Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Charlotte Currin Richeson, born May 21, 2013. Never has there been a happier, smiley-er, chubby-cheekier granddaughter. I love you to the moon. And back. And to the moon again. And back. Infinity.
A job that lets me travel to wonderful places and meet incredible people - Hong Kong, Philippines, Haiti, Los Angeles, Jackson in 2013. Where to next?
New York City. For the great theatre, museums, and parks I've experienced this year. And for the world's most breath-taking skyline, day or night.
So farewell, 2013. Even with a few sad losses, you've given me great memories. May 2014 bring more adventures, good health, money to cover basic expenses, and a greater resolve to be present in every moment. Happy New Year and may God bless us all!
Monday, December 30, 2013
However, I just have to do something, so I have created for you, dear readers, the 10 Commandments of Being Lazy. Whenever you approach your own lazy day, pull these out for inspiration:
- Thou shalt not change out of thine flannel pjs, wooly socks, and old sweatshirts into non-lazy raiment, or thou shalt completely defeat the purpose of staying in and being lazy.
- Thou shalt ignore particles, specks, yea, even layers of dust covering any object. Neither floor, nor bookcase, nor lamp shade shall cause thy hand to lift a dust rag or push a vacuum cleaner.
- Thou shalt not consider indulging in any form of physical exercise, be it walking to the park or lifting any object heavier than a spoon to thine lips.
- Thou shalt honor thy comfy chair or sofa by remaining sedentary upon thine honored sitting place throughout the live-long day.
- Thou shalt not even consider improving thy mind by darkening the doors of museums, libraries, or theaters. These are activities that completely defeat the purpose of being lazy. Inspiration is dangerous to laziness. Thou can, however, read that tawdry novel sitting on thine night stand, as there is no danger in improving thy mind with it.
- Thou shalt remember to stock thine fridge and cabinets with goodies that will prevent thou from even considering getting out and doing something productive or leaving thine comfy sitting place.
- Remember Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and thine own stock of DVDs to keep them handy for series-binging.
- Thou shalt ignore thank you notes, bills, and any kind of correspondence that detracts from thine complete laziness.
- Thou shalt feel free to take plenteous naps throughout the day.
- Thou shalt completely, utterly ignore that pesky Puritan work ethic. To thine own laziness be true.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
We thought of her as a young aunt, though in truth, she was our second cousin. She was born four days before the 1929 Stock Market Crash. Her mother died when she was 3, her father a couple of years later. Five-year-old Nell went to live with my grandparents, who had four almost-grown daughters of their own, including my mother. Mother always said that she thought of Nell as her first child because as a teenage she often took charge of the little girl. Nell was our go-to person for the "real" family stories. Of course, she saw things from a small child's perspective, but often, that's the truest viewpoint.
Which was why we all landed on her doorstep at one time or another during our teenage years. It was the perfect summer set-up for a pre-driving teen. Nell had an apartment with a pool ('nuff said), plus she worked all day. She trusted us, and it wouldn't have occurred to us to do any damage or cause trouble, anyway. All we did was sleep late, go to the pool, clean up after ourselves, and wait for her to get home in the afternoons. She hated to iron and couldn't sew, so I kept the ironing under control and even made her several dresses for work. Our parents supplemented her income for doing this. We ate out a lot. As I said, one sweet arrangement for a teenager.
Nell was an avid reader and crossword puzzler. She loved Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson (once, we taped movie magazine pictures of them to the inside of the toilet lid, just to get a laugh out of her). She was a Braves fan. She made great deviled eggs. She gave me my first legal alcoholic drink (a Brandy Alexander).
If it's true that people live on through good memories, our Nell will live forever. Rest in ever-lasting peace, rise in glory, and enjoy seeing your mama and daddy, Bully Bartow sisters, and maybe even Frank Sinatra, dear Nell.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Yes, I sold the house at the right moment, right before the housing market went over the cliff. I mean, there was no way I could've kept it and lived in New York. We tried renting it out, but that was more trouble and cost than it was worth. So, yeah, it had to go when I left town.
But knowing all of that doesn't help as I pull objects from Christmas Past out of their boxes. It's when I feel the loss of that house most keenly. I loved decorating it - the tree, the mantle, the dining room buffet, the front door. But now, I don't have any of those things. No tree, no mantle, no dining room, and just an apartment door.
So most of the decorations stay in their boxes. Waiting for another little house, though I don't think there'll ever be another little house for me. And I wonder if the angels and Santas and glass baubles and bells will ever come out in full force again. That's what makes me sad. So I have my little Christmas cry, give the dear objects a blessing, and put most of them away for yet another year.
