The Old Woman and Hockey: A Bond

Growing up, I lived across the street from an elderly woman, Minnie. She was the stereotypical “old lady” who just didn’t like kids in a neighborhood just crawling with kids. Frankly, we were all a little afraid of this large, scary woman who really didn’t like us. My family moved to the neighborhood when I was 4, and for the next 6-years I pretty much lived in fear of this woman.

1980 saw the US Olympic Men’s Hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet team to advance to play for the gold medal – “Do you believe in miracles?” At age 10, I had no idea what had happened, but I knew it was something big. Jim Craig, the US Goalkeeper, was from Massachusetts and was a bit of a crush for Minnie. To this day, I have no idea how I came to be in her favor, but it was like a thaw had occurred. She began to share with me her significant collection of Sporting News back-issues, and fostered in me a love of the Boston Bruins. What a pair we must’ve been – the elderly shut-in and the junior high student standing together on her front porch, with nothing apparently in common, talking about the Bruins.

I don’t think I ever learned the origin of this love of hockey – whether it was simple infatuation with the hometown hero or if it went back to a childhood in the Canadian Maritime Provinces – but it was real and it was genuine. She taught me to love Rick Middleton and Terry O’Reilly…and the Bruins.

She did not live to see the 1987-1988 Stanley Cup Finals, and perhaps it is just as well given the way her beloved Bruins fell to the Oilers, in 4 ½ games. With the arena air-conditioning battling to control the rising temperature, the electric system in the Boston Garden became overtaxed and ultimately failed. The 3-3 game was canceled in the second period. In the next game, the Oilers won their 4th Stanley Cup on home ice.

I thought about her the day of Game 7 of the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup finals. I can picture her large frame in a drab housecoat and slippers cheering on Tim Thomas, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci, Zdano Chara, Milan Lucic, and Mark Recchi, although I can also imagine her sometimes ribald commentary about how to actually pronounce some of the names and asking “exactly what is a ‘Canuck’ anyway?” There might even be a play on the phonemes that the slang for “Canadian” and the slang for carnal activity share in common, although I cannot say for certain. I got to share a bond with this woman in a way that I think she had not allowed herself to share with anyone in a very long time.  

So here’s to that elderly woman, long since deceased who was doubtlessly cheering on the Black and Gold “B.” Godspeed Minnie, and God Bless.

VIDEO: 
Game 4 1987-1988 Stanley Cup Finals: http://youtu.be/7yTVfJNQQiw

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Getting Through Airport Security

The announcement over the airport PA system reminds the traveler not to accept packages from unknown persons and to keep a watchful eye over his/her own luggage, “in this time of enhanced security.” Any frequent air traveler has come to be weary of the TSA security checkpoint, after all no one really wants to deal with having their belongings or person scrutinized, but more often than not it is prolonged by other, unprepared travelers.

Here’s what you can do to speed yourself through TSA security.

1) Empty your pockets before getting in line. I carry a soft-sided bag, anything in my pockets goes into the side pocket – change, keys, wallet, belt, phone, everything. Make a plan and remain consistent about where you stow your belongings – travel is difficult if you lose track of your wallet. In line, I unbuckle my belt which either goes into a bin with my jacket and shoes or it goes into the bag.

One quarter in your pocket will double your time in the screening area. You’ll set off an alarm, the TSA agent will ask you to check again, and through the machine you go again…or through a hand screen.

2) Know how many bins you will need to screen your belongings and pack your bag appropriately. It sounds like a simple thing, but you know you have on a jacket, you’re wearing shoes and a belt, and carrying a notebook computer. The jacket and shoes can go into one bin, the computer goes in alone. 2 bins. Have change in your pocket? Watch? Grab the correct number of bins to avoid having to reach back or otherwise disrupt the process. Put them down on the table in front of you. Down goes the soft bag, which goes on the conveyor first, then my bins slide in right behind it. Maybe you’re carrying liquids – you’ll need another bin for these.

