Friday, May 31, 2013

"Chuck E. Cheese for my birthday, Chuck E., Chuck E. Cheese for my birthday..."

“Last week the candle factory burned down. Everyone just stood around and sang Happy Birthday.”- Steven Wright

          According to a public record births database there tends to be more births in the months of September and October. There may be a correlation between holiday seasons nine months before. Couples are snuggling up and getting busy on the longest nights of the year in the Northern Hemisphere nine months prior. A Harvard University research study showed September 16 to be the most common birthday at one point in the United States. December 25 is the least common birthday. Now October 5 and 6 are the most frequently occurring birthdays. However, in my family June is the most popular birthday month. My sister, brother, his wife and my nephew will celebrate birthdays in the month of June.
     A symbol that is closely tied to a birthday celebration is the custom of putting candles on your birthday cake. How did this tradition start? The Greek people who took their cakes to Artemis placed candles on the cake because it made the cake look as if it was glowing like the moon. "Hey, if the moon was made out of birthday cake would you eat it? "The German people were known as excellent candle makers and started to make small candles for their birthday cakes. Some people say that the candles were put on cakes for religious reasons. In some countries of the world they place a big candle in the center of the cake to symbolize the "light of life". Others believed that the smoke from fires would take their wishes up to heaven. Today many people make silent wishes as they blow out their candles. They believe that blowing out all the candles in one breath will bring good luck. Our family has an uncommon tradition of finding unique birthday cards featuring monkeys. We are not sure how this started but believe it originated with my brother, Steve. The tradition of sending birthday cards began in England over one hundred years ago but I doubt they featured lovable chimpanzees' in pink fairy godmother tutu's waving a magic wand to grant your birthday wish. With any "luck" people will forget it's your birthday as you get older or at best remember Robert Frost's sage advice, “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age.”   Then there are those who believe in joyously celebrating each year on earth. How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were? It's not age or maturity we are celebrating but a love of life and an appreciation of acquired wisdom.
Happy Birthday,to my sis.. Love you!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"happiness is a warm puppy..."

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera

      The more I thought about it the more I realized the following statement rings true, if you don't like dogs I won't trust you. Period. You may be a fantastic person worthy of like status but I won't LOVE you or fall in love with you. Sorry. There are some relationship deal breakers you don't compromise. Luckily, there are millions of animal lovers in this world and even thousands more closer to home. On Saturday, June 8th 
 you can join me, a few of my family members and many beloved animal enthusiasts to benefit the Northern Virginia Spay Neuter Clinic and The Philip Bolen Memorial Park for the 2nd annual Run, Walk & Wag 5k run and pet expo. You can run the 5k on the USATF Certified cross country course or walk in the dog and family friendly 1 Mile Fun Run. You and your canine companion can even participate in one of the dog contests. The 5k will be a professionally timed race with awards for winners. Most importantly your registration fee and participation is applied to much needed spaying and neutering programs in Northern Virginia.
Check out the website link below for more event information:

  Here are a few more educational facts about spaying and neutering.

 Spaying and neutering allows us to help fight pet overpopulation.

Every single year, millions and millions of innocent cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer tremendously as strays. The high number is the direct result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering. If you are a pet owner there is no excuse not to get your dog or cat spayed or neutered. Be responsible.

 Don't be selfish and uncaring. Your pet doesn't need to have a litter of puppies or kittens for your children to learn about the "miracle of birth."

Allowing your pets to produce offspring when you have absolutely no intention of caring or keeping them is inexcusable, irresponsible and just plain selfish on the part of human beings.  Do you want to teach your children a good lesson about being a responsible  parent? Don't allow millions of  unwanted animals to end up in shelters or continue to be euthanized There are hundreds of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more reasonable way.

Spaying and neutering  is good for an entire community.

Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the US. Stray dogs can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, and frighten or attack children and adults. Spaying and neutering is the most powerful way to reduce the number of animals roaming the streets.

 Think of your pets life and health.

Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your female pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases. Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male dog or cat prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age. If you really loved your pet you would do what's best for their health and for the continuation of their long happy life with you! If you are not concerned with the well being and happiness of your dog or cat then you must seriously consider why you own  a pet at all. For even more great information about spaying and neutering programs in your area visit the ASPCA website.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"the memory shall be ours..."

