November 29, 2009


"Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody..." That's kind of how I was feeling last night. It had been a busy day, so I crashed at home, as usual. I was feeling kind of "itchy", though, like I wanted to do something, but didn't know what. I didn't have anywhere to go...didn't feel like sitting at the computer...didn't have the patience to read a book, so I was channel surfing on the TV. I kept switching programs because there was mostly crap on to watch, none of which really appealed to me. Then, just before 11:00, I was looking at the online TV guide and noticed a show coming up on CNN called "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute". I decided to give it a try...and, boy, am I glad I did!

This show was about normal, every day people -- people like you and me -- who have done something extraordinary to change the world and make it a better place. For example, there is a man who was a contractor working in Iraq in 2004 who discovered a need for child-sized wheelchairs, so he started a foundation to raise money and purchase them. He even puts them together and delivers them to the children themselves. Now, this may not sound like much, except there are thousands of children -- some of them hurt in the fighting going on there -- who are carried around by their parents or who literally drag themselves through the streets because they have no other way to get around. Since 2004, he has bought and distributed 650 wheelchairs!

There was a teenager who lost his legs in a boating accident. Fortunately, his family had good health insurance and he not only survived, but was able to get prostheses to enable him to lead a "normal" life. He found that there were many children, though, without adequate insurance (or any at all, sometimes) who could not afford prostheses, so he started a foundation to raise money and provide them. I learned that a child usually needs a new prosthetic every 18 months as s/he is growing. This young man has dedicated his life to making the lives of other children better.

There were something like over 7,000 people nominated around the world for this award and 10 were chosen to be honored in the program. Each received a $25,000 grant to continue their work. One was chosen as the "CNN Hero of the Year" and received an additional $100,000.

It was an incredibly inspiring show to watch, especially after seeing so many awards shows lately that honor people for being able to sing or dance or entertain. I'm not minimizing those awards, but there is something inherently wrong in this country when we hold entertainers or sports figures in higher esteem than people who are doing grassroots work to make this world a better place by putting the needs of others ahead of themselves!

This awards show is going to be repeated tonight, Sunday, November 29, at 8:00 and 11:00 pm ET/PT. I encourage you to watch it or, if necessary, record it to watch later. I think you will find it just as inspiring as I did. If you can't watch the show, then go to and read about the 2009 recipients. You can also nominate someone for the 2010 award if you know anyone who is worthy of the honor.

Please don't miss it. It is well worth the time to watch!

November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful for Thanksgiving

Well, I tried, but I fell short this past week. I wanted to write every day about something I'm thankful for, but I missed a few days. I'm a little disappointed in myself and yet, in an odd sort of way, it's the reason that I say I'm thankful for Thanksgiving. Here's the point -- we all get so busy with our day-to-day lives that we don't always stop each day to give thanks, even though we should. So I think it's a good idea that at least one day each year is set aside to stop and think about all we have and say out loud that we are thankful. It's a tradition in our family, as I'm sure it is in many others -- before we dig into the buffet, an abundance of food, for sure, we all stand in a circle and go around and say what we're thankful for. Even if a lot of it is repeated -- we're thankful for family, friends, good health, etc. -- it's okay because it's the act of giving thanks that's really important, not originality. It's also good to remember that this holiday isn't just about the food; it's much more than that.

So, since I didn't get to finish writing about all of the other things I'm thankful for, I offer up this additional list on this special day of Thanksgiving:
  • I'm thankful for good health for me and for my family and friends.
  • I'm thankful every day that I wake up on the "right" side of the grass (think about it!).
  • I'm thankful for my wonderful big sister, Judy, who has been one of the most important people in my life from the day I was born! I'm closer to her than to anyone else on earth, except my children, and know that I can turn to her at any time for anything I need. I don't tell her often enough how much I love her and admire her!
  • I'm thankful for Judy's husband, Ed, probably the best brother-in-law in the world. How many BIL's would put up with a sister-in-law living with them for 9 weeks! Well, he did when I was recovering from ankle surgery two years ago. He is a great companion and good friend and, even though he's sometimes a pain in the butt, I wouldn't trade him for anyone!
  • I'm thankful for my nieces, Sara and Rachel, and their respective families. I've watched them grow up and blossom into beautiful, loving, intelligent, successful women. I couldn't be prouder of them if they were my own daughters!
  • I'm thankful for all of my friends and I am fortunate to be blessed with so many of them! I think I have one of the largest support groups in the world!
  • I'm thankful for growing older, as strange as that may sound. My parents both died way too young -- Dad was only 54 and Mom was only 56 (she died 5 years after my father). I have already lived longer than either of them and had the opportunity to retire, something they never did. So even though growing older has some down side to it (memory's not so good, more doctor visits and medications, etc.), it still beats the alternative.
  • I'm thankful for the life I've lived the past (almost) 59 years. It hasn't been perfect, but then, no one's life ever is! My heart is filled with memories...some good, some bad, some bittersweet...but I've learned something from all of them. I've been blessed with a good life so far and I hope it continues for another 40 years!

