Sunday, December 27, 2015

That week between Christmas and New Years

I've got many fond memories of that week between Christmas and New Years.  Growing up, it meant that we would help mom build a fire in the fireplace that my father and great uncle Les built when mom and and dad moved into the house.  As a family, we spent a lot of time around that fire that week.  Sometimes, we'd work on a huge jig saw puzzle on the dining room table.  Other times, we'd curl up in a chair or on a blanket by the fire with one of the books we got for Christmas.  If we weren't doing that, we were playing board games.

When I was growing up, we still had a working farm, so that we had to make sure that the cows were fed, cleaned, and milked before we got to do anything.  On week days on a school day, that meant rushing around to get it done.  On weekends, we usually had to rush as well because we either had school activities or my father had some other project he wanted to get done with our help.  That special week, dad didn't plan any extra projects.

My mom would have cooked a huge turkey dinner for Christmas, lasagna for one of the nights, chicken and dumplings, and scalloped potatoes and ham.  That meant that the refrigerator was stocked full of our favorite meals and we could warm up any one of them for lunch.  We also always had an abundance of homemade cookies, candies, and whatever other gifts had been dropped off.  I know that sometimes dad would get a big winter sausage and cheese box from his boss.  We'd also have cases of fruit that were purchased from the FFA.

I remember this week as a time when I seemed to fight less with my siblings than normal.  We never did watch much television, and even less on that week.  If there was enough snow (usually in the far reaches of northern NY at Christmas, there are feet of snow), we'd build snow tunnels and forts.  We would dig the tunnels in the snow banks dad had created with the plow by using one of my mom's table spoons or metal serving spoons.  Her biggest frustration was that we'd lose on in the snow pile and come and grab another.  Sometimes when the snow melted, you'd find some serving spoons on the lawn that we hadn't found.

We'd also spend hours clearing snow off the pond so we could skate.  I feel like it sometimes took longer to clear the snow than the time we spent skating.  My older brother and his friends, or my dad and his friends would play hockey.  My mom and dad also would skate circles around the pond.  Thinking back on it, they always reminded me of couples skating in old movies.

When we'd get cold, we'd come into the house where mom would boil a pot of milk and stir in some nestle quick for our own version of hot chocolate.

As I think about these things, my Christmas that I remember as a child, I realize that people around me here didn't have that Christmas.  Christmas here seems to be about going to parties, visiting museums, shopping, and being out with your family instead of home enjoying each other.

I didn't go home this Christmas.  Things at work make that a bit difficult this particular year.  I only had three days off and the drive is a long one.  Most of my family wasn't headed north anyway.  My sister got there late last night, so I wouldn't have spent time with her anyway.  I would have driven for 7 hours Friday and back 7 hours on Sunday (if traffic and snow cooperated) to only be home for one day and two nights.  In some ways, I'm glad that I didn't drive that much for a short stay.  I'm glad that I got to be here with my David cooking our own meal and opening gifts together.  I also was able to clean my apartment from top to bottom and reorganized my closet and bureaus to make some room for some of David's clothes.

I had a good childhood full of lots of love and great memories.  Some of the best are of this week.  As I go back to work and spend the week in what I'm sure will be a very quiet office, I'll have pleasant thoughts to get me through.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

There is no snow in Brooklyn.  I don't know that I've ever been in the city at Christmas time and not seen snow.  Growing up in the far reaches of northern, NY, I find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit with no snow around.  Still, I've got my gifts wrapped, the little tree is up, and I've purchased food to cook on Christmas day.

I purchased gifts for the key departments at work and gave them out, took my staff out for a holiday lunch that we charged to the office, and took care of all of the necessary holiday cheer that I felt was needed.  Still, I'm lacking some christmas spirit this year.  I know some of it is that the office has no holiday decorations of any kind.  Hartwick College always did a door decorating contest and we had a lovely lady who always put up decorations in her cubicle as well as helped decorate the office.  I think that next year, I'll pick up a menorah, a christmas tree, and do some decorating.

Additionally, I'm not around my family or a large group of friends or a large office to have a big holiday party.  I know that my Oneonta friends all had parties, we had a great office potluck, and the College where I used to work seemed to have a lot of festive spirit.

Finally, I know that this is my first Christmas without my grandma.  She loved Christmas.  She died the day after Christmas last year.  I think that she was the reason that my mom and my entire family had a lot of cheer.  Without her, we are all struggling to put on the smile and spread the cheer that we used to have.  I know that she's trying to work her magic from heaven, but I'm just not feeling it.

On a bright note, lots of vendors are sending my office thank you gifts for working with them.  Since there are only three people in the office, we split them three ways.  I've got a great bottle of sparkling wine, and lots of chocolates to open on Christmas day.  We each had a few delicious hand dipped and decorated chocolate strawberries too.  Today, one of the ladies in the cafeteria gave me a little gift (a mug with some hot cocoa mix) since I always bring her goodies when I bake.  It was a really nice gesture for someone that I don't know that well.  It reminded me just for a moment of all of the wonderful people in smaller communities like Rochester and Oneonta where you share kindness more often.

That was short-lived, though, when I walked ten feet to stand in line to pay for my food and the lady physician behind me told me that the diet pop and fried chicken fingers weren't doing me any good and I clearly should lay off them.  I'm not as thin as I used to be, but considering that I've never met or talked to this lady, it was pretty rude, or should I say typically Brooklyn, for her to say something like that to a stranger.

I will not let any of it get me down.  My fiancé, David, is coming over for Christmas morning.  I've got a bunch of cute gifts under the tree for him and making him smile makes me happy.  I'm going to teach him how to cook pancakes (it's been a while so I hope it works out) and we will eat them with maple syrup that was made from sap from the trees on my parents farm.  Then we will put a chicken in the crock pot to cook while we go to see the new Star Wars Movie.  I will work on being more Christmassy and get in the spirit, even if it is just to do my grandma proud.  She would never let Brooklyn rudeness take away her Christmas spirit, and neither will I.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Inspired to write

I'm getting inspired to write some more.  I want to find the time and energy to do it.  I've read the NaNoWriMo book (National Novel Writing Month).  I think it is called, "No Plot, No Problem."  If I can just get my butt in gear and write, I know there are stories inside me.  I have plots of so many things in my head.

This blog and the reaction from friends has been building my confidence.  I've got pennies in my saved penny jar and I'm starting to invest them.  If all goes well, maybe I can self publish a book or at least some short stories by the end of next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Subway challenges on the weekend

My twin brother is visiting this weekend.  Last night, I chose to meet him at Penn Station and guide him to my place.  Although I've traveled in and out of Penn Station myself, I've never tried to meet someone there.  That place is crazy.  We figured out how to get him here, but never decided where to meet.  Little did I know that there were at least two Dunkin Donuts next to a Hudson News and a Cappuccino place.  We finally figure it out.  We then went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and explore.  Fortunately last night's travel went relatively well.

One of the challenges of city subway travel during the weekends is that the city does subway construction.  Sometimes the construction is not clearly explained.  This was definitely the case today.  Although my GPS said it was going to be easy to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with minimum walking by taking it directly to the 86th street stop, we should have known it wasn't going to be easy.  I should have trusted my gut and followed most of the people when 90% of them got off the train at Columbus Circle.  Little did I know that the C Train wasn't going to stop again until 125th street.  My brother and I made it back down to 59th street and then walked in the frigid wind through central park to the museum.

I forgot how much I walk compared to most people.  What seemed like normal walking to me today really knocked out my twin brother.  We did just over 8 miles.  On a normal day, I walk approximately 5 miles.  On weekends it is not unusual for me to walk 8-10 miles exploring the city and beyond or going for a 5-7 mile run on top of my normal walking.

Let's hope that tomorrow's drive to Penn Station is an easier one.

Friday, December 18, 2015

It's not a's not a rat

I work in a hospital and medical school in Brooklyn.  My office is next to a major construction project.  Given that, there is frequently something unusual happening in or around my office.  We've had bad smells, ants, the occasional mouse, and other bugs since I got here.  Having worked in other cities and other buildings in Chicago, NYC, DC, and other places, I know this isn't odd unless it becomes a regular thing.

