Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fidel Castro Was No Hero

Growing up in Miami in the 1970s, I had a large number of Cuban friends, many of whom I’m still in touch with today. Most of them were in Miami because they had fled with what remained of their families, from the barbaric dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

One day during my childhood, while playing with a friend, she told me how her male relatives—grandfathers, uncles, and father had opposed Castro and as a result, had been tortured, imprisoned, and sometimes disappeared. She told me that other male relatives were forced to serve in the army. The stories from other Cuban friends were nearly the same and were horrifying.

Years later, when I was in the military, we rescued large and seemingly endless numbers of Cuban refugees at sea. They sailed on anything that would float—old, dilapidated boats and shoddily crafted rafts made of wood, plastic, inner tubes, and any other items they could find, which were barely tied together. The people we rescued were severely sunburned, thirsty, exhausted, and near starvation. By the time we’d picked them up, at least half who’d started out with them had perished at sea. But that was the measure of their resolve; life in Cuba had become so dangerous that death at sea in the desperate quest for freedom was preferable to living one more day under tyranny.

As I read about Fidel Castro’s death, I am seething at comments about how, although he did some things wrong, he wasn’t so bad, that he was “good for the people,” after all they had a good education and health care system and wealth was evenly distributed. Immediately I thought of my old friends and their stories. Fidel Castro was no hero or savior of his nation; he was a ruthless dictator and murderer.

Raul Castro, currently President of Cuba, who has always praised and supported his brother Fidel, and who recently introduced new market-style economic reforms and supported a re-establishment of diplomacy with the U.S., is no hero either. Raul served as an executioner during the Cuban revolution and was widely known for viciousness and brutality in his torture and murder of hundreds of dissidents, even making light of it in later years. Raul has stated he will step down in 2018 and so remains the question of who will succeed him. Will it be more of the same or will the Cuban people demand change?

Some will argue that because so many Cubans stayed behind, and because Cuba has survived under the Castro regime for so long, perhaps it really isn’t that bad; maybe the people are happy with the status quo. Born under a flag of freedom, I cannot imagine living happily under such oppression, but it is not for me, nor America to decide how the Cuban people should live their lives. I do, however, believe we have a responsibility to encourage them to decide for themselves and the only way they can do that is to have free elections with no threat of repercussion for their choices. After nearly 60 years of communism, the Cuban people should have the opportunity to take charge of their own destinies.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Joe Biden's "Note to Self" reminds us of the things that are most important in life...

This is one of the most touching and inspiring things I've seen in a long time. It hits home once again, we are more than what people may see on the outside. Oh, if only we could've shared our wisdom and experience as adults with our younger selves...think of the pain we could've avoided. Then again, if we'd avoided all that pain we wouldn't be who we are today, would we?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Understanding the Electoral College

If we're going to have a national discussion on this topic, people should understand it first. Here's a very simple refresher of the Electoral College, why it was created, and its importance to our system of government and our nation.

From author, lawyer and Constitutionalist Tara Ross...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Get out there and live...

My grams was a vibrant, energetic, kickass woman who only started showing signs of slowing down around the time she turned 96. (Seriously! :p ) She'd always been active whether it was taking care of her family, working, volunteering. Heck, she worked the polls for nearly 30 years, retiring just after she turned 96. She'd tell me there were days she was so tired she didn't want to get out of bed but she did it anyway because she knew what would happen if she didn't--she would die in it. And there was no way in hell she was going to let THAT happen.

So every morning, including the morning of June 15, 2015, as tired as she was and as much as the arthritis hurt, she got out of that bed. Once again, she'd been given a chance to kick life's least for a few hours anyway, before it was decided for her that she no had do, she had done her share of good, she had lived her best life and it was time for her to move on. And so on that morning of June 15th, she did just that. She moved on.

Image may contain: 2 people
Grams & me
Grams was not amazed, but rather thankful as she moved into her 90's that her mental and physical health was so strong. Her sister, who passed away recently, would often say that grams got the good genes. Grams would credit her Italian father and Sicilian mother for that. She had a little high cholesterol that she took meds for and a little arthritis which was eased by a few Aleve every day. She swore by vitamins especially Gingko Biloba and never missed a day taking them. Also, reading and doing crossword puzzles kept her mind sharp. Then there was the interactions with people, which really, was her favorite thing. Oh how she loved people. The interactions kept her engaged with life.

