Facets of Lucy

Looking at the various side of a life


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Taking a Second to Say Thanks

I come from a family of “thankers”.  Thank you notes are stressed early on and expected.  When my children were little, I would ask them what they liked about a gift.  They would them tell me and scribble their thanks.  I’d then print the ‘translation’ at the bottom and help them write their names.  By early elementary school, they were able to write, with help, “Thank you for the [gift[l  I like it.” The next step was to say what you liked about it.  By the time they’re in the double digits in age, each was able to write a wonderful thank you note.  Santa has always included thank you note cards in their stockings.

 

Lucas Thanks

 

I was raised to write the notes, too.  Perhaps because our military family was often far from family and friends and there were no ‘face to face’ opportunities.  Whatever the reason, I think the process of writing the notes makes the writer consider the gift and the giver through the prism of gratitude.  And, a mostly giver these days, each thank you note is read and appreciated.  We aren’t just going through the motions, By the way, while they didn’t do it when they lived at home, my children send us thank you notes, and we them.

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To me, writing thank you notes is part manners (if someone takes the time to pick out a gift for me, I want them to know I’ve received it) and part gratitude (no only received but loved).  Is email acceptable?  I think that, yes, it is.  There is no cut for the USPS required for this.  In fact, those of us who had already written our thank you notes at a post-Christmas gathering handed out our thank you notes like kids giving out Valentines.

There are the gifts that are challenges, the ones the kids received when little that were not age-appropriate (much too young, often).  Those thank you notes stress the thoughtfulness of the giver more than the gift). Cash is tricky. You aren’t really supposed to say money, so that would go, “Thank you for the generous gift; it’ll come in so handy for[whatever]. But my favorite thank you notes are the ones my children write every year to an elderly relative.  She can’t afford to buy gifts.  I manage her money and know this.  So she and I decide each year what modest gift to give them.  The gifts are not actually purchased.   I turn around and tell the kids what she “picked” for them and they write heartfelt thank you notes which mean the world to her.  We do this at Christmas and birthdays every year.  You see, there’s still a gift.  Her love for them dictates what she wants for them.  As the commercial says, “…..priceless”.

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Snowy Night Gratitude

The snow started falling last night.  It was beautiful but my 21 year old daughter still had to drive home from work at 11pm.  No, we don’t live in the hard-hit northeast facing much more snow and cold so I’m not going to complain.  However, with watchful eye on the window and cell phone at hand ready for a text or call, I went through my evening feeling anxious about her drive.  She isn’t a very experienced snow driver yet and  I am a worrier; I fear the worst, having learned about loss and children through the heartbreaking experiences of a few of my friends over the years. Grief is a horrible, painful process.  Each family dealt with it in their own unique way but I think they’d all agree that a part of them is broken.

I know when I was younger, I laughed at my parents’ concern.  I don’t know if I thought I was invincible but I brushed off their concern.  Payback is hell, as they say, and my kids laugh but humor me about my concerns.  But I still worry about their safety in unusual driving situations.

So I looked out the window, enjoying the beauty but wincing for my daughter’s drive. My husband and I were both a bit relieved when the snow plow went down our residential street.  Certainly the main roads were fairly clear if they could attack the back roads, right? It turns out that it was right, because my daughter bounced in at about the usual time.  The main roads were clear and she was home.

I’ve just written a blog post about a small snow event and my daughter getting home. I apologize but it got to me to today’s point.  I am so grateful for my four no longer really “children” children and for their health and continued safety.  There are those who would give anything to be able to write those words and my heart goes out to them.


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Glancing Back at the Past With an Eye to the Future

I’m going to try something new to me on this blog, if for no other reason that to get the blogging juices flowing again.  I’m going to try to really examine what I’m thankful for.  My daughter is very optimistic about 2014 and I am weary to the soul of  having so little to be optimistic about in the world around me.  So I start today with my first thankful mention:

Today, I entertained 16 people for Prediction Day.  At our house, on January 1st, we get together to eat New Year’s Day soup, made with black-eyed peas for luck.  Then, we read aloud our predictions for the outgoing year written a year ago and kept together in sealed envelopes  and enjoy laughing at how things actually turned out, or similarities in predictions.  For example, someone made a prediction last year about getting the troops out of Iraq but someone else predicted an engagement in the family.