This morning, I went into the closest men's room near my office.  This happens to be immediately next to construction that recently started on the outside wall next to this bathroom.

I did my business and then went to wash my hands.  Out of the corner of my eye in the mirror, I saw something that was at least 8 inches long moving up the side of the urinal behind me.  My heart jumped into my throat for a minute, and I was very close to running out of the men's room into the lobby screaming while leaving the water running in the sink.

I turned quickly to look as if in a horror film, ready to sprint, only to realize that the construction crew had left duct tape and plastic all along the side of the urinal when they must have taped it off this week.  The air had kicked on and made it move like something undulating.

Freak out averted.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

39 reasons to be grateful

Yesterday, I turned 39 years old.  It was a lovely day full of texts, facebook posts, facebook messages, skype messages, cards, emails, phone calls, and love from dear friends from around the world.  I'm humbled by the messages and am grateful for so much.

In honor of my 39th Birthday, I wanted to list 39 things I'm grateful for this year.

1. My loving fiance.

2. My loving family

3. A job that pays well

4. A warm apartment

5. Food in my refrigerator

6. Good books to read for the winter

7. An upcoming visit from my best friend and twin brother

8. The ability to walk

9. The ability to run, albeit slowly

10.  A gym membership

11.  Chocolate

12. A staff that I enjoy seeing every day

13. Long underwear

14. Smart wool socks (thanks Kim)

15. Music

16. Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity

17. Hartwick College

18. Iced Tea

19. Sunshine

20. Rain

21. Laughter

22. Jokes, both bad and good

23. Lake Avenue Baptist Church

24. My mentors, both living and those who have passed

25. Education

26. The ability to legally marry who I love

27. Two people that I think would make good Presidents running in the next election

28. Christmas Carols that I can sing along to and remember most of the words this time of year

29. Reconnecting with my family after the loss of my Gram

30. Pennies (and money) on the streets all over

31. An awesome camera and learning to take better photos

32. Loving, supportive, intelligent, challenging friends from all over the world

33. The ability to speak Spanish

34. Postcards - who doesn't love getting them

35. Peanut Butter

36. The sound of the ocean and the ability to hear it

37. Snazzy bow ties and the smiles on people's faces when they see them

38. Honey and honey bees and all the amazing things they both do

39.  The fact that I'm not 40 yet

My request of you, blog reader, is that you make a list of the things that you are grateful for today that has as many things on it as years you have spent on this earth.  You can list names, feelings, abilities, physical things, or mix them all up like I did.  There is no need to share this list with anyone.  I'm happy to read them if you want to share them with me.

In a world with "keeping up with the Joneses," hatred, materialism, and all of the other challenges, taking just a few minutes (this took me less than 5 minutes) to make your grateful list this year might remind you, like it did me, that I have much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Loving so much it hurts

Last night, my fiancé canceled on me.  It happens sometimes.  He found out he has a test Friday and really needed to study for it.  I had planned a night in with him, ordering food and watching more more of Empire.  We both have fallen in love with the show.  I even downloaded the sound track. The music and acting are great.

When David cancels on me, it hurts.  I plan an evening around him.  Being next to him makes me so happy. I get frustrated and am not really sure what to do with myself.  Do I go out and grab drinks at a bar alone?  Do I stay in and watch tv and cook?  Do I go to the gym?

The challenge is that when he calls to talk to me about it, he hears it in my voice too.  It hurts him when I'm hurt.  We both end up hurting each other because we want so badly to please the other.  We are getting to the point where we are moving beyond it, I hope.  Some of this is the challenge or joy of a new relationship.  Some of this is poor time management.

Finally, some of this is my personal rigidity in my own planning.  When I plan something, I schedule prep time, said activity time, and follow up time.  If something in my personal or my work schedule changes, I feel like there is this huge opportunity of time to fill that I haven't planned to fill.  I can always watch television, or go for a run, or read a book.  It's just that none of those, in this case, is as enjoyable as laying on the sofa and watching Empire with David.

In this case, I wrack my brain trying to decide what will fill this opportunity with something close to as joyful, or at least acceptably as fulfilling.  The same thing happens at work or in my life when I have meetings cancelled or dinner with friends, or a gym appointment with my trainer.  I want to immediately plan something to fill that space and time.  I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from the planning and successful execution of that plan.  So much so that I plan just about everything.  For vacations and work, I also plan back up plans in case something falls through.  I map out locations, travel time, costs, hours of operation and have a list of back up fun things to do that take the approximate same amount of time, money, and energy.

This sounds crazy to some people, I realize.  I do plan down time too.  I schedule blocks of time to lay down and watch tv or read a book.  If I get sucked into a book or movie or television show or a conversation with a dear friend, I am flexible enough to mentally move around my rest of the plans for the day to enjoy being in the moment.

So, with David, I just need to start planning better.  I also need to accept that I can't plan everything.  I know he loves me and doesn't want to hurt me.  I also know that by this time next year, we will be living together and I'll see him all the time.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A visit to the bank

I went to the bank this morning to turn in my change.  I decided to cash in the money that I'd found on the street so far since August 31.  More than 12 dollars!!  The change alone was over $10 and I had two bills.  I also checked into the banks rates for CDs.  Unlike Chase, which has been my bank for 16 years, TD Bank will let you open a CD with just $250.  They also have rates right now that are a minimum of 200 times higher than those of Chase.

I had to wait in line for the change machine and noticed that some people had dropped money that had slid under the machine.  Before I started counting my money, I ran my keys under the edge of the machine and found four more pennies to put in the machine.

I ended up going across the street to Chase and withdrawing a bunch of money to put in CDs at TD Bank.  I have an account for my high school reunion and it makes sense to put that in a CD.  I am also considering moving all of my accounts to TD.  Most of their investment and savings vehicles have higher rates and are much more flexible than those of Chase.  I just need to figure out one or two things at Chase that could be complicated if I switch.

I made a guess about how much money I was turning in and was right.  TD bank gave me a new change bank as a gift for guessing close to right.

As I left the bank, I immediately found four pennies on the ground.  I found two more on the walk home.  That means I can start again with my money finding mission and fill this new bank with that money.  Once it gets close to full, I'll bring it back there to count it for free and deposit it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

On no you didn't

Yesterday, outside my office, a construction crew removed our old coffee kiosk.  It's next to the men's room and just a few steps away from my door.  As I walked by, I noticed at least a dozen pennies and some nickels and dimes encrusted in dirt, coffee grounds, dirt, and dust.  There were quite a few people working in the space, but I had a vision of the housekeeping crew just sweeping all that money into the garbage.

I went back into my office and told the staff that I was itching to pick it all up, but needed to wait for the crowd to go away.  Both of my staff laughed and then suggested I sweep it up.  I grabbed the dustpan and broom and went out and swept up as much as I could in a few minutes.  I walked back into my office and picked out each coin and washed them one by one in the sink.  Almost $4.00 of change went into my change jar yesterday.

You may laugh, and I hope you do.  I laughed and shook my head as I did it.  Still, for the five minutes of work, I got a pocket full of change and now my change jar smells like a coffee shop.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The return on my investment

I walked to work today.  I've been trying to walk to work on any day when it isn't raining.  I usually take the bus home because I don't feel safe walking home from work in the dark and it is dark when I leave this time of year.

On my way to work, I found two pennies today.  That's just part of my ROI (return on investment).  I also find that I mentally prepare for my day better when I'm walking.  Most mornings, I talk on my cell phone with my mom, my brother, my sister, or my David for at least part of the walk.  On the rare day that I can't get one of them on the phone, I listen to a podcast about investing and the markets or about life in America.

In addition to the money, the chance to catch up with loved ones, the opportunity to increase my knowledge via podcasts, I know that the fresh air and the exercise are both beneficial to my mental health and my physical health.

It's good to know that there is more than a $.02 return on the investment of my time and energy to walk to work.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Knowing what hunger is?

I feel hungry.  As I sit on a conference call for work, I'm thinking about what to have for dinner.  I can have leftover meatloaf and potatoes, leftover homemade soup, cereal, pasta, veggies, eggs, grilled cheese, or just about anything that I can whip up.  I am realizing that I have cupboards and a refrigerator that are stocked full of things to eat, cook or make.