So that's it for this Thanksgiving. The food has been eaten, the leftovers put away, the dishes washed, the football watched, and thanks have been given. May we all be blessed in the coming year and be able to come together again next Thanksgiving to do it all over again!

Happy Thanksgiving to all....and to all a good night!

November 23, 2009

I'm Thankful for Home Sweet Home

Sorry I didn't get to post yesterday. It turned into a pretty busy day and I just never got to it. I guess I spoiled my plan to write a post every single day until Thanksgiving, but I'm doing my best. At least I'm writing more than I was before and I've had a lot of friends and family tell me they're enjoying reading my blog, so I've accomplished that much.

I was trying to think of a good subject to write about tonight and as I was driving home from my chorus rehearsal, I found one. It's a rainy, miserable, cold night out there tonight and I started thinking about how happy I would be when I arrived home to my lovely, dry, warm apartment. And then I started thinking about all the people who don't have homes to go to this night. I thought about all the homeless people in our town, in our Nation's Capital and throughout the country. With these tough economic times that seem to be going on and on and on, I'm sure the number of homeless is higher than ever. So I thought that today I would give thanks for the roof over my head! It's not fancy or lavish; it's usually even kind of messy and cluttered, but it's mine! (Well, mine and the bank's! LOL) I'm thankful that I was able to purchase a home and that I've been able to keep up the payments on it. I hope that never changes, but if it ever did and if, Heaven forbid, I ever lost my home, I know that I would be able to turn to my family and friends for help and would not have to sleep on the streets.

May God bless all of those who are not as fortunate as I and bring them comfort in this miserable weather.

November 21, 2009

I'm Thankful for a Special Friend

Today I spent most of the day with someone who has been a special person in my life for over 40 years. I call her Karpe, a nickname she was labeled with when we were in Girl Scouts together back in our high school days. I won't bore you with the story, but she has always been "Karpe" to me and my family. We're the only people in the world who call her that.

Forty years. It's hard to believe! It's hard to fathom what my life would have been like without her. I was 17, a senior in high school when we met; she was 15 and a sophomore. We were both going through difficult times in our lives. My father was recovering from his first bout of cancer; Hodgkins Disease, to be exact. Her father was an alcoholic and she was having a hard time dealing with it. We turned to each other for support and a lifelong friendship was born.

Since that time, we have been through thick and thin together...literally! Our lives have been filled with peaks and valleys, as everyone's are, and we were right there for each other whenever we were needed. We've celebrated more life events together than I can ever count and we've cried together more times than I would like to remember. We can be just as silly today in our "middle age" years as we were as teenagers, maybe even moreso! Or maybe it's just that we enjoy laughing together at ourselves or at other things.

I have received so much from her over the years and I've had the opportunity to give equally as much. I took her for chemotherapy treatments when she battled cancer, not once, but twice. She was there to help me pick up the pieces of a broken marriage. She's come over and helped me clean my house when I needed it and I helped take care of her when she was recovering from hip replacement surgery...twice.

When I told her I was going to do a 3-day breast cancer walk in her honor back in 2000, she immediately signed up to do it with me. What fun that was...especially on the very first day when we were the absolutely last two people in the group of 3,000 walkers, and the only thing behind us was the ambulance waiting to see if we needed a ride!

Our weekend shopping trips became infamous, although they started simply enough. I remember it was 1988 and she had finished her treatment for breast cancer, her first bout with the disease. It was also the year we were celebrating 20 years as friends and I suggested we do something special to honor both occasions. Our children (I had two sons by then and she had one) were still pretty young and, being boys, weren't very interested in shopping for clothes. In fact, we usually had to take them kicking and screaming to the stores! So Karpe and I decided to "escape" our families and head up to Reading, PA to try our hands at outlet shopping. We left early on a Saturday morning in the fall, shopped till we dropped at the Vanity Fair Outlet (mostly for the kids, but also for our husbands and ourselves), then stayed overnight in Lancaster. The next day we stuck around a few hours to shop some of the outlets there, but once her station wagon was filled with bags and ready to burst at the seams, we headed home. We had spent the whole time talking, laughing, shopping and eating -- a perfect weekend!

The following year, we left late Friday afternoon when we finished work. That way, we'd have more time to spend in Reading. By the third year, we were taking the day off on Friday so we'd have three full days to shop....and the rest is history! It was our special time together...a time when we could be by ourselves and talk about anything, serious or not. We made that trip every year for 13 years! By then, the boys were grown and she had a daughter who had reached the age where she wanted to pick out her own clothes. We still go shopping together, though, but her now teenaged daughter usually comes along, too.

Now our lives are so busy that sometimes weeks go by before we get a chance to talk on the phone; months pass when we don't get to see each other, even though we don't live very far apart. We're always together at family events, though, because she and her family are as much a part of my family as if they'd been born into it! We make the time to see each other and spend time together -- whether it's going to a craft show, like we did today...or having dinner together...or when she comes to my chorus or quartet performances or I go to her school to watch her kindergarten students perform. She's even an official groupie for my quartet! She came with us to Ocean City last April for our first competition and I'm hoping she'll come with us again next April for our second try.

We'll be together again for Thanksgiving as we are every year, this time at her house. My whole extended family will be there and I'll be helping her prepare the feast. Like I said, it really doesn't matter what it is we do when we're together; we just like to be in each other's company.

I'm thankful for Karpe, my bestest friend!

November 20, 2009

I'm Thankful for My Children!

I have been blessed to be the mother of two fine young men, Paul and Dan. I look at them and still can't believe they are all grown up! Dan (my "baby") is going to be 26 next week and Paul will be 30 in January. Wow! I look at them and wonder how they ever started out as little, tiny infants. Where did the years go?

I'd like to say that raising them was easy, but there were plenty of times it wasn't. We were much luckier than many parents, though, because our boys had no severe disabilities or handicaps to deal with. They never got in trouble with the law or harmed another person. They're good, decent men.

We had our share of illnesses, broken bones, various sprained body parts, etc., as they were growing up, but for the most part, they were healthy. They weren't perfect, but then, neither were we. We went through tough times with them emotionally, as many families do. We've dealt with depression, low self-esteem issues, ADHD, drug use (just one of them), divorce (and its aftermath), etc. But that's behind them now and they have both turned out to be fine, upstanding citizens.

My relationship with them has gotten much closer the last 7 years since my husband and I separated and divorced. A year later, he moved 3000 miles away and that really took its toll on my sons. I think they felt abandoned, so they turned more and more to me for support. Even though they were both grown up by then, I was the "resident" parent and they took turns moving in with me, then out, then back in, then out.... Now they are both on their own and handling things fairly well. I still get an occasional call from one of them for some financial help, but I've also been able to turn to the other one now and then when I needed a few bucks myself. It's good to know that we help each other -- we're all adults and our relationships are on an adult level. Still, they'll always be my little boys in my heart.

One thing that I really appreciate is the way that they've become very protective of me since the separation. They check up on me, call several times a week (if not daily), listen when I've had a bad day and need to talk about it, and come help me with chores that I can't handle by myself. They both have wonderful hearts and reach out to help others, often before being concerned about themselves. What more could a mother ask for? They turned out good!

I am thankful every single day for my sons. They are the light of my life!

Thankful for Medical Science

This is supposed to be my post for Thursday, even though it's now officially Friday since it's after midnight. However, I haven't gone to bed yet, so as far as my body and mind are concerned, it's still Thursday.

