Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our 2011 Journey, With Open Arms for 2012

Here we go! Although there is so much to be grateful for, I sometimes wonder about God's sense of humor. This year was definitely about change and transitioning in many ways. I received good news and I received bad news. But I have hope. I have hope that this year is all about faith, health, happiness and togetherness. Sometimes life gives us small to large tests depending on whatever you can handle, and that's the time to stop right in your tracks and see it for what it is...or what it isn't. So, I give you our moments of 2011. Some happy, some bizarre, some frustrating and of course, new friends we met on the way to 2012.

First, Mad gets her haircut by Ryan Nickulas from The A-List New York.

It all started right before last Christmas of 2010 while watching The A-List NY on LOGO. I had no clue what to get Madelene for a present, and then it hit me: her favorite cast member, Ryan Nickulas owns a salon in the West Village in NYC. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I was going to treat her to a day of beauty and of course, meet Ryan. I hopped on Twitter and got in contact with Ryan himself. He was available and awaiting our appointment after the new year. So, starting in January of 2011, Madelene got her hair did by her favorite boy, and on top of that, he also was interested in being part of our documentary, which I was thrilled about. He welcomed us in his home February 4th (on my birthday) and poured his heart out. We had a blast with him. I am very grateful for his hospitality as well as contributing to our project. Below is the clip he did for us. Thanks for starting off our 2011 on a good foot, Ryan!

If you cannot view this video, please click here.

Mad's birthday quickly approached us and we enjoyed time with our family and friends celebrating.
As the year went on, my father had begun radiation since he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He underwent a few surgeries and for the most part, feeling quite miserable. As a family, we did everything we could to let him know he was loved and taken care of, however the anxiety and panic of what he was going through tore my heart out. To see "Superman", aka Dad become scared (and for good reason) was heartbreaking. He was the most fearless and happy man I have ever known. Things really changed a lot and I finally saw that Dad was a very vulnerable man; a man full of fear and sadness. I saw Mom struggle along with him, staying up all night while he had insomnia or was in pain and trying to do anything she could to comfort him. That was very much a somber part of the year to see him go through so much. As he progresses these days, he has gotten better, but a few more procedures to go. 2012 is a year where he will get through this. I have faith.

On a lighter, (or on a much heavier note?) -- we endured and survived the end of the world, predicted by Harold Camping.

Then there was the moving process. We went from city folk to mountaintop hillbillies. It was quite a change for us, since all we heard were sirens, domestic fights and cars zipping through at every hour of the day and night. In the new location, we only heard crickets, frogs (which were loud mind you) and the occasional dog barking a few acres away. The views were gorgeous and better yet, I was closer to my parents so I could help out if they needed anything.

With beautiful views, comes dreadful renovations and touchups....

And not for nuttin', but Mad would handle contacting the 'right people' to do the job and then they would come over, do a half-ass job and have us do the rest. She really put me to work!

And beyond what anything we could have done, there were tons of contractors in and out, from maintenance men to bee exterminators, which had to come back ten million times. We had such a bad bee problem that even the exterminators were baffled.Then Madelene decided to brave it and attack these critters herself. It was so funny to watch that I had to get my camera out for this.

If you cannot view this video, please click here.

And then, we found the culprit on a branch that was way too high to even reach...
It was peaceful for a while, until we heard news that hurricane Irene was headed straight for New York. They advised all NYC residents to evacuate up north where we were. When the hurricane finally swept through our area, we were the ones that got hit the hardest, while NYC looked like any other rainy day. There were tons of power outages in the area, many roads that were literally cracked open, so needless to say, endless detours. It devastated homes and businesses. People were actually traveling around in boats in certain areas. It just gives you a grim reminder of our fierce Mother Nature can be. The pictures below are courtesy of my friend Laura Duggan.

And then...there was the earthquake that hit New York. I was sitting at my desk working from home when all of the sudden, my desk started shaking back and forth. The only damage is what happened in my kitchen in the photo below. Tragedy.
With the autumn weather moving in, we finally felt a bit more settled into our new place. There was a lot of adjusting, lots of tweaking and new things that had to still be installed. Other than that, September was a very quiet month. We were all still reeling from the hurricane. It was definitely a shock to our systems. But oddly enough, when October arrived, it seemed to come in so beautifully. Watch how these photos change drastically...

