Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Counting Your Blessings" -- 2013

Sometimes we are not as focused as we should be on what a holiday is truly about.  Life gets busy.  We get hung up in the trappings of the day.  We neglect to take time to think about what is important.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the easiest holiday in which to actually prevent that from happening.  It's right there in the name:  Thanksgiving.  Giving thanks.  Being grateful for all that is good in our lives.  Acknowledging our triumphs.  "Counting Your Blessings."  Taking the time to understand that even in the worst of times there are still blessings in our lives.

Tomorrow is the day that we all (or at least most of us) will celebrate the bounty in our lives.  Sharing a day with our families, being glad for our good fortune and knowing that even though life could be better, it most definitely could be worse....much worse.

One of the best is a blessing we, if we are very lucky, all  share....the caring, support, and joy given to us by families,  friends, and the people who love us.  I am grateful for each and every one of you. I wish you a joyous day celebrating all that you have, all that you love, all that  brings you happiness.  I will be doing the same!

As has become my custom, below is my annual list of what I am thankful for above and beyond my family, my good health, and all the basic goodness of life:

26 Things I am Grateful For  -  2013

This year I give thanks for:

1.  Artists who share their perceptions of the beauty and wonder of the world we inhabit,

2.  Balloons which can lift our spirits even though they are just a bag of air.

3.  Children who give us such joy and will, one day, fulfill the promise of tomorrow.

4.  Dreams that come true (and nightmares that Don't!)

5,  Elephants those generally gentle giants who lumber through our world and fascinate us.

6.  Fun that keeps us from being overwhelmed by life.

7.  Games like board games, card games, computer games....challengers of luck, speed, brain power, and skills of all sorts.  Definitely one of the Fun things in life.

8,  Houses those cleverly designed, beautifully made, individual havens for families.

9.  Intellect the amazing ability found within us to learn, retain, and respect knowledge.

10.  Jewelry those beautiful, dazzling, and flattering adornments that enhance not only the way we look but also the way we feel.

11.  Keepsakes those things we collect as reminders of the places we've been, the people we've known, the things we've done and moments we'll never forget.

12.  Luck that fleeting and uncontrollable factor that can bring us great things just by being in the right place at the right time.

13.  Men the males of the species who are so easy to love, so difficult to understand, and so handy to have around.

14.  Nighttime and all those wonderful and fun things that can be done after theater!

15.  Oceans, most specifically the Atlantic Ocean, where I have spent a great deal of time in the sand, by the water, under the sun,  under the stars, and renewing my spirit.

16.  Pockets those handy little hideaways for tissues, change, keys, and hands which appear in all men's clothing but only occasionally in women's clothing!!

17.  Quilts one of the last remaining sewing traditions still practiced by a talented few, which result in beautiful, hand-made, bed covers made up of snippets of  cloth which often come from our pasts.

18.  Reunions those wonderful gatherings of your oldest and dearest friends (often from school) that you still connect with even after all the years.

19.  Sunshine that which provides our world with light, warmth, energy and at least for people like me anyway....happiness!

20.Travel the experience of going somewhere new, or somewhere different, or somewhere that's home!

21. Umbrellas those useful gadgets that give me something to be grateful for that starts with "U" that ISN'T underwear!

22.  Vision both the essential gift of sight and the individual gift of being able to "see" how a play should be staged, cast, and acted in order to create and direct a good production.

23.  Women the females of the species who make up the Sisterhood of mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, friends, forever friends, teachers and role models....each of whom is special, unique, original, and essential to one another.

24.  XXXXXs and OOOOOs all those kisses and hugs received over the course of my lifetime,  which allowed me to know I was loved.

25. Yesterdays all the days of my life and the lessons I have learned thus far that have made me into the person I am today.

26.  Zings all of those feelings of pure joy at priceless moments of excitement and happiness that come at suddenly special times when you least expect them.

There, that's it for this year, 26 things I am grateful for.  Some are new, some have appeared on previous lists, some are serious and some are just silly.  Nevertheless, tomorrow when we give thanks for all our blessings, I'll at least have a place to start!

Happy Thanksgiving, my good and dear friends.  Don't forget to count your blessings as well!

