Thursday, November 22, 2012

All Blessings Great and Small

The turkey's roasting in the oven. The pumpkins pies are chillin' in the fridge. The smells wafting through the house draw out deep, timeless sensory memories of past Thanksgivings.

Daughter and Son-in-Law are hosting our annual feast. Pumpkins and dried corn decorate their home. A couple of rather beaten up pilgrims adorn the mantle, just as they did for years at our house on Strathmore Drive. A turkey in the shape of a small hand holds pride of place on the mantle, as well. GrandBoy's list of thanks includes Tripps (his dog) and chicken, by the way. All that's missing is a floor scattered with Lincoln log houses and funny Pilgrim hats.

It is a day to pause and give thanks for blessings bestowed by the grace of God and blessings earned by our own hard work, creative spirit, and humanity.

For me, the top three on my Thanksgiving list - family, good health, meaningful employment - never change. I know that those huge blessings will not always be granted to me, but I hope to remember - when one or all are no more - that for a great span of my life,  I had the great good fortune of love, health, and vocation.

I give thanks for the tiny, everyday little blessings that come my way, too. The synchronicity of a swipe of my MTA card and the arrival of the train. A good cuppa tea. A not-so-bad hair day. Hearing a dear lady tell me during the Peace at church that she'd been thinking of me.

Lest you think I'm a Pollyanna, I realize the world is full of trials and tribulations. Anger, frustration, loneliness, and fear can eat us up if we're not careful. Realities must be dealt with, and those realities can break, or nearly break, us. But today, I choose to focus on my blessings and leave the prickly stuff for tomorrow. Or next week. OK, now I'm sounding more like Scarlett than Pollyanna. Still.

So, thank you, Pilgrims and Indians. Thank you, Plymouth Rock, Schoolhouse Rock, and Rock and Roll. Thank you, United States of America, Atlanta, and New York City. Thank you, Fraziers, Greshams, and Bartows. Thank you, God.

Happy Thanksgiving. Wait. Is that roast turkey I smell?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Autumn is splendid in Atlanta this year. As my flight from Amsterdam came in for a landing Saturday, the brilliant reds, oranges, and golds of the trees surrounding the city were shot through with late afternoon sunlight. There was an audible gasp from the weary travelers inside our big old jet when they first caught a glimpse of the city ringed with fall colors. Well done, Atlanta! And God!

With the trees kitted out in the finery of leaves gasping their brilliant last breaths, I knew there was one tree in particular I needed to see. It is the most beautiful tree in the world, and while I haven't actually seen every single tree on this earth, I believe that roaming the planet in search of one more gorgeous would be an act of futility.

The most beautiful tree in the world is a huge ginkgo lording over a small park-like island in the middle of Peachtree Battle Avenue at the corner of Peachtree Road, just across from E. Rivers Elementary School. There are actually two ginkgos there side by side, one huge, one not so huge, and their branches reach into each other to form a massive gold canopy. You might say it's the ultimate golden parachute.

Photographers and families line up for the opportunity to make the tree and its gold carpet of fallen leaves the backdrop for family pictures. When I was PTA president at E. Rivers, we briefly discussed ways the school could take advantage of this situation (selling hot chocolate and donuts? frames for the pictures? commemorative leaf bookmarks?), but we could never settle on anything appropriate. Driving by the tree on Sunday - yes, there they were, photographers, children, dogs, you name it, lined up for the chance to make a golden memory.

I have my own photos of Kate at various ages, wearing wonderful fall finery and posing under the tree. Old dog Bailey is even in several of them. Yesterday, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to click a few pics of GrandBoy under the wonderful tree. I loved the look on his little face as he stood right under the tree and looked up into the ceiling of bright gold leaves. Like everyone else who's ever seen the tree, he found it worthy of delight.

Autumn is my very favorite season. Atlanta, dressed in her most brilliant finery, has reminded me why. It's golden.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Still catching up, so this hurricane business is old news, but I wanted to get it down before I completely forget the experience.

Disclaimer: Let me say upfront, that I really didn’t have much Sandy-experience, so you may want to seek out blogs from folks who still don’t have power/water two weeks later. Just needed to give you that opportunity.

Winds really started kicking up mid-afternoon on Sunday, October 28. Then came the rain, the blowing sideways kind of rain. Then came the wind with the rain. Mostly I knew this from looking out of my windows, but as a resident of the top floor of my apartment building, I was aware of the windy whistling that comes through my kitchen and bath vents. But really, I was safe and warm. I had electricity and water. Plus, I still had cable/internet/wifi service.

The worst of it blew through between 8pm-10pm. A couple of times, my floor seemed to slide around a little bit, and I started wondering whether I should stay in my 5th floor apartment or see if the landlord would let me camp out in the lower basement. It also crossed my mind to worry about identified/unidentified flying objects coming through my windows. But, nah. I was comfortable in my chair, pretty confident that I was going to be OK. Foolhardy? Rational? Who knows? Bottom line, nothing destructive happened. I did finally lose cable/internet/wifi, but thank goodness for the DVD player and a handful of great Halloween movies. Yeah, I was fine.

Tuesday morning, I ventured outside to assess damage in SpaHa. OK, well, truthfully, I went out to do my laundry (fingers-crossed, the laundromat had power) before I was to head to UK/South Africa/ATL on Thursday. First good sign: our elevators were up and running (they’d been shut down during the worst of the storm). And yes, the laundromat was cookin’ full steam. Plus, its cable was working there, so I could watch the news and get updates on the storm. Useful information learned: all subways out of service. Doh!

