Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Trailer on the Right

As promised, I'm going to write today about my pet cockatiel, Vegas (that's her, left, on a particularly bad "hair" day!).  I read recently that if you want to increase your readership, you must never, EVER discuss your pets in your blog. "Who really cares about your dogs, cats, and lizards besides YOU, anyway?" they tell us. But I truly hope you'll humor me and read this anyway. Because Vegas' story is actually quite touching, and a lovely example of the amazing kindness of strangers.  I think you'll enjoy it...

Vegas' tale actually begins with that of her predecessor, my male cockatiel, Opie.  On Easter Sunday, a few years back, Alan was working in the kitchen while Opie sat on his shoulder (ALL animals, birds, and insects love my husband, that's discussed here.).

Just then, my father, who had just arrived for Easter dinner along with my mother, rang the doorbell and let himself in (he does this ALL the time!  I guess the doorbell part is just to "announce" that he's already coming in!).   The ringing doorbell, my father's loud "Hello!" and Trixie's subsequent barking all created the "perfect storm" to startle poor Opie.  In a millisecond, he jumped off Alan's shoulder and promptly flew over Dad's head and out the door.

I was panicked.  Opie had done this before, startled, then flew up on the curtain rod or on top of the cupboards.  He would always land there, then, still scared,  sit and wait for me to step on a chair, reach up, and get him.  He never seemed to figure out how to fly back to me, I always had to go and get him.

So, I knew I had to try and get him once again, impossible and daunting as the task appeared.  That entire day, I combed the streets of our neighborhood, scanning trees and whistling "Beautiful Dreamer."  This was the song he had learned to sing through a "cockatiel training" CD I had once purchased for him.  I was hoping he'd recognize the tune, respond and give away his location. Soon, I was on my bike, boom box secured in the front basket, blaring his "Beautiful Dreamer" whistling CD. I pedaled down every street, around every pond, scanning every tree and rooftop.  For days.  Nothing.

I was a mess.  The thought of my sweet, defenseless bird, scared to death, clinging to a tree branch and waiting for me to come for him, was maddening.  I just couldn't find him.  I put up signs with his picture on lamp posts, park benches, even our local gas station and grocery store. Surely SOMEONE had seen him. Still, nothing

I took out an ad in the paper:  "Lost: Male Cockatiel.  Grey with yellow head.  Sings 'Beautiful Dreamer.' Please help us find him."  The ad ran for two weeks, and we heard nothing.

Finally, Alan gently told me it was time to let go.  Tearfully, I agreed.  My only hope was that Opie was rescued by someone who decided to keep him, and if that was the case, I prayed his new owners were kind and loving to him.  If he did, in fact, meet with his death out there, then I prayed he was now happily residing on Grandma Simmons' shoulder, waiting with her for me to join them and scratch his cute head once again someday.  But, I truly missed him.

A short time later, I came home to this message on our machine:  "Hello my name's Cindy. I saw your ad in the paper, and I haven't seen your bird.  But I do know what it's like to lose one, and I wanted you to know how sorry I am.  Also, my husband and I breed cockatiels and we have a new clutch of babies that just hatched.  We'd love for you to have one, as a gift."

Before the message had ended, I was weeping.  I couldn't comprehend that so much compassion and generosity was being so lovingly offered by a complete stranger.  I can't tell you how much it soothed my sad, mournful heart!

I called Cindy back, started crying again, and told her I'd really love to come and see the new babies.  She gave me her address and told me to stop by any time.  The next day after work I pulled out the paper with her address and began to follow the directions she had given.  As I got closer, I realized the address was that of a trailer park.  Cindy and her husband lived in a cute, neat unit at the end of the row, on the right.  The tiny yard was beautifully decorated with flowers, bird baths, and feeders. A vintage, mint condition Harley Davidson motorcycle was parked out front.

As I pulled up, a middle-aged couple walked through the door of their screened-in porch and waved.  The man, probably in his early fifties, could easily have served as an extra in any biker movie.  He wore a red bandana tied over his head, thick, mutton chop sideburns, leather vest, and a silver hoop earring inserted through his pierced ear.  Cindy stood next to him in denim shorts and black t-shirt, hair pulled back in a pony tail.  Both of them were smiling.  I loved them immediately.   I walked up, introduced myself, shook their hands, and thanked them again for their kindness.  They explained that they had lost a bird of their own in a similar fashion, they understood how devastating it felt, and they wanted to help.

We talked there in the garden for a few minutes.  Cindy and John had married young and had two children of whom they were very proud. Their youngest had just left the nest, so they decided to move into this trailer park community and start breeding birds to supplement their income.

Cindy liked to paint (later she would show me the exquisite murals she had created on the walls of their tiny home) and John loved working on his Harley and taking care of his birds. After a while, John turned to me and asked, "Well, do you want to come pick yourself out a baby?"  I hugged myself and replied emphatically, "YES!!"

We stepped into the screened-in porch and I immediately became aware that I was standing in an aviary wonderland!  Cindy had painted a lovely tropical scene on the wall, and a giant cage, with plenty of room for flying, sat floor to ceiling in the corner. Dozens of colorful, happy, birds sat on perches, preened themselves, and chirped away inside. In another, smaller cage, huddling together for warmth, were five tiny, partially featherless babies.  I have often said that bird babies fall into the category of "so ugly they're cute," and these were certainly no exception.  John carefully lifted the latch on the cage and encouraged me to choose one and pick it up, assuring me it was OK.

I reached in, grabbed this baby pictured to the right, and fell immediately in love (who wouldn't? LOOK at that FACE!!).  I never held another.  She seemed content in the warmth of my hand and settled in contentedly while I scratched her prickly head.  I held her to my cheek, smiled at John, and said, "This one!"

I visited Cindy and John once, maybe twice a week after that, checking in on my baby bird, anxiously awaiting the day she was fully weaned and ready to come home with me.  Finally, the big day arrived.  I brought my carrying cage along with a sappy but heartfelt thank you note and gift (they flatly refused all of my many attempts to pay them).  It was a colorful wind chime to add to her collection hanging from her porch.  Cindy opened it, gushed and gasped and told me she loved it.  It seemed like such an uneven trade.  I gave her a noisy piece of metal to hang from her roof, she gave me a new member of my family and the solid reassurance that human compassion and selfless giving still exist.

