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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Is ‘Black Lives Matter’ Hurting More Than Helping?

BlackLivesMatterIt’s trending and blowing up on Twitter and Facebook– #BlackLivesMatter. I get it. I understand the intent. Is it really helping though?

I personally find it a little offense and I need to explain.

Don’t #AllLivesMatter?

Here’s the thing: Singling out a particular race, as a call to action; in an effort to end racism, protest inequality and police brutality– Isn’t it just broadening or solidifying the divide instead uniting us?

I can completely identify with the expressions of sorrow, anger, and disappointment. Then when I see the hashtag– I feel like I’m being alienated. I understand this is intended to draw attention to one issue but I still feel it creates an us against them mentality.

We need unification in this country, not a divide. We’re already divided. People pick sides. We need to come together in order to make real progress.

Throughout my life, when discussing the race issue, I’ve been told, “you don’t understand– you can’t understand”…. but I do understand. As a gay man I’ve experienced many of the same issues. If I say that, then the response is usually, “but people don’t immediately judge you because of the color of your skin.” This is true. Still, I’ve experienced hate. I’ve experienced prejudice. I’ve been angry and afraid. Not the exactly the same, maybe, but at the gut level, it is.

When you say “you don’t understand” to anyone, regardless of the issue– you alienate them. How does this help the cause?

If you say #BlackLivesMatter is to draw attention, show anger or disapproval– then I’d say the campaign is successful. If you tell me #BlackLivesMatter is to bring about change, then I’d suggest there might be a better way.

Yes, Black Lives Matter. Gay Lives Matter. So do Hispanic, White, Poor, Rich, Disabled…. need I go on?

UnificaAllLivesMatter2tion.

Attack the problem.

Prejudice, Stereotypes, Assumptions, Racism, Sexism, Unlawful Judgement, Inequality, Police Brutality of any kind… those are the problems.

Preaching to the choir is pretty pointless.

If #BlackLivesMatter is building solidarity that’s great– but why not include everyone?

Make a difference. Talk about it. Unify everyone.

#AllLivesMatter.

Liberty And Justice For All: An American Fallacy, Pt.1

Justice is a fallacy. A fallacy is a flaw in reasoning.

Justice is an ideal. Ideals are models for imitation. An Ideal is the conception of something in its absolute perfection.

Absolute perfection does not exist.

Perfect Justice does not exist.

10403056_10152842025119780_8786610817675958005_nLast night, the grand jury decision to not press charges in the case of Michael Brown – the black 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Ferguson on Aug. 9th by white police officer Darren Wilson, was announced live on national television.

My social media network immediately began to blow up after the announcement, with mostly– expressions of anger and distrust; and only a few in support of the decision. For most of my friends (and the people I follow), it was about the seeming lack of justice and ongoing racism in this country.

At 1:30 a.m., Police Chief Jon Belmar announced at a briefing that at least 12 buildings were set on fire, two police cruisers burned and reports of bottle throwing, broken windows and gunshots were widespread. The police responded with smoke, pepper spray and tear gas aimed to disperse potentially unruly crowds.

 

It was reported that the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days and heard more than 70 hours of testimony from approximately 60 witnesses, three medical examiners and other experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.

frederick-douglass-justice-deniedFerguson is just a match re-igniting the fire that is racism in America. This is not the beginning of something new– it is only another episode in the long, ongoing battle of inequality and racism, sparked by distrust and a long history of violence.

As long as there is the perception of racism…

Then racism is real.

Tyrants-Opposition-10513500_1508536292711859_522097056596663394_nI do not condone the outright unlawful, destructive behavior of the violent protestors. They have become terrorists. They are no different than ISIS or Al Qaeda.

They are destroying their very own community. They are hurting their neighbors and themselves. Unfortunately, for many of them, this is the only way they know how to be heard.

 

Treat people like animals and they’ll eventually behave like animals.

The American Justice System is not perfect. It’s certainly not absolute perfection. But, it is the system we have. It works in theory. But theory in itself is a test. A test that at times, America seems to be failing.

