Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Tobacco Day

Today is No Tobacco Day. As per Wikipedia,
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. It is meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe. The day is further intended to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually. The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in 1987. In the past twenty years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance across the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.
My husband and I quit smoking about 27 years ago. No, I don’t remember the exact day, but I do remember how easy it was once I made the decision that I was going to quit. I had tried several times before and had quit for about a year at a time and then something would come up and I would start up again. Usually that something was a boyfriend who smoked and got me back on the habit. I supposed I was really motivated the last time and that helped.

I am surprised I haven’t heard anything about it today on the news or radio, but I think that it should be mentioned somewhere. Smoking is a horrible habit and can cause diseases that are totally preventable. For example lung cancer. We just found out that one of our neighbors is dying of lung cancer. She smoked like a chimney and the inside of her house smells awful and she has a gravelly voice that got worse and worse over the years we have known her. I wondered if it was going to happen. She is a few years older than I, has two grown children and some grandchildren and if she had not smoked maybe she would be around to see those kids grow up.

My son smokes, much to my distain. I have asked him over and over again to quit, but all his friends smoke and at the age of 20 I guess I can’t tell him anything. I have pointed out our neighbor as an example, but I suppose at 20 he still feels invincible. It is so foolish. But when all the people you hang around with do something it’s hard to quit. I think not only the decision to quit helped but also the fact that my husband, who I had just started dating at the time, had also recently quit, we were able to lean on each other.

Not only was the fact that cigarettes were getting on my nerves, but when my husband added up the amount of money he would save, it was a very strong incentive. Today, the amount of savings is quite significant. I think the cost of a pack is up to $6. So at that price, if you smoke a pack a day and quit, you can save $2190 in a year! Putting $6 in a jar every day can not only visually remind you of the money you are saving, but also remind you of the health benefits you are giving yourself. The cost to your medical insurance later on down the road will also be reduced.

So do yourself a favor if you smoke…quit.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Sense of Community

As some of you may know, my husband and I are avid bicyclists.  We ride the Schuylkill River Trail almost every day and have logged more than 5000 miles on it for the last three years.  I am always struck by the sense of community that abounds on the trail.  If even you are stopped by the side of the trail changing a tire, or inspecting some noise that your bike is making, someone if bound to come along and shout out “are you okay?” as they pass.  It is sort of the unwritten kind of law to do that.  Everyone who uses the trail, even though we don’t know each other personally, we are a community of cyclists and as such are bound together in some fashion.

The other day, our ride was interrupted multiple times.  The first time we came across a guy who was trying got change his tire.  We asked if he needed help and at first he said no, but then we realized he really didn’t know what he was doing.  He was all decked out in his riding outfit and had a very expensive carbon fiber bike but didn’t know how to change a tire.  We stopped and helped him out and when we left, he vowed to pay it forward.  A mile or so later, we came across a woman who had found a set of keys and was wondering if we lost them.  She was trying to find the owner and interrupting he own ride to do so.  Then later when we stopped for water, we came across a large bee that was obviously hurt and was crawling around in an area where he could have been stepped on.  I get a twig and coaxed him on and put him in the bushes. 

It is this sense of community and desire to help our fellow cyclist that gives me a hope. If we can have this love for our fellow human out on the trail, then it is possible to have that sense of community in our neighborhoods, cities, and nations.  It is this sense of community that can allow us to become united with everyone regardless of who they are, but simply because they are a part of the human race.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action

I bought a video camera! For a long time I was using my Sony CyberShot digital camera to do the video portions of videos like the one I did for Norristown Preservation Society. But the camera’s video capabilities are limited. So I decided to get a camera that would have more features, mainly being able to zoom while shooting. I had spoken to Matt Conant of Project Twenty1 a while ago who had recommended a Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG20 Camcorder. His guys were using that model when they did video work for the Arts Hill Festival earlier this month. It’s small, lightweight, and easy to use.

When I was ready to buy, I went over to hhgregg, which is close to where I work. But they don’t carry Sanyo’s, so, I ended up with a Toshiba Camileo HD30. I had not read a review of it before I went because I was looking for the Sanyo model. But I told them what basic features I wanted and how I was going to use it. The sales person was very helpful despite the fact he smelled as if he hadn’t taken a shower in a week.

