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The Arresting Rise of the Social Media Police

You type a few sentences, add a link or post a picture and hit SEND. Then the sirens start. WARNING! WARNING! The social media police are stalking you, ready to take you down.

Watch Out!

It was a pretty simple joke. I updated my status on Facebook with what was meant to be a humorous comment, referencing a current event. Tainted, of course, with a little sarcasm. I thought it was harmless and was surprised when a dear old friend took offense to it.

Is there anything at all that isn’t offensive to someone these days?

Social Media is a way for us to connect. We share our thoughts, what we’re doing, our hopes and dreams– we may reach out for support, ask opinions or look for some healthy debate. It’s called sharing. It’s called communication. We use it to keep touch and stay informed — maybe even learn a thing or two.

I’ve found that most posts in social media fall into three categories: I felt this, I did this, and I saw this (and I want to share it).

How is that a bad thing?

Even if you post something that might not be a popular opinion– it’s nothing more than an expression of who you are at that given moment. Doesn’t freedom of speech give you that right?

Is there such a thing as inappropriate content? Of course there is….. BUT Politics, religion, entertainment, current events, family– your life– is completely within your rights to share.

My Opinion

I seriously think there are a lot of people that should not be connected to social media. They aren’t capable of accepting what they find there– or allowing others to exercise their right to free speech. They don’t want to discuss or debate an issue they may disagree with– but they will judge you for posting it.

Do I read, like or comment on everything posted on social media? No, of course not. I do, however, respect the right of people to post it. If I want to engage with people about it, then I will. Most of the time though, people just want to get something off their chest, share a story or state their point of view. They aren’t really looking to have a conversation. That’s okay, too.

On topics I’m not interested in or disagree with — I just scroll on by. If it’s ‘fake news’ or something I feel strongly about, I’ll try to use it as a ‘teaching moment’ and comment. What I will not do, is criticize or state an opposing view that I am not prepared to back up. What would be the point?

That is where the social media police come in.

So exactly who are they?

They are the people that troll online, criticizing people and trying to regulate what they want to see. Don’t even try to please them because they will always find something wrong with your posts.

They are the people that don’t like a specific thing– sports, politics, religion, even cuteness– and issue ultimatums. Usually, that will include the threat that they will delete you or stop following you, if you don’t submit to their demands. They think it is their right to control you.

It becomes difficult when the attacks come from someone you respect, love, work with, or from family. The bottom line is: maybe you (and they) need to stick to other ways to connect. Avoid the rush and get off social media if you can’t handle it.

I’m a political person. Even so, after the above mentioned friend threatened to delete me for my politics, I did a quick look back. Of my past 50+ posts on Facebook, only 10 (20%) had anything to do with current events (not counting entertainment industry posts) and not all of those were even political. For the ‘average’ person– is that too much if that’s what interests them?

Would you tell a mother not to post pictures or stories about their child? Would you tell an actor or musician not to share their work? How about someone fighting cancer or a sports enthusiast? Should they stop posting specific things because you say so? It’s ridiculous.

Sure, I’ve unfollowed some people and even deleted a couple. I’ve never bullied them. At the same time, some of my most favorite people (on social media) are those with whom I have diametrically opposing views on certain issues. Because — we can talk about it, maybe debate it and also even sometimes joke about it. We show respect for one another. I think we enrich each other’s lives because we are open-minded enough to want to learn and understand each other. We’re better people because of it.

Advice to the Would Be Social Media Police

Get off social media!

It’s that simple.

No one has the right to try and control another person. Stop being a bully. You are not the center of the universe. If you don’t like what you see on Facebook or Twitter? Close your account. Shut down your computer. Take a walk. Breathe.

I think if you’re the type of person that just wants to see pictures or cute posts of puppies and food– there are still probably email lists you can sign up for to get your daily dose.

Don’t like what you’re seeing? Your misery and controlling nature doesn’t need to be forced on the rest of us who might actually appreciate the diversity of the world.

Knowledge is power. Acceptance is the key.

If you really don’t like what your friends are posting, maybe you’re just too afraid of learning something new. Or maybe, you really just don’t like your friends.

You decide.

Travel 2016: Sacred Beauty – Churches of Rome – A Photo Essay

There are so many beautiful houses of worship in Rome. Churches, Cathedrals, Basilicas — no matter what they are called, they are full of a rich history and artistry that is a wonder to behold.

On our full day of touring Rome, Michael and I found ourselves wandering in many of these beautiful sanctuaries. They stand open, throughout the day, welcoming anyone to enter.

Here is a sampling of the churches we visited. Many had origins back to the 1st Century but all the current structures date back to as early as the 16th century.


