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September 24, 2013 / moshimichi

Luna’s Tale

For the past several weeks, I have been moping about doing a sort of Charlie Brown shuffle through life.  I’ve been sad.  I’ve decided to write this story as a cathartic measure for my grief. You see, this weekend, I have to say goodbye to a family member, our dog of three and a half years, Luna.

Roughly four years ago, Luna was found in an old barn in Kentucky. She’d been abandoned there.  She was sick, covered in caked-on mud and feces. She was so terrified of people that she shook, cried, and peed when anyone came near her. The shelter where she’d been placed had not been able to find a home for her thus she was slated to be euthanized. Fortunately, she was rescued by the Humane Society in Clark county of Ohio.  They set her up at the Allen Co. Correctional facility, a minimum security prison, where she underwent an eight-week training program with one of the inmates involved. We adopted her directly from this program, sight unseen.  The inmate handler who was in charge of Luna’s care and rehabilitation gave us his notes.  He remarked that initially he did not care for Luna as she was so incredibly anxious and hard to train, but in the end she’d become his “absolute favorite dog” in his entire time in the program.  Despite admonitions not to do so, he named her “Holly” and allowed her to sleep in his cot each night.  “Holly” graduated the program in the top of her class and happily had received her Canine Good Citizen certification.  (We re-named her Luna after a favorite children’s book of my daughters, Stellaluna.)

We are a pet family. At the time we adopted Luna, we had been running a sort of convalescent home for pets.  We had a thirteen year-old Golden retriever named Lily.  Lily had been an amazing pet and had loved my children from birth.  However, she was plagued with tumors and was fading fast.  I feared the inevitable.  We also had two very aged diabetic cats, for whom we’d just had to say our goodbyes, as they’d passed roughly within a few months of one another.  We longed to have a younger dog with whom we could really play.  Additionally, I’d just returned to work as a social worker at an inner city partial hospitalization facility for children with emotional and behavioral challenges.  I had dreamt of having a therapy dog.  I had fallen in love with Luna’s story and imagined sharing it with the children at the center in an effort to build rapport and facilitate trust and companionship.  My daughter Ava and I excitedly made the hour drive to Springfield from Columbus on the day that Luna graduated.  Ava has an innate love of animals and could hardly contain herself that day.  We were ushered in to a room where four recent graduates of the inmate program sat anxiously awaiting their new “moms/dads.”  A couple were pacing, one barked endlessly. Luna sat there patiently in the corner.  Ava immediately went to her and their love affair had begun. We brought Luna home and she did quite well with Lily.  She followed us around everywhere and loved to play ball.  I knew from researching border collies that she needed a great deal of exercise and I took her out on my bike while she ran alongside me.  It became clear to me that she was still way too anxious around small children to be the therapy dog that I wanted her to be, so I let that idea go.  In the end, it didn’t matter as shortly after this time, my husband took another job which relocated our family to Pittsburgh.  Shortly before the move, Lily passed.  So Luna and the four of us set out for Pennsylvania.

The move to Pittsburgh was good in many ways.  While we missed our old friends, we serendipitously met so many wonderful new ones.  Luna seemed so happy in her new home of rolling hills and endless walking trails and parks.  However, there were some challenges. For one, my social work license was not transferable between the states and I was not able to recreate my job.  Luna and I happily walked for miles and miles each day as I plowed through my newfound “existential angst.” My son entered adolescence and coupled with his Aspergers, this became the “perfect storm.”  School became very challenging for him and life got a bit rocky for all of us as a result.  I signed him up for every treatment and therapy I could find and we pursued each continually.  One thing he deals with regularly is sensory challenges, particularly an extreme aversion to loud or sudden noises.  I’d noticed that Luna too shared this affliction. (She runs and hides at the mere hint of a fire truck or a thunderstorm.)  Our son also has great difficulty with changes in routine and tolerating frustration.  He can melt into a complete tantrum that looks like what you’d see in a two year-old.  Except, he is 14. I’d also noticed that Luna would cower when Ethan had these outbursts. Yet, Luna had become a most beloved pet by all of us and gave us endless kisses and bed-hopped every night depending upon whom she wanted to love the most that night. Ethan adored her.  I started to use Luna’s sensory aversions to my advantage with Ethan and point out to him the times he was “scaring her” or as a way to relate to her.  It was working!  Furthermore, he is not the most athletically-inclined child and he needed fitness.  So we came up with a daily walking regimen with Luna.  He took this on with gusto and was discovering that walks helped calm and re-set his system.  When he couldn’t connect with people, he knew he could connect with Luna.