In preparation for this, I was making a lot of corn bread and corn muffins.  I had 3 batches I was trying to prep simultaneously.  I had to continually remember which one needed 1 cup of flour and which needed 1 ½ and so on.   At one point, I panicked thinking I had put no baking powder in one and twice as much in another. Luckily, it worked out. Then, while the corn muffins were in the oven,  I was finishing prepping the corn bread when I looked down at the mix.  It looked as if I had put the milk and egg in there twice which was going to ruin one of the best parts of the meal.  There was no going back so that corn bread went into the oven as it was.  And it came out great! ( The recipe uses cream style corn which gives it moisture and texture and, served warm, can’t be beat.)

So I’m thankful that 16 people, some family, some as good as family, joined me in the fun of looking at the year ahead and back at the one just ended and also thankful for the blessing of the food. Most of all, I know, even if the cornbread had been ruined, all those people would still have been there for me.  How can you beat that?

Final thought:  A quote from Nelson Mandela I used as a theme for today’s celebration:

We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Happy New Year!


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Before the Catastrophe, Not After!

How do you bounce back from bad news, a lost job,  a broken heart or other of life’s crises?  Well, obviously it can be difficult.  And you can’t prepare for something you don’t know is coming, right?  There are some things we can all do: save money for an emergency, be sure we use security measures in our daily life,  watch our diets and exercise.  But these aren’t guarantees.

I found myself in this kind of situation.  I received news that wasn’t good.  After processing the news and facing my new reality, I looked for a path or plan to move forward. Unexpectedly It was unexpected when it appeared.  My two daughters had both read a book they really enjoyed and they shared it with me. One day when I was on the exercise bike reading the book, I found this quote which moved me.

The book was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Ms. Rubin’s book was based on a blog she still maintains which shares the name.  The quote, actually from a reader’s comment on her blog as I recall was as follows:

I had no life of my own, I didn’t have the first clue as to who I was or what I wanted.  It really never occurred to me in all those years of marriage that I needed to have a little tiny place for me to have my own things going on in life.  Before the catastrophe, not after!  After was too late.  I was waiting to die, but I didn’t die, God isn’t ready for what little there is of me yet.  w I see that it’s like saving money, you can’t save for when you get laid off, after you get laid off; rather, you have to save while you have a job and the money is still coming in.    Life is like that, you have to DO while you are able to think of what you want, what you like, what needs it will fill, how it will enhance your life, how it will help you to maintain you, so that you have some reserves when crunch time comes.

The writer was obviously dealing with a broken marriage.  But  the rest of the quote provided me with inspiration for my  direction.  While the writer was looking at the more practical preparations, I took away the value of doing now things that I might regret missing later.  I love the line, “Before the catastrophe, not after!” I want to spend time now with the people I love,  I want to send little notes to my children so that they have hand-written proof of how they were valued.  I want to make sure my husband has no regrets and that we build a life that is strong enough to stand against the storm.  I’m trying new activities.  I laugh with joy as much as possible. I’ve quizzed God on the why and then quickly balanced it against what he’s else he’s given me and continue to pray in grateful thanksgiving.  These are the reserves I want when crunch time comes. Thanks, Ms. Rubin, for including this message which has helped me build a path forward that will be uniquely mine.


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Standing in the Hall of Broken Dreams with Linda Ronstadt

A lot of us have music or particular songs that we relate to various points in our lives.  We have break-up songs to cry to and angry songs for when we’re mad.  We remember the song that we first slow-danced to  and what was playing at some critical moment in our lives.  And, sometimes, if we’re lucky, there’s a singer or band that we love all our lives. For me, there’s two:  James Taylor and even more, Linda Ronstadt.

I first saw Linda Ronstadt at a concert in the early 1970s. It was my first rock concert, tickets cost about $6. I thought at the time that Linda was actually the warm-up act for the Eagles. I’ve since learned that she was actually instrumental in bringing them together, hiring them as studio musicians. When it was her time to sing, she came out on stage dressed in what can only be described as a caftan (like many of us, she has fought the weight battle).  So this woman walks up to the mike and begins to sing.  I had heard her on the radio before.  Different Drum has always been my favorite song.  But her voice was so pure and her presence so powerful that I was riveted.  I don’t remember much about the Eagles’ performance  (I’m sure they were good) but I left the show a definite Ronstadt fan.

