Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nguyen's breaks my heart, announces closure

It's a sad day for our fine dining--Nguyen's has announced in a Facebook post that they're closing.
After 7 years we decided to move on to our next adventure...We want to sincerely thank you all our customers for your love and support. We will miss you all. 
Sure, I didn't go there often on account of, well, living an hour away, but it was one of my favorite places to go in Uniontown. I'm definitely gonna miss it being an option.

If you got yourself some Nguyen's gift cards for Christmas, you can obtain a refund if you mail them back.

But there is a little nugget of good news--the owners intend to open a new restaurant, so at least we know we can count on more delicious food. So here's to hoping it opens soon and it's just as good.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Buy Local: Sheila's Home Decor and Gifts

First, a brief tale.

Around the time of my wedding this summer, my mom heard about LipSense, a new liquid lipstick that doesn't come off--or as I call it, magic. I've tried some pretty impressive lip stains in my day, but LipSense is definitely the most effective and impressive. We got some for the wedding, of course, but I was so impressed with it that I wanted a whole stockpile in every color imaginable. See, I often find myself in situations where I forego lipstick because I know I'll be eating soon, thus wasting the color, but with LipSense, that's not a problem. I was pretty excited, and I got word that new store Sheila's sells LipSense through a consultant, as these things often go.

So that was what took me into Sheila's (and that's how the staff is coming to recognize me). And while LipSense is important to all the makeup-loving ladies out there, that's definitely not all Sheila's has to offer.

Like the name says, the focus is on home decor and gifts--think things similar to what you'd find in, say, a Hallmark or those random stores in the mall, except locally run and a little more unique, frankly. They have things from every occasion, from baby showers to weddings to seasonal decor. You'll find plenty of Christmas stuff now, of course, but as I've been popping in over the last few months, they've covered all major holidays with all the seasonal gifts and decor you would want. I've got my eye on some Christmas mug set as gifts this year, personally, and for my mother-in-law's birthday, we got her a beautiful wooden advent calendar that she was quite excited about.

But don't just take my word for it--when I give my last name for their e-mail system, I have to also tell them which one I am because my aunt and mother are in there, too, and Facebook tells me a number of other ladies in my life are also fans. But don't be shy, you manly men! They do have some Steelers, Pirates, and Pens stuff, too, because this is the Pittsburgh area and it's probably, like, a law.

You'll find Sheila's on West Main Street, down by the Hampton Inn across from Fiesta Azteca, also known as one of the other top reasons I come back into town.

And with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday fast approaching, you might want to stop in.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Governor Wolf expands animal-protection laws

File this under "things I meant to blog about when they happened over a month ago." It's also statewide as opposed to specific to the area, but it's good information to pass along anyway.

At the end of August, Governor Wolf expanded laws protecting an animals.
“Today is a day of celebration as the animal abuse statue overhaul officially becomes law,” said Governor Wolf. “For far too long we have heard stories of neglected and abused animals who suffered or died because of deplorable treatment and horrible living conditions. I am proud that we will now hold our pet and animal owners to a higher standard of humanity. I again want to thank our partners and advocates for their work in making this law possible.”
The law clarifies what is considered abuse, raises penalties, and works to develop training programs to help law enforcement identify and prosecute animal-welfare crimes. More specifically, it outlines some standards, such as:

  • Dogs cannot be tied outside for more than nine hours in a 24-hour period
  • Tethers must be either three times the length of the dog or 10 feet, whichever is longer
  • Dogs cannot be tied outside for more than 30 minutes in 90+ or -30 weather
  • Tethered dogs must have water and shade
  • Tethered dogs must be secured by an appropriate collar, not a pinch or chain collar
  • Tethered space must be kept relatively clean
  • The tethered dog cannot have open wounds or sores
  • Convicted animal abusers must forfeit abused animals to a shelter
The law also improved protections for horses by increasing penalties from summary offenses--comparable to littering or traffic violations--to punishment similar to that for crimes against dogs and cats. Penalties for animal abuse were also increased, including jail time and fines. And finally, it protects veterinarians, technicians, and assistants from lawsuits when they report animal cruelty.

The highlights can also be found in this handy dandy graphic!

