Sunday, December 31, 2006

Buh-bye, 2006

Watershed year, 2006. The severing of some mighty powerful ties and roots. A year of discombobulation. A year of testing my limits - professionally, emotionally, financially. Highly highs, lowly lows. Connecting. Letting go. Just hanging on during a wild ride. Some of the highlights:

From the Big Peach to the Big Apple. After 30+ years in Atlanta (and my whole life south of the Mason-Dixon line), I get a call to New York. An offer too good to refuse - so I accept. Upside: a great job in an energetic city, a chance to prove to myself that I can do it. Downside: No permanent living space (I miss my bed!), distance from family and friends.

Sister moves to the other side of the country. After 30+ years in Atlanta (er, Marietta), Sis and hubbie move to Orange County, California. Another offer too good to refuse, so off they go. Our kids are still in Atlanta watching the dust settle and wondering what they did to chase us off! Sis has never been to New York and I've never been to Yorba Linda, so I'm thinking 2007 will bring a little bi-coastal travel!

English home disappears. Jean and Aubrey's move from Walton-on-Thames (another 30+ year milestone) to Scotland was as root-chopping as any of the other moves in 2006. That house in Ashley Road has welcomed me and mine for the past three decades. I'll miss those drinkies in the back garden and tea and choccie biccies with our nightly TV. I now tear up whenever I hear the EastEnders theme.

Selling the house. Well, you've just lived through that with me, so 'nuff said.

Letting in new friends, reconnecting with old ones. Thanks to the move and the blog, lots of new folks have entered my life. That's been a real blessing in this topsy-turvy year. Another joy is that a few childhood chums have found their way to the blog. I love it whenever I hear from friends from the 'hood!

Camp Coast Care and Katrina reconstruction. The week I spent in March with a few college kids from All Saints' and a bunch of volunteers from all over the world working in coastal Mississippi was life-changing. Still a lot of work to be done, if anyone's interested. ;-)

The biggest lowlight was the death of classmate Tom Fox, Christian peacemaker killed in Iraq. The world hit too close to home on that one. Rest in peace, friend.

Yes, 2006 will forever be blazoned in big red numbers on my personal timeline. The changes have been enormous, but the rewards have been enormous as well. I'll spend the evening figuring out how to hang on for 2007's crazy twists and turns!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Paying forward, not back

It's been an action-packed two days in the office, so I was bone-tired when I boarded the #5 at Grand Central bound for 86th Street. Carrying a shopping bag full of stuff that needed to find its way to my apartment, I was hoping to find a seat on the subway since commuter traffic seemed to be light on this Friday evening before New Years.

Turns out the train wasn't jammed as normal, and a few prize seats beckoned. Alas, I just wasn't quick enough to grab one, as folks jostled by and sat down. The last available seat - within my grasp - disappeared as a teenager pushed past me and took it.

"That's the rudest thing I've ever seen," said a man standing behind me. I gave him a little smile and a shrug. Oh, well. I could stand. No big deal.

Prospects brightened when we got to 59th Street. Several folks with seats lumbered out, and this time I got a seat on a bench vacated by two people. Now, I could've spread out, but that's not my style. Would another whippersnapper push his way past another tired soul to grab the seat?

Nope. About halfway down the car I spotted a grandmother holding a couple of bags, working her way toward me. I put my hand on the seat (lest some cheeky young'un tried anything) and motioned for the woman to take a load off next to me. She sat down with a weary person's weight, smiled, and said a big "Thank you so much!" in a lovely Caribbean accent. Her son and grandkids took their places, standing in front of her. All said hearty "Thanks!"

"I'm getting off at 86th Street, so you'll get one more seat," I said to the group.

As the train slowed to a stop at 86th, the woman turned to me, "Have a wonderful, prosperous New Year. And travel safe!" I wished her the same, we smiled at each other, I gave my seat to the son, and left the train. Somehow, I wasn't quite as tired as I'd been when I boarded the train.