And then...the snowstorm of October of 2011 comes barreling in...
(All photos were taken from the deck of my house.)
Many people were out of power, branches and trees were down, but oddly enough and once again, we were lucky.

We got in touch with old friends, and made new ones on the way. One in particular came over and cooked her famous Puerto Rican food for us. We had a blast and it was good to finally get some quality friendships in before the New Year. Thank you, Zee! She and her partner were our first guests to come over and warm our home.
It's been a crazy year for us, a lot of stressful moments as well as wonderful ones too. Tonight, I'm celebrating all the hard times that have only made my family & my marriage only that much closer and stronger. I'm celebrating all the laughter that's been shared, all the wonderful moments with each special person in my life and overall, thanking God that everyone is healthy and okay and will continue to have better and better years ahead. So I wish you and your family a very healthy and prosperous New Year! Let's not even think about the Mayan Calendar...

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Fear of Crossing Over

If you cannot view this video, please click here.

If you cannot see this video, please click here.

There’s something much larger than us. As I said in my previous post, it’s too much of a mystery for us to figure it out, but what if people like Ben Breedlove who has cheated death three times and then tells us that there is something out there? Ben’s fourth time resulted in death on Christmas night due to a heart condition. Will the atheists start believing? Will all spiritual and religious people stop fearing death? It’s life’s biggest kept secret - biggest mystery - biggest fear. It’ll never downgrade or be seen as something we never think about on a daily basis. I wonder how his mother feels - does she believe he’s okay? Does it make her own questioning about the mystery of death any lesser? Or, does she believe that what Ben was seeing was purely out of visions manifesting from his brain? No one is ever convinced, even when this happens to a loved one. At the end of this video, it appeared to me that Ben was hoping it would happen again, as he stated that he never wanted to leave that place he was at while he died for three minutes. There is a scripture from the Bible that I do believe which gives me comfort. If you’re not a Christian, you can apply it accordingly.

What Will Happen to Us When We Die?

“We know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies---we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make is groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are at home with the Lord. So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged, We will each receive whatever we deserve for the god or evil we have done in our bodies.” --2 Corinthians 5:1-10

“That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.” -- That can be a hard pill to swallow for someone who has many doubts about the afterlife. It also states this in John 20:29. How can we as “ordinary people” believe something without proof? And even though I, personally, have had many spiritual experiences that led me to believe that there is a God, my mind (or the devil) asks, “Will you even get into heaven though?” --So many Christians or “religious” people fear the worst: hell. Okay - so there’s is an afterlife, but where will we go? What irritates me about organized religion, churches, etc., is that many of the people of the cloth will scare you into believing that if you are not perfect, that you will perish in hell. They instill this guilt inside your heart, so that your natural instincts as a human being should be altered. There are rules and regulations. There are “conditions”. Isn’t God unconditional love? What does unconditional love mean? I feel bad for “religious” people who constantly walk around with this aching guilt that never seems to subside. They’ve been brainwashed by----people, not God. They’ve been taught since birth that “this is right” and “this is wrong”. Christians who have been taught that the sins of yesterday (Old Testament) still applies today. Then why did Jesus die? “But what if we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then find out that we are still sinners? Has Christ led us into sin? Of course not! Rather, I make myself guilty if I rebuild the old system I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, I realized I could never earn God’s approval. So I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one for those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. **For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.”**

That one sentence says it all: {“For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.”}

Then you have this passage:

“You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. And yet we Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ-and not because we have obeyed the law. ***For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.***” ~Galatians 2:15-16

So in my own opinion, if you don’t believe that your sins are washed away completely, then you’re basically not believing that Jesus’ death actually did take away your sins - that His death was meaningless. But that’s “my” belief, as well as it is written in the Bible. I have had other Christians debate me on this topic because they still believe the old law applies to Christians. Basic rules, like love God and love your neighbor - the things that make someone a decent human being - but not things like eating crustaceans of the sea, or being gay or lesbian, as Leviticus states.