The one feature that I really like is the touch screen that allows you an easier way to navigate through the options. I found the stability of the picture quite good as it didn’t pick up any shaking my hand was making holding it. After making the mistake of putting the battery in backwards and thinking it was defective, I did a little experimentation in my living room. It was late at night and the camera does not do really well in low light, despite the fact it has a built in light – something the review mentions. I did get an additional memory card with the camera even though the internal memory can be used. I found that it used a lot of memory without the card when I was experimenting but I could have had it set at a high resolution setting which tends to eat up those bytes, or maybe it was the low light setting.

I like the fact it has a rechargeable battery which charges in the camera rather than a separate battery charger – less parts to worry about losing. The battery indicator is located on the screen and easy to understand. It has a HDMI cord which can plug right into the TV if I want to view something directly from the camera, and the camera has a nice feel to it and fits well in my hand. All the cords you need for it; the HDMI, USB, charger, and AV, are included as is their software. I have not looked at the CDROM yet to determine if I am going to install their software or stick with the Windows Movie Maker software that I have been using. The camera has a direct to YouTube feature, but I usually edit first before uploading, so I doubt I am going to use that at all.

All in all, it’s a good little camera. The review states the price at $250, but hhgregg sold it for $148.54. I can’t wait to really use it.  I promise to share the next video I do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tree Killer

On Saturday, while we were all waiting for the Rapture to happen, one of the trees on my property met with a tragic accident. Our neighbor, not paying attention to his driving was speeding up to his house intending to stop in briefly, drove up at a high rate of speed and caught a limb of one of our trees and ripped it off. As you can see from this picture, there is now a gaping hole in the front of the tree which will no doubt substantially reduce the tree’s lifespan.

The ordinance says that any tree hanging over the roadway has to have a clearance of 14’. Our trees do not hang out over the road and therefore are within the standard for city street trees. We planted them some 20 years ago, and when they first went in, my husband and our neighbor made sure to measure carefully so they are spaced a good four feet apart. We are also pretty good at monitoring the branches and making sure they clear the tallest vehicle that is parked at the curb. I have no doubt that this poor tree will meet its demise sooner that the others at which point there will be a gaping hole in the symmetry that was our tree line.

When something like this happens, I am always curious at the reaction of the person involved. First my husband, who has been known to have a quick temper, handled it rather rationally. I was not able to witness this, but my husband told me that after his initial outburst of profanity, he approached our neighbor calmly realizing that screaming and demanding answers would not put the branch back on the tree (a lesson that has taken over 20 years to learn). Our neighbor was quite apologetic over the situation and offered to pay for anything that was needed. He realized he made a grievous error on and was totally in the wrong. We may have an arborist come by and give some advice, but the people to whom I sent copies of the pictures felt it was unnecessary because the arborist could not really do anything to help. The tree will die eventually and they felt that although the trauma will kill it sooner than the others there is nothing that can be done to extend its life. We will just have to trim the edges and hope for the best.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Soul

I have an acquaintance at work, and we have known each other for the longest time. It’s been so long I can’t even remember how we met. A few years ago we found that we have a mutual friend who was more an acquaintance to me that she was to her. We always found common ground when it came to our mutual friend and when we would run into each other in the ladies room or in the break room usually we were able to talk about something other than the weather. Our mutual friend died about 8 months ago and yesterday when I ran into my co-worker I was just about to ask how so and so was before I suddenly remembered so and so wasn’t around any longer. I kind of didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything but just smiled, nodded, and walked away.

Death has a way of coming down and plucking someone from our lives like someone flicking a bug off their shirt. One minute that person is there, and the next minute they’re gone. I guess I am lucky so far as I have not had that many people close to me die, so I have not experienced that bone crushing grief that I imagine others feel when they lose a loved one. I had a boyfriend who found out he had liver cancer and was not expected to live long after we broke up. I think about him from time to time, but we were not involved any longer when he got sick, so that’s different. I can’t imagine how I will feel when my husband dies, and my parent’s loss I think would feel different. I can’t fathom how I would feel if my son died. I have a good friend who lost a child a few years back. That experience change her and I feel funny talking about my son as our children were around the same age.