3) Wear slip-on shoes. Unless you’re a minor or a senior, you’re taking off your shoes in the security check point. Do yourself a favor and make it easy on yourself to not only take them off, but get them back on once through the checkpoint. Thigh-high boots, laced up dress shoes or sneakers take some time to remove, but getting them back on is a chore. Your goal is to get through the security check point as quickly as possible, and that means collecting your belongings after having been screened. The jacket comes off, and into a bin. The shoes come off, and into the bin with the jacket.

4) Notebook computers have to come out of their bags and go through the x-ray in a tray by itself. I carry my notebook in my soft-sided bag, packed right on top and the last thing I put in. Once at the security checkpoint, I unzip my bag, drop the computer into a bin alone. At this point, it’s almost one swift motion.

5) Once cleared through the checkpoint, be prepared to collect your belongings. The bag comes through, then the bin with my shoes, then the computer. I grab my shoes and slip them on – if you regrettably decided to wear those boots, or dress shoes, you’re carrying them away and putting them on in another area after having walked around a small section of the airport in your stocking feet. The notebook is taken out of its bin, and back into my bag. I now have my belongings and can now move out of the screening area. A short walk out of the screening area, the belt goes back on and the contents of my pockets are then replaced. If there’s a time crunch, those items are already stowed in the bag, and you can retrieve them later.

6) Be polite. When approaching the first agent who reviews your boarding pass and identification, be polite. Look the agent in the eye, answer questions when asked, smile. Their job is to make sure you’re appropriately in the area; your goal is to get screened as quickly as possible. There is no reason not to be polite. 
7) Know what you can and cannot carry onboard. Know how much liquid or gel is permitted to be carried; and do not carry any prohibited items. Since there is an evolving list of items that are prohibited, if there’s a question in your mind about what you can carry, check with the TSA first. Their “Prohibited Items” list is available at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items.

If you’re thoughtful about what you’re carrying through security and come to the checkpoint with a plan for getting your belongings (and yourself) through the checkpoint, you will save yourself and your fellow travelers time. 

Blah

I don’t write nearly as often as I used to nor, quite frankly, as I would like.  There was a time I would write to explore ideas, or to give myself a creative outlet, or if nothing else, to keep myself sane.  There have been times when I have been ridiculously creative or depressed and needing an outlet.  I’ve traveled an interesting journey in discovering myself, and writing has served a solid purpose in helping me explore those feelings.

Over the last few years, I’ve found differing purposes that have held my attention.  I no longer spend a hundred hours a month commuting to a stifling job and therefore no longer spend that time circulating ideas in my head – creating existential questions begging to be answered.  I’m largely free to explore ideas of interest in the context of my job – a job with the twin benefits of at once being highly entrepreneurial while also being one where I have a consistent and predictable salary.  I’m actually paid for my opinions and the analysis at which I am very good.  The best of both worlds.

It’s with this in mind, then, that it occurred to me that after some 10 years of self directed writing that I write most of my work at night.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a night owl.  There’s no one around to distract my attention, and as such, I can focus my efforts without interruption.  The house is quiet.  The external demands minimal.

I am without a doubt an introvert.  I used to take this time to recharge my batteries, to get out all of that “STUFF” in my head.  I now spend a lot of time alone and as such my batteries are generally charged up.  This has served me well, as I cannot remember the last time I felt so emotionally healthy.  I have a better understanding of myself, my limitations, and my strengths.  It’s in this context that writing takes a backseat, because I have the time to think and process and just be alone that I’ve never had before.

There are times, though, that I still need to process out in writing.

When I was in college, I had an Op/Ed column in the school paper.  I wish I had been forward thinking enough to save some of the pieces, but alas I wasn’t.  Every week there was a column put out there – for ridicule or praise – in front of my 4,000+ fellow students and faculty.  And there was always this weird sort of dichotomy where I would read what I had written and question my work, but when I read it in the paper – as though someone else had written it – it felt “right.”  It was in black and white on newsprint.  It had to be legit.  Writing served as a really good way to force some construction around my ideas and communicate them.