Today, I was reminded that most youngsters will come to any meeting if you offer food.  I fed five medical students lunch so we could talk about an upcoming phonathon for the scholarship drive.  They all said that any time I offered food, they knew we'd get some students.  I had extra sandwiches that I asked them to take and bring to their friends.  Five minutes later, someone who saw that they had the food came in to ask if we had any more leftovers.  I am fortunate to be able to have the office supply my lunch and theirs.

This week, I've seen many people begging for food.  I've also seen people who are sleeping on the street.  My gut gets wrenched each time I see a person who I know needs help.  Much of the help they need I cannot give.  I observe that some of the homeless people have what appear to be mental health concerns.  Others may simply be down on their luck.

When I was involved as a youth leader in a local church, we participated in something called the 40 hour famine a few different years.  The youth and their leaders all gathered at one church and spent 40 hours drinking only clear fruit juice.  We educated each other through games and conversations about what it was to be hungry.  These "40 hour famines" helped me to understand what it was like to go so long without food.  I can't even imagine going longer than that.  For that reason, every time I wait a little to long to eat and I get "hangry" I try to remind myself that not all people have a stocked fridge or the ability to order from Grubhub, a local pizza shop, the Chinese restaurant on the corner, go to the bodega to grab a submarine sandwich, or eat cereal just because they are lazy.

Tonight was one of those nights.  I decided to be "one" with my hunger just a little bit longer and walked to the grocery store to get some necessaries (almost out of toilet paper).  As I got home, I warmed up soup I made earlier this week and gulped it down quickly.  I couldn't even finish the blog before I ate.

I'm grateful, today and during this holiday season, that I have food enough to eat and to share with those I love and those I meet.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Christmas Card joy and challenge.

I began putting together my Christmas cards tonight.  I love finding a card that reflects my mood and personality at the time.  Initially this year, I was going to find a card with a city scene of NYC or of Brooklyn.  I feel in love instead with a great wildlife card that benefits both the National Geographic and feels a little different than the card most people will send.  I want my card to make someone smile and look good enough to go out on a shelf for a few weeks.

I made my list of the people who are getting the cards and then tried to locate addresses for some of them.  In some ways, I wish I had the time and money to send the cards to all of my friends.  I feel very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life.  Since the proliferation of social media, one finds it easier to keep track of many more people.  I'm saving for a wedding, so I had to keep the list to family and a few close friends.  That hurts a little.  I want all of the people in my life to know that I love them.  It's actually not just a money thing.  It's also finding the time to write them all out.  I already hand wrote 500 holiday cards for work the week of Thanksgiving.  Between hand cramps and my need to live life, I had to make the list small.

As I write each one, I think about writing a long message and sharing my life with that person.  Fortunately, I get to talk to most of them and share that news over the phone or in person.  I think about how I met with and connected with each person I wrote with whether it be 35 years ago or just this year.  It is a further step in my personal grounding.

When I do write my Christmas cards, I am more and more thankful for all of the love I've shared in my life with such great people.  I find that I also have reconnected to some people through this blog.

To each of the people who reads my little posts, know that I'm grateful for you, whether we know each other or not.  Thanks for caring enough to read these posts and learn about my impressions of life in Brooklyn.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Recovery mode

Saturday morning I decided I needed a reset.  The city and everything in it was starting to grate on my nerves.  My family and friends that don't live in the city had lots of their own suggestions about what I should do to when I was feeling overwhelmed.  I decided to do my own recovery.

Step 1:  Go for a run
Fortunately, I had signed up for an obstacle course race.  The Men's Health Urbanathlon  up in Queens was a great way to start my "reset."  Four miles of running with 12 obstacles exhausted my body so my mind could think.

Step 2: Connect with friends
A college friend invited me to a holiday party.  David and I put on our festive attire and spent a few hours in a cozy apartment (it would be tiny in any other city) talking with strangers and catching up with my college buddy.

Step 3: Hang out with your love

David knew I needed some time with just him.  We left the party and were home by 11:00.  We talked wedding plans, life stories, holiday traditions and laughed a lot.  Sunday, we spent time making breakfast together and talking some more.

Step 4: Do something familiar
I woke up before David this morning and put up my NYC apartment-sized, four-foot Christmas tree with lots of fun ornaments.  Most of my Christmas ornaments are in boxes in my Rochester house attic.  It's been five years since I've put up a 9 foot tall real Christmas tree with all the lights and things and spent three days decorating for my big holiday party.  Still, having an hour to myself with some Christmas music putting up the ornaments I've purchased or been given since then was nice.  This is my first Christmas without my gram.  I even put an angel from her tree on mine.

Step 5: Focus on Faith
David and I ended our morning together watching a live broadcast of church.  It was grounding.  I prefer the real thing, but a repair guy arrived unannounced this morning to finally fix the mold and gash in my closet ceiling.

Step 6: Cook and Bake
David and I ran some errands and I dropped him at his place to get ready for the week.  I came home and made two big dinners for the week and baked some chocolate chip banana muffins.  I packed  up half of it in little containers for David so he has meals for the week and drove it to his place.  I didn't even realize I didn't have my keys with me until I got to his place, but luckily he has a spare set that I was able to borrow to get home.

AND...I feel reset.  I can face the crazy crowds, noisy streets and stores, rude people, honking horns, barrage of smells, and all that is Brooklyn for a while longer.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Too much of a good thing

Last night, as I drove from work to home and hopped on the subway to get uptown to pick up my race packet for a race this morning, I felt overwhelmed.  I'm not one who is easily overwhelmed.  Brooklyn, and NYC, can do that to me, though.

It started with the crazy traffic that made my 2.4 mile drive last 45 minutes.  I could have fast walked it in about the same time.  That was combined with more horn honking than usual which was an assault to my ears.  Additionally, the lights on stores, cars, and the street were driving me crazy with glare on my windshield.

I got to the subway platform and was immediately asked for money.  When I got on the train, a homeless man got on at the first stop asking for money.  On the third stop, a young lady was asking for money for a school trip.  Some buskers arrived as we hit manhattan and were playing music for money.  The subway car was so crowded that it was hard to breath.

Arriving to 72nd street, I felt like if I lifted my feet, the crowd would've walked me out of the subway car, across the platform, and up the steps to 72nd street.  Getting out of the subway, there were dozens of honking cars, street vendors hawking books, hotdogs, pretzels, paintings, christmas trees (all the way from Alaska according to the sign), a busker playing saxophone, a homeless guy sleeping on the subway vent, and a lady in a wheelchair screaming for donations.

I walked down the street to get to the store where they had packet pick up.  I was hungry, but didn't feel like eating.  I was reminded why some people are fed by this and others are drained by it.  I'm an extrovert and gain energy by talking with people.  I am left wondering if the people who gain energy in the city are introverts who enjoy the fact that there are few people that you actually have to connect with.  I find that the people here are people that I need to walk by and not talk to.  Talking to them, for some reason, saps my energy instead of increasing it.

I did find a brand new shiny penny on the subway platform on the way home.  I got my packet and made it home.  I made a turkey sandwich and at 7:30, I turned on some white noise and crawled into my bed with no lights and lots of blankets.  I woke up at 5:30 this morning and feel like I can face the world again.

I doubt this is an introvert extrovert thing.  I do realize, though, that I sometimes need to get out of the city to just hear birds chirping and feel nature.  Central park doesn't cut it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I grew up around guns.  My dad had them in the house.  My brother and father are both hunters.  I've benefited from their skill at hunting with venison in my freezer and on my table.  My dad was a good shot when it came to taking care of pest animals that were causing damage to our crops or or fields.  Throughout my childhood, I saw guns as a way to provide for your family.

For that reason, I've always been a gun advocate.  I wasn't thinking about guns as weapons used to kill people.  As I reached College age it began to become more clear that the human against human gun violence that I read about and heard about on the news was something much more serious than I ever imagined.  In major cities, gangs were killing each other and crime was in the rise.  This was the early 1990s.  My mom was scared that I would get mugged when I took a bus to NYC.