I hugged them both, promised to stay in touch, tearfully thanked them for the thousandth time, then placed my new little girl in the car and drove her to her new home.  I sat her in Opie's old, recently scrubbed-down cage and stood back to let her get used to her new surroundings.  I stared at her for hours, trying to decide on a name.  She has this larger than normal cluster of head feathers, much taller than the ones you'd see of cockatiels shown in pictures and books.  I thought she resembled a show girl with a beautiful headdress and decided to call her Vegas.  She seemed to like it!

I learned later that Vegas' tall head feathers are actually considered a deformity in the cockatiel breeding community.  If I were to "show" her (yes, they have bird shows, just like dog shows!  Can you believe it?), she would be immediately disqualified for her gross abnormality.

But if you ask me, this plain, deformed little ball of feathers is the grandest, most beautiful creature on God's green earth.  She is the tonic for my aching heart, the answer to a prayer, and a constant reminder that kindness, generosity, and compassion still exist in this cold, hard world.  You'll  find them at that last trailer on the right...

Thanks for Reading!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Missing Sunsets

Those of you who've been with me for a while may remember that my sister, Laura, was a performer like me. Actually, all of the Donnelly children were no strangers to the stage, but Laura and I took that next step and each chose theater as our major when we entered college. Laura attended the prestigious Northwestern University near Chicago, I honed my craft at Syracuse University. But each summer during our college years, both of were reunited in Warsaw, Indiana to perform Summer Stock at a terrific theater named Wagon Wheel Playhouse. There we are at "The Wheel" in the picture to the left.  I'm the one sitting, revealing my enormous thighs, Laura's standing behind me.

Wagon Wheel was an awesome place to apply the skills we'd been honing all year in school.  And we put on some really fantastic, high quality shows, if I do say so myself!! During my three years there, I appeared in musicals such as "Annie," "Music Man," "A Chorus Line," "Girl Crazy," and many, many others!  It was hard work, but we truly loved every minute of it.  To this day, I'll never be able to figure out how we managed to rehearse a show all day, break for dinner, then perform a different musical that evening.  Each show ran two weeks, and we did about six shows every summer.  Ah, the energy of youth!!

At the end of the summer, I'd tearfully hug my sister and fellow performers goodbye and we'd all head back to our respective schools to begin the next collegiate year.

But after all three of the summers I performed at Wagon Wheel, I confess I never got used to that first day back, sitting in my dorm room, gazing out the window, and experiencing twilight again.

When you're a performer, your call times are usually one half hour before show start.  However, if you're a girl, and you have make-up, hair, false eyelashes, and spandex tights to deal with, you arrive at the theater at least one hour before the curtain rises.   Hence, for the entire summer, I had not witnessed one single sunset.  I was always in my dressing room at the theater.  You know that awesome time of day when the daylight is just starting to fade, when the fireflies are beginning to warm up, and the birds are hanging out at the feeder for one more pre-nightfall snack?  I missed ALL of that for three solid months.

I never even realized I missed it until that Fall, back on campus.  Then, I couldn't get enough of it!  Even now, all these years later, when I start to see the light outside start to fade, I always think of Wagon Wheel Playhouse, and the fantastic job that inadvertently made me appreciate sunsets!!

What's your favorite time of day? Early morning with a cup of coffee? Afternoon nap time?  Tell me!  Let's bond!!  And, of course,

Thanks for Reading!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Compassion Meter

"Are you writing me a ticket?"
"Yes, I am."  His response was flat and devoid of all emotion.

I had just arrived in downtown York, PA for my interview at the York Heritage Trust regarding some volunteer opportunities.  I pulled up to a parking meter and was still sitting in my car, digging through my purse for change when I noticed a young man walking by.  I smiled at him as he passed, then went back to counting change.

Just then, I noticed the same man in my rearview mirror, peering at my license plate and writing something on a pad.  That's when the above interaction took place.  He didn't appear very moved by my "but I just got here and was collecting my change" story, and silently continued writing.  Defeated, I held out my hand to receive my undeserved punishment.  He ignored it and walked past me.  "Actually,"  he said with his back to me, in a monotone so low I could barely hear, "the law requires that I must place it directly on your windshield."  He placed the ticket in the law-approved spot and walked away without so much as a backward glance.

I expected to feel anger and frustration as I stood there in shock, watching my accuser as he turned the corner in pursuit of his next victim.  I didn't.  Actually, I couldn't put my finger on exactly WHAT I was feeling.  It wasn't the money, although I could think of a million other things on which I'd like to spend $20.00.  It wasn't even the obvious injustice of it all.

I finally realized it was the cold, emotionless way in which this man spoke to me. Although he never raised his voice or uttered a single insult, he also never made eye contact, never stopped writing, never really even acknowledged my presence.  He simply presented me (or rather, my windshield) with his business at hand and walked away.  I had been dismissed.  For the rest of the day, I couldn't shake how awful that made me feel.

I understand that this man's job is a difficult one.  It's probably essential for his own well-being that he keep up his guard.  I'm sure he's confronted with angry, belligerent people on a daily basis.  I, however, was not one of them, and he knew it.  It was just easier not to care.

I made a pact with myself at that very moment.  Whenever I'm performing my job, my volunteer work, or anything else in which I happen to be engaged, if at any time it becomes so mundane that I lose my ability to care and display a little humanity, then it's time to stop.  I will never allow myself to become that man.  Ever.

Wow, what a downer!  Thanks for reading, anyway!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ethel the Tatooed Lady

"Joan, do you think you'll ever get a tatoo?"  I've been asked this question once or twice, and it's always followed with, "If you did, what design would you choose?"

I must admit, I've seen some truly gorgeous ink art displayed on my friends' arms, shoulders, ankles, hips, and even hands.  Some of them have chosen really thoughtful, clever, and original designs that completely grasp their personal style.  But I must confess, I honestly don't think it's for me. Let me tell you why...

I once volunteered with an organization designed to aid nursing home residents who had no remaining family members.  The program's aim was simple:  they compiled a list of residents who normally wouldn't have any visitors and assigned them each to a volunteer who would periodically stop in and check on them.  I thought it was a marvelous idea and signed up immediately. After clearing a background check and interview, I was assigned to a woman named Ethel. They gave me her room number along with these simple instructions:  show up, sit with her and talk! From the very minute I walked into Ethel's room, I knew I was going to LOVE this gig!!

She was a slight, thin woman with long, skinny legs and silvery straight hair that just barely brushed her shoulders. Her daily outfit consisted of a v-neck, colorful sweater pulled over a pair of cute, black "Laura Petri" capri pants. Physically, Ethel appeared in terrific shape, but her mental capacity sort of came and went.  This didn't bother her in the slightest.