It's always amazing to me how such simple acts of courtesy and kindness can brighten my whole day - whether I'm the "doer" or the "receiver" of such acts. I wonder why we don't do more. Courtesy is easy and free and it's good for the soul.

'Tis better to pay it forward, than to pay it back. Thus ends the lesson.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Home for (the rest of) the Holidays

I'm back in New York after far too many days in Atlanta. Alas, I had to stay as long as I did to settle the house and do a little Christmas celebration (though that wasn't much of a task, I assure you). Yes, the house is sold - signed, sealed, delivered - but after everybody grabbed their money, I wasn't left with much. Once the smoke clears I'll have a better idea of how things shook out.

It was an enormously emotional time for me - that little house represented a lot, and to see it go was very painful. Yes, I had to sell it and am grateful it was snatched up, particularly in this market, but it will be some time before I can speak of it without tearing up. It was my sweet little home.

On the up-side, I got my fill of good Suth'en eatin' - The Colonnade Restaurant (best fried chicken outside of yo' mama's) twice, Waffle House, Krystal hamburgers (two or three times - I lost count), and the Piedmont Driving Club (doncha' know). It being Atlanta, we drove everywhere - very little walking - so pounds were definitely put on. It's good to be back in New York, where I can get back to walking and climbing stairs. My body will be grateful.

Highlights of the trip:
1) Fabulous going-away party for good friend Beth, who's off to St. Paul, Minnesota, to be rector of her very own church! Yea, Beth!
2) Big family get-together. It's good to see the next generation coming on so strong! (Plus the good food, natch.)
3) Meals with family and friends - Kate (Raja, Bridgetown), Lynne (at the PDC), Barbara (Colonnade), Carey (La Fonda, Outback), Alexander (Waffle House). All marvelous - for different reasons.
4) All the Christmas movies and Christmas episodes of old sit-coms.
5) Christmas Eve at All Saints'. 'Nuff said.
6) Returning to New York. ;-)

Now, it's back to work for me - it should be piled pretty high, even though I've tried to keep up long-distance. Forging ahead . . .

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Fa-mi-ly

Merry Christmas to all from Atlanta, Georgia (although this picture was taken in Chattanooga in 1958? 59?).

To Liz, PT, Joy, Winston, Tamar, Christa, Elsie, Peter (the Other), Jo, Chux, Jen, Chris, Johnno, Kate, Garth and Claire (wherever you are!), Bro, Sis, and all you "Anonymouses" out there - Hope you all have a splendiferous Christmas and a healthy, happy 2007 full of incredibly wondrous surprises!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

And from the Island of Misfit Toys . . .

I've been a bloggin' slag, I know. Sorry. Last couple of weeks at work have been crazy-busy, and I shipped out to Atlanta for Christmas on Saturday. Ever since I touched down here, it's been party, party, party. Well, sorta, but lots of other things are going on, too.

For one thing, I'm in House-Closing Hell. I'm already emotionally distraught over selling the house here in Atlanta, but it has been one hurdle after another getting all the paperwork, appraisals, inspections, underwriters, etc., lined up for - please, God - closing tomorrow. Just talked with my real estate agent who's still waiting for the final underwriting paperwork or we can't close tomorrow. Aaargh. We have to close tomorrow. Start throwing out the prayers, folks. As broken-hearted as I am about selling the house, things will be much worse if this doesn't happen tomorrow or Thursday. (Refer to previous post about "rapidly falling apart").

Other than that, it's been a fun time with friends and family, though Kate's digs are getting smaller by the day, so I'm going to camp out with friends for a few days.

Merry, Merry, and Jingle, Jingle. It's hard to feel Christmasy when it's 70 degrees outside. Sigh. I'm sure things'll get better. Right?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tree at 30 Rock

Had lunch with a friend from Atlanta in the Rockefeller Center/Sak's vicinity. Enjoy the purdy pictures. (I'll get back to posting more than pictures soon. My back's against the wall until Friday, hemmed in by a mountain of work and those pesky year-end budget deadlines.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

And from that little store over on 34th Street . . .