Fast forward to today where two mass shootings took place in our country.  These were the 354th and 355th mass shooting this year by one person's counting.  Regardless, we all know that something has got to change.

Here is what I wonder when I hear about them:
1.) Is it television violence that these people grew up with causing this? I did a speech in high school based on the book called "The Plug in Drug." That advocated that violent crime rises as violence on tv rises.
2.) Is the mental health crisis in our country out of our control and could it have been stopped before the deinstitutionalization of most of the mentally ill in this country in the 60s.
3.) Why is it easier to get a gun than it is to get a drivers license, health insurance, or a decent apartment?
4.) Would a change in price of guns change this?
5.) Would the elimination of guns all together help?
6.) Would restrictions on the type of gun one is allowed to own help?  After all, you don't need an AK47 to kill a deer and feed your family?
7.) If people kill people and not guns, how can we fix the people?
8.) Is this a conspiracy in our country?
9.) Are there other things controlling these gunmen that we can figure out?
10.) Is the growing politicization of our country and the larger divide between conservatives and liberals to blame?

No matter what the cause is, we need help to fix it.  I know that some in my family and some people I know are worried about "them taking away my guns." In reality, would it be so bad if every gun owner had to get gun insurance and past a test every year or every few years?  Would that help?

Please, God, help our country, our government, and our gun-lovers figure out a solution before more innocent people die.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

And I cried

I mentioned my prayer for World Aids Day earlier.  I spent most of my day in the office on hold today.  I had calls to insurance companies and to the IRS.  I was disconnected three times and had important phone calls come in while on hold during two other occasions.  It wasn't until 1:30 that I got out of my chair to go grab lunch.

As I sat eating my lunch at my desk, I scrolled through today's news.  I learned that more people died of AIDs between 1980 and 1995 than the number of American troops killed in Vietnam.  I read a compilation of stories from people who survived the epidemic while their friends passed away.  I cried a lot.  I realized that lesbian woman were much less at risk and were some of the first and only one's to help take care of gay men who were passing away because their families were ashamed and scared.  Entire neighborhoods were wiped out.  The government's response was to mock people and to provide little assistance.  They called it the gay cancer even though people of all races and sexuality were getting it.  Little research was done and fear spread.  People died...lots of people.

I got back to work with a heavy heart.  I worked on holiday themed things and stuff that didn't require much thinking.  Then my assistant reminded me that there were panels from the AIDs quilt in our lobby. Did I know anything about the AIDs quilt?  Yes, I helped bring some of the first traveling panels to Hartwick back in 1996.  That was the first time I associated AIDs with people's faces and names.  I remember being touched by the quilt then.  I read the panels made by friends and family members.  I giggled at some of the photos of the people who passed because of their outrageous and unapologetic clothing and was a bit ashamed.  I wasn't quite my own self yet.  I hadn't decided what a man I would be.

Today, I went with my assistant to look at the panels here.  I explained to her what each panel meant.  I read the names, saw the photos, and I cried some more.  I didn't break down sobbing, but was close.  Similar photos and panels now only represent men and women who I knew wanted to be themselves.  I was proud of the fact that they dressed, did their hair, and sang however and what ever they wanted.  They were truly themselves.  I feel like at 38, I am myself too, now.  I love bow ties and bright colors.  I like cuff links and fun hats.  I like trying new things with my hair.  I have sequins and satin and plenty of costumes to wear to parties.  I love being me.  Sadly, this made me cry more.  To have such vibrant lives cut short hurts.  There were panels of women too.  I wondered what their story was.

I will continue to cry until we find a cure for AIDs or a full prevention of HIV seroconversion.  I will cry for future people infected and affected around the world.  I will cry for those people who didn't get to live a long life being truly themselves.

My prayer for World Aid's Day

It was 1996 when I really started to learn about AIDs and HIV.  We had heard about it in high school and there were references on the news, television, and the movies.  Back then people who were HIV+ were pariahs and if they got full blown AIDs, they were dying quickly.  I got this pin at Hartwick College.  One of my friends had an uncle who died of AIDs.  She herself has since passed away at a young age from ovarian cancer.  She wanted people to know more and for us to find a cure.

This pin has seen better days, for sure.  It's been scratched, nicked, thrown around, moved to different cities, and has lost its luster.  In some ways, the search for a cure is the same thing.  Now there is a search for a cure for everything else too.  With the amazing advances in preventing the spread of HIV+ from one person to another, and the medical advancements that have all but stopped death from AIDs in the developed world, the search for a cure has almost slowed.

My prayer today for World Aids Day:

Creator, Loving, and Healing God.  First, thank you.  Always thank you first for all you have done and will do.  Thank you for medical advancements like Prep, Truvada, and medicines for people who are HIV + to lower their viral load to undetectable.  Thank you for holding my friends who are positive and those that don't know in your hands and comforting them.  Thank you for the brains of the scientists who have achieved this much and are poised to achieve more. God, my God, please help us find a cure for HIV and AIDs.  Give strength and peace to those affected by this both directly and indirectly.  We feel your love and know that you can help us all, so that the world is free of both the disease and the stigma against those who have it.  


Monday, November 30, 2015

5 Cents and some sunshine.

I've been walking to work as it gets colder.  I'm not a big fan of the amount of time it takes, but when I get out of the office at 5:00, it is dark.  If I don't walk to work, then I spend my entire day seeing just 10 minutes of daylight.  I have a feeling that this will impact my mood and my waistline in the long run.

During my walk today, I found five pennies on the sidewalk.  They weren't all together, but were spread out.  Now they are all warm and cozy in my back pocket.  The pennies in my back pocket remind me of my family and friends.  Although we are far apart sometimes, we get together on occasion to share some love and warmth. Saturday, I found a penny and a dollar on the floor in DSW shoe warehouse.  That combined with coupons and the good sale made for a good mood.  I was able to get warm boots for my fiance, David, and something for his brother's birthday this week.  

I dug out my first Holiday tie today.  I have a dozen or so that are all gifts from my mom.  I wear them starting the day after Thanksgiving and through the entire season.  One of favorite ones had to be retired after getting seriously stained.  It had the three wise men on it and could be worn through the 12 days of Christmas until epiphany.

Leading up to Christmas, I hope you all remember the gifts you have been given.  I'm thankful for the gifts in my life.  I'm also thankful for my family, even if we won't get together for Christmas.  I'm also hoping that you all find laughter, joy, and warmth with your friends and family.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Family - try not to fight.

I am awake after a solid night of sleep.  I drove back yesterday after a few days with my family.  My older brother purchased a new house and is renovating it before moving in.  His home is probably the most central location for everyone in our family.  We decided to meet there.  Initially, we were all planning on crashing in the house under renovation in sleeping bags on the floor for a few days.  That was until we discovered just how much renovation it needed.  My older brother ended up tearing out almost all of the walls.  He also didn't really have a functional bathroom.

Just a week before we were all supposed to arrive, we had to figure out a plan B.  In spite of the added cost, we chose the hotel route.  My sister and parents split a suite, and I picked up two more rooms for my brother and his family and David and me.

The plan was for us to gather for the big meals at my older brother's place and then spend family time in the dining room of the hotel.  The hotel said it was never used and that we were welcome to.  I thought that was a great idea.  The place was clean and the kids could be put to bed in their rooms or my dad could watch football in his room while we enjoyed family time together.

Unfortunately, my older brother had other plans.  He really wanted us all to hang out the entire time at his under renovation house.  There is no internet, no television, no beds for the kids, and the only furniture was the camping chairs I picked up at Walmart, some blankets from my car, and camping chairs and blankets from my sister's car.

I've mentioned my personality before.  Like me, my brothers and sister all have very strong, dominant personalities.  My dad does as well.  When you get us all in one place, it means that someone has to make decisions and the rest have to agree with the decision.  When one person doesn't agree with the decision, they surely make noise in my family.  Let's just say that this happens a lot.  On the occasion that only one person disagrees, that person feels like they have to convince the others that they are right and the rest are wrong.  If no one agrees, it makes it calmer since we have to talk through things.

