about who I wanted to be as a person. In every interaction I learned how I wanted to act toward people, whether I wanted to follow the example or I wanted to be better. I really believed that.

At times I look back at my old Pollyanna outlook and shake my head because I don't know if I believe that anymore. It seems so naive now to trust people.

And then earlier this year Garth Brooks released a new song "People Loving People". Once again I have a new song to listen to and memorize and it's amazing how Garth Brooks seems to be so perfect at putting out songs that speak to me, and, I'm sure lots of other people.

This line really got me.

"You won't find no resolution in the bottom of a bottle 
In the stars of Aristotle"

God knows I tried to find the answer in Plotinus, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Kirkegaard, Camus, Pieper, and others. I never felt like I had a real answer. I tried to find it in Cleckley, Fromm, Arendt, Milgram, Hare, Faulkner, and Dostoevsky. I would find answers sure, but I am always left with more questions. It always boils down to many variations of two questions. How can people be capable of being so cruel to each other? And how do you stop that?

"People loving people
That's the enemy of everything that's evil.
Ain't no quick fix at the end of a needle.
It's just people loving people."

I wish 'people loving people' was as simple as it sounds. This is one of the questions that I have gone back and forth on. We are all human. We all share that common bond of humanity so how do we lose sight of that connection? And once lost how do we restore it? Right now everything divides us further and further. So how do we come together?

I still don't know.

Yes love. But if human history teaches us anything it is that loving each other does not come naturally.  We need to work at it. It's hard, it's not easy at all.

We need to respect each other. That is first and foremost. If we don't respect each other than we will never be willing to put the work in to love. Respect means recognizing and accepting the many differences among us. All of us.

We need to recognize the dignity in life. All lives matter was a growing phrase over the past couple of weeks. That needs to stay at the front of our minds.

We need empathy. We need it badly. Also there seems to be a growing trend that says empathy doesn't exist. Because that is part of what divides us. This idea that if you haven't experienced it you can't comment or understand it. I believe very strongly in empathy and being able to put yourself in another's place or state of mind. Just because we do not all share the same experiences does not mean we can't understand the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that certain situations cause.

So respect, dignity, and empathy all go into people loving people. It is definitely a continuation of what Garth Brooks first sang over 20 years ago. But he does have a new addition.

"You can pawn it off on kings and queens and those behind the curtain.
Say what can make a difference in a world so full of hurting.
But I believe the remedy starts right here with you and me.
People loving people."

You and me have a social responsibility to be that change. And we need to work together and we can do it.

Thank you Garth.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

A simple thanks:

Hello everyone I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope it is filled with fun and family and that everyone gets to enjoy the day and everything that they are Thankful for in their lives.

I am thankful for my family. Even the family I don't see that often (or hardly at all) the greatest thing about my trip to Italy with Meghan and my Mom was getting to meet and know my family in Torre Del Greco. That was truly the trip of a lifetime. So to my family in Italy and America thank you. I am thankful most especially for my immediate family of Meghan and my Mom. We have definitely had a rough path lately but the three of us can handle anything together.

I am thankful for my house in TN. Even if I am at this moment sitting 900 miles away in NY because I haven't (for various reasons) been able to move yet.

I am thankful for my friends who I know will always be there for me and who give me the trust and honor to be there for them whenever they need it.

I am thankful for my job. Sure I wish I made more money but no matter what I did I feel like that would be a given. I like my job there is something nice about being able to step back and see an immediate difference in a set. Also I have the greatest coworkers in the world and that is not an exaggeration. They make coming to work fun and entertaining.  

So thank you life for being pretty good. Maybe not what I thought it would be and I'm not saying I don't have complaints but Thank You. Thank you. Thank you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A quick trip to TN

We reached the point where the things that were left in NY where to large, heavy, or cumbersome for us to move alone. I started looking into moving companies but couldn't find one I liked for various reasons. Mostly I didn't like the idea of my stuff being loaded onto a truck then unloaded into another storage location or larger truck and then reloaded onto a box truck at the new location. There was way to many times when my items were being touched and could be broken or stolen.  So we returned to ABF. This time, however, we took advantage of their partnership with Moving Solutions. Three helpers from a local moving company came to my house in NY to help us pack and load the furniture into the truck. Then three helpers from a local moving company came to TN. Both times they were punctual and professional.

Since unloading the truck was going to be a lot of work and we only had a short time we decided to fly this time instead of wasting 32 hours driving to TN and back. I hate flying! But there was no way around it driving would be too much. So my Mom booked flights out of LaGuardia Airport. Usually we use JFK airport but there were no direct flights. JFK is convenient because of the air train which connects the Long Island Rail Road to the airport. For LaGuardia we had a slightly different route The Long Island Rail Road to Woodside station and from there the Q70 Limited to the airport. I got to Woodside before my Mom which gave me enough time to find where the bus stop was located. It was easy, not as secure as the air train but it was good.