My point of this post is to ask the question: are we still scared? We avoid certain things so we can cheat death ourselves. We try to “be safe” and not live on the edge. Through my own spiritual experiences which are in my book, I know for a fact that our bodies are labored here on earth - our breathing is “work” - our limbs weight a TON, and the emotional pain (even if we’re somewhat happy) is excruciating. We feel too much. We think too much. We fear too much. We self-medicate so we can feel...numb. “Numb” - is how we feel on the other side, or what mimics it. Why do you think so many people are on painkillers without the pain, or the abuse of alcohol or drugs? It aids in the human condition which is pain. We are all in pain and if someone says they aren’t - they aren’t looking at it in a physical/emotional all-being aspect because they don’t know what the other option feels like. We’ve become so immune to this “pain” (that seems painless), that we tend to think this’ll how we’ll feel when we’re on the other side.

Jesus said this before He left us:

"Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there." --John 14:1-4

“I am leaving you with a gift---peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” --John 14:27

What do you believe happens to you when we cross over? Or do you even believe that we cross over at all?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do We All Secretly Live In Fear?

It’s no wonder that the biggest of all debates, besides the political ones, are religious ones. It’s amazing to see people battle with something, or (someone) that they absolutely cannot prove. Some will scroll down to a scripture in their bible to prove its truth, but when a bible or any scroll has been written by man and translated a bazillion times, how can we go by this? Faith is the answer. No one can argue with what you believe in, unless of course you have scientific proof to back it up - and I don’t mean testimonials, (although I love hearing them). Some people believe that religion was “invented” so we as humans wouldn’t have to fear death. It was meant to be some sort of security blanket for all who were scared. I’m grateful that my belief is truth to me, and yet, there’s that small little seed of doubt about my afterlife. I accept it because it’s completely normal due to living in my physical being. But all of those unexplainable happenings, revelations, spiritual experiences - something has to be out there. Then you have mental illness claims to throw into the batch of people who believe they have seen or experienced something spiritual. In fact, for the people who had died momentarily in the hospital and made it back - they all have that similar ‘I went through a tunnel and saw a light’ experience, and some even say that they have seen relatives greet them. Then science slaps them in the face to say that when we do ‘check out’ - our brain manifests that image, like shutting down a computer.

“My” truth is - science will never coincide with spiritual faith. Why would God want us to figure it all out? We would have nothing to stand on - no hope - no mystery - no tests without saying, “Oh, I know what’s going on here...” When people are staring death in the face, it’s amazing all the things they come to realize. I love Steve Jobs' quote on death. It gives a dose of reality with a touch of grimness to it... “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.” ---And while we all want to believe that there is a higher being, statements like these make you kind of wonder, even if you’re the most religious person.

What about Colton Burpo? This 11 year old boy claims he has seen Jesus while he was dead momentarily when his appendix bursted in 2003. Taken from this article, it reads, “During an automobile trip, when Sonja Burpo asked him about his memories of being in the hospital, little Colton replied: 'Yes, Mommy, I remember — that’s where the angels sang to me.' A sweet answer, to be sure — but then Colton made his parents’ jaws drop when he told them about sitting in Jesus’ lap, watching his parents while he lay seemingly near death, and meeting his great-grandfather. But most poignantly, Colton described meeting a sibling in heaven — even though he had no way of knowing that his mother had miscarried two years before he was born, since his parents had never told him. Todd Burpo began telling of his son’s heaven-sent visions from the pulpit of the Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Neb., where he serves as pastor. Word of mouth spread, and the family landed a book deal. The book — “Heaven Is for Real,” written by Todd with co-writer Lynn Vincent — has become a best-seller, with some 1.5 million copies in print since its release in November. Little Colton nearly didn’t make it: He lay in a hospital bed for 17 days. When he finally rallied, the family rejoiced — but they were floored when, months later, the boy began matter-of-factly describing what he had experienced when he was in between life and death: seeing Jesus dressed in royal purple, meeting John the Baptist, having angels sing to him to ease his anxiety.”

