Sunday, November 9, 2008

Two Things related to Politics

Alright, here I go. I have one commentary to share although it is a little past due...I still feel it is applicable. The Wednesday prior to the election, Barack Obama ran an infomercial on all the major networks, which makes me wonder how desperate we must be as a nation for a change. I also have to ask what it says about us that we need an advertisement to prove to ourselves that we need a new direction. Barack Obama ran an Infomercial for Change. I wonder if he consulted RonCO for tips on how to peddle his thoughts as he polished some old food dehydrator, flavor injector and rotisserie oven tactics to sell himself. There were testimonials from the WalMart demographic indicating how fabulous it would be and there were clear statements about how much better life would be. In fact, the only thing that was missing was the old..."It's not going to cost you $300.00, not $200.00, not $100.00.  This change could be yours for three easy payments of three hours in line at the local polling place."  I am glad we stopped short of the payment plan in this pitch for change. Don't get me wrong, my guy won the election, but what must be wrong with us as a society that we can't listen to ideas unless they are packaged up Ron Popeil style in a 30 minute Infomercial? We have a long way to come as a nation, let's all get ready for the work ahead

The second item on the docket today is the concept of President-elect:

This is a difficult concept for some people...especially for my friends working at the local K-Mart in the Bronx.

I made the mistake of going to K-Mart last week on Thursday. I say mistake, like I actually have a choice not to go, but unfortunately, in my neighborhood, it is my only choice for many household necessities. I rushed through the store grabbing what I needed, and rushed back to the check out line only to wait in line. There are two guarantees at K-Mart: 1) You will wait in line for way too long and 2) there are always four or five employees gathered around one register not helping anybody almost as if they are laughing at the people in line. Please open up more registers, stop talking and help get me out of this store! Anyway, on this night, the gathering of staff at one register allowed for me to have an eye opening experience.

As I placed my items near the scanner, my cashier looked over to the next register where the "staff meeting" was taking place and said, "They are still counting votes in California." Now, me being curious asked, "What are you tailing about?" She looked at me for the first time and said, "The Barack Obama election thing." I pressed again and wanted to know why she was concerned about the votes in California 48 hours after all precincts had reported and President-elect Obama won the state nearly 2-1 over John McCain and had a clear victory in the Electoral College. She said, "man, they are still counting votes in California. They aren't done counting the votes that is why he is just the President-elect and not the President!"

I took a step back, because in her excitement and pronunciation of the word President, she spit on me...just a little. I debated trying to explain the true meaning of President-elect and how Inauguration works and when it takes place and really help to educate her on the political process. Before I could make my decision, she chimed in with the following piece of incite. "My cousin Titi lives in California and alls I knows is that they aren't done counting. I'm gonna call her and get an update but until those votes are counted, he's just the President-elect" I now knew that I would not be able to compete with her knowledge and the budding political reporting career of cousin Titi. I grabbed my bags, took my receipt and parted withe the following. "Have a good evening. Good luck with California (and under my breath, "how uniformed are people? I can't wait to put this on a blog somewhere.")

That's the great thing about life...there are so many interactions that you just can't make up!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jury Duty

Yep, that's right, despite my many attempts to get out of it, I finally had to do my civic duty and serve jury duty.  As often happens, I let my imagination get the better of me prior to serving and had convinced myself that I would get selected for a criminal trial of the most heinous variety with all kinds of awful evidence that would most definitely leave me scarred for life.  

Fortunately, it was nothing like that.  It was surprisingly simple and pain free.  On Monday I sat in the jurors' room all day waiting for my name to be called, which it wasn't.  Incidentally, I say all day, but that is not exactly accurate.  I arrived at 9:00am and we were sent to lunch at 12:30.  We returned at 2:00pm, and then were sent home at 3:00pm...this is my kind of work day!

Yesterday, the courts were closed for election day.  Today, I returned to jurors' room and crossed my fingers that I would yet again not hear my name.  We were told on the first day that if we made it to the end of Wednesday without being selected then we were finished with our civic duty for the next 6 years!  However, when I arrived today, the number of jurors left in the room was so small that I was sure we would all be called and  would have to serve.

So, just before lunch they rattled off another list of about 20 names.  Once again mine wasn't on it...except, right after, they said "Oh yeah, and Amber Wells"...Dang it! So we all filed into a court room for the selection process on a civil trial.  They drew 12 names out of hat to begin the selection process, which they said would start after lunch.  At 2pm we return to the room while the attorney for the plaintiff proceeds to ask each juror several questions.  After about 45 minutes, he and the other attorney take a short break.   Upon their return they announce that the trial would likely take another three days, and really, that's asking us to serve for too long, so instead, they will just release us all and start fresh tomorrow!  So, I was finished by 3:00pm.  