About a year ago, Luna had a very bad day. Initially, she’d gotten along with our mail carrier very well; he gave her treats.  Then, we got a new mail carrier.  I’d been out in the yard pulling weeds while Luna happily tore into her soccer ball when the new guy came in to the yard to drop our mail in the box by the front door. Luna ran up to him, tail wagging, and jumped up at him. The carrier became frightened and kicked her. I confronted him, “Did you just kick my dog?”  He snapped that she was unknown to him and he was not about to get bit.  Luna cowered off into the side yard.  I never reported this; I just moved on with my day.  Had I known what was to ensue, I would have done more.  Increasingly Luna’s fear-aggression towards mail MEN got worse and increased steadily towards any mail carrier or truck.  She would bark and growl at them in the yard or while we were on walks.  The USPS cut off our mail service, without any warning or notice. I finally went in to speak to the local post master and he very kindly explained to me that he could incur a lawsuit himself if the carrier was injured in any way and he had no choice but to do this until we relocated our box. I understood this and agreed that I did not even want them to come in our yard.  Further, he added that he’d wished I’d reported the original incident with the kick. He also explained that they urged the carriers not to give treats to dogs as it created a situation like one we’d incurred whereby dogs were running up to uniformed people expecting treats.  I had not thought of it this way before but it did make sense. I hired a lovely woman by the name of Sheri Gintner, who is a positive behaviorist and a lover of border collies in particular.  She suggested that I give her treats while seeing the mail person or truck in order to create a positive association.  I truly did try this but failed miserably in the execution of it, (i.e., I could never get the timing right.) Eventually, I just gave up.  We did move the mail box to the curb and I would not let her outside off leash unattended. Also, I did succeed in having her well under my control on leash while walking right past mail carriers by giving her a quick nudge with my knee and telling her to “leave it!”

In the last month, several unfortunate events have occurred.  First, in August, we went on vacation to Canada.  I had Luna set to be boarded with the Dog Stop, where she has always done quite well.  (They seem to love her there and are always amused by how Luna will herd the dogs continually.)  However, they were full for our first day of vacation. A friend of mine graciously offered to keep her for that day. I had not anticipated that my friend would walk her, or I would have better prepared her for our routine and that she’d need to control her around mail trucks.  Sadly, in my flurry to leave, I neglected to give her this information. When my friend passed a mail carrier, Luna immediately broke off her leash and chased after a mail person and bit her in the ankle area.  She broke the skin, but no further medical attention was required.  We spoke with the woman from Canada and apologized profusely and offered her our contact information as well as her vaccination records.  Then, last week, Ethan was leaving the house to walk her and just as he opened the door (before he could get her on the leash) the mail man drove by and Luna aggressively chased the truck down the road.  The next day, I met up with a group of friends for coffee and I was describing the unfortunate series of events to the group.  A new member had joined our coffee and lo and behold, this angel, Jennifer, works for Canine Assist training and placing service dogs.  She had listened patiently to my story and immediately offered, without hesitation, to help.

