Sunday, June 16, 2013

Adopting a dog? Expect the Spanish Inquisition!

This is Sasha. We want to hug her and
pet her and squeeze her .. but first
we have to jump through a lot of red tape.
Wow. Have you tried to adopt a pet lately? 

It's heartbreaking how many animals are stuck in shelters waiting to be adopted. But I'm quickly learning actually taking one home is no small feat.

I love animals. I rescue wild things on a regular basis. And I specifically want to adopt a shelter dog because I don't want to contribute to the proliferation of puppy mills.

I know these organizations don't know me from Adam, but it feels like you're guilty until proven innocent when it comes to justifying why you want to take an unwanted dog off their hands. I admire the volunteers for their hard work, and I don't blame them for being suspicious. But I'm not trying to acquire a firearm. I just want a dog.

Lately I've been visiting the local dog park with my daughter, her boyfriend and their Dalmatian named Zelda, and I want my own dog to walk the trails with and meet other dogs. I've always been a cat person, but I'm giving in to popular opinion in my house that we need a dog too. The one we adopt needs to be small, female and cat friendly. Sasha fits the bill, but it will be up to her foster organization to decide whether we're fit to be dog parents.

The adoption application got downright personal. Why do you want a dog? Where will it stay when you're not home? How much do you plan to spend on it a year? Will you take it to the vet within the first five days of ownership? At what age will it have its own cell phone?

If everyone who wanted a child had to fill out an application like this, I assure you there would be a lot fewer children in the world.

An hour and a half later, we emailed the completed application back to Sasha's foster mom. Now we wait. My daughter jokes that if we get turned down we can just hang out at the dog park more often -- people abandon their pets there all the time. I hope it doesn't come to that. Not because I wouldn't take one of those poor dogs in, but I'd like to know what I'm getting into. And I guess that's how the rescue organizations feel too. So even if we don't get to adopt Sasha, we'll keep trying til our dog karma is good and the right one comes along. Or wait til no one's looking ...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The revolution is just a tweet away

I originally published this blog in February 2011. In light of my renewed interest in blogging, online marketing and all things digital, I'm giving it a second life.

What if the protesters at Kent State had had Twitter in 1970 … would four students have died? As America enters what could be a new era of civil unrest, I find myself wondering what role social media will play.

For people who haven’t been following events in Wisconsin, the new governor there, Scott Walker, has introduced a budget that he says is necessary to keep the state fiscally afloat. In reality, Walker’s goal is to kill the public sector unions by taking away many of state workers’ collective bargaining rights. Since the budget was introduced on February 11, it has set off a wave of peaceful protests in Madison, the state capital, that has grown day by day, week by week. The crowds that have gathered – sometimes camping overnight – say this is about much more than their health insurance and pensions. They say this fight is over the very future of the American worker.

So what do the protests in Wisconsin have to do with Kent State? Well for one thing, at least one person has called on the government to disperse the crowds with live ammunition. That man, Jeffrey Cox, the deputy attorney general of Indiana, posted the comment as a tweet on his Twitter account. He has since been fired for his remarks, but imagine if things had gone differently … what if his comment had kindled anti-union sentiment among members of the Wisconsin government? People are bringing their families to these protests. Can you imagine the chaos if National Guard soldiers began firing indiscriminately on the protesters? It makes comparisons between Madison and Kent State downright scary.

Of course Cox isn’t the only one using Twitter to comment on the Wisconsin protests. Just a quick search shows a handful of Twitter feeds devoted to the subject (@tlists1/wisconsin-labor-protests
claims to be the most listed tweeters about Wisconsin Labor Protests). Ranging from discussions of the governor admitting his anti-union agenda and thoughts of planting troublemakers in the crowd during a prank call to evidence of similar budgets in other states falling by the wayside the Twittersphere is abuzz with news from the protests and the ripple effect they’re having across the country.

Cox’s firing doesn’t solve anything with this budget crisis. And all the tweets in the world may not be enough to embarrass the governor into backing down on his union-busting budget. But it does highlight the power of social media to affect political discourse. If Americans think only people in Mideastern countries can harness the power of social media to bring about change, Wisconsin might just be a wake-up call.

The social side of serious illness

I originally published this blog in December 2010. In light of my renewed interest in blogging, online marketing and all things digital, I'm giving it a second life.

There was a time, not so long ago, when terminal illness was a personal thing. If you had cancer the people close to you knew – your family, your coworkers, your friends, your church – but the knowledge stopped there, close to your inner circle. Now, with Facebook and Twitter, everyone’s life is an open book – and that includes their cancer. The question is, does social media make it easier or more difficult to deal with terminal illness?