I think it’s important to draw a line between the justice system and the the issues it is forced to try and reconcile.

Any unlawful act creates a situation in which there will never be complete justice for all. Not to mention all the legal acts that unjust.

A friend of mine on Facebook shared this:

The West Wing Season 7, Episode 8- Undecideds Written by Debora Cahn

Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits)
SANTOS
You know, I find myself on days like this casting around for someone to blame. I blame the kid, he stole a car. I blame the parents, why couldn’t they teach him better. I blame the cop, did he need to fire. I blame everyone I can think of and I am filled with rage. And then I try and find compassion. Compassion for the people I blame, compassion for the people I do not understand, compassion. It doesn’t always work so well.

I remember as a young man listening on the radio to Dr. King in 1968. He asked of us compassion and we responded, not necessarily because we felt it but because he convinced us that if we could find compassion, if we could express compassion, that if we could just pretend compassion it would heal us so much more than vengeance could. And he was right: it did but not enough. What we’ve learned this week is that more compassion is required of us and an even greater effort is required of us. And we are all, I think everyone of us, are tired.

We’re tired of understanding, we’re tired of waiting, we’re tired of trying to figure out why our children are not safe and why our efforts to try to make them safe seem to fail. We’re tired. But we must know that we have made some progress and blame will only destroy it. Blame will breed more violence and we have had enough of that.

Blame will not rid our streets of crime and drugs and fear and we have had enough of that. Blame will not strengthen our schools or our families or our workforce. Blame will rob us of those things and we have had enough of that. And so I ask you today to dig down deep with me and find that compassion in your hearts because it will keep us on the road. And we will walk together and work together. And slowly, slowly, too slowly, things will get better.

God bless you. God bless you and God bless your children.

The West Wing episode 7.08 “Undecideds”, original air date 4 December, 2005 – See more at: http://westwingwiki.com/2014/04/season-7-episode-8-undecideds/#sthash.z0J1gg11.dpuf
liberty-and-justice
Dialogue, discussion, education, truth and understanding are what is needed here.
Not violence.
America is still young. The American ideals of freedom: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; liberty and justice for all; all men are created equal—  didn’t even exist in reality when this country was founded. Slavery and the inequitable treatment of women the most blatant at that time.
Today, we are dealing with racism, equality, gay rights, women’s rights, immigration… the list goes on.
Lip service in this country must end.
Eyes must be opened.
The blind faith of justice revealed.
Positive action needs to occur.
Otherwise, the violence will never stop.

A Boy and His Dog

Last night as Cash climbed up on the bed, he did something he hasn’t done in a while.

He snuggled.

I don’t mean he laid against me– he does that every night, or, for at least part of the night. After he did his little spin around in circles, deciding where to land, he sat against my side and then inched his way down between Michael and I, until he was laying and his head was nuzzled against mine.

At first he lays with his shoulder on my arm and buries his face in my pillow. I wrap my other arm around him, snuggling until he eventually signals (shifting around) that I need to pull my arm out from under him so he can be truly comfortable. Then he takes a deep breath and sighs and falls asleep. I love that so much. He slept by me all night like that. Snoring softly next to my ear.

Cash was never a snuggler. Not much of a licker (kisser) either. That was always his sister Roxie’s job. Roxie would spend five minutes every night licking my face before digging in the blankets, flopping down and snuggling. Cash would just climb up on the bed and lay at my feet. It was the same thing every night.

And then Roxie died.

10659025_10204675649628891_1956375998290728792_o

Cash, October 2014

I’m not sure if it was out of his own grief and feeling of loss or maybe a need for a greater connection– but all of a sudden Cash was snuggling. For the first six weeks after Roxie died, he snuggled every single night.

Then little by little, he did it less often. Or, not for the whole night at least.

I miss it. Every night I hope he’ll snuggle– but now when he does, it’s even more special. It warms my heart and fills me to the brim with contentment.

Just a boy and his dog.

I never really knew Cash before Roxie died. He was always aloof, letting Roxie take all the attention. She never asked for it– she took it. Like Cash does now.

