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Sunday, November 25, 2012

People Who Need People

People Who Need People

Good Evening All -- while there's always something to be said for Thanksgiving, I've noticed that the Black Friday post from last year still gets tons of hits every week around the world.  Why mess with a good thing?  I just reposted it.

This time of year, when family is brought back into focus, we're reminded of how important it really is to have people in your life who are loyal, who care, and are genuinely interested in your well-being.  There's something about being around an extended table full of food, which may or may not include a "kiddie table," with people you cherish and respect that can make you feel like you're part of something a little bigger than yourself.  And whether we celebrate Chanukah or Christmas, that closeness is likely to be repeated in December as well.

The question is, whether certain people really need that closeness, and if so, if it's needed during the rest of the year.  There are many of us who are content to simply live their own lives by their own terms, without any  outside influence whatsoever.  They are self-made, self-driven, fiercely independent, and firmly believe that they don't need to be involved with anyone, family or otherwise, to have a fulfilling life.  Chances are, they're right.  There are a lot more people who are unmarried and childless these days than in prior years, and lots of people are simply content to be "on their own."  There are numerous reasons for this phenomenon that don't require review, suffice it to say that it's just personal preference.

However, no man or woman is an island.  As the recent hurricane has taught us, we all need somebody.  Somebody who can temporarily provide us with food, shelter, and electricity when a natural disaster takes them away from us.  Somebody who can console and comfort us if we've suffered a loss or a tragedy.  Somebody who can just be there and make us feel like everything is OK, and possibly make us laugh or crack a smile.

Those of you who know me know that I tend to be independent and individualistic.  I've always tried to be one of those people who achieved whatever I've gotten on my own, and not through the aid of others.  But the fact of the matter is, it's not possible to be a loner in every area of one's life.  Without family, be it by blood relatives, a spouse, friends, or a significant other, we simply can't survive.

As I've mentioned before, my parents have been very supportive and helpful to me this year, and I haven't forgotten it.  I was privileged to be able to spend a week with them this year, and to break bread with a few other families at the table.  They reminded me that, even if I am independent, and not a follow-the-crowd type, family must remain my home base and support system throughout my life.  And that goes for everyone else, too.

So, even after we've headed back to work, we'll be returning home for the holidays once more in a few weeks.  Let's be thankful for the family we all have, be they blood relatives, spouses, or just really close friends.  Even if we're all rugged individuals, and are complete by ourselves, we still need them far more than we might admit.

That's my piece for this evening -- have a good night and rest easy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Reposting for Thanksgiving.

Hey all -- visiting my folks down here in Florida.  Didn't get a chance to write a new blog post on Sunday, but that can wait until later this week.

In the meantime, since our friends in the retail industry have now decided to open stores on Thanksgiving night again, and since this post receives the most views out of anything else I've posted thus far, it was only fair to re-post what I wrote on Black Friday 2011.  Maybe this time people might take it to heart a little bit more!  Here it is, in its unedited glory:

Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  A completely American holiday!  An old friend of mine on Facebook recently described how this day should be considered the perfect holiday:  no annoying music, nobody getting drunk, no exclusion based on religion, and the option of watching three football games featuring some of the best teams in the NFL!

I've commented in the past how Thanksgiving appeared to be evolving into a two-day holiday, following the lead set by Jews in the western hemisphere, who celebrated several holidays that had originally been celebrated as one day, for two.  However, it appears that the retail industry has taken advantage of this trend, to the point of infringing on the holiday itself.  Accordingly, this expected two-day holiday is splitting into two completely separate halves, and they couldn't be more different than day and night.

"Black Friday" has become the unofficial first shopping day of the Christmas/Holiday season.  When this term because part of our culture, there was the understanding that this would be the opportunity for all the aggressive early-bird types to buy all the gifts they needed for Chanukah/Christmas/Kwanzaa as soon as Thanksgiving was over, to avoid the last-minute insanity of buying gifts on Christmas Eve itself (those who celebrate Chanukah, an 8-day holiday, could argue that the gifts could be given on the last night, and not the first night, but that only delays and extends the last-minute insanity).

Most retail outlets would acknowledge these early birds by opening their stores early.  Maybe at 7am, maybe at 6 am.  That is to say, at dawn, or maybe a few minutes beforehand, on the morning of the day AFTER Thanksgiving.

So what do we now have this year?  Stores opening at 3 a.m.  Not good enough?  2 a.m.  Still not content to camp outside in tents until then?  Midnight at Target (tar-ZHAY)!  But now, thanks to Walmart, Best Buy, and Geek Squad, we have the final insult -- 10 pm on Thanksgiving ITSELF!

Employees had to put the kaibosh on their own Thanksgiving dinner, and all the happiness that goes with it, for the sake of material things!  Early-bird types were now prepping to go to retail malls and outlets late at night, or in the "wee small hours of the morning," to grab the best deals they could off the shelves, with the knowledge that if they were not fast enough, someone else could yank it away from them.