People believe different things about death. I recently read a book about souls and reincarnation called Journey of Souls by Michael Newton. I made a lot of sense to me and really helped me deal with my own death. It doesn’t help lessen the grief associated with the loss of a loved one, but to believe that you will be a part of that spiritual circle for eternity helps somewhat, in my opinion. More so it helped me understand that we are all here for a reason and it is important to live your life knowing that you are here to learn and experience things to help you grow as a soul. It made the point that what you do in this lifetime affects what your next life will be, and understanding can help with your direction and life decisions.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Abra Kadabra

Like magic we have been transported and living in Seattle for the last few days. It has rained all this week and my husband and I have not been able to go riding…boo hoo. My husband even got new tires for his bike and has not been able to show them off to the world!

It says that in every life a little rain must fall, but this is ridiculous. But the show goes on and rain or not, we continue our daily lives. Fortunately for me that means an inside office job. Unfortunately for my husband, that means days off from work because as a truck driver who hauls highway construction materials, the companies who hire the company whose truck he drives are not working. So he gets to stay home and monitor the ceiling to make sure the rain is not coming in, which it does if the wind blows a certain way. For some strange reason the roofers have not been able to stop the leak that is ruining our master bedroom ceiling. It is most frustrating.

The one good thing about the rain is that my vegetables are growing unbelievably fast! I put some from the seedling tray into the herb garden and they have taken off. There are still some that have to go in the larger garden, but it’s been way to muddy and rainy to plant that. I just hope that there is a break in this weather at some point so that I can get them in the ground. Maybe I can wave a magic wand…

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Honesty

There is very little honesty in this world any longer. So when you experience a situation where someone does an honest act you are generally very surprised. Case in point was the other day. My husband received a call from a NJ policeman asking if he had lost his driver’s license recently. He had, actually, last year when he drove off with his wallet on top of the car. Apparently a state worker found it along the side of the road and knew the officer and had the officer call my husband. It had been almost a year since the incident and my husband had gotten replacements for everything in the wallet since. The policeman was confirming the loss and asking permission for the state worker to call and discuss where to send it. A few days later we received it in the mail with no return address that we could use to thank the person other than what was said on the phone.

The other day I left my wedding rings on my desk. I frequently take them off to put hand lotion on and I was in a rush to get out the door and forgot they were there. I actually didn’t realize where they gone until the next morning when I got ready to go to work and it was then I remembered where I had left them. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see them still in the same spot I left them when I got to work that morning. I was kind of expecting to see them gone.

It is these random acts of honesty that make me smile to think that there is still a small modicum of human decency left. For example if someone picks up a cell phone they generally just take it and make it theirs. I can see losing cash as that has no traceable evidence to return it to the last owner unless you see the last owner actually drop it, but things like cell phones, or keys, or other objects sometimes have identities attached and more times than not, they are ignored and the finder generally becomes the keeper. Whatever happened to turning something you find into a lost and found of some sort?

Perhaps people have kind of forgotten those things exist, but I did find a website called lostandfound.com. It’s in Beta so maybe it’s pretty new, but I can see that it could turn out to be pretty useful. Already they boast having posted lost 113570 items and found 51889 items in the United States and lost 137029 items, and found 57375 items Worldwide. Maybe this site will bring back a little honesty into the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ghost Hunting

There was another cleanup at the Selma Mansion on Saturday.  If you haven’t seen my video from the last cleanup, click here.  Anyway, the people who did the paranormal investigation were there helping out and I had a chance to get to talk to them.  I am not really sure if I believe in the paranormal, but I can say I have had some strange experiences that can’t be explained which could have been paranormal.  