Now, I realize a good portion of what makes me tick – middle age seems to have had that effect.  When there’s a lot going on around me, I start to shut down – there’s so much to process, over which I have no control.  With all that environmental noise going on, I focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything else.  As the noise increases, my field of vision – or hearing – decreases.  It takes work to filter out all that “stuff” in the environment, so when something deserving of attention requests attention, it’s often difficult to get it.  Essentially, I’m capable of focusing on one thing at a time and when I focus, I do so effectively at the exclusion of everything else.  Sometimes so feverishly that I fail to notice things I should – like the effect I’m having on those with whom I’m having a conversation.  I have to force myself to make sure I’m not driving home my analysis at the expense of alienating those who have so graciously engaged me.

What makes me feel badly is when someone who deserves my attention doesn’t get it and is hurt by that.  It also makes me feel badly when my headspace and need isn’t acknowledged.  It’s important to get my attention to discuss something so I can respect your feelings, but it’s equally important that my need to be able to focus is respected.

I want to be engaged and to listen, but I also want to be respected and not belittled.  I process information my way, you process information your way.  It would be great if we could just figure out how we could process together.

Pokey Reese

For Boston Red Sox fans, Pokey Reese is probably best remembered for one play, in one game.  That one play was in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.  A ground ball was sent to short stop, and the call “…Pokey Reese has it…” sealed the deal for the Sox to complete the most unlikely comeback and advance to the 2004 World Series.

Pokey Reese, however, was more than that.  Earlier in the baseball season, at the beginning really, we fulfilled a promise we made to my daughter when we had told her we would get a dog when we had bought a house.  

A year before, we had bought our home and while it took us a year to fulfill our promise, on Memorial Day weekend, we had decided it was time.  We knew the kind of dog we wanted – a breed that was known to be good with kids – and we had located the place to buy this new member of our family.

When we arrived at the store, we told the proprietor what we were looking for, and she led us to the area of the store where we could find it.  An entire litter of cockapoos in one area, all of which had poop on their heads, were squirming around an open air crate.  One immediately took an interest in us and we decided quickly that this little puppy would be our choice – or rather, we would affirm his choice in us.  

For almost 10 years that little puppy, the one we named Pokey Reese after the 2004 Red Sox 2B/SS and otherwise largely unremarkable player, would become our family member.  He knew only our home and our “pack” for as long as he lived.  On Thursday, 12 December, he passed away from the leukemia that had been diagnosed last year.  We were fortunate that he was a survivor as long as he was, but in the end cancer has its ways of making itself known.

Over the last month, we went from having a largely healthy dog, to a confused little old man, his cancer having spread to his central nervous system.  Eventually, despite some of the worlds’ best care just miles down the road from us, he succumbed to his disease having had a seizure and falling into a coma.

To give an idea of how important and how loved this dog was, today his oncologist called and told us that she had pictures on her phone dating to last year of him and telling us how sweet he was, that she was there when he died and that he was loved.  This is a woman who sees hundreds of dogs and yet, she bonded with my Pokey Reese.  

It’s self serving, and perhaps even egocentric, to say he was loved by all he met, but he was.  He was a special creature, very loving and gentle.  Never fearing an apparent strike to the face, because he’d never experienced being hit.  I trusted him not to bite me, and he trusted that I would never hit him.  Both were self fulfilling prophesies.  

Tonight, his water bowl is empty, his bed alone, and his leaches untouched.  All where they were when we brought him to the hospital for the last time.  He’s no longer suffering, and I have to believe he was suffering, but we are sad for that special little creature we have lost.  

It’s been a little more than 24 hours since he passed onto the Rainbow Bridge and we’re still sad.  I have to believe that we’ll be sad for a while – he was a member of our family for almost a decade.  There’s no more furry friend sharing our bed, or to be put out, or to be fed.  We’re eternally grateful for the additional year we had with him, but eternally sad he’s no longer here with us.

Twenty-Twelve

I know I talk a lot.  A lot about stuff that is full of nuance and from most people’s perspective boring.  I like the intricacies of law, and how things work and fit together; I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.  What I’m not particularly good at is being introspective and being reflective.  

As we near the end of another year, I’ve wanted to be thoughtful, introspective and reflective about the past year.  2012 was a pretty good year – a very good year all together – for my family and me after a particularly difficult 2011; a fitting comparison being the pendulum that swings one way and then to another.