The flight was less than two hours so by the time they were bringing the snack cart by we were almost in TN. I had just enough time to finish my coffee and biscoff cookie (which was delicious) before it was time to prepare for landing.

When I packed the truck I had written numbers on the paper and bubble wrap on the furniture for each bed room. So when I got to TN I put matching numbers on the bedroom doors.

This way it was easier to tell the movers which room to bring the furniture.

While I was there I was able to get a full look at the damage my dear sweet dog Schultzy had done to the laundry room door. Originally there was a cat door that she would poke her nose through when she was 'in her room'. It was cute. But at some point she realized she could make the opening bigger.  And she did.

Saturday was our day for fun. My Mom took the packing materials to the local dump while I started building four more book cases that I had sent in the truck. When Meg got back we picked a playlist from records she had recently purchased. The music choice was certainly eclectic.

And judging from the stack of boxes that we emptied we were very successful. My library is really coming along nicely (though the books aren't organized but that will be fixed when I move).

Then we moved on to Meg's new hobby of throwing knives and axes. She had recently gone to a SCA event and won a banner for her skill as a novice. So she wanted to build a target to practice with and learn. The target sadly didn't last long but I think the design was good just the wrong materials. 

We used PVC to make the frame because we wanted to do this easily and cheap. We also wanted it to be light enough that Meg could move it.Two blocks that I think are actually for a retaining wall but the had a cross in the top that fit perfectly over the 1.5 inch pipe and provided the weight we needed to hold it down. I think the wood we got was to hard. Eventually we got some knives to sink in and stay but a softer wood or tree trunk slice would have been better. The chain needed to be tighter and stronger. The target was to loose which allowed it to swing back with the knife (that also effected the knives force). One of the knives broke the chain when it was thrown and we decided that the axes would probably break the target entirely. We used my Uncle's fence for the ax throwing which had the strength to hold up to the axe weight.

On Sunday we went back to the airport and flew, sadly, back to NY. It was a quick trip but we got a lot done and getting the furniture out of our house in NY was a big step forward to get the house sold.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Volunteering is good for the body and soul

On December 14th 2012 my sister, a coworker, and myself went to a Chili's restaurant to celebrate a successful inventory. Moments after sitting down though we looked up at the tv as an update on breaking news came across the screen. At first the details were confused but the overall story was painfully clear. A shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut had left an unknown amount of children dead, injured, and traumatized. Which meant that an unknown amount of families had suffered an unimaginably loss and an entire town was going to be effected. It was similar to the way my area was effected by 9/11. Even if you didn't have someone you knew killed in the terrorist attack you know someone who did.

A few weeks later we were at my house in TN driving to Lynchburg, TN and we saw a bunch of wooden crosses along the side of the highway. At first I didn't realize what it was for and then it dawned on me when I realized there were twenty six. . All the way in TN this tragedy had been felt. And it went further than that there were memorials across the country. It truly is a day that has effected people all across the country.

 Part of the widespread reaction was that everyone could identify with the loss. Everyone was asking themselves what if that had been my child, cousin, niece, nephew, or neighbor. That thought inspired lots of different reactions from people. One group of NJ firefighters started the Sandy Ground Project. They began building playgrounds all along the east coast, 26 in total one for each victim.

For more info about this wonderful organization follow this link: http://www.thesandygroundproject.org/

I found out about this because my store teamed up with other to donate supplies and labor to plant flowers in the West Islip park that would be built for Madeleine Hsu. I went back last week to see the finished park and to see how the flower beds were doing. Here is the main entrance that my coworkers and I proudly worked on.

There were some other flower beds throughout the parking lot and up to the beach. Then the playground was built on the beach. I hadn't been able to stay long enough to see the playground finished so this was the first time I was seeing the completed park.

Each playground is built specifically for the person it is named after. So some of the signs included things that Madeleine had written, said or drawn. It also had pictures of her favorite things.

As you can see from the sign this is the twenty third park they have built. 


I hope that her parents can find some comfort in the fact that other children will have some place to play and enjoy being children and that their daughter will always be part of that joy.  

Personally for me it was an invigorating experience. I felt like I was part of something that would help several communities heal.  The families in Newtown, as I said before, hopefully can find some peace in the fact hat the names of their loved ones will be remembered. As well as remembering them and their likes and personalities in the individualization of each park. Also the community of West Islip gets a park that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy re-done in an effort to rebuild the areas damaged by the Superstorm. By participating  in a project like this I feel like I have taken some kind of ownership of the situation. I helped take a negative and turn it into a positive even if in a small way.

It made me feel good to go back and see the completed playground and check on the flowers my coworkers and I had planted. There were some people lounging on the beach and a family enjoying a meal at the picnic benches that had been installed.

I had spent the entire day digging, planting flowers, and spreading mulch. I thought I would be sore but I wasn't in fact I felt relaxed. Really I felt better both physically and mentally then I had in a while. And I think it is part of doing something for other people creates a natural high. It just feels right.

