Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning, Wells, Maine – Review


 

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on my blog but I feel so strongly about this that I simply had to warn people.

If you don’t feel like reading this entire posting, the bottom line is, in my opinion, DO NOT HIRE BEN OLIVER FROM LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS CLEANING IN WELLS, MAINE

If you search online for Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning service in Wells, ME, you won’t find much, if any, information. No web site for this company exists, no HomeAdvisor.com listing, and I could find no listing, even on generic indexes of business through various services like the online Yellow Pages.  I assumed this was a small business with not much of an online presence.  I should have seen a red flag. But I was in a hurry and made a rushed decision.

Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning, or specifically its owner, Ben Oliver of Wells, ME, was recommended to me by the person who cleans my carpets.  I found my carpet cleaner through Home Advisor.  He was excellent, professional, friendly, and stood behind his work.  He’s great at what he does and I will use him again.  I gave him high marks on HomeAdvisor.com where I found his company.  I don’t want to name his company here so it doesn’t get mixed up with this review. But, I trusted his judgment and recommendation.

I first met Ben Oliver when we scheduled a meeting at my apartment so I could get an estimate.  He seemed friendly, actually overly friendly, but nice enough.  When he entered my apartment he immediately started evaluating my “stuff” (my belongings), not the job itself.

I am a smoker and after 15 years of living here, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get everything cleaned perfectly. The landlord won’t repaint, so I was considering paying for it myself.  But to do that, everything needed to be cleaned including the walls and ceiling.  Ben Oliver assured me that he would talk care of that.  I was told that his company always starts a new customer with a “big cleaning”; which meant everything from top to bottom including walls, ceiling, baseboards, behind the fridge, etc.  He wanted to charge me $200 for this cleaning.  I asked if he could come down at all on that and we agreed on $175.  I thought, for that, it was worth it.

We scheduled it for a few days later.  I gave him my house keys during the first meeting because I intended to use him on a regular basis, once a month, after the “big cleaning”.  On the morning he was to arrive, I left a check for $175.00

When I got home that day, at first glance the place appeared to look good.  The first thing I noticed was a broken light bulb, still in its socket, in the bathroom.  I wasn’t too upset by that but thought it was odd he didn’t tell me.  When he was there giving the estimate we talked about previous cleaners I had used and how they had broken things and never told me.  I assured him that if something were to happen, it’s not that big of a deal, just tell me and if its something of value, we’ll work it out in some way.  He agreed.

The next thing I noticed was some white powdery stuff (it looked like comet cleanser) in front of my fridge.  I got out the all purpose cleaner and a paper tower to wipe it up.  But when I wiped it up, the paper towel came up completely BLACK.  i sprayed a little more Fantastik farther away from the original spot and the same thing happened; completely Black. I took a picture where I re-sprayed the original spot a second time.

kitchenfloor

So this is after I cleaned it once.  I should have taken a pic of the first one but didn’t think about the bigger problem until I had already thrown the first one away and took out the garbage. But this is what it looked like AFTER I cleaned the spot.  And as I cleaned further, it just got worse.

This is a picture of my range hood where he used BLEACH!  Can you see the white discoloration and permanent drip mark?

rangehood

And this is a picture of the space between my fridge and the wall where some plastic molding from my fridge is wedged in there and I can’t get it out.. I don’t even know where it belongs.

fridge part

The Walls and Ceiling were NEVER cleaned.

When I called Ben Oliver of Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning, he acted like he didn’t know who I was.  How may people with my name did he have as a customer?  on that day?  When I started explaining the first issue of the kitchen floor, his response was “To be honest, your whole house was black”.  First, that’s insulting.  Second, it’s unprofessional. Third, we had already talked about smoke damage issues, and the linoleum flooring in my kitchen is something I’ve cleaned myself in the past and it’s never been black.  After a long day of work, I wasn’t in the mood to have some argument with him.  In my opinion, he was more concerned about being “right” than about the job he had done that was substandard  at best.  His response should have been “I’m so sorry, let me come back and take a look at it and fix it” to keep his customer happy and stand behind his work.  At the very least he should have agreed to come and look at it.

But in my opinion his personality, and ego, prevented him from being professional. It seemed that in his mind, he is right, he’s always right, and how dare I question him.

So I wrote an email to him about the issue.  I explained my concerns and gave him every opportunity to make good on is cleaning job.

He never responded to the email. I sent him a text asking if he’d read the email.  His text response was that he hadn’t received it and if I wanted to contact him I should do it between business hours Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

At that point, I was done trying to rectify the situation.  I sent him a text asking for my keys back.  I work in the town where he lives. So I asked him to drop off my keys at my office with the receptionist.  It wasn’t far out of his way and I was scheduled to be off that next day anyway; I didn’t want a run-in with him.  But as it turn out I did have to go into work that next day.

At one point during that day, I heard front door to our office slam and the owner of the company for whom I work came into my office with my house keys dangling in her hand and said “Some guy just dropped these off for you and said to tell you to never call him again!”.  She sort of stared at me funny.  My mouth dropped.  I was mortified.  To walk into a place of business, as a business owner himself, and make a scene over a set of keys, is reprehensible behavior.  It was none of anyone’s business but he made it personal.

The bottom line here is DON’T HIRE Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning in Wells, Maine.  From my experience, you will be overcharged for shoddy work, and he won’t take any responsibility for work that wasn’t done or for work done poorly.  He is unprofessional, and while I try very hard not to judge people based their personality, or who they are, or aren’t, in this case, all of those issues play and were a big part in how all of this went down.   Additionally, there are things missing from my house that I can’t explain or prove. I never even got into that with him.  I’m not a lawyer and can’t accuse without proof, and just wanted it all out of my life.

As I said at the start, I don’t post to my blog very often these days.  However, this situation warranted some action on my part.  I couldn’t find any reviews of him or his company, so somebody needed to speak up.  I wish I had some sort of review to go on; instead I took the word of someone I trusted.  I believe that Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning can’t be found online because he doesn’t want a place online for anyone to review him.

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4-rth Sustainable Fashion – Unsustainable Business Practices – Don’t buy from them.


When you find a company like 4-rth (pronounced “for earth”) you want to believe…….

It took me a long time to find quality, somewhat affordable yoga clothes for men.  I wanted them not only for yoga but because they’re comfortable for everyday use, when made with quality.  When I found 4-rth online, they had some cool clothes for guys.  The most interesting, different, and fashionable was the cuffed yoga short for men.  People tell me I write too much (too long), so I’ll try to shortcut this with bullet points.