Some things remain: Family-wise, we’re healthy, we’re together.  We have a wonderful home. And we’re perhaps a stronger unit for having followed the journey.  Over the years, we’ve weathered ups and downs – 2012 represented a much needed up year.   

Our beloved family dog was diagnosed with leukemia in November and we feared we would lose him before the end of the year.  Thankfully, we had the resources – including the necessary funds, but not to be overlooked the amazing Tufts Veterinary Hospital nearby – to get him the treatment he needed.  We obviously don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that he has more time left with us.  We are truly blessed to share our lives with this wonderful creature; his diagnosis has made us even more aware of how blessed we are to have him.

Our children are healthy and thriving.  2013 will see the oldest graduate from High School and onto the start of the rest of her life.  We were able to give her the freedom an automobile represents, as well as the responsibility.  She has before her a world of opportunity, which includes a world of responsibility and 2012 has demonstrated that while she’s somewhat reticent about accepting either of those things, she’s demonstrating that she has the capacity to accept them.  

We’ve been able to sustain and improve our home – the only home our son has ever known.  With continued good fortune, it may be the only home he knows for some time.  He has expanded our connections here, 2012 had several people enter our lives because he was busy doing what young boys do – make friends.  I am so thankful for the people and friends in my life, and particularly thankful for my little boy, who shows me every day the power of imagination and the importance parent have in a child’s life – some day he will no longer be a child and the first part of our jobs as parents will be done.  Until that time, though, I intend to love every minute of his childhood.

We were able to share in the wedding of friends who now live a half-planet away.  Through the love and affection of people we consider family, though with entirely different lineages and without true blood relations, we shared a wonderful time with two people who mean the world to us, shared the world with our son, and cemented a bond between our two families I hope will last several lifetimes.  

The last gift 2012 gave us has been each other.  Life as a family has always been challenging, and sometimes people let those challenges pull them apart.  Other times those life challenges are opportunities to do hard work and come together.  So far, we’ve been successful in navigating life’s challenges; it hasn’t always been easy, but it has demonstrated our capacities to weather storms and emerge together.  

Sure, 2012 saw its share of storms, but overall it gave us another year of experience and it gave us so very much for which to be thankful.   2012 represented a year in which the good vastly outweighed the bad; the positive outweighed the negative; and the rough waters never got so rough as to breach the dams.  We should be so fortunate every year.

Let’s Define The President’s phrase “Meaningful Action”

We, My fellow Americans, are not a nation of deep thinkers.  We’re just not.  We’ll spend our time building opinions on who should win “The Voice,” or a couple of hours debating the relative pros and cons of the BCS and think this passes for serious consideration.  Even better, we’ve become a nation of “reposters,” passing along clearly outdated, inaccurate, or partially accurate stories which outrage us on Facebook without ever deciding to do our own fact checking before doing so.

We want to treat childhood obesity by banning “Big Gulps,” and mandating what kind of lunch goes to school.  We blame the Xbox.  How about the idea that in 1970 Americans consumed 2160 calories daily on a per capita basis compared with 2674 in 2008, and that we expend less energy while doing so.  We have built suburbs where the only means by which to get around is via automobile.  We bus our kids to school instead of having them walk.  We don’t know our neighbors, so our kids don’t play outside – they go on pre-arranged play dates in a familiar others’ home.  Our whole way of life – up to and including how we’ve built our neighborhoods – plays a role, but we decide that the coke machine in the high school café is the culprit. Meanwhile no one is reconsidering how we build our neighborhoods.

When a tragedy like that which visited Newtown Connecticut occurs, even before the grief has subsided, we have political pundits on both sides of the gun control debate and frankly the mental health profession staking their ground for the debate that will ultimately occur.  We allow ourselves to be polarized to believe there is but one cause and effect to such a senseless tragedy.  There is not.

The President told us the day of that tragedy it is time for meaningful action, where upon the analysis from the pundits was “make no mistake, the President was talking about ‘gun control.’”   I am willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt when he says “meaningful action,” and as such I don’t know what makes me angrier – that the pundit went to that place so quickly, or that he might be right.  The question, then, is “what is meaningful action?”