More often than not, my older brother is the only person who disagrees with the rest of us.  I love him.  I do.  We just both seem to fight a lot.  He feels like I don't listen to him.  I feel like he doesn't listen to me.  We are both right.  Neither of us really wants to listen to the other one because neither of us wants to change our opinion.  We both just want to yell louder than the other until the other's opinion is switched to ours.

Every year when my family gets together, someone ends up having one of these yelling matches with him.  I thought we had escaped them this year.  The family just bent to his will whenever people disagreed.  This is ok for the most part.  After everyone had left, I went back over to his place to pick up something my mom had left for me.  He and I got into it.  I stormed out in a yelling storm and drove off leaving the stuff I went to get.  He called me screaming that it was going to get tossed in the front yard.  I kept driving.  My David convinced me that it would upset mom if I didn't go back and get the stuff.  In the mean time, my older brother had called and yelled about this to my mom and dad and they called me.  I was so mad, that even after getting the stuff, I wanted to hit something.  My brother is one of the only people in the world that gets me that mad.

I still had a great thanksgiving.  My family met David and it went well.  We had good food.  We enjoyed seeing each other.  I'm thankful for my family even if we don't always agree.  I know we all love each other, but don't always know how to show it when our egos get in the way.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The challenges of driving in Brooklyn.

Driving in Brooklyn, or Manhattan, or even driving close to them makes my blood pressure go up.  The people here are rude and impatient.  I fear, too, that I am becoming one of them.   If you see happen to be driving in Oneonta or in the north country near Madrid, NY and someone is riding your tail honking if you slow down for a yellow light or don't start moving before the red turns to green, it might be me after a year in Brooklyn.

Last night, as I was bringing my fiancé home I noticed how much more impatient I've become.  I also noticed some aggression.  Stopped at a traffic light on a two way street with one lane of traffic in each direction, I noticed a man who had been tailgating me and had funky lights on his BMW, pull up on my right hand side.  That is the lane for people turning right, for those of you who have not takes a driving test in a while.  He/She doesn't have a signal light on.  I decide that I'm not going to let him in.  As the light turns green, we both speed forward.  He wanted to pass me on the right.  He didn't get by, but ended up passing me on the left causing a chorus of honking from both sides.  AND, the guy ended up in front of me only one car for another six blocks before turning off.  He really needed to get ahead of me by one car, risking his life to do that.  Many of the people that do this (I assume men, but may be wrong) are driving cars that cost more than I'll probably ever spend on a car, so they end up risking not only injury to themselves, but also accidents on their fancy cars.

I also see people with normal cars that they have tricked out.  There was a dodge charger that he had painted as a transformer car.  I don't really understand it.  I guess I'd rather fly to Paris (feel free to buy me a ticket if you want to) than spend that kind of money on a car.  I just want a car that works consistently and has leg room.  I know the leg room thing may seem odd, but you try being 6'3" and driving a tiny car.

At a party on Friday night, I ran into that friend who had been living with me on my sofa.  He hugged me and said hi.  That was about it.  No update on his housing situation.  Fortunately, a friend at the party let me know that he is living in a safe place.  I didn't get information where, but at least he is in a safe place.

The rest of this weekend has consisted of thrift shopping, a better church, and some time with my betrothed and cooking some beef stew and pumpkin muffins.  

Lessons in thrift shopping in NYC:
1.) Avoid manhattan unless you want to pay close to full retail prices.
2.) Be patient, things are very disorganized.
3.) If you love a fabric on a pair of dress pants, it's probably mistakenly a women's pair mixed into the men's stuff.
4.) Try everything on because in this city, people are obsessed with tailoring things into their own size and written size means nothing.
5.) Freeze for three days or dry in a dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes in case there are bugs.
6.) Live a little.  The prices are cheap enough in Brooklyn that if you see something fun, buy it and wear it.
and, finally

7.)  If you live in a small apartment like mine, don't buy too much stuff.  You already have enough s*&t.  

As I wait for my pumpkin muffins to cool, I'm grateful today for finding a fun church, for warm food and a warm apartment, time with my love, and the fact that every day I keep finding money on the sidewalk.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's been so long I forgot the combination

I got out of work at 5:00 yesterday.  The bus pulled up just as I got there.  I decided that I finally had enough energy to get back to the gym.  In spite of a few attempts, I seem to keep finding a reason not to go.

When my alarm goes off at six, I feel like I didn't get enough sleep.

When I get to the bus stop and there isn't enough money on my metrocard to buy a ride.

When I arrive at the gym only to realize that my sneakers are sitting on my office floor and I never changed back from my dress shoes to go home.

Those are just some of the excuses.  Mostly, I've just been too tired or unmotivated to go.

Last night, I finally did it.  I walked in, checked in, changed into my gym clothes, strolled over to my locker, and guess what....I can't remember the combination.  That's right.  I've been away from the gym long enough that I can't remember the combination to my gym locker.  I purchased the lock and put it on there.  I tried a few different numbers that came into my mind and none worked.  Realize, I spend at least an hour a day manipulating numbers in an excel spreadsheet.  There are lots of numbers floating around in my head.

I decided to use my bike lock on another day locker and went for a 2.5 mile run on a treadmill.  I listened to a fascinating podcast on the creation of carbon offset credits and one on the creation of the Fed (thanks, Planet Money).  Then I went back down to change out of my sweaty, gross clothes.  I realized that the one thing I really wanted from my locker was flip flops.  No one wants to walk around a locker room with bare feet.  It's kind of gross.  I tried again and couldn't get it.

I tip toed into the sauna so as to create as little surface contact with my feet and the floor as possible. If I sweat a lot, I look just a little bit skinnier in the mirror and weigh a pound less on the scale.  It makes me feel like I worked just a little harder.

As I sat in the sauna, I realized that the same three numbers kept going through my head.  I decided to try one more time.  This time, I felt like I was ice skating on my tip toes since the sweat made them slick.  I fell a few times and people looked at me funny as I slip-toed my way to the locker in nothing but a towel that slipped each time I fell.  Eureka...I had it and flip flops were found.  The same people looked at me even funnier as I did a happy dance and then squeak farted my way (sweaty flip-flops) back to the sauna.

I put the combo in my phone so this won't happen again.  BUT, I will get to the gym more often so hopefully I don't forget.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The joys of a potluck

Sunday night, David had a potluck he wanted us to go to.  He really wanted to make Joloff rice, but we didn't have time to pull that together.  I ended up grabbing a loaf of banana bread that I had in the freezer (it's really good even after being frozen) and whipping up some jumbalaya with a box mix and some chicken and sausage.  

After much hassle in trying to find the right gate to get into the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a Sunday night (directions were terrible and David never got the email letting him know it wasn't the normal gate), we got to the Kings County Distillery.  As we walked in the door, I noticed a flag, but knew there was something different about it.  I counted the stars on my way back down to the bathroom and discovered it was a 48 star flag.  

The potluck was for the people who had interned or volunteered at the Brooklyn Grange.  David spent his Wednesdays this summer helping grow food in the rooftop gardens there.  The food is used to provide fresh produce to shelters in the community, a CSA, selling to restaurants, and other things.  David loves growing things.  We must have light in our next apartment and space to grow plants.  The group was one of many very hippie granola people.  They all were very fun.  The spread was full of organic veggies roasted, salads, scalloped potatoes, chile, a roasted turkey, candied swiss chard, pies, cakes, and beer.  There was also free whiskey sampling which we took advantage of.  

This, like all potlucks in my adult life, was a great deal of fun.  I remember dreading potlucks growing up because I felt like the only thing I would eat was what my mom brought.  I also felt like most people brought rolls, potato chips, and salad.  I've been guilty of that myself a few times as a single man with not enough time to cook.  At my church in Rochester, Lake Avenue Baptist, potlucks were an international delight.  You never knew what you would get except to know that there would be plenty of rice and jungle juice.  

I really love potlucks.  I love trying lots of different foods from different people.  I like sharing a common table and hearing the stories.  People talk about cooking at these a lot which is also something I like to do.  I guess that's what made this fun. I tried a little bit of everything (except beets…I hate beets), and laughed a lot.  In spite of the challenges getting there and getting home, it was a very pleasant experience. 