All Saints’ Anglican Church – Est. 1887

Detail inside All Saints' Anglican Church, Rome.

Detail inside All Saints’ Anglican Church, Rome.


The Interior of All Saints' Anglican Church.

The Interior of All Saints’ Anglican Church.



Chiesa de Gesu E Maria – Est. 1602

The exterior of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

The exterior of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.


The interior sanctuary of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

The interior sanctuary of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.


The Pipe Organ Loft.

The Pipe Organ Loft.


The ceiling inside Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

The ceiling inside Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.


The confessional.

The confessional.


Statuary in Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

Statuary in Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.



Basilica S. Giacomo – Est. 1600

The Interior of Basilica S. Giacomo.

The Interior of Basilica S. Giacomo.


The domed ceiling of Basilica S. Giacomo.

The domed ceiling of Basilica S. Giacomo.


An angel at watch.

An angel at watch.



Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo – Est. 1610

The exterior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

The exterior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.


The breathtaking interior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

The breathtaking interior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.


The ornate ceiling in Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

The ornate ceiling in Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.


Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso – Est. 309 AD , rebuilt 1597

The Exterior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.

The Exterior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.


The Interior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.

The Interior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.


Close up of the dome.

Close up of the dome.


Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso – Est. 1568

Exterior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

Exterior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.


Interior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

Interior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.


The ceiling of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

The ceiling of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.


I loved the shaft of sunlight playing on the wall.

I loved the shaft of sunlight playing on the wall.


Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi – Est. 1650

The exterior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.

The exterior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.


The Interior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.

The Interior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.


Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli – Est. 499, rebuilt 1714

The Interior of Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.

The Interior of Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.


I loved the chandeliers above the altar dome.

I loved the chandeliers above the altar dome.


Looking up from the lower level in Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.

Looking up from the lower level in Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.


Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi – Est. 1589

The Interior of Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.

The Interior of Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.


Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.

Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.


Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone – Est. 1652

The Interior of Chiesa di Santi' Agnese in Agone.

The Interior of Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone.


The Pipe Organ of Chiesa di Santi' Agnese in Agone.

The Pipe Organ of Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone.


The magnificent ceiling of Chiesa di Santi' Agnese in Agone.

The magnificent ceiling of Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone.


Christmas At Home: Finding Christmas

1b0f119bca5919243ea4a70ccdb8c3d1I really haven’t been in the Christmas mood this year. All the evil, hate and violence going on in the world has taken center stage– at least that’s all that is being spewed through the media. It has made me sad, angry and frustrated. What is wrong with people? It has made it really, really hard to find the Christmas spirit.

I’m so sick of Donald Trump… a hypocritical Congress that lies to the American people outright… and an uprising of action, based completely on fear of what might be versus what is. This is a dark moment in our history. Bah humbug!

So this morning I happened to come across the video of Jordan Smith, the recent winner of The Voice,  and his version of Mary Did You Know trending in social media.


It’s good. Really good. Just not as good as Donny Osmond’s 1999 version.



I like Donny’s version best, not as much for his technique as for his passion and sincerity. It touches me. I think his rendition is a better fit for the true meaning of the song.

This led me to keep searching through my Christmas music. Actually, aside from the repetitive playlist on the FM station in my car… I haven’t listened to much Christmas music this year. And, I just hadn’t found my Christmas moment.

There’s always a single moment or two that defines Christmas for me each year. It’s usually something quiet and simple… and it’s not usually a moment I share. Mostly, because it’s a feeling, it’s personal– and that’s often just too hard to describe.

Anyway, this search through my playlist brought me to My Grown Up Christmas List one of my favorites of all time. In spite of my fondness for the song, I hadn’t listened to it this year.

So I clicked play on Kelly Clarkson’s version of the song… and there it was. My moment. Unexpected. Simple. Pure. A rush of emotion summing up all that I’d been feeling– melting my anger and frustration and giving way to hope. My Christmas moment.



This song says it all. We claim to be a civilized society. At this time of year, if at no other, I would hope people would search their hearts and find what is truly important.

Peace. Hope. Love. Giving. Sharing.

And perhaps most important of all– living without fear.

Merry Christmas.

Send a Christmas Card & Save the World

diy-christmas-card-photoHave you mailed your Christmas cards yet? Do you send them out or have you stopped altogether? What if you could actually save the world; or perhaps closer to home-  a life — by the simple act of mailing a holiday card? The title of this post may seem a little over dramatic but I stand by the sentiment and I’ll explain why.

