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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

The Bizarre National Signing Day Story of Alex Collins and his Mother

In Life, Sports on February 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Alex Collins

Imagine being one of the top high school running backs in the country.  Imagine having your choice of full scholarship offers from top college football programs to choose from, but on National Signing Day, your mother disappears with your letter of intent, leaving your college football career in limbo.  If you are Alex Collins from South Plantation, FL, you don’t have to imagine this scenario, because he is living it.  And though he finally was able to get his father to sign the letter of intent to allow him to become an Arkansas Razorback, this bizarre story still continues.

It is not unusual for parents to want to be close to their children, even after they have graduated high school.  Every parent can appreciate what it would be like to be separated from their children. Parents can also appreciate that they think that they know what is best for their children, but that is not always the case.  And even if it were true, sometimes children need the freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes.

Alex Collins made a verbal commitment to attend the University of Miami and play for the Hurricanes, but in November, he re-opened his commitment because he fell in love with the University of Arkansas and its campus.  It happens.

The world may look at these recruits as football commodities, but they are still high school kids who are prone to indecision and bad decisions.  Anyone who needs further proof of this need look no further than Reuben Foster, one of the top recruits in the country.

When Foster, a Georgia native, made a verbal commitment to become an Auburn Tiger, he moved to Auburn, AL.  Getting caught up in the excitement, Foster got an Auburn logo tattooed on his arm for the world to see.  Undoubtedly, Foster is regretting his decision, given the fact that he did a total one eighty and decided to sign with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn’s bitter in-state rival.  Collins may have had a change of heart, but at least he doesn’t have a permanent reminder of his first choice tattooed on his body.

Unfortunately for Collins, his mother, Andrea McDonald – in her attempt to keep him close to home – has turned one of the most important days of his life into a national embarrassment, and a story that is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

Even though Collins’ father, Johnny, signed the National Letter of Intent, and faxed it back to the University of Arkansas, this bizarre story continues.

Rather than just accept the fact that her son is going to attend college in Arkansas, McDonald has hired Cochran Firm (founded by Johnnie Cochran) to “represent the family’s interests.”  Sadly, the only interests being represented by this latest development are those of McDonald, an overbearing, albeit loving mother, who simply cannot accept the fact that her son has made the decision that he feels is best for him.

Perhaps the time has come to allow those who are at least eighteen years of age to make their own decisions without a parent’s signature.  If they are old enough to vote and be drafted, they should have a say in what school they attend on a scholarship.

Ironically, the 18-yr old Collins is taking this all in stride, which only goes to show that he is mature enough to make this decision for himself.  Rather than getting justifiably upset with his mother, Collins simply stated…

“She cares about me so much, she doesn’t want me to make the wrong decision.”

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They Grow Up So Fast…Be Careful What You Wish For

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on January 12, 2013 at 9:42 am

They Grow Up So Fast

The holidays brought in an influx of toys for my little one, leaving her already cluttered room in more disarray than it was previously.  At some point, every kid must let go of some of the toys that they no longer use to make room for new ones.  When my wife had trouble finding a place for everything, we told our little one that she had to move some things out of her room.  In our minds, we imagined our daughter getting rid of all of the things that we considered to be well past their prime…things like old Happy Meal toys would have been a great start.  But our little one surprised us both.

First came the Dora the Explorer doll that she loved not so long ago.  Much to our chagrin, Dora no longer has a place in my daughter’s life.  She never watches the show anymore; she would rather flip through the channels endlessly, telling us that nothing is on, instead of popping in the Dora DVD’s that were once her favorites.

Then came a little stuffed Blue from Blue’s Clues.  While we weren’t surprised that she has outgrown the show, we were surprised that she was ready to part with any stuffed animal, especially a dog, because they are her latest obsession.  Undoubtedly, it won’t be long before the stuffed dogs lose their luster, and she’s on to the next thing.