Wednesday morning, headed for work. No subways, but buses were trying to take up the slack for the few million subway riders. Ugh. Took awhile to squeeze onto a bus - maybe the fifth one that passed took me on. I should have walked. I got on at 115th/2nd Avenue and headed to Midtown. One hour and 45 minutes later, we’d made it to 71st Street. Couldn’t stand it anymore, so I got off and walked to the office at 43rd in about 15 minutes. Forgot it was Halloween (my second most favorite holiday, btw).

As you can imagine, there weren’t many of us in the office. It was a slow day - mainly trying to touch base with all of our colleagues to make sure they were OK. I also had a lot of last-minute things to do before leaving the country the next day and was thankful for internet service. And, yeah, I’ll admit taking my lunch hour and going for a mani-pedi. I mean, necessities are necessities, hurricane or no hurricane.

The real nightmare set in when it was time to leave work around 5pm. I considered myself lucky when a bus opened its door for me. “Do you go up to 116th?” I asked. A weary bus driver looked and me and said, “If you don’t mind getting there by tomorrow morning.” (What your English teacher would call “foreshadowing.”) I hopped on and found a great seat - one of the singletons - and settled in for the ride uptown. OK, well, over an hour later, we’d made it three blocks. OK, now I get what the driver meant. Oy.

I was in no mood to walk 68 blocks in the dark on Halloween but figured that possibly cutting over to Madison and walking uptown a little, the traffic might thin out. When did I get to be such a dreamer? Um, no, though the traffic wasn’t as heavy as it was Third Avenue. Bus after bus after bus passed me, either too full to take on more riders, or all those B and Q buses that go who-knows-where (Hello? M buses, where were you that night?). So I kept walking.

Things started to thin out on Madison around 76th, so I stood at a bus-stop and hoped for the best. After about 30 minutes of those darn B/Q/X-town buses, finally, finally a good old uptown-heading M bus came my way. Had to stand for a while, but the traffic was no longer stop-and-go. Made it back home just after 8pm.

And those are the only hurricane horror stories I have. Very, very weak and boring in comparison to so many who lost so much. My neck of the woods got our subway service back on Thursday (at least as far down as Grand Central), and JFK was up and running by the time my flight left that night. No delays at all.

Now I’m tormented by extreme Hurricane Sandy guilt for a) not suffering much at all from its impact, and b) for ditching New York and heading to my conference in England, leaving it all behind. It was indeed the Frankenstorm predicted and will take some time for many folks to recover. All I can offer is to make donations for clean-up and future preparations.

And prayers. I can always offer prayers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Catching Up

Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. I wish I could be someone who can stop in the midst of crazy busyness to set down for myself and the world what’s going on around me. Alas, no (and the main reason I’m not a diarist). I write lots of blogs in my head throughout the day, but until someone invents a way to stream my thoughts onto the computer, my thought-blogs are just puffs of air. So I - and you, dear readers - have to be content with playing catch-up during particularly frenetic times.

What better time to catch up than during a 12-hour flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town, eh? The length (short) of the following entries bears no resemblance to their individual importance, fun, or joy. Heck, I’m just saving a little time and space. OK, here goes.

Bucket List Item FulfilledThe Marriage of Figaro at the Met, Lincoln Center, New York (pre-Hurricane Sandy). I was well-schooled on the story, characters, and musical themes before I dared set foot in this hallowed hall of opera. For that, I thank my friend and colleague, Neva Rae, who joined me for my Night At The Opera. The event surpassed all expectations. The opera house is glorious, our seats were fabulous (and comfy), the sets and costumes splendid, and the music - well, the music was out of this world. It was a walking-on-air evening. Next time I scrape up enough money to return, I will do so.

A Better Scary Walking Tour:  I ventured out for another walking tour, “Spooks, Scandals, and Scoundrels,” this time with the same guide I had for the “Irish in New York” tour over the summer. Much, much better than the scary walking tour I took in the pouring rain back in September. The tour guide makes all the difference, and Linda knows her stuff. Her stories were better, even though I’d heard a couple of them on the first spooky tour, plus she has pictures and old newspaper clippings to help boost what she’s saying. Trust me, stick with Linda on MeetUp.

Favorite Evening Out - Old Friend, Great Food:  A hundred years ago (or maybe about 30 years ago), I produced a cable TV cooking show. Yes, yes, I was the most unlikely person to produce a cooking show, but there it is. It wasn’t hard, though, because the show’s expert was Merijoy Lantz Rucker. After our cooking show days, she catered many a crew meal during my Turner-time, but I hadn’t seen her for maybe 15 years. Somehow, she knew I was in NYC and emailed that she was coming for a visit and could I spare any time for a meal. Hell, yeah. We met at La Ripaille in the Village. I chose it strictly by it’s reviews and, let’s face it, reasonable price. Fabulous, do go if you get a chance. Lovely ambiance and you don’t have to shout to have a conversation. Of course, catching up with Merijoy was even better than the food. I look forward to more visits from her!

OK. All of the above happened the weekend before Hurricane Sandy. Friday - opera, Saturday afternoon - spooky walking tour, Saturday night - dinner with Merijoy. Sunday pre-hurricane, I spent getting a haircut and preparing for a worst-case-scenario storm. I socked in water and food stuffs not requiring refrigeration. I kept all electronic devices - phones, netbook, etc., - plugged in and charging. I settled in and waited for whatever it was that was going to happen.

Next installment: Hurricane Sandy.