No, there is no gimmick or marketing ploy here. I don’t work for a greeting card company and I make this suggestion out of sincere concern for where our society is headed. We are rapidly tossing out traditions in the name of progress and the overused phrase, ‘being more politically correct’. We can say we’re too busy or we’re saving money…. but why not be willing to say you’re too lazy or just don’t care?

I’m not judging anyone here. I realize this just isn’t important to some people. If you choose not to send out cards– for whatever reason; that’s fine by me. BUT– if I can encourage you to just consider participating in this time-old tradition… then it was worth my time.

I just read an opinion piece by someone who is sending out their cards (this year) for the last time. Some of their justifications are: a) not getting enough cards in return, b) thinking the recipient will be disappointed if there isn’t a gift card or cash inside, c) it takes too much effort, and d) it’s easier to just send a message online.

I understand how someone might come to these conclusions but I also think they are shallow assumptions and, well– just plain wrong. I also see some of those excuses as just plain selfishness.

Who doesn’t like receiving Christmas cards? (Unless, it’s because it makes you feel guilty for not mailing them out?) The comments from people attached to the above mentioned story all disagreed with the author’s perceptions and want to receive cards. They like this traditional token of holiday cheer.

So how can a silly thing like sending a card save the world?

Here are a few of my points to consider:

  • Communicate, connect, share. Show someone you care. Isolation can be a terrible thing. Your act of thoughtfulness could be the only positive thing someone experiences today. You may be reaching out to someone in desperate need. Someone you know may be feeling completely alone and disenfranchised. You’re card could go a long way to brighten someone’s day.
  • So much Conservative emphasis is on the cause of world problems being the fault of the breakdown of the family. One of the ways families stay connected is through holidays and traditions. As society places less value on the family, society starts to fail.  Whether it’s a biological family, chosen family or coming together as a community— society needs ways to connect that are positive and unite us– giving us strength. Eliminate traditions… eliminate family and a peaceful society is the next to go.
  • Can’t afford to send everyone gifts? Why not a simple, heartfelt note inside a card? This can mean so much more than a gift that will soon be forgotten. A few kind words letting someone know you are thinking of them can go a long way.
  • The Christmas card tradition keeps many people in different industries employed. Authors, artists & designers, sales, marketing, transportation… all benefit.
  • “It’s easier to say Merry Christmas on Facebook.” Yes, it is easier. It takes no effort at all. I’m not belittling the sentiments– I’m saying it isn’t the same thing. AND– not everyone will see it. If that’s your substitution– it isn’t working.
  • “Christmas cards are a waste of money and negatively affect the environment.” Not true. Many cards are made of recycled paper and can be recycled again. The paper industry, by it’s very existence, contributes positively to the environment through replanting and maintaining forests and environmental systems.
  • “Christmas cards aren’t PC.” Really? The celebration of Christmas goes far beyond religion. How many people do you believe are really offended by Christmas cards? If this is a concern of yours: How about a generic holiday card? It’s the idea behind the card that counts. It’s letting someone know you are thinking about them.

Screen-shot-2012-10-27-at-6.24.06-PMSure, a Christmas card can be viewed as a small, meaningless thing.  How about parades? Can we get rid of those next? And Fourth of July fireworks? Do we really need to celebrate birthdays anymore? If you take cards, along with many other small, meaningless things away– what are you replacing it with? What do you have left? We are slowly chipping away at many of the elements that have allowed society to connect and to function successfully for many years. Individually, they don’t seem like much but they are a small part of a whole.

It’s all about living and sharing.

Call, write, visit…connect. let someone know you care.

Here’s an idea: I’ll go one better… you can get rid of Christmas cards but throw an annual holiday party for all your family and friends instead. Is there any better way to connect and express your appreciation than in person? Holidays are for sharing. Nothing is better than being there and sharing an experience. Only, you’ll have to make sure they’ll all be able to attend on the date you select.

Of course, you’ll also have to send out invitations…. which is a card…


Love Is Love

My profile picture with the FB celebratepride filter.

My profile picture with the FB celebratepride filter.

I have to say I didn’t get too emotional yesterday with the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision in support of gay marriage. Maybe because I knew it was still only a small step– a very historic step—  but still just a small step towards acceptance and equality in the United States. Perhaps it’s because I’m a little numb from a lifetime of exposure to hate and bigotry. When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I never thought I’d see this day.

The court’s decision isn’t going to instantly change people’s opinions. Only time will accomplish that.

But then this morning, as I scrolled through my Facebook Newsfeed, something happened. Not only were there a myriad of posts celebrating the landmark decision– friend after friend had also changed their profile pictures, using the celebratepride filter, overlaying the rainbow pride flag over their image. I found myself incredibly moved.

It suddenly became real to me.