Cuffed Yoga Pants (Cinnabar w/Grey)

  • I purchased the yoga shorts pictured above.  Note the gray cuff around the bottom of the leg.
  • When I received them, I really liked them but noticed that the cuff was orange, like the short, not gray.
  • When I pointed this out, Doug Donahue (Owner, CEO?,- basically the only person that works there apparently) responded to my email as follows:
    • “excellent eyes you have! 🙂 sorry about that — in that production run, that was an oversight by our production team so they all came out that way but we’ll go back to the Gray cuff in future production runs
    • He also added “p.s. – we have TWO new color-ways coming out in that pant”
    • Translation: “Oops – you noticed, huh.  Oh well.  But we have more stuff for you to buy.
  • I responded to his email and told him that his response wasn’t really unacceptable.  He never offered to replace them or exchange them.  I explained to him how customer service worked and gave him several suggestions to make his customer service better.  I gave him every opportunity to make it better.  I wasn’t mean or snarky.  I was honestly trying to help him.  I wanted him to succeed – and I told him so.
  • Doug Donahue’s response was “Please feel free to use my friends & family discount anytime — it’s good for 15% off at any time of the year! the code is: 4RTH”
    • Translation:  Feel free to REPURCHASE what you already thought you were purchasing – because as I said the next production run “should” be OK.  And you can buy them at a 15% discount.
  • So I can buy the shorts that I thought I had already did buy – at a 15% discount.  How nice.  And they “may or may not” arrive as shown in the picture on his web site.
  • I explained that repurchasing an article of clothing, simply because what I received wasn’t as advertised, was not my idea of fixing the problem.  I explained further how customer service worked.  I explained that I had planned on buying many more items from 4-rth.  However, since I couldn’t trust that I would get what I ordered, or that the follow up customer service would correct the problem, I simply could not do that.  I gave him another opportunity to fix the problem.  I had worn the shorts, but considering they were a design that he didn’t even sell, why would he want them back anyway, even if I had never worn them.  All he had to do was send me the correct product, at his expense, and I would have been a happy camper.  I would have been ready, willing, and able to buy more items in his men’s line AND tout his company on my blog.

This was a ridiculous exchange.  Mr. Donahue should have simply fixed the problem.  He sold me a product that was manufactured incorrectly.  Some may say “It’s just a cuff on a pair of shorts – who cares”.  Well, there are such things as false advertising, integrity, standing behind your products, and good customer service.  Plus, to be honest, from a fashion standpoint, the gray contrasting cuff was what made these shorts unique.

Doug Donahue must have a huge ego for him not to just fix this – easily.  He could not and would not admit that he was wrong.  He sold me a product and the product I received was not like the one pictured.  It’s a simple problem and a simple fix.  I should not have taken many, many emails to address – only to get absolutely nowhere.

I noticed that on his web site, he has “celebrities” like singer Daughtry saying he thought the stuff was cool, and Queer Eye cast member Jai Rodriguez pictures with Doug.  I’m betting if I were a celebrity the problem would have been corrected immediately.  I probably would have received his entire line of clothing as a “gift”.  But since I’m not a celebrity and Doug Donahue’s goal is to be rich and famous and hobnobbing with the rich and famous, he could care less about me, a lowly customer who received a product that was made wrong in the factory.

I gave Mr. Donahue many, many chances.  I even told him about the power of word of mouth (or word of word).  I told him I would hold back from writing anything negative about him or his company because I believed he would do the right thing to rectify the problem.

He Didn’t.  And so I’m writing to let people know what they are in for if they choose to purchase merchandise from 4-rth.com.  Some will think I’m just pissed off and it’s just sour grapes.  I assure you that is not true.  At one point I told Mr. Donahue that I had a lot of experience with online shopping and would be happy to work with him to ensure his customers were satisfied at all levels.  The customer is always right and it’s a company’s job to make sure the customer is happy.  I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable – I was only asking for WHAT I HAD ORDERED AND PAID FOR.

A brother’s pride and joy


the-brothers-and-the-sea-smallCredit: Artist – Jenny Armitage

One day, a man’s TV broke.  It was a nice high def TV that he had for only 6 years.  The original TV was about $1,800.  It wasn’t a top-of-the-line TV but it was very good quality.  He called the local shop where he bought it, and also called the manufacturer, both of whom said it couldn’t be fixed.  The man was upset, really upset.  This was just one more thing that had gone wrong; one more thing in a line of things that overwhelmed him.  At the time he bought this nice TV, he had the money to do so.  He no longer had resources that afforded him the luxury of buying luxury items when he wanted them.  He borrowed some money from a very good friend to buy a new TV.  Not exactly what he would have bought under different circumstances just something relatively affordable that he could afford to pay back to his friend over time.  It may seem strange to feel you need, or are entitled, to own a television.  For this man, after living a comfortable life for many years, now faced with staring at a broken TV that he couldn’t afford to replace, was a constant reminder of his failures.

At the same time, in another place, a much younger man had a brother who was recently married.  This young man didn’t have much money to buy his brother and new sister-in-law a wedding present.  He was a bit distraught and for several months was trying to figure out a way to give the newlyweds (but especially his brother) something nice; something that they could use; something they didn’t have and couldn’t afford to buy, something he could afford.  That’s a tall order to fill.  But this younger man was patient.

The older man who had the broken TV, and the younger man worked at the same company.  The older man, having back trouble, asked the younger man to help him carry his new TV up the many stairs to his apartment.  The younger man, always eager to help anyone in need, was quick to say yes, that he would be happy to help.  When the younger man brought the TV up the 39 stairs to the older man’s apartment, the younger man asked what was wrong with the broken TV.  The older man showed the younger man how the TV picture was all messed up, and told the younger man the story of the TV being irreparable.  The “experts” said that the problem was the “T-Com” board (whatever that means), and the manufacturer didn’t even sell those boards anymore, hence why it couldn’t be fixed.  The younger man mentioned that he liked to tinker with electronics and asked that if it was OK with the older man, he’d like to take the broken TV, if for no other reason than to take it apart and see how it worked.  The older man was wondering how he was going to get rid of the old TV so he was pleased that the younger man wanted to take it.

About a month later, the younger man arrived at work one day and asked to speak to the older man.  The younger man wanted to tell him about the old TV.  Surprise cast a shadow on the older man’s face.  What was he talking about?  The younger man said that he had struggled with the old TV for a while.  But, after a few attempts on Ebay he was able to find the right T-Com board for the TV.   The younger man was a very curious and tenacious person.  He liked to learn about electronics.  The first T-Com board he bid on and got on Ebay, was the wrong one.  It took him a long time to find another possible fit.  So he bid on, and won the bid for, another T-Com board.  When the younger man had first installed the second T-Com board into the TV, the picture was blinking and flashing and wavy – not viewable at all.  But after powering it off and back on a few times, the old TV came back to life and was working perfectly.  It seemed similar to adding new hardware to a PC.  You need to give the PC time to recognize the new hardware and make the proper adjustments.  The younger man then told the older man that he had a brother who was recently married.  The younger man had fretted, and worried, and was very frustrated that he didn’t have a “proper” gift for his brother.  The younger man loved and respected his older brother very much; it would be source of pride and accomplishment if he could figure out how to give his older brother a wedding present.  After fixing the old high def TV, he sneaked into his brother’s house one Sunday when he knew his brother and sister-in-law would be out.  He setup the new/old TV in his brother’s home.  His brother did not have a TV and couldn’t afford to buy one.  The younger man wrapped the remote control to the TV in a box and gave it to his brother when the brother returned home.  The younger man was so proud, and happy.  When the brother opened the box he said “what’s this” and the younger man said “go inside and look”.   The brother did and to the brother’s surprise, in his house was, to him, a brand new big flat screen TV.  The brother stared in awe, not even knowing how to thank the younger man, let alone figure out how the younger man had pulled this off.