After Roxie was gone, we had a lot of time alone together– Cash and I. He followed me everywhere, never wanting to leave my side. That’s when I started trying to go to the gym or grocery shopping, only early morning, while he and Michael were still sleeping. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being in this house alone.

10333764_10203468257364839_3042213623967802968_o

Cash and I, May 2014

Whatever room I’m in– Cash is there. He helps me with whatever I’m doing. If I go outside, he wants to go outside. If it’s wet or cold– things he never particularly cared for before; he’d rather be outside with me, than inside by himself.

We bonded.

There’s something about the look in a dogs eyes when you really get to know them. I can tell when he’s happy, sleepy or distressed. He has good days and bad days, as do I; and we seem to be able to comfort each other.

Sometimes Cash will just sit and stare back– talking without words. Other times, he’s laying next to me, head in my lap.

We connected in a way I never expected we would. I couldn’t be more grateful for this time we’ve had to just– be. Co-exist. A boy and his dog.

It took a lot of thought and consideration before we were sure we wanted to try to bring home a furry companion for Cash. We weren’t sure he’d be able to handle the energy of a puppy; and were even less sure he’s be tolerant of a rescue dog’s baggage.

We took the risk with Belle and Dudley– and it’s worked. Cash get his exercise, playing with toys like he hasn’t done in years. He let’s Belle snuggle up against him while he sits as proud protector.

With the puppies, he seems to be pretty content to let them have the bulk of the attention; knowing he’ll have his time.

They have their crates– he gets the bed.

And we always find our moments throughout the day that it’s just he and I. I make sure of it. If for some reason I wait too long, he reminds me.

Maybe because it took so long to get here is what makes our bond so special.

I enjoy it. Love it. Treasure it.

A boy and his dog.

The Gratitude Challenge

gratitudeAs Thanksgiving approaches, I thought I’d post my Gratitude Challenge posts from Facebook that I participated in at the end of September. There are various versions of challenge circulating and I think its a great way to share the important things we are thankful for in our lives. It’s also a great way to share more about yourself; and reading others can help you get to know them better. I did a seven day challenge. There are also 5 day, 21 day, 30 day, etc. When you complete the challenge, you are supposed to nominate others to participate.

Gratitude Challenge Day 1:

Carol Lange challenged me yesterday but I’m in a computer transition so I’m having to do this from my phone…

Today’s 3 are:

Michael. My rock, my support, my everything. He keeps this dreamer grounded, challenges me and believes in me when I stop believing in myself.

I’m grateful for my furry children. They fill me with joy and love and teach me something new every day.

Finally, humility. I am not the best or better than… Perfection is an unattainable goal that I strive towards daily but know I will never achieve. I am humbled each day by the brilliance I see in nature and the unheralded good I see in other people.

Gratitude_optGratitude Challenge -Day 2:

I’m grateful for family. Particularly, my parents, always leading by example; continuing to challenge and teach me throughout my life…some of the most important lessons, probably unintentionally. 😉

I’m grateful for the bad days that have taught so much and make me appreciate the good days.

And third, I’m grateful for hope and faith. There’s always something better and more exciting around the corner. The good things in life sometimes come from the most surprising places!

Gratitude Challenge – Day 3:

I’m extremely grateful for my friends- old and new, young and old- for all the color they bring to my life.

I’m grateful for all the amazing advances in technology that have occurred in my lifetime, making it so much easier to connect and stay connected around the world.

And third, I don’t know what I’d do without that moment of silence during the day; when everything is peaceful and all the thoughts that rush in and boggle my brain are able to unwind and give me a simple moment of clarity.

piglet_gratitude_winnie_the_poohGratitude Challenge -Day 4

I’m grateful for ART in all it’s many forms particularly theatre which incorporates so many disciplines.

My TALENTS whatever level they may be – that have been an important part of my entire life.