Love equals Love. Equality gives way to the very Freedoms we are supposedly all guaranteed in the Constitution. Maybe there is Hope. Maybe Amerika can become America again– or maybe even, for the first time.

Every step we take in this country to remove Hate, opens the door to love and acceptance.

Gay marriage can now just be called marriage. Eventually, Gay pride may become an unnecessary celebration and can give way to American pride. It’s all about Equality. Each and everyone of us equal.

Some of the love being shared on Facebook.

Some of the love being shared on Facebook.

I think it’s important to be consciously aware that the Supreme Court’s decision was not a strike against Christianity. Many people are choosing to take it that way; and I find it extremely sad and nearly pathetic. The fight was never about changing anyone’s religious beliefs; it was the always about equal rights under the law. In ancient times, marriage may have only been strictly viewed as a religious contract– not anymore. There are too many rights under the law regarding married people to maintain that defense.

Love is Love. It transcends gender and race. It is more powerful than contracts, vows or religion.

All we need is time.

Beautiful Christmas: What It Means To Me

Christmas Eve Today

Christmas Eve Today

It was hot and uncomfortable where we sat, in folding chairs, on a dimly lit stage. We were all turned upstage, facing an old, out-of-tune piano. Our music teacher, Mrs. Blanchard, came in– carrying her usual load of music and instruments. She was followed by the scent of her trademark perfume, Tabu– choking us all, within minutes of her arrival.

She asked one of my classmates to help pass out the freshly mimeographed copies of the Christmas medley she’d put together for us to perform at our Christmas concert, in just a few weeks. Us, sing? In a concert? We were quite a motley crew. While most of us tried to sing, my friend Alex was busy trying to distract everyone. Always the class clown.

Mrs. Blanchard would try to ignore him. Often she’d grab him by the ear or the arm and make him sit on the bench next to her– which usually only made things worse.

She’d give him the evil eye and turn her back to us, facing the piano. Her long, manicured nails would click and clack on the keys of the piano as she would bang out the notes, trying to teach us harmony:

Spinning the dial from station to station,

We hear Christmas songs old,

And some that are new…

Mrs. Blanchard, would stop and look at us, usually grimacing; her painted on eyebrows raised. It was a look that put fear into us. A look, that would sometimes melt into a smile, sending audible sighs of relief around the room. At times, she reminded us of the witch in the Wizard of Oz; but we loved her and wanted to please her.

Somehow, we did managed to put on a Christmas concert that year. I played the drum for The Little Drummer Boy. And it was magical.

This picture says it all. (And I used to be cute.)

This picture says it all. (And I used to be cute.)

One year– I think it was kindergarten, I was a toy soldier. Years later, I played Joseph in the nativity. Christmas concerts, church cantatas and pageants were a big part of my growing up.

I can still remember believing in Santa and the anticipation of gifts on Christmas morning. I remember my sister and I sneaking into my parents’ closet— trying to steal a peak at our hidden gifts.

But, what I remember most about Christmas— was the lights. I still have vivid memories of seeing the amazing Christmas lights and giant Christmas cards that surrounded the Indiana War Memorial Plaza, in the heart of Indianapolis, with my parents.

I remember riding in the car, either coming home from Christmas shopping or visiting relatives– trying to look out the window and see all the Christmas lights along the way.

I remember pulling out boxes of old Christmas decorations with my Dad and spending hours— trying to untangle lights and replace burned out bulbs.

As a child, snow and Christmas lights were magic to me.

So there should be little wonder as to why I decorate as much as I do today.

Christmas is magical.

It’s the one time of year that it’s okay for us all to be kids again.

My wonderful Grandma.

My wonderful Grandma.

Every Christmas I feel especially close to my Grandmother, who passed away when I was a senior in college. She taught me so many things without really intending to, I imagine. She brought out a lot of my creativity through the many hours we spent baking and crafting together when I was young. My grandparents weren’t rich— but the Christmases we shared with them were always magical.

My parents were always careful to balance all the different aspects of the holidays, careful to keep the emphasis on the real reason for the season. We didn’t have a lot growing up– but we had everything.

To me, more than anything, Christmas is a feeling. Sometimes I feel it in my heart and sometimes in my gut. Sometimes it’s magical and sometimes it’s bittersweet. It’s a time to look ahead– and a time of remembrance.

My sister and I re-enacting the Nativity.

My sister and I re-enacting the Nativity.

Christmas is a time of wonder and awe– that the birth of an innocent child so many centuries ago, could ignite generation after generation with promise– and lead the world on a journey towards the eternal search for light and truth. The miracle of birth and rebirth.