Of course, many people speculated that the boy was pushed by his parents to write the book, but what if this is real? What if what Colton says is the absolute truth? There are so many stories like his and no scientific proof to back it all up. Even if Colton's brain produced these types of images while he was “in heaven” - it must give him a lot of peace about the afterlife, as we all scurry about in fear of the inevitable. Do you think if we knew what happens to us after this life that it would eliminate all of our anxieties? When I have an anxiety attack, I automatically think “heart attack”. Sometimes, it’s so strong that I actually believe it’s some weird allergic reaction that I can die from. Fear. It does strange things to normal everyday people. But the source of the fear stems from the fear of death itself. Or am I way off base on this?

This next video is not only for gay and lesbians, this is for everyone because at the end of this clip, Oprah makes such a profound statement:

"When you begin to realize that you are more than your body, that your purpose is greater than your profession or your career, that every life, because you were born, you have a right to be here. And there is a calling on your life. It means you live your life without fear and you know that no matter what happens - no matter what happens - you are going to be are going to be alright. That's what spirituality is to me." ~Oprah Winfrey

If you cannot view this video, please click here.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Is It Over Yet?

Yes and no. The holidays seem to be passing us by very quickly as usual, perhaps a bit slower for those who have just recently had a breakup or divorce. We got through Christmas, but then there’s New Year’s Eve, the one night of the year where you actually stay up past 12 midnight and spend time with your closest friends and family, and of course, hopefully the love of your life. If you’re not with the one you love, the entire night (and I speak for most people having been through it) is that you constantly wonder what he or she is doing that very minute. When New Year’s Day and a nice ripe hangover arrives, you’ll be much better off watching marathon episodes of The Honeymooners and popping Advil. It’s done and over with...or is it? You get only one month to rest and BAM -- Valentine’s Day will be creeping up before you know it. I don’t care if you spend that evening with a bunch of single women -- you’re. going. to. think. about. him/her. What a bullshit holiday designed to boost florist and restaurant sales and of course, to break hearts already broken. If you’re coupled up or married and this is the one holiday you look forward to -- your relationship is in jeopardy. You should have “Valentine’s Day” every single day if you truly love the person you are with. I remember when Madelene and I would scout out restaurants to forcefully do the ‘couple’ thing on Valentine’s Day and wait hours just to get seated and receive horrible service due to the busyness. A homemade dinner is the best thing you can do in my opinion. (Chocolates are always a plus on any day!)

Let me rewind a little bit back to the New Year’s Eve gig. I hate it. I don’t ever go out during this time for a few reasons: 1. I don’t want to drive. Even if you’re not driving, it’s the other people you have to watch out for. 2. I hate “forced drinking nights”. I usually stay sober on New Year’s Eve oddly enough. 3. Apparently, my age is catching up with me. But regardless - it’s highly overrated in my opinion. And who the hell would want to spend their New Year’s Eve in Times Square? It’s usually colder than Alaska, millions of people are swarmed into one general area, and the worst case scenario ---you’ll need a bathroom. Ever since 9/11, Every year, I have watched Times Square partying, wondering if another tragedy would take place. I know, I’m a total 'Debbie Downer' today, but these are the things I think about. It makes sense though - the one time of year where millions of people are gathered would be a prime opportunity for some whack job to ignite his suitcase bomb. “Happy New Year!” No noise makers needed. My suggestion for a great New Year’s Eve is to invite your favorite people over, make some goodies, have some cocktails and make room for sleepovers.

"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." ~Bill Vaughan

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Faking 'Happiness' on Christmas

Years ago, I remember running around doing last minute Christmas shopping used to be fun. I actually did it on purpose. All the decorations were in full bloom, people seemed happier and the overall feel for the holiday was much more evident. Yesterday, as I was driving store to store, I realized it’s no longer that ‘quaint joyous feeling’ - it’s become absolute rage and chaos. Between traffic being backed up for miles and people trying to nudge their way into the mess, one kid almost slammed right into my passenger side of my car. I kept beeping and beeping, but he kept coming. I had to go on the other side of the lane in order to avoid him. Of course, I ‘silent screamed’ at him through my windows with a few choice words, but then, I saw his face. He had the face of a pitiful and stressed out young man. I read his lips: “I’m so sorry! I am so so sorry!” He had his hands up as if he was surrendering. Then it dawned on me: I’m the holiday bitch from hell. The kid really didn’t see me, even it I had the right of way. I had to reel it in and take a few deep breaths. It’s funny how we’re more polite face-to-face, but once we’re in the safety of our cars, we become deadly enemies full of road rage.