My favorite thing about Ethel was her former occupation. Are you ready for this?  She was a DANCE HALL GIRL for a traveling carnival!!  AWESOME, right?  It was true, too!  I checked with her social worker and learned Ethel had spent the majority of her life working in carnivals.  When she grew too old to dance, she took on other jobs in the company, but her days onstage were clearly her proudest!

Ethel LOVED to tell stories about her travels and the celebrities for which she danced.  With very little prodding, she'd get up and give you a sample of her "moves," and I never got enough of her performances!  Grinning from ear to ear, she'd stand up, place one hand on her hip, the other behind her head, and begin this amazing belly-dancingesque, pelvic thrusting maneuver that never failed to make me blush!  Then, just like that, she'd bow, grab a cigarette from the nurses desk (she was allowed three a day!) and wave for me to follow her to the back outdoor patio.  After I finished my vigorous applause, I complied!

One visit, after a particularly rousing go-go performance, we were lounging on our usual patio bench when Ethel declared that she was hot (I wasn't surprised, she had just worked up quite a sweat!).  As she pushed up her sweater sleeves, however, I noticed a large black and blue spot on her upper arm.

"Oh my gosh, what happened?" I asked her.  "That's a pretty nasty bruise.  Did you fall?"

Ethel, cigarette dangling from the side of her mouth, looked at me in disgust and replied, "No, silly girl!  That's my TATOO!! Something wrong with your eyes?  It's a heart with an arrow through it!!"  She "tsked" at me, flipped her hair and took another long drag of nicotine.

I apologized and looked back at her arm.  Even though Ethel had not gained much weight in her later years, her skin had definitely sagged.  A lot.  What used to be a beautiful heart was now a large, ugly, black smudge.  I was glad that Ethel still saw her precious heart, but I can assure you, no one else COULD!

So, now, every time I pass a tatoo parlor and gaze at all the intricate, creative designs, I think of Ethel and her "heart bruise."  Then, I keep on walking!!

What about you?  Do you have a tatoo?  Of what?  If you don't, would you get one?  Tell me!!  I'd love to hear!  And, as always,

Thanks for Reading!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cheese, Mushroom, and Saliva, Please!

For those of you who have just recently joined me here in my little corner of the blogosphere (thank you!!), it's important to know that I am one of five children (that'll come up from time to time!).  My Dad, the reciter of weird phrases that inspired the title of my blog, worked many jobs to keep us all in ballet slippers and softball gloves. Some of his employment titles included carpenter, football coach, and basketball referee.  His main occupation, however, was shop teacher at Maple Heights High School near Cleveland, Ohio.  He loved being an educator and proudly held the position of Industrial Arts Department Head for several years.

We kids soon learned that Dad's occupation made him a very popular man, indeed.  Everyone in town, it seemed, was a former student of my father's.  The mechanic who worked on his car, the guy who SOLD him the car, the guy who owned the convenience store where we purchased our favorite candy, ALL of them once learned carpentry from my dad.  Even when we were miles from home on a family vacation, it was not unusual to be walking through a crowd and suddenly hear, "Mr. Donnelly?"  I, for one, thought that was pretty awesome!

Years later, after I had reunited with and married my sweet husband, Alan, I began to notice a similar trend.  For many years, Alan held the position of manager and then GM for a restaurant chain called Bennigan's.  He worked in several different locations, including Syracuse, many parts of central Florida, even overseas.  In short, Alan had MANY employees over the years!  It seems that everyone currently employed in the restaurant industry worked for my husband at SOME point in their lives!  People approach us in movie theater lobbies, grocery stores and post offices, always smiling and beginning with "Alan? Do you remember me?  I used to wait tables for you!"

My husband is a fantastic boss and I've always been a little tickled and proud of his popularity.  UNTIL...

We were checking out the new California Pizza Kitchen restaurant that had just opened on that very day. By the way, here's another important fact that my new followers should know about me: I LOVE pizza!  I'm using the word LOVE here.  If you placed me on a deserted island and told me I could choose only ONE food to eat for all eternity, I would shout, "PIZZA!!" before you could even finish the question!

So, back to the story.  I had been impatiently observing the construction of said California Pizza Kitchen for several excruciating months, and squealed with delight the day their grand opening was finally announced!  They had barely finished cleaning up from the ribbon-cutting ceremony when Alan and I eagerly ran passed through their doors and grabbed a booth.  A nice young girl approached our table, took one look at Alan and happily chirped, "Alan!  Do you recognize me?  I was a server for you at Bennigan's!!"

Alan smiled, told her he definitely remembered and congratulated her on her new California Pizza gig. After a brief "good old days at Bennigan's" discussion, we placed our order and impatiently waited for our deliciousness to arrive.  When it did, however, the deliverer was someone different from our initial server. She walked up, held my (precious) pizza about two inches above the table, and then let it drop with a loud CLANK!  She then gave Alan a long, wordless glare, flipped her hair, and sauntered away.

"Let me guess," I said to Alan, "SHE used to work for you, too."
"Yep," he replied, "I fired her."
We both looked at each other, then down at our pizza.
"You realize what this means, don't you?"  I said.
Alan shook his head.
I continued, "There is now spit ALL OVER the surface of our lunch!!"

Guess what?  I ate it ANYWAY!!!  (Did I mention I REALLY love pizza?)

Thanks for Reading!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Good Grief

About a year after my ex-husband left, back when I was living in Syracuse, NY, my good friend Fred came to me with a request.  He was set to direct the local theater's upcoming production of Grease, and he asked if I'd audition.  I wasn't sure I was up to performing again, I was still in a pretty major funk, but Fred was very persuasive, and convinced me that I'd really be helping him out. Looking back, I think Fred was just a little worried about me and wanted to help get me back to my old self again, and I'm infinitely glad he did!

I had a blast (That's me, above, in the pink dress!)!!  Grease is a wonderfully fun ensemble show, and even though this fell during a very fragile period in my life, I must say my memories of performing that summer are beautiful and sweet, indeed!

The entire group was exceedingly talented (Fred had a LOT of connections!) including a guy named Jim who portrayed one of the male "greasers" (that's him, above, pretending to "comb" his pompadour!).  To say Jim was energetic would be like stating that Buckingham Palace was a big house.  Jim was a human SPARK PLUG!  You know that Looney Toons cartoon that features the big, fat bulldog sauntering down the street, while a tiny, yappy, happy chihuahua circles him and jumps over him?  That chihuahua was JIM!! He was in constant motion!  He talked loud, sang loud, performed loud, and lived...LOUD!!  He also possessed an enormous heart and was loved by ALL of his fellow cast members, we just needed to remind him to "sshhhh!" every once in a while!