Meaningful action is not a simply debate on gun control.  We continue that debate on the bumpers of cars all across this country.  Meaningful action is not a vast expansion of mental health benefits to an already expansive health care reform mandate.  I’m not entirely sure “meaningful action” is within the purview of the Federal government, but I’m quite certain “gun control” is not where the conversation should start.

The second amendment was the framers’ guarantee that the American people could protect themselves from the government.  A gun control debate is really a question of how much of your constitutional protections you want to cede back to the government from which the founders sought protection in the first place.  I know – I’ve seen infographics on Facebook about how many more deaths occur in the US due to gun violence in any other industrial country.  Fact is, I don’t know of another industrial country that has the constitutional right to own a gun – Haiti, Mexico, and Guatemala do.  It’s part of our constitution – for the politicians out there, if you’re going to accuse each other cowardice for not doing what we need to do for gun control then I challenge you to propose rescinding the second amendment and let’s have that debate.

Meaningful action should be a meaningful debate – serious consideration on ALL of the factors that could lead a young man to slaughter his own family and then visit evil upon elementary school innocents – and determining what is the Federal Government’s role (if any), the State governments role, and most important our own INDIVIDIUAL roles.  This man was able to execute his plan because he had access to guns – perhaps the question is what his plan would have looked like if he didn’t have access to guns.  Doubtless, seeing the violence inflicted, it would have been just as vile just executed in a different way.   We do know this school shooter killed himself when he knew the first responders were approaching – I wonder what his tack would have been had he to consider that any of the adults in that building could have been an armed first responder.

We want so much to fix that which is wrong, but we spend exactly no time thinking about the cumulative effects of everything that’s wrong.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we allowed the Federal government to turn our airports into military encampments, and ultimately federalize security.  Frankly, we’re no better protected than we were 12 years ago – we just have the Federal government controlling the system.  We allowed the Bush administration to pass the Patriot Act, which granted the government sweeping powers – in other words we allowed the government to restrict our personal liberties and gain control.  Political opportunism knows few bounds.

We need meaningful action and thought about accessibility to mental health services, to be sure, but we also need meaningful action and thought about what causes dispossession and disconnect leading someone to seek mental health services.  The shooter here was the 20-year old son of a public school teacher; because he was under age 26 (under heath care reform), we would have been eligible to have been on his mothers health insurance – insurance which if it is typical of most public employee plans, would have included relatively rich mental health benefits.  Access here was not the issue, and while that is not the case in every instance, the fact remains that even if this is a “mental health issue,” the cause and effects are broad and the solutions are myriad.  The answer is not “better MH funding.”  It seems to me that individual responsibility comes to bear here, those closest to him had to know something was wrong; it further seems to me that if there is a funding issue for MH Services, it would be access to general education for those living with a loved one with mental illness.  Last on this point, that’s just my view on this case and my own prejudices – lets have that data-driven conversation, put our assertions aside and see what the data tell us.  THEN we can form our opinions on what the data are and debate that.

In response to massive house foreclosures, the government made it easier to refinance underwater homes if mortgage payments were late.  So those who overbought their homes, and could no longer pay their inflated mortgages and stopped paying, could keep those houses.  Meanwhile, those who were bought a responsibly priced home, kept making mortgage payments when hard times hit, couldn’t refinance because they were current on their mortgages.  It’s exactly these counter-intuitive results I’m warning of and arguing against.

We don’t need a response to violence of one person.  We need a broad understanding of the consequences of the structures we have in place – we need to be thinking about these issues before we have a school shooting, not in response to one.  We need to thoughtfully consider ALL aspects of what our society has built instead of slapping yet another series of regulations down to cure the problems caused by the aggregate.

My heart breaks for the families and the children of Newtown, Connecticut.

Election Day

Every 4 years we cast a ballot for electors for the President of the United States.  4 years ago, the candidate (technically the electors) for whom I voted were not elected, but I was proud of my country for demonstrating how far we had come as a nation.  I will not be voting for our President this year either, but it doesn’t change the fact our incumbent President is a person of color and that is what makes this country great.

