America Needs a Welcome Mat, Not a Wall

V

For those closest to me, the say I’m emotional. My sensitivity is a weakness, but also my strength. I wouldn’t argue that I’m an introverted person. And when I speak up, it’s with great passion. And I’m fairly pragmatic by nature. My wife says I’m a great listener. Not someone who hears people waiting for an opportunity to interject but actually listens to what they’re saying. I take a certain pride in that, given the city I live in.

I’m also a social sponge. I consume large amounts of content you generate. I’m a passive participant on social media. I occasionally share thoughts or photos but am by no means a content machine. Do I get on the occasional rant now then? Sure, it’s easy to do that in a medium that has little sense of consequences.

But, this has little to do with me. And I only want to share a little about myself before expressing an opinion I have. It’s seems only fair.

For me, making America great again isn’t good enough. We should be making America better than it has ever been. I mean, wasn’t that the whole plan our forefathers set us up for?

And only recently did I discover what this means to me. Surprisingly, even for me, it has nothing to do with the values or opinions I have. It has to do with someone I consider a close friend. Whom I would have never met had America not been the great nation that it is.

We’ll call him V.

V grew up in Russia. In Stavropol. A small city in south western Russia. V studied hard and followed his personal interests in computers. He did the stereotypical things you may expect from a Russian youngster interested in computing – I’ll let you use your imagination.

V applied, and earned, a visa for travel to the USA. No small feat. He barely spoke English. Not even enough to work at a McDonald’s – which was his first job on the East Coast. There was one other Russian at this franchise who acted as a translator between all the staff and V. He routinely got credited with any mistake or wrongdoing as he couldn’t verbally defend himself.

V eventually worked his way out of the McDonald’s, armed with a bit more English, to the largest city in North America – New York City. There he struggled to find work suitable matching his experience (and potential) and often found himself in stereotypical roles. He aspired for something more and continued to pursue the American dream.

One day, around the time Obama was campaigning for his first term as POTUS, V and I met through a professional encounter. I truly struggled to understand his English, but sensed (using that sensitivity that I mentioned) a good person. Someone who had more to say than his English allowed him to do so. Someone who impressed me without being able to speak to me as well as they wanted to. Again, no small feat on his part.

Following this conversation, V and I become co-workers. And the first year I worked with him I learned he could not return to Russia to be with his family. I learned his visa for visitation was authorized not only by the US but also by Russia (I’m a naïve American and never really thought about this). And if he returned he wouldn’t be able to come back to the US. Furthermore, his family was blacklisted from traveling outside of Russia so they could not visit him either. It had been years since he and his family had seen each other.

As December grew closer the first year we worked together, it bothered me that V would be in New York City for Christmas by himself. My family graciously extended an invitation to V and he joined us for the holidays. From this moment forward our working relationship moved into a friendly one. And has stayed strong for the last several years. He still asks about our rescue dogs. He still shares memories of that Christmas in New England. And I still share stories of him going down a hill on a snowboard for the first time. Stories, that which if America wasn’t so welcoming, neither of us would have.

And we’re still creating  stories.

V told me and others, on numerous occasions, that if it weren’t for me his life wouldn’t be what it is. And thanks me time and time again for the opportunities I’ve provided. While extremely humbled and honored, it has nothing to do with me. It has to do with America. This great nation and the opportunities it holds. For those who want to be a part of it and those who already are.

After several years of paperwork and thousands of dollars, V became a citizen of the US. An exciting and emotional day. It meant he could see his family in Russia again. And he could return to the US freely.

As we grow closer to an election which has each of us strongly voicing our opinions in what often feels like an echo chamber, I ask you to take a minute or two to think of those who are not yet our citizens. Those who’ve not yet  landed on our shores. Those who yearn for more.

And what they can mean to us and our country.

Christmas Tree Trimming 2014

Continuing with the annual holiday tradition... Happy Holidays!

Well, it looks like this will be the last year of this tree. But, we’ll continue with the tradition in 2015. The tree didn’t survive storage this year and the lights are starting to go as can be seen in the video. Twiggy was quite active in the participation this year while Bowie hid himself away in his kitty-house – yes, our dog has a house intended for a cat.

Anyhow, we hope you enjoy this years video. And Geneva, myself and the dogs wish you a Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2013
2012
2011

All I want for Christmas… 2012

Before everyone starts asking for gift ideas, here are some

I made another Christmas list this year… definitely a variety of gift ideas and hopefully something I will get!

Photojojo Lens set (all three) Thanks Mom & Dad.

GoPro Black Edition

Dermalogica shave oil. Thanks Kate!

I think everyone should have one of these – the LL Bean Auto Aid. Also good for those with a boat! Thanks Mom & Dad.

Tile Block Scrabble! Thanks Mom & Dad.

Need a new pair of Vans, the Black Suede/Canvas Sk8-Hi size 8.5.

Dunkin Donuts K-cups, Original Blend. Thanks Mom & Dad.

And, now that I’m spending more time in the kitchen… a glazed cast iron roasting pan would be good. Can be from anywhere though. Thanks Mom & Dad.

Geneva keeps asking me to clean up my area. These clips could be useful.

I think she and I could use some help from Easy Closets, too. We’re also looking to find something that we can hang from the kitchen ceiling that we can store our pots and pans on.

I need snowboard boots from Burton. I haven’t gotten a new pair in years. But I’m going to get some now thanks to Geneva! A little something cool to get would be conductive thread. This way I can use my phone in the cold weather and keep my gloves on.

Nifty little stretch light or a mini lantern. I could use a few more gear ties too.

Tickets to Windham Mountain.

Givenchy Pi. Thanks Kate!

MSF Basic Ridercourse

I can always use a good hockey jersey, probably a medium. Thanks Mom & Dad.

I probably will need to keep buying new clothes for work. Zara and Macy’s are good. Even EMS or REI. I’m looking to get some thermal bicycle pants possibly. And, yes, I’m officially my father – Lowe’s gift cards!

One of the things I’d like to do is take this 13 week hockey class at the Chelsea Piers.

Something from last year was the Art of Flight photo book but I think it’d have to be an eBay purchase.

Sampling of our wedding photos

Hopefully more coming soon! Enjoy.