The younger man had, against all odds, repaired the old TV given to him by the older man.  The younger man was so happy that he finally had a present for his brother.  And the younger man’s brother was happy that he received a gift that he wouldn’t have been able to afford on his own.  The brother had no idea how the younger man accomplished this.  The two brothers loved each other very much.  It was important for the younger man to have something of value to give to his somewhat older, married brother as a wedding present.

As for the older man,  at the time, buying a new TV seemed insurmountable and he was angry at the TV and the manufacturer; he was mad at himself and the world.  The older man had limited resources, but he did have a job and a way to pay back the price of the new TV he bought (thanks to a very generous friend).

But the older man was happy, too.  When the older man found out what had happened to his old TV – that is was miraculously fixed, and that it ended up in the possession of someone who could not afford such a nice TV, and given to him by a young man who wanted nothing more than to get his brother something for a wedding present, the older man’s anger over his TV situation seemed so small.  He let the anger go.  And he thanked the younger man for letting him know what had happened to his old TV.

The older man realized that sometimes, things do happen for a reason.  While the older man no longer had the resources to buy luxury items, he certainly had more options than the younger man, or the younger man’s brother.  So in perspective, the older man felt blessed.  He realized his petty wanting of material goods was all just so stupid.

The older man was me.

Epilogue:

It can be argued that nobody “needs” a television.  And I’ve heard many in the media (OK, right-wing TV and talk radio)  talk about poor people on government assistance who somehow have a flat screen TV.  Well, the bottom line, to me, is that first, you can’t buy anything other than a flat screen TV anymore.  And by flat screen I mean high-definition TV – that’s all there is.  All new TVs are high-definition flat screen, whether it’s cheap or expensive.  Have you seen a “picture tube” television in a store lately.  I doubt it.  Secondly, television is what most people use as their connection to the outside world.  Something as simple as the news, or the weather – you get that from your TV.  Even if you don’t have cable TV, you can still use a high-definition TV (known in the pedestrian world as a “flat screen”) with rabbit ears just like in the old days.  Television also provides basic entertainment regardless of whether you are rich or poor.  You can even have a TV without actual broadcast or cable stations – just a TV with a VCR or DVD player, and use that as your entertainment.

So television is an important part of people’s lives and of the American culture.  Not having one because you can’t afford one makes you feel like a failure as a human being.  Society has taught us that we are.

But, having said all of that, it’s not what this story is about.  This story is about counting your blessings.  It’s about realizing what you have, even when you might not realize you have it.  And it’s about the fact that no matter how badly you might feel or how much self-hatred you may feel over something big, or something small, there is always somebody out there with a story that is more significant than yours.  But mostly, it’s about the love between two brothers.  Brothers who don’t count their blessings in dollars, but rather in sense.  I don’t believe in something called god.  But I do believe that these two brothers have very good parents who taught them well.  I have been reminded, through this experience, about what’s important.  I hope you do, too.  I am happy that through a series of rather strange events, my old TV made its way to a happy couple, just married and starting their life together.  I picture them sitting in front of the big high-def TV at night, snuggled up, watching a movie together, enjoying each others’ company, and always thinking how cool it is that someone in their family gave them this beautiful TV.

On one final note:  I thought for a moment that I should have bought the TV back from the young man so he could buy his brother something new.  Then I realized that all the tinkering and trying, the sense of accomplishment and the laser focus on a single purpose, the joy of giving a gift that came from the heart – all of that would not have happened if I bought the TV back.  I would have robbed the younger man of his pride and of is joy.  It all worked out just as it should have.

Birthdays, Diabetes, Underwear, and Skyscrapers


That’s quite a title; 4 seemingly unrelated topics……..

Today is September 11, 2012. It’s a gorgeous Tuesday morning here, just like it was on September 11, 2001. I turned 37 years old that day. Today I turn 48.

I don’t know if having a September 11 birthday made what happened that day worse for me or not. What I do know is that “celebrating” on my birthday since September 11, 2011 has been difficult. The horror of that day is ingrained in me, as I’m sure it is for everyone. I’ve held a special connection with that day because it all unfolded on what was formerly, to me, “my day”.

When I’m asked in conversation when my birthday is, invariably, when I tell them it’s September 11th, I hear “oh, I know someone with a September 11th birthday, too”. It’s someone’s aunt, or husband, or sister, or nephew, or friend that has the same birthday that I have. They say it flatly. No excitement, no melancholy. They simply say it. And I think I’m supposed to understand what that means. It’s the unspoken feeling of those with a September 11th birthday, and I do understand.

I seems, although I have no scientific proof, that September 11th has more birthdays than other dates, although statistically, it can’t possibly be true. I do believe, however, that I am one of the very last “baby boomers” ever born. From 1946 to 1964 (they say) is the baby boomer period. It all ended about 9 months after JFK was shot on November 22, 1963.  After JFK’s assassination, America was scared, and no longer in the throes of the post-WWII euphoria. I don’t know if it was couples clinging to each other during a time of great crisis in this country or not, but I can imagine that to be true. People who wanted babies wanted one last chance before the world seemingly went to hell.

So, as I say again, unscientifically, there are a lot of birthdays on September 11, and in September in general  It’s a popular month for birthdays. In my family alone, with 6 children, three of us have September birthdays, and one more on August 31.

OK, so that’s the background. I’m going to change topics a bit, but I promise I’ll bring it all back around.

When I was younger, people thought of me as a clothes horse. To people who didn’t know me, I guess I can understand why they thought so. I was young, gay, and seemed like a stereo-typical 80’s gay kid. But to me it wasn’t true. As an overweight gay kid (those two things alone paint a picture of the real ostracism, bullying, and borderline hate crimes that I was subjected to) I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. My own family (you know – the people around whom you are supposed to feel loved and accepted) made fun of me for my weight. I’ve struggled with weight and body image my whole life. There were times when I was not overweight, worked out all the time, and looked good (and for me to say I looked good is quite a rare occurrence). But more often than not (and I find I do it still today) I can’t walk into a crowded room, or a room with just a few people, or a store at the mall, or the mall itself without looking down at the ground like I did in high school, hoping to god that nobody notices me. If they don’t see me, they won’t call me names and throw spit balls at me.  If they don’t notice me, I won’t die a little more inside and waste time hoping that someone will rescue me from hell.

