These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas in Hollywood

 

I have never understood why “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is considered a holiday song. The mere mention of snowflakes hardly seems reason enough to qualify, but the song is about to be all over the danged place, now that it’s December, so I am obviously wrong in my thinking.

 

Anyhoo – I thought I’d share a few of my own favorite things to kick off the last month of the year. Bear in mind that if you ask me next week, my list will probably change. But this is today. And these are some of the things I’m digging on…

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Squares

 

Squares. I’ve been crocheting all kinds of 9-inch squares to be made into blankets for women undergoing serious treatments at a local hospital. I don’t know how to knit, so I crochet. I don’t really know how to properly crochet either, so the squares turn out a little janky sometimes. That’s okay. It’s all done with good intentions and love, and I like to think those sentiments outweigh my lack of skill. I will likely never meet any of the recipients of the assembled blankets, and that’s okay, too. Doing something for others without accolades is ridiculously fulfilling. I highly recommend it.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Pearls

 

Pearls. I don’t own real pearls, but I do have a few strands of fake beauties. I wear them all the time and someone always comments about how they wish they’d thought to wear their own pearls. The large plastic baubles seen here are especially dear to me. I got them when I was 15 years old. I was at a thrift store in Griffin, GA, and when I spotted these, I knew they were destined to be mine. I can’t remember the price, but they were either fifteen or thirty-five cents. Either way, it was a bargain and I’m still smitten.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Sunsets

 

Sunsets. We’ve been having some real doozies lately and I’m loving them. I take as many photos as I can, for painting references. The thing about sunsets is they’re so spectacular, if I were to paint them, no one would believe it. They’re beyond anything I could come up with on a canvas, and yet I desperately wish I could capture some of what I see in the sky. I try, anyway. And I fail. And then I try again.

 

Mister! Mister!

 

Mister. He pretty much makes the list, no matter when. But it’s still nice to actually like the guy. And for some strange reason, he continues to come home every day. To me. I’m no picnic, y’all, and I know that he could change his mind about this whole till-death-do-us-part business and decide to mosey elsewhere in life. (It could happen.) So I appreciate whatever time I get with the fella. It counts. A lot.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - First Christmas Card of the Season

 

The first Christmas Card of the Year. I always marvel that we continue to receive cards each December! Some of that awe comes from the fact that we occasionally don’t send squat, and reciprocity would dictate not receiving anything in return. But come December, that first card arrives and I start grinning. This year’s first-of-the-season greeting was from our mail carrier. She wanted to let us know that she was retiring.  I’ve liked that gal and she’ll be missed. But life keeps going (if we’re lucky and a cheet-o in a slumpy suit doesn’t get us all killed). So I wish our now former mail carrier the best as she embarks on the next part of her journey.

 

Happy Birthday, Gwendlyn!

 

Friends. The Social Season is in full-swing and I’m already tired. Grateful, but tired. Maybe it’s age, but I am in the throes of deep appreciation for my friends. I, like a lot of folks, know scads of people. But friends, well, that’s another matter. Having friends in one’s life – people we can call on in emergencies or times of need – is a blessing. I don’t get to see these friends nearly enough. But when I do, I catch myself smiling more than usual. I’d say that’s a pretty good sign of how much I care for them there folk. What a gift.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas CDs

 

Christmas Music. Even though I don’t get the song referenced in this post’s title being a Christmas song, I still really like when all that great music rolls around. Mister and I have drawers full of Christmas CDs, and will likely add another to the mix this year. It takes a near Herculean effort just to get through them during the month of December. And that is why, Mister, we’ll start listening to them today. I really can’t believe I have to explain my reasons for this year after year, but since you seem to forget from one December to the next, Mister, consider this a written explanation. But I digress… Some songs are loved more than others, naturally, and I’m pretty excited to hear them. Yeah, sure – I may still be wearing flip-flops throughout the month, but a gal can dream. And my dreams are currently taking place in a winter wonderland. Where the soundtrack rules.

