the last post of 2012

As I sit here this morning dear readers, I am feeling a bit contemplative.  It has been DSC_0038a busy year, full of change.

I began 2012 with this as a new blog as I transitioned full-time out here to Chester County as yet another refugee from the Main Line, which was no small feat after thirty plus years in one area.  But they say change is good, and it has been for me.

I have found as an adult where I belong.  I love being in Chester County and discovering new haunts, barns to pick treasures from, meeting new people, photographing and writing to my heart’s content. I also just love the abundance of beautiful open space and scenery, although I worry about that given the zeal and rate at which some developers are tearing up the landscape to build plastic Tyvec boxes for all the equally plastic Barbies and Kens and their giant SUVs.

I have through this blog and my natural curiosity about life accidentally stumbled upon hot button topics in Chester County, but such is the nature of life. From troubled now former zoning hearing officers in Tredyffrin to watching my friend and fellow blogger Pattye Benson be picked on via Tredyffrin’s Muicipal Website by an elected official who deserves to be shunned and put out of office, to the whirling nastiness and negativity and shoddy politics that is West Vincent, to my recent discovery of a manure pile known as horse rescue, it has indeed been a trip.

2012 was the year I really went for it with my writing and my photography.  I was part of a photography show and had a slew of photo by lines to be proud of.  I honed my writing skills and had a blast writing online content for Philly.com when they had need of my services. And I ended 2012 with my first magazine byline for writing with Main Line Parent Magazine. And I had a recipe published in a nationally released cookbook – The Epicurious Cookbook. I also rode in a giant flag shaped hot-air balloon on 9/11.

2012 is the year I took a chance on myself for once.  Change is hard, and always uncertain.  But after entertaining breast cancer for a large chunk of 2011, why not?

And that is one of life’s greatest ironies: having breast cancer made me face my fears and dreams all in one fell swoop.  In a weird messed up karmariffic kind of way, having and surviving breast cancer freed and released me to try new things and just live my life better.  It is perverse but true.

For me, breast cancer was a beginning not an ending.  Some I know were not so lucky with breast and other cancers  My neighbor Myrna was the last cancer death of 2012, a childhood friend name Joanna was the first. Also sadly in 2012, I watched one of my oldest and dearest childhood friends bury her beloved younger brother before Thanksgiving. He had an unexpected heart attack and died in his sleep.  But as I also know three amazing women who have done awful battles with thyroid cancer this year (and survivied), and one who defied the odds to bear a child while suffering from MS, I know that even in the darkest hours of our existence we do indeed have to have faith.

DSC_00542012 was also a year of some heartache as I said good-bye to one of my beloved dogs. He was a special little guy my little Peanut, and was even eulogized by a writer I know who also loved him. As 2012 draws to a close I find myself in the position of being a cancer survivor with a dog on chemo.

As this has been a year of change, it has also been a year of letting go of people.  As you get older, you discover that certain people are only meant to be in your life for a finite amount of time.  Some you let go of, some let go of you.

I learned in 2012 that sometimes people can’t handle the change you are going through.  On one hand you know they are happy your life is moving forward, but then they become a little different towards you as their role in your life changes.  Some people you just simply stop hearing from because you no longer live in close proximity to them,  or your paths no longer cross as often in other ways.  It is a bit of a bummer, but it’s life.

I also learned in 2012 when it comes to people a lot are just completely clueless and often unintentionally ignorant.  Some are limited by their own self limitations and inability to accept that not all 40 something women are Stepford PTA Wives who have no thoughts of their own and bake brownies with one hand and meet their man at the door with a martini in the other hand.   I met a few of those women in 2012, and I hate to say it, but no thank you, I would rather be me.  Besides I don’t like martinis.

I also learned that sometimes it would be nice if human beings would have a sense of personal accountability.  I am not saying that because I am perfect, because I am far from that.  I am flawed just like every other human being on the planet.

This year I have been blessed to not only have amazing friends, but to have met so many neat people who are new to my life.

I guess what I am saying is that I finally believe how much of a journey life is, as well as a constant evolution. And part of the impetus of this last post of the year is because someone I know is upset because someone else they know has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  But I wish they would realize once they get past the shock of the news that it doesn’t mean it is a death sentence.

Facing breast cancer was very hard, do not misunderstand me.  But it is like you are faced with a fork in the road and you have to make a choice.  I chose life.  I chose to live my life more fully and learn to be more positive.  It is hard to open yourself up to change.