Excuse me . . . is this not the same insanity that the idea of Black Friday was intended to prevent?  Shopping for presents at insane hours??  Whatever happened to the image of being thankful for what we've already been given -- have we rejected that so quickly to grab and snatch what we don't already have???

Even if Thanksgiving one day becomes a two-day holiday, let's please make it two days of Thanksgiving, and NOT Black Thursday And Friday.  Yes, it certainly is a tradition to give gifts to loved ones during the December celebrations that follow Thanksgiving, but it's not a life-or-death obligation!  Gift-giving is meant to make the holidays happier and more enjoyable, and not to usurp, overtake, or obliterate the true meaning of the holiday!

So my recommendation is this:  The day after Thanksgiving, if you don't have to work, use it as you would any other vacation day.  Sleep late!  If you want to make sure you're not forgetting to buy gifts for the loved ones in your life, wait until the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving.  If you can't wait that long, do it the SUNDAY after Thanksgiving!  The recipients of your gifts will (hopefully) be a thousand times more concerned with the thought that went into your choice of gift than the manner in which it was obtained (or how much it cost you).

As I said above, the tradition of gift-giving at this time of the year is meant to make the holidays happier and more enjoyable.  What you choose to give is not a measure of who you are as a person, and neither is the price of the gift you purchased.  However, there are still those who think of gift-giving as a mandatory requirement and a dollar-for-dollar obligation, and continue to use it as an excuse for demeaning tit-for-tat attitudes towards others.  As a result, the joy of gift-giving is sometimes ruined because it becomes something that is motivated less by caring and happiness, and more by a desire to appease someone else.  All I'll say on that subject is that those of us who choose to express our friendship, affection, and love for others through gifts are welcome to do so because they choose to give that way, not because some unseen force tells us we MUST purchase it at 2am to get the best dealnot because "everyone's doing it,"  not to make ourselves look good, and not so we can demand something from the recipient later!  It's a gift, not an obligation -- that means that the recipient is not required to reciprocate anything.  If they choose to do so, that's great -- but it's their decision to do so, and not yours!

In conclusion, let's remember that the message of Thanksgiving should temper the gift-giving season with a little wisdom.  We cannot be defined by gifts.  Gifts are important, but the people in your life matter a thousand times more than gifts do.  The fact that we have these people in our lives, and that they hopefully love us as much as we love them, is the greatest gift that there is, and it cannot be priced or put on sale like material objects.  If you really wanted to rush out there and snag all the gifts you could, I'm glad I didn't stop you.  However, life would be a little more balanced if we rushed out to be kind and respectful to others just as quickly and just as intently as we did when a corporate giant told us to buy something when we should have been sleeping.

DISCLAIMER:  The above post was not meant to impede or decry our capitalist system, to state that gifts should never be purchased, or to imply that anyone who looks forward to receiving gifts in December is wrong.  Any misperception of insults or besmirchings is entirely the responsibility of the reader of this message, and the author bears no responsibility for same.

For those who read and like this blog, I am thankful for you.  Just as I am already thankful for my health, my earnings, my family, and my friends, I am thankful for you.  Please keep reading, and don't be afraid to comment!

And now, in 2012, I call upon my loyal readership to do the following:
(1)  On Thanksgiving night, either (a) STAY HOME; or (b) GO TO A THANKSGIVING DINNER AT SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE.  You are not slaves to the urging of advertising.  Tell your friends and family that you are thankful for them, for everything that you have, and that you live in a country where freedom is still alive and well.
(3)  Pick a time for gift-purchasing, or giving, that suits you best.

Feel free to like, comment, share, re-post, re-tweet, anything else you'd like to do to get this message out, and remind everyone else that this holiday matters.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Election is Over, and the Nation Has Spoken.

The Nation Has Spoken

This one may be a few days after the fact, but it bears mention nonetheless . . . .

The 2012 election was one of the most contentious, high-conflict, and polarizing elections in American history, as I stated in my October 28, 2012 blog post.  But Tuesday night, just before 11pm, our electorate finally made its decision.  In a quick and decisive come-from-behind victory, President Barack Obama secured most of the electoral-vote-heavy swing states that he needed within an hour.  Finally, with the most populous counties of Northern Ohio reporting in, the President secured the 270 electoral votes he needed for re-election.  He graciously thanked his supporters for carrying him through, while his opponent, Governor Romney, gave an equally gracious concession speech.

So where do we go from here?  Allow me to explain:

(1)  FOR THOSE WHO VOTED FOR MITT ROMNEY:  You rallied behind your candidate, and he set forth an ambitious and determined campaign.  His platform emphasized the weaknesses of the current administration, and he made an excellent case for himself to bring "Morning in America" once more.  However, democracy is based on majority rule, and the majority has chosen not to elect him.  You can still acknowledge the good he has done for this country, both of his home states, his company, his church, and his family.  And you can also follow some advice my father learned in the Army:  "Even if you don't respect the man, you must respect the Office he holds."  And that man is still Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the chair of the Executive Branch of the Government, the Leader of the Free World, and the representative of our country abroad.  

