pen & pencil

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It started innocently enough. I wanted an answer to a question I had.

As a parent, I am newer to the game that a lot of people out there. And I am a step-parent. My instincts are good, but I simply haven’t been at it as long as other parents.

I had noticed even last year with our child that I didn’t feel the teachers had kids using a pen enough. Of course, the only basis for comparison I have are what I see my friends’ and family’s children doing, or my own personal experience. And my personal experience is different because I spent most of my life going to private school. I was using pens in fourth grade to learn calligraphy – of course I am dating myself here because that was back when there was actual penmanship still!

I asked my child what the deal with pens versus pencils was and he said “all the kids his pencil.”

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I asked a mom I know who had a child in my child’s class and she shared with me that even her child who was older and farther along in high school still basically used pencil for everything.

political turn-offs

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All yes the season has arrived. Not fall, but the season where we open our mailboxes to far too many political mailers. There is no subtlety involved as it is an almost daily barrage from both parties. My position is, save a tree don’t flood my mailbox. I also am of the mindset that I prefer not to get my email inundated either.

Today we received a giant expensive multi–page glossy mailer mailer from the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. For Manan Trivedi.

Now I have met Dr. Trivedi, and I found him to be a very nice person, but he’s not the person to represent me. I did not feel when I lived in Montgomery County that a man who was from Berks County could really represent my interests in Congress. I still feel that way as a Chester County resident.

I also want to rid myself early of all the glossy mailers that are going to clog up my mailbox and recycle bin. So since it is September and this is my first one I called up the campaign number listed on the glossy mailer. The lady who answered the phone at 484-329-7907 could not have been more pleasant. But some guy who must’ve been her supervisor decided he wanted to speak to me. I’m not going to publicly shame this person because everybody deserves a chance and I respect people that want to work on campaigns and I know it’s tough. But I will say that somebody else should take calls from now on, this gentleman should not be on the phone.

I tried to explain to this guy why Dr. Trivedi was not a candidate for me. I also tried to explain to this guy why I don’t want to receive these mailers. I did say to him however if he really wants his candidate to have a good showing in Chester County, a public position on things like the Sunoco pipeline and eminent domain would be of interest to Chester County voters.

He then tells me how they went to a couple community meetings and they were “looking into it.” Since March, no less. I said what is there to keep looking into? I asked if his candidate was in favor of eminent domain? Does his candidate understand our fears about these pipelines and what they could do that legitimately terrifies residents out here? I asked if his candidate understood how a lot of us were on wells and how scary an idea that is when somebody’s talking about fracking and putting pipelines through communities along with potential dangers to all natural water sources and wildlife?

If you want a topic that has grabbed hold of Chester County residents regardless of political party this is it, right? He decides he then wants to tell me all about Ryan Costello and Ryan Costello’s flaws.

I didn’t call them to debate the other candidate. I also don’t like to be talked down to by a campaign office. And I completely abhor people who use poor grammar on the telephone and tell me that they are a Montgomery county resident and he understands how I feel. I live in Chester County, you couldn’t possibly understand how I feel as a Chester County resident, so unfortunately that attempt at political empathy fell far short.

I did tell him that I feel sorry for political candidates because of the gerrymandering which has occurred in the 6th Congressional District of Pennsylvania over the past years. But when push comes to shove, I want someone more local to me to represent me in Congress if I can get it. And while I might find someone to be a very pleasant person, it doesn’t that I find them to be the best candidate for the job to serve my needs as a Chester County resident.

I will be blunt, I also find Obamacare a hot mess. I feel the last few years of national politics have been embarrassing at times for any American no matter what political persuasion you are. When it comes to Federal level politics, you very rarely get the opportunity to vote for the “local” guy. And my local guy is Ryan Costello. And I will vote for him gladly. But because I think Dr. Manan Trivedi is a nice person, I think his campaign offices need an education.

I see no problem with people being excited and very supportive of their particular candidate for whom they are working. But they need to adopt more of a “the customer is right” attitude. They need to learn the subtle art of turning people to their position without getting irritated on the phone. After all, there are quite a few weeks between now and election day. And I won’t be the only phone call their offices receive.

I have decided that one of the things that is going to make me decide on candidates this fall is what kind of a position do they take about pipelines and gas companies like Sunoco in Pennsylvania? How do these candidates feel about eminent domain? In mid-September, a candidate’s political office should not still be saying that the candidate is looking into something. They should have a position and be able to clearly state it for the candidate. The Wolf gubernatorial campaign, for example, is very clear on where they stand about pipelines. And I can tell you quite honestly, I can’t good conscience vote for Tom Corbett a second time. Especially given all the donations he gets from oil companies, right?