When I saw the stuffed Berenstain Bears lying on the floor outside of my daughter’s room, I was surprised and saddened.  It seems like it was just yesterday that she was begging for them, and I was frantically searching everywhere to make sure that she got them as gifts just a few Christmases ago.  She used to watch the Berenstain Bears videos over and over again.  Truth be told, it was one of the few kids’ shows that I enjoyed watching.  I couldn’t “bear” to see them go, so I convinced her to find a place for them, even if she didn’t intend to play with them anymore.

Parents have always said that their kids grow up so fast, and that time passes by much faster than any of us would like.  It’s a harsh reality that most parents deal with at some point, but at this point in time, it is even more difficult because my daughter’s growth is happening on the heels of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  It has really hit home for me with my daughter because the victims were all in the same grade as her.

I often wish that I could freeze this moment in time, but I know that isn’t reality.  The reality is that my little one is ready to move on to the next phase of her childhood regardless of whether we are ready for it or not.  It may make us a bit sad and nostalgic, but there is nothing that we can do to stop it from happening.

Even though I convinced my little one to let the Berenstain Bears stay for a little while longer, I know that they are in her room now more for us than they are for her.  And that’s alright with me.  At the very least, when I look at them, I will be reminded to cherish each phase in her life because there is no telling how long each one will last.

Testing the Resolve of New Year’s Resolutions

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life on January 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm

2013 Resolutions

It’s been nearly a week since the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve ringing in 2013.  Many people made New Year’s resolutions swearing that things would be different, and that they would see them through this year.  It happens every year.  Today begins the first full week of the New Year, where everyone starts getting back to normal, and the resolutions that seemed so important a week ago start to fade as life gets in the way.

By the time that February rolls around, most people will resume life as it was before getting wrapped up in the holiday season.  The chance for the fresh start that comes along each year as the calendar changes from December to January will be nothing more than a fading memory.  It’s the nature of the beast.

Today might as well be the first day of the New Year because things are finally back to normal.  The holiday decorations have been stored away, the kids are back to their regular school schedule and the working world will begin counting the days until the weekend, just like they did before the spirit of the season allowed them to embrace every day of the week.

As usual, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, at least not in the formal sense.  In my mind, I know that there are things that I want to accomplish in 2013, but I haven’t gone so far as to declare them “resolutions.”  Like most people, I would like to get into better shape and have a more successful year financially, but those are goals that should be pursued regardless of what the calendar says.

Today began with a healthy breakfast, exercise and getting caught up on phone calls that I fell behind on during the holidays.  I’d call that a good start, but it will only make a difference in my life if my good days are strung together to make good weeks, and my good weeks are strung together to make good months, which will ultimately lead to a successful year.  But, as the saying goes…“a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

When I launched Waldo’s Life on January 1, 2010, it was done with a specific goal in mind, inspired by a life-changing event to a friend.  Over the past three years, it has evolved into something entirely different.  I’m proud to say that Waldo’s Life is read in over 100 countries, and that some articles have stood the test of time beyond my wildest expectations with daily views long after they were originally posted.

The one regret that I have with Waldo’s Life is allowing life to get in the way of posting new articles from time to time.  But this year is going to be different!

So, for the first time in a very long time, I am going to make an actual New Year’s resolution and share it with the world so that I am accountable to seeing it through.

In 2013, I plan on posting at least 13 articles each month to Waldo’s Life, and I resolve to not let life get in the way of making it happen.  I decided not to post this on New Year’s Day because I knew that the real test for everyone’s resolutions begins today.

Protecting America’s Children

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

Sandy Hook victims

The sky was a flawless shade of blue on the morning of 9/11/01 in New York City, and everything was right with the world.  At 8:46am, everyone believed that a tragic accident had occurred with a small plane hitting the Twin Towers.  By 9:03am, when the second plane hit the towers, we all knew that wasn’t the case.  Instantly, the America that we once knew was gone.  From that moment on, every American had no choice but to accept the realization that terrorist attacks can happen on American soil.

We failed as a nation to protect innocent citizens on that day.  Shortly thereafter, we beefed up national security, and to date, we have not suffered any casualties from terrorist attacks on American soil.