My husband and I were visiting some friends in Lodi New York right on the coast of Lake Seneca.  They were running a vineyard and were living in an old Victorian house high on a hill overlooking the lake.  It was a little run down, but a great house and they had lots of land.  My husband and I were given a room to sleep in the rear of the house across the hall from a room that was not used.  During the night I think I awoke – it could have been a dream – and saw someone standing at the foot of the bed looking down at us.  For some reason I was not afraid and didn’t scream but went back to sleep.  The figure was that of a woman in long dress with an apron and a white bonnet type hat.  In the morning I mentioned this “dream” to our hosts.  They remarked that we must have seen the ghost who rings the bells.  They went on to explain that at the bottom of the stairs in the front was a curio cabinet with small hand held bells that our hostess collected.  Occasionally while she and her husband are in another part of the house, these bells rang.  I did not see the apparition at any other time while we were there, but I never forgot the experience.

If Selma is haunted, or has sprites in the house, they must be friendly spirits.  In the many times I have been there, aside from feeling a little creeped out when going up to the third floor, I have not experienced anything odd.  There have been no bells ringing, no loud noises, no things flying around the room that I might attribute to a ghost.  I do have an open mind to the fact that there are things in this world that one can’t explain and since we humans are always needing an answer for something, so I have never ruled out the possibility of existence of the spirit world.  I read a book a short time ago called the Journey of Souls by Michael Newton.  In it he talks about his work with many patients who talk about their past lives and their souls.   There is a section about those souls who do not go to the hereafter, but stay around because they don’t want to leave but he doesn’t go into detail.  If the spirit of Mr. Knox and family is at the mansion, I hope they are pleased with the efforts that we are going through to save the building.  I hope that it won’t keep people away because the house is a valuable piece of history that needs to be honored.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Killer Son

The first thing I remember knowing,
Was a lonesome whistle blowing,
And a young un's dream of growing up to ride;
On a freight train leaving town,
Not knowing where I'm bound,
No-one could change my mind but Mama tried.
One and only rebel child,
From a family, meek and mild:
My Mama seemed to know what lay in store.
Despite all my Sunday learning,
Towards the bad, I kept on turning.
'Til Mama couldn't hold me anymore.

And I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried.
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
That leaves only me to blame 'cos Mama tried.

Dear old Daddy, rest his soul,
Left my Mom a heavy load;
She tried so very hard to fill his shoes.
Working hours without rest,
Wanted me to have the best.
She tried to raise me right but I refused.

And I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried.
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
That leaves only me to blame 'cos Mama tried.

I heard the song, Mama Tried sung by Merl Haggard the other day and it reminded me of the horrific fate of young Skyler Kauffman who was brutally raped and murdered in Souderton, PA a while back. When I heard the news of that crime, my heart went out to her family. It was a tragic story.

An article appeared on the NBC New website shortly after the crime talking about the case and the memorial that has been built for the young girl and the man who was arrested for her murder. In this coverage, the news station attempted to interview the parents of the young man. The news people were rebuked rather harshly by the mother and father as they walked down the street. Why did they try to interview the parents? I am sure they are going through as much pain as the victim’s family, but in a different way. I am sure they are wracked with guilt over what their son did.

Parents are often blamed for the actions of the children, and when they are young that argument can hold water. However, when the children are grown and out of the house on their own, there has to be a certain amount of blamelessness given to the parents. Children are sometimes immune to the good teachings that parents give them. Blame should not be placed on the parent's shoulders for the actions of their offspring, and they should not be hounded by the press.

Dr. Norman Hoffman’s wrote a book on the Uncaring Child Syndrome entitled Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents. In it he mentions that sadly the actions of the mentally ill are hidden. Very often no one can tell if a child is going to grow up to be a sociopath, and unless you know about this syndrome you simply see a child who exhibits a strong will. Often they are given the diagnosis of ADHD, dyslexia, or even given medication to calm their wild ways. But once the grown child is out of the parent's watchful eye the young adult is on their own and their actions become their responsibility. Whether the parents of the man accused of this crime were good or bad parents, this young man could have been an anti-social person from the beginning and has no conscience, empathy, nor have the ability to experience any real guilt of remorse for his actions. His parents may not be the reason he did why he did and should not be blamed for his crime. He alone is culpable for that.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Caring Bridge

I just read another installment on my friend’s Caring Bridge site. If you don’t know anything about Caring Bridge, it is a site that allows seriously ill, mostly cancer, patients a way to blog to family and friends about their condition. My cousin’s wife used it when my cousin was in a coma and it really helped keep everyone informed as to what their family was going through and about his progress. In his case the site was not up long as he died about 2 weeks after falling into the coma. But they have family from all over so it was a blessing that everyone was able to check in and see how things are going, as well as knowing all the details for the funeral when that time came.