The election was the opportunity for those who sought new leadership and a new direction to exercise their constitutional rights to do so.  However, those who sought to keep this President were in the majority, and he earned re-election fair and square, with or without Florida's votes.  For the next four years, barring any fortuitous circumstances, he will continue as President.  Until that time, when both parties will select people best qualified to lead this nation for the next four years after that, it is best to respect the Office this man holds, and to acknowledge that he has a job to do.

(2)  FOR THOSE WHO VOTED FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA:  As I stated in the October 28th post, keep the celebrations and gloating to the bare minimum.  You've done enough dancing in the streets for now, and you'll get another chance to do a little more this January 21st.  Otherwise, this President has much to do in his second term.  He has an economy that has not yet shown the recovery this country needs, and strained relationships with at least one of our allies.  He has one war in progress that started right after 9/11, with little reason for it to continue.  And quite frankly, he governs a nation with nearly half its population not confident in his leadership abilities.  He could easily disregard what those people think, because he never has to worry about being re-elected again, but that's a mistake.  He is still accountable to all citizens, even the ones that wanted to vote him out of office.  He must now unite this country, and explain why it is important to put our political and philosophical differences aside for the sake of cooperation.

Above all else, now is also the time for this country to put aside the antagonism and divisiveness that characterized this election, and rally behind this President, regardless of who voted for him and who did not. More conflict and disagreement will only keep us deadlocked and paralyzed.  Let's hope that our elected officials can put aside party loyalty for the common good.

That's my piece, all.  Have a good night, and a Happy Veterans Day to those who have answered the call of duty and served to protect and defend this country.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Things I Cannot Change

Good Evening All.

As many of you heard this afternoon, the New York City Marathon was canceled.  I've got quite a few thoughts going through my head.

First of all, this past week New York City and New Jersey got walloped by a hurricane, and nearly everyone I know was or still is without power as a result.  Some had their homes flooded, and at least one friend of mine lost absolutely everything.  I could have bet money on the marathon being canceled, I was preparing to just accept it, and move on.

Instead, Mayor Bloomberg shocked everyone by announcing that the marathon was still going to happen.  I tried to re-focus, knowing that now my 20 weeks of training would result in hopefully a triumph, and possibly a PR (I still haven't beat 4 hours in NYC, darn it).  So off I went to the expo, got my bib, and I was good to go!

And then this morning, the New York Post published an article about how the marathon was using three electric generators -- enough to power 400 homes in Staten Island, those left standing anyway, that no longer had power.  Also, there were stories of hurricane victims rendered homeless who were being displaced from the hotels that initially offered them shelter because they had to make room for all the marathoners who made reservations.

So in response to all the controversy, the marathon has been canceled.  It felt nice to get my hopes up, but not to have the rug pulled out from under me and all the thousands of other runners.  In my humble opinion, the Mayor should have just canceled it two days ago and been done with it.  Or better yet, maybe just postpone it a week or two, so everyone could have walked away with something decided in their favor.

That being said, this is one of those things that is beyond my control.  I did train for this marathon, and I'd do it again with no problem, but it's just not to be this year.  Overall, I don't have that much of a reason to be upset.

Unlike the people I mentioned above, I was extremely fortunate to have not lost power, or my home.  Given the disaster that just happened, New Yorkers need to recover completely before they can celebrate something fun and encouraging.  There are far too many people who need shelter and recovery before we can cheer again.

This hurricane, in and of itself, taught me more lessons about things we cannot change.  I was fully expecting that whole mess to blow out to sea and pass us by because I didn't want to live in fear of anything.  Since I didn't, I simply had to adapt.  I couldn't get into work because they shut down the trains, so I did what little I could do with my phone and my computer.  I couldn't deal with the insane traffic going into work on Wednesday on the Q60 bus, so I just got out and walked my now-favorite bridge into Manhattan.

So now, all the training and no marathon?  And several days lost from work?  Well, I'll just have to:

(1) Do another nice LOOOOONG run -- not saying it'll be 26.2, but I'll go pretty darn long anyway.
(2) Find out who out there in Nassau and Suffolk needs a little extra help, now that the LIRR is running.
(3) Donate to relief funds, and to those I know who need the most help.
(4) Go to the office and try to make up whatever I didn't get to this week.

So be it.  No point in being upset over this, really.  I've run marathons before, and I'll continue to do so.  I'm pretty sure the next one I run will remain on the calendar, so I'll just set a new date.

Once again, big thanks to everyone who faithfully encouraged my training through MapMyRun, I've appreciated it all.