Christmas is the time for us all to take a step back and view the world through the eyes and heart of a child. The eyes of innocence. The heart that can still believe. Where a world can still be guided by love and peace. A world where there is still hope. A world full of magic. A world where dreams and miracle can come true.

Christmas really is for children.

May this Christmas reawaken the child in all of us.

Blind Hate

love_hate_525I’ll never understand what causes people to become so enraged and be so hateful.

Believe it or not, everyone was not born to hate and everyone was not born a hateable stereotype.

Where does hate come from? Is it jealousy? Partiality? Being disrespected? Envy? Ignorance? Or is hate purely based in fear?

At what point did hate become the acceptable alternative to loving all mankind?

Hate is an extreme, passionate emotion, just like love. Are we strictly taught to hate? In the process, do many people even bother to think about it logically and try to discover the origin of it in their own lives?

An-eye-for-an-eyeAll hate doesn’t evolve into violence. All hate does affect behavior and the treatment of others. Sometimes the vehemently caustic words so easily expressed by some, are more damaging than actual physical violence enacted by others.

We often see hate expressed violently in correlation to religion, race, politics and class. At what point did these groups become nothing more than targeted and often, victimized stereotypes? Granted, it’s much easier to hate a group than it is to hate an individual. It certainly saves time. If someone really wants to live in an isolated bubble then hating, by definition is a simple solution. Why waste time getting to know people as individuals?

Hate+ Isolation= An Ignorant, Fear-Filled Life

Hate2wIn social media, you see so many people expressing feelings, judging others and many times probably not even realizing, that what they are doing is hurtful. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. People really need to realize that the way they express their opinions can come across as hateful and hurtful to others; even if it is unintentional. I completely defend everyone’s right to freedom of speech and practice it myself, frequently. But, I believe there is more danger in the words of those– that unknowingly, express hatred towards others than those that side with, and identify with openly defined hate groups.

Love-and-Hate2Politics is one of the most visible arenas for acceptable expressions of hate. Parties disagree. We all understand that. Threats and total disregard for another viewpoint without any credible validation? Unacceptable.

It’s an election year and we have candidates perpetuating hate on both sides. In effect, what I hear from politicians is quite often the exact same accusations and promises, twisted to their benefit, according to what they think the public wants to hear. Or, at least enough people to get them elected.

Politicians are hypocrites and thrive on contradiction. Politics has become a game of hate. Who hates whom more?

In a game, there is a winner and a loser.

In a game of hate, no one wins and everyone loses.

Isn’t it the same with every other aspect of our society? Instead of hating others because of their differences, how about some meaningful discussions about how we can all get along and come to some concrete, acceptable solutions? Does loving one another no longer exist? How about some education and acceptance?

But that would take time and effort. People might be required to step out of the safety of their bubble….


It’s much easier to just hate.

Stupid People And Social Media

Oops Word on Big Red Button Correct MistakeWatch out because today I’m going to rant! Sometimes I get so frustrated I can’t see straight. What in the world is wrong with people? How is it that some people are so gullible, ignorant, or so full of hate that they can possibly believe anything and everything they hear?

Before I offend anyone, if you honestly believe any of the examples I mention here… PLEASE. Don’t take my word for it. Do some research and make an informed decision on your own.

That brings me to my first point: Do you know that some people don’t know how to find answers to questions? Is there anyone out there brave enough to say they have never heard of Google, Yahoo, or even the library? Word of Mouth is great for conversation starters but a terrible way to get factual information.

Judge Judith Sheindlin (Judge Judy) says, “If it doesn’t make sense, then it’s not true.” So if something doesn’t make sense– LOOK IT UP! Don’t be afraid to question everything.

I’m not not going to tell you where to find your answers, for fear of being accused of pushing my own agenda. I will give you suggestions that might help you sort out the truth from fiction yourself.  Always, always verify through research with multiple sources. If you can’t find enough information, then by all means, be skeptical.

My second point: I do hope everyone understands the difference between Social Media and what is factual news. I realize the lines are being increasingly blurred– which is just one more reason you shouldn’t believe everything you hear or see.

The purpose of Social Media is to engage or inform others through digital and web-based methods of social interaction. The definition continues to develop as technology evolves.  Basically, it is a way to communicate up-to-the-minute activities, ideas and opinions and interact with others about those topics. It is sharing content between users.

Without interaction, social media does not exist. Sharing, commenting, responding, agreeing or disagreeing– are all important to the social media experience. It’s also a way for people to express themselves directly, without necessarily being an authority on a subject. Opinions are not facts. An interpretation is not a fact. Again, this is why I suggest researching anything important or questionable because there are many, many people sharing their opinions and interpretations out there– that doesn’t make them true.