Mega Church experience

This morning, we decided to try a new church.  There is a megachurch in Times Square called Hillsong.  David's roommate goes there, so I thought we'd check it out.  On the way to pick him up, I noticed this street art.  Little did I know that I would feel like it reflected most of my day (crazy).

We got to the church a few minutes late.  The church is in a basement theater in Times Square.  You take escalators into the basement and ushers guide you in.  As we were guided in and up to the very back row of the church, I struggled to see with the lighting so dark.  There was a contemporary christian worship (rock) band playing on the stage.  We were in the back row where there was a large bulkhead blocking my view of anything except the heads of the people in front of me.  I ended up sitting, and still couldn't see anything.  That pretty much ruined the entire experience for me.  If I am going to church, I want to sing.  If they are singing songs that are not hymns and I can't read the words on the screen, then I can't sing.  It was also blazing hot.  I almost stripped down to my undershirt.

Passing the peace was almost impossible and you ended up only shaking hands with the people in the rows in front of or behind you.

When the sermon started, we were watching a live telecast from another church.  The pastor kept referencing the fact that he could hear his other pastors saying "condense" to him, but he was going to give it all to us.  When you say "this speech is long but important" to someone over and over, all they hear is that this speech is long and you are emphasizing that.  If he had cut out the number of times he said that, the speech would've probably been four minutes shorter at least.  Also, if you think it is too long, it is.

Hell (yes, I said hell), if I was going to watch a preacher on a screen, why did I take a train for 75 minutes each direction.  I could've sat in my underwear and watched the entire thing from home, been able to see the words to the songs, and mailed my check for my tithe.

I will probably give it one more shot, but my gut says to stick with my traditional church and let David do this thing himself.  Maybe we will alternate Sundays or just go to our own churches and sometimes go together.  God only knows.

As we left the church, we had to make our way through the crazy crowds that are in Time's Square.  This video is just after I had pushed my way through a big chunk of people.

Gay men can be so rude

I had mentioned earlier on Saturday that I was going to go out to grab a drink.  David was tired, but I was stir crazy deciding to head out anyway.  I put on what I thought was a very fun out fit and tried to channel some 70's disco with a classic leather hat and a fun orange polyester shirt.

I hoofed it down to the C train at Kingston Throop.  The train was super noisy tonight.  I figured that it might be an interesting video to catch the approach.  As you watch, notice the guy in the gray hoodie opposite the doors.  You'll see his black shoes at the very end of the video opposite my comfy paint covered shoes.

As I sat down, I noticed that he had a large shard of glass in his hands (you'll see what looks like a piece of it on the floor next to his right foot).  Having watched Arrow, The Flash, and Robin Hood all day, I could only think that he was a villain who wanted to do something evil to my city.  Needless to say, I was on my toes for two stops until he got off.  

I also noticed that there were quite a few buskers out on a Saturday night at almost 10:00 p.m.  This duo caught my eye.  The piano player was eating some type of noodles and taking a break.  Across from him sits a lady who was on a chair oil painting the scene.  I don't know that I'd want to sit and paint down there, but I would probably buy a painting of it.

I got to the gay bar and ordered a drink.  This bar is called G-Lounge.  It's in the heart of Chelsea which is one of the gayborhoods in Manhattan.  I've been there quite a few times.  The bartenders are usually wearing nothing other than a tight pair of shorts and a smile. The walls are painted white and someone has just drawn a design on them with a black sharpie.  The lighting Saturday was all pink and black lights.

The vibe is usually pretty friendly and the people watching is great.  Unfortunately, it also brings out many people who think that they are the only ones in the universe who know anything about fashion and can be quite judgmental.  There was one couple of men who literally pointed at me and guffawed at my outfit in such a way that it could not be confused.  I really love who I am.  I love my style and how I dress.  When someone thinks that it is appropriate to treat any other person that way, I am incensed.  When it happens to me, I am torn between choosing to go up and confront them saying something rude, to walk out of the bar and go home sulking, or to just stand there and act as if I am proud of who I am and what I am wearing.  I chose to stand there proudly (for about 15 minutes).  Then I chose to go home.  I didn't need more negative energy in my life.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lazy Saturday

Lazy days are possible even in the city.  I am well aware that there are millions of things to do in this city.  Some of them are not available anywhere else in the world.  Even so, there are days when you decide to not leave your apartment.

I was up early to bring my fiancé to work up in Harlem.  When I got back home at 8:30 or so, I found a warm blanket, my sofa, and Robin Hood the series on netflix.  It wasn't until noon that I really did much.  I walked down to the cute little shop that is new on my street called Bed Stuy Provisions.  I grabbed a hot cocoa and a sandwich and brought them back to my apartment.  When I got back, I chowed down.

I spent the afternoon wrapping presents for a family gift exchange at Thanksgiving that is fast approaching.  I also got through my mail, picked up my bedroom a little, and made some meatloaf and baked potatoes for dinner.

After a day of being alone, I am craving some social interactions.  David is just finishing work, so hopefully he will join me for a few drinks out at a local pub.

A week of binge watching this tv series (three seasons) and I've made it from beginning to end.  It was a fun series to view and wasn't so intricate that I couldn't get stuff done while watching.

Next on my list for some binge watching this week while I try to pair down my wardrobe is the Flash tv series.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

When punching works better than the police

I popped into my local bodega to get a breakfast sandwich this morning.  Ali was super talkative.  He is normally quite reserved.  He kept asking me how I was and what was going on.  Given his normal shyness, I wasn't responding very enthusiastically.  Finally I asked him what was going on.

Apparently, some guy ran into the store, all the way to the back and tried to run back out with two cans of roach spray.  This little bodega is quite narrow.  There is a tall counter on one side and coolers along the other.  In between is a narrow walkway with only about three feet of clearance.  The entire store isn't more than 18 feet deep.

Ali was all amped up because he lunged over the guy and popped him in the jaw with a right hook.

I asked Ali why he didn't just call the cops.  He said the cops are a hassle and always want copies of the tape and proof.  I guess I'd rather have the law take things.  Ali said that after he punched the thief, he just let him have the two cans of roach spray because he was a regular customer.  He figured that the guy would think twice about stealing again.

That's some odd psychology there.  I'm glad I don't work in a bodega today.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brooklyn Emergency Room

It was Veterans Day and I completely intended to write a blog about the veterans in my family.  Alas, it was not to be.  Instead, I bring you my adventures in a Brooklyn Emergency Room.

But first some updates:

My long term house guest has given me his keys and taken his stuff.  He was the person mentioned here, here, and here.  

Also, I mentioned my challenges with giving money to people.  Come to find out that the guy I ended up giving money to for "formula for his baby" uses the same story and each time says he lives in an apartment that you happen to be walking by.  I was walking in a completely different part of my neighborhood and he tried the same thing on me again not remembering he had done it before.  He got five dollars from me, bless him for that, but I won't be fooled again. 

The one thing that was pleasant about yesterday was that I heard some awesome duwop barbershop from four elderly black men on the subway.  I don't usually give money to buskers, but these guys were great.  They must have been in their 70's, and they really knew how to harmonize.  

After exploring in midtown a bit yesterday, finding a few pennies, having a real New York bagel for lunch, and spotting some people that I'm pretty sure were celebrities (you never know if you should ask or just assume they are), I came home to nap. 

I was waken up by a phone call from my fiance.  His visiting brother was in the emergency room.  

I grabbed my stuff and rushed over.  A few hours (we were there for 7) of a Brooklyn emergency room is sure to bring you some enlightenment.  I've been fortunate to not visit many emergency rooms.  The one in Oneonta was always super vast since it is rarely used.  In Rochester, I only visited them for personal reasons a few times and didn't wait long.  I was there for work more often escorting VIPs or running errands at hospitals where I worked.  As a kid, I only remember a few visits, and they seemed to go pretty quickly.  

My first impression of the ED at Kings County Hospital was that it is crowded.  There are beds lined up in the hallway.  Each hallway bed is labeled with a plaque above it.  We started in 2HW and ended up in 17HW.  HW stands for hallway, meaning you aren't actually put into an ED cubicle.  