In the last few years of her life, grams would tell me that every day she woke up was a gift. She was a woman who knew how to live and I'm not talking about living in the material sense, she just knew how to appreciate LIFE. Grams made the best of every single day of her life. She loved working, volunteering, helping people, spending time with her family and friends, going to the mall, social activities--just getting out of the house to do things, even if it was just to go to the store---which she would do just about every day even if it was for the smallest thing like a loaf of bread. Mom would say, "Ma, what could you possibly need at the store again??" and the truth was most of the time, she really didn't "need" anything, she just wanted to get out. And hen she was out, she always took time to talk to people--at the store, bank, post office, the school, doctor's office, gas station, etc.

The day after grams passed away, people were in shock because they'd just seen her, as vibrant and energetic as ever. I don't know how she hid how tired she'd become, but she did. She definitely believed in mind over body and so I have no doubt she willed herself to feel good and it reflected on the outside. The woman had an incredible will and determination.

Grams truly believed she was here for a reason and knew she'd live for that reason, fulfill that purpose until God was ready to take her. And she sure did. She LIVED. Boy, did she LIVE!

I learned a thousand and one lessons from Grams in the 46 years I had her in my life--so many lessons that I could not even begin to list them here. But among the most important were about purpose and about never giving up.

Everyone has a purpose, a reason for being here. And if you don't yet know what it is is, know that you are NEVER too old to find it. You have a gift, sometimes it's right there for all the world to see and sometimes it isn't. Find the gift, make good use of it, take your God-given natural talents and use them in a way that makes you feel happy, fulfilled and brings joy to your life and brings joy to others.

When life sucks and you don't want to get out of bed, get out of bed. When the pain hits, fight back. Don't let yourself wither away. Don't let the age, the pain, the frustration, the sadness, and the loneliness take you over. Life is good, it's good because you're here and you matter and you are a part of this big, stupid, crazy, world and your presence is important. Life is good, living is better--so Live!

Every day you wake up, it means you got one more chance.

What are you going to do with yours?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thank you, Veterans!

On this Veteran's Day, I salute all those who have ever served this great nation. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. When your country called, you answered it, whether you believed the fight was just...or not. And that last one is not an easy thing to do...but you went anyway, regardless of all the questions that may have been churning in your mind. It's not easy trying to bring peace, stability and freedom to a foreign land in turmoil. It's not easy to leave your family, friends, your way of life behind not knowing if you will ever return alive. It's not easy doing what you did, and did it anyway. Your presence out there made us all feel safer. America appreciates you!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Power in This Nation Still Rests With The People...

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, 
nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." 
Donald Trump is our next President and the new Congress is majority Republican. To say I have great concerns about this is an understatement but it is what it is and nothing will change it. I may not have agreed with everything Hillary has said and done, and I've had my reservations about her, but weighing the two (heavily, I might add) she was the more qualified of the two and less likely to do major damage to this country. Also, her campaign was a refreshing positive to Trump's negativity. That said, what's done is done and now we must deal with the reality and a large part of that is accountability. Now, we go back to holding every elected official, regardless of party, accountable for their actions. We hold their feet to the fire.

This is my country. This is your country. It's when things get hard that we hunker down as a people and fight our best fight. Throughout this nation's history, millions of people from ALL walks of life have fought (in more than just wars) for freedom, equality and justice. If the people had given up imagine where we'd be...

If the colonists had not fought for freedom.
If slaves had not risen up.
If there had been no abolitionist movement.
If there had been no suffrage.
If there had been no civil rights movement.
If there had been no Native American uprising.
If there had been no labor movement.
If there had been no women's rights movement
If there had been no anti-war movement.
If there had been no gay rights movement.
If there had been no environmental movement.
and so on and so on and so on...

America is still a work in progress and sometimes we're going to have setbacks. The important thing is that we always keep charging forward. What we need most of all now is the rational people on all sides to come together and find common ground. You can't do much about the irrationals but you can outnumber them and drown out their hate and irrationality.

A number of people express concern America is on its way to becoming a dictatorship, that the government will jail dissenters and place certain individuals in internment camps. I do not fear that because I have complete faith in the rational population of the American people. We will never let that happen. We must remember that America is a Constitutional Republic, where officials are elected to represent the people and as such must govern in accordance with Constitutional Law which limits the government's power over its citizens.

When in doubt, remember...the power in this nation still rests with we, the people. It is our responsibility to use it and use it wisely.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Real Reason Burger King Retired the "Have It Your Way" Slogan...

...because they don't want you to have it your way, because to have it your way means they'd actually have to do that thing called their J-O-B! 

I was with mom and Aunt JoAnn on Friday and after a particularly long day we stopped at Burger King near the interstate as a last resort because none of us had eaten at all that day. We order via the drive-thru, I give my card to the cashier and she proceeds to run it through--but nothing happens. She runs it through several times and then wraps paper around it and tries again--nothing. It's not declined, she just tells me that it won't go through, can't be read. I tell her it's a new card with the chip in it and that it does work because I've been using it for over a month. Tries again, nothing. The manager goes over there and asks what the problem is and the cashier explains. So we give her my aunt's card. Runs through fine. End of story. Of course I'm still puzzled as to how my card didn't work but my aunt's card did.