As I was driving home I thought of the quote from Mr. Rodgers:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
That was what we were doing. That is what the people in TN were trying to do along a highway over 1600 miles away from the tragedy. By helping we show our empathy with those directly impacted by the event and give ourselves hope that we can make a difference.

Tennessee is the volunteer state and I intend on doing a lot of volunteering when I move. I may not be able to donate money to various causes but I have skills and time that I can put to use.

I want to thank the Sandy Ground Project and Lowe's for allowing me to participate in this wonderful project. I look forward to future chances to do something that will impact my community.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

That was one good car.

Well, the day finally came that I have been dreading. Onk, my 99 Ford Taurus, has finally made its last trip. I feel a little ridiculous that I am so sad at the loss of this car but that car is a piece of my history.

My sister and I bought that car when we were 21. I was close to getting my driver's license and we went looking for a car with our Mom and Dad. I definitely had dreams for what I wanted as a first car but then prices clashed with dreams. At a ford dealer we saw the tan taurus. It was in our price range, had one previous owner, not too many miles, and lots and lots of space. We could (uncomfortably) fit six. And the trunk was huge. So we bought it.

I've had a lot of good drives in that car from the first drive up to NH when Jeanne and I talked the entire way with only about 10000 reminders that I drove to close to the car in front of me, driving up and down highway 3 from Merrimack NH to the MA border just to listen to the radio, to the time Meg three friends and I drove to Maine and got lost on the way back to NH, or the time we filled my car up with more classmates than legally possible including having one person in the trunk to drive to Bickfords in Nashau NH, and the many hours spent in traffic in the Bronx listening to the radio.

Onk had a cassette player in it so Meg and I made one of our first orders of business to buy tapes for the car (mostly we had switched to cds at home). We got a Hank Williams Sr tape, Billy Joel Greatest hits, Patsy Cline and Chris Ledoux. There was nothing better then rolling down the windows and blasting Hank sr from a cassette. The sound wasn't as clear as a radio or cd it was different but we loved it. Actually the radio and music was a big part of that car. Meg and I had fun one Christmas wearing Santa hats driving around in December with the windows open playing Christmas music while Schultzy sat in the back wearing antlers.

Then there was painting the car when the New York Rangers made it into the playoffs.

We had a picture of the front of the car which we got signed by the entire team during the playoff run. And Meg got her 15 minutes of fame when someone at the Garden saw the picture and recognized her from the video shouting out "Agravaine" which is Meg's Youtube account name.

The beauty about the Taurus is how well it was built. It was a perfect car to learn in. There is a scuff on the side from the first time I drove to Yankee Stadium. The bumpers had both been tested a few times. One time I was pretty sure I was in a set up. We had been stopped at a light for almost a minute when all of a sudden we were slammed into so hard I hit the car in front of me. I got out and walked to the back of my car. The guy who hit me said we should pull into the parking lot on our right. I told the guy I hit I was hit from behind and that we were pulling into the parking lot to get out of the road. However when I got into the parking lot the car who hit me was gone. Some guys in the parking lot told me he went in reverse down the road and drove through a different parking lot and was probably long gone. The guy I hit then looked at his rear bumper said "that's not enough" and left.

My ethics were tested in that car. I was delivering papers early one morning in a horrible storm. It was dark and I passed the house I needed. When I switched to reverse to back up to the car my back spun out and hit a car parked on the street. I'd be lying if I pretended the thought that 'it was 3am and if I left no one would ever know I was there' didn't go through my mind. I got out and woke the owners of the car up and left my name and phone number and then came back at a more reasonable hour when it wasn't pouring with high winds and was light out.

It also played a part in one of the worst days of my (and my family's) life. Meg and I had just pulled into a Walmart parking lot in order to pick up photo's from a recent trip to Nashville. Meg was standing behind the car when a car a few spots away pulled out very quickly and came to a stop. Before I could say to Meg "That kid (I assumed it was a kid) is going to hurt someone" the driver backed up equally fast as if he was backing into the spot I was parked in. He pinned Meg between his bumper and my bumper, pushing my parked car over a curb. Then began to drive away as if nothing happened.

The car as we liked to say had character, which was a euphemism for all the little things that would go wrong. For example the door locks which were supposed to be automatic stopped working.  We would have to push the bottom multiple times to make it unlock and then eventually it just had to be unlocked manually. Occasionally the key wouldn't unlock the driver door and I would have to remove it and pull the handle a couple of times before trying again. The seat belt on the passenger side was great at locking when I hit the brakes but hated to retract. The tape player had stopped working and would only play five seconds at a time. Then there was its refusal to switch from heating to cooling which I guess was a sign of its future end.

And there was my bumper which I had covered with my very own  bumper stickers.

I guess some were due for a refresh anyway.
 But if you like them they are available here http://www.zazzle.com/jrkeohane

I can't say I didn't see the writing on the walls. I had told myself over a year ago that the next large repair would the end. It happened a month ago when the head gaskets went and anti-freeze was apparently spewing into the engine. It was more than the car was worth.

I'm going to miss that car.