At the celebratory cast party on opening night, Jim introduced me to his wife.  I knew a lot about Melanie because he mentioned her often during rehearsals, and it was obvious he loved her a great deal.  When I shook her hand in greeting, the first thing I noticed was how plain she was.  She was definitely not unattractive, just quite comfortable in a simple, accessory-free top and pair of jeans.  She was a very quiet woman, but also not shy.  She simply preferred to let Jim have the spotlight, which he clearly enjoyed.

Jim told one stupid joke after another that night, and Melanie sat smiling at him, hanging on his every word, throwing her head back and laughing deeply after each punch line.   It was clear that she adored this crazy, loud, attention-starved boy.  I remember feeling such happiness that night as I observed both of them. "See Joan,"  I said to myself, "there really IS someone for everyone.  Maybe there is hope STILL that you will find your soulmate!"

At the end of our successful, fun-filled run, we performed our last show, gave each other reluctant hugs goodbye, and promised we'd all stay in touch.  Someone told me a little while later that Jim and Melanie had just learned that they were expecting their first baby!  I remember thinking, "Boy, that kid is going to be EXHAUSTED!!"

About eight months later, however, I received news of a different kind. It seems that Jim had been working two jobs to help save money for his baby.  Late one night, while driving home from one of them, exhausted, Jim fell asleep at the wheel, crashed, and was killed instantly.  He would never see his son.

The funeral home was packed.  The receiving line extended out the door and across the parking lot, filled with family members and former fellow performers.  As I stood in line with the rest of the Grease alum, I wracked my brain, trying to think of something meaningful and comforting to say when it was my turn to greet Melanie.  I came up with exactly nothing.  What do you say to a woman, eight months pregnant, who has just lost the love of her life and the father of her unborn child?

She was sitting in a chair, and as I knelt down to speak to her, the grief I saw displayed on her face hit me like a punch to the gut.  I blathered something about "calling me if she needed anything, I mean or night..blah, blah, blah," then hugged her tight and left, disgusted with myself.

During the funeral service at the church, I watched as the clergyman approached the pulpit to say a few words.  He didn't do much better than I.  He mentioned all the typical things; Jim's in a better place and we should grieve but still move on, yada, yada, yada.  You could actually feel the grief in the room intensify with each empty word.

Then Jim's childhood friend, Mark, approached the podium to deliver the eulogy.  With a smile, he unfolded a wonderful story about when he and Jim were kids.  Apparently there was a certain afternoon where Jim had gotten hold of a pair of REAL handcuffs, and both of them were anxious to try them out.  Jim then proceeded to cuff his younger sister's wrist to her ankle.  Sister was not happy.  Mark told us that when Jim's mom arrived home and was greeted by her shackled, screaming daughter, she angrily approached her son and demanded that he hand-over the key.  Jim replied that he had no key.

Mark, now laughing, told the congregation that he would never forget the image of all of them piling into the car, his poor weepy sister hopping along behind them, and driving to the local police station where "the prisoner" was finally freed!

And then, just like that, an amazing thing happened.  That entire church, including Jim's grief-laden widow, was laughing.  HARD!!  We all chuckled deeply, hugging our sides, remembering our silly friend.  Of COURSE!!  THIS was EXACTLY what Jim would've wanted -- laughter!!  I glanced over at Melanie, still smiling, as she wiped away her tears and sighed deeply.  I wanted to run up to that pulpit and KISS Mark for what he had done for her, for all of us.

I learned a lot that day from Mark.  Now, whenever I am attending a funeral, I try to seek out a member of the grieving family and tell them a story about their departed loved one. Sometimes it might be a recollection of a kind deed they performed, or a silly thing they may have said once.  I like to think it's made a difference.

What about YOU?  What would YOU like to have said at your memorial service?  What story would YOU like to have told?

I hope my eulogist mentions my deep respect and love for the animal kingdom, my enormous heart for the elderly, and the amazing stupidity loyalty I possess that allows me to root for the same horrific, embarrassing, losing NFL football team year after year after year...

Thanks for Reading!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Terror at Gettysburg

Since our recent move to beautiful Southern Pennsylvania, one of  our favorite places to visit has become the historical town of Gettysburg. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the site where one of America's bloodiest civil war battles was waged.  Back in 1863, under a hot July sun, opposing Generals Meade and Lee led a fierce three day battle, ending the lives of over 50,000 union and confederate soldiers.

Today, the town of Gettysburg looks very similar to the way it appeared during the days of its infamous battle, with the possible exception of the hundreds of monuments that now dot the landscape.  Reenactment soldiers in full dress uniform can be seen strolling down the streets, kissing the hands of hoop-skirted, bonneted ladies.  Battlefield tours, taken by bus, car, and even horses are available at all hours throughout the day.

So one weekend Alan and I decided to rent a small, scary, crappy cabin (that's a WHOLE story for another day, my friends!  I'll give you a hint:  it involved a VERY close proximity to horse stalls!) at a nearby campground and ride our bikes through the monuments and memorials of the battlefield.  We had a great day riding up and down the hills, imagining what those three days must have been like for the soldiers and that tiny town of witnesses.

Famished after a long day of pedaling, we finally stopped, chained our bikes to a street sign and looked for a good spot to have dinner.  We found exactly what we were looking for when we entered an old tavern, originally built long before the civil war in the 1700's.  We had a fantastic dinner that included roasted chicken, potatoes and a draft or two, and finally decided to head back to our "luxurious" cabin and call it a night.

As we stepped outside, two things immediately entered my chicken and beer-soaked brain:  #1.  It had gotten very dark outside, and #2.  The battlefield that we had to cross to get back to the campground was not lit. At all.  Numbers three and four soon followed:  #3. Gettysburg has been called the "Most Haunted Place in America" by all those Ghost Hunter-ey guys, and #4. The spirits are said to appear at night when it is quiet and DARK!!

Alan, ever the cool head, said he had a "pretty good" idea of how to get back and to just follow him.  This would have been really easy if, in fact, either one of us had possessed the BRAIN CELLS required to have had the forethought to attach a LIGHT of some kind on our bikes.  Sadly, we did not!