Then, when we're ready to pull to the new window, she asks about us paying for the other two meals? I was like "What?" They were all screwed up. I'd just paid for three meals on one order and yet she was telling me that the orders had been billed separately and then looking back she realized she was wrong. (I should've known at that point this would not end well).

Anyway, we get our stuff, I get mom and my aunt home and settled. I check my bank account online for another reason and notice I'm charged the same amount my aunt was charged for the meals.

Since I had to go back to the city anyway, I stopped there, went in and talked to the manager. I had my receipt in hand and proceeded to explain what happened. This one had attitude from the very beginning...

Manager: "There's nothing I can do, I just got here, I wasn't here when it happened."

(I'm thinking " is that my problem? Yes, I knew it happened on a different shift--but that's not an excuse.)

Me: "Well, you can go through the receipts and see clearly that two charges for the same amount were made at exactly the same time." I even give her the name of the cashier who had helped us. I offered her the receipt.

Manager: She refused to even look at the receipt. "You have to contact the district manager."

(At this point I'm remembering my days working in fast food back in high school in the 80s when the manager on duty was attentive to customer questions and complaints, dealt with them to the satisfaction of both the customer and the business, and moved on).

Me: "What? But you're a manager. Surely you can look into this."

Manager (with major attitude and still refusing to see my receipt): "I'm not just giving you money back." Then looks at the schedule and says, "She'll be here tomorrow."

I explained to her I live out of town and no, that's not convenient for me and that I felt there was no reason she could not investigate the situation and fix it there. She shrugged her shoulders and said the manager would be there Monday. I explained that wasn't convenient for me either.

Manager: "Well I don't know what you want me to do, I can't just give you a refund."

Well, I'll admit I had a hundred thoughts about what I wanted her to do at that moment, oddly enough, none of them had anything to do with giving me my money back but I digress... 

At this point, I was exhausted from a very long day and lots of driving. Her lazy, bullshit attitude had already grown quite old and I asked how I could get in touch with the District Manager. She went into the back and returned with a piece of paper and a name and phone number she'd written on it. When she handed it to me, she again said there was nothing she could do (translation: there was nothing she would do) and then under her breath muttered some bullshit about not giving me my money back.

I am not one to give up easily but I try like hell to save my energy for the right battles. I headed toward the door frustrated, not just over her but because I'm really tired of being dismissed when I have a legit customer complaint about something but then I thought "this is just utter bullshit" and I  walked back over there and said to her loud and clear so that everyone in the restaurant heard it. I told her all I wanted and expected was decent customer service, for her to listen to my complaint, do something to fix it, not to be dismissed with an attitude and "I don't know what you want me to go."

I made sure everyone in the restaurant heard it. Believe me, they did.

I will not be dismissed. I am tired of shitty customer service. I am tired of day after day, having to deal with attitude from people who work with the public. If you don't know how to deal with people respectfully and courteously, then you need to find another line of work. And when you are a supervisor, manager, director---when you are in charge of an establishment and other people, you are held to a higher standard because you are the designated leader. The shit falls on you. If you can't handle it, you don't deserve to be the leader.

By now you're probably wondering how much we're talking about here. 


Yep, that's it. $25.46. I could say it's not about the money but...well they did take something from me that does not belong to them so...I want it back. But more importantly it's the principle. They are wrong, I am right. I approached the manager with a problem, she refused to at least attempt to try and solve it, instead dismissing my complaint as if I didn't matter. And I do matter. I'll be on the phone with the General Manager and District Manager if necessary till I get some satisfaction here and then once that's done, I'm going to make sure I tell everyone what a piece of shit establishment that is. It sucks for the hardworking employees there, but you know what--it's about time we stand up to shitty customer service. It's about time we say we're not going to be walked all over anymore. It's just time to send the message that we're just over this shit, just over it. 

And in case you haven't heard, I'm just the one to do it.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Auntie Nina, we will miss you dearly!

Auntie Nina, my great aunt and grams only sister passed away this morning at her home. She was ready, she knew it was her time. She always told us she lived the life she wanted with NO regrets! And now she is with her parents Thomas & Josephine, sister May, and both of her beloved husbands Virgil & Bill. Auntie Nina was an amazing woman and we will all miss her dearly!

Giovannina "Jeanine" Antonette Elizabeth Mangieri Young Raymond
June 21, 1923 - November 5, 2016