Today -- actually, this week -- I am very thankful for the advances in medicine that have taken place during my lifetime, especially in the last 20 years or so. Why? Because this week, two of my good friends had surgeries and came through them with flying colors. ML had a knee replacement on Tuesday. Imagine that! When I was in my 20's or so, I used to watch "The Bionic Man" on TV and think how silly it was for a human to have man-made parts "installed" in his body. If only I'd known then that it would someday be a reality... ML is the 4th or 5th person I know who's had this surgery. I understand it is quite painful and a long recovery, but everyone I know who's been through it has never regretted the surgery for one single moment! I wish ML well and a speedy recovery.

Another friend had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, very common these days. Yet, I remember not too long ago when all that could be done was exercises and physical therapy. The surgery wasn't always successful. Truth is, it still doesn't work 100% of the time, but the success rate has gotten much higher and the surgery is now done quickly and easily, sometimes using lasers instead of scalpels. She should be feeling much better in a day or two.

I think I've mentioned before that a dear friend (and my niece's partner) recently had surgery for breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and has to have radiation, but she also was told for sure yesterday that she will not need any chemotherapy! Hooray! The lump was found early enough that it was very small and self-contained. The amazing part is that the doctors were able to test the tumor to determine definitively what kind of cancer it was, what the chances are of it reoccurring, whether or not a course of Tamoxifen would help fight it off, and much more. These tests and medications have all come about within the last 10 years or so. My best friend is a breast cancer survivor (20+ years) and was part of the study that looked at lumpectomies vs. mastectomy. That's how relatively new this treatment is, yet it is now the treatment of choice. Just a little over 30 years ago, two of my cousins each contracted breast cancer while in their late 30's/early 40's; each had a radical mastectomy, but died just a few years later. Look how far medicine has come since then!

I also think of several friends I have who have battled colon cancer and won! Nobody likes to go through a colonoscopy, but it's such a great tool for early detection, why wouldn't you have one if your doctor thinks you should? My father died of colon cancer in 1973 at the age of 54. They didn't have anywhere near the diagnostic tools or treatments that are available today. Another wonderful advance in medicine.

These are just some of the reasons that I've always been a big supporter of the American Cancer Society and other organizations that fight this dreadful disease. The money I've raised for ACS has gone to help fund research to find cures, ways to prevent and diagnose cancer, as well as treatment programs. I've seen a lot change in my lifetime. Hopefully, by the time my grandchildren (when I have some) grow up, cancer will be a thing of the past, along with many other diseases.

So, today I am especially thankful for medical research and breakthroughs. We've come a long way, baby!

November 18, 2009

I'm Thankful for Laughter

I received an e-mail from my good friend Laurie a little while ago. It was a whole bunch of puns, some of them ridiculously bad! And yet, they had me giggling and laughing out loud!

Sometimes we get so bogged down in life that we forget that we don't have to take everything so seriously. I often say to people, "Don't ever lose your sense of humor. Sometimes, it's all you have!"

I was going to forward Laurie's e-mail to friends and family, but instead, I'm putting the puns here on my blog so you can all enjoy them! Feel free to copy and paste them into an e-mail to send to your family and friends or anyone else you think needs a giggle today!

ALL PUNS INTENDED (and absolutely no offense to anyone is intended, either!)
1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."
3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.
4. A dyslexic man walked into a bra.
5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: "A beer please, and one for the road."
6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"
7. "Doc, I can't stop singing The Green, Green Grass of Home." "That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome." "Is it common?" "Well, It's Not Unusual."
8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," says Dolly. "It's true; no bull!" exclaims Daisy.
9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.
10. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.
11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn't find any.
12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know, I amputated your arms!"
13. I went to a seafood disco last week... and pulled a mussel.
14. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.
15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, "Dam!"
16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Not surprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office, and asked them to disperse. "But why," they asked, as they moved off. Because," he said. "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."
18. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt , and is named 'Ahmal.' The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him 'Juan.' Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."
19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
20. A dwarf, who was a mystic, escaped from jail. The call went out that there was a small medium at large.
21. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

November 17, 2009

Giving Thanks - Day 7

This one was easy to come up with: I am thankful that the water damage to my downstairs neighbors' apartment didn't come from my condo!! I got a couple of frantic voicemails from them while I was at my class at the Library of Congress today. They had water coming into their laundry room and thought it might be coming from my place. I told them I hadn't done laundry in a week, so I didn't think that was the problem. To make a long story short, they had the water company out here to check things out, along with a plumber and a locksmith to get into another neighbor's apartment to check (under the watchful eye of a member of the condo Board). It turns out it was the other guy's washer that was leaking because he had turned on the washer before going to work this morning and didn't know the bottom had rusted out of it. Since the tub never was able to fill, the water just kept running all day!