Since 9/11/01 there have been over twenty school shootings, and yet, we have still not stepped up as a nation to address this problem.

We have successfully thwarted terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists on U.S. soil, but as a nation, we are failing to protect our most precious resource…the children of America!

There are many issues that need addressing if we are going to stop the terrorism that we are experiencing in schools, but one issue is paramount.

Should we ban assault rifles for private citizens?  It would be a good start, but it is not a cure-all.

Should we provide more help to people with mental illnesses?  Absolutely.  But again, not a cure-all.

What if we allowed prayer in schools?  It may make a lot of people feel better, but it will not stop a maniacal gunman from shooting up a school.

All of these issues should be addressed, but there is one step that should be taken immediately to keep our children safe in school.

The time has come for America to beef up security in our schools the way that we did immediately after the 9/11 attacks.  The terrorists that have succeeded in carrying out their missions over the past 11 years are not Muslim extremists; they are young, disturbed, heavily armed, white males who share the same disregard for human life as the terrorists who attacked our country on 9/11.  They have been able to carry out their missions against innocent, defenseless targets with little to no resistance, and we simply cannot sit idly by and hope that this won’t happen again.  We have to proactively stop it from happening.

Unfortunately, we must fight fire with fire, and that does not mean arming teachers and principals as some have suggested.  A teacher’s job is challenging enough without having to add the responsibility of becoming an expert marksman to the list.  However, the country is filled with people who can handle the job, trained policeman and military veterans to name a few.

On 9/11/01, we learned a valuable lesson about our nation’s security vulnerabilities.  Since that time, we have had multiple school shootings, but we still have not learned our lesson.   We shake our heads in disbelief when there is a shooting at a high school.  We are sad for the families who suffer losses and we pray that it never happens in our local high school.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shaken the nation to its core.  Because the victims were so young and innocent, we cannot fathom how anyone can look into a terrified child’s eyes and pull the trigger without hesitation.  In many ways, this unspeakable tragedy is as bad as what happened on 9/11/01.  In some ways, it is worse.

On 12/14/12, in a tightknit rural community in Connecticut, the last bit of innocence that we had left in America was mercilessly taken away from us all in one fell swoop.  We MUST do whatever it takes to make sure that a tragedy like this never happens again!

Nothing that we do going forward will bring back the innocent victims whose lives ended way too soon.  The families that they left behind will never be the same, and no amount of time that passes will ever help to fill the void created by their passing.

The best that we can all hope for at this point is for this tragedy to serve as a wake-up call to America to do what is necessary to protect our children.

 

Please click here to learn more about each Sandy Hook Elementary School victim (slideshow in the middle of the page).

 

The Downside of Progress…The Upside of Simpler Times

In Family, Life on December 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

nostalgia

It was over 35 years ago on this date that my family and I moved to Long Island from Queens.  Although the people who bought the house from my parents have now lived there longer than we did, I will always consider it home.

I still remember my first day in the house.  We got there ahead of the movers, so there was no furniture in the house yet.  My siblings and I sat on the carpeted kitchen floor eating Hostess Cupcakes off of a small plastic outdoor patio table.  I was a bit nervous to go to a new school, particularly in the middle of the year, but I was excited about living in a nice house with a huge backyard.

Although starting in a new school is never easy, my first week was fun because it was the week before Christmas break.  Everyone was in high spirits, and the classwork was kept to a minimum because the school was in holiday mode.  It didn’t take long for me to start making friends, and by the time the break came around a week later, I was already playing outside with other kids in the neighborhood.

It was a long, cold winter that year, and though I had a lot of fun in the snow, I was happy for spring to arrive.  Before long, I was riding my bike down the block to go play sports with my friends, and playing little league baseball for the first time.  We didn’t need organized sports as much because we played on our own, but I enjoyed it just the same.

Our new house had a push button phone, a step-up from the rotary phone in our house in Queens.  Our family room had cable television, a step-up from the rabbit ears that we had in Queens.  Other than that, there was no other technology to make our lives “easier.”