After I turned 40, and realized that I would probably be single for the rest of my life, I sort of gave up. I live alone; I stopped taking care of myself, and had a heart attack at the age of 40, just two weeks before my 41st birthday. By the time I turned 47 I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I felt, and looked like hell. And I pretended that I didn’t care. That was the persona I tried to put forth to the world. “Screw it – I’m going to die too young, just like my father, and I don’t have anyone special in my life to love me and that I can love back. So who cares if I’m not here anymore”. I didn’t wish for death, but thought that one day, as my body decayed, eventually I would be thin enough to be accepted.

Something changed, and I don’t exactly know what. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I couldn’t imagine having to inject myself with a needle to control my insulin. Enough was enough.  I immediately turned to a hero of mine “Dr. Atkins” who is no longer with us, but whose legacy lives on. I had lived the Atkins lifestyle back in 1999 and continued it, very successfully for several years. But like all things for me, when the depression takes over, I gave up and didn’t care anymore because no matter what I did, I didn’t love myself, couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, especially naked, without turning away in disgust. I know that if you don’t care about yourself, you probably won’t find someone special who will care about you as well. So I turned back to Atkins not only to lose weight, but to gain control of my Diabetes. After one long year, almost to the day after I was diagnosed, I had new blood work done. As a result of Atkins, my numbers were phenomenal. I don’t even take medication for diabetes any more (and haven’t since about 3 months after being diagnosed). I lost about 40 or 45 pounds. Everything from my cholesterol to triglycerides to my blood sugar levels were within normal ranges or even well below.  My primary care provider is a bit perplexed at how I was able to do what I did.  I could write an entire post just about Atkins and the destruction caused by empty carbohydrates in the American diet, but that is for another day.

My point here is that even with all of that good news, I still see myself as an overweight kid, and always will. I don’t buy clothing very often because I hate having to try things on that might not fit because I’m too fat. No matter how much I actually weigh.  I can’t look at or touch my own body.  I can’t put sun tan lotion because I would have to touch my own body.  I don’t like stooping over to pick up something I dropped because when I do, I might feel my own flesh touching another part of my flesh.  I don’t go to the beach or the lake (where two of my family members have homes) because I can’t bear the thought of taking off my shirt or wearing a bathing suit.  If I can’t do it when I’m alone, imagine how terrifying it is to face it in full view of other people.  I am a prisoner of my own mind.

And that’s how we get to my love affair with underwear. Nice segue, huh? When you’re not feeling good about how you look, buying/wearing underwear (and I mean good quality underwear) can’t make you feel sexy. Feeling that way doesn’t come easy to someone with a poor self-image or body image issues. I bought boxer briefs from Banana Republic and Calvin Klein, and many other major brands. Sometimes retail, but more likely at discount places like Marshalls. I liked them and wore them with pride. Nobody ever saw them, but I knew I had them on and it made me feel good. Strange but true. But I was looking for something more, something different.  When I started to lose weight and feel just a little bit good about myself, I realized I don’t need to wear XXL or XL underwear, and I wanted something new.

I don’t remember, now, how I originally found out about Andrew Christian underwear. Andrew Christian is a designer based in LA. who came into public awareness during a stint on Bravo’s “The Fashion Show”; a reality show with a clothing designer theme. He turned that notoriety into a full-fledged fashion industry, based on (but not limited to) the highest quality, most innovatively designed men’s underwear.

His underwear and clothing lines aren’t inexpensive if you compare them to what you might find at Wal-Mart or Target, but they are actually quite affordable. I decided to try a few items, and on each payday, if I could afford it, I bought one or two pairs. And I LOVED it. Andrew Christian underwear is truly unique. His has various design elements never seen before in mens underwear. I have touted the benefits of, and demanded that my underwear be, 100% cotton. I never thought in a million years I would be swayed into thinking about it differently. Not that A/C doesn’t have 100% cotton underwear, but that’s not what their big sellers are (from what I can tell). I won’t get into the entire line; you can check that out for yourself at http://www.andrewchristianshop.com .

At one point, I had an issue with one of my purchases and wrote a scathing email to Andrew Christian himself via Facebook. I think I was just having a bad day, I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I was extremely unhappy with a purchase. That email was answered by a man named Gregory who is in customer service. Gregory explained a lot of things to me including a more detailed explanation of the Andrew Christian return policy (which is liberal, but not quite explained as well on the site). He not only quelled my distaste for the company, he literally turned it around and made me a fan by how well he (and Mr. Christian) handled the situation. I was truly amazed at the customer service I received, even after I was poised to write awful reviews of this company and wanted to sever all ties with them as a customer. I realized then, that Andrew Christian wasn’t what I thought it was. They were instead, a company of integrity. And I am now a happy customer, again.

But, A/C doesn’t just sell underwear. On one of my earliest visits to the Andrew Christian web site, I saw a necklace that I really liked. I don’t really wear much jewelry, at least not conventional jewelry like a watch. I do have two toe rings on one toe, I wear two stainless steel rings on one finger, and recently got both of my ears pierced (body piercings – not the staple gun at the mall). That sounds like a lot for someone who doesn’t wear jewelry and actually, it is. But these items have significance to me that I won’t get into now. I don’t wear them as a show piece for the world. I wear them for me.

So I saw this necklace on the A/C website and it was hard to discern exactly what it looked like up close. I thought it was a long flat bar of metal with three dots engraved into it toward the bottom. I only saw it briefly that one day on the web site – then it disappeared. In my emails with Gregory at Andrew Christian a few weeks later, Gregory he told me the necklace was no longer made but he described it to me and gave it a name. It was called the 3- Squared Skyscraper Necklace”. It is literally an elongated, square box with three windows carved into it. It’s an amazing piece – so simple, but beautiful, and it immediately reminded me of the World Trade Center. I don’t know if that was the intention or not. But interpretation of art is in the eye of the beholder.

OK – so now we’re ready to go full circle.

A few weeks ago, after scouring the Internet, looking for someone who had one of these necklaces to sell, I had absolutely no luck. There were a few sketchy European web sites that supposedly had some but these sites were not what I would call reputable and I’ve never bought anything from an overseas company and then had it shipped to the US. I had no idea how that would go and honestly thought there was no way I would ever get what I paid for. Right or wrong, I just didn’t want to do it that way.

I wrote back to Gregory at Andrew Christian and asked him if there was any chance they would release that necklace again. I explained about my birthday being on September 11 and how buying the 3-Squared Skyscraper necklace for myself, for my birthday, would be a great symbolic way for me to honor those who died on that day, and their loved ones, while taking back a little piece of that day for myself. I believe then, as I do now, that symbolically I could finally celebrate my birthday without detracting from the nation, and me, as we mourn and remember that day every year.