Meanwhile, Animal Control had been to my home while I was at coffee and left word that I was being cited for having a dog “at large.”  I phoned immediately and shared with them that I would hire this trainer immediately to help me further work with Luna.  He told me that I needed to muzzle her anytime she was outside of the house and I agreed to do so and immediately went to purchase one. Jennifer came immediately and sat with Luna for awhile.  She offered us some practical management steps to deal with the situation, which we immediately implemented.  But dammit if we are not faulty humans as the very next day while Ethan was walking Luna she pulled away from him with her leash still attached and chased the mail truck yet again.  Again, Animal Control came by and let me know that I was now facing misdemeanor charges for having a dog at large twice and one who had bitten someone.  I felt so stupid, like a failure of a mother. Most understandably but sadly, Ethan could no longer walk Luna nor could she go in our front yard at all.  (Mt. Lebanon does not allow its residents to put up fences.)  Jennifer stated that Luna is such a great dog, who has this one narrow, but very serious issue.  She did feel that Luna needs more mental stimulation than we are currently providing for her. Border collies need a job.  In the absence of one, she found one, protecting us from the “evil” (as she sees it) USPS.  She told me that we could proceed to work to retrain Luna but that it was going to be a difficult process and one she would not guarantee.  She suggested re-homing as an option. I said I would consider it.

What happened next is still completely unbelievable to me.  I received an email from a neighbor of mine that he had not been receiving his mail for the past week and when he called to inquire as to its whereabouts he was told that due to the dog incidents at our address, mail to our entire portion of the neighborhood was suspended until further notice.  I had not known that the other homes on our lane had been without mail service.  So naturally I called to try to resolve this.  The post master was gone on vacation and unavailable but I plead with woman on the phone to not do this to my neighbors, for whom this has nothing to do with.  I explained to her that we would re-home the dog and she would not be here any more.  I kept urging her to not do this.  That woman I first spoke to was very kind and claimed that she was sympathetic to our situation but that she’d been told that there was not to be any reversal on the decision.  She asked me to hold and after a few minutes, “Almira Gulchcame on the line.  Her first words to me were a snappy, “Ma’am, you’ve had more than enough time to deal with your little dog situation.  There is no recourse for you.  We are done with you!”  My voice became animated, my face flushed red. I was losing my cool.  I begged her to listen to me, that my dog was going to be gone; that it was “stupid” to keep holding my neighbors accountable for something that they had nothing to do with especially when the dog would no longer even be living here.  I urged her consider that their office held a shred of responsibility for creating the situation in the first place.  She retorted, “We don’t owe you anything!  We are done with you! Your neighborhood is cut off permanently and I will not send one single carrier out until every single one of the homes moves their box to the curb.”  Now I was really losing it. I am normally a pretty mild-mannered and open-minded girl.  I’ve worked with homeless people, severely mentally ill people, I’ve waitressed, and I’ve done customer service.  In other words, I have some experience handling difficult people. But, I was stressed with the personal implications of all this and I regrettably became rude.  I said, “this is why the post office is going down like the dinosaur that it is.”  She hung up on me and proceeded to call the police on me for “harassment.”  When the officer came to the door, I could not believe it.  I explained the situation in full and admitted that my last utterance was not only rude but may have been peppered with the captain of expletives.  I just had not realized that this was now illegal. He stated that he was “just doing his job” and encouraged me to not call back to that office but to deal with someone higher up.

I set about going door-to-door to each of my neighbors to explain that we were the reason that they were now not going to receive their mail.  Not one person was angered or even seemingly put out by the fact that they had to now schlep down to the office across town to fetch their bills and junk mail.  I was met with such kindness, humor, support, and understanding that I am still blown away by it.  Still, I felt horrible.  Some of my neighbors run their business from their home, some have infants and young children, some are dealing with sickness.  This was an inconvenience that they did not need nor deserve.  The next day, I reached out to state representative, Dan Miller to try to help my neighbors.  He did so willingly and happily even though this was outside his jurisdiction. He helped me contact our congressman and mail has thus far been restored.  (Fingers crossed that they will keep receiving their mail.  We have yet to get any of ours.  So, if you’ve sent us anything…..crickets chirp away.)