When the phone rang, we all wanted to answer it, hoping that it was a call for us.  Today we use caller ID to properly direct the calls to the appropriate family member, or worse, to screen a call that you’re not in the mood to take.  The phone had a cord that kept you tethered nearby.  We didn’t have cordless phones, much less smartphones that are so addicting that you feel lost if the battery dies or you forget to bring it with you.

If we wanted to watch a particular television show, we made sure to be in front of the TV when it was on.  There was no DVR, much less on demand.  We had one shot to see the show, and if we missed it, the moment was gone.  Shows like The Wizard of Oz were special because they were only shown once each year, and it was usually an event that the family looked forward to sharing together.

There was no Internet.  If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library to get the information.  We couldn’t just “Google it.”

We got our news from newspapers, television and radio from professional journalists who were more concerned with getting it right than being first, which nowadays leads to an incredible amount of misinformation spreading like wildfire.  We had the information that we needed not every graphic detail about a story because the news was about the highlights.  The 24/7 news cycle is probably the most detrimental “progress” that we have experienced in our lifetime, as it has done little to inform, but has contributed greatly to the divisive society that has engulfed America.

Social media has succeeded in connecting us to people who were once a part of our lives, but more importantly, it has failed us because it allows us to disconnect from actual face-to-face contact and phone conversations.  It has also become a place where bullying is very common, and it is not limited to kids in school.  Adults are equally as abusive to those who don’t agree with their point of view.  Before social media, we knew the views of those who we spoke to directly, but had no idea what our hundreds and hundreds of “friends” were thinking about any given subject.

In spite of all of the “progress” that we have made through technology, given the choice, I would gladly go back to the way life was when I was a kid.

Nostalgia has a funny way of removing the tarnish from every memory, leaving behind nothing by precious gems to be cherished, but I still wish that my children could experience the childhood that I had when things were simpler.

Was my life perfect?  Absolutely not!  But it was better for sure.

We were able to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without worrying that it might kill one of our classmates who has a deadly peanut allergy, undoubtedly a result of the “progress” that we’ve made in making less expensive, processed food.

We played organized sports, but didn’t rely on them to be our only source of exercise.  We rode our bikes to parks and played with friends until dark.

We didn’t live in a state of constant fear, and we certainly never thought about getting gunned down in school.

We couldn’t possibly have imagined what life would be like for our kids back then, but I can say now that I never would have expected life to be like this.

This date used to be a happy one for me to reflect back upon my childhood and my life on Long Island, but today it’s not.

Today, I walked my kids into their elementary school with hesitation.  A lady whom I’ve never met gave me a smile of support as she saw me hug and kiss my little one goodbye and watch her walk down the hall as I always do.  When my daughter was out of sight, she came over to me and introduced herself as the new superintendent.  She clearly saw the anguish on my face that I’ve been trying to hide all weekend since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  She told me that she wants to build a fortress around the school.  I agreed that it would be a good idea.  We both had tears in our eyes.

When I left the building, I stopped to speak to the teacher aide from my daughter’s class.  My wife and I grew very fond of her last year when she volunteered to walk my daughter to her Kindergarten class every day because of her separation anxiety.  She didn’t know my daughter, but she saw a little girl in distress and wanted to help.  Needless to say, my wife and I were thrilled when we found out that she was going to be in my daughter’s classroom this year.

I asked her how she was doing and she told me that she spent the whole weekend crying.  She has been in this school for nearly 20 years, and she still thinks of each kid in her classroom as “her kids.”  We talked about how she and I sat next to each other building gingerbread houses on Friday while the unspeakable tragedy was being carried out in Newtown, CT.  We talked about the innocence of the kids in the class, all of whom are the same age as the kids who perished in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  She told me that she would gladly step in front of her kids and take a bullet to protect them, and I didn’t doubt what she said for a second.  I know that she would, but I wish that it wasn’t necessary to even discuss this hypothetical scenario.  We both had tears in our eyes as we said goodbye to each other this morning.

There’s something to be said for the simpler times I enjoyed.

