The new year.

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The new year has begun. It’s now the time of reminiscing about times gone by and forming resolutions for the future. As I look back on 2012, I realize that, for me, it was a busy year. I had to go to Louisiana for work two separate times while moving into a place of my own in between. Oh, and there was also the publishing of my novel on Amazon! Following those busy weeks came a change in my job which meant more responsibility. All the way up to the end of the year I have been busy.

I am hoping that 2013 will bring some rest and relaxation. So far it’s been okay, as I just had the last four days off from work. Of course, I was sick for most of that time, but I did get some of the rest that I needed.

Recently I saw a sign out in front of a neighborhood Salvation Army that stated “Find Jesus this Christmas.” Every time I drove by that sign I would think “Why? Is He lost?”

I know that the people of the Salvation Army meant well by posting the sign. It was a reminder that some people are indeed “lost,” on their journey through life. The holidays most often bring on depressing thoughts as some people have no family or friends to share the time. Or perhaps the money in the bank accounts is low, and people feel that they cannot give presents as much as they want to. Losing yourself in negative and berating thoughts can be a terrible thing, especially during the Christmas season.  So, yes, people can lose their way on their journey.

But,the good news of course, is that Jesus is never lost. He is always there. We just have to learn to recognize Him. We have to realize that as children of God, we are His representatives to those who have lost their way.

As I reminisce about the last year, I wonder how good a job I have done to be that representative of Jesus. While performing my “day job,” I know that I have shown understanding and compassion to those who needed it. I know that in my personal life I have been there for those who called on me. Through all of the events that were celebrated in 2012, I know that there were times when, if they were looking, people would have seen Jesus through me.

Oh, I am positive there were times when I failed at being the whole person that God desires me to be, and that’s okay. One of the greatest gifts that God gives us is His grace. This journey of life is ever changing and each day is a new one to adapt to those changes. So when I failed, I know that God allowed me the grace to get it right the next time.

As the new year begins, we are given even more chances to show God’s love and understanding to those who are don’t know them. It’s not always an easy thing to accomplish, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people set that goal as one of their resolutions this year? How can we look with the eyes of God on those we see every day? Will we see those who are struggling and show compassion toward them?

How can we be the arms of God, reaching out to lift up those who are downtrodden? Can we surround those who are lonely with a warm hug of comfort?

Wherever our legs and feet take us, can we walk a walk of understanding?

Maybe the new year will bring us to new places, where we will meet more people and have more opportunities to show God’s love. Whatever comes with 2013, I pray that when I look back on it, we will be pleased with all that was accomplished. And maybe just a few more people who were lost will have found their way to the peace and salvation that comes with Jesus.

Thanksgiving Memories

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When I was a kid Thanksgiving was always a big holiday. It was one of the few holidays that my mother seemed to enjoy, even though she did most of the work to make the day a special one. Preparations started weeks before. October was the month of the turkey shoots, where my Dad would go with his rifle and shoot at a target. The closest shot to the paper target won the bird. Some years my Dad would succeed, and some he would not. My mother, without saying a word, would buy a turkey anyway, just in case.

The week before Thanksgiving was the shopping week, and the cupboards would be filled with all sorts of groceries.  Most were foreign to me, as I did not spend a lot of time in the kitchen back then (and still don’t)! I remember many Thanksgiving eves when my mother would be sitting at the table in the kitchen peeling and cutting potatoes. I was always amused watching her cut the turnip, and wondered how she did not end up cutting off a finger in the process, as the vegetable is so hard on the outside. To this day I don’t like turnip much, and I think it’s because I know how my mom struggled with them all of those years!

Thanksgiving morning I would wake to the aroma of turkey baking in the oven. My Dad always made breakfast that day, as Mom worked around him continuing her preparation for dinner. Dad would make his “famous” pancakes, and we’d sit and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while enjoying the pancakes lavished with maple syrup. My Dad was just as excited about the parade as I was, and we’d wait with anticipation to see Santa on his sleigh.

I usually helped to set the table with the special blue plates. I remember them well, as they had a New England scene on them, with people walking on a path. As a kid waiting for the big dinner, it seemed as if a lifetime had passed since breakfast. I used to joke that by dinner time I was so hungry I could eat the people right off the plates!

I never knew who was going to join us for the Thanksgiving feast. Our house was always full of relatives and friends. My Mom invited anyone who had no other place to go for the day, to come and enjoy the big meal with us. My Dad would put the large leaf in the dining room table, and some years I really don’t know how we all fit there, but we managed. No matter what the economic situation from year to year, somehow my mother was always able to have an abundance of food prepared for all.