Linda Ronstadt performing in 1978

Linda Ronstadt performing in 1978

This Ronstadt fan within a few years packed up and headed to college with all my albums in tow.  Heart like a Wheel was recently released and became the theme song of all the dramatic souls on Second East.  Oh, how we sang out about faithless love on  our “hall of broken dreams”.  You’re No Good and Willin suited us all at some point as we were wooed by the fraternity boys.

Linda’s weight problem seemed handled by the end of the 1970s. Looking slim, pretty and downright athletic on the cover, she released her Living in the USA album. Some of my favorite songs off that album were a bit melancholy (Alison) and some were wonderful remakes (Love Me Tender). This was the disco period and I definitely admire that she never released an album reflecting  the popular genre.

It was after I was out of college when an opportunity arose to see Linda Ronstadt in person, at an arena in the Washington, DC metro area.  She sang so many of the songs I’d grown along with.  Even more special were my companions – my college roommate (who has since passed away) and the (then) current man in my life.

Shortly after this concert, Linda released another album, Get Closer,  It came out about the time I was marrying and having my first child so this is what my daughter learned to be danced around to; well, this and the other albums of hers that I had.  But the next two albums weren’t purchased as I followed life’s currents. For most of the late ’80’s, my top artist was Cookie Monster, singing C is For Cookies.

Technology took a turn at this point.  Record albums were replaced by cassette tapes.  Then cassette tapes were replaced by CDs.  Now CDs have been replaced by digital files.  Who knows what will come next.  While my record albums still play for me, I’ve lost my cassette tapes of Winter Light and Feels Like Home.  Around this time, Linda recorded a duet with Aaron Neville, Don’t Know Much.  Their voices blended beautifully; it was a song I really enjoyed hearing.

After that, I think Linda decided she’d played this game long enough.  She picked new directions to take for a couple of her albums.  After a long, successful career she was entitled.  She released an album of standards (think Rat Pack period music) on For Sentimental Reasons and then one with an Hispanic tilt in honor of her father entitled appropriately Cancione de mi Padre.

Yesterday, I heard that LInda Ronstadt has Parkinson’s Disease and can no longer sing.  My heart breaks for her and for her lost talent (she says she can no longer sing).  I realize that she won’t read this post but I need to send out good wishes and prayers as she joins the esteemed assembly who are similarly afflicted.  No one who has it is happy to see someone else join.  Linda, thanks for all the years of sharing your talent with us.


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What Was Missing Yesterday

Martin Luther King was assassinated when I was in the 5th grade.  We learned all about what he had lived for and his value to our country. We mourned his loss then, and still do now.  His speech was powerful as were the lessons learned by how he led his life.  He became, and remains I believe, a true American hero as much as Jefferson or Roosevelt.  I would have loved to have joined in today’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of King’s famous speech in Washington, DC.

But here is my truth:  I wasn’t invited.  Rather than celebrating as a united country, we are fractured and the day and its celebration seemed to belong only to liberals and African Americans.  Yes, it’s been covered in the press.  But, although there were local ceremonies, I don’t know where they were.  I wish communities had advertised and encouraged widespread participation, that they would not have twisted this day into a political advertisement for the Democrat party.

The average non-black citizen of the United States celebrates this speech and the life of Martin Luther King. Conservatives, too,rejoice in the progress we’ve made towards racial equality exemplified by Supreme Court  justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, presidential appointees Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, former Maryland governor Michael Steele and former Presidential candidate Herman Cain, former congressman J.C. Watts and surgeon and commentator Benjamin Carson. All demonstrate greater inclusion in our country’s political life.  We look at the famous and wealthy athletes and entertainment personalities (think Oprah or Will Smith or Bill Cosby) and see their impact on this country’s culture. We look at Prince Georges County in Maryland and see a majority African- American community (in 2010, about 65%) which is prospering with a median income in 2008 of $71,696 ($94,360 for families).