What if It Was Your Child?

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Disbelief

Every time there is a shooting tragedy, gun lovers immediately launch into their usual 2nd Amendment diatribe.  In light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where 20 innocent children perished at the hands of a gun-wielding maniac, I was hoping that we would be spared the “guns don’t kill people…people kill people” rhetoric, but that seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking on my part.

I’ve always stayed away from proactively taking a public stance on this issue because it is so divisive, but in light of the slaughtering of innocent children, I decided that it was worth the risk of ruffling some feathers.

I believe that people should have the right to possess a weapon for self-defense, but I see no purpose in stockpiling weapons or possessing assault rifles, both of which go well beyond the scope of self-defense.

To those who staunchly disagree with my position, I have one simple question for you…

What if it was your child?

Take a moment before you post another rant about the 2nd Amendment, or another pro-gun image, and put yourself in the place of the parents who lost their children yesterday in Newtown, CT.

Close your eyes and imagine dropping your child or children off at elementary school.  You give them a hug and a kiss, tell them you love them and to have a good day.  You go about your day business as usual, with the full expectation that you will see your child at the end of the day like you always do.

Now imagine that you get a notification from the elementary school shortly after the school day begins.  You find out that there has been a shooting in your town, and your stomach is instantly tied up in knots.  Then you find out that the shooting has taken place at your child’s school.

You get into your car and drive as fast as humanly possible to the school where you are given instructions to wait outside, not knowing whether your child was a victim or not.

You see a line of children walking together in single file, their tiny hands resting on the shoulders of the classmate in front of them to guide them because they have been told to keep their eyes closed as they exit to shelter them from seeing the carnage that has taken place moments earlier.

You wait and watch as parents are reunited with their children, hugging, kissing and crying uncontrollably (parents and children alike).  You pray that your child will be the next one out the door, and you wait.  And you wait.  And you wait some more as you watch parent after parent breathing an emotional sigh of relief that their child is safe.

Now picture that the school officials come out and tell you that there will be no more reunions, and you are amongst the 20 sets of parents that is left standing, knowing that you may never see your child again.  You pray in disbelief that there must have been some mistake.  It’s tragic beyond words what has happened, but you can’t imagine that it can happen to you.  Not to your precious, innocent child who has so much more living to do.  Not to your child who gave you a hug and kiss and told you that they loved you just hours before.  The world can’t possibly be that cruel…can it?

Sadly, the answer is “yes,” the world can be that cruel.  And now you are left to pick up the pieces to be there for your other children.

Do you go home, look at their room, their photos and every other reminder of them and crumble to the ground wishing that you had been the one to take the bullet so that they could have lived?

Or do you sit down at the computer, login to Facebook, and shout to the world that you lost your child because there are not enough guns in the world?

Do you stand on a virtual soapbox raging about how we need to protect the 2nd Amendment at all costs regardless of the increase in the number of senseless shootings that take the lives of so many innocent people?

Do you even for a minute think to yourself…guns don’t kill people…people kill people?

The End of the Innocence

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Sandy Hook Elementary

“It was the best of times…it was the worst of times.”

Today started off on a high note.  My little one was excited that we were invited to her first grade class to help build gingerbread houses.  While we were helping her with her gingerbread house, my wife and I whispered and laughed to ourselves at how rundown our house looked compared to others in the class.

I sang the lyrics to a song that we both like in her ear, and we laughed some more.  The song is called “The Crazy Ones.”  In the song it says “we march to the beat of a different drum.”  While our gingerbread house didn’t look good in the traditional sense, I was proud of my little one’s originality.

She didn’t compare her house to others, and didn’t seem to care that ours was messy looking.  All she cared about was having fun and eating candy.  In a perfect world, that’s about all kids her age should care about.

Tragically, today proved that innocence is not guaranteed for kids of any age.

I brought my daughter home from school early after the gingerbread decorating was done.  She was up in her room when my phone rang.  It was my father-in-law, obviously distraught as he told me about the senseless shooting that happened this morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  He was warning me not to turn on the news in front of the kids.