I might be a Republican, but I do believe in a two-party system. I am also an inveterate ticket splitter. But a two-party system in Chester County is also about 17 shades of ridiculous once again thanks to the infighting of the Democratic Party of Chester County. Truthfully, to that end, I actually feel sorry for the Trivedi campaign because as a Democrat candidate he and other Democrat candidates may very well be tainted by the same brush that is the in-fighting in Democratic politics right now in Chester County.

Thanks for stopping by today. Save a tree by asking candidates for political office not to send piles of glossy mailers out. And if you are a Chester County resident, please ask your candidates offices where they stand on pipelines and eminent domain.

9/11: 13 years. what have we learned?

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Today is the 13th anniversary of 9/11. Below is a column I wrote for a newspaper on the 5th anniversary of 9/11. I am posting it again today. Today I also ask the question once again of what have we learned?

This morning I was going through various things and happened upon a mom board I am part of for lack of a better description. One of the threads I saw which I found appalling on today of all days is how a bunch of moms and one man long past his child rearing years hopped all over this one woman who was describing a door to door salesperson that she had problems with. The poor woman was lambasted and called a racist for giving a complete description of the salesperson. All she was doing was describing the person and what happened. But the political correctness police jumped all over her.

I often wonder why the political correctness police seem to operate in a mob mentality and the horrible irony of them doing this today of all days. You know, the anniversary of when terrorists targeted us with a sort of mob mentality just because we were Americans?

Now Americans and others face a new,or should I say additional terror in the form of those ISIS people. Two American journalists have been executed by these people. So when will that end? Not in our lifetimes I think.

We seem to live in a world filled with so many horrors beyond our control. We need to just keep living because what is the alternative? I guess that is what I have learned in the last 13 years.

We need to keep living and we should also never forget what happened September 11, 2001 and honor those who have lost their lives by trying to be better people.

Here is my column from 2006:

Sept. 11, 2006, is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and United Airlines Flight 93’s crash in the field in Shanksville, Somerset County. This date has special significance to every American, and intense personal significance to far too many individuals who lost friends and loved ones.

But September 11, wasn’t the first time terrorists visited the World Trade Center. In truth, Feb. 26, 1993. was the date of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. I worked in New York at that time at an office located downtown in the financial district.

On that day, I had accompanied an office friend to the World Trade Center to grab an early lunch and to check out some stores in the shopping concourse. We were back outside the Trade Center buildings, getting ready to cross the street, when suddenly the ground shook and moved. I remember that we were looking directly across the street at Century 21, a department store in Lower Manhattan. Then something happened that rarely happens in New York: Everything went eerily still and quiet. We looked up at what we first thought were snowflakes beginning to float and fall from the sky. After all, it was February. Then car alarms began to go off one by one like the cacophony of many distorted bells. The snowflakes, we soon discovered, were in reality ashes.

People began yelling and screaming. It became very confusing and chaotic all at once, like someone flipped a switch to “on.” At first, we both felt rooted to the sidewalk, unable to move. I remember feeling a sense of panic at the unknown. We had absolutely no idea what had happened, and hurried back to our office. Reaching it, we were greeted by worried coworkers who told us that someone had set off a bomb underground in the World Trade Center garage.

I will never forget the crazy kaleidoscope of images, throughout that afternoon, of all the people who were related to or knew people in my office who sought refuge in our office after walking down the innumerable flights of steps in the dark to exit the World Trade Center Towers. They arrived with soot all over their faces, hands and clothes. They all wore zombie looks of shock, disbelief and panic.

Of course, the oddest thing about the first terrorist attack on New York City is that I don’t remember much lasting fuss about it. I do remember that President Bill Clinton was newly sworn into office, but I don’t remember him coming to visit New York after the attack. Everything was back to normal in Lower Manhattan in about a month, maybe two. After a while, unless you had worked in New York, or lived in New York, you simply forgot about this “incident.”

So, on the morning of 9/11, as I pulled into my office building’s garage and listened to the breaking news on the radio announcing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, tears began to run down my face unbidden. I knew in my heart of hearts what happened. I said to myself, “Oh no. They came back.”

I remember picking up my cell phone to call my father, whom I knew to be, at that time, on an Amtrak train bound for New York City. I remember him telling me it was fine and he’d be fine. I wanted him to get off in New Jersey and take a train back to Philadelphia. But the train was already pretty much past all the stations and getting ready to go into the tunnel to New York. That very thought terrified me. To this day, I still do not understand why Amtrak did not stop those last trains from going into New York City as the news of the World Trade Center attacks first broke.

I next remember getting in the elevator and getting off on my office floor to find people clustered around television sets and radios. And the news kept getting worse: first one plane, then a second, then a third, and then a fourth.

The images and news just didn’t stop. Camera cuts from lower Manhattan to Washington to Somerset County. They are images that have to be ingrained in everyone’s mind forever like indelible ink.