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”-Joseph Campbell

      It is easy for many civilians to forget that American troops are still deployed overseas in  places like Afghanistan for up to twelve to eighteen months at a time. They leave behind  friends, families and loved ones while putting their lives at risk to continue to protect our freedom.
Memorial Day was first enacted in memory of the soldiers who fought in the American Civil War but later, Memorial Day was expanded to commemorate the soldiers who fought in all American wars, including the World Wars.
 Many civilians are also unaware that active soldiers, veterans and their families are in need of long term additional support. This is where many non-profit organizations pick up where sadly our government has left off. These reputable hard working non-profit organizations assist all of us in giving back to our troops and their families who have sacrificed so much.

 Monday, May 27th, my sister-in-law and I, as well as thousands of grateful supporters will be participating in the Memorial Day "Ringing in Hope  Salute to Our Troops"  5k and 10k run/walk. Below is a list of the organizations the run will benefit.
Fisher House provides a "home away from home" for military families to be close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.

Operation Gratitude seeks to lift morale in the Military Community by sending care packages addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed overseas, to their children left behind, and to Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors and their Care Givers. Operation Gratitude Care Packages contain food, hygiene products, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.

Wounded Warrior Project provides programs and services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and transition to civilian life.

This run/walk and other 5K-10K runs in the next few months will also help me prepare for the 26K Marine Corps  Marathon in October as a proud member of Team Mission Continues.

Most people spend precious time with loved ones on Memorial Day traveling, cooking or enjoying a day off from work but we must also take time to reflect on what Memorial Day truly means.  Remember those who gave their lives in service for a cause much larger than themselves.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

" How do you choose not to feel ?......"

  " Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before."- James T. Kirk

      My review of the movie  StarTrek  Into Darkness  directed by J.J Abram's is much kinder and gentler than some of the movie forum contributors. Neither naturally fault finding or negative, I found the movie to be action packed and completely entertaining. One of the biggest controversies stemming from the film is what one reviewer called a "gratuitously unnecessary" scene of actress, Alice Eve in her underwear. Bravo, pseudo film critics and die hard Trekkies, you have managed to sell even more tickets to a movie you supposedly find sexist. Of course most nerds have never seen a woman in her skivvies and like Mr. Spock were probably unsure of how to emotionally react. Controversy sells. Hot men and women sell tickets. May I remind you that most ladies in the theater and quite a few men were enjoying the gorgeous ice blue eyes of Chris Pine and the dashing good looks and sexy British accent of the villainous Benjamin Cumberbatch.. It's  Hollywood. Hello? Flawless, beautiful actors in a fantasy world.
   What movie viewers need to commit to memory from Into Darkness is the poignant question Captain James T. Kirk asks Spock during a particularly moving scene." How do you stop yourself from feeling?" When your job or duty demands you to be stoic in order to save your life or the lives of others, how do you turn off emotions? How do you control the panic, rage, tears, fear, anger? How do you choose not to feel? What are the long term consequences of that sacrifice?  Another series of potent questions the antagonist  Khan poses to Mr. Spock is revealed in the following dialogue:

"The mind of the Enterprise. The fearless genius who ensures a calm force of intelligence guides their every mission. But look deeper and you will see an outsider who does not belong, a man of two worlds. This tears him apart, the constant battle between what he thinks and what he feels. What does he do? Does he follow his head, embracing logic and the path of reason? Or does he follow his heart, knowing the emotions he cannot control may destroy him? "

     There are some occupations where emotional control is imperative and not all of us can or will be in a position of  leadership, be a brave soldier, policeman, medic, firefighter or most recently act as  heroically as teachers in Moore, Oklahoma during a F-5 tornado. Thankfully, we do inhabit the same planet with many of these selfless souls who help protect our lives every single day. Some how these men and women are able to control their emotions and feelings when for many of us, our emotions are always right on the surface of our being. They are able to turn pain into strength and fear into courage.

Happy Birthday to my sister, Laurie. Love you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"So whatcha, whatcha, whatcha want?...."