My heart sank as we spoke.  As soon as we hung up, I went right upstairs to hug and kiss my little girl and tell her that I loved her.  We’re always very affectionate, so she thought nothing of it, but inside, I was still trying to wrap my head around this devastating news.

For the past few days, one of my daughter’s front teeth has been hanging by a thread, but it didn’t seem ready to come out yet.  Once I heard this news, I was hoping that she would just leave it alone because I didn’t want the loss of her first front tooth to come on the same day of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  As I was watching the news, she came to the top of the stairs with blood dripping from her mouth.

I had no choice but to pull the tooth, and comfort her as she cried hysterically at the sight of the blood.  I held her tight and assured her that everything was going to be okay.  And it will be, at least as far as the tooth is concerned, but after seeing the news today, it’s hard for me to believe that everything will actually be okay.

The world is a fucked up place nowadays.  We lost our innocence as a nation on 9/11/01, and we’ve seen more school shootings than any of us ever thought possible.  But the shooting of little, innocent, elementary school kids goes beyond anything that our minds can comprehend.  The last safe haven that we had no longer exists, and this is truly the end of the innocence.

I keep thinking about all of the joy that I experienced today with fellow parents decorating gingerbread houses with our first graders.  Everyone was happy, smiling, content in our little corner of the world.  I can’t even imagine what would possess anyone to stare into the eyes of all of those innocent faces, point a gun at them and pull the trigger. I’m glad that the shooter is dead, but I wish that he would have killed himself before walking into an elementary school with an assault rifle in his hands and malice in his heart.

I pray for the parents of those who inexplicably lost their child today in this tragedy.  Their worlds will never be the same.  Quite frankly, none of us will ever be the same either.

New York Islanders Moving to Brooklyn: A Bittersweet Day for Islander Fans

In Life, Sports on October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

The New York Islanders have been part of the landscape of Long Island for my entire life.  And though there had been rumors of their departure from Long Island floating around for several years, it really hit home yesterday when the Islanders announced that they would be moving to Brooklyn once their Nassau Coliseum lease expires at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

A variety of emotions hit me when the announcement was made:  shock, sadness and anger at first, but most of all, I was relieved.

Even though every Islander fan knew that this day could come, it was still shocking when the formal announcement was made.  Not so much that the team was moving to Brooklyn, but rather that they were able to keep it under wraps until a few hours before the press conference was to take place at the Barclays Center.

The announcement saddened me for nostalgic reasons.  Words cannot describe what it was like to be a kid growing up on Long Island during the Islanders’ dynasty years.  I can’t say what it was like for the rest of the country, but on Long Island, hockey was very important.  Nearly everyone that I knew was either an Islander or Ranger fan, and the heated rivalry created intense moments between friends.

My father was never much of a hockey fan, so we didn’t go to a lot of games, but I went to some with friends.  Since I became a parent, I have taken my son to a number of games at the Nassau Coliseum, a place that holds many memories for me beyond the Islanders (concerts, the circus, etc.).

The fact that the Islanders will no longer call the Coliseum home in a few years makes me angry, but not at owner, Charles Wang.  I am angry that Mr. Wang did everything possible to work with Nassau County to get a new arena built inside of a complex that would have been called The Lighthouse Project, a place that would have benefitted the Islanders and Long Island alike, but it was stalled in its tracks by short-sighted, power-happy politicians.

As a lifelong Islander fan, I cannot say that I am happy about the move the Brooklyn, but I am relieved, and grateful to Charles Wang for keeping the Islanders local.

Although it has been a long time since the Islanders were truly relevant in hockey terms, it is a team steeped in tradition, and that tradition will now be preserved for many years to come (albeit in Brooklyn rather than on Long Island).

The banners that hang from the rafters of the aging Coliseum will now hang from the rafters of a state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn.  The name of the team and the logo will remain the same, which is what should be most important to Islander fans, and for that matter, Ranger fans as well.  Had the Islanders moved to Kansas City (as rumored), the name of the team surely would have been changed, and the history of this once-great franchise would have been nothing more than a memory.  The heated cross-town rivalry with the Rangers would have been all but eliminated.