 

We’ve got 31 days left in this year, friends. Let’s make it count. I intend to live those days with some of my favorite things keeping me company. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put on my fake pearls, load the car with a few good Christmas CDs, drop off some crocheting to be donated, visit with friends and pick up a Christmas tree with Mister and get home before sunset to start decorating the tree and stringing up the holiday card display. I may throw some Barb’s Boozy Eggnog into the mix. Why not? I’ve got to shake a tail feather though, as those flip-flops don’t do much in the way of keeping my feet warm after the sun goes down.

 

Tierra del Sol Foundation

 

First Street Gallery Art Center of the Tierra del Sol Foundation

 

This post is in honor of “Giving Tuesday.” Sort of, which I’ll explain in a moment. Anyhoo – this day is pretty cool, as it’s all about giving back (instead of consumer-ing the shit out of a bunch of stuff we may not actually need). This marks the 6th year of Giving Tuesday (started in New York by some fine folks at the 92nd Street Y) and it has become a global opportunity to make a difference, instead of merely shopping. It is held on the first Tuesday after American Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – 28 November of this year. The point, as I understand it, is to donate to a worthy cause and help the world in the process. Every little bit counts, and as most of us have something we care about, if not a few things, we get to make a difference by supporting those whose work is all about making a difference. In other words, even if I only give a couple of dollars to a charity I respect, it will be added to someone else’s couple of dollars, and will eventually pay for progress and positive change. That’s the idea anyway and I believe it.

 

First Street Gallery Art Center: Various Artist Works

 

But Giving Tuesday is only part of what I want to share. I recently toured First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont, CA. The center is part of Tierra del Sol Foundation and I swear – they ought to call themselves Tierra del Soul! I had been told about First Street and had even read a bit online, but I was not prepared for the magnificence I witnessed during that tour. The short explanation is this: this center serves folks with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, by giving them creative space to create their own art. I believe there were 40 artists at work in the space that day – along with about 10 instructors -  and yet it was incredibly quiet. Everyone was focused on the art! And what art is was! I saw people working on paintings, sculpture, drawing, mixed media pieces and a bunch of other things I haven’t yet gotten my mind around. It was overwhelming, in the most beautiful way.

 

First Street: Artist Helen Rae

 

And it gets better! The artists at this fabulous center are good, y’all. They are encouraged to sell their works and they earn income from their sales. Lest you think the pieces are sold only from the center itself, let me tell you that some of the artists I met are getting gallery shows around the freaking globe. Helen Rae‘s work is highly collected and demands a pretty penny. I watched her working and was taken by how content she seemed. Here she was, in a room full of people, sharing table space with another artist, and yet she was fine. She had all the space she needed in order to create. I certainly took note of the situation and hope I remember what I saw, especially if I get all whiny about my own creative corner set-up.

 

First Street: Artist Joe Zaldivar

 

Another of the astounding artists I met was Joe Zaldivar. Joe was so smiley and industrious! I saw him working and can tell you this – the man is fast. He was free-handing every aspect of the work and I was blown away by the results. I can’t draw a straight line to save my life, but Joe sure can. His pieces are fun and detailed and they really make me happy. Joe is also in demand and showing his work around the world. It doesn’t surprise me, either, as I can’t be the only person who sees his pieces and smiles from the inside out.

 

First Street: Artist Dru McKenzie

 

As the tour continued, I met artists who are creating characters for all sorts of ideas (animation projects, games) and I could barely keep the flies from coming in my mouth because I could barely lift my chin up from the floor. The work was that impressive. And so were the artists. I saw human beings being treated like human beings. The artists I met were confident and capable folks who were treated with respect. It was beautiful. I have to tell you – I felt there was well-deserved and healthy swagger in that room. I was in awe. Still am.

 

So here’s the deal. On this Giving Tuesday, I plan to send a little money to the fine folks at First Street Gallery Art Center. My contribution may only be a drop in the bucket, but as I recently told a friend, buckets are filled by drops. Every little bit, y’all. Every little bit. And I encourage you to honor the soulful intent behind Giving Tuesday and give to a cause that makes your heart smile. If you can give generously, great! If you can give a little, great! Because if you can give anything at all, you are blessed. It’s a wonderful thing – being blessed. It is greater still to know it.