Lately, my mother has been hanging out in the emergency room because she is prone to getting cellulitis (infection of the skin), to where it becomes very dangerous. (And yes, that's my mom in that picture taken with my phone in the ER.) It’s always the same drill: antibiotic drip, and a long, long wait to get the prescription and check out. While we were waiting, I had her laughing so hard, she was in tears. The nurses were all coming into our section trying to join in on our little ER party - even went as far to invite us to their holiday party - and that’s when we knew we’ve been visiting this place a bit too much. I said to mom, “We know them on first name basis now, do you realize this?” Then she pointed out all of my hypochondriacal visits to the ER and blamed me for being ‘well-known’. As we left, the nurses said, “It’s nice to have people like you to lift us up during the holidays!” I remember last Christmas Eve, I came home and started having chest pains. Madelene rushed me into the ER and the staff hooked me up to EKGs, took blood from my arm, gave me chest x-rays and then said, “Are you stressed out?” I didn’t think I was, but after the clean bill of health, they had told me that many people come into the ER on Christmas Eve. Most people are sad, stressed out, or have been with their family for long periods of time (perhaps too long), and end up having chest pains or heart attack-like symptoms. Others come in with those symptoms due to indigestion or alcohol poisoning. Many patients take their frustrations out on the hospital staff and start threatening them or even assaulting them in some cases. Hats off to anyone who works in the ER on Christmas Eve.

If you really think about it, Christmas isn’t fun at all for most adults. Stressors from 'what to cook' to entertaining family and friends to even the tugging of whose family to visit, or worse off, no family to visit. It depends. Christmas can be so devastating for so many people. An old friend called me up yesterday who happened to be in town for the holidays visiting family. While having a quick ‘catch up’ conversation, she bursted into tears over the phone telling me how unhappy she is. I tried giving her the best advice I could give, but ended up crying to her instead. We both laughed through our tears and realized how lucky we were to have such a friendship. I think many people are bursting at the seams with tears. Holding them back only creates that tension that sometimes manifests into anger, ie: road rage, angry shoppers, etc., etc. We’re all trying to ‘keep it together’ and be ‘joyous’ and some of it is genuine, but if you look deep enough into the crowd, you’ll notice many watery eyes waiting to burst at any given moment. It’s not only that, but people get desperate due to loss of employment, which creates the most honest of all people robbing stores or doing things out of their character just to have Christmas the way it used to be. They don’t want to disappoint their family. What makes this holiday so heart wrenching? It starts with Thanksgiving, but there is something about Christmas that makes people feel obligated about being happy, or perhaps, faking it?

What if we could just look at this holiday as just another ordinary day - (an extraordinary birthday) - but an ordinary day nonetheless? What if we stop focusing on trying to please everyone and realize that this holiday is about Jesus’ birthday? It’s about doing what Jesus wants you to do: being kind to others, giving to others (in any form you can), spending time with your family (does not have to be blood-related, but chosen family), and creating an atmosphere of relief. “Happiness” may be a forced word, so I would say “relief” - a place where you can go to feel relieved of all the anxiety, stress and sadness. A place where you can just be yourself, give of yourself and forgive yourself for feeling so down on this holiday. And if you’re spending it alone, make it special. Treat yourself. Put candles all around your bathroom, and soak in a bubble bath while sipping your favorite wine listening to your favorite music. Do something for “you”. And for those people who are suicidal, remember - Christmas is over in 2 more days. You can party next week on New Year’s Eve that you’re still here with us.

And now, I will try to take my own advice and gather my composure when the next idiot pushes his way through the traffic and cuts me off. I will lower my ‘bitch-o-meter’ and try to smile and say, “It’s okay, go right ahead of me.” It may hurt and I may hold back a few choice words, but it may be the one person I come across who’s holding onto his last thread in life. So be nice! Tip more! Smile more! Love more! And...laugh more!