Right-Wing, Left-Wing, Broken-Wing: They just don’t get it. If you get the majority of your “news” from Hannity or Rachael Maddow you are being ignorant. There. I said it. They are talk shows not news programs! There may be facts or current events discussed where there is some factual content; but for the most part, you are being fed opinions and speculations based on their biased agendas.

bringback#Bring Back Our Girls: one of the current idiotic discussions is criticizing Michelle Obama’s #Bring Back Our Girls tweet. It’s a perfect example of how people have no comprehension of what social media is and is not. Obama was voicing her support for the global campaign to draw attention to the 300 Nigerian girls that were kidnapped from their school and are being held hostage, with the promise to sell them into slavery. It is an awareness campaign intended to build support for action in this crisis. This type of action is being referred to as hashtag activism.

Critics are lambasting Obama, saying her tweet and Facebook post was outrageous, pointless, and embarrassing. One critic last night said that it was okay for celebrities to use hashtag activism because they are trying to get the government to act– but NOT okay for Michelle Obama, because she is the government. No one, including Obama, believes the kidnappers will see the posts and let the girls go free. That suggestion is ridiculous. The posts are part of a campaign to build support and awareness of the situation. Common sense should tell you that government action or intervention is best accepted when there is a majority of public support. In this case, the campaign is to engage, inform and build support for action, not an expectation that the campaign, itself, will put an end to the hostage situation.

To carry the idiotic behavior to new levels. Some critics have created their own disrespectful and offensive campaigns in response, such as: #Bring Back Our Country and #Bring Back Our Balls.

true-falseHealthcare: Among the many stupid, ignorance comments I’ve heard regarding the Affordable Care Act, I think I’ve finally heard the most ridiculous of all. Some people actually believe that when you sign up for healthcare (insurance) through the ACA, you get an “Obamacare card”. They believe if you get an “Obamacare card”  doctors, hospitals and pharmacies can refuse it because they don’t want to accept it.

How can anyone believe this? Is it because of misinformation or just pure hate for the ACA and the current administration? I’m not going to say that I agree that people should be forced to purchase healthcare insurance but I do believe insurance should be affordable and available to everyone that wants it.

All Chemicals are Bad: Have you heard people say, “I won’t eat anything that was treated with chemicals. I don’t care if they say it is safe, all chemicals are bad.”

All chemicals are bad? Really? All foods are chemical. Medicines– chemical. Water– chemical. Air– chemical. Our bodies are chemical compositions.

It’s important to remember that many chemicals that are vital to life are actually deadly in high doses. Many of the chemicals that are quoted in the media as being additives to the food supply– to scare you, are already found naturally in untreated, organic foods and natural resources as well.

Does that mean that all chemicals are good and that we shouldn’t question their use? Of course not. But be informed. Don’t just accept every quack doctor’s comments about what you should be afraid of, or avoid, when all they are really trying to do is push their latest book, product or agenda.

Diet soda makes you fat and the chemicals in it will kill you in the process: It must be true because it’s been said for years, right. Doctors say it and there are many articles that say it. So it’s true. No, not necessarily. If you really research the subject, you’ll see that there have been no studied direct links to chemicals such as aspartame, to serious illness or fatality. That doesn’t mean it’s harmless either.

“But I just read…” Read it again. Articles may say “studies show… ” or “a doctor at this or that school (or lab) says…” but then they don’t provide links so that you can read the study or research it yourself. (But make sure you buy their book!) One article I read recently claiming proof from a University study… did provide a link. It lends authenticity, right? Except, when you clicked on the link… it took you to Google Maps NOT a study. Most of us won’t even bother clicking on the link but would accept the statement because it appeared more information was provided.

When a doctor says, “Studies suggest…” you first questions should be: what kind of study, who and where was the study performed and who funded it? Was the study even scientific? Often, these results are quoted from unscientific polls or questionnaires. How someone feels, especially outside of a controlled environment, is not scientific proof of fact. What were the other factors that could have caused these feelings? You won’t know because it wasn’t a controlled, scientific study.

The fat issue really makes me boil. People that take their news from the headlines and don’t even bother to read below the by line are easily convinced: diet soda makes you fat. No, the actual comments doctors have made are that they fear and are concerned that diet drinks and foods give people a false sense that they can eat as much as they want… because it is a diet product; and that doing so will not affect their weight negatively.