Let's hope this helps deter abuse and neglect and instead keeps animals safe.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Scottdale Refugees Pt. II: The Comments Section

I broke the cardinal rule of the Internet--never read the comments. As we all know, that goes nowhere fast, but in the case of the story of the refugee family leaving Scottdale, my curiosity got the better of me. Like I said, rookie mistake.

The good news is most of the comments on the article are, well, good, even if there are only three comments. But as Meatloaf said, two out of three ain't bad. But naturally, it's the third one that got my attention.

It speaks to the cesspool that is the Internet that initially, my reaction was, "Oh, that's not that bad," because honestly, yeah, it could be a lot worse. That said, "it could be a lot worse" doesn't mean this person should get a free pass for being ignorant.

This article is ridiculous. I've lived in Scottdale for 32 years, and I had no idea these women were here. I have never once seen them out and about in town, let alone heard anyone speak ill of them. I guess when you refuse to be a member of the society you live in and things don't go your way, you can just accuse the entire town of being racist.
This is infuriatingly stupid. Let's break it down.

First, the commenter is implying that because he's never seen or heard about this women, this whole story must be bullshit, but that's not how the world works. There are plenty of people out and about all around us we never interact with, even in the same small towns, and not knowing who someone is after an article like this is published doesn't make the article "ridiculous" or somehow untrue or misleading. Just because you didn't personally witness something doesn't mean it didn't happen, and in any other scenario, most of us would recognize that such an assertion is absurd.

But I think the most frustrating thing for me is the second half of the comment, and it's partly because this is such a common yet unfair criticism of refugees--that they're being troublesome, can't assimilate, and are crying discrimination because...I don't know, honestly, because these statements make no sense to me.

I think often, when people here complain about things like refugees who refuse "to be a member of the society you live in," they forget that refugees are coming from an entirely different country with an entirely different culture. We cannot and should not expect refugees to completely forget their cultures, traditions, and way of life in favor of our own, and at that, none of us have done that anyway. Take a look at your own family and their customs. Chances are, you hold on to certain things that are relics of your ancestors' culture. For example, my wedding is fast approaching, and we're incorporating plenty of my family's Polish heritage--we're doing a bridal dance with a polka and an apron to receive money from guests and we're playing the Polish version of "Happy Birthday," called "Sto Lat," for an uncle whose birthday falls on the wedding day. My grandfather used to use Polish/Hungarian words and phrases around the house. My aunts and uncles all polka. And yet, by some of these absurd standards, all of that might be considered "refusing to be a member of society." Refugees shouldn't be expected to shed every speck of their life before they came here. Instead, we should accept their differences, especially when they're not doing anyone any harm.

But even more troubling is the fact that this commenter either missed the entire point of the article or thinks this family is only speaking out for pity, which is unlikely. First, the issue was not that the family couldn't assimilate--and again, we need to rethink the expectations we put on refugee families--but rather that they were targeted for their background, in some cases based on misconceptions rather than fact. Being turned down for jobs and explicitly told it's because of where you're from isn't a result of your behavior, it's xenophobia, plain and simple.

This brings up another point that happened to come up on a Twitter account I follow recently, but it's a very strong belief I've had for a while now that I was glad to see repeated--it is not up to us to decide what is or is not racist, xenophobic, or discriminatory. I as a white woman brought up in a middle-class Catholic household did not have the same experience as, say, a woman of my same age who is black or Jewish or Muslim. It wouldn't be fair for me to look at someone experiences that I cannot relate to and never will and decide that their complaints are invalid. This commenter is being dismissive and callous, frankly, by suggesting this is all a reaction to "things not going their way." This family is speaking out about downright unacceptable treatment that drove them from a town in our community, and rather than take a step back and think about how they feel, what they must be going through, or how our own words and actions affect people, this person, and I'm sure others, are instead choosing to turn it back on the family and find a way to blame them. I suppose that's easier than owning up to one's own prejudices and acknowledging that there are some very mean, ugly people living in your town making life more difficult for someone else.

I'll end this post the same way I ended my previous post on this subject--by asking you all to be less judgmental of people of different religions and races than yours, especially when dealing with refugees, who are looking for safety and stability. Be good to each other. Be compassionate and kind. Give people a chance. We all have the opportunity every single day to make the world a little brighter and life a little easier for someone else, and there's not a single good reason why we shouldn't try. So do it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Refugees leave Scottdale

This is an old story now--it was originally published about a month ago--but now that I have a little time to sit down and examine the goings-on in the Nam, I want to talk about this.