I received an out-of-office reply from Gregory. But I had dealt with him before and knew he would get back to me when he could. Around September 6, I received an email from Gregory letting me know that he got my email, and that while the chances were very slim (to none) that Andrew Christian (the company) would release a new batch of that particular necklace, he would see what he could find out.

And that was it. I waited to hear back, hoping that eventually I would be able to buy one.

Yesterday, September 10, I got home from work at about 7:00 PM. It had been a long day and I had a bunch of errands I had to run after work. All around – it was a crappy and tiring day. I don’t normally check the mailbox very often at the entrance to my apartment building because it’s just bad news anyway. But something made me check it last night. It had been at least a week or more since I last checked it for bills and junk mail. I saw a package in a Fedex envelope. I picked it up and honestly thought it was a registered letter of some sort. The package was from Andrew Christian (the company) in Los Angeles. I couldn’t remember ordering anything so I just scooped it up with the other mail and went upstairs to my apartment. When I opened the package and dumped out the contents into my hand, three small black pouches fell out. I was confused for just a second and then I thought “It can’t be”. It was.

I received not one, but three “3 Squared Skyscraper” necklaces. I opened each one and literally had tears in my eyes. It was the night before my birthday, a day I have come to dread, and I get a package from someone who doesn’t know me and lives on the other side of the country. We’ve never met; we’ve only exchanged a few emails. But somehow, Gregory (and I don’t know yet if anyone else was involved) reached out to me from a place of pure empathy and humanity and gave me a gift for which I can never repay him. I wrote him a thank you email, and had difficulty doing it because my eyes were so filled with tears.

Today is September 11, 2012. I turn 48 today. And I’m wearing two skyscraper necklaces on one chain to symbolize and remember not only what happened on 9/11/2011, but also that today is my birthday. I finally found a way to reconcile the two. I finally found a way to celebrate, and yet remember, all at the same time. And it all happened because I really like underwear, because it’s my birthday, and because Gregory at Andrew Christian has an amazing heart, unflappable intuition, and endless human kindness for someone he doesn’t even know.  See – I told you they weren’t unrelated topics.

I don’t know how to say thank you for this. There’s nothing I can say that truly expresses what I feel. So I decided to write this piece to try to put some perspective on it so that Gregory, Andrew Christian, and the world (if they read this) will understand the power that an unselfish act of human kindness has.

This is America. For all of the partisan bickering and the endless cable news, self-induced panic about how our nation is divided and falling apart, the real America is made up of people who care about each other, who are more than willing to work together, and are kind, decent human beings.

If you can, I’d like you to support the Andrew Christian company. They are a fine example of the American dream and a company who truly has the customer’s best interests in mind. While some may not be drawn to some of their marketing, I can guarantee you this: it’s just marketing. They sell exemplary products, stand behind them, and love their customers. I want to make it clear that I do not work for the company. I am only a customer, and only for a short time. I don’t know if Gregory or Andrew Christian even want anyone to know what they did. There was no note in the package, and no name on the package to indicate who it was from or why.  For all I know, Gregory could have passed along my story and someone else, even Andrew Christian himself, could have sent me the necklace.  But in my heart, I know Gregory was involved. (update: I have sinced heard from Gregory after a few days of radio silence and her confirmed what I suspected, and he read this blog posting).

Please visit them at http://www.andrewchristianshop.com. They really do make a great product, the best in fact. But more than that they are good people.

And thank you Gregory.  From an overweight kid, with a 9/11 birthday, who struggles with body image issues and being a single gay man for a long time, thank you for making this birthday the happiest I’ve had in at least 11 years, and probably the happiest birthday I’ve ever had.

Gym Class Heroes


Bennett Junior High School, 1976

I stood there alone staring at the slats of the huge hardwood floor.  I was aware of the others in the room but I was trying desperately to be invisible.

I knew that there were two groups of people staring at me.  It was dead quiet, except for the far-off sounds of other kids doing whatever kids do in the quad of a junior high school.

As I stood in the gymnasium, a hulking brick building that made up one side of the quad, I wished I was out there.  I wouldn’t feel any more welcomed or part of something out there than I did right here, but at least I wouldn’t be trying desperately not to cry and end up making this situation far worse than it already was.   In my mind I was pleading with some unknown force to save me.  I don’t know who because I knew nobody would help me.  I tried to believe in a god who, even if I believed existed, had betrayed me over and over again, so my hopes weren’t high.

The two groups of boys in their regulation blue gym shorts and white T-Shirts started to stir and mumble.  The gym teacher, Mr. Freeman, was a big, tall, hearty, white-haired man.  He had two personalities – gruff or laughing.  Most of the time he was gruff – all business, but when he laughed, he did so with his whole body.  He had capped teeth and a smoker’s laugh, which, at the time, I thought odd for a gym teacher.  But this was in the 1970’s.  You could still smoke inside parts of hospitals. On this day, like most, he was in a gruff mood.

I wasn’t afraid of Mr. Freeman.  He always treated me with respect, although I have no idea why.  In fact, most teachers treated me with a great deal of respect.  I was never really afraid of adults that I wasn’t related to.  In fact, I felt more comfortable with adults than with kids my own age; or any age.  I related more to adults.  Most of the time I felt like an adult trapped in a kid’s body.

In those last moments of studying knots in the wood grain of the hardwood floor. I heard Mr. Freeman clear his throat, and then I heard him say, “Do you ‘captains” have any clue what you are doing’?.  The two teams of boys who had been picked by the aforementioned captains, and the captains themselves, shifted uncomfortably.  I don’t recall how the two team captains were selected.  I don’t recall getting a vote.  But two had been chosen and the age-old, archaic ceremony of picking whom each wanted on their basketball team for this gym period, went on as they always do. The pecking order was well established.  The athletic kids and buddies of the captains were picked first. Then that middle group, who were not so popular but in some way acceptable in the school’s hierarchy, was selected for a team.  And then, in the final, gut-wrenching moments, as the “remainders” were scoffed at, and as the captains begrudgingly pointed and waved over a few to his respective team, the remainders weren’t staring at the captains or at the floor anymore.

We were staring at each other.  We were pleading with each other.  We were imploring someone in this group of misfits to honorably accept being the last one picked.  We had sympathy and empathy for each other.  It was also an intellectual fight to the death. We were terrified.

I was one of those remainders.  And on this day it turned out that there were an uneven number of boys.  So when the picking got slim, the remainders all knew that someone would be the final one standing with no hope of having an obvious home among the two teams of boys.

That’s where I stood in that moment – fixated on the hardwood floor, when I heard Mr. Freeman clear his throat and ask the team captains if they knew what they were doing.