As I sit here on this snowy morning listening to the winter wind swirl and blow around outside I am reminded of the truism to count life’s blessings.  But for the Grace of God go all of us.  Look at all people lost in Superstorm Sandy, and look at what all those people in Newtown, CT have lost and had to face after that madman shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School.

And yes, our lawmakers are playing with a fiscal cliff of their own creation and ruination, but that doesn’t mean life stops, does it?

In conclusion, as 2012 lives its final hours and final couple of days I wish all of my readers a very happy and healthy and safe New Year’s.

Life is what you make of it. Live it.

 

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es schneit! es schneit!

snow 2(It’s snowing! It’s snowing!)

Well thank goodness!  When I saw the sleet earlier I was worried that NBC10’s Glenn Hurricane Schwartz might be moved to tears of it DIDN’T snow….he was in rare form on the 11 p.m. NBC10 news last night, practically skipping around the news set with glee at the prospect of snow.

I am thinking it might be a snowy winter this winter…but usually I would have seen lots of wooly worms in the late summer and into the fall and I didn’t.

It is beautiful out, time to take snow photos.  Drive carefully as I have noticed that PennDOT did not do such a fabulous job pre-treating.

 

 

groundhog day came early…

And here I thought horsegate would calm down.  Apparently not.  It is kinda like o 2groundhog day…except with horses.

It appears that the mysterious Craigslist ads of a few weeks ago have disappeared. But a techno geek non horse loving source sent me a link to check out:  http://offthetrackrescue.tumblr.com/

Ahhh yes, who knew?  They have yet another website.  So I took a quick gander and o 3 have more (or more of the same) questions for the owner Jessica Troxell Basciano regarding Off The Track Thoroughbred Rescue of which she is owner/head/president/grand poobah…and Barbara Luna too (she is the one who supplies the horses to OTTR from the non-profit she works for called Turning for Home. )

I truly so want to have a comfort level with this because in theory it is a wonderful idea, yet every time I might reach a comfort level something else pops up, doesn’t it?

So there is this tumblr page right?  I have a couple of questions.

o 1First there is the “donate” word/tab again.  Is Off The Track Thoroughbred Rescue a 501(c)(3) or a 501(c)(4) within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?  I can’t find anything can any of you? So is there an official non-profit status? Does this rescue even have a charter or any kind of incorporation documents? As per the helpful multi-state filing website I found, does this Off The Track Thoroughbred Rescue do any of what Pennsylvania requires? OR if they are in fact NOT a true non-profit and they are soliciting donations are they doing that disclosure? If it is NOT a non-profit, is it a LLC, sole proprietorship or what?  Horses are big critters and they have a lot of expenses, so one would think someone owning a business that does this kind of thing would want some sort of protection for themselves, right?  It’s a big financial risk at a minimum, right?

I found this regarding donations to organizations that are NOT non-profit:

The “donations” will be considered income and you will not be able to offer a tax deduction to those donors. The other issue is whether certain states where you solicit donations will require a registration before doing so. This is a state by state analysis……There are no specific prohibitions or regulations about accepting monetary contributions, but you should be careful to advise any potential “donors” that you are not a registered non-profit and therefore their contribution is not tax deductible. You of course could not make any misrepresentations. It would simply be business income.

Also, be careful with your accounting. Donations aren’t necessarily immediately final, as in a sale. If you received a large amount of donations you might want to hold a certain amount in reserve in case of an issue, in which case you might have to refund it.

whose barn is this 2

Then there is the post where she (I presume it is this Jessica posting herself on tumblr?) says they have farms in Glenmoore and Phoenixville? Where in Phoenixville? I thought the other location was in Oxford, PA?  So are there

whose barn is thisthree locations now? Or is this like many other rescues where critters are fostered in multiple locations due to overflow?

where are you located

And this site is still used given the Christmas Eve posting. And again, I am trying to be fair, but it is VERY hard.

o 4Rescue is a tough business, but I know the ones that I know which have non-profit statuses have pretty strict guidelines.  And they get inspected a lot too.  Is it LAPS that inspects horse rescues in these parts for the state, or does the state conduct their own inspections?  Is this a non-profit or a for profit business and if it is for profit does that work with the whole concept of rescue?  Does anyone know of other animal rescues that are actually for profit or have no non profit statuses?  Or does Off The Track Thoroughbred Rescue since I can’t find a non-profit status fall somehow under the umbrella of Turning For Home?

So here is some of what I found on GuideStar about Turning for Home:

turning

turning2

I can only find the Form 990 for Turning for Home through 2010 on Guidestar. Other than 2009 and 2008.