And to all my readers, family & friends, Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Rare Breeds

Whenever I see my friends complain about other people, whether it be about their behavior, their lack of attending certain functions or they’re just not doing enough -- I tend to feel bad for them. I never think about a certain friend and say, “Well he or she doesn’t do enough for me” - it’s more of a question of “Am I doing enough”, which makes me wonder about other people’s motives. I have a hard time trusting people through my own personal experiences. Either one friend expected way too much from of me, whether it be money, more time or whatever - and if I don’t ‘pull through’ for them, I'm gossiped about in the henhouse as a ‘vedy vedy bad person’. (Yes, done with an accent & all.) I can only do my best, and sometimes, my best isn’t good enough for some. I have encountered people downgrading my relationship with my wife, telling me that I wasn’t in love with her because I had been with her for this many years. I have had so many friends judge my lifestyle, judge my entire being to where I had to assume their madness came out of their own insecurities. I have had friends who would shun me over a declined invite. Why would anyone care? Why would someone judge someone so critically, unless they were extremely unhappy about their own situations at home? I read a very powerful quote by Mother Teresa that explains it all: “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Even when it seems as though your best isn’t good enough, be content knowing God knows your heart. No one else’s opinions or judgments matter except for God’s. I’m too old to play games and ‘read between the lines’. If you don’t want my ‘free’ friendship - then walk away. But don’t expect the world from me because I can only give so much - which is my best. And if you’re my friend, you won’t constantly be begging for money or turn your back on me when I’m having hard times as a few of my friends have. Even when I give money to help, more is expected of me and the money I gave in the past is long forgotten. It’s ironic how people are right up your wazoo when you’re doing good, but once hard times come rushing in - they’re ready to criticize and judge you as well as leave you stranded. I can honestly say that I have five very close friends, the rest are acquaintances. I’m grateful for that because it leaves less room for disappointments. So for my New Year’s resolution, I’m forgiving of all the toxic, greedy, self-absorbed, insecure people in my life who judge me so harshly and wishing them the best. Life’s too short to be aggravated by small-minded people. The best thing a friend can ever give to me is their friendship, companionship and their loyalty. It’s very rare to find those types of expectations these days. I'd like to think that I’m one of those rare breeds.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Greed

Milk Street Cafe in New York City near Zuccotti Park has closed due to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The owner of the cafe said, “Hope you're happy, Occupy Wall Street. All your rabble rousing has driven a small business owner out of business.” Not only was this business severely affected by the 9/11 tragedy, but now our own people - New York protesters - people who want to ‘give it to the big corps’ are certainly giving it to the small mom & pop stores. Occupy Wall Street protesters are no different than the big greedy corporate world: they don’t think about anybody other than themselves, they act like pigs, they are defiant, rude and most of all, take away business from hard working people who are trying to make it out there. There is absolutely no difference whatsoever. A bunch of hypocritical unemployed asshats roaming the streets, smoking pot, banging on drums and pissing on patrol cars are sending one solid message: we’re bored. They’re quitting their jobs (to complain about no jobs) just to be out there ‘being apart of the movement’ so they can tell their grandkids that ‘they were there’. Most of them are all wearing designer clothes (from big corps), taking photos and videos with their iPhones (big corps) camping out in very expensive tents (big corps) while smoking cigarettes (big corps). Why don’t they boycott all their luxuries from these big corporations if they’re so serious? Why don’t they boycott so that these businesses will eventually be run down into the ground, as they did to these small mom & pop businesses?