I believe there are several sites like this but this is one of the largest. They boast half-a-million people connect daily with more than 1 billion visits. They cover all 50 states and are in more than 225 countries/territories world-wide. Sites like this offer the ability for the ill person to share their experiences with their family and friends and let them know how they are feeling, their thoughts, and needs. In my friend’s case, when she is too sick to write, her daughter posts entries. Her daughter is a pre-teen and I am sure this is hard on her, so having the ability to express her feelings in a safe environment (the site is password protected) I imagine gives her some relief from the emotional pain that I can only imagine she is going through.

Back in the days before the Internet, people would keep in touch through letters and phone calls. Some say the art of letter writing has somewhat died, however, I think it is been replaced by blog writing. The medium has just changed. Instead of writing a letter to just one person, you are writing to many. In that respect you speed up the process and more people are kept informed. But more importantly your circle of friends becomes wider. In the case of someone who is seriously ill and dying, maybe they feel they can leave a little of themselves behind in a way that is more widespread than letters.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Billboards

I read an article the other day about billboards which are the planning stage in East Norriton. From the article, it appears that there are many residents that are opposed to the idea and the zoning hearing board is currently in litigation about it. Billboards have been around for a very long time and it is very evident that many residents object to them cluttering the visual landscape.

There is an organization in Philadelphia that has been looking to get rid of billboards for many years. It’s known as Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight (SCRUB). Its mission, as per their website is “is to promote healthy, vibrant and beautiful public spaces throughout all of Philadelphia by using advocacy, public awareness and education, community mobilization and legal action”.

Another organization called Scenic America has fought on the national scene for many years. They call billboards “visual pollution. Sky Trash. Litter on a stick. The junk mail of the American highway.” Their reason for doing all this is that they feel the billboards destroy the natural beauty of the countryside and that the proliferation of billboards threatens American’s communities. They list several alternatives to information about the background of billboards in America. Both of these organizations provide a wealth of information. I remember when I was on council that we tried to enlist the help of both of these organizations to fight the billboards on the corner of Markley and West Marshall Streets. We lost that battle.

On the other side, you have billboard advertising companies and advertisers themselves arguing for the right of commercial free speech. This is the argument that is currently be used against the Norristown handbill ordinance. It seems as if opponents to litter and scenic beauty proponents are up against some pretty powerful people as commercial companies have more at their disposal than the average citizen arguing for personal free speech.

It remains to be seen as the battle rages on between who is right and who will win. Personally I hate billboards but can understand the need for businesses and organizations to spread the word about their product or service. The very existence of billboards in an area has historically been areas of low income often observed by the pictures used on the advertising, and in my opinion it keeps potential residents and businesses away for that area. I hope the residents in East Norriton make their voices heard and they succeed, but know it will be a hard battle because they are fighting with a corporation with many resources at their disposal.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don’t Stop

I was listening to the classic Fleetwood Mac song “Don’t Stop” this morning and of course it got me thinking about what the song is really trying to say. It is something that I occasionally do when I hear songs. Okay, accuse me of being overly analytical, but that’s just what I do. Anyway, the song has such an upbeat tempo and really gets my feet moving.

If you wake up, don’t want to smile,
If it takes just a little while,
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way.

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
Don’t stop it’ll soon be here.
It’ll be here better than before.
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.
We can’t live in yesterday because that is over and done with. You can learn from yesterday by reviewing things that have happened and making a conscious effort to repeat your actions, or to fix what went wrong. I am always telling my son that you can’t change what happened, but you can change what will, when he complains about things that went wrong. Look forward and correct the things that need correcting. Plan to make things better. Tomorrow is a new day and a chance to take life by the horns and turn it around. History is important for knowing what we can do differently in the future, and to remind us of the triumphs and struggles and our ancestors went through to bring us to this time. But the past is the past and not something that we should be living in. Here’s to a terrific today and a tremendous tomorrow.