They have big expense numbers.  I guess that is because horses are just so darn expensive:

turning3

Now what you see above is all the info you can easily find if something is a non-profit.  GuideStar picks most of this stuff up.

The only thing I can still find on Off The Track Throughbred Rescue is the fictitious name filing with PA in March 2012 it looks like:

filing

Again, rescue is not an easy business.  But I am not the only one asking questions.  Check this out too:

interesting

I found a website that indicates they are also seeking sponsorships:

interesting2

(Related solely because it mentions OTTR and TFH, it was just a little over a year ago that horses were rescued in Adams County. )

And on a super positive note, I found this really cool blog about thoroughbred rescue – I think it is out of Massachusetts called Off-Track Thoroughbreds

So to finish up, most of my questions remain over how a rescue can operate if it is NOT a non-profit? (Note I have not found anything illegal about that so I am not implying that at all.)

If it is NOT a non-profit and is in fact FOR profit is there an actual corporation in addition to the fictitious name?  If people are donating to something that is NOT a non-profit how does that work? If it is a corporation is there a board of directors?  If they are applying to become a non-profit is there a proposed board of directors or trustees or whatever?

I am still thinking at the end of the day that Jessica’s heart is in the right place for rescue, but if she is overwhelmed she should let the horse community know. That way they can help, not criticize or whisper, right?

I am not one of the horse rescue haters.  I merely have questions.  Once all the questions are answered there will be no more posts asking questions.  I do think some of the answers need to come from Barbara Luna who distributes the horses to horse rescues don’t you?

A final note is a gentle reminder for the more shall we say spirited commenters. I am allowed to exercise my First Amendment Rights, am allowed to ask questions. I don’t suffer fools lightly and don’t cotton to threats or harassment. And oh yes, a lot of media and other assorted types read this blog.

fiscal cliff headache

“Fiscal cliff” is the term we are hearing enough to make our heads collectively explode used to describe the politically fiscal conundrum that the U.S. Government will face at the end of 2012, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect.  And basically no one in Washington should have been allowed to go home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas without a VIABLE solution in place.

Among the laws set to change at midnight on December 31, 2012:

  • are the end of last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts (resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers),
  • end of certain tax breaks for businesses
  • shifts in the alternative minimum tax
  • rollback of the “Bush tax cuts” from 2001-2003
  • beginning of taxes related to President Obama’s health care law
  • the spending cuts agreed upon as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will begin to go into effect.
  • As per Barron’s, over 1,000 government programs – including the defense budget and Medicare are in line for “deep, automatic cuts.”

So, can we call it a depression now?

How much did the Obama family’s vacation to Hawaii cost US Taxpayers this year? Will that be a fiscal cliff cut? (It should be.)

Will there be a settlement of sorts before year-end?  Hope so, but a definite truism on this is neither political party wishes to be responsible for this mess. Another truism is this country is all sorts of porked up, so I think if they wanted to they could protect more necessary programs and slice and dice politically motivated ones. But I am but a mere mortal and female what do I know?

I have been living this economy since 2008 and yes I have survived without going ass deep into debt.  But I learned to live within my means, and that is definitely something more need to learn how to do. And I pay my own health benefits.

One of the things that used to fascinate me about growing up on the old Main Line and living on the new Main Line was the preposterousness of people. They would drive around in cars they couldn’t afford and live in homes that were grand and Barbie’s dream house- like and surprisingly devoid of furnishings at times. It was about the image.

To an extent it is the American Achilles heel of worrying more about the image than financial reality and fiscal responsibility that has gotten us into a pickle we should have learned our lesson from – what happened during the Great Depression.

For years the current administration refused to call a recession a recession, now they dance around the term depression (much like they danced around the term recession.)Obama in pretty worded speeches makes references to financial struggles not seen since the Great Depression. (You might wish to check out this article in Forbes from September.)

If you don’t got it, don’t spend it.  Now all of us who have adhered to that rule are paying the piper of others as far as I am concerned.   And for all those super rich, super liberals who voted again for Obama because of their guilty bank accounts, are you happy now? How’s that hopey changey forwardy thing working out?  Is anything better? Mind you I am not singling you out alone as there enough posturing conservatives who talk a good game and do nothing which I find equally intolerable.

Here’s a CNN Update:

Fish or cut bait? Obama, Congress to meet on fiscal cliff

By Tom Cohen, CNN

updated 11:07 AM EST, Fri December 28, 2012

Washington (CNN) — Is it political theater or a true last-ditch effort to avoid the fiscal cliff?