Ultimately, this move is likely to make the Islanders a more competitive team with a home-ice advantage that they haven’t had in years.  While some are concerned about the seating capacity of the new arena, the fact of the matter is that the Islanders wouldn’t have even filled the smaller venue on most nights in recent years.

The makeup of the fan base will surely change with this move.  No longer will suburban families be able to come home from work and take their kids to a midweek game.  While that is unfortunate for those who supported the team for many years, the reality is that families were not filling the arena on a nightly basis.  Having gone to a number of midweek games myself, I can attest to the fact that there were nights when the near-silent, half-filled arena had no energy whatsoever.

As a lifelong Islander fan it pains me to say it, but the energy that Ranger fans create for their team is what the Islanders can hope for now that they will be in a smaller arena filled with fans.

Thankfully, the new arena is very easy to get to with public transportation, so Islander fans will still be able to watch their team play, though not as often as they do now.

Given the choice between having the Islanders move to Brooklyn or some other part of the country, it’s clear that this announcement, while bittersweet, was clearly the best that any Islander fan could have hoped for under the circumstances.

9/11 – Always Remember and Never Forget: A Nation United

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life, Life Lessons on September 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

When the second tower was hit on 9/11/01, every citizen of the United States was affected. At that moment, our age of innocence was gone, replaced by an everlasting threat of terrorism. And though we have since eliminated Bin Laden and many other terrorist leaders, the fact remains that we are not immune to future attacks.

Having personally experienced 9/11 from a very close vantage point (My 9/11 Experience), my perspective may be different than that of other people. But there is one thing that cannot be disputed…we were never closer as a nation than we were in the days, weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks. During that time period, we weren’t defined by our politics, our religion, our race or any other factor that has contributed to the divisive nation that we are living in now.

We were simply Americans!

Though tragic beyond words, the 9/11 attacks, in my opinion, made us all better Americans. It saddens me that it took a tragedy of epic proportions to strengthen our bond, and saddens me even more that the passage of time has allowed those bonds to be shattered because we cannot agree upon what is best for the country going forward.

Perhaps the divide was always greater than I realized, but it wasn’t as apparent before the 24/7 news cycle became so prevalent, and virtual soapboxes became so easily accessible through the use of social media.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we throw around phrases like “Always Remember” and“Never Forget” as our way of honoring the innocent people who lost their lives on that tragic day 11 years ago. Our appreciation for the heroes of 9/11 comes to the forefront, as does our military pride. We fly the American flag proudly, albeit at half-mast, to show just how patriotic we are. But with less than two months to go until the presidential election, the red and blue colors on the flag are more representative of our differences than our similarities.

Barring any vote-counting controversy, we will know who our President is going to be no later than November 7th. On that day many Americans will celebrate, while many others share in their disappointment. Some Americans will be disenchanted no matter who wins the election, while others who have given up hope will just continue to live their lives the best that they can.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we “always remember” to grieve for the innocent Americans who lost their lives, and for their families as well.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we “never forget” that many other military lives have been lost in the wars that we have fought since that day to defend our freedom.

Imagine what America would be like if we “always remembered” the bonds that were formed in the wake of 9/11.

Imagine what America would be like if we “never forgot” that there are people suffering to this day from 9/11 and its aftermath.

Imagine what America would be like if we “always remembered” that we are all Americans, regardless of who we vote for in this election.

Imagine what America would be like if we “never forgot” that a nation united is much stronger than a nation divided.

On this, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I reflect on my memories of that day as I have for the past 10 years, while hoping that we can find a way to bind together once again as a nation because it is the right thing to do, and not because we have suffered yet another unspeakable tragedy.

Hard Times: Lost on Long Island

In Family, Life, Life Lessons, Television on July 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

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No one ever thinks that it could happen to them…until it does…and then they understand just how quickly the “American Dream” can turn into the “American nightmare.”  In what has to be one of the most depressing documentaries ever, Hard Times:  Lost on Long Island shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that bad things happen to good, hard-working people.