Monday, November 25, 2013

"That's The Way I Remember It"

As I'm getting older (as we all are) I'm finding that my memory of past events is not as clear as it once was.  I used to be able to remember conversations verbatim, I'd remember an entire event from start to finish, I'd remember family stories and history pretty least I think I did!  The sad truth is that I can't do that anymore.  I'm not concerned that it is senility or dementia creeping up, I just think my mind is too full of "stuff" gathered over a lifetime!

My memories have always been important to me.  I suppose that's true of a lot of people, but I have always been aware that my past can explain who I am today.  I've always understood that some events are life-altering while others are trivial, mundane, and pretty much dull as dishwater!  But you never know when a memory will pop out of your psyche and serve to clarify or help you understand something that is happening in your life in the present.

For instance.....

As you probably know, I grew up in a couple of small towns in Florida.  They were both slow-paced, quiet little towns that were pretty typical of their time.  There weren't any "big" stores in either town, the biggest stores in town were grocery stores.  Of course, the "big" chains didn't exist back then.  No Targets, no K-Marts, no Wal-Marts, and no enormous shopping malls either.  Cities, both large and small, had a "downtown" where most of the commerce and retail businesses were located.  There might have been a "Dime Store" like Woolworths or McCory's but not in the towns where I lived.  What we had were family-owned drug stores, an independent department store, a dress shop or two, a couple of shoe stores, a stationer's, a kids' store carrying everything from clothes to toys to schools supplies for the infant to teenage set.  There might have been a restaurant or two, a post office, insurance companies, banks, and a movie theater.  It met our needs and we had no real complaints.

There were several bigger towns within a drive of only an hour or two.  We and most everyone we knew would make regular but not all that frequent visits to one of those towns (like West Palm Beach, or Tampa, or Orlando) a couple of times a year.  We'd make those trips for back to school, Christmas and other holiday shopping. summertime shopping, and any special occasion that required something new to wear, or a nice gift, or something specific like sports equipment or furniture.

There were catalog stores for the in-between kinds of things and we all used Sears, or "Monkey Wards", or Spiegel's.  The "dream books" came out twice a year plus a special one for Christmas, and for families such as mine (above the poverty line, but nowhere near wealthy!)  Those catalogs did, in fact, allow us to dream.  But everything purchased through the catalog certainly fit into the category of delayed gratification.  You would place your order (by mail!) and wait (and wait and wait, at least it seemed like that to a young girl waiting for her new school clothes!) and finally the package from Sears (or whomever) would arrive....always with some successes and a couple of failures (it didn't fit, the color was awful, the shoes were ugly, etc., etc.).  The returns or exchanges (also all done by mail) were difficult and annoying but there was no other choice.  The catalogs provided access to all sorts of things that were affordable (of huge importance) and that you couldn't find in small towns like mine.

For the day to day things, though, you accepted the lack of variety, limited items, and higher prices and shopped locally.  At least you did when you could!  For one of the other aspects of life in the South in those days (prior to about 1965), was that the stores that you did have in your small town were not open all the time!  Most retail establishments were open Monday through Friday (or Saturday), usually from about 8 until 5.  In addition, they closed on Wednesday afternoons and sometimes Saturday afternoons.  Nothing was open on Sunday except a few restaurants, a gas station or two, and all the churches!  I imagine that one could find bread or milk or a few such items in a gas station, I really don't remember for sure, but for the most part the limited hours were universal.  As I recall the drug stores had posted phone numbers in case of a pharmacy emergency, but I don't think we ever had one.  Still, it was available for those who did.  And NOTHING much was open on a holiday....even the "lesser" holidays like Labor Day or Memorial Day.

This situation meant that you had to plan ahead!  You had to make sure that your trips to the grocery store were complete.  If you needed something for Sunday night, you had darn well better get it by Saturday or you wouldn't get it at all!  I think it was those kinds of situations that led to the stereotypical "borrowing a cup of sugar" that we all did from time to time.

"That's the Way I Remember It" and it worked just fine!

About a year or so before I moved from Florida back to Chicago (where there were VERY different retail practices),  A few of the retail establishments in the small town where we were living began to stay open until 8:00 pm on Thursday evenings!  Oh my word, that was an amazing concession to the fact that not every one had free time during daylight hours to accomplish their shopping.  Those extra three hours felt like such a gift!  I truly believe that this change came about for the convenience of their customers, NOT for the profit or benefit of the store's coffers!  Nevertheless, it was the beginning of the end.

Before long stores began staying open every evening, even Saturdays; and then open a few hours on Sundays....SUNDAYS!  Then all day on Sundays.  Then REALLY late before Christmas (shopping at midnight?  Yep, I guess so!)  And then there were stores that began staying open 24 hours a day (the big box stores mainly, but not exclusively!)  Then most stores staying open, at least for a while, on the lesser holidays and soon we arrived at where we are today....there are generally only two days a year where the majority of stores are still closed -- Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Everything was Closed for the Holiday!

And now Wal-Mart is causing a flap by deciding to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day. The reality is that this has been coming for a loooong time.  The reality is that there atr  people who will go to shop there on Thanksgiving.  The reality is that eventually even Christmas will become a "shopping day".  The reality is that some people don't celebrate those holidays and to them they are just another day.  The reality is that Wal-Mart will stay open no matter how much of an outcry there is because the reality is that as long as people are willing to go there and spend money, more and more retailers will put aside their "principles" and open their doors to capture every penny that their customers are willing to spend.  The reality is that the 1950s are long gone and the world never goes into reverse.

And as for the employees of those retailers who have to work on those holidays, well, that's a shame but ministers and doctors and wait staffs and the police and firefighters and pilots and bus drivers and thousands of others have been doing it for YEARS!

The final reality is that if you don't approve of stores being open on Thanksgiving (or eventually Christmas), don't go there!   Spend your money another day!  It's really up to us, you know....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Here's That Rainy Day"

Oh yes, Here's That Rainy Day  Week!  It has been gray , drizzling, and right around 40 degrees all week long.  Still not enough rain to be ending the drought as it only rains in small increments, but it is just enough to make the roads a little slick and if the temps fall just a few more degrees, we could be looking at snow or worse yet, ice!

That combination of weather conditions would be just enough to shut down most of the city.  People in Austin are not good drivers when there is any kind of dampness about.  About half the drivers drop their speed by half or even two-thirds, the other half of the drives speed up!  I swear!  I think they are just trying to hurry up and get out of the wet, but it could very well be that those drivers are the group of daredevils who insist in believing they are invincible and immortal.  What they are is just plain stupid!

People who learned to drive in other parts of the country where you encounter multiple types of weather conditions, mostly show their good sense and get the heck off the roads!  Let the Texans....uhhhhmm.... untrained drivers play hopscotch with each other while they create water spray all over the road and insist on keeping their headlights off until it is actually pitch dark outside. They actually just make things worse.  

It's bad enough when its just for a day or two, but this has been going on all week.  There is only so long that one can stay indoors!  Eventually you have to venture out to get bread or something.  Sometimes it feels like you are taking your life in your hands, but there is no choice!

I'm sad to say that the existence of poor drivers isn't really limited to any one city or even area of the country.  It seems that drivers get worse every day.  As traffic increases so does the number or risks drivers take without seeming to give it any thought at all.  When I learned to drive (back in the Dark Ages), there was a lot of emphasis on the rules of the roads (those are actually laws, folks!) IN ADDITION to good driving habits, courtesy, and defensive driving skills.  I could be wrong but some of that stuff seems to be missing from a lot of drivers these days.

I've written about this before because it makes me crazy to have to deal with other drivers who appear not to have a brain in their heads!  I've been driving for years and years and have never been in a major accident.  Now that I'm retired and don't have to go anywhere I don't WANT to go (and isn't that great??), it would be the worst kind of irony to get into an accident because of someone else wanting to get somewhere right NOW, no matter how reckless and irresponsible they are being.  

Of course, the thing that would help the most at this time, would be if the darn grey skies moved on out of town and took all the damp, cold, and drizzle with it!

I am definitely ready for "Here Comes the Sun!!"


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Don't Blame Me"

I am so angry I could spit!  And it's Google/Blogger's fault....

I wrote a post a little while ago, nothing very important (just noting the unusual date -- 11-12-13).  But I spent some time on it.  I got it finished, proofed it, corrected spelling and other such things, and actually posted it.  Then I realized I had forgotten to label it.

I don't know if anyone every utilizes the labels for searching or whatever, but I add them just in case.

Well, I had a bit of difficulty in getting the label right.  Why is unimportant.  But I needed to go take care of something, so I shut it down.  Just the way I always do!

When I came back 10 minutes later, the whole post was GONE!  Completely and totally missing!  Not only that post (and this is what really angers me!!), but also the one I wrote on Sunday too!  GONE, GONE, GONE!!