I didn’t know what Mr. Freeman meant and I don’t think the captains did either.  As Mr. Freeman waited those few seconds after his question, I don’t think he really expected an answer.  And I stood there, trying desperately to block out who I was, and where I was, and what was going on around me.  I fought desperately to hold back tears.  I ran through different scenarios in my head at lightning speed as to how I could flee, and hide.  I accepted my fate, once again, and the humiliation and abject terror on not being wanted by anyone.  I tried to make my eyes and my soul as dead as possible, hoping that nobody would see the fear.

Then, I heard Mr. Freeman’s voice again.  “If I were you, I would have picked Steven first, and do you know why?”

Silence.

What the hell was he talking about?  I lifted my eyes from the floor, up toward him and he was looking back and forth between the two team captains.  Mr. Freeman continued:

“Before we picked the captains and picked the teams, what did we do?  We practiced shooting baskets, dribbling the ball, passing the ball, just a little warm-up, right?  Well, did any of you notice that Steven here has one of the best senses of rhythm and timing I’ve seen in a long time?  Did you watch him run down the court while dribbling the ball in front of him, or at his side?  Did any of you, and especially you team captains, take an honest look at the field of players, or had you already decided which of your buddies you wanted on your team.  Timing and rhythm is an essential part of being a good basketball player and if I were you, I would want him on my team.  He should not be standing there because nobody picked him.”

No. No. No. Oh God. No.  Please don’t look at me.  What was he talking about?  Was that true?  I don’t know what he’s talking about.  I’m not good at sports.  I’m not good at anything.  Why is everyone looking at me? I don’t have anything special about me, or anything someone should take notice of.  Nobody has ever said anything like that before.  I’m just the overweight, non-athletic 12-year-old, trying to get through the 7th grade without anybody seeing me.  I don’t know what he’s talking about.  PLEASE don’t involve me.

I looked back and forth between the two team captains, yeah, two “fellow seventh graders”, and I implored them silently not to believe Mr. Freeman and without words, gave them permission to continue looking down on me.  I was nothing.  Nothing to see here.  Go about your business.  I can handle the humiliation.  I’m used to it.  I’m comfortable here.  Let’s just forget all of this and go about our business, separately.

While my eyes shifted back and forth between the captains, and occasionally back down to study the grain in the hardwood floor, there was mumbling, and whispers that I couldn’t make out.  And Mr. Freeman may have said more things but I had tuned him out, too.  And then my internal turmoil was interrupted by Mr. Freeman nudging me from behind, gently, not forcefully.  It was more like an encouragement.  I came out of my haze and the two team captains were saying “I’ll take him” and the other one said “No you had the last pick, I’ll take him”. And they went back and forth a few times until Mr. Freeman nudged me far enough along and he decided which team I would play on.

I don’t remember a single thing that happened after that.  I don’t remember whose team I was on.  I don’t remember a single name of any of the kids that were there.  But as I sit here 35 years later, I still remember the smile on Mr. Freeman’s face when I stood with my “team”.  He looked at me.  And I looked at him.  We never spoke about it.  Not during that day in gym, or ever again.  And from that day on, I do remember that every day in gym class when it was “basketball” day, I wasn’t picked last anymore.

Some kids were afraid of Mr. Freeman, many simply didn’t like him.  He had some measure of silent joy in being able to intimidate kids.  He was loud and unrelenting.

I wasn’t one of those kids.  I understood him.  What I didn’t realize is that he understood me.  Because of that day 35 years ago, and for every day since that I am reminded of him and what he did for me, he is my hero.

Time to rid yourself of Christmas guilt – 2010 Edition


The current economic climate has brought about the perfect time to reassess what Christmas is about.  I recently read this posting that I wrote almost 2 years ago.  I decided that now is a good time to republish it.  The following has been edited and updated for this year but the message is the same.  I even fixed some misspellings, and rewrote some poorly constructed sentences.  I hope this post gives you something to think about.

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Christmas means different things to different people.  At its core, Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ.   It is a Christian holiday.  I  believe that unless you are devout in your celebration of this birth then you have no business celebrating Christmas.  Otherwise it’s no different than celebrating Hanukkah.  You may as well.  You’re guaranteed eight gifts that way.

I have not forgotten the magic that Christmas can bring, but from where does that magic come.  We are often more prone to charitable gifts during Christmas.  So to some less fortunate child, or family, a Christmas miracle could be one toy, or one meal.

Many of us get emotional during the holidays, mostly due to the memories of our childhood.  Some never had a Christmas. Some never had a happy Christmas.  I”m not sure which is worse; never having one, or never having one that lives up to the hype.

A few years ago, I had my own economic downturn.  Giving gifts that year wasn’t within the realm of possibility.  Yes, I could have given home-made gifts.  But, I would have felt inadequate and guilt that comes from NOT giving.

So I decided to take a different approach.  No Christmas presents?  I approached the people with whom I normally exchange gifts and told each one  the truth (do people tell the truth anymore? – I’m used to it, but I find that many struggle with it).  I told them I can’t afford to buy presents and I would appreciate it they didn’t buy me a present either.  I can’t pretend I have the money to do it, and if I spend money on gifts, I won’t have money for Rent, or Food, or to put gas in my car.  And I don’t want to feel the guilt of getting a gift when I don’t have one to give.  I don’t believe that my “plan” was received very well, but I had no choice but to move forward with it.

The most important gift in the world, in my opinion, is your time.  I wanted to spend time with the people I love.  Laughing, relaxing, telling stories, playing cards; all of those things that we rarely have time for.  Since most of my friends and family aren’t consistent church-goers, we weren’t celebrating the birth of the Messiah. No, in previous years we weren’t celebrating anything, and giving each other mounds of presents because of it.

In as little as one day after opening gifts, maybe less in some cases, most kids can’t remember who gave them what.  They were already bored with the toys, and the adults usually think “thank god that’s over”.   How sad is that.  Such a build-up and in a flash, it’s over.  Some are happy it’s over.  Some are disappointed that they didn’t “get what they wanted”.

In recent years many of the people I know were ready to take down the tree and decorations by the evening of Christmas Day.  And as we reflected on Christmas, we realized introspectively that we spent too much, probably went into credit card debt, and even if you got great stuff, something was missing.

After the time when I stopped giving out Christmas presents I didn’t feel that way anymore.  Christmas had taken on a different meaning.  As I said before, the gift of time, and laughter, I think, are such valuable commodities.  What an incredible relief it would be, don’t you think, if you never had to worry about the traditional gift giving aspect of Christmas?  I know people who say that they truly like the chaos of shopping for Christmas gifts.  I think they are lying to themselves.  I think they are trying to recreate a fantasy that is unattainable.   The magic of the perfect childlike Christmas is unattainable.