“While money can't buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”
― Groucho Marx       
      The now classic comedy, Office Space features many memorable scenes and quotes including this philosophical question pondered by a disenchanted circle of friends and colleagues.

  Peter: Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what you would do if you had a million dollars, didn't have to work, and, invariably, whatever you'd say, that was supposed to be your career. So if you wanted to fix old cars, then you're supposed to be an auto mechanic.
  Samir: So what did you say?
Peter: I never had an answer. I guess that's why I'm working at Initech.
Michael: No. You're working at Initech 'cause that question is bullshit to begin with. If everyone listened to her, there'd be no janitors because no one cleans shit up if they had a million dollars.

  Now what would you do with 600 million dollars? Like most people I know I bought not one but two Powerball tickets for last evenings drawing. My brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers all had visions of sensuous Hawaiian vacations, early retirement, purchasing large quantities of real estate or buying the Roush Fenway Racing Team dancing in our heads. Unfortunately, there was only one winner whose golden ticket was purchased in Florida. Damn it, it wasn't my brother, Steve either. We gamble at casino's, the horse track, bet on sports teams, buy lottery and Powerball tickets to fuel the fantasy that all life's problems would be solved if we had more money. Lovely fantasy. Here are a few more dream selections created by normal every day losers who recently had their hopes shattered too.

" I would buy every Game Stop in the United States"  (Sounds like my nephew.)
 "Here's what you should do if you won the 600 million dollars from the lottery. First, create a blind trust so that your identity can remain anonymous. Hire a team to help you to manage it. Pay off all your  debts. Give some money to children for college. Buy a nice home on the beach and retire. Remember to be smart in how you spend your money because you do not want to go bankrupt like the other lottery winners."   (Clearly, this person works for some practical financial services company and does not know how to dream properly. Where is the mention of owning your own chocolate factory or NFL franchise?)
"Build some technologically forward earth ships in Detroit, Michigan." (that's more like it)

If I hit the lottery I'd probably take a trip around the world, preferably to places where the locals aren't shooting at each other (or at Americans) all the time. "

"I would take $100,000 of it and go crazy spending it on everything from charity to exotic trips around the world. Then I would invest the rest of it and collect a check for $5000 every month. That might not be enough to live on but I suppose I could get a job and just be as cocky as I can be without the fear of getting fired.
Speaking of which- I think I would also find a fun job and work it for free just so I could get the opportunity to do it... like drawing the X and O patterns on the telestrater during live football games on TV."             Now that is a cleverly designed plan.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination.."

“I think all toys should be invisible. Not only would they improve children’s imaginations, but they’d also be really affordable. In fact, every toy would be free.”
― Jarod Kintz, $3.33

      My sister and I were texting the other night when she mentioned Fisher- Price Little People. As a child Little People were the best entertainment in the universe. Obviously, they were fabulous toys but they were powered by pure imagination to make all the possibilities come to life. Recently, I discovered the Little People Castle on eBay ( being sold for over two hundred fifty dollars. Of all the Little People sets , the castle was my favorite.  The castle set came complete with knight in shining armor, king, queen, prince, princess, horse and carriage, carriage driver who I named "Pierre" and a winged dragon that was lost in the yard the first week. It was an unforgettable gift when I was four and one of the most amazing presents my parents ever bought me. Countless hours were spent inventing stories and adventurous escapades alone or with my sisters. The first Little People set I received was the super cool airport with a giant plane that seated six Little People passengers. It was so neat even my Dad, the Cessna pilot and Air Force veteran wanted to play with it too. I guess all parents buy their children toys they want to play with. One year I received the school which had a real chalkboard and magnetic letters you could stick on your refrigerator. My sister Laurie,  who is now a  teacher may have been influenced by it's uniqueness. This was followed by the bustling Little People Village with race cars, a fire station, police station and barbershop. My niece had the Little People House and farm. Sometimes my Mom and sisters would set up a miniature city for me using our entire living room space.  Inside, outside, in the car, the store, the bathtub, show'n'tell at school, wherever I went, Little People came with me. Everyone has a favorite toy from their childhood whether is was Barbie dolls, My Little Pony (right, Steve?)Lego's, Tonka Trucks or Matchbox cars. And now if I wanted to spend two hundred dollars I could play with the castle again but I'm just going to hold on to my own precious memories and fondly reminisce for awhile. Below is a link to a Buzzfeed article featuring photo's of  Fisher- Price Little People. If you loved them as much as I did, enjoy a blast from the past!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"you are what you tweet..."