I feel so bad for my neighbors, Jim and Jackie. This is the 3rd or 4th time they've had water damage that wasn't their fault! (Only once was it something from my apartment and then it was a minor fix.) They just can't seem to get a break!

I'm also thankful that none of the water came into my apartment. The last time we had a problem, it was from my upstairs neighbor and my place got hit hard! At least I don't have to worry about any more repairs and I'm not responsible for this one, so it won't cost me anything.

But, let this be a lesson to all who read this post: never, never turn on an appliance and leave home with it running! You never know what may happen!

November 16, 2009

Giving Thanks - Day 6

Although I just finished posting my thoughts from Days 4/5, I need to catch here's my thanks for Day 6: I am thankful for music!

Tonight is the weekly rehearsal for our chorus, the Heart of Maryland, so it's only natural that I spend today being thankful that I have so much music in my life. You may have just read how my quartet, Hearts Content, sang at Hannah's naming yesterday. These two groups -- or maybe I should say group (chorus) and sub-group (quartet) -- are a huge part of what defines me. Music has been a part of my life for as along as I can remember. I've always enjoyed singing, I started playing the piano at age 5 and the guitar at age 14. I've sung in chorus in high school and college, performed in numerous amateur shows, and discovered barbershop harmony over 30 years ago. I wasn't able to stick with it then, though, because I was about to become a mother and needed to concentrate on that instead. I went back to it -- and joined the chorus -- in November 2000, when my younger son was a Junior in high school. I've been with it ever since and love singing even more than ever!

There's much more to it than just the singing, though. This chorus...this wonderful group of women...opened their hearts to me and welcomed me into the fold with hugs and friendship, something we still do with every new member who joins the group! They have become some of my closest friends and have helped me get through the highs and lows of my life these past nine years. I don't know where I would have been or how I would have survived without them and without the chance to sing together. Even on my darkest days, when I really didn't want to go to rehearsal because I was too tired or depressed or feeling blah, I have forced myself to go and sing. It only takes one song -- sometimes even just a few measures -- to lift my spirits and chase the clouds away! One good chord and there's a smile on my face! I thank them -- and the music itself -- for that!

We end each rehearsal by forming a circle, holding hands and singing a special song, "How We Sang Today". It's a tradition that's been in the chorus for probably as long as the chorus has existed, certainly longer than I've been a member. I know it sounds corny, but it isn't. It gives us a moment to look at each other, smile and feel connected as we sing the words, "So take my hand my friend, I want to say, I'm glad we laughed and loved and sang together today." Those words ring true in my heart week after week, year after year! Singing -- especially with this group -- is downright therapeutic!

So, I'll close with one of my favorite quotes. I don't know who said it, but it's something I heard when I was a teenager and I have kept it close to my heart for my whole life....

God respects me when I work, but He loves me when I sing.

November 15, 2009

Giving Thanks - Days 4 & 5

I was away for most of the weekend at a scrapbooking retreat, so I didn't get to post what I was thankful for on Saturday or Sunday. I started to write this last night, but was too tired to finish. So, since I missed two days, I'm going to cover a big subject -- I am thankful for family!

Yesterday was the naming ceremony for my great-niece, Hannah. It was held at my sister's home where we hold most family events. What a beautiful ceremony and celebration it was! The house was filled with over 50 people, family related to both of Hannah's parents and many, many friends. My quartet was even invited to perform as part of the ceremony and for entertainment afterwards. We sang "I Hope You Dance" (originally recorded by Lee Ann Womack), a perfect song because it speaks about the future and how you should make good choices in life. It was filled with good advice for a young girl as she grows up, even though at 3 months old she was a little young to understand it.