Monday, May 9, 2011

You Have a Right to Vote

“You were born in the back seat of America,
And you pride yourself in sharing her.
Taught to work to please and pray on your knees.
You pay for your cheap grace with your nominal fees.

Oh, you try to change the news with your TV remote.
You got the freedom to choose, but you choose not to vote.
Better heal yourself, child –
Heal yourself.”

Heal Yourself by Ruthie Foster.

About 55 million votes were cast for last American Idol’s top 12 contestants. For most elections, about 80-100 people million vote for government office holders. It is really amazing to me that half of this country votes for a television show rather than vote for the person who will run this country. I suppose it’s all about priorities.

Every year the people working for candidates fight like hell to make sure people vote. Perhaps if we ran political campaigns like American Idol we might have more success. Perhaps if governmental candidates sang and wore silly costumes rather than make stump speeches more people would be interested. Or maybe people just don’t realize they have a voice.

The sad part of this is that after everyone who has fought and died for the freedom to vote, so little people acknowledge their ancestor’s suffering for their right to go to the voting booth and push some buttons. It is a small task that takes so little of your time, but the consequences are so great. Please remember that Mr. Obama cannot get the pothole filled on your street, but the councilperson or supervisor for your town can. Yet these are the races that fly under the radar screen for about 80% of voters.

More people vote for the President of the United States because I guess there is so much in the news about that race. However, there are elections more than just every four years. This year we have elections for municipal, school board, judicial, and county races. These races are the ones that should get all the attention. The people who are voted into office this election are the ones that have more impact on our daily lives that the president. Yet only about 15% of voters typically come out for these types of election.  They are the ones who choose our local politicians.

So exercise your right to vote on May 17, 2011 and go to your polling place and vote for who is going to go to the “finals” in November. Let’s hear your voice about who you think can make a difference on the local level.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

2nd Annual Arts Hill Festival

The air was crisp and clean as I awoke at 5am to start my day on Saturday.  I smelled the coffee perking and knew that even though it was a weekend that it was going to be a good day.  It was Arts Hill Festival day and the weather promised to be perfect for the event.  It was perfect.  My husband and I got dressed, grabbed our coffees, and headed on down to the volunteer tent at the corner of Main and DeKalb.  The public works department had started already and were hard at work distributing tables and chairs, which we helped get off the trucks.  The lighting guys arrived and we sprang to work running the cable from the generators to the stage and hooking up the lights. 

I was then asked to help with the vendor admittance.  I was given a clipboard and asked to stand at the intersection at the barricades.  My job was simple.  When the vendors came up, I was to ask them their names and direct them to a runner who would take them to their assigned spot on the street.  People stared at us driving down Main St, and we got a good laugh at the unaware drivers who would pull into the left hand turn lane on Main St, put their signal on and attempt to turn onto DeKalb St before noticing there were barriers there.  Then they would see their way was blocked and they would get angry and try to drive off.  Several people who worked at the post office or at the flower shop on DeKalb were annoyed even though they knew this was the setup for several months.  I felt an enormous feeling of power holding a clipboard and pen, for some reason.  I controlled who got in and who didn’t.

After doing that for a while, I was asked to come back and help the sound guy who had just arrived.  The person is extremely good at what they do, but he is not really good to work for as he rarely asks for help.  I spent a good portion of my time with him just waiting for him to ask me to do something.  We then went up to the second and third tent to finalize the system setup and the show was on.  Finally I was able to relax and enjoy the shows, and some of the acts were very enjoyable!

After all the acts had performed and the food was eaten and people had schmoozed, the day was over and it was time to strike the sets and pack up.  It took about two hours of coiling cables, hoisting heavy speakers, and wheeling large trunks into a truck and we were finished.  After a beautiful day, the clouds broke through and a fine rain came down as if God was crying that it was over.  This year’s festival was history and plans were waiting for next years.  If you were there, then you knew that it was a great event.  If you were not there, I hope you have the opportunity to experience it next year.