This question has special poignancy to me because of a little girl I never ever met. Her name was Lucy, and she was diagnosed earlier this year with a rare form of brain cancer. She and her sister attended the child care center where my daughter works, which is how I came to know about her story. All through the summer and fall the family kept everyone who wanted to follow Lucy’s progress updated via something called The Caring Bridge, which I think is basically a blog set up by the hospital where Lucy was being treated. Through ups and downs, progress and setbacks, the family kept everyone apprised of Lucy’s condition.

While the family blogged and cared for their daughters, the community around Lucy grew. Team Lucy – made up of everyone from Lucy’s immediate family to complete strangers like me – participated in Kansas City’s Head for the Cure 5K last summer. A smaller group joined the Lawrence, KS version of the same 5K. More recently, my daughter and I attended a fundraiser for Lucy at Hamburger Mary’s. It was bingo night, and all the proceeds from the evening went toward Lucy’s skyrocketing medical bills. I was happy to give what little I could and grateful that I’d never had to hold a similar fundraiser for any of my children.

I guess all of these walks and fundraisers could have happened without Facebook and the blog, but I don’t think they would have had as big a response. The details the family posted online made everyone feel like they were part of the team rooting for that little girl, and the more dire her situation became it seemed like everyone fought even harder for a happy ending.

Sadly, Lucy lost her battle with cancer the weekend before Thanksgiving. The family is still posting their story online, albeit with much less frequency now. I guess it’s hard to let go of that grassroots community that sprung up around their little girl. Maybe some of the relationships they’ve forged will live on in her memory. I know my daughter will never forget Lucy, and even though I never met her, neither will I.

Not everyone can or wants to make their battle with cancer as public as Lucy’s family did, but I guess at least in this instance, social media helped a family cope with their grief.

Requiem for a mosquito

I originally published this blog in August 2010. In light of my renewed interest in blogging, online marketing and all things digital, I'm giving it a second life.

The weirdest thing happened yesterday. I watched a mosquito die. And I felt sad.

I first noticed the little bloodsucker flying around my office window, trying in vain to break free. “Oh great,” I thought, “it probably bit me.” I thought about squishing it against the pane of glass but then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend recently in which we both professed our disdain for killing living things. I guess that includes mosquitoes too. Now if one is biting you, my friend said, that’s considered a karmic push and you’re justified in pushing back. But I hadn’t seen this particular bug latched on to me anywhere, so I left him to his futile buzzing.

This is how boring my day was – I kept checking back to see whether the mosquito had flown away or whether he was still in my midst. That’s when I noticed he’d stopped flying and was just sitting on the sill. “He’s not even going to make a move for me,” I thought. "Silly mosquito. Food is just a few feet away and you’re calling it quits."

I checked back in on my bug friend a few more times, but he stayed in place. Still twitching a leg now and then, but no longer flying. Then it dawned on me: he’s sitting there waiting to die. It’s weird, but I actually felt sorry for him. I couldn’t help thinking how horrible it must be to starve to death or die of thirst – I’m not sure which of these was his fate. Maybe the clock had just run out on him and he had nothing left to do but wait to stop breathing.

Is that what death is like? Or more accurately, is that what life is like? Sometimes I think so. On those days when I’m home alone with plenty of things to do but no motivation to do them, am I just sitting there waiting to stop breathing? Will anyone notice me in my final hours? Or will I sit on the window sill, wings still, waiting for the inevitable?

I came into the office this morning, and sure enough, the mosquito was still sitting in my window, though now he was officially dead. No rigor mortis, no comic-style legs up in the air, just complete inertia. I slid a piece of paper underneath him and deposited him in the trash so I wouldn’t keep looking at him all day. But it didn’t matter; I kept thinking about him anyway. He didn’t die via a deadly swat, but on his own terms, in his own time. All in all not a bad way to leave this world. When it’s my turn I hope fate affords me the same luxury.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The 500 pound issue in the election

Since I drove around for six months with a Stewart-Colbert 2012 sticker on my car, it probably goes without saying that I'm pleased with last week's election results. But as yet another oil platform in the Gulf goes up in flames and the cost estimates from Hurricane Sandy keep rolling in, I can't help but think the environment was the big loser in this year's race.

I watched all four debates, and I was disappointed with how rarely environmental issues came up. I think Vice President Biden mentioned global warming, but President Obama was too busy touting America's oil production to even temper his speech with some we-shouldn't-suck-all-the-oil-out-of-the-Earth-without-some-stringent-safeguards-in-place caveats. He also professed his love for coal, and I assume all the mountaintop shearing off and pollution that comes with it. Considering the environment is my number-one voting priority, his ardor for energy production without so much as lip service to conservation was truly a letdown. When it takes a Republican to bring global warming to the forefront of the political debate, you know we're in trouble.