I enjoyed the time spent with my family -- my dear sister and her wonderful husband, my brother and his wife (whom I hadn't seen in five years), my older son, my nieces, and all of my close friends, who are like an extended family to me! My only regret is that my younger son wasn't able to join us because he had no way to get home from where he lives almost 200 miles away. I know he wanted to be here, but just couldn't arrange it.

I've found that as I get older, family becomes even more important. Like I said, I hadn't seen my brother and his wife in five years. Somewhere along the way -- especially during the past 20 years -- he seems to have drawn away from my sister and me. We've never understood why and he's never really been able to explain it. My sister is the oldest of the three of us, so she has made many efforts to reach out to him and close the chasm between us. I think she may have finally gotten through to him this last time. She told him that we are all at that point where more of our lives are behind us than in front of us, and life is too short to continue to hold grudges. He accepted the invitation to Hannah's naming, and I spent a lot of time wondering how this reunion would go. I've been angry with him for a long time, but also hurt and longing for a real relationship. After all, he's my big brother and whether he knows it or not, I always looked up to him when we were growing least, when we weren't fighting, as kids often do.

It took him a while to warm up to us yesterday and I was feeling snubbed once again. But after most of the crowd had gone, I had a long chat with his wife and was very open about my concerns. She said that my brother wanted to reach out, but didn't really know where to begin. After we talked, I think she spoke to him and urged him to just start a conversation and open up. He came over and started telling me about how his son sang in an a capella group in college. We got to talking about my singing and comparing stories about being in chorus in high school, and before long, we were all laughing and joking and hugging each other. It was wonderful!

I hope this was the start of a new beginning and a new relationship, but only time will tell. We've been through moments similar to this in the past, but then things have gone cold between us again. This time, though, it feels a little different. He seemed like his old self again and I felt at ease and comfortable, instead of anxious and afraid of saying the wrong thing. My sister-in-law promised to have us all out to their house when their children and grandson are here for Thanksgiving. That would truly be a great gathering! I haven't seen my niece and nephew in more years than I can remember. And it would be wonderful to have the chance to meet my new great-nephew, who is almost a year old.

Let's hope we have finally put the past behind us. It doesn't matter what caused our paths to separate; it's water under the bridge. Only the future is important, and I hope that our future with my family will be even better than the past ever was!

November 13, 2009

Giving Thanks - Day 3

Well, today's thanks may bring a smile to your lips or even a giggle or two, but the way things have been this week, it has to be said: I am thankful that I am technically savvy!

I'm no computer genius and certainly would not be considered anywhere near being a geek, but I can use most of the common software programs that many of us use in our daily lives. Now, that may seem like a silly thing to be thankful for, but this week, I spent most of Wednesday afternoon helping my friend/chorus director, Karen, set up her new e-mail and learn how to record a show using her new Verizon FIOS DVR. Today, I was on the phone helping my friend, Sue, load music onto her iPod. I'm the Communications Chairman for my chorus, mostly because I know how to send out e-mails to everyone, with or without attachments.

I know not everyone is comfortable around computers, especially people of my generation or older. We didn't grow up using them like our children did. We lived through the days prior to remote controls, calculators, VCR's, DVD's, PC's, etc. I'm just lucky that I used computers a lot at work and had the opportunity to take formal training on things like Windows, MS Word, Excel, etc. I'm also not afraid of my computer and know that I really can't make it blow up by doing something wrong! That's what I try to teach my friends as I'm helping them.

I'm lucky in another way, too. I have great resources to turn to when I get in over my head or when something isn't working quite right. My older son, Paul, works in the field of computers and has for about 10 years. He's been a member of Geek Squad and can fix just about anything related to a PC or laptop, as well as video games, video recorders/players, etc. And if he isn't available, I turn to my brother-in-law, Ed, who is just as knowledgeable. I've learned a lot from both of them over the years.

There are lots of things about computers I'd still like to learn, like how to design a web page, how to put together a Power Point presentation (I've played with it a little, but need to learn more), graphic design, etc. At least, I'm pretty comfortable these days with Facebook and blogging, so that's a step in the right direction. I'll learn the other things sometime in the future. In the meantime, I'm thankful for what I'm able to do now and that I can help my friends when they need it.