5-Mistakes-to-avoid-in-Social-MediaAfter I started writing this, I started to feel guilty for picking on people for their ignorance. Ignorance that I don’t fully understand but that I want to compassionately change. The phrase, You can’t believe everything you hear, takes on a heightened importance in this age of the internet and technology where anyone, anywhere can publish their thoughts. Human nature makes us want to believe what we read and that everyone else is honest and above board, even though we know deep down it’s not true. Everyone has an agenda or spin.

You can’t trust news reporting anymore because they don’t thoroughly research like they used to– before releasing their findings. Anything that might boost ratings or garner an audience is considered news worthy. Whenever you see an expert trotted out on display, like at a dog and pony show– and the first question asked is, “What do you think…..” Beware. Any response from an “expert” that starts with, “I believe….”, “This suggests….” I think that…” WARNING! They are only giving an opinion. These are not factual statements, don’t accept them as truth.

Do I think people are intentionally stupid? No, I don’t. I do believe that there are many people that are so biased, for or against topics, that they willing believe anything they hear that support their own position. What’s really troubling is that some people take sides due to some affiliation or belief that may not even be directly related.

I could go on and on with more examples but I think I’ll stop here.

If social media works— then hopefully the people engaged in this misinformation, will eventually get the right information. It only works if people actively seek the truth.

Baltic Cruise Day Five: Peterhof Palace & Saint Petersburg Cathedrals

Another big day, we’d scheduled two excursions, “Peter the Great’s Grand Palace- Peterhof” and “Saint Petersburg Cathedrals“. By this point on our trip, we’d realized we were only averaging about four hours sleep a night and were happily exhausted. I have to say, I became quite good at taking cat naps on the buses to and from our destinations.

The Peterhof Grand Palace.

The Peterhof Grand Palace.

In the morning, we headed to Peterhof Palace for what was to be one of the highlights of our trip. Peterhof is a not-to-be-missed destination. If you are visiting Saint Petersburg, Russia and are short on time, I’d definitely choose Peterhof over Catherine Palace. Both are beautiful and opulent but in addition to the Grand Palace, Peterhof has the exquisite Grand Cascade and gardens that are a sight to behold.

The Grand Cascade from the palace, before the fountains were turned on.

The Grand Cascade from the palace, before the fountains were turned on.

We arrived early at Peterhof, which was important for two reasons: 1) We were one of the first groups to tour the Grand Palace before it opened to the public, and; 2) We were present when the fountains were turned on, on the Grand Cascade.

Like Catherine Palace, Peterhof was built in the early 1700’s and sustained substantial damage from the German invasion during World War II. It has been fully restored, though renovations are ongoing.

Exploring the gardens at Peterhof.

Exploring the gardens at Peterhof.

The interiors and gardens were both heavily influenced by French style. There is an overabundance of silk wall coverings, ornamental plaster designs and gold leaf detail in every room. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the Grand Palace.

It took about an hour to walk through the palace and then we had about an hour to explore the gardens before meeting back at the Grand Cascade to see the main fountains activated.

It was a sunny day and about 70 degrees. Perfect for a beautiful, relaxing walk.

The formal, french-style gardens at Peterhof.

The formal, french-style gardens at Peterhof.

Back at the Grand Cascade, we chose to watch the fountains from a lower corner where there were less tourists crowding the area. Aside from the beauty, the big attraction to the fountains is that they are all gravity-fed. No pumps are used to power the many fountains. It’s not only an amazing feat of ingenuity, it’s visually stunning.

Peterhof Grand Palace and Grand Cascade as the fountains are being activated.

Peterhof Grand Palace and Grand Cascade as the fountains are being activated.

The fountains of the Grand Cascade.

The fountains of the Grand Cascade.

The Grand Cascade at Peterhof.

The statues on the Grand Cascade at Peterhof.

As if the sights of Peterhof weren’t enough stimulation for one day, we had enough time to return to the ship for a quick lunch before meeting our group for a tour of some of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals. I’m just going to focus on two: Saint Issac’s Cathedral and Church of the Spilled Blood.

Saint Issac's Cathedral, currently under renovation.

Saint Issac’s Cathedral, currently under renovation.

Saint Issac’s Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in Saint Petersburg. It took 40 years to construct, opening in 1858. I found it interesting to know that the Gold dome was painted over in gray during World War II to deter detection. There are still pock marks from enemy fire, visible on the the large exterior columns.

The interior is amazing. The color and detail are glorious.

The ceilings of Saint Issac's Cathedral.

The ceilings of Saint Issac’s Cathedral.

Facing the altar in Saint Issac's Cathedral.

Facing the altar in Saint Issac’s Cathedral.

Most commonly referred to as Church of the Spilled Blood, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ is also known as The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.

Michael and I at the Church of the Spilled Blood.