I remember one year there was a big snow storm on Thanksgiving day. My Dad and I left to go and get my grandmother, to bring her to our house for the day. She lived only about two miles away. It had snowed so much that we had to shovel our way out of our driveway and then down her driveway before Dad could drive on it. It seemed to me as if it took us about two hours to accomplish the task of retrieving Granny. But back then no one questioned it. My mother said “go get Ma,” and we did.

Once the big meal was over, it was time to clean up. There were no dishwashers back then, so I spent many hours during those years at the kitchen sink. Mom would always insist on washing, and I’d take turns drying the dishes with whoever else was there to help.

After the dishes were all put away and we’d had dessert, my Dad would usually bring out the guitar. We’d sit around for hours singing songs and playing instruments (including spoons and kazoos).  It was always a wonderful day.

Time went on and before I knew it, I was away at college. That was the first year that I could not go home for Thanksgiving. My cousin and I went searching in Tampa, Florida, for a restaurant that was open. Back then, almost every place was closed. There was no Black Friday, and there were no stores open at all on Thanksgiving day. We found a Chinese restaurant that was actually open, and we were the only customers in there! I missed the traditional Thanksgiving meal and my family, but I was glad to have my cousin with me to share the day.

The next year my Mom died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Thanksgiving would never be the same without her. My sister and brother-in-law took on the task of hosting Thanksgiving dinner in their home, and have been doing so for these last 28 years. Other traditions have formed over those years, and we’ve been able to come together and celebrate our blessings together. We’ve had great times with the next generation of the family, as the nieces and nephews now have children of their own to join in the feast.

I have been blessed in my life, and have many things for which I am thankful. As this Thanksgiving day approaches, and I am remembering the days of my childhood, I realize that I am one of the fortunate ones in this world. I was blessed with loving parents who made Thanksgiving a special day for me. And even after all these years, I still wait with anticipation to see Santa in the Macy’s parade!

Sometimes it just doesn’t get any better than that. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Windy and the Class Reunion

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This weekend was my high school class reunion. It has been 30 years since graduating high school, but my first time attending a reunion. I was looking forward to the event, but knew that I needed to prepare. First, my hair was getting a little out of control, so I went to get a hair cut. Of course, as the woman was cutting, she asked for my opinion regarding the length. I should have known better and should have chosen to stay on the conservative side. But no. I kept telling her to go just a little shorter. The end result: my hair was so short I looked like Jamie Lee Curtis in those yogurt commercials, complete with grey!

The next evening I grabbed the hair dye and chose a darker brown in order to get rid of that grey. This would have been okay, except that I am 48 and chose a color for a 28 year old.

Moving on from that, I decided to get a manicure. My nails were long, but in need of proper filing. Off to the salon I went, where I had a gift certificate from last Christmas that I hadn’t used yet. But alas, when I arrived at the salon they were closed. Since I had waited until the last day to get the manicure, I ended up going to a different nail salon. The Oriental woman took one look at my long nails and tried to convince me into getting a French manicure. She insisted that my nails would look great because of the length. But I didn’t want a French manicure, because the base they use is pink in color. It is fall, and in my opinion, pink is a spring/summer color.

After much debate, I insisted on an appropriate red. As she was starting to file the nails, the woman kept commenting on how dry my hands were, and that I needed their special paraffin wax treatment. I quickly grew tired of arguing with her, and acquiesced to the treatment.

The woman then rolled up the sleeves of my blouse, as she was talking to me, but I couldn’t understand much of what she was saying because her accent was very thick. Then she slapped a bunch of exfoliating gel on my arms and hands, and began to vigorously rub. As she continued to speak in her language, several other workers came over to observe. The next thing I knew five or six other nail technicians began to touch my arms, all the while talking to the woman in a language foreign to me!

After the exfoliating, she washed my arms and and hands, and then commented on how soft they were. That brought the attention of the other workers, who came over a second time to touch my arms and hands! I got feeling that perhaps I was the first sucker (uh, I mean customer) to actually say “yes” to the special treatment. Finally she finished with the manicure and my choice of color was perfect.

When the color was dry, and after placing my hands in baggies of hot wax, she placed moisturizing lotion with lemon oil in it and began rubbing it in to my hands and arms. The other workers must have seen this before, because none of them came to observe. I relaxed, thinking I was no longer subject to embarrassment, when she began to punch my arms, moving up and down them as if she was tenderizing meat! My arms had so much oil on them that they slipped off of the table and BAM, she hit the table with her fist, completely missing my arm! Finally the ordeal was over and I walked out of the shop wondering why I had subjected myself to such shenanigans and had paid $ 45 for it all!