November 12, 2009

Giving Thanks - Day 2

I've been giving a lot of thought all day to this concept of saying what I'm thankful for each day. It's easy to come up with what I think of as the "standard" things -- family, friends, good health, etc. I will address all of those in the coming days, but first, I'm trying to dig a little deeper and think about things that aren't quite so obvious. I'll save the easy subjects for days when I'm suffering from writer's block or don't have any fresh ideas.

So, today I want to say that I'm thankful for rain. I know -- if you live in the DC area, you're probably starting to sprout webbed feet because of all the rain we've had the last few days. Today was miserable to most people -- wet, rainy, windy, cold -- a good day to snuggle up in front of a roaring fire with a good book and a hot toddy. I agree with that and admit that it's a little bit difficult to actually admit I'm thankful for rain on a day like today. However, that having been said, I decided to look at the positive and think about all of the good things associated with rain.

First of all, it's better than snow! If all this rain had come down when it was 30 degrees colder, we'd have over a foot of snow, so I'm thankful that didn't happen. Of course, the most obvious positive is that rain is necessary for the plants, trees and grass to grow. Everything will be green and lush for the next few days, so that's a good thing. Rain shows that Mother Nature is still doing her job by providing the water that we need for survival, too.

The best thing about rain, though, is that sometimes, if you're very lucky, it's followed by sunshine and a beautiful rainbow. Not today...but last week, when I was taking a tour group from Arlington National Cemetery to the Jefferson Memorial, we had a quick storm and then the sun peeked out from behind the clouds. We saw the most magnificent rainbow (see my post "Stop the World" for a description). Times like that seem almost magical and we can't have the rainbow if we don't also have the rain!

Finally, there are times when you really do want to snuggle up in front of the TV or a roaring fire and just give in to being lazy and rainy days are perfect for that. I wish I could have had one of those days today, but maybe the next rainy day I'll be able to give in to it.

So, enjoy the rain, if you can. Splash in the puddles...bundle up your children and take a rain hike...or sit in your favorite chair, open the curtains and just watch it come down as you sip your tea or coffee. It's a good thing!

November 11, 2009

Giving Thanks - Day 1

My friend Jenny had a great post on her Facebook page today. It said:
Let's see how many people can do this. Every day this month until Thanksgiving, think of one thing that you are thankful for and post it as your status. "Today I am thankful for..." The longer you do it, the harder it gets! Now, if you think you can do it, then repost this message as your status to invite others to take the challenge, then post what YOU are thankful for today.

I love her idea, but I want to take it even one step further. I'm going to try to write a post every day between now and Thanksgiving to say what I'm thankful for. Yeah, it's kind of corny, I guess. But the truth is that we all get so busy in our lives and so often get dragged down by the things that go wrong that we really don't spend enough time thinking about the positives and being thankful for them. I've always tried to be a positive person...a "glass is 1/2-full" kind of gal, so this shouldn't be too least, not for the first few days.

So, here we go! A new adventure....a new focus for my thoughts.

Of course, today is Veteran's Day, and I am so very thankful for all of the Veterans who have served our country and all of the men and women in the Armed Forces right now, whether in harm's way or safe at home. Where would we be without them? I'm proud to say that I thank Veterans whenever I get the chance and, as a tour guide, I get plenty of opportunities to do so. If you see a Veteran or active-duty serviceman/woman walking buy, take a moment to say thank you to them, too. Also, check out the Gratitude Campaign by following the link on the right side of my page.

More tomorrow....

November 9, 2009

Stop the World! I Want to Get Off!

Has it really been more than a month since I last posted? I'm not really sure what that says about my life. It either means that I don't have one or that the one I have is way too busy and complicated to stop and take time to write about it. In reality, it's probably a bit of both.

I feel like I've been on a merry-go-round for the last six weeks and I can't get it to slow down long enough for me to step off of it. It started with preparations for our chorus annual show on October 3, which went very well -- one of our best. As co-chairman, there are always things to do towards the end to get ready. However, I'm also the Section Leader for Basses, so I was inundated with last minute quality control tapes to listen to and approve for the other singers in the section, and that took a tremendous amount of time.