I’m so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with in theatrical endeavors. You’ve all helped shape me into who I am today. And I am so proud to watch so many careers grow and goals achieved. So much thanks to Christine Sherrill, Dave Hahn, Rachel Boller, Amy Marik and so many others for allowing me to be an avid spectator and humble fan! Dreams can come true!

Gratitude Challenge – Day 5:

I’m grateful for DETAILS. Seeing the big picture is one thing but it’s the little details and nuances that truly make something that’s good- great.

EDUCATION. Not the BS public education but really learning how to THINK. I refuse to ‘drink the kool-aid’. There’s always two sides and the truth is usually somewhere in between. I learn something new every single day. Learning is life-long and makes us better, stronger people.

Third, there are two guys that I’m grateful for that have been a big inspiration to me over the past year: Billy Surges and Josh Conrad constantly remind me of my own goals and dreams and what it is the fight, conquer and succeed.

Gratitude-is-the-hearts-memory-a-French-proverbGratitude Challenge -Day 6

I’m grateful for the seasons, especially fall. Having spent most of my childhood and teen years in Florida, I appreciate them even more.

I’m grateful for the past year and opportunities I’ve had: I got to co-direct one of my bucket list shows with one of my favorite people, got a tremendous amount of work done on the house; and though as heart breaking as it was- I was able to be at home when Roxie took her last breath and then to see Cash through the difficult transition.

Finally, I’m grateful for my life. This crazy life, with all it’s unexpected twists and turns. I’ve already had more opportunities, been more places and experienced so much more than many people get in their entire lifetime- and there’s still so much more on the horizon!

Gratitude Challenge – Day 7
(Last one!)

I’m grateful for low carb cheat days– I mean, I can’t live entirely without pizza!

I’m extremely grateful for three women with whom I spent more than a quarter of my life; bringing the joy and passion of musical theatre to more than 1,000 participating students. Kathy Boller, Gay Rupert & Marsha Vanek, I learned so much from you about so many things. It was truly an honor.

medium_4786965539-624x468And finally, I’m grateful for all my ‘cheerleaders’ who have inspired me throughout my life to always be better. I hope you all know who you are. There’s not enough space to list all of you and I’m afraid I might forget to tag someone. Just know your support means the world to me and a kind word can make all the difference in someone’s life.

The End.

I’m always invited to these challenges late in the game so as opposed to challenging specific people, I challenge everyone that reads this to do the Gratitude Challenge. Five days or seven. Share with the rest of us what makes your life better. It will do your heart good!

Blowing Up Thanksgiving

MacysBalloon08When I think of Thanksgiving, three things immediately come to mind: family, turkey and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

What was it about the parade?

As a kid, it was all about the balloons. As I got older, it became more about the chance to get a glimpse of current and upcoming Broadway performances.

Balloon WorkThe parade has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I have memories of watching it on TV in different houses and at different times in my life. It’s always been a tradition, no matter where I am. Finally, as an adult, I actually got to experience the parade live. Three times, actually.

There’s nothing in the world as exciting as spending the holidays in New York City. There’s also no place in the world that’s busier.

Michael and I have spent multiple Thanksgiving weeks in NYC; on our own, with family and with friends.  The biggest thrill for me was having the chance to fulfill that childhood fantasy: seeing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, up close and personal.

If crowds aren’t your thing, it might be a little difficult. I just recommend you avoid areas like Columbus Circle, Times Square and Macy’s itself, unless you are connected and have a reserved viewing spot. It’s crowded all along the parade route, but if you set out early and bring along your patience– it’s an unbeatable experience.

Paradeballoons08

Balloons lined up as crowds view the inflation in 2008.

One of my most memorable experiences was in 2008, when I went to the balloon inflation on Thanksgiving Eve. Years ago, the inflation took place over night in Central Park. People could wander through, all night long and watch all the workers; busy readying the balloons for their big flight. In more recent years, it has become an event and they started inflating the balloons earlier in the day– so families could bring their children to witness the magic coming to life.

This year the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation takes place Wednesday November 26th, near the American Museum of Natural History, from 3 to 10pm. You enter at W 79th Street at Columbus Avenue.

2008 Kermit during the balloon inflation.

2008 Kermit during the balloon inflation.

The later you go, the more the balloons will have taken shape. It’s also more crowded (later). You walk along at your own pace and are sure to get a great, close up view of some of your favorite balloon characters.

I’ve heard (and read) of many people having good and bad experiences; but all agree, it’s one of those things you must do at least once.

I loved it and would do it again.

2008 Spongebob beign inflated for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

2008 Spongebob beign inflated for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

( I took all the photos featured here during the 2008 balloon inflation.)

Return To the Land of Nunya

noyb2Once upon a time….

In the not so distant past, was the mystical kingdom of Nunya–

Where personal lives and decisions were private– and

Everyone had the freedom of choice, of

What to share and what to keep to themselves.

Then Nunya was consumed by the larger world called Internet–

And Social Media became the rule of law;

Privacy and Personal Space disappeared–

No one was safe.

Nunya ceased to exist–

Everyone was obligated to be an open book.

Nunya was no more.

 

None-of-Your-Business-DistrictIt’s none of your business.

Nun-ya Business.

Nunya = none of your.

Does anyone say this anymore? Does anyone else ever feel like they want to say it? If you wanted to, would you?

One of the draw backs to the social media phenomenon is the disappearance of privacy. Some things don’t need to be shared publicly. Sometimes you may, or do feel obligated to share things that you never would have before.

I’m all for freedom of speech, everyone’s right to share anything they want to share, and I personally– find some people’s openness refreshing.

Sometimes I wonder how many people share things and then regret them later. Anybody?

6354881606585012431538218357_58The only time I feel pressured is when I’m asked questions– that I know are only a launching point for someone’s alternative agenda.  They want you to respond, already knowing what you are going to say, just so they can tell you you are wrong or how they would have done it differently?

Does that help anyone? Is it just being mean-spirited?

You and I both know when the questions are innocent and sincere; or motivated by something else.

47c92e88ec759931847129ed43816cb8What would happen if, when we are asked, “How… ” or “Why… ” We responded, “None of your business.” I know some people, including myself, find it easier to not respond at all sometimes.

How did you lose so much weight?

Where did you get that…?

These are two of my favorites WHEN I answer and the follow up response is– “Oh. Well, I would NEVER …..” Heard that before?

But I didn’t ask you, you asked me. So what’s your point?

Next time, I may just say NUNYA.

Savings, Loss or Scam: Is Pet Insurance Right For You?

petvetI’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months looking at pet insurance and seriously considering the pros and cons of it. With two new puppies in the house and having gone through added medical costs in the last months of Roxie’s life, I decided I really needed to investigate the pet insurance options.

Pets are an investment. Pets are expensive to care for; they become valued members of our family. So how can we best protect them and be prepared for emergency situations?

Pet insurance seems like an easy solution, right? Well, maybe. It’s not as affordable as you might think. It also doesn’t cover everything you’d hope it would. In fact, reading through some policies will leave you scratching your head, wondering exactly what it does cover.

Unfortunately, navigating your way through the various policies, coverages and fine print is as complicated for pet insurance as it is for human health insurance. Many options, deductibles, varying premiums depending on the coverage; lots of exclusions and vague language that suggests many of the policies won’t pay out– at least, not the way you would expect. You don’t always get what you pay for.

A Financial Decision

The idea of pet insurance sounds like a good investment… but is it worth it? It’s always a good idea to educate yourself before making such an important financial commitment, no matter how logical it sounds to you initially. Do the numbers, compare and read before you sign.

Coverage could be the best way to go for people on a tight budget, that might not be able to afford a large unforeseen expense. It’s also a good option for people that, by making a monthly payment, will give them a sense of security and peace of mind.