Hyp-o-crite [hip-uh-krit] - “A person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions or statements belie his or her public statements.” I can’t think of a better word to describe this movement. People are saying that they have just begun. Eventually, NYC will be closing its doors because they’re driving people, businesses and all self-respect out of the Big Apple. The sad part is, on a personal note, is that I agree with their said reasonings of why they’re protesting. I disagree with the way they are protesting. The behavior, the drug use, the violence are all reasons why many potential clientele are turning onto a different street in order to go to other businesses, leaving these other poor souls who are too close to the protest to starve. OWS, aren’t you supposed to be on our side rooting and protesting for the small business owners and the people who are struggling to make ends meet? No. You are all too self-absorbed to see what’s happening right in front of your face. You’re too busy trying to film cops spraying unruly protesters, the same cops that are trying to protect our city from terrorists. You can’t see it, perhaps from all the marijuana smoke that plumes out from your crowd. Maybe you can’t hear our business owners trying to plea with you to move it along so that they can get at least two customers into their stores, but the drums you are all banging on are much too loud to even hear your own people beg. You’re too focused on the one thing that has gotten you to Occupy Wall Street: greed.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Amplified Emotions & Wallets

What is it about the holidays that puts a fine line between joy & sadness? Some say it’s circumstantial: loss of employment, economy, death of a loved one, divorce or a breakup, etc., etc., etc. But if you think about it, you’ll never see a kid depressed around this time of year. You’ll never see them mope around the house dreading the Christmas decorations being put up or grumbling profanities while putting up the tree. (Yes, I know I’m not being politically correct.) I finally figured out why some of us adults are so grumpy, blue and miserable this time of year: we grew up. For one, our fantasies have been crushed to smithereens. Santa Claus isn’t real. He was dad with a bunch of pillows stuffed inside his shirt. All of our letters to him weren’t “received”, but were granted by mere humans: our parents. (Which we should be grateful for.) But it wasn’t some magical fat man in a red suit riding a sleigh with reindeers. I remember calling the 976 number to see where Santa Clause was at that very moment on Christmas Eve. “Ho ho ho! I’m currently delivering presents in Boston! I should be there shortly! Merry Christmas!” Mom would then tell me to get some sleep or else Santa won’t come down the chimney with my presents. So I went to bed, but my peepers were open, hoping to hear the rustle of Santa shimmying down the chimney, straight into our....wood burning stove. What if the stove doors were locked? How would Santa get out? Boy were we all gullible back then, and so happy and excited!

Then we grow up. We develop relationships, get married, yada yada yada. I remember hanging out with a family friend who had broken up with her boyfriend right before Christmas. She was asked by one of the girls we were with, “How could you break up with him right before the holidays?” She looked over at the girl and said, “Tell me, when is a good time?” I understood both parts, but when a breakup or divorce happens right before the holidays, it can definitely set off a ton of emotions, especially if there are children involved. Add on a termination at your place of work and you have a recipe for a possible suicide. The most suicides happen around the holidays, especially if these unfortunate circumstances happen right beforehand. Many people don’t accept change very well, even if it’s minor. People are separating for the holidays going to their in laws, and some simply prefer to spend the holiday home - whatever the reasonings are. Too many people focus way too much on the emphasis on gifts. Some people don’t have the money to even buy one gift. In my opinion, this takes away from the joy in some way, unless you totally enjoy shopping and giving to people. But if you’re the type that stresses over what so & so wants and ‘what if he/she hates this gift’ --- try gift certificates and always remember, cold cash warms the heart to many kids these days.

The perfect Christmas for me is spending time with my wife, family and friends with good food and lots of good wine to make some of the chaos bearable. Oh, and get this - we actually celebrate Christ being born. I feel bad for parents who have chosen to give into the entire technological world; giving their kids the most lavish things like iPads, iPhones, laptops, etc. The other day while speaking to my friend who has two beautiful girls, she said that her oldest, who is 10 years old wants a Macbook and her youngest who is 8 years old would like a tablet of some sort, and of course nice name brand clothes to garnish it up with. I can’t even imagine being a kid asking for a $2,000 gift! (And believe me, I asked for a lot!) For that reason alone, I’m scared to even think about having kids. And you can say “I wouldn’t do that” all day long, but just think about when they’re in school and every single kid in that class has a $500.00 phone or a $2,000 laptop. You’ll be trying to keep up with the Joneses too.