But I didn't see either Maureen O'Hara or Natalie Wood. Or the little girl singing in Dutch. Otherwise, it was pretty cool.

Finally. A good laugh

Here's the photo The Times of London published with a news article entitled "Pope Speaks on Gay Marriage." So he speaks on gay marriage, and his head explodes? Yikes! It was a Co-Cola-spittin' moment for me. Boy, did I need a good laugh!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rapidly falling apart

I'll be back when the pieces come together again. (I'll keep reading your stuff, though.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holiday Round-up

Do you need a little Christmas? Right this very minute?

Well, first you need to play catch-up:

Best Christmas Cartoon (Period.)

Ho-ho-ho-larious holiday songs (including an updated link to "Hanukkah Hey Ya")

Science and St. Nicholas (Celebrate! St. Nicholas Day is - that's right - today!)

Christmas Movies, Part I: The Life-Lessons (Learn 'em, know 'em, love 'em)

Christmas Movies, Part II: Marley was dead, to begin with (That's right - all your Scrooge favorites)

Christmas Movies, Part III: The Pre-1960 Classics (Warm up the DVD/video-player, friends.)

Christmas Movies, Finale: The new-fangled, post-1960 ones (Ho. Ho. Ho.)

Almost too much comfort and joy for one sitting, ain't it? Go ahead and put that Steve and Eydie album on the turn-table and give in to the feeling.

O, the wonders of a flashlight and a bit of orange cellophane

It was all about anticipation, the week before Christmas vacation (and it was called Christmas vacation back in the day - that's how old I am).

At Barger Elementary School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the waiting game was spent decorating the classroom - usually a big bulletin board snow scene of some kind, rehearsing for the Christmas program (and, yes, it was called a Christmas program), and making sure our mothers were on schedule to bring in goodies for the Christmas party (yes, . . . ).

We were repeatedly reminded to bring in our choir "robes," cleaned and starched and ready to don before the first performance of the program. These robes, fashioned by our mamas, were nothing more than one square yard of white broadcloth (often an old bed sheet) with a hole cut in the middle for our heads to poke through. A big black cloth bow was pinned to the center of the neckline and - voila! - instant angelic choir attire. (see hand-drawn illustration) Kids often kept the same robe throughout elementary school, so the fabric completely suffocated a first-grader and barely made it to the elbows of a sixth-grader.

Each grade played a particular part in the Christmas program, ranging from the little kids singing "Away in the Manger" around the specially-selected sixth-graders chosen as Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Wise Men, to fifth- and sixth-graders providing the background music as the school chorus.

My least favorite year was fourth grade. To the ear-grating chagrin of audience and participants alike, fourth-graders had to work their way through "Jingle Bells" on recorders. Yeow! A real painful stinker. The Christmas equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.

But the best - the very best - part of the program was reserved for third-graders. Our teachers lined us up two-by-two outside the room as the lights in the auditorium were dimmed. Each of us had a flashlight with a piece of orangy-yellow cellophane fashioned as a "flame" covering the light and held in place by a rubber band. Picture it: sweet little 8-year-olds in their white robes with big black bows, slowly entering the auditorium singing "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella."

Third-graders can be quite somber and reverent when called to be so (or when afraid of falling in the dark). The flashlight/candles made an impressive snake of glowing circles on the ceiling of the auditorium. It was a wonder to behold!

Of course, there were always a couple of wise-guys (almost always guys, doncha' know) who got a thrill out of flickering their flashlights hither and yon, destroying the solemnity of the occasion, but for the most part everyone maintained the required decorum.

It was a bee-yoo-ti-ful thing. And it makes for a warm and fuzzy memory. Wonder where I can find a piece of orange cellophane? Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella. Bring a torch and quickly run . . .

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Winecoff Fire

Thursday marks the 60th anniversary of the deadliest hotel fire in US history. In the wee, small hours of December 7, 1946, a fire broke out in Atlanta's Hotel Winecoff and quickly shot up through the then-towering (for Atlanta) height of 15 stories.

The newspaper headline had the body count off by one - "only" 119 people died in the horrific fire, including a group of best-and-brightest teens in town to participate in a mock legislature at the Georgia State Capitol.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a good story in Sunday's paper about a reunion of some of the survivors and firemen who saved them.

A Georgia Tech grad student, Arnold Hardy, became the first amateur to win the Pulitzer Prize. With his last flashbulb he caught a disturbing shot of a woman jumping from a window. See the photo and read how Hardy got the shot here.

Like the Titanic, the Winecoff's self-promotion was a study in hubris. The hotel was billed, after all, as completely fireproof. (Note to self: Never stay at, sail on, ride in, or otherwise come anywhere close to anything promising to be indestructible. That sort of thing always gets a big "Ya' think so?" from God.)

So remember, the next time you stay in a hotel and see those little sprinkler things and fire escape maps on the door, you have the doomed Hotel Winecoff to thank for those little safety features.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lighting Up

Park Avenue flipped the switch on its Christmas trees yesterday. Fifty blocks of trees - gorgeous!

Made some holiday headway of my own over the weekend. Mailed 90% of my Christmas cards (and if past years are a gauge, I'll probably forget about the other 10%), festooned the apartment with lights around the windows and a fresh wreath, and watched both the 1938 and 1951 versions of A Christmas Carol. I also saw a colorized version of Miracle on 34th Street (1947), which doesn't count. I'll watch my own B&W version later.

Work has me slammed right now - too much to do in too short a time. A lot of what has to be done needs much Tender Loving Care, not to be rushed. I'm trying to live by the lessons of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, but I do find myself looking at the whole, impossible picture sometimes and just getting stuck in the overwhelmingness of it all. Ah, me!

Obviously, I need to spend more time lighting (and lightening) up. Maybe the lights on Park Avenue can teach me how.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Playin' Catch-up

Well, that's what I get for leaving town for 8 days. This is the first chance I've had to pull my nose out of my work since I landed back here Wednesday morning. And I return to Atlanta two weeks from tomorrow, so that nose better find its way back to the grindstone within the next few minutes.

First thing off the bat when I returned was a meeting with the new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. She's meeting a few of us at a time, otherwise it would be to overwhelming. We were charged with introducing ourselves, telling a bit about our specific work, and what motivates us. She's very gracious and attentive, with a good sense of humor. At the end, she called each of us by name - not looking at notes, but looking into our eyes - acknowledging what we'd said. Anyway, it was a good way to get back into my work here.

The other thing that's taken up most of my time has been re-creating content for the new design structure of the Office of Anglican and Global Relations' website. The current site is a complete mess - totally illogical and no help to anyone. I love the new design, which should launch before I leave in two weeks (God-willing). Revamping all the content is overwhelming - yes, you take it a page at a time, but as you know, one page leads to 5 or 6 more pages - aargh! The good news is that I wrestled it to the ground yesterday and have only a few more pages to go. I'm sure I'll be tweaking it till the cows come home, but for now, I just want to get it out there.

I'm glad it's Friday. I plan to stroll around and look at the Christmas windows on 5th Avenue this weekend, and of course, nip over to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. The Park Avenue trees (two on every median between 47th and 96th!) light up on Sunday - can't wait for that. It'll make those dark winter walks with Bailey a little brighter!

Here's what I'm wonderin' today:
  • Where will the Christmas-present-buyin' money come from?
  • Do I dig down to buy my practical winter boots now, or wait till the first storm hits?
  • How the hell do we keep Britney/Paris/Lindsey off the streets (and the television)?
  • Ditto for George Bush?
  • What happened to 2006? (I'm still writing 2005 on correspondence . . . )
Ah, well, this New York working gal needs to finish her boiled eggs and toast and get back to work!