In July, the Herald-Standard ran a story about Syrian refugees leaving Scottdale. It gets right to the point--"Discrimination stonewalled them from building a new life." The article goes on to detail how the family came here fleeing violence and couldn't find jobs due to discrimination, with some employers specifically stating they would not hire a Syrian and one going so far as to say, "We hate Muslims a lot here in America, so you should accept that." In school, their daughter experienced bullying, including having her coat stolen and being pushed down, while the school's principal didn't seem to do much about it.

Fayette County, I'm not going to sugarcoat this--we should be ashamed. We should be ashamed that when a family comes here looking for a new start, fleeing violence and destruction, that our response is to judge them because they don't look, sound, or worship like us and to prevent them for moving forward in life. For all the small-town conservative talk about God and Jesus, for all the signs in yards proudly displaying the Ten Commandments, we're choosing to insult, degrade, belittle, ignore, and we're refusing to lend a helping hand, all out of ignorance, nothing more. You can't give me a single good reason to treat a family so deplorably.

But for some of us, this isn't at all surprising. In fact, if you'd told me before there was a refugee family moving into Scottdale, I'd expect that this is what would happen but pray that I'd end up being wrong.

It's crucial to move past prejudice and preconceived notions and actually understand not just the issues Syria faces, but who these people trying to join our community actually are. That means not listening to fear-mongering talking points on TV but actually educating yourself on the refugee issue.

For example, according to World Visionfactcheck.org, and Global Ministries:

  • This is the largest refugee crisis of our time, with 5.1 Syrians having left the country as refugees and 6.3 million displaced within the country. Half of all affected are children, and most refugees are women and children.
  • Nongovernmental agencies place refugees within the U.S., typically based on family ties and employment.
  • Refugees are not welfare-dependent. The median household income for Syrian refugee families is $62,000, which is actually higher than the median income of U.S.-born households.
  • No Syrian refugee has ever been involved in a terrorist attack. Out of the general refugee population, fewer than 10 have been involved in terrorist attacks since 9/11.
  • ISIS has condemned refugees for leaving the country.
  • Refugees are put through a vetting process before they enter the country, which is more rigorous than procedures in place in Europe.
Take this information and learn from it. Be a better person. Don't judge people, and certainly don't hurl verbal abuse at them. If you witness someone being discriminatory, speak up. If you're in a position to help a refugee family, do so--consider volunteering your time and skills to HIAS Pennsylvania.

And to that family, I hope they find peace and acceptance. I hope they know that despite some horrible experiences with horrible people, they don't speak for everyone.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One from the Vaults: Uniontown Divorce

Old newspapers can provide some of the greatest gems when it comes to strange, entertaining stories--and sometimes, maybe it's proof that things haven't changed too much after all.

Check out this story from a New York paper regarding an incident here in Republic.

First of all, how much do I love the use of the word "tootsles"?

Now, look, I'm a firm believer in the fact that part of the issue with the divorce rate today is too many people bail for stupid reasons--but cold feet, literally, is anything but trivial. I feel for the guy. Although I am often cold, my fiancé's feet are freezing, year-round. Ordinarily, I might side with the lady trying to warm her toesies, but there's nothing as uncomfortable and jarring as feeling an ice-cold foot brush against you, and frankly, if you're going to exhibit such monstrous behavior, you deserve to be kicked out of bed. Some might say it would be hyperbolic to call this "cruel and barbarous treatment," but I happen to disagree.

On top of that, she put her feet on his back? Really? I mean, feeling a frosty foot is bad enough against your own toasty foot or leg, but your back? Truly horrible.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Local native makes substantial donation to Meals on Wheels

It's been a while--how about some really awesome news?

Pittsburgh lawyer John Gismondi donated $100,000 to Meals on Wheels, inspired by his mother. Although he's currently based in Pittsburgh, he's originally from Fayette County.

You'll need a subscription to the Daily Courier for more, which I unfortunately do not have, so head over there for the full story.

Let's hope his philanthropy inspires other similar donations.