What’s Wrong With Liking Starbucks?

'Starbucks'_sign,_Botanic_Avenue_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1569202

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fall is just around the corner, which means Starbucks will have its pumpkin spice latte in stores again. It also means the curmudgeons will start wagging their fingers at the Starbucks lovers.

Don’t worry, Starbucks isn’t in any danger. We Americans still love our Starbucks (well, except for the Americans who believe Starbucks has declared war on Christmas).

But as a young person living in New York City, I’ve also heard people starting to chastise it. Namely because it’s a chain. They get annoyed that there’s one in just about every town in the U.S., and on just about every street corner in cities. They hate that it puts indie coffee shops out of business. To them, Starbucks represents the corporatization of our lives. Oh, and of course the coffee “isn’t that great.”

starbucksmeme

I say this is a case of familiarity breeding contempt.

Don’t get me wrong, I love indie coffee shops. And I’m all for local businesses having a fair shot. I also dislike many things about the corporate world. But when it comes down to it, is Starbucks really so bad?

Here are the reasons I like it.

1. Hours. It’s open late. Most indie coffee shops close early or are only open at weird hours (like only on Mondays, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesdays 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., closed on Sundays). As someone who works full-time and values the chance to unwind after the day or maybe get some writing done while sipping on a latte, there’s only so many places that will let me do that after 8:00 p.m. Besides Starbucks.

2. Ambiance. Despite the fact that almost every Starbucks looks the same, you have to admit that their interior design is relaxing. I once took an interior design course in high school where we learned about how color affects our emotions. It turned out that rooms painted bright colors like orange, red, and yellow (think McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Burger King), raise people’s adrenaline, leading them to feel like they’re in a rush. Whereas browns, greens, and blues helped people calm down and relax. I know Starbucks may not look as hip as your local shop that just opened last year, but their green and brown color scheme at least signals that we should come in and stay a while.

3. Locations, locations, locations. Also, Starbucks is practically everywhere. But do you know how many times that’s saved me? I remember this one particular time when I was coming home late from a bookstore event, when it suddenly started down pouring. I was cold and wet and tired and starving, but through the big fat rain drops falling down around me, I saw the glow of a Starbucks sign in the distance. It was like a lighthouse leading me through to a warm, dry place that I knew would be open at such an hour.

It’s things like the above that make me thankful for places like Starbucks. I know they don’t have the greatest coffee. And I know they definitely put more sugar in their food than necessary. But overall, I find Starbucks to be a comfortable, comforting place (with free WiFi and pumpkin spice lattes) where I know I’ll always be welcome.

I Made a GIF!

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(*Big thanks to Ryan Meitzler for the video editing.)

What’s Your Biggest Regret?

Photo Credit: aplus.com

Photo Credit: A Plus

I want to share the below video with you—a video I found extremely touching and motivating.

In New York City, A Plus asked people to write their biggest regret on a chalkboard. Some of the regrets written were the type that couldn’t be changed—regrets like not spending time with a family member before they died. However, if you watch the video, you’ll see that so many of the answers were things that each person could have the chance to pursue or change now. Regrets like “not getting my MBA,” “not saying I love you,” and “not following my artistic passions,” can be reversed if you have enough motivation.

There have been a couple of studies done on deathbed regrets, and it’s striking how many people regret things they had the power to change when they were younger. The very regrets that the presumably young and healthy people in the video wrote on the chalkboard are the same types of regrets that people at the end of their lives share.

So what does this mean?

Well, it could mean that it’s just human nature to feel that way—to feel like we haven’t done enough even when we’ve tried our best. And while that’s definitely true, I also think that contemplating our regrets periodically can show us what we really need to make time for in our hectic 21st century lives.

And that brings me to 2016. What better time to focus on reversing our regrets than the onset of a new year?

I’ll share my biggest regret thus far: I regret not taking the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester while I was in college. I may not be able to change that one entirely, but I am going to try and make damn sure my next regret won’t ever be “not pursuing my writing and creative dreams.”

What’s your biggest regret?

Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People–But Guns Make It Too Damn Easy

Credit: CNN

I know that I haven’t blogged in a while, and I wish I were coming out of the woodwork to comment on a more uplifting subject. But today, I feel I need to talk about my views on gun control. In fact, I don’t just feel a need—I feel it’s my duty as a person and as a writer to use my voice, and my blog, to share how I and so many others are feeling about guns in the wake of yet another senseless tragedy.

In “Say No to ‘The New Normal’–Five Things You Can Do About Gun Violence,” Daily Beast columnist Cliff Schecter writes that individuals can make a difference when it comes to gun violence and gun control, even by simply talking about it. He reminds us: “You are consequential. You have a voice. You have reading clubs, Facebook friends, bridge parties, etc. Make sure everyone knows your feelings on this issue.” And maybe Schecter’s case is even more applicable to writers over anyone else. Last week, author Nick Sweeney called for us writers to remember that we are the voice of the people in his Atticus Review op-ed, “Changing the Narrative: The Responsibilities of Writers in a Time of Crisis.

As a response to both of these reminders, here are my unbridled views:

1. I don’t know what to think exactly, but there are other countries in the world that don’t have this problem.

I am so saddened to hear of the shooting in Oregon, and the subsequent unrelated shootings at Texas Southern University, and at myriad other locations throughout the United States. Though at this point, I don’t even know what to think anymore. After watching Obama’s first remarks about the Oregon tragedy, I was glad that our president gave voice to my opinion on this matter.

At this point, I support responsible gun owners who use them for hunting, sport, or a sense of protection, and feel they should be able to continue that. But there needs to be stricter gun laws to prevent the wrong types of people from easily getting a gun. I’m not sure what that will look like in the United States, but other countries have done it successfully.

2. Guns don’t kill people, but guns make it that much easier for people to kill people.

Yes, it IS people who make the choice to harm others, so we may never be able to prevent that. But what we need to focus on is reducing the CHANCES of innocent people being killed, especially en masse. Maybe guns themselves don’t kill others (except when those all-too-frequent accidents occur while cleaning a gun or when a child finds one and plays with it), but I have 100% certainty that without guns, people wouldn’t be physically able to kill as many people in short periods of time.

Of course, gun enthusiasts will say that a person who wants to kill others will just use something else. A knife, perhaps. They’ll probably cite the recent Kunming attack that occurred in 2014 at a Chinese train station where 29 people lost their lives to eight knife-wielding terrorists. They’ll say, “See? It’s not just guns we have to worry about. Are we going to need background checks to buy kitchen knives next?” But guess what? It took eight of those disgusting people to kill 29 others. That’s 3-4 victims per psycho. Do you think the death toll would have been the same if the eight of them had guns? Stricter gun laws will likely result in a mentally ill potential killer—or in the case of terrorism, a mentally misled and brainwashed potential killer–only hurting a few people with a knife, rather than 10, 20, or more with a gun.

3. State by state, stricter guns laws = less gun violence

In fact, there’s a direct correlation between stricter gun laws and decreased gun violence/death by gun. According to this State by State gun law graphic from National Journal, states with the strictest gun laws (which includes things like background checks, lack of “stand your ground” laws, and required permits/registrations) have the least occurrences of gun violence. We’ve got a truly promising answer right here!

Credit: Politifact

4. Do we really need to live like this?

I also need to admit that ever since the Aurora, Colorado tragedy, I can’t comfortably sit in a movie theater anymore. I get extremely nervous when someone walks across the floor in front of the screen just a little too slowly. I also get nervous, sometimes, on public transportation and in public places where I know someone could bring a gun quite easily—trains, buses, subways (and if I were a student, classrooms)—all because these things have been happening, and keep happening. Because the current gun laws don’t fully prevent a person with bad intentions from getting their hands on a gun. Because I know that someone planning something like this can just walk into a local Wal-mart in some states and buy a gun without a background check or mental health check that would at least raise some red flags.

I’m also sick of the mental health stigmatization that is often reinforced in the wake of shootings. What makes someone perform an act of violence is very complex, and often isn’t only a result of brain chemicals, but also their upbringing, the culture they live in, life events, and a host of other things (most importantly, a disregard for the preciousness of human life, which is not exactly a mental health issue). People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators, and this has been proven over and over again. Pretty much everyone I know, including myself, has dealt with some type of mental health issue at some point in their life, especially things like anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon to go through something like that, and many people who deal with it are not a danger to others or even themselves for that matter.

I would like to live in a country where my worries about someone randomly using a gun to kill people are unfounded. Let’s make it so that my or anyone else’s fears of gun violence are nothing to worry about. We need to do everything we can to keep people from harming others. End of story.

My Grandma vs. Northern Manor

Credit: croninfirm.com

Credit: croninfirm.com

My grandma had her hip replaced a few weeks ago and has been recovering/receiving physical therapy at a place called Northern Manor.

What an awful place.

It’s basically a nursing home that also has some physical therapy on the premises. I say “some” because my grandma hasn’t really been receiving the physical therapy she needs. She told me she met another patient the other day who is also there for hip replacement “treatment.” The woman has been there since May. 

On top of that, the staff at Northern Manor don’t take care of her well at all. They’ve made mistakes with her medication. They only bathe her once a week. If she needs help going to the bathroom, she’s often left waiting for hours before anyone shows up (even if she has diarrhea). And the patients who are there for physical therapy are mixed in with all of the other patients who are there with severe mental illness. My grandma said that she keeps her door closed at night because there are patients who wander the halls screaming. Every night. All night. She’s terrified.

Let me repeat, my grandma is there for PHYSICAL THERAPY, and is only there because she had to switch insurance companies due to cost (her new insurance wouldn’t cover the cost for her to stay at Helen Hayes Hospital, where she usually goes to recover from surgeries). She’s not at Northern Manor for long-term care, she’s not there because she’s too frail to independently care for herself or because she’s ‘losing her marbles.’ And yet she’s seeing first-hand what too many of our senior citizens experience when they have no one else.

Unfortunately the nursing home stereotype is true at Northern Manor. When I last spoke with my grandma, she was so upset and scared about the entire situation. I tried to cheer her up by reminding her that she’s only there temporarily, that she’s going to have some very interesting stories to tell after this experience, and that I love her.

My family is trying to get my grandma out of there as soon as possible.

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