Michael and I at the Church of the Spilled Blood.

This was one of my two must-have picture spots of Michael and I on our vacation. (The other was the Berlin Wall.) When we visited and toured the interior, it was turning overcast, so I was grateful we had stopped here briefly the day before and I was able to take some exterior pictures.

The Church of the Spilled Blood is visually recognizable by its ornate, colorful onion domes. I can’t say why I find them so appealing, I just find myself drawn to them.

I wasn’t prepared to be so overwhelmed by the interior. The entire wall surfaces are covered in tiny mosaic tiles. It’s so difficult to comprehend the amount of work, time and planning that went in to the magnificent design. I’m at a loss for words to describe its beauty.

Looking up in the Church of the Spilled Blood.

Looking up in the Church of the Spilled Blood.

A figure is depicted inside each of the domes.

A figure is depicted inside each of the domes.

Church of the Spilled Blood.

Church of the Spilled Blood.

The Church of the Spilled Blood is one of the most magnificent places I've ever visited.

The Church of the Spilled Blood is one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever visited.

The onion domes of the Church of the Spilled Blood.

The onion domes of the Church of the Spilled Blood.

What an amazing day! I’m all out of adjectives to describe it all. I just feel so lucky and blessed to be able to have witnessed all this beauty first hand. It certainly brings new meaning to ‘trip of a lifetime’. And, we still had one more day in Saint Petersburg.

An Open Letter To My Biological Family

Dear Family,

First let me say, I love you – unconditionally — more than you’ll ever know.  We have our own unique history and are forever bound together by the miracle of life.  We are all alike and at the same time, quite different in many ways.

I unfriended you all on Facebook for one simple reason: I didn’t like seeing some of the posts you made that I found false, hurtful and unfeeling. I’m not saying you had any intention for that to happen — but it has, repeatedly, especially over the past three months.

We can still view each other’s pages—I did not block you – but I now feel freer to post my thoughts and opinions and you can do the same. If I choose to view your page, it will be a risk I’ll take but I promise I won’t comment on it. I unfriended the kids as well, not that we communicate that often—but out of respect for you as parents and any concerns you might have that I am too controversial or influential.

I have never suggested that you not share your feelings or beliefs—even if they hurt me deeply. I have tried to get you to understand, to verify, and to support (through sources and links) any of your stated ‘facts’ that I have questioned. Instead of defending your comments, you’ve chosen to ignore or delete mine—completely invalidating my concerns.

I’m sorry if I embarrass you—and I only say that because Dad told me in an email recently, that I was “too gay” – I believe intending to mean that he thought I was too publicly open about it.

I cannot help who I am. I know you can’t fully believe that because you think that God would ‘change’ me if I let him, or at the very least, I should abstain from any semblance of what, for me, is a normal life.  I tried that. I hated myself for years because I wasn’t what I was taught God wanted or what you wanted me to be.

For nearly half my life, I lived in a hell on earth trying to be different. I stopped and won’t do it anymore. I am a proud, happy, gay man. The only two things that make us different are that I don’t have children and I share my life with another man—who has loved me unconditionally for over 19 years. (Yes, I know I’m a handful!)

You’ve accused me of being completely blinded by ‘the Obama agenda’ and think that is why I have been upset with all of you. You’ve also accused me of smearing the family name because I have spoken out against what I see as hateful talk. I have been upset because you say you accept me, then vote for a man and a political agenda that will do anything to make sure that I am nothing more than a second-class citizen and not afforded the same rights as you.  I don’t want special rights — just equal rights.

Actions speak louder than words. You have publicly posted and declared your support for businesses and political candidates that oppose my civil rights. I realize there is more to your decisions and probably little has anything to do with human rights issues. When your posts have offended me, I have tried to open up a dialogue with limited success.  I hear your words to me personally… but your actions speak differently.

Why is this so important to me? You brought me up to believe in unconditional love. Doesn’t that also mean you would want to support my equality? This goes beyond me personally—when as many as 1 in 3 LGBT youth attempt suicide and many bullied youth take their own lives as well. The message of love and acceptance couldn’t be more important today. These are young lives that I would think as Christians, you would want to save. Ignoring it, or voting against it, doesn’t make it go away.

I turn 50 next month — maybe that’s why I feel the need to speak out now. Maybe it’s time to communicate after nearly 30 years of silence on the subject. Or, maybe it’s just the right thing to do.

I just ask that you look in your hearts, find the compassion you profess and share that love with others, as you brought me up to believe was right.

I love you,


PS– I am posting this publicly, not to embarrass you– but in hopes that it might help someone else going through the same experiences.