(Furry) Babies in Need

I had an NPR Driveway Moment the other day as I pulled into the Humane Society parking lot. I was there bright and early to interview animal-loving volunteers on why they work away their lives for free.

The NPR story began with weekday host Steve Inskeep interviewing weekend host Scott Simon on his new book, Baby We Were Meant for Each Other.

The lives of both men have been touched by adoption, and Simon was choked up throughout most of the interview as he talked about his young daughters. (Part of the driveway moment experience, I think, is wiping away your own tears before interacting with humans outside of your vehicle.)

I immediately saw the juxtaposition of being at the animal shelter, and was anticipating the next 45 minutes of meeting and petting furry babies also up for adoption.

Animal lovers are dogged in their attachment to their pets. They care for their four-legged children as if they had given birth to them themselves.

Some important things I learned at the Humane Society:
  • it's a no kill shelter, meaning unlike the county and other shelters, they do not euthanize to make room for more.
  • there are plenty of small, pure breeds waiting to be adopted due to the recession.
  • in an average year the shelter adopts out 5,000 dogs and cats. In this past year, they adopted out 7,000.

Click here to see free ranging kitties in the Human Society's "Real Life" room, courtesy of Fox 13's Kitty Cam.

Tampa Bay is blessed to have such a great shelter. Not only does it place all those animals into safe, loving homes, but they often have room to take animals ("literally out of time," according to volunteer coordinator Ben Moehnert) from the county shelter on Falkenburg, another kill shelter in Alabama, and as far away as Puerto Rico.

If you're interested in volunteering at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, check out their website or call volunteer coordinator Ben Moehnert at 774-4344.


Why People Live in Florida

Don't Want to be an American Idiot

Reading the local headlines today at the library, both in print and online, something in my head finally clicked, as if I suddenly (after many years of study) became fluent in a foreign language.

I still wouldn't recognize four out of my seven county commissioners if they stood in front of me in line at the grocery store, but I feel like I've finally grasped how local government works (or at least, how it's supposed to work in an ideal world).

No coincidence that this week I also studied up on all the candidates on my sample ballot online at the Supervisor of Elections website. In the last few years every time I've gone to vote, I've always thought I did a good job prepping but inevitably there'd be some judge or school board candidate I overlooked and never heard of.

This afternoon on my lunch break I voted confidently after much research, breezing in and out of the county center like a student who just aced an open book test. I hope never again to be a civic underachiever.

Early voting continues until tomorrow at 6 p.m. Here's a list of early voting polling places and times.


In His Hands

Last year I posted a blurb about a benefit concert for the Coddington family. In 2008 the mom, Marian, suffered from an aneurysm followed by several brain hemorrhages. Their insurance company declared her to be in a vegetative state and deemed rehab medically unnecessary. For the last year or more almost all of Steve's (the dad) income pays for a caregiver to watch Marian while he's at work.

Steve's coworkers at the St. Pete Times organized last year's benefit as well as another call for help earlier this year. Being underemployed I had no money to give but I did have some time on my hands. So once a month I'd drive down to their place in Apollo Beach and play caregiver to Marian while Steve took their two cooped-up kids out to play at museums, parks or the beach.

Last month when I thought my marriage was ending I even moved in with them and had a great time as the much-needed second adult in the household. Steve has been so bogged down with worry, paperwork, and just trying to get through each day that he's forgotten or lacked the time to change air conditioner filters, take out the recycling, and train the puppy.

I've happily moved back into my own home, but find myself at a loss in terms of helping them now. Life would be so much easier for him if he got Marian into a nursing home, which the government would pay for, yet financial assistance to pay $300-400 a week (much cheaper than a nursing home) for a caregiver is out of reach. Marian sits on Medicaid waiting lists, Steve waits for the health care reform laws to kick in...they take each day as it comes while praying for relief.

The mom for whom therapy is "medically unnecessary" yelled out "Bye!" to her husband the other day when he announced he was off to work. A few days before I was sitting with her and watching black & white episodes of Ed Murrow's See It Now. One featured singer Marian Anderson receiving an award in South Korea, and then singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Our Marian joined the songbird Marian a few lines in, and together they completed the song.