Second, I noticed that there were lots of police officers around.  The security guards had guns, and NYPD seemed to be everywhere there.  In the bed across from us was a man in shackles and handcuffs sound asleep for most of our time there.  He was being guarded by an officer from the narcotics division.  This guy talked up a storm.  He spent some time talking about the NYPD.  I didn't realize that the NYPD has 35,000 officers.  He said it was the fifth largest armed force, but I didn't catch where.  

In another hallway bed was a man who I recognized.  He is a mentally challenged homeless man who is always asking for money on the corner by the hospital.  I work at a smaller hospital and medical school just across the street, so I see him a lot. If you refuse to give him money, he screams profanity at you.  He was in rare form.  When I arrived, he was eating a sandwich.  He kept aspirating (choking) on it and then spitting all over the place when he choked.  He finished it and asked for juice.  The nurse assistant scowled at him and turned to us explaining that he only comes here because he knows he can get food.  I replied, "God bless him," and got a scowl and huff in return from her.  The man kept saying he was hungry every time someone walked by.  He would say he had not eaten since morning.  The same nurse said he had had enough sandwiches, but another nurse gave him an additional one.  While I was there, I saw him consume four sandwiches.  The head nurse told him he needed to not keep eating because each time he does that (he is there a lot apparently), he eats so much that he vomits it all up.  He would ask each person who walked by where his clothes where too.  Whenever anyone said no to him about anything or they couldn't help him, he screamed profanity and spit on them.  He was just beyond spitting distance from where we were stationed.  It was uncomfortable to say the least.  He also apparently came in with two hats, one on his front and one on his back.  All I saw was him in part of a hospital gown.  He didn't sit still and with all his antics, it was hard to ignore him.  I saw way more of his naked body than I cared to.  

On top of that, there were people screaming, vomiting, moaning, and worrying.  No one likes to be in a hospital.  It took us hours to be seen because many cases were more pressing than ours.  One man who walked in and looked fine just flipped out on everyone and started screaming that he wanted an f'ing doctor now.  He really was yelling so loudly and violently that it was unnerving.  Security was called.  He was just upset and scared I guess because his heart was going crazy.  The doctor tried to explain that she had checked him and he was going to be ok until they could see him (stable).  She tried to go into detail about the fact that other people were dying at that moment and she had to see to them as a priority.  Still, this man was seen by doctors well before many other people that came in, including us, because he had caused such a scene.  It irked me a little.  We were patient, yet persistent, and ended up leaving about 2:00 a.m. with the situation as resolved as it could be.  

That made getting a blog post done difficult.  It also made my ability to focus at work impossible today.  Fortunately for me, I was able to get enough work done to leave the office and come up for a quick nap.  I feel revitalized.  I'll sleep earlier tonight and then hopefully be back at life full force tomorrow.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dental Anxiety

I am trying to find a new dentist down here to get my regular cleaning and to be prodded into flossing again.  Going to the dentist is one of my least favorite things in the world.  My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

I know that finding a dentist who you can trust and who is nice to you isn't easy.  I always get nervous going to them and my blood pressure goes up.  This may stem from the fact that my childhood dentist cracked my jaw trying to extract a tooth for my braces.  My mouth hurt for months and the pain was excruciating.

Today, I went to a new dentist.  This person was close to work and got good ratings online.  Also, it helps that she accepts my insurance.  When I got there, she was speaking at a very high volume in a condescending tone to the person behind the desk.  They were arguing about what my insurance would cover.  I filled out my forms and then was lead into a basement that just barely had 6'3" of clearance.  I know because I could feel my hair brushing the ceiling.  The office didn't feel clean and the dentist didn't seem very organized.

This may be a city thing since it happened to me in Chicago too, but the dentist was the person who was going to clean my teeth.  There was no hygienist.  I guess I've been spoiled by all previous dentists.  This dentist sits me in the chair, has me open my mouth for 20 seconds and immediately says she can't help me today, that I need more than a simple cleaning.  Now, I go to the dentist every six months.  I'm not great at brushing or flossing, but I do them.  There is nothing like making an appointment and having the dentist basically say she can't help you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Feeling lonely in the most populated places

It amazes me that in a city this large with so many people, that one can feel lonely. When I moved here in March, I knew a bunch of people who lived in the city.  What people who don't live here think is that this city is easy to navigate quickly.  What I hadn't realized was that my friends who live up in Harlem can be as far away as a 90 minute subway ride each direction.  People, from what I've observed so far here, have a tendency to focus on hanging out with the friends that they have in their neighborhood.

When I lived in Oneonta, I was lucky to have a great group of people in my office.  I considered them coworkers and friends.  I also seemed to have a pretty consistent flow of visitors from other places staying with me.  Advising a fraternity, establishing a glbt networking group, and being part of a really fantastic running group also helped me a lot.  I know I had lonely moments there, but it feels like I have many more here.

For the past 8 months, I've had a friend crashing with me.  He is now gone.  I'm glad for that.  His company was starting to really grate on me.  He left the day my friend Patrick came to visit.  Patrick's visit was a welcome one.  It made me realize how much I miss my friends from other places.  That feeling was particularly enhanced when he left on Sunday afternoon.

It's now been a week.  I have my fiancé, David, whom I love.  He works nights frequently though.  I find that I haven't quite done my due diligence in connecting with people here.  I also haven't been very good at meeting new friends in Brooklyn.

Some of this has to do with energy levels.  In the past few months, I haven't had a lot of energy aside from work.  I know that working out initially tires me out, then ends up giving me more energy during the day.  I just have to get to the gym and get through the tiring part to find the energy again.  I also need to be eating better for that.

On the other hand is an unusual fear of rejection for me lately.  I'm a man who runs head first into a crowd of people and will talk to anyone.  I love meeting people and getting to know them.  Something about my move here is different lately.  I don't know what has triggered this.  I do know I can get through it.  I noticed in my friend, Patrick, a lack of fear in meeting people and talking to them.  I know it's still in me.  I just think it is taking a break.

I read an article about the difficulties of meeting people as an adult a few years ago.  I think it has a lot of truth.  Not only is it age related, but the easiest way to meet people seems to be by spending money in a bar.  Neither drinking a lot or spending a lot seems very attractive to me here.  I've tried meet-up here, but unlike other places, every time I meet with a group it seems like a different group of people.  That has to do, some of it, with the sheer size of this city.

I have this crazy idea lately, too, that I want people to reach out to me instead of the other way around.  Sometimes I want someone else to do the work, checking in and making plans.  Does it always have to be me working hard to connect with people?

I'm truly blessed to have some amazing friends around the world.  We check in with each other all the time.  I also know from experience that it takes about 9 months to start to connect with people in a new place.  I've done it before.  I'll do it again.  This funk is just short term.  I write this not to freak out people I am close to, but rather to articulate something that I believe I am not alone in feeling.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Same old recipes, same great taste

I didn't have much planned today.  I knew that I had some very brown bananas that needed to be used. I also didn't feel like doing much.  I decided to pull together some banana muffins from my mom's recipe.  I feel like I make these every other month, but I still love them.  

I also put a quiche in the oven for this week.  Finally, I've put some beef tips in a mushroom broth in my crockpot for dinner.  

I mention that because all three things are recipes that I've been making for at least a few years.  The quiche making is only three years old, but I need to find some new recipes to try.  When I'm hungry though, I really appreciate eating something that I know is familiarly delicious.  

There is definitely a fine line between trying new things to see if I/you will like them and sticking with the tried and true.  I feel like that is the same for me lately with movies, places to visit, restaurants, food, and music.  

I know that the good things I have enjoyed in my life, though, have all come from being exposed to them in my travels and my experiments.  

Today, I stuck with the stuff that was familiar.  Tomorrow and the days ahead, ready to try new things.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Are you a pet lover?

I'm not a pet lover.  I'm going to put that out here upfront.  Today has been a day of organizing my chaos that is my apartment until they can fix the leak in my closet.  I've got bags of clothes everywhere. It makes it tough to wade through my bedroom and living room.  It makes me realize, and I think I've mentioned this before, that I may have too many clothes.