For people that can afford an immediate and unexpected outlay of cash; coverage may not be beneficial. Especially, if your pet lives a long, healthy, incident-free life.

injured-dog-278x218There are two main options to consider first: pet insurance and/or a wellness plan. These are two different protections that do not cover you for the same expenses. Some companies offer one or the other and some offer both options– charged separately. Pet insurance starts with a chosen deductible amount and can cover medical care, surgeries, emergency procedures and some medications– BUT, what is covered depends on the individual policy.  A wellness plan does not carry a deductible (in any of the examples I have found) and can cover many of the reoccurring, yearly costs of preventative care. These can include: health check-ups, vaccinations, heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, spaying or neutering, and sometimes even discounted grooming services. All plans are different, as are the costs. Many I found are $25-$40 a month per pet.

Pet Insurance

Most companies offer plans with deductibles of $0, $100 or $500. The better the coverage, the more it costs. Most companies do not cover preexisting conditions. Yearly wellness and preventative care are not covered by any of the pet insurance policies, from any of the companies I researched. When looking at insurance, make sure you read the complete policy to be sure all your concerns are covered. There are many exclusions you would expect to be covered. Several companies also provide additional coverage (riders) for more specified health concerns, adding to the cost of your plan.

The least expensive plans I could find, providing what I would consider average or basic coverage, was just over $2,000 a year, with a $500 deductible, per pet. Policies easily climb in cost up to around $6,000 a year.

In the long run, most pet owners do not benefit from the coverages. In some cases, the policies are written in a way that the companies could legally avoid any actual payout. It’s legal– but I still consider it a scam. Negligence is subjective. Most policies will not pay for services that are needed as the result of what they consider owner negligence. Many accidents and incidences such as the ingestion of foreign objects, could easily be classified as negligence.

I also found that, except in the most extreme circumstances, most people pay more for insurance coverage than if they paid for medical care out-of-pocket. In most of the cases, this costs pet owners $2,000-3,000 more annually for the insurance, even if minor unexpected medical services were needed.

Is-Pet-Insurance-Necessary-01Wellness Plans

One of the main benefits of a wellness plan is that you pay a monthly premium that spreads the costs of preventative care over the course of the year as opposed to all at once. On average, the cost of a wellness plan is pretty much equal to what you will need to spend each year on your pet anyway. Some wellness plans offer discounts for multiple pets so there could be a savings there. If you have a wellness plan that covers all office visits, you might find you are more likely to be proactive regarding any early signs of possible illness.

Insurance is a gamble. You put out a sum of money now, in the hopes that it will pay off (protect you) in the future. If you carry insurance, pay monthly premiums and actually need medical treatment, then it’s could be worth it.

Important to Note

I’m purposely avoiding too much discussion on specific companies.  I recommend doing a review and complaint search online before you commit to any company.

I do have to point out that where most policies’ deductibles cover annual costs, Trupanion’s deductibles are per incident. I did not even notice that fact until it was pointed out to me in one of the articles I read. Each accident, illness or incident would require you pay a deductible for each, prior to insurance paying for anything.

I found a really good article in Consumer Reports you should look at before purchasing pet insurance. It will help you along the way, give you some idea of what to look for; and help in deciding whether this is the best decision for you and your pets. It compares several polices and gives several incident scenarios that might help you decide.

002qi1cdgy6l5o97izq68Alternative Options

If you are disciplined enough, you might want to consider putting a certain amount aside each month, maybe opening a savings account; to accumulate funds in case of an emergency or to cover future expenses. There’s always the risk you might be tempted to use the money elsewhere; but if you end up not needing to use the funds over the lifetime of your pet– the money is still yours.

I also found a company called Pet Assure that offers a 25% discount program, for an annual fee, on all services. They have rates for individual to unlimited family pets– which could provide a huge savings. There are no exclusions with this plan. The program does require services through participating facilities. There may be other programs out there you might want to look into providing a similar savings.

Our Decision

Michael and I decided that at this point, neither pet insurance nor a wellness plan was the right decision for us. We might sign up for a discount program in the future; but again, at the current time it does not benefit or protect us financially, in a way that we need.

I hope this helps some people considering coverage. Coverage is a personal decision. Never let anyone pressure you into committing to a policy that makes you uncomfortable. The most important thing is that you do the very best you can to keep your furry family healthy, happy and safe.