All You Need is Love. And Tolerance.

On this Wednesday, August 18th, LGBT couples in California may be legally allowed to marry once again. (The next thing you know people will want to marry across races, castes, and, in my case, generations.)

My divorce was also scheduled for that day. Until I chose to run toward my commitment and chase away my inner demons instead. Of course I should have gotten rid of those ghosts of childhood trauma past before sharing my life with someone, but neither close friends nor self love and even therapy couldn't set me on the right path toward healing. A particular someone though did give me the strength and support I needed to begin to get over my past while also helping me revel in the present moment.

A good marriage is a bond that makes two people stronger than their individual selves. All you need is love comes to mind, but also a lot of darn hard work, too. It's maddening to think thousands of couples are being denied the right to legally share their lives with their partners based on someone else's principles. Life is hard enough on its own without having others butting in and dictating how one should live. And whom to love.

Photo by Khalid Hammed


Meatless Mondays

Last night I told a meat-eating friend I was going to make us eggplant parm sandwiches for dinner. He said he's never had eggplant in his life, and gave me that Don't-make-me-eat-tofu face.

I promised a BLT if he didn't like the eggplant. Then I commenced to chopping, slicing, breading and frying (which tends to make anything taste good), and smothered the veggies in fresh garlic marinara and fancy Parmesan cheese.

When we sat down and I asked him what he thought, he said he "didn't find it objectionable." I think that means I did alright.

So on the rush hour commute this fine Monday morning, I was very happy to hear the NPR story on Meatless Mondays. I'm not a vegetarian, but I prefer a meatless diet because I don't like the hormones in meat (there was a separate story on American girls now menstruating at 7 years of age), nor do I approve of factory farming (of animals or plants for that matter). It's also more expensive to eat meat - and not just the price you pay at the checkout line.

Gone are the days from my suburban Jersey youth when my grandma and mother would tell my meat-free self that: "You'll starve! You need protein!"

Ladies! Your girl knows how to cook up a fine bunch of cashews and rainbow chard (but I won't tell my meat-eating friend that just yet).


Zinn Again

Whenever I complain about how hard it is to be artsy and curious in this world/country (which is often), Ronny reminds me I have good reason: when societies unravel it's the teachers, artists, and intellectuals that are disposed of first.

Yesterday WMNF's Sean Kinane began a two-part story on last week's release of a 423 page FBI file on the late historian and peace activist Howard Zinn.

Though it seems that the info is not much more than a collection of press clippings and lame or faulty info (you know, kinda like a Facebook page), the threat is on us all when the agency acts as if the First Amendment doesn't apply to them. That oft-argued over piece of paper is the only protection we citizens have on our side.

Stay tuned for the second part of the story on the WMNF Evening News tonight at 6 p.m.

photo of Howard Zinn by Sean Kinane


Media Policy is Interesting (Really)!

It's a rare thing to have media policy issues in the mainstream. It's not because they're complicated, although they can be. And not because policy is boring; once you understand what's going on, you'll see how important it is to daily American life.

Media policy is one of the most essential issues out there because it determines what you see - or don't see - on your TV, internet, radio, etc.

Too much crap on the radio? That's because some members of the FCC decided it was okay for one company to own 1,200+ radio stations nationwide (and that company thought it would be a good idea to play the same 12 songs over and over again until the end of time).

There are occasionally some good guys (i.e. those who put people before profit) in government and the FCC, like Commissioner Michael Copps, who said the following words (which encapsulates why I ever wanted to go into media in the first place):
"Building a media environment that truly reflects and truly nourishes our diversity and democracy may be our nation’s greatest calling now because, without that, all the other huge issues we confront won’t receive the kind of true journalistic scrutiny they need if they are to find satisfactory resolution."
But back to media policy. It doesn't make it into the spotlight much because the handful of corporations that own the media are actually okay with the public being left in the dark on these issues. (Imagine that!) They'd rather sell you the latest reality show than actually have you understand the reality of how the country/world works. Funny, huh? (Maybe not ha ha funny...)

The biggest current media issue is net neutrality. Thanks to David from Re/Creating Tampa for posting this clip from The Daily Show. It's easily the most entertaining explanation of net neutrality out there.