Super Bowl Sunday: Who Are Your Champions?

Who Are Your Champions

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the grocery store was packed. I mean packed. I don’t know why I didn’t think to get my weekly stash of life-sustaining food yesterday, but I didn’t. So I drove over there today, in a blizzard, parked on the lower level of the garage after driving through every row of the first level, and managed to push my way down the aisles for an hour without having a breakdown. Huge success, considering it was so crowded that they’d run out of hot sauce, and almost everyone in the store was packed into the condiments aisle waiting to see if it would be restocked.

As I was patiently waiting in the checkout line and handing over my coupons, it occurred to me that this is crazy. Continue reading

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Taking a Ride with Uber

Taking a Ride with Uber

I’ve waited 45 minutes for a Yellow Cab to pick me up in the South Side. I’ve waited an hour for a Classy Cab to get me in Bloomfield. I’ve been so disappointed with the service of taxis in Pittsburgh, that I try to avoid getting stranded at any location without my trusty Toyota close by. I would rather drive my own car and pay a premium on garage fees and parking meters, just so I know that I will have reliable transportation when I am ready to go.

Pittsburgh is better known for its bridges and sports teams than for public transportation. Cabs are hard to find and harder to contact. The T will only take you so far in one direction. Buses are okay, but for the hassle of getting to a stop and the time it takes to get where you need to go, you’d expect it to be cheaper.

Introducing – Uber.

Continue reading

An Evening of Arts for Autism

Evening of Arts For Autism was held at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

Evening of Arts For Autism was held at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

Last night, I was honored and privileged to attend the Evening of Arts for Autism at Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh. This event truly brought my experiences with the Joey Travolta Film Camp and Arts for Autism full-circle, and I have never seen this amount of hard work, joy, patience, and hope in any group of people, multiplying with each gathering. Continue reading

My First Netflix Binge: “Orange is the New Black”

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We all know that Netflix is the future of TV. Maybe not Netflix exactly, but TV in the form of on-demand media. Someone might build a new platform or come up with a new payment system or call it MiTV, but the idea is that people can watch a story, from beginning to end, in increments, at their own pace, on a device of their choosing.

This idea is not new and I am certainly not the first person to discuss it or write about it in a blog post.

But this idea became abundantly clear to me last week, when Jim and I sat down and watched four episodes of “Orange is the New Black” in one night. And then two more the next night. And we finished the season by the end of the week. This raises two questions for me. Was the captivating allure of “Orange” so compelling that I couldn’t tear myself away? Or did I watch thirteen episodes of a show in one week just because I could?  Continue reading

Students take their shot on stage at The People Speak Live: Student Edition

I had the opportunity to go to this event on April 24 and was truly inspired by the insight and creativity that these kids offered through their art. Read on to find out more about the event.

Hollyburgh

 by Meg Huber

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world.”
-Howard Zinn, The Optimism of Uncertainty

Such was the message of Steeltown Entertainment Project’s recent event, “The People Speak Live: Student Edition.” The event took place as part of Steeltown’s Take a Shot at Changing the World contest.

Middle and high school students from Westinghouse, CAPA, Environmental Charter School, and Highland gathered together on April 24 at Pittsburgh CAPA downtown to perform for their parents, their peers and their supporters. Several of Pittsburgh’s well-known public figures joined the students on stage, including Sally Wiggin (WTAE) , Chris Moore (WQED, WPXI) and Lynn Cullen (Lynn Cullen Live).

Inspired by historian Howard Zinn’s book Voices of a People’s History and the documentary The People Speak, the kids prepared pieces of art that reflected how they see their place in the world and what they might do to change…

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Pray for Innocence

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I’ve never seen a gun up close. I’ve never seen one fired. I don’t personally know anyone with a mental illness, but I’ve had classes with some. In high school, two girls got in a fight and one was pushed against a locker—that’s the most violence I’ve seen in school. My classmates and I went through the motions of fire drills and nuclear bomb drills like they were games—a chance to drop the textbooks and chat with friends. I don’t have any close friends who have died and I’ve never seen someone killed right in front of me, the light fading from their eyes. In these respects, I’m as innocent as the children at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. As innocent as they were.

I was working all day on Friday. The words “twenty kids shot at an elementary school” reached my ears at some point, but a Friday at a restaurant is a busy day. I didn’t have time to slow down and check my phone. On Saturday, my family drove to Ohio in the morning to visit family. We went to church, where, during the homily, the priest asked and answered the question, “what do we do?” with respect to the shooting. “We pray,” he said. I didn’t get any full information until Saturday night. And when the names of twenty first-graders and six adults were shown on the television screen, my family wept.