 “All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join the economy.” -Don Tapscott

    Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Do you have over twenty-five thousand connections worldwide?  Does your LinkedIn page feature a photo of  you exposing your half- naked body in an exotic locale?  Are you listed as the CEO of your own independent "match making" enterprise?   Here's the story buzzing in social media circles this evening.
The professional networking site recently updated their user service agreement to clarify "unlawful" advertising due to the fact that LinkedIn operates in countries where prostitution is perfectly legal. So even though you may be extraordinary at promoting your self-image, lying about your Masters degree in "public escort relations" from Art Vandelay University may warrant further scrunity. Prostitution is strictly prohibited. However, you are still permitted to whore your talents and skills in a million imaginable ways as a job candidate or employer. Carry on then.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Wishing you were here..."

“But there's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 Behind all stories is your mothers story. My mother was only seventeen when she married. She gave birth to her first child at eighteen and moved almost a thousand miles away from her own family to continue her life with my father. She would give birth to four more children by age thirty-seven and pass away before reaching her forty-first birthday.
Behind all stories is your mothers story. My mother was a warm and loving person. My father and grandmother reassured me she treasured and enjoyed being a mother. She was the type of woman who sacrificed her own needs so that her children would never go with out. There was not a moment of my early childhood when I didn't feel completely loved and adored. My sisters and I shared a deep, loving connection with Mom. She was the parent we lavished with hugs and kisses. She was the one we told our stories and secrets. She was the one whose attention we fought over and who's approval we deeply desired.

Behind all stories is your mothers story. When a child loses their mother at an early age we tend to pity them or make them feel like they will always be psychologically scarred. Many children, adolescents and teenagers who lose a parent early in life will develop severe depression or begin to abuse drugs and alcohol to deal with their pain. There is an emptiness, a void that needs to be filled. Every human being reacts differently to grief. Losing a parent at any age is devastating and you will never "get over it".  There are many of us who lost a parent early who became stronger and more resilient. Granted, we sacrificed our childhoods and battled many dark days to see light again. We could have easily been drawn in the opposite direction bringing pain and suffering upon ourselves and others. Today my sisters are amazing mothers who have raised wonderful children. My sisters are beautiful and strong individuals. Some how we all remained kind, compassionate and loving in the face of profound adversity. Sadly, after the passing of my father and grandmother my brothers may never fully understand the depth of our mothers love for them. They have missed or never shared the same memories as their sisters. My brothers were only five and three when she was over powered by cancer. They need to hear and read how fiercely she fought to stay alive for them,  for us all. She was in constant pain during the last years of her life but she was a real fighter. She celebrated birthdays, holidays, listened to our petty arguments, reviewed our homework and watched her children play never revealing her true agony. She was more brave and heroic than a soldier on a battlefield. That is strength. That is courage. It is now up to my sisters and me to sustain her legacy in their hearts.

Behind all stories is your mothers story. Love is the strongest force in the universe. Show your gratitude. Love in return. Love is greater and more powerful than having children, a spouse or a lover. Love your life. Be who you are and not what other people want you to be. My Mom never had the opportunity to experience so many things we take for granted.  My choice to be child free and single was influenced by my Mom but not in the negative way people imagine.  Appreciate your life. Savor every minute. Savor those beautiful magical moments that define a universal connection; a butterfly lands in your hands, the sun peeks out behind the clouds to shine on your face and she is with you. Unexpectedly, you see her photo as a beautiful memory flashes before your eyes, you hear her favorite song, inhale the scent of  her cologne  or read a  meaningful poem or book passage and think to yourself, " Thank you, Mom.  I love you too. I love you"

Happy Mother's Day to Les and, Laurie. Love you. Happy Mother's Day to Lorraine. Happy Mother's Day to all mother's.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