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will discuss the looming tax hikes and spending cuts of the fiscal cliff at a White House meeting on Friday, as increasingly anxious markets and taxpayers look for any hint of progress.

Stocks opened lower on Friday amid growing fears that the president and legislators will fail to strike a deal, which also caused the Consumer Confidence Index to drop on Thursday.

Economists warn that continued stalemate could cause another recession as taxes go up on everyone with the expiration of lower rates from the administration of President George W. Bush, coupled with slashed government spending, including for the military.

the lost art of customer service

sleepyUPDATE: Sleepy’s reached out to me.  They are working with us and I will update post as needed

So we bought ourselves a new bed frame and mattress for Christmas.  The frame came without incident from Overstock.com – and they only had one delivery man on the truck that delivered.  And he bought every box up to the master bedroom cheerfully and carefully.  He was probably one of the NICEST delivery people I have ever dealt with.

The mattress experience was not so pleasant.  We ordered from Sleepy’s, which after my experience should be renamed Cranky’s.

As I told the Sleepy’s folks in an e-mail:

So we just bought a rather expensive mattress from you and the customer experience on delivery was enough to not ever use your company again and encourage others also NOT to patronize you.

The delivery was timely, but upon arrival delivery man #1 announced my new mattress was frozen, so it would not be able to take it up to the master bedroom (2 sets of stairs, 7 steps a piece).

What he wanted to do was dump my new expensive mattress in the front hall and block everything.

When he came into the house he complained about everything. Considering I was a paying customer I found that offensive. In another home when I used 1-800-Mattress they moved a bed frame, mattress, and box spring up an incredibly steep and narrow staircase and down a hall without a complaint.  And set everything up and removed another bed damaged in the move.

Your delivery man #1 then called your office, and basically I asked the woman what Sleepys was going to do for me and the answer was nothing.  “Well you got free delivery” she said in a horriblly accented voice like that should make it all better.

After much complaining delivery man #1 along with delivery man #2 (who was very nice) moved my new expensive mattress to the second floor hall.

Now while I get the gel stuff in the mattress caused it to freeze and couldn’t go up to master bedroom, the fact that I had to push to get them to do partial placement was ridiculous!

And I will note that I along with someone else had managed to move heavy dressers, a bed frame, and a large and heavy area rug up those two sets of 7 steps without complaint.

I have never seen a perfect mattress delivery, but at least my other experiences with other companies meant not feeling offended after spending a pretty penny. For the first time ever in my life I did not tip delivery personnel. But I was not going to tip after feeling offended and being given a hard time.

Again, I get the mattress was frozen and couldn’t be placed on the bed, but I should not have had to work SO hard to get the mattress part way to its final location when all I was talking about was a straight shot up 7 short stairs!

I have learned a valuable lesson that your company only cares about the customer up to the point you take our money.

A friend of mine who owns a business driven by customer service, and also offers delivery had this to say:

I will note that I think it’s ridiculous that they allowed your new expensive mattress to freeze.

You did not purchase a frozen mattress, did you?  So why did they allow it to become frozen before delivery?

The mattress should have been kept in temperature regulated storage before delivery, as I am guessing that the only way for it to become frozen is that they loaded the box truck the night before and left it outside.

These mattress are probably not tested to withstand freezing conditions so what if the gel foam substance is damaged from being frozen now?

How can you be sure that the mattress is not permanently damaged and will be less supportive as a result of poor product care prior to delivery?  I think they should refund half the cost of your new expensive mattress because of unsatisfactory delivery of a damaged product.

She’s not wrong, and I had not thought of that.  I wrote to them because the customer service to me the customer was not exactly what I was expecting. 1-800-Mattress is better, Overstock.com is better, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are also better.

I expect nothing more out of Sleepy’s as with them obviously customers are out of site and out of mind once they take your money.  Then it is onto the next sale. I think it is great they donated mattresses to Super Storm Sandy Survivors on the Rachael Ray Show but I think more of the credit there goes to Rachael Ray for arranging it.  After all, Sleepy’s corporate gets nice write offs for donations, correct?

I am thinking true customer service is a lost art unless you are patronizing smaller and more local businesses.

Lesson learned: if you purchase anything from Sleepy’s don’t expect much.  A good deal is not so fabulous when it comes with cranky customer service.   When it comes to them Caveat emptor. And when you can: shop local.