No child goes to first grade with any thought that this tragedy could happen. No parent sends their child to school, thinking a shooter might come into the building. We believe schools are a safe environment, a haven with friends and mentors, full of knowledge and promise. I loved school as a child. I loved my teachers and textbooks and the feel of a newly sharpened pencil on a clean sheet of paper. I loved reading, writing, and learning. What will these children love now?

The biggest shock to the nation is that these victims were children and teachers. Twenty young lives, who haven’t even seen the world or know what amazing things are yet to come, were sitting at their desks eagerly soaking up knowledge. Six adults, trying to mold young minds and teach children to be the best they can be, put themselves in front of their kids, trying to protect them. The questions going through everyone’s minds: Who does this? Who shoots innocent children in school?

Like the shooting in the Colorado movie theater, this tragedy brings up so many questions and issues. People take sides, they fight for their beliefs, they write articles, letters, and blog posts. We desperately search for the reason why this happened, in our effort to find a better way to stop it. Is gun control the issue, or is it school safety? One mother of a mentally ill teenager writes that we must examine mental health and the care that is available for people who have special needs. But perfectly sane people can still buy a gun and shoot someone. If it’s a combination of all of these things, can we ever truly solve this problem?

Once again, the nation grieves for a community that has been torn apart by violence. We light candles, hold vigils and send teddy bears. We can’t unwind the time that has passed, or bring the children we love back, but we can send our thoughts and our hearts to those who are grieving. And we can pray. We can pray for the families of the victims and the shooter, and we can pray for action.

I hope there are more children like me, who stay innocent for as long as possible. I hope there are children who don’t know violence, who have never seen a gun, who feel that their  school is a safe haven. I hope children take their emergency drills seriously, but never have to put them into action. I hope children who need special help, get it, and I hope this never, ever happens again.

I pray for innocence.

(photo via)

Voting in a Nation of Opposition

I voted.

I won’t launch into a lengthy diatribe about my political beliefs, or anyone else’s. I just want to tell you that I voted on Election Day.

Yes, Election Day is old news. It’s been days, we already know the results, we’ve already determined our President for the next four years. You might be absolutely thrilled right now or you might be planning your relocation to Canada. Either way, the election has happened; the people have spoken. Hopefully.

Four years ago, I was 18 years old, a college freshman, still ignorant and naive. I registered to vote on my 18th birthday in high school because it was the cool thing to do, not because I knew anything about politics. I registered what I believed was the same party as my parents (not actually 100% sure what that party was or meant or stood for). All I knew was that I didn’t want to be an Independent because I wanted my vote to count.

And then I didn’t vote. I was going to school in a different state and the words “absentee ballot” weren’t even in my vocabulary until it was too late. Barack Obama was sworn in as President and if there were any changes to my personal circumstances, I didn’t know of them. So I was okay with whatever happened.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with a story like this. There are people everywhere who don’t vote, who don’t feel that it will make any difference, who hate the entire system so much that they think not voting will make a statement in itself…whatever the reason, I learned that there is a huge percentage of Americans who don’t vote. So I didn’t feel bad about not voting at 18. In fact, I actually felt better about my decision not to vote because I realized that an uninformed voter is not much better.

Then I took a few political science classes in school and learned a lot more about the government and elections and how that whole “system” works. I learned about political ads and strategies. I learned about the stances that each party takes on issues. I read President Obama’s book and analyzed how race and gender play into politics. I listened and participated in discussions. I saw how the news reports the same story in different ways and influences the way people think about candidates and parties. In short, I slowly became an informed citizen, an active consumer of news–and I couldn’t wait to participate.

So I voted on Tuesday. I woke up early so I could stop by the polling center before I headed to my internship. The voting booths were located in a Catholic school (which I thought was ironic, but maybe that’s just me). I must have arrived at the perfect time. I was expecting long lines, but there were only a few people ahead of me.

As I stood waiting for one person to finish up, a woman suddenly rushed over to me and wrapped me in her arms, thanking me profusely for voting. After only a second of extreme confusion, I realized it was my neighbor. She didn’t even know who I was going to vote for, she was just grateful that I was participating in our government.

When I got up to the table, I was asked for ID (also ironic, considering Pennsylvania does not require ID) and I handed them my license. I saw copies of the signatures of everyone in my family, which was weird to me.  (It felt a little bit like someone was keeping tabs on me. I had never been there before and I didn’t know those people, but they had my signature just chilling in some binder?)

The women behind the table passed along the news that I was a first-time voter, like they were playing the Telephone game or something. My personal political beliefs, which may or may not have agreed with their own, didn’t stop them from being excited for me.

“First-time voter over here, Mary!”

“Oh Sharon, we have a first-time voter, make sure Janice knows.”

“Hey, can you show this first-time voter what to do?”