And then I have to put away thoughts of my little Christmas house. It was, after all, just a house, right? Except it wasn't. It was home. And now it's not.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Every year, it seems to fade a little more, swallowed up completely by Christmas. Retailers get the jump on the season of red and green earlier and earlier each year. We fume about it, but it seems that everyone's buying into it, nonetheless.
Thanksgiving, my friends, is the most wonderful celebration we allow ourselves. It's simply gathering with loved ones to share a meal and talk about what we're thankful for. That's it. No presents to buy. No over the top parties to attend. No fancy clothes (in fact, I recommend the baggier, the better). No cards to send. Simple. Slow. Savoring the process of cooking, gathering, welcoming, eating, thanking, hugging, loving. What's not to love?
Yet, every year we chop a little bit more off this most perfect of holidays. Why? Why are we in such a hurry to shove Thanksgiving out of the way for Christmas? What message are we sending our children? We could all use a bigger dose of gratefulness, and a lot less focus on stuff. At the very least, we need more thankfulness for all the stuff. So why the rush?
Folks have already decorated trees, mantles, and yards. I'm simply stunned. We haven't poked the turkey in the oven, cooled the pumpkin pies, or watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and they've hung their stockings on the mantle. I don't know, maybe they'll be in Europe for Christmas and want to celebrate a little early at home. Or maybe the dog's on her last leg and they want to make sure she doesn't miss the season. I'm grasping for a reason to rush through marvelous Thanksgiving to begin the yuletide celebration.
Now, no one loves Christmas more than yours truly - I watch White Christmas in July and consider Easter the start of Advent. Still, I'm puzzled by the notion of having Christmas lights blinking while you sing "Over the River and Through the Woods."
I, for one, know that Christmas is just around the corner. I can wait. The day after Thanksgiving? All bets are off. It's Christmas all the way. But for tonight and all day tomorrow? My heart and all my senses will be filled with thanksgiving/Thanksgiving. The house is decorated in oranges and yellows, not reds and greens. Turkeys and Pilgrims and Squanto headdresses are showcased, instead of creches and Santas.
It's Thanksgiving. I'll hang on to it as long as I can.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I'm so thankful.
- For a job that pushes me to travel to interesting and, sometimes, hard places. I meet lots of people I'd have never met otherwise and get to witness good work going on all over the place. I love my job and am so thankful for gainful employment.
- For good health and stamina (so far) to keep up with life in New York and grandbabies in Atlanta. Good health is another one of those things I often take for granted, until something flares up or starts to ache. For being able to get up everyday and keep up with life's pace, I give great thanks.
- For my own bed, clean sheets, and a featherbed. Whatever the day has brought - good or bad - my good old bed welcomes me every night. No other bed in the whole world is as good as my very own.
- For the folks young and old who venture to hard places in the name of Christ to serve God's people, especially the Young Adult Service Corps volunteers and the Volunteers in Mission of the Episcopal Church. I'm privileged to get to see what they do first-hand. I'm so, so thankful for these wonderful people.
- For the children and staff of St. Vincent's School for the Handicapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Life in that country is hard enough, but the courage and perseverance of these children - blind, deaf, and with other physical disabilities - and the teachers who love and educate them is truly remarkable. I give thanks for their lives and pray they grow into happy, successful adults.
- For (fairly) reliable public transportation. I really depend on it in New York, and to some extent, in Atlanta. Yes, subways and trains are often crowded and once in a while everyone's surly or impolite, but most of the time folks behave themselves and just mind their own business. But it's great value for the money, and it gets me from point A to point B, C, and D. I'm so grateful that I have access to good public transportation.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Presidents just didn't get assassinated in 1963. Yes, we were busy fending off the USSR and ducking-and-covering, but assassinating the President? How John Wilkes Booth-y. I know it's hard for younger folks to understand, but it really was the end of innocence for those of us at the older end of the generation of "Look, Ma, no cavaties!", "Let's Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer," and "Yabba-dabba-do!" After this, anything could happen. Anything.
My enduring image of Friday, November 22, 1963, is that of quiet darkness. As usual, Daddy took us to the Red Food Store on Ringgold Road for our weekly grocery run on a late autumn night. The store was open. Just. There seemed to be fewer street lights, neon signs, and car headlights as we pulled into the parking lot. We were part of only a handful of people out and about that night. I guess we got what we needed and went home.
But fifty years ago tonight, it was dark. So dark.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Tonight I'm thankful for travelling safely from New York to Port au Prince to Cap Haitien. Big jets, tiny prop planes, vans - all made it possible for our safe arrival. I'm also thankful for a good meal with new friends and a cool place to sleep. I feel very welcome in Haiti!
Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Saturday, November 09, 2013
Friday, November 08, 2013
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Monday, November 04, 2013
This picture, by the way, is of a bowling outing the Office of Communication took a couple of years ago. We rarely get out of the office together, so this was pretty special. Don't know where the rest of the team was (at the snack bar?).