Thanks, Mom

Today is Mother’s Day, a day for recognizing and celebrating our mothers.  It follows the tradition of Mothering Sunday which falls on the 4th Sunday in Lent.  I didn’t realize it but there are various celebrations for mothers all over the world and it is a long standing holiday.  In this country, Ann Jarvis is credited for creating the holiday in 1912 and set aside the second Sunday in May for the celebration.

Countries all over the world celebrate Mother’s Day.  In Mexico apparently it is a huge event – or it was.  My mother told me that she and my father were driving down there in the early years of their marriage to Mexico to see his mother.  They were stopped at the border for the routine crossing the border exercise and when they told the border patrol guard the nature of their business they were hurried along in order to make it on time.  According to Wikipedia, in the mid-1930s the government of L├ízaro C├írdenas promoted the holiday as a "patriotic festival", so it must have been a big thing.

My mother is still living, and reigns as the matriarch of our family.  She is a very independent person and has a streak of stubbornness that won’t quit.  I suppose I got mine from her.  Anyway, she is very outspoken on a number of topics and is always willing to speak her mind even if you don’t want to hear it.  It was always a source of embarrassment for my brother and I to have her complain to a waitress that the music was too loud, or the food was not to her liking.  When I came across a sweatshirt that had the saying “she who must be obeyed”, I purchased it immediately for her.  She took it in stride.  But for all her faults, she is the most generous person I know. 

Being so outspoken, she exhibited an air of confidence that rather intimidated me as a youngster.  Being fluent in three languages and a proficient pianist, she seemed so intelligent and so unapproachable.  She and my father had difficulties and they divorced when I was 14.   I suppose she was too headstrong for him.  My stepmother is very gentle and quiet; the exact opposite of my mother.  But I have learned a lot from my mother and now that I have gotten older, I realize that my mother is right on a lot of things and I should keep an open mind and a closed mouth in dealing with her. 


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Thanks for everything.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Bad Day

Every so often we all go through a bad day. We have people breathing down our neck at work, or we are arguing with a family member, or a loved one won’t talk to us. It is times like that when it is good to think about those who never have a good day:

  • POWs/MIAs
  • Prisoners 
  • Hospitalized Patients 
  • Those who live in abject poverty 
  • The oppressed 
  • Children who are abused 
  • Women (and men) who are abused
  • People in dead end jobs 
  • People suffering from depression

Even some of these people have amazing fortitude and are able to rise above feelings of desperation and have a pleasant outlook every day. I admire these people and aim to be like them. Life is too short to wallow in self pity and be angry at the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Angry Bird

Yes, I am one of the thousand people who are addicted to the game Angry Bird. I have it on my phone, or rather I had it on my phone, and as you may remember my phone was stolen. So now I AM an angry bird because I have to start the game all over again. There is no connection to the web or a game site that remembers where you are if you lose or damage your phone and have to reinstall the application. There are some levels that took weeks to complete and even though I’ve been through them before I haven’t a clue as to how I completed it in the first place. Some of those things are just plain luck.

I will admit that I am not a game player, and some of these games that the kids play are pretty complex. They take time and time is what I don’t have. Angry Bird, Jewels, and Solitaire are great kinds of games for me because I can play them at the station waiting for a train or if I am the first person at a meeting and don’t have anything else to occupy my mind. I was so addicted to the game that I played while my husband was watching TV – which qualifies as “couple’s time” to him (don’t get me started on that one). He got a little annoyed but was a peach about it. I had completed the game and was waiting on a new release when my phone went bye-bye.

I know it’s a small thing, but that along with the three games the thief bought and the many text messages to a disposable California cell phone are really annoying. My blood pressure is already too high and it’s gotten higher thinking about all of this. I guess I can start to lower it thinking of all the ways I can torture the guy if I caught him. Maybe he could complete those tough levels for me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Remediation

I recently read an article about a cleanup going on at the former Alameda Naval Air Station located at the western end of Alameda, CA in the San Francisco Bay. Because the city is working to redevelop the site, they need to first perform a cleanup of the toxic chemicals which have leaked into the land due to military operations. The site is about 2,500 acres, with about half of it submerged. The thing that struck me about this cleanup is that although I applaud the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency operating under the Navy Comprehensive Environmental Response, part of the Compensation and Liability Act, I question why it is being done now. Why leave all this waste for one gigantic cleanup at one time?

