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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 fiancĂ©, 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 rat..it'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 fiancĂ© 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

Guns

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.  

Amen