But, the challenge with Luna remained.  It became clear to us that she could not stay here.  Ethan could no longer walk her. I could no longer walk her in my own neighborhood. I set out to break the news to my children.  As you can expect, this was incredibly difficult and devastating.  Many tears have been shed and we will continue to process this grief for time to come, I am sure.  Many have offered through Jennifer’s network to take Luna, but I did not want her to just go to any home as the problem still remains and I don’t want to risk her having to move yet again.  So today, a representative from the Glen Highland Border Collie rescue came to evaluate Luna.  Luna did beautifully!  She was incredibly calm and showed not one single sign of aggression when presented with the other dogs who came in to her home, nor did she show any sign of being upset at the myriad of trucks that came by or when the representative tried to take her food away or all the other tests she put her through.  She will be moved to their farm in upstate New York for retraining and re-homing this weekend. I’ve been told by many that they are the absolute best organization and it does seem as though Luna has a chance of finding happiness there.  My sincere hope and wish is that she ends up in a home not only where she will be loved and well cared for but will become the working dog that she needs so desperately to be, whether it be agility, search and rescue, geese removal…she’ll be stellar at all of these.

We are simply devastated at the impending loss of our family member and friend.  We just love this little dog so much.  We don’t want to give her up but we fear risking another accident where someone else is injured and Luna is put at greater risk.  In the end, she truly became the therapy dog that I so wanted in the first place.  She has taught us several important lessons.  One, you cannot ever deny your true nature, be who you authentically are.  (A suburban gal, she is not. This girl needs to work, run, and herd.)  Secondly, she helped introduce me to the amazing kindness and compassion that can exist in others.  People can be reasonable.  Face up to your problems, be honest about them and others will rush in to help you. The solution may not be one you thought, but through creativity a good answer may be discovered.  Lastly, one cannot hold on to others. True love is allowing those you care about to be happy even if it means that they must be distant from you.  We will always love Luna and will dream of her fondly chasing through the fields.

Our time with this lovely creature may have come to an end, but her story continues…..


February 2, 2011 / moshimichi

Tim Murphey’s draconian bill towards restricting women’s rights.

It’s been a long while…yadda, yadda, yadda.  I turn to politics of the land of Lebo today.  Apparently I am sadly represented by pro-lifer Tim Murphey, (R-18) who has decided it is a good idea to sponsor the bill HR-3, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Mr. Murphey thinks it is time to turn back the clock to a time where to abortions were limited to the privileged few who could pay to travel far and wide for their healthcare.  This bill includes restricting any federal involvement in abortions even when there is incest of a minor, when someone is drugged, or physically impaired.  Nothing; no exceptions.  It extends beyond restricting Medicare.  It also disallows women from using their HSA’s for abortion.  Somehow they seek to redefine rape to mean that of “forcible rape.”    In past years, I worked as a social worker.  I have worked as a rape crisis counselor, at a domestic violence shelter, and with many adolescent children who were victims of incest.  I have held the hands of women who have been raped.  Many of them were children, most all poor.  Under this bill, they go unprotected.  I cannot imagine explaining to any one of them should they become pregnant, “I am sorry, but the government feels you will have to carry this pregnancy to term unless you have the cash in hand right here, right now.  There will be no help offered to you.”  I would urge Mr Murphey to look any one of them in the eye and tell them straight to their face why he feels this is in their or society’s best interest!  In the words of one of my wise Facebook friends: “Makes it look like the GOP has a grand plan, with this proposal dovetailing perfectly with their absurd resistance to public healthcare. Keeping people on Medicare and then controlling abortion through that plan doesn’t seem like a coincidental alignment…”   I thought that the republicans were concerned with jobs and getting the economy back on track.  Guess not!  It looks as though they are more interested in their narrow minded self-interest of enacting draconian laws turning back the clock on women’s rights.  Make no mistake; these bills seek to chip away at the hard-earned protections that women have fought for.

I urge constituents of Mr Murpehy to contact him;  I did.

Phone: (412) 344-5583 Fax: (412) 429-5092;

504 Washington Rd. Pittsburgh, PA 15228).

Phone: (202) 225-2301 Fax: (202) 225-1844
322 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

January 10, 2011 / moshimichi

New Bathrooms

Shower stall in master bath.

Look at that tile!! Yea!!

Kids' bathroom.

Finally, Ava and friends created this masterpiece at CCAD camp last summer. It now proudly hangs in my living room.