I see this as an analogy to the trash situation in our municipality. If people stay on top of the trash and pick up small pieces of debris on a daily basis, there is no need to bring in the big guns on a yearly or so cleanup of an area which would involve a large effort, lots of money spent, and many man-hours consumed performing remediation. The military should use that kind of thinking and instead of dumping the substances they use for engine repair, plane maintenance, paint stripping, and missile rework operations, along with radium, paint chips, and jet fuel willy nilly on the land.  Why not exercise some common sense to prevent the pollution in the first place?

There is an old adage that says "an ounce or prevention is worth a pound of cure". It is also true that a huge savings is realized without having to perform that pound. Daily avoidance of such things as litter, chemical spillage, and disregard for the land, could translate into valuable dollars saved.

New Generations

A friend of my husband’s just became a grandfather.  This is the first grandchild in the family for both his wife and he and he is not thrilled.  Trouble is that his daughter is not married.  She is not a teenager, but in her early twenties.  But the thing is she is still living at home and has no financial means to live on her own.

It is not an uncommon scenario in this country.  The rate of unwed mothers in the US is nearly 40 percent of babies in 2008, according to data released by the Pew Research Center.  This is after a drop in about 14 years which has many concerned about the children born to unwed parents.  They often face many disadvantages, including increased likelihood of poverty and greater high school dropout rates.  This trend is also crossing ethic lines as well as moving toward slightly older mothers.   Where it used to be teen-aged girls, these new mothers are often in their twenties, but with low income and limited education.

It is also interesting to note, as found by the Heritage Foundation, that people are not marrying because of the economical times.  However, isn’t it more important to have good financial stability to have a child?  I mean there is the cost of medical needs, education, clothing, etc.  The cost of living without a child is so much less than with. 

Just another one of those things that makes one shake their heads in wonder.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Citations

The other day I was speaking to a neighbor who had received a citation for trash in his alley. He was complaining because a) he didn’t feel it was warranted, and b) he had to take time off from work to go the DJ’s office to fight it.

Currently in Norristown if you get a warning citation about a certain violation on your property like tall grass, you are given a certain amount of time to fix it and then if you don’t you are given a citation. This means you have to appear before the judge and plead your case. If you are found guilty you are required to pay the fine set by the judge and then you are sent on your way. The violation may not get fixed, but your pocket is lightened.

I think that what should happen is that a citation is placed on your door stating the fine for the violation and you either pay it or go to the DJ and plead your case saying you are not guilty. It you have the violation again, you get another citation and the same process starts over again. This does several things:
  • Allows people to know upfront what the charge is.
  • Reduces the traffic in the DJ’s office.
  • Possibly creates an incentive for people to not create the violation again.
I think that if we make code enforcement more user friendly, we might get better cooperation from the citizens. There would be more openness about what violations cost and there could be faster turnaround for the resolutions of these kinds of issues. If I knew that I had 15 days to pay or go to court and that I could get ticket after ticket unless I fixed something, I think I might be more inclined to fix the situation. I tend to think that others feel the same.

Just my two cents...

Monday, May 2, 2011

A New Era

For some strange reason, when I heard the news that Osama bin Laden had died, the first thing that went through my head was strains of the song sung in the Wizard of Oz when the wicked old witch died. Some people may be dancing in the streets, but others may be plotting revenge. CNN reported that the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security expects "threats of retaliation" from al Qaeda in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death”. So the continual threat of war and more violence will not stop simply because the head of the snake has been cut off.

While his death means closure to the hundreds of men and women who lost loved ones on 9/11, it is doubtful that closure will actually occur. One cannot expect that we can now close up shop in the Middle East and bring all of our soldiers home. More dollars and more lives will be spent in trying to create peaceful relations and gaining the rights to the valuable oil that lies beneath the surface of the ground in that part of the world. Make no mistake about it. The conflicts that are going on now will not suddenly go away. They will be very much a part of our lives for a long time.

Many thanks go to the military and our relentless pursuit of this evil person. Now is the time to be cautiously optimistic about our future.