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Saturday, November 02, 2013
In lieu of my writing the Great American Novel this month, I will concentrate on thankfulness. I won't hold myself to 50,000 words about what I'm thankful for and my thanksgivings won't be in any sort of order. No, just random things - the great and the small - that make me grateful for living every day.
I see I'm a day behind and should've started this list yesterday. Let's blame it on Halloween-hangover. So I'll catch up with two big thanks today.
First: I am so very thankful that I can read. I take it for granted, never giving it a second thought. But, oh, how much joy reading gives me! Beyond the necessary task of reading just to function in the world, reading lets me think, dream, imagine, wonder about worlds I know and worlds I don't know. That learning ABCs can lead to complex, creative thought and feeling is miraculous. For books and stories and treatises and articles, whether bound or electronic, for authors and dream-weavers and storytellers and truth-tellers, for the basic, magical ability to read - I give thanks.
Life is good. I'm thankful.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
When I was a little girl, I could never get to sleep the night before Halloween. It was a couple of notches down from the keyed-up restlessness of Christmas Eve - after all, I didn't have to listen for reindeer on the roof or a big ol' red-suited elf falling down the chimney into my living room - but the butterflies-in-stomach excitement was there all the same.
What kept me awake, I wonder? Was candy such a big deal? Was dressing up as someone or something else worth losing sleep over? I really can't remember what had me in such a dither the night before Halloween.
My mother - my Southern Baptist, right-of-Attila-the-Hun mother - loved Halloween. (This is how I know that all the anti-Halloween right-wing stuff is pure crap.) She dangled the shiny idea of "tricks-and-treats" over our heads the entire month of October. She enjoyed helping us with our costumes and had fun giving out candy to the kids who came to the door. My costume was usually homemade - seems like I was always a gypsy - except for when I was 8 and 9 years old.
One year for some reason Daddy sprung for a Siam Princess costume from the dime store. I think it cost a whopping $2.98, and I remember choosing it. Siam Princess? I liked the mask and the shiny yellow and bright pink coverall with some sort of intricate (to an 8-year-old) sparkly design. Notice I chose a princess who could wear pants, not a fluffy skirt. I got two Halloweens'-worth of wear out of it, so when you amortorize the cost, well - practically free. (Yes, it was a little big the first year and a little small the second.)
I think one thing that kept me awake was the anticipation of being allowed to go door to door, never knowing who'd give you what, trying to set a goal of how many houses you could get to or how big a paper sack you'd be able to fill. We always took paper bags to collect candy - no plastic pumpkins or trendy little totes - except for the big kids (and you really weren't supposed to trick-or-treat over the age of 12 - but some boys pushed it to 14), who carried pillowcases. The idea of collecting candy, or whatever - because you were just as likely to get apples or homemade cookies - was exciting. That stuff just wasn't as readily available to us on a day to day basis. Candy, cookies, Coca-Cola - those were all for special occasions. Like Halloween.
I don't remember getting much chocolate; it was mostly hard candy or wax lips or bubble gum. I well remember the excitement of getting home and dumping it all in the middle of the floor, pooling our resources, trading this or that, with big brother David coming in at the end with a bulging pillowcase (or two) to add to the loot.
As we got too old for trick-or-treating, there were usually parties or the coming-of-age thrill of getting to answer the door and hand out candy.
And tonight? Well, I think I'll sleep tonight without difficulty. The jack o'lantern's carved, the house decorated inside and out, the treats are over-flowing the special Halloween tray. I won't dress up tomorrow night - I have done on occasion, but I will love seeing the little cuties come to the door - some in awe of the whole thing, standing there dumb-founded, some shouting "trick or treat!" so loud they blow out all the candles in the house, the princesses and the clowns and the Batmen and the Harry Potters.
Still, if I lie in bed tonight and try to dredge up the feeling of being an 8-year-old Siam Princess again, who knows? Maybe I won't get much sleep after all.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Unkindness seems to be rampant these days. Basic civility, which in the past helped check rude, mean, insensitive behavior, has flown out the window. There are no barriers to saying whatever one's thinking or acting on individual foibles and prejudices. As important as individual rights of speech and action are (within the law), those rights do nothing to contribute to a more civil society if the individual loses compassion and the ability to see oneself as part of a bigger community.
Maybe kindness seems more elusive now than in the past simply because we are bombarded with human wretchedness 24/7. Yet, it seems too easy to blame the internet and media outlets, though both certainly spread cynicism, anger, and the urge to get revenge on whoever/whatever rubs us the wrong way. I think it runs deeper than that, but I'm at a loss as to an answer.