And so I was led to the last chest-high computer in the row and a kind, little lady showed me how to tap the screen for the candidates I wanted and hit the vote button when I was finished. She reminded me to tap “confirm” when I was finished.  And after I clicked through the candidates and hit “vote” I wondered how anyone could miss the 6 inch by 6 inch “confirm” button in the center of the screen. But I guess people had.

And then it was over. I walked out of the room and back to my car, with a smile on my face and this extreme sense of pride that I had just voted for the President of the United States. I had such an easy time with it that I wondered why everyone didn’t vote. I wondered why people claimed to be too busy, or said the process was too complicated. But I saw the news that night and I saw people who waited hours in lines and had to fill out bubbles on sheets of paper, and I realized that maybe it wasn’t quite as easy for everyone.

Politics often causes such huge rifts between groups of people and communities. They like one candidate, they hate certain policies, they think they know what should be done to make America better. No one agrees on anything and we certainly can’t all agree on everything. But the one thing people should agree on is that it is important to vote. It is important to be a part of it.

I didn’t think it mattered before. I didn’t think that one person’s vote out of millions would make any difference. But a lot of people might think this way. And when we all think we’re unimportant–when we are all uninformed and apathetic–then the system won’t work.

Here in America, we have this freedom to vote. We have more than the freedom to, we have the right to. Not everyone in this world has that. I think it does matter. And now I am proud to say I voted.

Zombie Rally

If you’re still on a Halloween kick and can’t get enough of zombies, you should check out this event coming up this Saturday:

Zombie Rally at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.

7pm to 11pm

Music by DJ Zombo, featuring the movie, “The Resurrection Game”

Proceeds go to the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania.

 

AND read my guest post on “Hollyburgh”

Zombie Rally at the Hollywood Theater.

The Power of Sandy

The weather is unpredictable. And yet we are constantly trying to predict it. But this is not news to anyone and I’m certainly not the first to say it.

But I’m sure people living in New York City never thought they’d get power outages and floods due to a hurricane. People further south are prepared for that sort of thing, but the Big Apple? People in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas- they have buildings built for tropical storms. They have hurricane walls and probably better home insurance plans or something. They have evacuation routes and supplies stored up. No one expected a hurricane like Sandy to hit so far north and cause this much damage to areas that are not prepared.

So what did they do? They told everyone to prepare for the worst storm in history, no matter where you live. They evacuated seaside towns in Delaware and New Jersey. They told Pennsylvanians to stock up on water, toilet paper, non-perishable food–enough for at least three days. They told everyone to freeze bags of ice to help keep food frozen after the power goes out. They cancelled schools and classes. They pushed back practices and games and banquets. They post-poned Halloween! (Who gets to make that executive decision?)

The restaurant where I work was all but deserted the night the storm was supposed to hit the Pittsburgh area the hardest. I had a few tables, but we shut down the kitchen early and sent everyone home before people got stranded. That night, as I plugged in my computer, my phone and my Nook, the lights flickered slightly and I went to bed fearing the worst would happen while I was asleep. I woke up expecting my clock to be wrong. It wasn’t. I thought maybe there’d be some trees down outside. There weren’t any. I didn’t even see a fallen branch. I drove to work prepared to turn the GPS on if my usual route was blocked or flooded. Nothing. It rained the whole day, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary.

People said that Sandy was over-hyped. They tweeted it and made it their status and complained as socially and publicly as they could. Maybe they were angry that someone told them to prepare for a storm and they actually listened? They wanted to blame someone else-for what? For NOT getting flooded? People find a reason to complain about anything these days. But put it this way– if those people hadn’t prepared for a storm, they would have lost their power for a week. And they would have complained even more.

So all these people sitting at home on Facebook with all their lights on and their computer plugged in, voicing their opinions that Sandy was way over-hyped and the news shouldn’t have made such a big deal about it–well they can take a nice trip to New York City or Atlantic City, New Jersey and see how that works out. They can do some real good and help out those people who DID lose their power. They can see streets that DID get flooded. Then maybe they’ll just thank their lucky stars that they live right in between the blizzards, the winds and the floods. They’ll stop complaining about reporters that are just doing their job, reporting what matters to the people who were affected by the storm.

The death toll in New York City has risen to 30 as of a few hours ago. People all along the east coast have been forced to leave their flooded homes with what little possessions they have left. Millions are still without power. Their lives have changed. To them, this storm was not over-hyped. They could never have prepared enough. They’re not even thinking of Halloween and trick-or-treating. They don’t have houses where they can trick-or-treat and I am one hundred percent positive that they would rather have a home.

So while I sit in my house with power, I’m not going to be the one complaining that the storm was over-hyped. I’m so thankful to be living exactly in between all of the devastation.

The east coast will be rebuilding for a long time, removing feet of sand from houses and pumping water from streets. And in the meantime all we can do is keep trying to predict the unpredictable.

Photo courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com