But I digress. Back to the emotional aspect of the holidays: when will adults start to enjoy it more? When will they stop wishing they were kids again, just to enjoy another Christmas once more? When will breakups and divorces not become a larger issue created by the holidays? When will we stop missing our deceased loved ones on Christmas and realize that every single day they are missed? Why does Christmas seem to break more hearts than it does to warm it? I guess the answer lies somewhere between the most important time of the year and the most important person in our life who has chosen to leave it, or perhaps has been taken away forever without a choice. There’s definitely a fine line between joy & sadness this time of year.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

When the Churches Justify Their Hatred in the Name of God

Exactly one month today, I had written a post entitled, “The Messy Christian”. In short, it basically summed up my dislike for the people in the church who were so quick to judge, yet failed to look at the speck in their own eye. We’re there to pray to God, not to play God. Like I said in that post, I had grew apart from the church for a very long time and developed a much stronger relationship with God, however I was finding that lately, I feel more of a pull to go back. Each time I prepared to go, something made me think, “I can’t go back there.” I can definitely sit and ‘try’ to focus on what the speaker is saying, but what if the speaker is tearing down those who are homosexual? The last time I went to church, they had a service dedicated to gays and lesbians. In my head, I thought this was going to be a positive thing. ...It wasn’t. They basically tore us down. As the female minister described a scenario of sorts, I began to question my own self-worth. She said, “Remember when you were a child and came home from school smelling mom cooking something in the kitchen? Someone was home to greet you and let you know that you were loved. Every evening was the same thing, you knew for sure something was going to smell really good when you walked inside, and that your mother or father would always greet you, warm you up and serve you dinner. Picture heaven... You’d expect to be greeted and loved the same way, but because you’re a homosexual, the moment you walk into ‘heaven’s house’, you immediately smell the delicious aromas of food only to find a huge pot of soup simmering on the stove. No one’s there. Everyone has left you behind. This is what happens when you choose to be gay or lesbian. You'll be left behind.” --I’ll never forget that story.

Here’s what really gets me now that I think about it: there were adolescents and young adults sitting in the church listening to her intently. It seemed inappropriate because all I conjure up in my mind was that this woman who was ministering other young Christians was spreading “hate”, although she was trying to “save” them. But think about where the intolerance of homosexuality comes from. Think about who is teaching the intolerance. The church. They still teach this kind of stuff to children and people wonder why kids are so mean to their classmates. Maybe bullying can also stem from other areas of their life - but to think that churches in our own neighborhood are teaching about intolerance of this “abomination” seems to be a bit hateful to me. You don’t know what that child is going to do once they walk out of church with the imbedded thought that all homosexuals are going to hell. So, if homosexuals are “hell bound”, then it’s a free for all to bully them, some would think. It makes perfect sense. If adults are condoning the intolerance of homosexuals, then it’s “okay” to be mean to them or “rebuke” them as they would the devil. Years ago, interracial couples were not allowed to marry, nor were black couples for that matter. I read this from an article online that says, “In June 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia pursuant to its laws. Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their marital abode in Caroline County. At the October Term, 1958, of the Circuit Court of Caroline County, a grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriages. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years. He stated in an opinion that: 'Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.'"

Right there you can see how people placed God into the equation of intolerance. When people use God in order to hate, it sends a really strong message - a message stating how ignorant people of religion can be. Their religion isn’t of love and mercy - it’s a self-fulfilling prejudice that’s tolerated all in the name of whatever God they pray to, because it’s certainly not the same God I know. Christians of different sectors believe in many various things and feel that ‘this is okay’ or ‘this is wrong’ - some agree, some don’t at all. If we blame our prejudices on God, then what does that say about ourselves? Where did Jesus ever state that homosexuality was a sin - homosexuality in terms of two loving couples wanting to lovingly spend their lives together? People mix up promiscuity scriptures that reference to sexual natures but never a relationship or marital form. Where in the bible does “God” state that marrying someone of another race is a sin? It amazes me that people assume this is God’s judgment simply by the different countries we live in? If one lives over in Egypt, then it is sinful to marry someone in the United States? And my last question to all of those unhappy judgmental Christians is: why are you so focused on everybody else’s relationship and marriages when the only focus should be loving God and treating people as you would yourself? FYI: it’s the biggest commandment in the Bible.

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Emotional Self-Preservation

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