Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scales of Justice

This is my tipping point.

At the outset I stipulate that:
I am not a lawyer;
People who do hurt animals are despicable creatures; and
The American justice system confounds me

The other day I came across a story from Baltimore, MD about an 81-year-old great-grandmother who was arrested and spent nearly two nights in jail.  What was her crime you might ask?

Apparently months ago, two of Mary Magdalene Root's dogs got away from her home several times and she was fined $7,000 after a neighbor took photos and reported her to animal control.  Did the neighbor think to help the elderly woman at all? Talk to her first? No. Methinks there is a long-standing issue here.  But I digress...

Ms. Root could not pay the hefty fine. Upon doctor’s orders, the elderly woman could not go to court and the judge ordered the 81-year-old widow arrested and hauled into jail.

Even if …even if the dogs had been getting out, shouldn’t  authorities, family or neighbors have intervened before it got to the arrest stage? Doesn’t $7,000 seem excessive to you?

Thankfully a kind soul did intervene and paid the $250 bail but not before the woman spent time in a jail cell.

People who really do abuse animals rarely get the sentence they deserve. Hundreds pay no fine nor see any jail time…and that makes me angry!

This story gets my ire up on its own merits. But taken against some other recent national cases makes me want to scream WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY?!

In February 2014 we heard about the affluent brat named Ethan Couch who drove drunk, killed four people and would spend no time in jail.  His brazen lawyer was able to convince that judge, through a defense witness, that 'little Ethan' was too coddled to know right from wrong.  And thus an ‘affluenza’ defense was born. (Perhaps it has been used in the past but it has not received such national attention)

Recently, Army Brig. General Jeffrey Sinclair avoided jail time even though he pleaded guilty to lesser sexual assault charges.  He will forfeit a portion of four months of salary but keeps his pension and his rank. There are reports his defense team was surprised at the lenient sentence.

And let us not forget all the celebrities out there who misbehave and are a menace to society that rarely see the inside of a jail cell even after being arrested– I’m talking about you Mr. Bieber.

And don’t even get me started on the problems with three-strikes laws…

Something has got to give!

Monday, December 2, 2013


Today, while walking home from the Metro I was almost hit by not one...but five vehicles...FIVE!  

What the hell is wrong with people?!?!

I was crossing a street with a lit white walk sign and actually had to stop while a metro bus and two cars made left turns.  One driver had the temerity to  flip me off.  Oh, if only his windows were down to hear my response...

It was only a year ago that an elderly woman was killed during the day crossing this intersection.  The only thing that has changed is a No Turn On Red sign on one side. 

Then about 200 yards down the road I had to cross along a crosswalk and two cars actually sped up!

It's darker at rush hour which adds to the danger.  Additionally, not everyone is as agile - they might be pushing a stroller, walking with a cane, carrying groceries from the store around the corner.  Irrespective, there should not be a competition between drivers and walkers!

So, I've contacted the County Police to see what can be done.. specifically at this intersection and along this street.  But what can be done in general to get drivers to Honor the Crosswalk?

Maybe the issue needs to be driven up the chain from schoolkids to their parents -- isn't that the path seat belt use took?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks!

For the past month I've read many daily What I Am Thankful For posts and I thought - lucky them! What I'm really looking forward to is the end of 2013.

But truthfully, I really do have many things to be thankful I am going to create... right now a list of 28 reasons for being grateful.  No scrubbing, no second-guessing...just what pops into my head..

Here goes:

1) I am grateful for the love of my parents and the path they set me on.  The instilled in me a Do Unto Others attitude and a moral compass of right and wrong;

2) I am grateful for siblings, nieces, nephews and extended family and I love watching the next generation come into their own and have their dreams nurtured;

3) I am grateful for my health;

4) I am grateful for friends near and far who encourage me, like me, trust me and whose company I adore;

5) I am grateful for the opportunity to hear live music that fills my soul with hope and joy, and on rare occasions, allows me a cathartic cry;

6) I am grateful for other creative arts - stimulating and gripping books, movies, tv shows and plays;

7) I am grateful for my education and a life-long thirst for knowledge -- I thrive on news and current events;

8) I am grateful for a job and a team of supportive and intelligent co-workers and supervisors;

9) I am grateful for an abundance of food and a willingness to try new tastes...and wine;

10) I am grateful for a love of history -- we can't understand the present and future without an understanding and appreciation of the past.  It is a gift I received from my dad.