I don't know what I did to make that happen but it certainly wasn't my intention!  So when you're looking for something new from me you won't find anything but THIS.  "Don't Blame Me!" that there's nothing new.  Google did it!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Three Little Fishies"

Happy Halloween everyone!

I know, I know, Halloween is pretty much over for another year.  In fact as I start to write this, there are only 42 minutes of it left.  But I had an experience  tonight that I would bet large amounts of money,  no one else, anywhere, ever had.  And I want to tell you all about it.

As with all of my stories, there is a bit of background that I must tell before I get to tonight's events.  It all started on Halloween two years ago.  As usually happens the largest segment  trick or treaters starts out as soon as it gets dark, before dark are some of the very little kids who have no clue what is going on, sometimes even still being carried by mom or dad.  They are completely adorable and I love the look of utter confusion on their faces and their various efforts to say some semblance of  "trick or treat".  So cute, but so funny.

Once dark hits though, the kids begin to get older.  It's almost a chronological progression.  The later the time, the older the kids.  By about 7:30 or so we are getting the middle school and early high school kids, the 11 to 14 crowd.  Things begin to thin out as the younger kids are taken home with their overflowing pumpkins and bags.

So two years ago, at somewhere around 7:30 or so, the doorbell rang and a small group of girls who looked to be around 12 or 13 shouted out "Trick or Treat" as I opened the door.  They were a happy, giggling group of maybe 2 or 3 girls.  I cannot recall exactly how the conversation went, I think I made a comment about one of their costumes which had something to do with fish (she might have been some sort of aquarium or some such thing.)  Anyway, as frequently happens, it reminded me of a song, soI sang a couple of bars of "Three Little Fishies," a song my mom used to sing when I was a little girl.  Evidently the girls hadn't ever heard it and one of them asked me if I knew the whole song.  Well, of course, I did.  So I sang it and the girls laughed and loved it.  As I gave out the candy the girls were extremely polite; they thanked me for the candy AND for singing for them and they went on their way.  They were a nice group and I enjoyed talking to them, but there were more kids coming up the walk and it was time to move on.

Well, the next Halloween (which would have been last year), around the same time, the doorbell rang and on the porch stood a slightly larger group (maybe 5 or 6).  When I opened the door, one of them said, "Hi, do you remember that last year you sang for my friends and I??  Of course, I remembered.  She then said, "We brought a couple of our friends with us tonight.  Could you sing the Little Fishies song for them too?  They've never heard it either."  Well, that was a real surprise.  I couldn't imagine that these girls would have remembered something like that for a whole year.  So of course, I sang the song again for them, with all the verses I could remember.  Well, they laughed and applauded, and complimented my singing and they told me that they were part of the choir at their school.  We chatted a little, I gave them their candy, we waved goodbye and shaking my head with a little wonder, I turned to the next group.

Okay, fast forward to tonight.  You can probably guess what happened.  At about 7:30 again the doorbell, when I opened the door there was a group of at least 15 girls!  They were probably 14 and 15 by now.  The girl from the first year, smiled and said "Hi, Remember us??"  You sang for us before.  These are all the girls from our Vaudeville group from school.  Would you sing for us again, please?"   I couldn't believe it, but I said sure and asked if they wanted 3 Little Fishies again!  Several said, no, just sing whatever you want to!  So I sang  "Strong Woman Number" from a show called I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road, written by Gretchen Cryer.  (I chose that because I was pretty sure I knew all the words!!)  They smiled and laughed through the whole things (it's a great song.)  They loved it!  When I finished they applauded enthusiastically, and smiled, and thanked me again!  While giving them the candy, one of girls who had been standing near the back wiggled her way through group to the front and she looked at me and with a little hesitance asked, "Were you on Broadway?"   I smiled at her and said, "Oh no, honey, I've never been on Broadway."  She smiled sweetly and said, "Well, you should have been!  You are really good."

Oh. My. Word.  I was blown away.   I'm no where near that good a singer, but to think this sweet girl thought I could have been just felt unbelievably good.  And to think that this group of girls comes back each year just to ask me to sing them a song....what a unbelievable compliment.  Even if they never come back, I will never, ever forget these lovely girls who are in the process of learning to love music just as much as I do.  I wish them all a future filled with the music they love and I hope that one day some of them will be called on to entertain another group of girls who value music even more than Halloween Candy!!

I am touched down to my soul!  Bless their dear sweet hearts!

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