 

Hump Day

 

 

I don’t always think about Wednesdays as being the middle of the work week. But once in a while, the thought crosses my mind. And on those occasions, I understand why some folks need to get through and over Hump Day.

 

Depending on one’s life and schedule, weekends can be a blessing. For me, the weekend means hanging out with Mister. Which I love. The weekend also means cooking (and eating) good food. Maybe seeing loved ones. Maybe just chilling the hell out.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that weekends may be a curse for some folks. Maybe there’s ugliness in a relationship and the weekend brings too much time with someone. Or maybe there’s a double-shift on Saturday and the very thought of punching that clock is draining. If you’ve never felt the dread that accompanies painful situations – be they professional or personal – consider yourself blessed. We are not all on the same schedule, nor are we all wearing the same shoes. A whole lot of souls do not look forward to certain days of the week.

 

Today, in the middle of the work week, I happen to feel blessed. I’m healthy and loved. I have work to occupy my hands and creative endeavors to occupy my spirit. Today I will tick this Hump Day off the calendar, moving me 24 hours closer to Friday and to whatever the weekend provides. I’m already excited.

Running on Empty

 

 

Last week I came upon this empty fridge and it was funny. And sad. And stark. And clean. And then funny again, as the bubbles were left open to the elements (no cork) and the small plate on the top shelf held a single, shriveled jalapeno pepper.

 

I can’t remember the last time our fridge was this empty. And for that, I’m grateful. Truth is, we have plenty to eat. And when I think about that in a larger context, it breaks my heart. That’s why I offer to buy food for beggars. And why I often cook food for a monthly charity dinner. On those occasions, while my actions may actually be the most I can do, I feel as if I’m doing the least I can. It’s tricky.

 

But back to the empty fridge shown above. It wasn’t as sad as it may appear, as it was in a seldom-used kitchen in a large building. Only a couple of employees have access to this particular fridge. And a swell guy there told me the old jalapeno was his. He even planned to eat it. Absolutely no one stepped forward to claim the flat bubbles, however. And I don’t blame them.

An Attitude of Gratitude

 

“Here I stand; I can do no otherwise. God help me.”

Martin Luther

(1483 – 1546)

 

 

 

 

The photo above was taken in the cab of a tow truck. As I was taking the pic, I was in that danged tow truck and my old Volvo was being towed. It’s a funny story, actually…

 

On Friday I had about a million, billion, god-zillion things to do. One item on my list was to go downtown to the fabric district, where I needed to pick up some fringed trim. At my local fabric store, I found a fringed trim that was sort of okay and that I could live with, but not quite what I had envisioned. With a coupon, that trim would have cost $7.50 per yard. In the fabric district, I found precisely what I was looking for at – wait for it – $2 per yard. But I digress. While I would ordinarily take the train downtown, I had other to-do items that day. Items that weren’t on the train’s route and required me driving. So I drove downtown. No problem. I jiffy-quick ran into the fabric store, found what I wanted, bought it and very nearly skipped back to my car in the adjacent lot. I climbed into the old gal and hit the engine and – nothing. I mean absolutely nothing happened. As I’ve lived with my old Volvo for 16 years now, it wasn’t my first rodeo. So I grabbed the branch on the tree and shifted the gears. There was no resistance of any measure.

 

Years ago I had a similar experience and called AAA. On that occasion, the tow truck driver looked under the car and found the problem: the gear shift had become detached from the mechanism that actually shifts the danged gears. That guy was a mensch, I tell you, and he had me take a look beneath the car so that I’d understand the issue and be able to handle it myself, should the problem occur again. So Friday, in that downtown L.A. parking lot, I remembered the day the AAA tow truck driver taught me to fish (instead of merely giving me a fish), and I got down on the ground and reached beneath my car. Sure enough – the problem was the same as on that long-ago day. I reconnected the gear shift parts, asked the parking lot attendant for a tissue, cleaned my hands enough to not oil up my steering wheel and that was that. I started the car just fine and hit the road. I was off to my next task.