I took my coats today to the laundry.  I had they dry-cleaned before putting them away for the summer. My storage method (in bags under my bed) left them wrinkled.  I also wanted to wash my electric blanket.  I clearly wasn't thinking when I put the white fluffy blanket in the dryer with a black wool coat and a brown wool coat.  My mind said that the dampness would "steam" out the wrinkles in the coats.  The good news is that the coats didn't shrink and no longer smell like moth balls.  The bad news is that they are covered with little lint balls of white fur.  Yes…I made that mistake today.  I know it is fixable, but it sucks when these coats were so handsome.  Which of my friends owns stock in a lint brush company?

This beautiful boy, Tommy, was waiting outside the laundry when I left.  I said I wasn't a pet person, but that doesn't meant that I don't enjoy playing with dogs or cats.  I love petting animals, playing with them, having them lick me (not my face though) or purr on my lap.  Most of my life, my family had pets.  I just know how hard it is to travel a lot when you own a pet.  It's also hard to find an apartment.  Pets also cost extra money for vet bills, shots, food, grooming, etc.

As an adult, the only pet that I've ever had was a beta named fluffy.  My roommate at the time named him fluffy and thought it was funny.  The name stuck.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I want another beta for my apartment.  Fluffy died after four good years of living in a fluke at my office with the heating system.

I am also realizing that the man I love really wants a dog.  I'm good with it, except that it makes finding apartments harder.  It also makes getting out of town for the weekend harder.  You have to find a friend to dog sit or pay a kennel or find a place that will let you bring your dog.  We aren't living together yet, but I anticipate that we will probably have a dog when we do move in together.  I'll love the companionship of a dog as long as we can train it well.  Hopefully our dog will be so damn awesome that people will beg us to dog sit.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Feeling burned

I found out today that I have become a persona non-grata at an organization where I've donated most of my time and spare money for the past 16 years.  It hurt…it hurts…it sucks.  I won't go into many of the details, but instead will focus on the feelings.

Maybe you have had this happen to you.

When you spend all of your other than work energy trying to make positive change for people and "pay it forward," you frequently gain significant personal rewards.  I know that helping other people through donations and through my time and energy volunteering is personally fulfilling and rewarding.  I love connecting people with each other for possible jobs or personal benefit.  I find great joy in knowing that  my connections can help someone so much in their life.

It's funny how one person can change all of that.  One person, whether they come on staff at a non-profit, or join the board, can completely alter the successful execution of that charities' mission.

I know that something similar has happened to other people close to me recently.  In more than one nonprofit, the staff or board have changed.  For me (and the un-named people close to me), we've tried to keep giving our opinions and spending our time helping said nonprofits in spite of the now not so positive feeling we are getting from this volunteer work.

I like to feel good about volunteering.  I like to feel good about donating.  I don't just do it because a charity needs money.  If that were the case, I'd be supporting the poorest charities in the world, not those whose mission I identify with the most.  I do it because it makes me feel good about a charity.

Now it may be that the new direction and new personalities are somehow moving the charity forward in a positive direction, but one that is contrary to the direction I support.  I'm not admitting that I am always correct.  I'm not seeing or feeling that in this case.  Instead, I'm being selectively singled out to no longer volunteer because there are people who don't like my personality or my strong opinions.  I know this is only temporary until one person leaves.

To paint you a picture of who I am….I am a person who always speaks my mind.  I rarely let politics or social graces stand in the way of me voicing my opinion.  I'm also a person who "puts my money where my mouth is" in that I support financially things for which I am advocating.  If you want someone who will give you the truth without sugar coating, that is me.  If you want someone to give you an up front and honest opinion, that is me.  Sometimes what I say and what I do hurts.  I realize that.  I do what I believe is right.  Also, if you want someone who will work very hard and dedicate hours upon hours of his time to support your cause and get others to support it too, that is who I am.

What is right for me now, is to step away.  There are plenty of nonprofits that value someone who is plain spoken, upfront, and generous with their time, connections and energy.  I will find one of them to support with my heart, and my mind.

UPDATE:  I've had many people reach out to me because this blog post sounds like I'm devastated.  I'm not.  I'm just talking through the situation. I've still got plenty of passion to share with plenty of charities.  I still love this particular charity and many of the people there.  I'm just taking a break.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Finally gone...sort of

My house guest that has been on my sofa since March was given a deadline of October 28 to move out.  I had a friend coming to stay with me and it gave him an additional two weeks beyond my initial request for him to move out to find some place to stay.  For this article I'm going to call him Mr. U.

Mr. U left on Wednesday, but didn't take his stuff with him.  There were plans for him to stay with a friend on Wednesday and move into a new place on Thursday.  That's, at least, what he told me. I realized as I showered this morning that Mr. U's soap and shampoo were no longer in my shower.

I actually did a bit of a happy dance.

Here is how the most recent exchange went:

U: How was your weekend?  You guys have fun?

Me: We had an awesome weekend.

U: Cool, well I'm on my way back to yours

This was at 5:00 p.m.  I chose not to answer until 10:30 p.m.

Me: Coming to get your stuff to move to A's place?

U: I can't move to A's, he is in the hospital.

At this point, I'm not sure who or what to believe.  I feel like it has been on excuse after another for months on end.  I decide not to reply and to speak to Mr. U. in person if he decides to come to my place.

As my alarm rings in the morning, I wake up and hear no television going.  That was my first sign that Mr. U. didn't come back home.  I walked out to my living room and his stuff was still there, but it didn't look like he cam home.

I chose to send him one final message, since I doubted I would get a chance to tell him in person.

Me: I need you to get your stuff out of my place and find another place to stay.

For those of you reading this who know me, you know that I continue to be upset that I had to send this.  I want my friend to succeed.  I want him to have a safe place to stay.   I also, though, don't feel like I need to provide food, alcohol, internet, and living space to someone for nine months who is not my husband, child, or family member.  And even if it was one of those three, you can bet that I'd expect them to contribute on a regular basis.

As hard as that was, it has been liberating to not have Mr. U on my sofa and the television playing during this past week.  Hopefully he has been able to move into his friends place and he'll get his stuff out of my place soon.  I know that Mr. A is dog sitting today based on his facebook, so I'm guessing he is out of the hospital. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Struggling with hunger and poverty issues - when it slaps you in the face

My body has not quite adjusted to the time change.  Even though I have a meeting tonight for work at 6:30 p.m. and I know I could've gone in a bit late, I was on my way to work at 7:30.  It is pleasant to have daylight when walking to work, but also disconcerting to have it dark on my walk home.

I chose to go for a walk today at lunch and see if I could get my new iPhone fixed.  Since purchasing it a month ago, I've had numerous dropped calls and spotty conversations.  I'm hoping that the new SIM card that they put in fixes it like they said it should.  If not, I'll have to find an Apple store.  

After getting the phone back, I needed to find a men's room.  The store manager of the ATT store said there was one in the 711 next door.  I ran over and walked to the back of the store.  I couldn't see any signs for a restroom.  As I was looking around, a little kid about 7 years old came up to me and asked if I could help him out and buy a pizza pie for him and his sister.  As I instantly said I couldn't help him, my heart broke a little.  This child could very well be hungry and trying to feed his family.  I usually trust my gut, and this time was no different.  Another man in the store (the third he asked) did buy him a pizza and a three liter bottle of coca cola.  As I saw him make the purchase, there were two little figures boxing in my brain and mocking each other.

Voice 1:"Aw, good, someone helped the kid after all.  Now he and his sister can eat and not be hungry." 

Voice 2: "Sucker…that kid just played you.  He probably spent his lunch money on a video game and now you are paying for it."  

I walked up the street to get my own lunch.  As I walked back after eating my lunch, the kid was pacing back and forth holding a pizza and the soda in front of the 7-11.  

Juxtapose that against the man reeking of alcohol who stumbled onto the bus and kept asking people for "5 bucks to feed a poor homeless man."  If I were choosing, I'd probably feed the kid before him.  In reality, only God knows which one of them needed it more, if either really needed help at all.  

I'm worried that my heart is becoming harder as I live here longer.  It sucks to have people ask for money all the time.  I'd rather give to homeless shelters and food cupboards, though, than give money directly to people.  I guess it's easier for me to let other people, people who do this every day, judge who really needs help or not, or decide not to judge and help everyone.