Not that I'm complaining, but this does not seem to be the most efficient system, especially when they explained on the first day that they are running out of qualified jurors.  Why not just guarantee that when you're called you have to serve for at least one week?  If you get on a case that doesn't last a whole day, then you serve on another one until your week is up.  Similarly, if you don't get selected on your first case, then you go back into the pool to be selected again.  This seems like it would make much more sense.  However, under the current system I only had to miss two days of work and now I'm set for six years!  

In any case, it was an interesting experience and I am extremely thankful that I didn't have to see any gory pictures or hear any gruesome details!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Apple Picking in Yorktown Heights, NY

Amber and I enjoyed our visit to Wilkens Fruit Farm in Yorktown Heights, New York (roughly 35 miles from our apartment in the bronx.  The Fall colors were out in full force along the Sprainbrook Parkway, which made the drive one of the true highlights of the day.

Amber and I took advantage of the Columbus Day and decided to enjoy our first ever apple picking adventure.
Amber, although slightly vertically challenged, was very determined to fill our basket with apples.
You can clearly see that she was very proud of each apple she was able to shake from the trees.
I was more interested in eating the apples than picking them.  I justified this as quality control and ensuring that the apples were up to standard.  Also, I really like apples!

By the end of our picking adenture, we were tired.  We had picked a half bushel of apples which is roughly 24 pounds of apples.  The basket was a mixture of Baldwin, Red Delicious, Ida Red and McIntosh Apples.  The Apple in the palm of my hand was the last one we picked and it was the most perfect of them all.  The Baldwin was a first for boh of us, but it is definately our new most favorite of the apple varieties.

As far as farms go, Wilkens is not the best one that I have been to.  The crops / orchads are not clearly marked and you are almost forced to eat the apples to determine what you are picking. The tractor ride is lame at best. It looked more like riding in the back of a pick up truck with 40 of your closest freinds.  There was no attempt to make this the traditional farm hayride exerience.  All-in-all, Amber and I enjoyed the trip to Wilkens Fruit Farm.  We stopped at the gift shop for some farm fresh honey, some fresh pressed apple cider and the highlight the fried to order apple cider doughnuts rolled in sugar.

The experience was also a little bitter sweet for me as it was a reminder of my grandfather who passed away just weeks before our wedding after a battle with Parkinson's Disease.  My Grandfather was a blacksmith by trade and a green thumb  by passion.  In the later stages of his career, he had his own business that he ran out of a shop in his back yard which was nearly an acre.  Just beyond his shop was his garden which was a highlight of our visits every summer.  Just beyond the garden at the back of the property was my grandfather's orchard.  He planted a fruit tree for each of his grandchildren.  The tree that he planted for me was an apple tree.  

about six or seven years ago my grandfather decided to build his own apple press which was entirely his design.  He rigged a mulching machine to spray apple chunks into his barrel shaped press where he converted the solid apples into liquid apple cider.

Grandpa, where ever you are, the cider at Wilkens, while very good, didn't hold a canlde to yours. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Who's really in control here?

Our dog Jager has started to take some liberties as of late.  She is a five year old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who (as with many dogs) seems to think that, if she is not human, than she at least deserves to be treated like one. Although very hyper, she is generally well behaved.  She has started to actually follow directions when we tell her to go lie down, and she dutifully stays out of the kitchen (at least when we're home).  One of her rules is that she is not allowed on the furniture unless invited up.  Quite often, she will beg with big cute eyes until we invite her up, especially on the bed.  Once up, she successfully takes over the entire bed and flops around in pure doggy bliss until we get tired of flailing paws and send her off.  Usually she obeys right away, though sometimes she seems to think that if she curls up at the end of the bed, makes herself really small and looks at us with big pleading eyes then we will let her stay up.  I have to admit, sometimes this works for a little while longer.

When we're both awake, she almost never gets on the bed without an invitation.  Lately, Jason has been getting up before me and Jager has taken this as an open invitation to take his place.  I don't usually mind because she stays still and keeps me warm, so I let her stay.  She must have discovered that if she is quiet and stealth enough that she can get on the bed without us noticing, because the other morning Jason and I woke up to her curled up on the corner of the bed...neither of us had noticed her get up, though Jason did briefly think he had nerve damage when he woke up and couldn't move his legs...  See what I mean about liberties?

Well, tonight she topped it all.  Another one of Jager's problems is that she sometimes pees in the house when we are gone - in fact, we have lost many a rug to her daytime exploits.  Because we are gone so long, we don't like to keep her in her kennel all the time so we have taken to placing pee-pads in her favorite spots and she is now trained to use them should the urge require.  Up until tonight, she has politely reserved their use for daytime.  Tonight, however, as I am sitting on the couch working some things, I look over as she unashamedly squats on the pads and pees...right in front of me!  I yelled her name in shock, and she didn't even look worried.  