 

After several miles, I took my designated freeway off-ramp. Just as I began slowing, I heard a loud bang beneath the car. I stopped at the off-ramp’s stop light. When it turned green, I followed traffic through a turn and onto the street, where I found myself stopped at another light. The car didn’t feel right. In fact, it felt like I was coasting to that next light instead of driving with any power. But what could I do? I was at a stop light. So I waited in the queue, then when it was my turn, I coasted through the left turn and continued to coast about a block and turned right into a parking lot where I had bid-ness to do. There was a vacant spot at the back of the lot, next to an alley and I coasted all the way into it. I checked the steering wheel and it was the same as downtown: nothing but give. I got out of the car and again got down on the ground, ready to reconnect the gear shift. But when I reached beneath the car, something was wrong. Part of the car seemed to be – missing. There was nothing to connect the gear shift to. Was that what I’d heard? Had the bang occurred when that part of my car broke off? I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected. So I stood up, retrieved my phone and called AAA. Once I was on their list and knew how long I had to wait for the tow truck to arrive, well, I went ahead and took care of my task in that area. Why not? Might as well get some things done while I waited. I handled my bid-ness and went back out to my car to wait for the AAA guy.

 

Just when I thought I’d been forgotten, the tow truck arrived and the driver did his job. I could go on and on about that guy, and in fact I may in a day or two, but for now, suffice it to say I and my car made it safe and sound to my mechanic’s and from there I got a ride home with the big guy himself. He told me he’d probably get to my car on Monday (today) and that he’d update me as soon as he could.

 

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to know how Friday went. And I want you to know how Friday went because I want you to know how I dealt with the day’s events. Basically, I chilled. When I found myself temporarily stranded downtown, I didn’t fret and instead handled the situation. Then, when I found myself permanently stranded, I sort of did the same. And not once did I stress over the scene. When I called AAA, the customer service chick even commented, “Wow! You sure do have a positive attitude about all this.” I didn’t hesitate in saying, “Well, I’m safe. And really, how cool is it that my car coasted for me for at least a quarter of a mile? That’s pretty cool, right?”

 

As of this posting, I’m still without a car. And I’m prepared to rely on my bicycle for getting around. I’m cool with that. And I’m still amazed at how charmed my day was last Friday. And I’m grateful. Not only was my attitude aces, but I had a lot to be positive about.

 

It is a wonderful thing – being blessed. It is greater still to know it. And man – don’t I know…

Tears of Joy

 

 

The other day, as I opened Christmas cards from friends around the world, I started to cry a bit. Partially because I’m grateful for the dear souls in our lives. And I happen to love getting holiday updates and photos, even if that’s the only time some of us communicate with one another.

 

But mostly, I think the tears of joy were triggered by our friend Craig, from Nashville. He wrote something or another about his gratitude for still being friends with us, after all these years. And I guess I don’t often see it from the other side. I understand how grand it is to know our friends, but it just doesn’t occur to me to see the friendship blessing as a two-way street. Craig reminded me of that, if only for a moment.

 

Mister and I are enjoying the heck out of this year’s card bounty. We’ve already received an embarrassment of riches, and there will likely be more. I won’t remember to view our relationships from the stance of others, but it sure was nice to have a glimpse through Craig’s eyes. And those tears of joy weren’t too shabby, either.

Ladies Who Lunch

 

 

Yesterday I attended a luncheon for various Southern California charitable organizations. While driving there, I kept singing “Here’s to the ladies who lunch. Everybody laugh.” Naturally, I was doing my best Elaine Stritch imitation, and only managed to stop singing aloud once I’d parked my car, walked inside and spotted another living soul.

 

Anyhoo, the charities represented serve women and children in need. Some are homeless. Others are victims of domestic abuse. Some were recently incarcerated. And some just need a little help. Some of the people who’ve decided to devote themselves to lives of service with these groups were in attendance, and a few of them spoke. I won’t lie. I teared up a couple of times and found the whole scene terribly touching. When all was said and done, I was glad to have been there. And I was grateful my life is so very filled with blessings and love.