 "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." --William Butler Yeats

        Monday May 6th to-Friday May 10th is Teacher Appreciate Week. If you hold or treasure memories of a beloved educator in your life send them a card, email or give them a call to tell them how much they have inspired you. One of my favorite teachers also happens to be my sister! Teachers dedicate their time and energy to instruct, motivate and encourage. They spend hours leading in the classroom and assisting students followed by even more hours after school grading, tutoring and attending meetings. Have you considered being a teacher? Have you ever observed a classroom or volunteered? If you are considering a career in education the best way to ensure you are right for the job is to spend time on the front lines. Teaching is one of the most difficult occupations in the world.  Most teachers sacrifice their heart and soul to guide children and adults towards a genuine love of learning. Usually, this sacrifice comes with unlimited bureaucracy and minimal monetary reward. There are those teachers who truly love what they do but are underpaid and unappreciated. If you were fortunate enough to have an outstanding teacher you will  always remember them..
     One of the most inspiring professors I have ever known was discovered while attending college. During the first week of class he shared a beautiful poetic tribute to his rambunctious terrier, Nipper. His slide show of  artistically edgy black and white photographs captured this sweet little dog frolicking on a beach, playing tag with the rolling waves. There was not one student or colleague of  Dr. McMahon's who didn't love him. He inspired his students to observe, think deeply and absorb life. He encouraged me to submit poetry and essays to our college literary magazine and write articles for the newspaper. He gave me confidence in my ability as a writer while I was feeling like a failure for not passing Algebra II. Thank you so much Dr.M. for believing and encouraging my strengths and not focusing on my weaknesses.
     Take a few moments to thank a teacher this week. Better yet, thank them whenever you can. Let them know how their influence may have changed your life forever.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

" half the story has never been told..."

“Without freedom of speech there is no modern world, just a barbaric one.”
― Ai Weiwei

   He is accused of mocking Egyptian authorities and was forced to go to jail for "insulting the president." Do you think that's a joke? Sadly, it's a true story. Should it be a criminal offense to parody or express yourself with humor?  Known as the "Egyptian Jon Stewart," Bassem Youssef hosts a weekly satire program, al-Bernameg, modeled after The Daily Show and watched by more than thirty million Egyptians. He is one of nearly thirty Egyptian citizens alarmingly swept up in a controversial new government witch hunt on media freedom. One of those recently persecuted is video blogger Ahmed Anwar, who went to trial May 4. "It's ironic that May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and I'm facing trial the next day just for posting a video," Anwar told an Amnesty International correspondent
Bassem and Anwar's arrest sent a disturbingly clear message to critics- Criticize the government and you could be next.
"You are doing what I take for granted all the time," Jon Stewart told fellow satirist Bassem in a Daily Show interview, "And forget sometimes."
 Many U.S citizens forget every single day that we have the freedom to express, write, say and post what we truly feel. We need to recognize and defend the contributions of the world's journalists, reporters, bloggers and writers, who risk harassment, detention, physical abuse and even death to speak and write their views..

Bassem Youssef  stated that while his case has attracted international attention, there are so many other people caught up in this disturbing crackdown. Support free expression where ever and when ever you can. Even though many of us do, we certainly cannot take freedom of speech for granted.
Below is a link to a news story regarding peaceful protest, social media, bloggers and human rights activism.  "Forbidden Voices" a documentary film released in 2012 and directed by Barbara Miller drew worldwide  attention of the implications of repressing freedom of speech.

Friday, May 3, 2013

"So what have YOU done today?...."

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

      The link below is to a very inspiring interview from Jon Stewart and the Daily Show featuring Eric Greitens. Although this was not mentioned in the interview, Eric Greitens was most recently named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Among all of his other achievements such as serving as a Navy SEAL, selected as a Rhodes Scholar and earning a PHD from Oxford University, he is the founder and CEO of The Mission Continues. He is also the author of three books, Strength and Compassion, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian the Making of a Navy SEAL and The Warrior's Heart. Eric Greitens is the kind of  person who inspires  us to examine our own lives and wonder,  "How do I make a difference?" or "What will I do to make the world a better place?"