We were literally pedaling in complete blackness.  I could barely make out Alan's shape in front of me as we rode, so I kept yelling, "Say something, so I can follow your voice!"  Every once in a while, the moon would pick up a figure of one of the monuments.  You know, just a statue of a union soldier raising a saber or General Lee astride an enormous stallion, terrifying stuff like that!

I began to pray.  Out loud.  Loudly!  God apparently heard my frightened pleas and showed mercy on His poor, stupid children. We arrived safely back at our cabin in one piece (looking back, it may have been the smell of horse dung that guided us home!).  We jumped off our bikes and kissed the nasty, ant infested porch of our glorious, humble abode!

Looking back to that evening, I can't seem to shake this mental picture in my head of a possible batallion of ghost soldiers marching along on the battlefield that night.  I wonder if they watched in awe as a couple of complete morons pedaled by in the pitch black night.  I imagine them being entirely too confused by the stupidity of the riders to commence with the "appearing in the mist," or other haunting activity.  I imagine the ghost colonel holding up a hand, halting his men and proclaiming, "No, let's not.  These idiots clearly have enough problems as it is!"

This idiot, for one, is eternally grateful!

Thanks for Reading!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Can You Say, "THREE-PEAT?!!"

Seriously, I can REALLY get used to this "winning thing!"  Man, it's great, isn't it?  Well, believe it or not, I've once again been tagged with an award, and I'm pretty sure this one's my favorite!  Isn't he cute?  I LOVE HIM, and he's so timely with the Oscars coming up, don't you think?

Anyway, as if I don't gush enough about the awesome Kelly at Kellyansapansa, I'm about to continue the "love-fest," as she is the gracious bestower of this tremendous Blogie Award to me!  I'm actually a little relieved to see that Kelly still thinks I'm cool, because I've been singing her praises so much lately, I was a little worried she'd be issuing me restraining orders, not awards!  Maybe because she feels she's at a safe enough distance (Australia!!), she can take the chance on this potential stalker! (Really, Kelly, I promise I'm not!)

But in all sincerity, thanks so very much, Kelly, not only for the award, but for all of your tremendous support and encouragement.  I'm so glad I found you and your terrific, pretty blog!

Speaking of terrific blogs, now I get to tag three more that I love!  Man, this is a tough call.  I've spent the last week or so vigorously perusing the blogosphere, and I'm so amazed with the amount of beautiful, well-written sites out there!  I'm following so many of you now, not only because I love reading what you have to say, but also because I'm learning so very much from you!  You all, to use my favorite word, ROCK!! Ok, I've decided to go with these, and I'll explain why:

The Dogged Pursuit of Happiness:  Like Kelly did for me, I'm tagging this blog for the second time, but I REALLY love it. Stasha is a brilliant (literally, she has a genius IQ!), thoughtful writer and I just can't get enough of her beautiful site.  She had the audacity in her lastest post to apologize to her readers for not writing more often.  Truth be told,  she really doesn't need to write more than she does!  Just ONE of her posts will "fill you up" for the week!  Promise!

Using 100 Words When 10 Would Suffice:  Dana is, literally, the answer to a prayer.  She is the wife of my husband's childhood friend.  I've never met her, and she owed me NOTHING, but she was the very first of my non-relative-nor-supportive-friend-base to offer me tremendous encouragement on my writing.  As you know, beginning a blog can be terrifying, and her amazing emails to me made me want to keep trying.  For that alone, I would recommend ANYTHING of hers, but the truth is, her blog is FANTASTIC! She's on an incredible, cathartic journey, and she describes it so well that you immediately want to become her cheerleader (and follower!).

Music Oasis:  OK, full disclosure, this is my brother-in-law's brand new blog!  He is a crazy genius when it comes to all things music (especially that of the 70's an 80's), and someone finally convinced him to write it all down in a blog and share it with the rest of us!  I think you'll really enjoy it! By the way, he also does a FANTASTIC impersonation of my crabby, Irish Dad!

So, there it is!  I'll close by repeating what I know I've said too many times before on these pages:  I'm just loving this journey I'm on with you!!  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading my loooong stories, and posting your kind, thoughtful comments underneath.  Maybe one day I'll be a good enough writer to express just how very much it all means to me!

Ok, enough of that!  Think I'll go put on a formal gown, don some fancy, rhinestoney jewelry and find someplace that's got a red carpet which I can stroll down!!

Thanks for Reading!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Worth the Wait

Hey Everybody!  I'm going to do something dramatic today that I've never done before.  Ready?  I'm going to (gasp!) RE-POST!!  Wait, wait!! Don't go away, I can explain!  I wanted to write something about love and sweethearts and rainbows in honor of Valentine's Day, and then I realized I had already done that, back when I first started this blog.

Trouble is, back then, I was just starting out and the only people that read my writing were my siblings and a few very, very supportive friends! So, I figure this will appear fresh and new to the majority of you!  It obviously involves a topic that's very dear to me, and I sincerely hope you like it.  It's a bit long, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you'll find it's worth the effort!  Here it is, from September:

My High School Sweetheart

I told my husband this morning that I was going to write about him, and asked if he was hurt that I wrote about our dog Trixie before I told his story. He said no, but that he'd really appreciate it if I mentioned in my writing today how intensely buff he is. I told him I could absolutely do that. Here goes...

Whenever anyone asks me how my stupendously muscular husband Alan and I met, I tell them we were high school sweethearts. "Wow," they respond, "how long have you been married?" "Fifteen glorious years!" I reply. Then I watch with delight as my inquisitor tries without luck to do the mental math. "Yeah, it doesn't add up, does it?" I usually say, then add, "It's a really great story, wanna hear it?"

Alan's family moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Macedonia, Ohio the summer before his junior year in high school. We met in August of 1979, one month before school started, because we were both in Nordonia High School's seriously awesome marching band. He played the flugabone, I was on the drill team. Alan remembers much more about our first meeting than I do. I remember being introduced to him and being told that he was from Alabama. I had never met anyone from the South. I asked him if my Northern accent sounded funny to him (smooth!). I don't remember his response, I was too busy drowning in embarrassment to hear. Alan remembers that I was wearing yellow satin disco shorts, saddle shoes (drill team required), and was sporting a hairstyle attempting to mimic Farrah Fawcett's. Yikes.