 

After bidding adieu to various ladies, I made my way out to the car and headed home. I was singing aloud again, this time doing my best Ronnie Van Zant impression while belting out “Gimme back, gimme back my bullets” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have no idea what that was about.

 

Naughty or Nice?

 

 

I’ve been mostly nice this year, though a fair amount of naughty was sprinkled about. If I’m honest, that’s probably how most years go. I’d like to do better, but I am what I am.

 

Because I believe and – in my heart – know, I won’t wait up for Santa tonight. I’ll just snuggle under the covers, grateful to have a warm bed and a roof over my head. I’ll probably count my blessings before drifting off. Knowing me, my belly will be full and I’ll wear a smile there in the darkness. I like to think those little parts of my personality put me on the Nice List. And that Santa sees it.

 

Let me be clear about something here: I believe in Santa Claus. Maybe not in the way a child believes, but I believe just the same. It took me many adult years to get here. As a kid, I was a Santa junkie, like all the other children I knew. Then, when I was only 6 or 7, my uncle Scottie told me the most horrible story imaginable: Santa was fake. He told me how our parents get all the presents, then hide them before putting them beneath the Christmas tree each year. He even took me up into the attic of his house, to show me where all his gifts were stashed. As uncle Scottie was a couple of years older than I, he was an authority. And I believed him. Kid Christmas would never be the same.

 

I was devastated, but I kept it to myself. I had 2 younger sisters and I didn’t want them to find out about Santa. I didn’t want them to feel the heartbreak I was enduring. By the time they no longer believed in Santa, years had passed.

 

I never told on Scottie for enlightening me about Santa Claus. And to this day, I don’t blame him. He was a kid himself. Like me, he didn’t know any better. We just wanted to grow up. We thought we had to put aside childish things in order to make that happen. We thought a concrete understanding of life would bring maturity. We had no idea what we’d lose in letting go of our magical beliefs.

 

I am mostly grown now. I watch the children of friends as they marvel at December’s promise. I hear strangers admonishing their children out in the world, “You’d better be good or Santa won’t come to our house!” And I smile at all of it. For I believe in Santa Claus, too. And I believe in Magic. I believe – period. As an adult, I have regained the beauty and possibility of a child’s faith. And if that’s not Magic, I don’t know what is.

 

Grinch-mas

 

 

 

We spotted this lass with The Grinch at a local holiday celebration and chuckled. The kids were all smiles, but the actor playing The Grinch was in character big-time. That dude grimaced the entire evening and stuck out his tongue here and there.

 

A couple of days after that outing, I received notice of a local charity’s holiday wish-list. I looked through the items, to see what was needed and to figure out if I could afford to sponsor anything. Y’all – those folks had asked Secret Santa for the simplest items imaginable. Even for the kids, the requests were basic and humble. Before I knew it, I was balling like a baby. There I sat, fully aware of my being in budget mode, yet not needing a damned thing.

 

Thanksgiving may be over, but I am still feeling mighty grateful. I guess on some level I did need something: that charity’s list to remind me of just how blessed I am.

Prayer

 

 

I passed by this wall, located outside a church. I doubled back so that I could read what people were writing. Some asked for prayers relating to individuals.

 

 

Some asked for prayers for the Middle East.

 

 

Some asked for prayers relating to jobs.

 

 

Someone asked for prayers for her own home.

 

 

I read through the entire list and all the requests seemed sincere. I like that. And I like the idea of people from the community stopping by and grabbing a piece of chalk to write their personal requests. I’m quite certain not everyone leaving their mark on this wall attends that church. But, though I’m not sure about this, I think that’s what a church is supposed to be there for – the community.

 

I didn’t enter the church and I didn’t write a prayer request. It was enough for me to read the requests of others. And as I walked away, not only did I feel gratitude for my life and its blessings, I also found myself saying a few prayers for the folks who’d taken the time to write their requests outside the church. I guess that makes the wall a success.