To me, it’s not that gifts shouldn’t be exchanged anymore, just not gifts that come with a receipt.  I have always believed that birthdays are special.  That is one person’s special day and that should be the day they get all the attention and a gift or two.  And I also believe in buying people things that you happen upon and give for no specific reason.  I bought a family member a certain gift,  just because I knew they liked it, not because it was their birthday or Christmas or any other holiday.  Those, to me, are real gifts.  The unexpected act of kindness.  But giving wrapped gifts is NOT necessary at Christmas.

So I am asking you to participate in a new kind of gift giving for the holidays.   Stay out of the stores and off the online shopping sites.  Make a promise to yourself, and to those you love, to spend time with them during the Holidays.  Why do we keep perpetuating the myth that a “present” equals “love”.  And if you decide to spend more time with the ones you love playing cards, relaxing, enjoying food,  and most of all laughing, then maybe you will begin to see what is really important.  You will be able to see it because your mind will not be consumed with guilt over whether or not you spent enough money on so-and-so, and “oh I hope he likes it, I don’t think he’ll like it” or “maybe I should get her something else, or something more”.  Rid yourself of that Christmas guilt and put your energy into memorable, intangible, important things.

We need to stop buying into Corporate America’s idea of Christmas;  the kind of Christmas that makes Corporate America rich.  They wait all year for Christmas because it makes up something like 60 or 70 percent of their profits for the year.  And you wouldn’t believe how they try to get into your head, and your heart, so that they can get into your wallet.  Stop the insanity.

If you believe in God, then you should know that God doesn’t keep track of the presents you give;  God only cares about gifts you give that can’t be wrapped.  If you don’t believe in God (nobody says you have to – I don’t) then all of this should make perfect sense to you already.

I welcome your comments.

I am the last Baby Boomer a.k.a “things I learned while blogging”


In looking back at the posts I have written over the past 2 years, the first thing that comes to mind is that I can’t believe it’s been 2 years.  When I look at the titles and subjects I see a lot of anger.  There have been a lot of people I’ve been mad at over the past 2 years.  I think that finally I’m at a place where either I’ve matured enough not to get angry, or I’m too tired to get angry.  I”m not sure which, yet.

All through the 2008 Presidential campaign I had a lot to say — mostly about right wing republicans with their head up their collective asses.  But I also wrote about family, pop culture, entertainment, baseball and just plain human interest stories.

The second thing I think about is how different my life is today from what it was when I started this blog.  I had just been fired from my job, and didn’t know why.  Finding a new job seemed impossible.  I’m not a writer by trade, as you can tell, but I do have other marketable skills; at least I thought I did.  After 18 long, no, very long months of confidence-crushing job searching with nothing to show for it, I had a lot of time to build up my anger and needed an outlet.  So I took to blogging.  I had way too much time on my hands.

I had no idea what I was doing when I started blogging, still don’t.  I receive a lot of hateful comments from people who troll the internet looking for someone to hate.  I call these people “republicans”.  I receive a lot of  “hate” comments from people who  so afraid of liberal ideas, that they would do, and say, anything based in that fear, in order to squash progessivec ideas.  And I received a lot of “support posts” from people who seek  out opinions of others with whom they can agree.

I don’t believe for one minute that my writing, or anybody else’s writing,  can actually change a readers opinion.  Let’s face it.  It takes years for us, as human beings, to change; change out minds, change our tune, change our outlook, change our opinion, change our politics, etc.  Even if we want to change it doesn’t happen overnight.  So for those of us who don’t even want to change, or don’t think we need to change, reading blog opinion pieces will only inspire the co-conspirators, or anger the detractors.  There’s just not a lot of “re-thinking” going on.

I’ve done my share of reading both mainstream blogs, and personal blogs like mine.  I don’t find there to be much difference between the two.  It’s all just personal opinion, some with agendas, some with butterflies & unicorns.  None if it really matters.

Here are just a few of the things I learned in the last two years.  Some of it I learned about myself, some of it about others:

I hate people who say “at the end of the day”.  It is the most overused, and least meaningful expression in generations.  It is verbal filler, not unlike most of what today’s talkers have to say.  Whether it be a blog or a cable news pundit, it’s all just verbal filler.  What are all these political talk shows but blogs on TV.  It’s white noise that in a week, or a few days, you won’t remember.  And that’s the real problem.  None of it is memorable.

People who don’t like what you have to say will call you every name in the book.  They will write a degrading comment on your blog telling me to stop degrading people.  I don’t get it.  And they don’t understand “hypocrisy”.

Read More »

Voices of my Father


As I watched the Inauguration of Barack Obama today, I deliberately chose not to blog.  I wanted today to be a time of observance and reflection.  As I watched the happenings and while I felt moved and occasionally welled up, there was something missing for me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I have been emotional at other times during the Obama “movement” including Election Night itself.  And as President Obama began his speech today, I listened intently.  It was a strong, powerful, moving speech, filled with honesty and clarity of purpose.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in history when so many people gathered in Washington D.C. to see an inauguration.  Not in my lifetime anyway and perhaps not ever, not even for John F. Kennedy, my father’s political hero.  Of course, this is a television/internet era.  So not only were there record crowds on the National Mall, there are record TV audiences and record internet traffic on Live Coverage sites.  But for the first time ever, there were crowds around the world, around the Planet, to watch this truly unique, and world-changing event.  From Kenya to Israel to Japan, they all celebrated today.  Yet even knowing that, there was still something missing.

After President Obama’s speech, and after most of the early fanfare, and the departure of the ex-President by helicopter (what a wonderful sight – that made me cry), my phone rang.  I didn’t answer it because I decided I did not want to be interrupted today, no matter who it was.  If it was urgent, I would call back whoever it was.  I quickly looked and saw that it was my mother and let it go to voice mail.  I figured she was going to ask me some question or tell me some story, or whatever, I knew it wasn’t so important that I needed to stop what I was doing; what I wanted to do at that moment was watch these historical events unfold on television.  I was glad I had a high definition TV; it is truly a grand TV-watching experience,  But still there was someting missing.

After a brief while, I checked my voice mail.  It was my mother, of course, but the tone in her voice was different.  I could tell she was a bit choked up, a bit emotional.  For a brief moment I though “Uh, oh” what happened. 

Throughout the Obama campaign, and  throughout the election, my mother and I didn’t really agree.  She didn’t have the same passion for politics and change that had come to be part of my life.  I didn’t feel she understood how important all of this was to me   Barack Obama winning the Presidency will always be one of the highlights, if not THE highlight, of my life.  Similar to what JFK was to my father and her.

As I listened to her message, she told me in a quivering sort of voice, that she had just finished watching the Inauguration.  And as the words came out of her mouth, I was a bit astonished.  She said “I was thinking about your father, and how proud he would be; how happy he would be at what was happening today”.   My father died in 1984.  In the reality of our family, my father, his beliefs, his politics, his point of view, are rarely, if ever talked about.