January 10, 2011 / moshimichi

Winter in PGH

Hello my lost and lonely blog!  Can you tell it’s wintertime in PGH?  I admit to voluntarily going into hibernation through the winter and that means, I have only a few outings to report.  My bathroom project consumed me through the darkest and coldest of days.  Thankfully, it is now fully complete.  We have three beautifully tiled, (no carpet in sight!), bathrooms with working plumbing.  I have to give a major shout-out to Snyder Remodeling; these guys did amazing work!  Hooray!

It has been downright cold here in the ‘burgh.  While Luna forces me out to Bird Park for a daily trek, I have been mainly sticking close to home.  It is a home that I am growing to love though, as daily it becomes more and more my own.   We had some great friends join us from Columbus for New Year’s eve and we are fortunate that they actually enjoy re-arranging furniture and have a great eye for detail.  So, thanks to Judson & Cara, my living room is looking A-plus!!  The kids have ventured down into the park quite a few times for some super sledding experiences, as well as to ice skate at the Mt Lebo rink.  This is where Pittsburgh has C-bus beat, hands-down!  The hilly terrain makes for some killer rides!

Kevin and I did manage a recent date to the Southside, where we checked out Yo Rita.  Divine is this place!  I sampled the potato and the seared tuna tacos, mmmmmm!  I love the tattoo insignia on the storefront window and the spare decor of the interior.  The food was fresh and inventive.  We will be frequent visitors I do believe!

Somehow, my hatred of winter has bonded me to some other recent transplants to the area.  I have befriended a few peeps from California.  We generally huddle inside over coffee and dream of warmer days.  I realize that they at least have an excuse to be depressed that they have seemingly moved to the Arctic circle.  I, a Midwesterner through and through, have no excuse; other than I feel I was somehow born to the wrong place.  I am not winter hardy.  (Are you picking up on a theme here?)  Still, one cannot endlessly sit at home, lest one wish to re-enact scenes from The Shining.  So, I have re-discovered the wonder of the Mt Lebanon public library.  I have been devouring books and dutifully recording them in  The Book Cellar in the library is run by a new pal of mine and offers great selections from 50 cents to the “high-priced” $2.00.  I will be assisting this Friday at their “Two-bit Sale.”  You cannot beat a warm fire, a blankie, and a pile a books you purchased for 50 cents!!

Some people find ways to enjoy winter; "crazies!"  ;-)

Some people find ways to enjoy winter; "crazies!" 😉

December 5, 2010 / moshimichi

Holidays N’at

Our little family has been in the spirit of celebrating the holidays in our new home and seeing the sights and sounds of PGH.  Here is a sad little pictorial tour thus far.  I say “sad” because my dutiful camera had a run in with a ceramic tile floor.  I thought I had it fixed, but later realized that it was sadly on life support.  We bid adieu just today.  So, I apologize in advance for the state of my photography, but I couldn’t resist trying to eke out a few more photos while I wait for my new camera.  You can almost see the devolution of my camera as time goes on.  Sigh.

There is a lot to do during the holidays in PGH.  Our season began early when the kids and I headed uptown Mt. Lebo for Light Up Night.  We sipped hot cocoa while Bitsy and Bella (the horses) pulled us on a carriage on a tour of Washington Rd. while we awaited the Lebo tree lighting.  There we took in a holiday bell concert and watched Santa roar in a fire truck.  Phipps Conservatory stays open until 10 PM to display their holiday foliage and decor.  We were lucky to arrive on a night when they offered free samplings of the Nutcracker.  Last night, we attempted to ice skate downtown at PPG place, but the two hour line was a deterrent for my non-winter-hardy brood.  Instead, we took in the Columbus Blue Jackets/Penguins game from inside the warmth of Primantis while viewing the holiday display at Market Square.  (We had an interesting debate as to whom we should root for!)