11) I am grateful for the ability to travel and learn about different cultures.  I prefer to experience something as a visitor, not a tourist and I get especially excited when someone asks me for directions:);

12) I am grateful for the camaraderie associated with cheering on the local team...or in my case, some Boston-area teams;

13) I am grateful for a love of animals and that I have experienced their unconditional love;

14) I am grateful for laughter -- it breaks the monotony and instantly makes me feel better;

15) I am grateful for the smell of the ocean air and fresh-cut grass, the color of leaves and being able to see stars that brighten the dark sky;

16) I am grateful for a love of the outdoors -- walking, hiking, biking, strolling along the shore, gardening etc. so many adventures have given me strength ;

17) I am grateful for the change of  seasons -- as much as I abhor cold weather these days, I really would be disappointed with uniformity;

18) I am grateful for kind neighbors -- both mine and those of my mom...the latter brings me peace of mind;

19) I am grateful for not being as caught up in material things frees me up to enjoy simpler pleasures;

20) I am grateful for public transportation -- no car means being at the mercy of  trains and buses and my own two feet;

21) I am grateful for what I get from volunteering;

22) I am grateful for solitude and meditation -- it really does help me to work things out;

23) I am grateful for faith and spirituality;

24) I am grateful the kindness of strangers -- it really does make the world go round;

25) I am grateful for a treasure-trove of photos that translate into fond memories and a chronicle of my history;

26) I am grateful for slowly understanding that there are certain things I can't change but at the same time, I will never stop dreaming;

27) I am grateful for street smarts -- sometimes the worst situations teach us how strong we can be;

28) and,  I am grateful if anyone reads this...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The End of an Era

On Wednesday they’re coming to tow it away…

I’m not one to anthropomorphize things BUT it’s hard not to think of a car as a member of the family when it's been a part of your life for more than 10 years.

So many road-trips, so much laughter, so much gasoline consumed…

But several months ago she broke down on my way to the airport to fly to Connecticut and it is cost-prohibitive to fix. One of the cylinders malfunctioned requiring a re-build of the engine.  My honest but naive response to the mechanic was ‘But why can’t it run on the other five cylinders?’  I still don’t think it’s a far-fetched question or one that should evoke laughter:)

The car has been sitting in my parking space for months while I dithered about what to do with it.  Frankly doing nothing seemed the best option.

But the time has come to act and let it go…

I’m not getting a replacement – I have been going car-less for six months already and while it does take planning and a knowledge of and reliance on a sometimes unreliable public transportation system, I am coping.  I love to walk and I am grateful to live just a few blocks from the Metro and bus routes.  Simple errands often take longer, volunteering at night is more difficult due to bus schedules and I haven't faced walking in the cold yet, but so far I am managing quite well. For longer trips, I have become a savvy renter.

Most locales are public-transit friendly – and with the advent of weekend Marc-train service, the commute to BWI airport will get easier.  But Annapolis – I’m looking to you to change your ways.  No state capital should be so cut off from surrounding metro areas.

So good-bye Chevy Malibu – thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Your Ballot Has Been Cast

This is not a post about who to support but rather why I always vote.

I’ve seen some snippets of celebrities squawking about how they've never voted and urging people not to vote…I just shake my head in dismay and hope people don’t listen.  Not voting simply means you are ceding your power, your voice.  You don’t like something -- get involved and change it; don’t sit on the sidelines and grouse about it.

Sure, I will be the first to acknowledge that we don’t always run the best candidates but that’s our fault for not demanding better candidates starting at the local level.  Every four years people get energized for a Presidential election but if Virginia showed us anything in the last four years it is that down-state races are almost more important.  Education, women’s health, transit, roads, energy, environment and gun safety are all decided at the state and local levels.  And around the country states are voting for equality and healthy food too.  Further the very gridlock that encapsulates our federal system today is exacerbated by political gerrymandering at the state level.  Think you don’t have a reason to vote in an off-year election – think again.  It is the states that draw up the districts. It's time to restore some balance!