We didn't start dating right away. I was in love with another boy who was unaware of my existence (he apparently never saw me in my awesome yellow satin disco shorts), and Alan was busy becoming very popular even though he was "The New Kid." But somewhere along the way Alan decided he wanted me, and he set-out to win me over. It's important to note here that Alan was going through some pretty intense rebelling at this time. His family had just moved him from a place he loved to dreaded "Yankee Country," in the middle of his high school years. He was understandably angry. He grew his hair longer, wore nothing but black concert t-shirts and carried around an enormous chip on his shoulder. I never saw this side of him, however, because Alan treated me like a princess. He held doors for me and would meet me outside of one class to walk me to the next. He passed notes to me down the row in concert band that read, "You're such a FOX!!"  Ladies, I ask you, how could I resist this boy?

Then came the icing on the cake: Everyone knew how much Alan loved (and STILL loves) Rush, the amazing progressive rock band that performs loud, intense songs containing poetically intricate lyrics. I'm using the word LOVE here. Alan LOVED this band. I was more of a Barry Manilow girl. Actually, I was a HUGE Barry Manilow fan. I had all of his albums and could sing all of his music by heart (I know. Sooo cool.). So, Barry was coming to town. Alan skipped school (he later had to serve detention for his truancy), walked several miles to Blossom Music Center's box office and bought tickets to see BARRY MANILOW. They were tremendous seats, too: Ninth row, center. This amazing boy took me to dinner, bought me a concert t-shirt (white with black 3/4 length sleeves, classic!), and sat next to me as I squeezed his hand and completely IGNORED him the entire concert. Hey, I was swooning over Barry's awesomeness!! But when the concert fog lifted and we were driving home, I remember thinking to myself that this was the single, most unselfish, thoughtful thing that anyone had ever done for me. He had officially won me over.

I'd love to tell you that the rest is history and here we are, all these years later, married and blissfully happy. But we were very young, and we loved and fought like teenagers do.  We broke-up and reunited so many times that our mothers, who were co-workers at the local bank, would ask each other periodically, "Are our kids together this week, or did they have another fight?" We have very few pictures from that time, because we were constantly tearing them up in enraged moments of drama, tossing the remaining pieces into the air like confetti!

We did end on a good note, though. Alan joined the Marine Corps and was headed off to Camp Lejeune, I was accepted at Syracuse University and was going to begin my Broadway Stardom Pursuit. We wished each other luck and went our separate ways. He even came to visit me once after completing boot camp. All the girls in my dorm swooned over his buzz-cut and crisp military dress uniform. They told me I was crazy to let him go. I assured them we were both moving on. And move on we did.

I met my future husband in the drama department at SU. We fell madly in love and married just months after graduation. I had heard through the grapevine that Alan, too, had married and was happily living the post-marine life, going to school and working hard. One day, nearly four years later, my husband arrived home and announced that he didn't think he loved me anymore and that he was very sure he didn't want to be married. He quietly packed a bag and left, while I stood in the middle of our apartment, still too much in shock to properly react. I'll devote another day to telling the story about the months that followed. For now suffice it to say that I was completely flattened. Divorce is a horrible, nasty thing. It rocks you to your core and leaves nothing but emotional rubble in it's wake. It's been several years since that time and my wounds have healed, but the remaining scar tissue runs thick and deep. It sucked.

So skip ahead a few years later when I arrived home from work and saw my message light blinking. "Um, Hi. My name is Alan Emery. I'm looking for a girl named Joan Donnelly, we went to Nordonia High School together. If this is you, give me a call back. I'd love to get caught up." It had been ten years! Turns out Alan had been through his own divorce. He asked his mom, now living in Nashville, TN, if she knew how to get in touch with me. She told him all she knew was that I was living in Syracuse, NY. This was before the internet, so this sweet man called Syracuse Information and asked for the listings for every version of my name; maiden, married, first initials, etc., and called them ALL. One girl actually phoned back saying, "I'm not the girl you're looking for, but if it doesn't work out, give me a ring!"

It did work out. I called Alan back and we talked for hours. The years melted away as we reminisced about times during high school, but there was also this new understanding and compassion for the divorces we had both just endured. We talked and talked, every night, for hours. Looking back, I can honestly say that I knew before we met again in person that I was already deeply in love and wanted to marry him.

We were married four years later in an outdoor garden gazebo at Disney's Yacht Club Resort. We actually were able to find ONE wallet sized, 1980 Christmas Dance photo that was spared from becoming "break up confetti" (owned by his MOM!). We had it enlarged and placed on an easel near the entrance table. We both stood looking at it that morning, shaking our heads in disbelief.

Recently, while attending the closing of our home here in York, we sat across the table from the previous owners. They had built the house themselves just a few years prior, but now they needed to sell it. They were getting a divorce. I couldn't help staring at their tired, pain-filled faces as we signed paper after paper. I wanted to reach across the table, grab both of their hands and tell them them that it was all going to be OK. I wanted to tell them that they'd survive this and move on and find someone glorious and wonderful and perfect.

Because it happened to me. I met the man of my dreams when I was sixteen. He was wearing a black Van Halen t-shirt and had hair that closely resembled Jimmy from Puff-n-Stuff. I married him when I was thirty. He makes me happier than I know I deserve. I look at Alan now as we sit together and watch the evening news. I'm still shocked by the intensity with which I love this man. I love the nostalgic history we share, and I love thinking about how much fun growing old with him will be. I'm so grateful that he left a message on my machine that day. I'm so glad I chose to wear those yellow satin disco shorts to band practice back in '79. But more than anything, I'm so happy that he has such an amazingly buff body with rippling muscles and zero-percent body fat. I'm such a lucky girl!!

Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


"Sorry, ladies.  The fuse is completely blown and has to be replaced.  Looks like you'll be without power for at least another hour, probably two."  We all sat at our desks listening, trying to put on our best, "Oh, dear!  And I REALLY wanted to sit at my desk and WORK for the next two hours!" faces. 

It was 1993, and Alan and I had been living in Orlando, Florida for only a few short months.  I had just started a temp job to earn money while I was waiting for some upcoming local theme park auditions. I'd gotten a nice gig as a transcriptionist at a doctor's office and had been there only a few days when the power suddenly failed.  Everything; lights, computers, copy machines, and faxes, all went dead.  We were sitting patiently in the semi-dark when our office manager appeared with the above announcement.

So, after secretly high-fiving each other under our desks, celebrating our extended break time, we all stepped outside and sat on a nearby picnic table, basking in the Florida sunshine.

"You know what this feels like, you guys?"  I said to the group, "A SNOW day!  We've just been given our very own, two hour, SNOW DAY!!"  
Five blank faces stared back at me. 
"A what?" one girl asked. 
"A snow day!  You know, the radio announces your school's closed due to inclimate weather, and you get to stay home and build snowmen!"
Wow," another girl said, "That sounds cool!"

