Sunday, February 8, 2015

An open letter to all politicians

Dear Politicians,

I'm the person you represent. I voted for you (or didn't vote for you) and you are in the position you are in to act on my behalf. You are supposed to be voting, legislating, judging, debating, balancing, forming policy, speaking, and acting in my best interest. When you sit in your office taking phone calls and having meetings you should be asking yourself 'is this what my constituents sent me here to do?'

That's right, your constituents! Not your party or your special interest group but me, us, them, those people, or the ones back home. We are all different and you need to find a way to represent all of us. It's not easy but it is the job you signed up for knowingly.

Who am I? I'm a Republican Conservative Democrat with Libertarian tendencies. I'm middle . . .middle class, middle income, middle of the road, middle America, and somewhere near the middle politically. I'm a fiscal conservative but a social democrat.

I don't know where I stand on all the issues but I know where I stand on many. I'm willing to listen and learn about the ones were I am undecided. And you know what? I am willing to change my mind. That's right. Over time my political, economic, and social opinions change. Maybe you should try that. . . you know being open to listening. Maybe then something can get done.

I'm tired. I'm tired of the blaming, demonizing, speaking down to, and talking badly. Which, by the way, seems to be all politicians do these days. Because when you start insulting nothing gets done. People just stop listening. When you trash the people who disagree with you I hope you realize you are trashing the people you represent. No one agrees on every issue. If you can't handle difference maturely and in a productive manner then you don't belong in politics. (Side note: that means most of you don't belong in politics).

I don't want to be told what I should think, or what's best for me. I don't want to be demonized for disagreeing or made to feel like I am a mean uncaring person. I'm not, I just disagree on the means to get to an end.

I don't want to be judged by the worst of those who identify with my group (whatever group that may be take your pick). No one wants that. So don't paint a broad picture by saying everyone in that group must be like the worst. That is negative stereo typing. Whatever little box you want to paint me in because of my views, opinions, beliefs, hobbies, education, or work don't bother. I don't fit in your box. I am sure of that much.

I don't want politicians to continue behaving badly and use 'well the others started it' or 'it's what has always been done' or ' they did it to us.' as an excuse.

I want respect. I respect the fact that there are many people who like things I don't, believe things I don't, and enjoy things I don't. That's fine. That's America. Our differences make us a unique country. But then let's make that mutual. Don't disparage me for liking things you don't, believing things you don't, and enjoying things you don't. Differences don't have to mean we can't get along. It means we are different.

I want to believe that things are going to get better. I haven't seen that. I feel like I am in a hole that is getting dug around me and under me and it is getting bigger and bigger.

I was at the mall yesterday and saw a news stand (so called). It had no magazines or newspapers. It only sold lotto and candy. I laughed at it. And questioned why it even called itself a news stand. But you know what? It is very fitting. Today we have all these 24 hour news channels but all they are is candy, sweet and sour. There is no more real news and facts on those channels than there were at that stand. Just a lot of distraction.

So before you give your next speech filled with insults at the other party, or sarcastic comments, or attempts at humanizing yourself and identifying with me- stop. Your actions could do a lot more than a speech. Don't come to a debate with your mind made up. You need to negotiate. You need to be ready to listen to each side's view and willing to consider if one side sees unintended consequences of action they need to be considered not just ignored. Don't just say how wrong or evil the other party's plan is. Tell me what your plan is. Tell me how it is different and tell me why. I want to hear your policy and your plan; not how it isn't the other sides policy and plan, not why the other side is wrong, and not why you are right. I want the facts. Give me comparison of means and ends when you talk about your plan versus a different plan. Give me something that is concrete. How can I support or not support something when you won't even give me the details of what I am supposed to be choosing.

And now, dear politicians, I have something else to say. If you are reading this and thinking that I am only talking about the politicians on the other side of the aisle from you then you missed the point. I'm talking about all of you. Both sides of the aisle and all parties.

Your Constituent.             

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.

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:

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.