And don’t get me started about the Citizen’s United decision…

I’m disappointed in many of our elected officials for putting party, ego, fundraising and in some cases hatred above the good of the citizenry, city, state and country.  I’ve toyed with the idea of term limits but in the end that takes away my power to say ‘Yes, you are doing a good job’ or ‘No you are not doing a good job.’   I don’t like to wrest the power from the people/decision-makers in the same way I hate Three Strikes and Your Out – cases should be decided on merits and a case by case basis but that’s for another blog.

So, we have an imperfect system but it is what we have right now.  Yes, it’s time to hold our elected officials accountable but it also means that we need to get involved.  Learn what an issue really means for yourself, your family and your community. An energized and informed electorate can elicit change and even if you don’t have a lot of time, social media can be a big help. 

In a few hours races around the country will end and thankfully, so will the ads and mailers and phone callsJ Whether or not your candidate won does not signify the end of the road…stay involved, talk to your neighbors, work together and make your community better.  And think about running for office yourself!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Majesty of the Lincoln Memorial

This morning I awoke to read and see that the Lincoln Memorial had been vandalized with green paint...shameful!  There are security cameras so I trust the perpetrator (s) will be caught

It has taken over 20 years for the Lincoln Memorial to ascend to "My Most Favorite Monument in DC' but it holds a special place in my heart!  It is most impressive at night, illuminated under the stars.

A visit to this remarkable place stirs up all sorts of emotions! Its sheer beauty still makes my heart skip a beat!  A marble facade reminiscent of a Greek temple is almost at odds with the simplicity of the 16th President himself.  Its location  at one end of the Mall allows Lincoln to gaze out at his predecessor (Washington), his followers (at the Capitol), the fallen (Vietnam Memorial) and the millions of visitors from near and far who gravitate to Washington DC and the Mall each year.

These marble steps (57) and patio have given voice to Martin Luther King and his 'I Have a Dream' speech during the March on Washington 50 years ago this August; Marion Anderson and her ground-breaking Easter concert in 1939; The We are One concert in 2009 and the Reunion on the Mall concert in 1993.  But just as important are the millions of visitors to this remarkable monument that remind us of the leadership Lincoln provided during such turbulent times.

We are One concert

Visitors can walk up the steps and see engravings of two of his most cherished speeches.  the Gettysburg Address -- raise your hand if you had to memorize part of this in school -- gives me shivers as its message still rings true today.  His second Inaugural Address is marked by its brevity and balance -- 'with malice toward none, with charity to all'.

It is a beautiful place to visit and a stark reminder of our past and those that have given their lives.  Walk around to the back of the monument and you can't help but breathe deeply as you gaze across the Potomac river to Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House on the hill -- such hallowed ground.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day 2013


It's been 53 days since I lost my father and I've looked ahead at this June date with dread. I've also struggled with how to honor him best.   

The last few weeks of his life were difficult and I don't want that to be the way I (or anyone else) remembers him...his life was so much more.  

Above all else, my dad was a kind, loving, funny and honorable man who.sacrificed much for the benefit of his children.  A lasting legacy is the education I received -- something he valued tremendously.  

I remember the praise, the laughter, the love, the comfort and the time we spent together doing ordinary things...

  • racing sticks in the brook;
  • playing with our dogs Amber and Michele;
  • countless games of catch;
  • planting the garden and taking care of the pool;
  • grilling and backyard picnics;
  • going to baseball games and golfing tournaments;
  • instilling in me a love of history as we wove visits to historical sites into the family vacation;
  • fostering a love of travel and admiring the planning that went into our trip to Nova Scotia;
  • a solo trip together to Seattle;
  • attending the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony together;
  • being the dad that everyone enjoyed talking to;
  • his ability to talk to anyone and laughing at how he would know their story after a 2 minute conversation;
  • the way he cherished my mom

But I think what I am most proud of is that he treated everyone he met with the same level of respect!

In a nutshell, he was Most Excellent
(a phrase he often used when I called and asked him how he was doing)

I always told my dad how much I loved him and there was nothing left unsaid...nothing that needed to be rekindled.  For that I am thankful...

But that doesn't make it easier on this Father's Day -- the first I will spend without him.  There is a void and there are many tears.  I didn't want to be part of this club.

Now I'd like to share this message that we handed out to his family and friends. I draw strength from these thoughts because I know this is how he would feel:  

I'd like the memory of me
to be a happy one,
I'd like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.

I'd like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times
and bright and sunny days.

I'd like the tears of those who grieve
to dry before the sun,
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.

I love you Dad...and thank you!