The next day I dressed for the party,put on my makeup, and took a look in the mirror. A big guffaw escaped me, as I realized that with the short hair I looked like I was going to a Chaz Bono fan club event, instead of my class reunion!

Off to the event I went anyway. It was a strange occasion as I had not seen most of my classmates in thirty years. Surely I was in shock as people kept telling me that they recognized me and that I hadn’t changed in 30 years! I was thinking “Really? Did I look like this???”

I met my old friends and headed to the bar for a vodka with cranberry juice. We spent the rest of the night trying to figure out who everyone was. Some spouses came to the reunion, which ended up being a cause for confusion, as I tried to figure out if they were actual classmates, or spouses of classmates. I ended up just introducing myself to everyone and waited for them to respond!

Some of the women I recognized right away, as they had not changed much over the years. But there were others who I just could not place. I would have been upset with myself over this, since I had glanced at my old yearbook prior to the reunion, but everyone else seemed to be just as perplexed as I was, so I was able to laugh at the situation. I also realized that most of the women had done the last minute coloring to their hair, because some had the exact color that they had in high school, with no grey roots! Most of the men had changed drastically. Baldness or grey hair was prevelent among the men. No yearbook picture was going help me put names to their faces. But when I heard their voices, the memories returned.

There were appetizers available, and I figured that I’d better eat something. Drinking without eating is no longer a good idea for me. So I headed over the to table. It was an antipasto spread, which was nice. I lingered at the table, trying to decide what I could have that 1) would not give me bad breath and 2) would not get stuck in my teeth. I knew that the peppers and meats were out of the question. So I chose some marinated mushrooms, and put three on my plate. But then I was standing there trying to talk to people with a drink in one hand and a plate in the other. I could not shake hands and had to give open armed hugs instead, while balancing the plate of mushrooms and hoping that neither the drink or the food spilled on anyone! It was a useless situation, so I eventually put the plate down without eating anything, and chose to keep the drink.

After a while I headed over to the bar again, where I ordered a vodka tonic. The very young bartender said “you know that you ordered a vodka with cranberry last time, right?”  Apparently the choice to dispense with the food was not a good one!  I gave myself a break and laughed at the drink order. “Oh, yeah,” I said. “I meant to order the cranberry!”

“No problem,” he said. One minute later he placed the drink on the bar. But it was clear and not red.

“You know you just made the vodka tonic, right?” I asked him. We both laughed, and I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only one who seemed out of sorts at the reunion. He then told me that he was also a graduate of the same high school, and had graduated in 2005. “You’ll be at one of these one day,” I told him. “And people that you knew so well will be hard to even remember!”

Later dinner was ready and again I was faced with choices. I viewed the options and chose a little salad, chicken, and a roll. I did not choose vegetables, since one of them was broccoli, and I did not want to worry all night that I was talking to people with that stuck in my teeth!

Oh, but it was good to reconnect with so many people from my past. Where have they been for the last 30 years, and what are they doing now? I could not tell you. Each time I reintroduced myself, the classmate would ask me where I was living now or what I was doing. By the time I told my story, someone else would come along, or we would be interrupted, and the other person never had the chance to tell his or her story to me!

For some odd reason I did not have to use the bathroom facilities all night. As I was driving home, I was thinking that I should have gone to do a makeup check, but I hadn’t.  I was concerned that with all of the laughing, to the point of tears, that the mascara and eye liner I had put on had run. For all I knew, I had looked like a raccoon all night!

So when I arrived home I checked the mirror, and everything held. Phew. I actually still looked good after the evening of festivities, and was happy. That moment of bliss did not last long, however. I washed up and as I started to brush my teeth, I realized that there were pieces of chicken stuck in my teeth! I avoided the main “stuck in the teeth” foods, and was outdone by chicken. After 30 years, will I now be remembered as the classmate with food in her teeth?

Still, I shared many laughs with old friends as we spent three hours trying to identify the others in the room. By the end of the night my brain was exhausted from retrieving files stored in the archives for thirty years. But it was a great trip down memory lane and I am so glad that I was able to attend the reunion. I think I may suggest name tags for the 40th, though. And next time? I will get let my hair grow out just a little longer and will do a complete check of makeup and teeth right after dinner!

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