My friends, these poor women, natives of the Sunshine State, had not only never EXPERIENCED a snow day, they had no idea of it's very EXISTENCE!  I wanted to hug them all to my chest and pat their heads to comfort their poor, deprived souls.  How can you go through an entire childhood without knowing the euphoric joy of a snow day?

One of my coworkers became a bit defensive and told me that they had their own Florida version of a blizzard -- the hurricane.  Same thing, she told me.  School gets cancelled, you stay inside.  Six of one, half-dozen of the other.  I was intrigued. A few years later, when Alan and I had just purchased our first home in Orlando, we experienced our first hurricane, and I learned how very, very wrong my office friend had been!  

We followed all the pre-hurricane instructions that the newsmen repeated ad nauseum prior to the storm arriving:
1.  Stock up on water, non-perishable foods, batteries and flashlights.
2.  Fill your gas tank.
3.  Take out extra cash from your bank account.
4.  Bring in EVERYTHING from your yard that could be a projectile in gusty winds.  This includes flower pots, shepherd's hooks, garden statues, door wreaths, lawn furniture and gas grills.
5.  Board up your windows, tape them if no plywood is available (and it won't be, because everyone rushes to Home Depot and buys every last plank within the first 17 seconds of a tropical storm appearing on the Doppler radar).

Then, once the storm hit, you were given strict instructions to STAY PUT, do NOT leave your house.  If the center of the storm should pass over your home, proceed immediately to a bathroom or closet, any room without windows, and cover yourselves with a mattress.  This was advised in case debris (or walls) may be falling around you. When the storm finally arrived, you'd sit on your couch, hugging your pets, trying not to cringe every time the winds would gust, rattling the windows.  It was TERRIFYING!!  

After the hurricane finally passed and everyone was in agreement that the coast was clear, you'd walk outside and view the devastation of your neighborhood.  Downed trees, broken fence rails and detached roof shingles decorated the landscape.  Just about the time you'd get your yard cleaned up, your power restored, and your flower pots and porch furniture back in place, that bastard weatherman would appear on television once again, punching up his "Super Doppler" equipment and revealing the next "tropical disturbance" forming just south of Cuba.  You'd sigh, have a brief cry, then head back out to grab the flower pots once again.

Now, here I am back up north, and we've just experienced a very snowy week.  Actually, it was a pretty major blizzard, or "Snowpocalypse," as it has so annoyingly been named by the clever, clever media.  Schools have been closed, highways have been shut-down, and a "snow emergency" has been declared.  It's all made me think back to those hurricane days, and I've decided I much prefer Pennsylvania blizzards and "Snowmageddons" (their other "cute" name) over Florida hurricanes ANY DAY!!  

Here's a quick comparison of my experiences, see if you agree:

Hurricane:  Severe rain and winds, gusting up to over 80 mph, pummel your town for hours on end.  Entire trees are uprooted, roofs are blown off of houses.

Blizzard:  A lot of snow falls. Massive snow forts are erected. Snow ball fights ensue.

Hurricane:  As the storm passes over your home, you huddle in your closet and pray nothing comes flying through your windows (or ceiling).

Blizzard:  As the snow falls, you have to stay indoors and drink hot chocolate, watching beautiful white flakes descend from the sky, making your yard look like it's been covered with a white down blanket.  You must then snuggle on the couch with your handsome husband and cute terrier and watch the John Adams HBO miniseries blue ray discs that your brother got you for Christmas.

Hurricane:  After the storm passes, you use a chainsaw (if you can get one.  Home Depot sells out of those real quick, too, during hurricane season) to break-up the downed tree in your yard that is now blocking the street.  You re-plant all the younger trees that have toppled over with their rootball exposed.  Also, you pick up the rails of your broken fence that are now scattered all around the entire neighborhood, and try to reassemble them.  Next, you sweep all debris off of your sidewalk, driveway, and porch and skim the gunk out of the pool.  You replace everything from your porch that was brought inside pre-storm.  Finally, you sweat a lot until the downed power lines are restored (usually within two to three weeks), when you can finally have air conditioning once again.

Blizzard:  After the storm passes, you shovel your driveway.  Then you come back inside. Next, you consume more hot chocolate (after all, you've EARNED it!!).  

So, that's it.  I'll take snow days over hurricane hysteria ANY day of the week, if anyone should ask!  What do YOU think?  Have you been the victim of a hurricane nightmare, or a blizzard "white-out?"  How did you fare?  I'd love to hear your opinion!  Go ahead, let me have it!!  I'll come back and check your comment in a little while. I have a snowman I need to build out front!  But first, a little hot chocolate...

Thanks for Reading!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Homecoming Schmomecoming!!

So, notice anything different?  HA!  It's my new blog "makeover," what do you think?  When I first started this blog back in September, I was so overwhelmed and nervous about the WRITING aspect that I paid very little attention to the actual layout of it.  I simply picked a template from one of the few, simple options offered when starting up on Google and forged ahead.  I didn't really give it any more thought until I started visiting other blogs and noticed how visually appealing they were.  Some of them were quite beautiful, indeed.

Since I am far, far (better add one more), FAR from what you'd call "computer savvy," I resisted for a while, assuming such awesomeness was beyond my ability.  But then I once again consulted the ever-helpful Kelly of Kellyansapansa who sent me to a few "free blog template" sites, and that's where I found this one!  I love it for a plethora of reasons:  the expression on the woman's face, her cute pearl necklace and daisy earrings, and the sweet daisies emerging from her computer, indicating that what she is writing is refreshing and lovely!!  The wood paneling is a subtle nod to my dad, the carpenter, who's quirky quote I pay homage to in my title!  There are still a few glitches to work through, but overall I must say I'm quite pleased with my new look!

I must confess, though, the process of actually INSERTING the template into my existing blog was excruciating!  It involved me showing Alan the template I wanted, then handing him my laptop!  Oh, the agony!  I then had to sit next to him while he changed font colors, font sizes, and added something called "widgets."  My job was to nervously wring my hands as he performed the appropriate clicks and drags that made the magic happen.

I was a wreck!!  I kept imagining him technically zigging when he should have zagged, and suddenly my entire five months' worth of writing would be dislodged, sent adrift somewhere in cyberspace, never to be seen again.  I mean, can you imagine not being able to read about my awesome skort collection or the carefree maneuvers of a dancing Asian woman in an Irish pub in Vegas?  Inconceivable, I know!