Today we went to the Holiday Open House of the Nationality rooms at the Cathedral of Learning, which is the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh.  If you ever get a chance to view these rooms, take it, especially during a guided tour.  The Cathedral is home to 27 Nationality Rooms, twenty-five of which are working classrooms, on the first and third floors. Each nationality room is designed to celebrate a different culture that had an influence on Pittsburgh’s growth, depicting an era prior to 1787 which is year of the University’s founding.  Each of the rooms was decorated for the open house to represent a holiday tradition for that particular culture.  Visitors were treated to a costumed guide within each room who explained details of the room’s origin and information about the holiday.  For instance, we learned about Kwanza, the origin of the Christmas tree, and Chinese New year.  There were also continuous dancing exhibitions in the main hall, as well as many food and craft vendors.  Ethan enjoyed a samosa while watching an Irish Step dance.  Ava sampled Chinese fried rice after taking a lesson in Japanese origami.  I dined on some Iranian cuisine amidst a traditional Greek folk dance.  Ah, multi-culturalism.  This beat sitting home watching Steelers football, hands-down!  Sadly, this was the day my camera flat-lined completely, so I was unable to capture the magnificence of the rooms.  I did snap some pics on my meager little cell phone.

No matter which holiday you choose to celebrate, I wish you all the wonder and joy of the season!  Stay out of the malls and explore instead!

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November 17, 2010 / moshimichi

Even when you have a GPS….darn Pittsburgh!

I am getting a little slower with my blogging.  The contractor is due to come any day now to update our bathrooms and I have been scurrying about in an attempt to gather the needed materials.  I am still woefully behind.  It would be easier if we were doing a complete gut of the bathrooms, but we are attempting to save the glass tile that is already here and is original to the house.  These tiles are no where to be found.  I bought some at Construction Junction, which is a totally fabulous and environmentally friendly re-sale store.  It is a huge warehouse filled with antique fixtures, old tile, hardware, marble counter tops, etc.  However, they have miserable lighting in these cavernous warehouses.  I thought the tile I purchased was the creamy white that we have in one of the baths.  Nope; it is a very light gray.  Such a subtle difference, but held next to one another, clearly different.  At any rate, these are the wondrous things that have been occupying my brain lately.

I did get one small break from bathroom repair bliss last Friday when one of my BFF’s came for a PGH visit.  Ms. Carrie and famille ventured down from Cleveland for 24 hours.  I love my Carrie and the fun she brings with her!  We packed it all in too.  I took the kids, all 5 of them, to Ava’s school carnival, Markham Magic.  The kids had fun running from classroom to classroom playing “educational” games, such as sinking a piece of faux poo in an inflatable toilet, and getting sugared up.  Once returned, we all dined on take out from Sesame Inn, (just like old times, our Chinese take out nights!)  Finally the grown ups got a chance to step out to the Saloon in uptown Mt. Lebanon.  This place was packed; “I had no idea people actually went out after dark anymore!”  Of course, they all were between the ages of 21 and 31, it appeared.  We quickly located the senior section to the back of the room and had a blast attempting to relive our youth.  The next morning, Carrie and I walked while I decided that they needed to experience a Primanti’s Bros. sandwich.  Since they had to leave in late afternoon, I didn’t think heading to the Strip on busy Saturday was such a great idea.  I thought I’d seen one located in South Side Works and found what I thought was the area’s Primanti Bros on my GPS, whose name is Stella.  We all loaded up in two vehicles: four adults, five children and one dog,  (yes, even the dog came along!)  If you’ve ever attempted to coordinate these types of trips, you’ll know what a production this can be.  Well, Stella got us to the South Side ok.  This is where things got tricky however, as the streets start going every which way and that and I can never tell exactly which one she intends for us to travel.  Of course, I chose the incorrect avenue.  She is really quite snippy when this occurs.  At this point the girls start complaining about how hungry they are and that the trip is taking too long.  “Whining always makes these outings so much more fun!”  We turned around several times before I located a Primanti Bros Blues Cafe.  Hmmm…this seemed a bit off.  I peered inside to note two hipsters drinking only beer and no food.  I looked back at our brood and calculated that this was the wrong one.  So back to the car.  I re-programmed Stella to take us to the next closest Primanti Bros; it did state it was only 1.2 miles. We drove off following her lead.  Stella announced “Arriving at destination.” in her best haughty British accent.  Yet somehow we were in an alley in downtown PGH with nary a restaurant nearby.  The phone kept ringing from the grouchy men behind us and the girls kept whining.  Pressure was mounting.  Finally I answered the phone to be told that the boys were truly car sick and needed to stop at once.  OK already!  I noted we were next to Station Square somehow; so we crossed the bridge and alit there.  Now, I think at one time Station Square was a cool place to hang out.  Nowadays, it appears to me to be a bit of a tourist trap.  Well……my friends never got their Primanti’s sandwich, but instead drove to the ‘burg to eat at a Hard Rock Cafe.  I promised them if they’d come back, I’d take them to an Applebees!