So, while our dog seems well behaved, I'm beginning to think that she listens just well enough for us to think that we are in control, when in fact she wears the proverbial pants in the household.  Hopefully we train our children slightly better...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oh Suburbia, I hate to admit it...but I love you...

Last night Jason and I drove north to White Plains and went to a PF Chang's there.  The PF Chang's is in a big fancy mall, which we walked around while waiting for our table.  I usually hate malls, but I actually enjoyed the familiarity of it.  The whole experience brought me to a sad realization...I miss suburbia..

I grew up in suburbia.  We had the nice two story home in a subdivision with a two car driveway, fenced in back yard, laundry room, etc.  There were strip malls and big fancy grocery stores and winding, tree lined streets where you could ride your bike, or go for a walk, though you could rarely walk anywhere useful.  Usually, you had to drive, and driving was easy because everywhere had big parking lots with lots of space.  Going grocery shopping mid-week was easy, because you just drove there on your way home from work, or heck, at 10:00pm if you wanted to.  You always had free parking wherever you went, especially at home, even if you got in at 3:00am.  At some point in my adolescence, I decided that hated living in suburbia.  I felt like it was all kind of fake and somewhat sheltered. I was sure that my parents were doing me a real disservice by keeping me out of the dirty, gritty, urban environment.  I vowed that as soon as I could, I would move to a city and would raise my kids in the city, exposed to all the grime and grit.

Fast forward to my first year out of college.  I move across the country to live in the Bronx, NY.  It's urban, it's gritty, its so not sheltered.  It's the opposite of easy.  Every errand takes longer than it should and requires more planning.  Though you can walk everywhere, that's not always helpful when you're buying groceries or taking your laundry to the laundromat.  You take the subway everywhere, and carry big heavy grocery bags for blocks at a time.  And though it was difficult, I liked it.  I felt urban and real. 

I've lived here for five years and I no longer like how difficult it is. I quickly grew weary of the tiny grocery store with minimal selection, near-rotting produce and narrow, too-crowded aisles. Although I developed some good arm muscles, I hated having to carry my grocery bags for blocks at a time, or, if I went to a nice grocery store in Manhattan, for an hour on the subway.  Not long after Jason moved here, we got a car.  And although it allows us to escape the city whenever we want, it presents a whole new set of challenges.  We either have to pay $200 a month for a guaranteed parking spot or take the gamble and search for street parking, sometimes for as long as an hour!  I realize that these challenges are not unique to us and that many people deal with these and far worse for many more years.  However, I miss how much easier things were in suburbia...
I am now embarrassed to say that I relish in simple suburban pleasures like the Stop n Shop and Costco in New Rochelle, or (yikes) the big fancy mall and high end chain restaurants like PF Chang's in White Plains.  I miss having a driveway where you have a guaranteed parking spot, and a yard. 

I hate admitting this.  I always thought that I would be the cool, urban parent - but now I want my kids to grow up in suburbia too.  That doesn't mean that I want them to be sheltered, but I want them to have a yard.  And I want things like grocery shopping and running other errands to be simple.  I would really like to have a washer and dryer in my residence, so that I don't have to choose between racing home so that I can use my building's laundry before it closes at the unreasonable hour of 7:00pm, or spending my whole Saturday doing laundry, or loading up the car to go to the laundromat and then trying to find the dreaded parking spot when we get home!  I wonder, does this make me spoiled?  Does it make me too much of a consumer?  I don't know exactly what it makes me, but I am slowly coming to accept that I not only miss, but actually find value in the ease of suburbia.  

Well, with that sad realization, at least I know that when we finally do leave NYC we will fully appreciate the ease of a more suburban lifestyle...although, I'm still not sure I want to live in a subdivision...maybe we can find some kind of happy medium...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome to our Blog!

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time now, and finally decided to take the plunge.  Neither Jason nor I are particularly good at staying in touch with friends and family, so maybe this will fill the void (although I'm not sure that our life is all that exciting...).  I'm not even really sure what to write I guess a small update will do.

It is now September which means that my busy season has ended and Jason's is just beginning.  After three months of working basically 24 hours a day and living in the woods with a bunch of crazy kids, I am now trying to recover from extreme exhaustion.  Jason, on the other hand, is just trying to get his after school program running, and so has been working super long days.  Last week he actually left for work at 6:40am!  I was still blissfully asleep when he left.

We have also decided to make an actual commitment to the gym.  We have belonged to our gym for almost a year, but have only gone sporadically...we've actually been three times a week for the past two weeks - I'm pretty sure that's a record for us!  And, because of Jason's crazy work schedule, we are trying to go in the early morning.  I know that Jason must be committed to going because he actually considered getting to the gym at 5:00am this morning!  He didn't go, but just the thought is pretty incredible!

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