However, my STUD of a husband once more prevailed, my stories are safe, and I have a new look!  I feel like I've just left a hair salon with a fresh new cut and style!  Fabulous, Dahling!!  Hope you like it too.

OK, enough self-praising -- I need to get to my writing topic for today (after all, you NEVER know when my writing teacher will once again decide to check up on my "Naked Blog!").  I actually have more news, but I must preface it with this:

When I was in high school, I wanted desperately to be chosen to be Homecoming Queen.  Who wouldn't, really?  You get escorted onto the football field before the Homecoming game, and if your name is announced out of the five finalists, they give you a crown and a bouquet of roses!  Then, you get to wave to everyone in the stands whilst sitting on the back of a slowly moving convertible, on which is draped a banner displaying your name and new royal title.  The next night, you don your new crown and attend the Homecoming Dance, of which you are the main focus, and you dance with your date while the Homecoming Dance theme is played (In my day it was usually something by Styxx or Aerosmith).  Hundreds of photos of you are snapped for the yearbook and local papers.  Sigh!

Here's my only problem:  I was in choir, band (marching and concert), and drama.  That's pretty much the "Trifecta of  Geekdom" at most schools, mine was no exception.  I had a FANTASTIC time being a member of all three of these groups, but I was most certainly NOT popular, and definitely not "Homecoming Queen-worthy."

But my friend, the beautiful, skinny, golden-haired, blue-eyed Debbie, WAS!!  She was one of the finalists that was to take the football field that cold October evening back in 1981.  Debbie wasn't sure what to wear for the crowning ceremony, so I lent her my rust, silk ruffle blouse --it looked GORGEOUS on her!  And guess what?  Debbie GOT it!!  She was crowned, handed her roses, had her picture taken for posterity, all while wearing MY blouse!!  If you were to look in the 1982 Nordonia High School yearbook today, you would see that picture of Debbie and her escort on that football field sporting a lovely, shiny, silky, gorgeous top.  I feel like I somehow shared the crown with her that night via that blouse.  Not sure what Debbie would have to say about that, but you and I know the truth, don't we?

Up until very recently, that's about as close as I've ever come to winning anything.  But I've got to tell you, I think even Debbie would be envious that I've just been awarded yet ANOTHER honor from a fellow blogger!!  (I KNOW!!)  Man, this is WAY better than that whole homecoming blouse thing!

I LOVE this one, because it's titled the "Happy 101" Award, given to me by my new friend GregoryJ at living my life, whatever.  He said it's because I'm a blogger that brightens his day!  Don't you just LOVE GregoryJ?  Thanks, Gregory, you have no idea how much you've brightened MINE with this honor!  Yay!!

Ok, rules with this one include listing ten things that make me happy, then tagging ten more bloggers who brighten MY day!  Easy-peasy!!  Let's get right to it:

Ten Things That Make Me Happy:

1.  My husband, Alan.  I know, it's so cliche and I talk about him WAY too much, but I can't discuss happiness without putting him very first on the list.  He's my favorite person. On earth.  Period.  I love EVERY DAY of growing old with him.  I love how he can engage in an intense phone conversation with his CEO, making decisions that directly effect a billion dollar company, then hang up and immediately perform a crazy, silly dance that sends Trixie into a barking, sprinting frenzy that can only be quelled with a climactic "toilet flush of joy."  Which leads me to my next pick...

2.  My pets.  I love how Trixie the terrier, Vegas the cockatiel, and Cleveland the canary all posses such wonderfully weird personalities.  To say they make me happy is a supreme understatement.
3.  Sir Mix-a-Lot's song, "Baby Got Back."  I know, it can get a little R-rated, but I LOVE how it applauds all women who aren't a size two, and calls us beautiful and sexy!  When I was training for a half-marathon, this was my FAVORITE song with which to run.  Only problem was that it made me want to dance, which kind of threw-off my running cadence a bit, but TOTALLY worth it!!  Incidentally, I don't actually posses a lot of "back," just enormous thighs.  But until Sir Mix-a-Lot produces a song titled "Baby Got Tree Trunks," this one will do just fine! 

4.  Football.  I love EVERYTHING about football.  My favorite may be the exhilaration of watching the ball being released from the quarterback's hand in an amazingly beautiful, long, arched pass attempt.  The camera will follow the ball, then pan down to show the receiver, in full stride.  Then the receiver reaches to catch it and runs into the end zone. The crowd goes wild.  Pure. Bliss.  My team, the Cleveland Browns, will make it to the Super Bowl someday and THAT will make me very, very happy indeed!!

5.  Eating at McDonald's.  I know it's terrible for you and I only eat there once a month, if that, but I LOVE it!  I think it has something to do with the fact that when we were kids, going to eat at "The Golden Arches" was a huge, big deal.  The "specialness" of it all has never worn off, I guess!

6.  Volunteering.  I had no idea that giving such a TINY piece of my time could evoke such  enormous joy and sense of fulfillment in me.  I'm completely hooked.

7.  The flavors of chocolate and mint combined.  Mmmmmm.  Do I really need to say more?

8.  Being the recipient of flowers delivered to your home or office.  Seriously, is there anything sweeter than that FTD man strolling up to your desk, carrying that vase covered in green tissue paper?  Complete, pure joy!!!

9.  Watching snow fall.  There's just nothing prettier.  After living in Florida for sixteen years, now that I'm back up north, I just can't get enough of it, driveway shoveling and all!

10.  People who comment on my posts and become followers of my blog.  Quite honestly, whenever I turn on my computer in the morning and see that the number has increased under the "Followers" column, I literally squeal with delight!  And the comments make me wish I could reach into the cyberworld and give you all a big squeeze!! (That didn't sound creepy at all, did it?)

Well, there you have it!  Now, I must tag ten more blogs that bring me joy.  This is an impossible task, because I've visited so many astoundingly fantastic blogs over the last few weeks.  I'm going to go with these, but know there are literally dozens more that make me BLISSFULLY happy!  Please check out the "Blogs I'm Following" section of my profile to see the full list!  Here's ten of them:

Bossy Betty
A Nut in a Nutshell
Scatter Sunshine
Straight Up -- No Chaser
Picture Imperfect
Wander With Wild Things
Bon Bon Rose
Sugar Shop
The Old Geezer Blog

Congrats, and happiness to you all!  OK, that's enough for now.  Think I'll go make myself a Euphoria Crown, grab Alan, and slow dance to Styxx!!

Thanks for Reading!!