So I thought for a moment and the tears came to my eyes.  The man who was so distant as a father, but taught me so much from afar, was with me today.  By not teaching his children about racism and bigotry, we didn’t know it existed.  As he helped ex-cons by giving them jobs when no one else would, and as he helped the first black family in our neighborhood get a mortgage when no local bank would give them one, we never knew.   He helped that same family renovate the electrical service in their own.  They paid him weekly, maybe $5.00 a week until they paid off what they owed.  My father told them to just pay what they could, when they could.  My father quietly did his part to try and end racism and bigotry in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, John and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  He did not boast or brag about what he did, he simply did it.  And this is what Barack Obama talked about today in his speech.   Obama said that America was ready to once again take the lead; in terms of diplomacy, inclusion, fairness, world peace, equality, and all of the tenets upon which this country was founded.  Indeed all Americans are created equal.

So it came full circle for me.  I finally understood why I was emotional throughout Obama’s campaign, his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, his victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago on the night of November 4, 2008, and today when he put his hand on the Lincoln Bible where he swore to protect and defend America and uphold the Constitution.  It was the voice of my fahter.  Not his actual voice, in fact just the opposite.  It was his silence in not pointing out what racism was, or what bigotry was.  We werent’ told about it because he didn’t want us to even fathom the thought of it.  I grew up not knowing that some people thought there was a difference between white and black, jew and christian, rich and poor, gay or straight.  He didn’t want to teach us about racism for fear that we would participate in it.  Instead, he led through quiet example.  Never judging people based on the differences by which some found it so easy to judge.  

Dad, you did the right thing.  I didn’t learn about racism and bigotry until I was in my very late teens; I learned it from the world.  And it was a terrible thing to realize.  I must admit that I did judge people.  I judged the ones who wanted to deny others their  basic human rights.  Even today some still try to do it.  But not Barack , Dad,  He’s a different kind of guy.  When I look at him I don’t thnk “he’s black”.  I think, “he’s cool, he’s smart, he’s of my generation and he thinks like me, only smarter”.  You would really have liked him.  Thanks Dad.  I found my JFK. 

And so I blogged after all.

How to survive the holidays


I haven’t written anything on this blog in ten days.  I haven’t really been focused on politics, current events, or pop culture.  While I no longer participate in exchanging gifts, I have been concentrating on the holidays.  They are an especially difficult time for me and each year I try to survive them the best I can.  Christmas is a very emotional time for many.  I believe it stems from looking at your Christmas tree late at night with just the tree lights on in a quiet room.  How can you not think about Christmas past.  Yes, there were good times, but bad memories are easier to conjure up in your mind.  There will always be the gift you didn’t get when you were a kid.  The one gift you wanted so desperately.  There will always be memories of what was going on in your life during a particular holiday season.  There will always be people missing from your life that were there during one Christmas, but are no longer. 

I would like to dedicate this posting to my friend Sarah.  In addition to her insight, she has been a kind ear to listen to my pinings.  She is a soft place to land as I feel the harshness of disappointment and lost love.  I must say that this Christmas is better than I remember Christmas being for a long time.  This year I have so much to be thankful for and luckily, didn’t forget it this year.

It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t tear free.  But I enjoyed the holidays this year because I felt more like myself, more inner peace, than I have in years.  I have talked with a few people who know me well and I talked to Sarah who doesn’t know me all that well.  Her interest in other people’s stories opened the door for me to tell my story  to her.

To me the Christmas season should be about giving thanks, just as much as Thanksgiving is.  I am hopeful that since sales were down this year, some people have learned that you can celebrate and be happy at Christmas time with less “stuff”.  They may have sweated and toiled over what to buy and how to buy with less money, but in the end maybe they realized that Chirstmas spirit has nothing to do with “stuff”.  It has to do with the people you love, being there for them, and them for you.

So next year, maybe the world will spend even less, regardless of the economic conditions.  You can’t put a price on kindness.  I’d also like to thank my family for welcoming me back into the fold this year.  The last 2 years have been very diffucult times and I wasn’t the same person during that time.  Many didin’t recognize me at all.  But luckily family always foregives, if it works out right, and this year it did.

Thanks again, Sarah, my jewish friend who helped this gentile make it through a difficult time.  My Christmas wish to everyone is that they have someone to share their successes and failures, their pain and joy; a soft place to land, all without judgement from anybody. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

All Christmas Shoppers have Blood on their hands


You’ve heard the stories.  Three people were actually trampled to death, killed, murdered in the doorway of a mall or big box store on Black Friday.  One pregnant woman made it out alive but when all was said and done, she could not say the same for her yet unborn child. 

I know you saw this on this news.  I am sure you watched in horror as it was read to you while the video of throngs of manic Christmas shoppers played in the background.

As far as I’m concerned – each and every one of you “Christmas Shoppers” is responsible for these deaths.  Do you think that because it didn’t happen where you were shopping, or in the crowd in which you stood, that you are innocent.  You are not. 

You have all fed the fires of Christmas shopping hell by demanding and participating in Black Friday “deals”.  These so called deals, in many cases, have been marked up, only to be marked back down to something reasonable, all in the name of Christmas; all in the name of squealing, stampeding shoppers who did everything from punch each other out, to actually shoot each other with handguns, inside a store, to get a DVD player. 

Store clerks were mowed down while trying to help customers escape the melee. 

It is my opinion that you should all be ashamed of yourselves for allowing these things to happen.  None of you deserve a happy Christmas.  You have turned this sacred holiday into a pagan ritual fueled by greed, and guilt, and gluttony and I find it disgusting, immoral, and unforgivable.

Christmas is a holiday (once pronounced “holy day”) to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, a Christian being who is believed to have come to save the world from its own sins.  If you are not celebrating that specific idea, then why the hell are you at Best Buy, elbowing strangers to get a flat screen TV.

You were born and raised in the most greedy, self-centered period in American history.  And because you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas when you were six years old, you are now trying to make up for it by piling on the presents to your own children.  You are perpetuating the myth that Santa Claus exists and that more presents equals more love.

It’s time to GET A GRIP.  When is it enough?  When people are dying because of this ridiculousness?  Well, now they are dying.  But are you ready yet to give up this nonsense and give to each other what really matters:  human kindness, affection, your time, and gestures of real love that don’t involve price tags.

What really gets to me is the Pro life crowd who wants to protect the lives of the unborn, all in the name of God.  But when a woman loses her child as she is trampled by Christmas shoppers, these same people are too busy to notice or care, and are fighting over the newest and coolest cell phone to give their twelve year old for Christmas.

How about this year for Christmas, instead of watching the news with feigned horror that someone died being trampled at a shopping mall, you go somewhere to simply help someone else pick themselves up instead of pushing them out of the way.  That, my friends, is a real Christmas gift.