I kept telling myself that once the show was over, I could relax, but of course, that didn't happen. At that point, I was busy putting the finishing touches on the plans for our "Tennessee Road Trip with a Little Alabama on the Side". For those of you who don't know about this...the Sweet Adelines International Convention/Competition was held in Nashville Octoberr 20-25. A group from our chorus decided to attend and enjoy the competitions (we were not competing). Since I had never been to TN or anywhere around there, I put out a plea for travel companions to spend a few extra days exploring the area. We ended up with a group of five fun-loving women who flew into Memphis the Saturday before International, rented a minivan and spent four days on a road trip through Tennessee, Mississippi (just passing through), Alabama and back to TN. It was fabulous!

We spent a day in Memphis visiting Graceland and getting a private city tour from a local guide. We ate the best barbecue I've ever had in my life at the world-famous "Rendezvous" in downtown Memphis -- a place I highly recommend if you're ever in town. The next day, we drove through MS to Huntsville, AL, where we visited the NASA Rocket and Space Center. Awesome! On Monday we hit the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, AL, then headed to Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, TN. Finally, on Tuesday we headed for Nashville....with a slight detour to Lynchburg, TN for a tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery!

We met up with the rest of our chorus buddies in Nashville on Tuesday. We spent some time watching the preliminary quartet and chorus competitions, but also took some time to see Nashville. We went on the General Jackson Showboat for lunch on Wednesday and took a tour that included Opryland USA and the Grand Ole Opry on Thursday. Unfortunately, my friend and roommate came down sick on Thursday night and I ended up spending all day Friday with her at the hospital and Saturday in our room taking care of her (mostly, watching her sleep 'cause she was knocked out by the medications). I didn't mind; she would have done the same for me. Aside from that, it was a great trip and one I'll remember for a long, long time!

After I got home, I figured that now life would settle down a bit. Not! The next weekend was the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and I had yet to do a single thing to raise money. Unfortunately, a dear friend and my niece, Rachel's partner, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy on the Tuesday after I got home from Nashville. The news is good -- doctors believe they got it all out -- so that's a big relief. I used Fay as my inspiration to raise money for ACS and wrote an e-mail asking for donations to send to my friends and family. In two days, I raised $500! There's still more coming in, too. I did the walk with my friend, Sue, and we had a ball. Since it was held on Halloween morning, we even dressed up with pink boa-covered bras!

Now? NOW? Did I finally get a bit of a break? Nope! I actually had a tour coming up the following week and had to prepare for it. A LARGE group of 8th-graders from Connecticut -- 7 buses/over 300 people -- arrived last Wednesday and I was one of seven guides to show them around through Friday. It was a wonderful group and I had a lot of fun with the students and adults on my bus! But it had been over five months since my last tour, so I was a little rusty, both physically and mentally. All went well, though, and we were blessed with three days of beautiful weather! We had a little rain on Thursday afternoon, followed by the shining sun, which created a gorgeous double rainbow that arched over the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial! It was so clear that we could actually see it all the way down to where it "touched" the ground on each end. I looked hard for the pot of gold, but couldn't find it. Rats!

So, maybe NOW things will slow down and the merry-go-round will stop spinning, right? Wrong! This week, I'm scrambling to update my resume for a big job fair for tour guides tomorrow...working on music for chorus because we have a coach coming to our rehearsal tonight...putting together the monthly newsletter for the chorus...completing a take-home exam so I can finish my requirements to move from Associate Member to Full Member in the Guild of Professional Tour Guides...getting ready to go to a scrapbooking retreat this weekend...working on quartet holiday music (including a new song) because we have a whole bunch of gigs coming up starting with Black Friday...looking forward to the naming ceremony and celebration for my great-niece, Hannah...still attending class at the Library of Congress....etc. You know, for someone who is "retired", I sure am busy!!

Maybe -- just maybe -- once we get past the naming, I can get a least, until Thanksgiving rolls around. My dear friend, Karpe, has offered to have the whole family to their place for dinner and I agreed to help her cook. We're both so busy lately (see above!) that we haven't seen much of each other, so I'm looking forward to it. It that's what it takes to get to spend time together, so be it!

The moral of the story is this: I wish I could post more often, but I'm doing the best I can. Thanks for reading when I do put things up and please check back frequently. I'll try to do better!