Now that Obama has won another term, I'm holding my breath to see whether he will do right by Mother Nature. How many more Hurricane Sandys does the United States have to endure before we take the lead on climate change? How many more oceans polluted before we demand as much technology goes into preventing oil spills as does in extracting that oil from the Earth? And how can the Environmental Protection Agency do its job when the Obama Administration and Democrats in general won't enact or enforce laws that protect our air, land and water?

Today's environmental issues are massive and at times overwhelming. But that's no excuse for inaction. It's high time this President acknowledged the helping hand environment-conscious organizations and voters have given him and show this constituency that its calls for a greener shade of governing haven't gone unheeded.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

President Obama goes out on a leadership limb

When I hear the term flip-flop, I think of politicians who change their opinion the way the wind blows, hoping to please whomever happens to be paying attention at the moment. Flip-flopping isn't laudable, noble, or risky. It's expedient, disingenuous and, almost always, self serving. So imagine my surprise yesterday when Fox News declared Obama a flip-flopper for changing his stance on gay marriage.

For starters, coming out in support of gay marriage isn't "conducive to advantage or interest," otherwise known as expedient, in an election year. Every liberal pundit I tuned into last night expressed their concern about the decision, fretting that it will cost Obama votes on election day. Republican pundits, politicians and talk show hosts, on the other hand, are absolutely giddy. Limbaugh claims Obama has declared war on traditional marriage. Speaker Boehner "reiterated his opposition to gay marriage" before breaking out in tears of joy. Candidate Romney deemed the very subject insignificant and tried to get back on his favorite topic: tax cuts for the wealthy.

Neither is Obama's decision disingenuous. He's spent time with families of gay and lesbian service men and women. His staff includes openly gay members, a no-no for Camp Romney. His daughters have friends with same-sex parents. All in all, the decision is not merely for show; it's a reflection of his evolution in thinking that's come from spending time with, rather than shielding himself from, the LGBT community.

What about self-serving? Obama has nothing personally to gain from this decision. According to Wikipedia, only New Mexico has "no specific prohibition or recognition of same-sex marriages or unions," so it's not as if he can expect a bump in any swing states with legislation pending.

Like great presidents before him, Obama made this decision because it's the right thing to do. He's showing leadership at a pivotal time in our country's history -- a time when acceptance that gay and lesbian couples should have the same rights as straight couples is growing exponentially. This decision is all the things flip-flopping isn't. And the fact that it could be a deciding factor in this fall's election makes it all the more laudable, noble and risky.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My frightening encounter with Ambulance Chaserus

ambulance chaser
n. Slang
1. A lawyer who obtains clients by persuading accident victims to sue for damages.
2. A lawyer avid for clients.

To think that I made it this far in life and never encountered one of these creatures. That's all about to end though. My insurance company called today to tell me I'm being served with papers in a lawsuit brought by the elusive, enigmatic species known as Ambulance Chaserus.

Apparently this whole debacle started with an accident I had last Oct. I was looking for trucks on Front St. and didn't notice the Jeep stopped in front of me til it was too late to come to a complete stop. I tapped the car in front of me -- TAPPED being the operative word. There was minor damage to both cars but it literally wasn't visible to the untrained eye. My insurance told me the woman bumped her head and sought treatment for her injury. She looked absolutely fine and I didn't hear anything else about it so I thought it was a done deal. Until today.

In the interim between my accident and my now pending lawsuit, I cosigned with my daughter for a loan on her first "nice" car. It was a 2006, but it was super cute and she loved it. Three weeks later she was coming home on K7 at 11:30 at night and two farmers had let their black cows stray. Another driver hit the smaller cow, killing it instantly. My daughter hit the second, larger cow,which totaled her new car. The poor cow had to be shot. My daughter was burned by the airbags, cut by all the flying glass from the shattered windshield and bruised all over from the impact. Luckily though, she was OK.

We're asking for the farmer's insurance to pay for my daughter's emergency room visit to check for broken bones or other trauma. The bill came to around $3,000.

The woman whose car I tapped? She's suing for $65,000.

Of course I'm dumbfounded by this suit. It's within the limits of my coverage,but that is so NOT the point. The point is someone actually has the balls to try to profit from the minorest of accidents while my daughter, who's lucky to be alive is simply asking for her minor bills to be paid.

I've been instructed not to speak with the ambulance chaser if it tries to make contact, and I may never even see it in person. But it's out there, scouring every nook and cranny for another frivolous lawsuit to file. For my part, I hope the papers I'm served are as close as I'll ever get to an actual encounter with the beast.