It took a couple of days for my father and brother-in-law (who had already been in New York on business) to get out of the city, but eventually they got home safely with many stories to tell of what New York was like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. A lot of people weren’t so lucky. They never saw their loved ones again after that fateful morning. Many people in the Philadelphia and greater Main Line area lost friends, coworkers and loved ones.

On September 11, I knew people who were lost, but fortunately I didn’t lose any loved ones. I remember for a brief time it seemed we were all a little nicer to each other, and politicians actually seemed to come together as one and grieve as a nation grieved.

But here we are five short years later. I have only seen the site one time where the World Trade Center once stood proudly. That was about a year after the attacks. I remember a distinct pit in my stomach and looked away from the car window. This past June I was in Washington, and had the same intense, awful feeling in my stomach as we drove on the highway past the Pentagon.

Life must go on and time can’t stand still, but all in all I can’t help but wonder: What have we learned since about our country and about ourselves? Five years after 9/11 what have we learned and what have we forgotten? What do we need to remember?

scam alert!

This was forwarded to me by a friend who took it to her local police department. They informed her that this is a SCAM!    Thieves are using this reloadable ATM card to scam folks out of their savings. Cut in half and throw away! Warn your friends! Again, GreenDot is a SCAM. Shred or cut this up if you receive in the mail.

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vintage quilts and dear friends

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This morning as I was out in the garden planting ferns that someone generously gave me when they were thinning theirs out, my friend Sara stopped by. She had with her a beautiful vintage quilt that she had made herself in the early 1960s.

Her kids didn’t need it, and neither did her granddaughters, so it came to me. Now my friend is one of the most practical people I have ever met in my entire life, and she would shake her head and tell me that she was merely giving it to someone who would use it. To me it is much more than that.

It is no secret I love vintage textiles, especially things like quilts and other kinds of linens. I am not a quilter, but I do know how to repair and reuse vintage quilts that need a little love. This one is in almost perfect condition so all it will need is a bed.

Beyond that I am touched that she would give me something she made like this. Sara is a friend I made as an adult. I find her to be a very remarkable person. She means a very great deal to me.

Thank you for the quilt, Sara.

kaleidoscope

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Memories are sometimes but little fragments, like looking through a kaleidoscope.

Sometimes a song triggers a memory. You hear a song and you stop and remember where you heard it first. Yesterday I heard Vacation by the Go-Go’s. That song always reminds me of the Jersey shore, my friend Karen and her friend Ellie. I heard that song and in my mind’s eye saw us as our late teenage selves when we didn’t worry about tanning and were spending summer in flip flops with sand on our feet. I swear I could almost smell the Bain de Soleil Orange Gelèe.

Other memories and like shards of glass. Fragments that pop into your head in that stage between sleeping and waking, which fall away when you wake up. I had that happen the other day when I first started thinking about writing this post. But I didn’t write it down, and the memory was fleeting.

This morning is September 1st. I woke up with memory of the many years my friend Pam would leave all of her friends “rabbit, rabbit” messages the day the old month ended to remind us to say rabbit, rabbit the first day of every new month. Saying rabbit, rabbit as your first words of the new month is supposed to bring you luck all month long. I still say it.

Today is also Labor Day. As a kid, in spite of the true origination of the holiday , you knew it was the last “official” day of summer vacation. An in between day when you are packing up and coming home from summer vacation. Maybe at a neighborhood barbecue. You wake up and even the air is different. Change is coming, a fresh start in a new school year. And the dreaded thought of homework.

Labor Day marks our transition of summer towards fall. It will feel like summer a few weeks yet, but soon it will be time for hay rides and corn mazes.

Enjoy the day.

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traditional folk music and old friends

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Last evening thanks to Tredyffrin Library in Tredyffrin Township I had a real treat: being able to listen to traditional folk music and to see an old friend.

When I was a little girl I had a friend named Aubrey Atwater.  After grade school we went our separate ways but as adults reconnected via e-mail and Facebook. She and her husband Elwood Donnelly live in Rhode Island and are folk singers who specialize in traditional American and Celtic folk music and dance.  They are known as Atwater-Donnelly. Thanks to them and artists like them, a very beautiful form of music (like the music performed by the Carter family and Jean Ritchie , for example) and story telling are preserved.

My childhood friend and her lovely husband actually have quite the following and in recent years have been at more local locations to us, like the Philadelphia Folk Festival.  Although based in Rhode Island they have traveled extensively with their music for over 25 years not only in the U.S. but Ireland, England, and Canada. They have produced seven books, thirteen recordings, and have also been featured in a documentary.

Aubrey and Elwood have beautiful voices and they play such an amazing range of instruments.  Among the instruments they play which I love are the banjo, mandolin, and dulcimer.  They play as a duo and with their band. I am in awe of their talent.

If you want to check them out, visit their website. Many thanks to the Tredyffrin Township Library on Upper Gulph Road for scheduling such a fun event!

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