P.S.  I realize now that we were at the correct South Side location and that it is not just a bar and does serve food.  Whoops!  Sorry!

November 2, 2010 / moshimichi

Fall Break

The past two days have been fall break for Ethan and Ava.  This is good as I think we need to spend some time detoxing from our trick-or-treat sugar high.  The weather has turned downright chilly and we even saw some frost early Monday morning.  I don’t think I am ready for this.  I fear these Pittsburgh winters I keep hearing about.  You know, the one that afforded us an entire new slate roof on our home due to the fact that last winter took the former one down completely.  YIKES!

The kids and I decided to pay a visit to the National Aviary, which is located on the North Shore.  It is surrounded by a beautiful area that is the Allegheny Community College.  The buildings have this incredible Gothic architecture.  Nearby are the Mexican War Streets.  The row houses are incredible.  The Aviary is a sweet place.  We took in a great bird show, where they featured birds from around the world and regions of the US.  They ended the program with a short video that portrayed the haunting photography and images of oil-soaked gulls in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.  There was not a dry eye in the place.

Today is election day.  It was my first time voting as a Pennsylvanian.  I felt very out of my element as the names and politics are as yet unfamiliar to me.  I have been an active campaign volunteer in Ohio for many years and knew my way around local and state politics fairly well.  Some noted differences here were that PA does not allow early voting or “no excuse” absentee voting.  I also observed politicking right up to the entry of the polling stations.  This was formerly a no-no in Ohio, (they may have changed this by now.)  I don’t mind the campaigning and chuckled to hear the impassioned arguments ensuing right outside the poll on Ava’s school playground.  Yet, I can see how it’d be a major turn-off for some and intimidating for others.  I think the rule of distance is a good one overall.  I also never received my “I voted today” sticker.  Come again!?! This is like a gold star for grown-ups!  At any rate, I awarded myself my own reward when I returned home and pinched a Reese cup from the kid’s Halloween stash.

I sure hope this election goes better than predicted.  I wonder if folks recall that the last time a Democrat was president, (Bill Clinton), and the GOP took over the house, they shut down the government entirely.  I am fairly certain that the tea partiers will be nothing but obstructionists, (they have ran on this promise after all.)   This time, however, our country can ill afford inaction.   Yes, I am showing my politics here… is my blog, afterall.  My philosophies are probably far more left than most people would suspect.  But, I recognize that most of the country is moderate.  I think the middle is good.  My mantra is, “there is happiness in the middle.” This applies to about anything you do in life, I think. I am a Liberal.  (I never really understood why this is a bad word.  I am proud of it. If you’re a conservative, then that is your thing.  In general, no one thinks of this word as a pejorative.)  The reason I vote this way is that I feel that just because something is good for me or my family, does not make it necessarily good for all.  Others may require different strategies to achieve quality of life.   It’s Jon Stewart’s analogy of a traffic jam, “you go, then I go.”  When we allow different pieces to achieve success, we become stronger and better as a whole.  Taking down different groups to promote one’s own self-interests exclusively only results in weakness in the end.  Anyway, this is my ever so humble opinion.  I promise to step off my soap box and return to the normally scheduled program in the future.  Happy voting day and good luck Ohio and Pennsylvania!  I am rooting for you both.


To the women that afforded me the privilege of the vote, I salute you!