Is there still progress to be made? Of course.  Is there still racial division and racism?  Absolutely and on all sides, I’m sorry to say.  But let us not deny that progress has been made; let us not deny that most Americans agree that change over the last 50 years has been positive and that MLK deserves praise and honor for his civil rights efforts and the ultimate price he paid.  How I wish that more of us had been included in the celebration of this great American’s life and that the celebrations had stayed about him and not the politics of division practiced today. As Martin Luther King said in his famous speech celebrated today:

“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.”

None of us can walk alone.   But how I wish we’d all been invited to walk together yesterday.


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A Daycation – Making the Most of a 24 Hour Getaway

For reasons too varied and boring to explain, we’ve not had a summer vacation.

What we have had are a few long weekends.  Some of them have involved traveling to visit or help family, some were spent doing errands or household tasks.  But we had one wonderful “daycation” and I’d recommend it highly.

One late evening, my husband and I drove to a little town an hour away.  We did an errand or two and stopped at an inexpensive restaurant for a light dinner.  While there, we had a good laugh at one trucker’s parking job.,

Parking a Truck at a Strip Mall

Parking a Truck at a Strip Mall

After waiting out a sudden downpour, we made it to the car and headed to the next town over where we stayed the night.  What a nice beginning for our daycation!  There’s a little ice cream shop in the second town which makes THE best chocolate malts ( a kind of milkshake).  We each enjoyed one while we walked around, appreciating the varied home designs and gardens.  It was a lovely night, post-rain shower and the walk was a happy ending to the first few hours of our getaway.

The next morning, we were up and out!  Breakfast came from a not so unique little place – McDonalds.  When you want a fast and hot breakfast along with drinkable coffee, McDonalds does the trick. Once we were fed and caffeinated, we were off to ….go fishing!

Fishing

The spot we fished at was in a beautiful local park. Since it was a Friday morning, we had the place to ourselves.  It was so peaceful there.  The fact that we caught nothing didn’t take away from the fun.  We stayed just as long as we wanted and then packed up our gear.  Although I enjoyed the fishing, I was excited to move on to our next activity – antiquing.  This little town has a delightfully large antique “mall”, representing many antique dealers in that area.  Prices are more than reasonable, dealers are willing to dicker and the stock turns over often enough to check it out frequently. All I bought this trip was a Steve Miller record album (I’ll wait if you want to go look those words up) but we both had a good laugh at a collection of transistor radios (same offer), a wooden baby walker and so many other treasures.

We had only two scheduled activities.  One, to visit my sister and her family occurred around lunch time. Her son, “little man”, is a precocious 4 year old who is always fun.  (An example:  He called the other day to say he had a new joke.  We said  that was great, that we were ready.  So he said, “Knock, knock!” Then he cracked up,  laughing so hard at his own joke that he couldn’t even tell it.)  So a happy hour or so was spent with them, hearing about their actual vacation and catching up.

The last scheduled event is one we both looked forward to – dinner with our son.  Having graduated from college this year, he accepted a job at a firm about 2 hours away from home.  Thanks to the GPS, we took a route from my sister’s town to his.  What a surprise!  The route took us zig-zag across the state, by some incredible farms, some horse country and lovely small towns.  That trip alone was worth the travel.  We made it our son’s city in plenty of time to meet up with him.  The three of us enjoyed a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant.  It’s lovely to raise children but the real pay-off is to get to know the adult versions and watch them evolve into wonderful men and women.  We so enjoyed our conversation that we lingered awhile at dinner.  Regretfully, we hugged our son and headed to the car.  It was time to head home.

Believe it or not, we weren’t horribly late getting home but even returning late added to the sense that we had been somewhere, that we had really gotten away.  The variety of activities with visits, and no drive too far made this really feel like a vacation.  If you haven’t gotten away and are lucky enough to have places you can visit not too far away, give it a try.  If money is tight, you can eliminate the overnight and aim for public parks, scenic spots and anything that intrigues you or that you know you enjoy.

According to the news, more and more people  in the U.S. and the U.K. are having stay-cations instead of long getaways because of the economy.   Consider trying the daycation as an alternative or another way to break up your summer without going broke.  Happy Travels!