That said, here is my ballot:

Electors for President of the United States: Gary Johnson / Jim Gray – Libertarian 

I believe the two party system in the United States is a corruption of what the United States should be.  We have two institutional parties manipulating politics toward their own ends – voting on issues and not solutions.  We allow politicians to give us a false choice of one or the other.

“Don’t waste your vote” is a fallacy.  The utter arrogance to hear Al Gore complain that Ralph Nader cost him the Presidency or George HW Bush complain Ross Perot cost him reelection – it presumes that the Presidency belongs to one of two parties, that people casting a ballot for someone more aligned with their beliefs somehow bastardizes the result.

I am voting for Gary Johnson because his articulated positions are more inline with my beliefs than those of any other candidate.  He’s a legitimate candidate, having been the 2-term governor of New Mexico as well as having built his own company.   He stands for the reduction of government power and control.  He stands for the freedom of making your own choices and taking your own consequences.   GaryJohnson2012.com

Massachusetts Senator: Scott Brown – Republican

Senator Brown has had 2 years to put a stamp on the Senate.  It’s been an unremarkable 2 years (particularly given that at least the last 1 year has been spent campaigning), but I like what I have seen from him.  I believe he is a genuine person who wants to do a good job for the people of Massachusetts.  I want to know what he would do with a full term.  I found the whole Elizabeth Warren ancestry issue to be a red herring, and more than slightly offensive – that died the death it deserved to die.  That said, I find the Warren campaign’s distortion of Brown’s record to be equally as offensive.

All in all, I’m going to vote for a candidate who has expressed and demonstrated a willingness to work across the aisle over a candidate running on keeping the other party at bay (as noted above, I believe 2-party politics to be a corruption of what politicians are elected to do) every time.  ScottBrown.com

Referendum Questions:

Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, Question 1 –  Yes.  This is the intersection between the auto makers’ intellectual property and my access to data I create.  I willingly choose to give away data to such sources as Facebook and Google because they provide a service for which I do not pay; I have bought my car, as part of that cost I expect I am buying the access to the data created by that car.  The legislature passed a compromise bill in July – to my mind, that bill is not comprehensive enough.  I will vote “YES” on this bill.

Massachusetts “Death with Dignity” Initiative, Question 2 – Yes. We should have the right to control our end of life decisions.  Beyond the sound bites, one truth remains: the individual should control his/her destiny on his/her own volition when faced with an incurable disease.  There is no mandate on a doctor – an individual doctor does not have to write a prescription and can choose not to treat a patient in this way. Death is a uniquely personal experience and an individual deserves the authority to make his/her own choices around it.

Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 3 – Yes.  I don’t believe marijuana should be criminalized to begin with, however in this case if there’s a positive use for it there’s no reason a doctor should not be allowed to prescribe it.   The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police are against the question, largely because of their concerns about distribution, or in other words control – which I believe is part of the problem.  Attorney General Coakley is concerned passage would lead to a “headache” ensuring it’s not “abused,” a concern that would be eliminated if the sale of marijuana were controlled as is the sale of tobacco or alcohol.

The rest of my ballot resembles a Soviet ballot – for all of the other positions, save one, there is but one person running for office.

The one that has more than one candidate (on my ballot) is for Representative in General Court (or Representative to the State legislature); this office has 3 candidates running: a Democrat (incumbent), a Republican, and an Independent.  I’m planning to vote for the Independent, because he’s a little wacky – a little far out – but because he seems genuine and a true counter balance to the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in Boston.  He has been an elected member of my hometown’s light board for 15 years and a volunteer for NEADS Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans and Canines for Combat Veterans for 30.  He’s a small business owner, and has some solid ideas for growing small business – the economic generator this country needs.  And he thinks this experience is qualification for government.  In the ideal world, and in the vision of those who created our system – it is qualification for government.  And he’s got a great name…even if his website is broken.  He says some things I don’t agree with, but he says a lot that I do – and he’s not aligned with either of the major parties.  I’m of a mind to give this man a shot. “Winn Handy.”  I like it.