There used to be a perception that people who needed any kind of government assistance were lazy, unmotivated and perfectly content to “live off the dole.”  In some circles, that perception still exists, and while it may be true for some, it certainly is not true of those who were once considered middle class and upper middle class not too long ago.  Anyone who thinks otherwise should take an hour out of their day to watch this eye-opening HBO Documentary.

Seeing the shear agony on the faces of those who were brave enough to share their story with the world should be enough to at least alter the perception of those who think that government assistance is a crutch that merely prevents people from trying to find steady employment.  It simply is not the case.

Growing up on Long Island, I didn’t see much poverty, although I’m sure that it always existed in places that I never frequented.  My only real exposure to poverty as a kid was in Manhattan when my father used to take my brother and me to the Bowery to see the “bums.”  Back then, they weren’t called homeless.  And though many years have passed since I last visited the Bowery, I do remember that the “bums” did not seem particularly desperate, rather more resigned to living on the street and drinking heavily.  That’s not to say that some of them weren’t in real pain, but they just didn’t seem as hopeless and sad as people are today (even those who still have a home).

For those in dire straits, the sobering statistics shared on Hard Times:  Lost on Long Island offer very little in the way of hope:

  • 25 million unemployed and under-employed people in America
  • There are 4 job-seekers for every available job
  • Average length of unemployment is over 9 months long
  • The longer people are out of work, the less likely they are to find a job
  • Long-term unemployed suffer more often from physical and psychological health problems
  • More than 5 million personal bankruptcies have been filed since 2008
  • More than 6 million homes have fallen into foreclosure since 2008
  • Today, a record 45 million people use food stamps
  • Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have more than tripled since 2007

In May of 1947, the suburban dream began on Long Island in Levittown with 2000 affordable homes being rented and then converted into purchases with no down payment and monthly mortgage payments equal to the rental price.  The concept then spread across America.

The first apartment that my wife and I shared together was a rental in Levittown.  When the homeowner died and the house was sold, we were asked to leave the property.  The job market at the time for elementary education teachers on Long Island was very difficult, so my wife gave up on the dream of becoming a teacher and we moved to Manhattan.

Even though my wife had given up her teaching dream, we still planned on living the “American dream.”

After moving around a bit, we ended up back in the suburbs of Suffolk County, where we saw first-hand that life on Long Island quickly got to be very expensive.  Being a real estate agent at the time, I foolishly believed that the irrational exuberance of the real estate market would continue and home prices on Long Island would keep rising, so we purchased a home at the height of the market.

All bubbles burst, so it is not at all surprising to me (in retrospect) that the real estate bubble burst as well.  And as a result, the suburbs are now the fastest growing area of poverty in America.  Those who think that foreclosure and bankruptcy could never happen to them should not think in such absolute terms.

The stories featured on Hard Times:  Lost on Long Island were about successful people with good jobs who lived within their means.  But when income is lost for whatever reason, it is impossible to continue to live the same lifestyle, even for the most disciplined among us.

Unlike most fictional stories that come out of Hollywood, this documentary did not feature many happy endings.  Only one of the people featured in the program was finally offered a job (after a two-year search).  The others continue to struggle and one story ended in tragedy.

Dave Hartstein, a 35-year-old chiropractor and father of three (including an infant with Downs Syndrome), died after contracting Hantavirus while cleaning out the basement of his home to put it up for sale.  He and his wife, Heather (an out-of-work school teacher), had filed for bankruptcy and were trying to work out a loan modification with the bank at the time.

At the end of the documentary, a still shot of the Hartsteins walking with their kids is displayed as Heather sadly states…”We had the dream, the dream was lived…the dream ended.”

Please share your experiences (anonymously if you would like) in the comment section below.  If you, or someone you know, has been out of work for a long time or forced to rely on any kind of government assistance during this economic crisis, please share this post on Facebook (or privately).  At the very least, those who are suffering will know that they are not the only ones who are going through difficult times.
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