Nothing I've said is news. and, honestly, I can't do anything about anyone but myself. While I'm certainly free to say whatever I want or act on whatever skewed feelings I may have, I don't have to do either. I can make an effort to check words and actions I may later regret. It's not only about avoiding unkindness; it's about being actively kind.
So, as we head into the season of thankfulness and celebration, I plan to be more intentionally kind. I will do my best to avoid petty arguments over politics, lifestyles, or sports teams and look for ways to a pay a compliment, relieve a burden, or create a pleasant surprise. I will try to remember the words I learned as a little child, "Be ye kind." It's worth a try.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
#7 The Werewolf. What I love about these furry creatures is that they're usually nice guys in human form, at least according to the film-world. Not sure why sweetie pies are targeted for the werewolf curse, but they are, so it's hard not to find them kinda dreamy. Darn those full moons!
Other pesky scary things - poltergeists, rat/lizard/seaweed-people, congressmen - are also-rans, at least when fed through the Shorty PJs Monster-O-Meter. Light your jack-o'lantern and save your monster-honor for the superstars - witches, ghosts, and vampires.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
OK, so I'm rared back watching that great Halloween cartoon where Donald goes up against "nephews" Huey, Dewey, and Louie and the incomparable Witch Hazel, and the thought comes to me, hey, wait a minute, how are H,D, & L really related to Donald?
Yeah, I know. It's just a cartoon. All made-up stuff from the mind of "Uncle" Walt. (Really? Why do we think of him as "uncle?" - but that's for another day.) Still, you have to admit there's seemingly no familial relationship between Donald and his "nephews." Are they the ducklings of The Donald's sister? Brother? Why don't we ever see Donald's siblings then, even a quickie shot of them dropping off/picking up H,D, & L at their "uncle's" house?
And don't even get me started on Mickey's "nephews" Morty and Ferdie, Daisy's "nieces" April, May, and June, or Minnie's "nieces" Millie and Melody. How does Scrooge McDuck fit into the picture? I think there's more to all of this than meets the eye. Sayin'. Such complex family relationships these mice and ducks have in the mind of "Uncle" Walt!
Now, if I could only figure out why Donald talks in his scrabbly voice while Daisy speaks like a human, I think we could get to the heart of The Donald's crankiness.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
See now, I think I know what they're after. Probably something out of a 1940's Thin Man movie or maybe a hip Sex and the City place, but I have to admit that after living here for 7 1/2 years (has it been that long?), I haven't found those places, either. Or, more likely, I don't travel in those circles.
Or grab an environmentally-unfriendly container over the steam tables at a local deli and fill it up with - funnily enough - mostly Chinese food (you really have to search out a Jewish deli these days) and salads. Be mindful of "heavy" foods, because you'll pay anything from $6.99+ per pound at checkout. Live here long enough, and you'll know how to keep your container under a pound.
And Atlanta, where most of the friends are coming from, is a great foodie town in its own right. I always have to think, "Can they have the same experience at an Atlanta restaurant? How is this different from a place back home?" Sigh.
And I need to know by Wednesday so I can get reservations for Friday night. Thanks!
Monday, September 16, 2013
So I propose turning off the poo-spewing fan and following the advice of Monty Python: Always look on the bright side of life. Instead of keeping up with the news, I will over-indulge in my family and good books and celebrate:
Voyager I! I mean, how 'bout that little thing crossing over into, well, who knows what? Launched in 1977 (just like "Annie Hall," "Star Wars," and "Saturday Night Fever"), this little teakettle is farther from the earth than the Sun and Pluto. Much farther. Just tickin' away into interstellar space, with its 70's technology, sending back sounds and pictures. I suggest that whenever the urge strikes to watch the news, just track Voyager I & II. More relaxing. Less violent. 'Way cooler.
Bob Newhart wins his first Emmy! How it took 50 years for this guy to win an Emmy, I'll never know. He is still screamingly funny (as demonstrated with his winning performance on Big Bang Theory) and always brings his A-game. In this age of horror and despair, I recommend a healthy dose of Bob Newhart. Watch his old TV shows. Listen to his classic recordings. You can find his great routines on YouTube. That's right. Turn off the news and turn on Bob.
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” - George Eliot. Cooler weather. Colorful trees. Corduroy. Caramel apples. Popcorn balls. Candy corn. Fall carnivals. Halloween. Then Thanksgiving. What's not to love? Instead of watching the news, start planning your Halloween costume, make some pumpkin bread, do something creative with autumn leaves.
Yes, I realize this is the ostrich approach to current events, but I believe it's the only way to save my sanity and blood pressure. Prayers will continue, but they may become less specific and more big-picture, as I track Voyager, laugh with Bob Newhart, and kick through colorful leaves.
If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing!