Sunday, August 28, 2011

"We Didn't Know..."

Shortly after moving to our new home here in Nashville, TN, Alan and I were thrilled to find our new church home. The only problem was that the existing pastor was leaving, and the new one wasn't set to arrive for several months.  So, the church elders called on a former retired pastor, who graciously accepted the offer to serve in the interim.  He (let's call him Pastor Jim) was a old man with glasses, a kind face, and thick Southern drawl.

The congregation seemed thrilled to have Pastor Jim and welcomed him back with open arms and happy hearts.  When he walked up to the podium to deliver his first sermon, he paused, looked over at the high school choir, and smiled as he remarked that he was pretty sure he had baptized just about every one of them when they were infants.  Then he began his message.

That was over three months ago.  We now have our new leader and the interim pastor has gone happily back into retirement.  But I must admit the words he spoke that first day have stuck with me ever since.  I can't get them out of my head.  I'd really love to get your opinion about them.  Here's a gist of what his sermon entailed:

The topic was about two forms of sin. One is the most obvious, when we KNOW what we're about to do is wrong, yet we do it anyway.  Like the shoplifter who grabs merchandise off the shelves and puts it in his pocket.  He KNOWS stealing is wrong and a sin (Thou shalt not steal), but he does it anyway.

The other form of sin, the pastor explained, was the kind when we commit an act, but we're unaware we are doing wrong.  Jim chose this example to prove his point:  He said he remembered being a young boy in high school back in the 50's, and how much he and his buddies loved going down to the local drugstore to drink root beer floats and chocolate milkshakes. He said there was a sign over the counter that read "Whites Only."  A little further down was the "Colored Section."  Pastor Jim pointed out that this was a sin.  But "We just didn't know."

Really?  You didn't know?  You didn't know that it was wrong to treat another human being this way?  I tell you, I can't get those words out of my brain.  "We just didn't know." Wow.

I'm trying very hard, I promise you, not to be judgmental on this.  (That would also be a sin, by the way!).  I grew up in the suburbs of Ohio, where all of my classmates were white and middle class.  We had one Jewish boy, I remember, and we pretty much accepted him, except at Christmastime when we mercilessly grilled him about his Hannukkah traditions ("Seriously?  Santa doesn't visit your house?  REALLY?  How do you cope?").  I have no idea what it was like to deal with bussing or racial unrest in my community.   But I will say that I was raised to treat everyone, EVERYONE, with kindness and respect.

I volunteer with my new best friend, Michelle, at a local charity that provides books for underprivileged children.  Michelle is the volunteer coordinator.  One day a week we are joined by another volunteer, a 60 year old woman we'll call Roberta.  Roberta is a fast, hard worker.  Roberta is also a blatant racist.  Her views come out loud and clear in the conversations we have while processing books, and I must tell you many of her comments have left both Michelle and I speechless.

At the end of a rather strenuous day recently, the three of us were walking back to our cars when Roberta asked Michelle and I, "Have either of you seen 'The Help?'" She was referring to the movie just released starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer involving black maids in the early sixties in the town of Jackson, Mississippi.  The women basically cooked, cleaned, and raised Southern white children.  In turn, they were treated as second class citizens.  Emma Stone's character, a young journalist, convinces the black women to tell their side of the story, for an article she is writing for Harper's Bazaar.  The stories are an immediate hit and are made into book form, much to the dismay of all of the white women in Jackson.

When Michelle and I informed Roberta that we had not, in fact, seen the movie, she rolled her eyes and said she didn't plan on seeing it at all. When we asked her why not, she waved her hand dismissively and stated, "It's characterized bullshit. That's just how we treated black people back then.  We didn't know it was wrong.  Nobody did."

There was that phrase again.  "We didn't know..."  So today, my friend Michelle and I went to see "The Help."  It was a terrific movie with Oscar-worthy performances delivered by several of the actresses.  But I must tell you, my friends, I'm still so appalled that we treated each other this way.  This wasn't one hundred years ago, this was less than fifty.  And Roberta is proof that this way of thinking still exists.

Michelle and I stood outside the theater after the movie ended, still contemplating it's message.  Michelle's story is different from mine, in that she was raised in the Deep South, in New Orleans, LA.   She told me she distinctly remembers her mother escorting her to her first day of elementary school when desegregation was initially enforced. The teacher approached her mother and cried in a hushed tone, "Good Lord, I've got four of THEM in my classroom!"

Michelle's mother was also strongly opposed to her serving as a bridesmaid in her black friend's wedding.  There were ten bridesmaids, Michelle was the only white one.  When she asked her mother why she disapproved, her only reply was, "It's just not done, that's all."

Michelle, being the smart, awesome, headstrong lady that she is, told me that she was raised with all the prejudice and bigotry as everyone else at the time.  But she KNEW it was wrong, and she chose to reject it.   This is just one of the many reasons why Michelle completely rocks.

"The Help" displayed a variety of women, each of them choosing a different way of dealing with the issue. Some, like Emma Stone's character, knew it was unjust and tried to do something about it.  Others, like her mother, portrayed by Allison Janney, also knew it was wrong, but lacked the courage to do anything.  It was easier for her to go along with what the others thought than to take a stand.  Then there were the others, those that "Didn't know..."

So, I really want to know your opinion on this. How were you raised?  Did your beliefs change or stay the same once you matured?  Do you believe those that say, "We didn't know?"  Thank you in advance for your comment, I can't wait to read your view!!  Also,

Thanks for Reading!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Breakfast Club

Well, did you miss me?  Sorry I've been a little lax with the posts recently, but I have a REALLY good excuse.  I was preparing for, then actually taking part in our yearly pilgrimage to Key West!  Oh, how I love the Conch Republic!  Alan and I have vacationed there just about every July for the last ten years.  The place kinda gets under you skin, you know?

I've written about the Keys more than once in this blog, often mentioning my attraction to it's quirky, eclectic people, it's rich, storied history, it's free-roaming chickens and roosters, and it's nightly magical sunsets that would make even the most stringent atheist believe in God.  I can't seem to get enough of it.  This year's visit was no exception, and we've returned sun-kissed and key lime pie-filled!

But I must tell you, the last few years my Key West euphoria has been mixed with a little melancholy. The cute little motel in which we used to stay (cheap rates, small rooms, but a GREAT pool!) was purchased a few years back by the monstrous, big-name hotel next door.  They immediately flattened the structure and added on to their own behemoth building.  And just like that, another tiny part of Key West's charm was swallowed up.

But it's not necessarily the the little motel that I miss.  It's the mornings Alan and I spent enjoying breakfast on the patio of their sweet diner, located in front of the building.  It wasn't anything special, just your basic eggs and bacon kind of joint.  But sitting on that patio in the early morning, when the temperature was still tolerable and the bougainvillea was just beginning to sparkle under the morning sun, was priceless.  We'd watch the Key West citizens riding by on their bikes on their way to work, off to spend another day selling sea shells and straw hats to tourists.

But even the eggs and the view weren't my favorite part of our mornings on that patio.  It was the opportunity to watch them.  They were a sweet older retired couple, possibly in their late sixties, who ate breakfast together on that patio every morning.  They always sat at the same table, which was permanently saved for them with a sign that read, "Reserved for The Breakfast Club."

The two never had to place their order, because they ate the same thing every morning.  As soon as they sat down, the waiter would bring their steaming plates to the table with a "Good Morning!"  They'd turn and smile at him, return his greeting, and then ask him about how  things were going at his second job.  They'd have a brief conversation, then the waiter would drop the check on the table, give both their shoulders a squeeze, then leave with a "See you tomorrow morning!"

I don't know what it was about that couple that made me want to stare.  I think it was just the loveliness about them.  They would sit so contentedly with one another, two old souls that had shared a lifetime, and now didn't need to speak with words.  They'd eat quietly, holding hands, occasionally looking up to wave at familiar faces passing by.  When they did speak to each other, it was always done quietly, but with such loving looks on their faces. They always greeted Alan and I as we arrived on the patio, and even offered some suggestions for good places to eat and visit while we were on the island.

I found myself wanting to get up early every day of our vacation so I could be on that patio when The Breakfast Club would arrive.  I liked being near them, and imagining that someday Alan and I could still be that much in love.

I think about that couple every time we're back in Key West.  I wonder if they've found a new place to resume their Breakfast Club routine, and if they still sit and hold hands and smile at one another as sweetly as they did back then.  Oh, I hope so!

By the way, did I mention that this couple was two gay men?  Yes, this sweet, devoted senior couple enjoying their golden years in the company of their one true love was not a man and a woman.  This sweet, devoted, loving couple was two men.  See the difference?

Yeah, me neither...

Thanks for Reading!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Joan Does Kindle


This is what you will frequently hear if you are a fly on the wall in my home while I am sitting in front of my computer and it won't do what I'm telling it to do.  Rest assured, I have never, ever been accused of being a techno-wizard.  I fall more under the category of "Special" when it comes to all things computer, video, digital, and the like.

Fortunately for me, I am married to a computer genius.  Alan is able to fix just about any computer problem in a matter of seconds, and he can navigate his way around one with expert precision.  So, whenever I am sitting at my laptop and begin experiencing problems, you can hear the above, screechy call to my husband, imploring him to come save me from my technologically-challenged self.  He usually arrives and fixes the problem within seconds.  I thank him profusely, he sighs, pats me on my head and heads back to his office.

So, imagine my reaction when Alan recently suggested that I try out a Kindle.  Kindles are e-books, sold by Amazon, that allow you to instantly download dozens of books, newspapers, or magazines in a matter of minutes.  Since I am an avid reader, Alan thought it was something I could use.  I think I replied with something like "Oh, hell no."

I resisted, mostly because I'm one of those crotchety old people who talk about how much they love to "turn the page" rather than hit the "next" button.  But I also feared the technology of the thing.  It looked dangerous, quite frankly.

But when I saw one in the store recently and was able to hold it in my hands, I have to admit I really liked the lightness of it, as well as the cute, decorative covers that actually made it FEEL like I was reading a book.  Hesitantly, I told Alan I was onboard.

When my Kindle arrived in the mail, I quickly handed it to my smart, computer savvy husband.  He dutifully accepted it (I think he likes to play with these kind of new toys, anyway!), and immediately began the process of getting me registered and ready to go.

He gave it back just a few minutes later telling me, "You're all set!"  and showed me how to access the online bookstore to make my selection.  The store was set up in Alan's account, but he told me we could switch that later.

Since I'm pretty caught-up on all my favorite authors, I decided to do a massive search. This time of year, less than a month before our Key West vacation, I love to listen to Jimmy Buffet and read "beach books" to get me in the mood for our trip.  So, I did a quick "Key West fiction" search.  Within seconds, hundreds of titles emerged.  I clicked on the first one, which was labeled,  "Key West."  Hmm.  Sounds perfect.  The screen was too small to make out the actual cover, so I clicked on what I thought was "description."  Apparently, I had inadvertently hit "reviews."  Rather than scream for my husband again, I decided to just read those instead.  They said things like, "Four stars!"  "LOVED the surprise ending!" and "I now want to read EVERYTHING by this author!"

Well, that was good enough for me.  I hit "download" and within less than a minute, my book "arrived" on my screen!  Hooray for modern times!

I read the first sentence (LITERALLY, the FIRST sentence) and performed an audible gasp. Then I decided to go back and check the "description" like I should have done in the first place. That's when it hit me.  I had just downloaded my first book, on my brand new Kindle.  And it was erotic fiction.

But, you know, being somewhat of an author myself, I felt it was only fair that I read a fellow writer's work.  I mean, I'd want HER to do the same if she accidentally downloaded something from my blog.  It's the courteous thing to do, people!  Besides, I'm a sucker for a "surprise ending!"

So I read it.  It was really, really "interesting."  But I must admit, the ending WAS surprising.  I did NOT see that coming!

Here's the fun clincher to this pathetic tale:  You know how Amazon, once you've purchased a particular book, will then send follow-up, "If you liked THAT book, we recommend THESE titles as well" emails?  Yeah.  Alan's been getting LOTS of "suggestions" for potential reading material on his Amazon account!  Because he is awesome and (thankfully) has a great sense of humor, instead of being angry with me, he just reads me the titles of the suggested books.  We've had a GREAT time pouring over THOSE!

So, in conclusion, I must tell you that this technologically challenged old biddy really DOES approve of her new Kindle.  Since that original debacle, I have actually learned how to effectively search for (and read the descriptions of) more appropriate reading material.  I am really enjoying it.

Although I'll never look at Key West the same way again...

Thanks for Reading!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

God Does William Wallace

I've never been a fan of Mel Gibson's, even before his drunken, anti-semitic, womanizing rants.  But I admit I do love the movie Braveheart, Mel's movie based on the life of Scotsman William Wallace.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the first battle in which William and his fellow countrymen must fight the invading British army. The Scots are outnumbered, out-weaponed, and don't appear to stand a chance.  But they show up, paint their faces, and after a rousing speech about freedom and country from Wallace, the battle begins.

The British fire arrows, then start an all-out charge, driving directly at the standing Scottish line.  Wallace raises his arm in the air and, as the line stands perfectly still, shouts, "HOLD!" The British continue to advance, Wallace again repeats, "HOLD!"  The Scotsmen shift their weight nervously and tighten their grip on their shields.  A few of them steal a sideways glance at their leader with worried eyes that say, "Really?  Are you SURE?"  Once more Wallace shouts, "HOLD!"

When it appears that the British are literally on top of them, Wallace yells, "NOW!" and the Scotsmen stoop down, drop their shields, and pick up long, sharp, crudely-made spears. The British, too close to stop or retreat, are immediately impaled.

Here's a quick look at the scene:

Intense stuff, huh?

I've been thinking a lot about William Wallace lately, and how God's been showing me His impression of the Scottish Warrior these days.  God's been telling me to "HOLD!" quite a bit. Let me explain:

Our home in Pennsylvania has been on the market for a full year now.  We actually thought we had a buyer very recently.  We agreed on a price, but they backed-out at the last minute. So, we're back to square one.  In the meantime, we're renting a home in Tennessee, waiting for the house to sell so we can buy something here.  I am aching to be settled into our own home, painting walls, hanging curtains, and working in the garden.  Instead, God tells me, "HOLD!"

There's also the issue of my "book." Last September, after Dad's funeral, I decided to gather the stories from my blog and compile them into book form, dedicating it to his memory.  I sent the completed manuscript to the independent publisher in October. She told me I'd have it by mid January.  I still don't.  Over the past eight (EIGHT!) months, when I email to inquire about the book's progress, she replies with a string of excuses about her busy schedule and health issues.  Once again, I'm told, "HOLD!"

Then there's the ever-present, foreboding, lymphoma.  In April, I learned my tumors have grown.  In November, I will be re-scanned to determine whether or not it's time to begin chemotherapy.  In the meantime, I try very hard not to think about November.  I down my daily doses of Curcumin (the latest herb that's supposed to shrink lymphoma tumors) and try not to finger the palpable lumps in my neck.  Beside that, there's really nothing else I can do until November.  Except, of course, to "HOLD!"

I've never been good at waiting.  Like Wallace's warriors, I stand in place, nervously weight-shifting, grasping my gardening tools, asking "Really?  Not YET?" But like those Scottish soldiers, I know I must trust my Leader.  His timing is perfect, even if it seems excruciating to me.

So, excuse me as I sigh, paint my face, throw on a kilt, and grab a spear.  I've got more holding to do...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Angels Watching Over Me

One of the neat perks of being a ghost tour guide is hearing my guests tell me their own chilling stories.  Just about every night, someone will approach me as we're walking from one site to the next and say something like, "You know, I live in a haunted house!" or "I had a ghost visit me in my room when I was a kid!"

Whenever this happens, I give my guest my full attention and insist they tell me EVERY detail.  Truth is, I'm a sucker for a great ghostly tale!

But a few nights ago, one of my tour goers unveiled a story of a different kind.  She was a quiet,  older woman, there with her two girlfriends enjoying a "Girl's Night Out."  Her companions did most of the talking and answering of the trivia questions I asked (Yes, we play a trivia game on the tour, and the winner receives a Haunted Tavern Tour shot glass!  WHY haven't you been here yet?).  But since I want to make sure ALL of my guests are having a good time, I sat down next to her at one of our stops and struck up a conversation.

She didn't come out with it right away, but in the process of talking, she revealed to me that she had a certain "gift."  Like Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense, she can see dead people! She said the streets of Nashville are filled with tired, sad ghosts of former confederate soldiers and lost cowboys.  She told me that she did her best not to make eye contact with them, because as soon as they noticed that she could see them, they would follow her.

I wasn't sure I believed her, but I told her to keep an eye out and let me know if she saw any of the spirits I mentioned on the tour.  She promised she would.  At the end of the evening, I approached her once more and asked her if she "got" anything along the way. She said she saw a few spirits relating to what I was talking about.

But then she pointed to a building across the street. "There's a LOT going on inside THERE!" she said.  I had heard that the structure to which she was referring had some "stories of haunting" attached to it, but my company is still researching and verifying the accounts, so it's not yet part of the tour.  She had no way of knowing this.  My doubt in her ability was beginning to fade.  It was a good thing, too, because I was more prepared to hear what she had to say next:  "You have two male guardian angels attached to you."

Two!!  That's right, TWO!!  Sadly, my first thought was, "I wonder if they look like this guy">>>>>

Unfortunately, the tour was wrapping up and I wasn't able to question her any further. She smiled as she took my hand, thanked me, and wished me luck. Then she was gone.  And there I stood, on 3rd Avenue in downtown Nashville, wondering.

Wondering why God decided I needed TWO guardians, first of all.  I mean, it's not like I do a lot of sky-diving or bungie-jumping these days.  A great deal of my time is spent reading and napping!

Which brings me to another issue I stood pondering:  Aren't my angels BORED?  Also, do they see me when I come out of the shower?  Oh, these poor, poor celestial beings!! They must complain about their job on a daily basis, begging to be reassigned!

But on the drive home, I recalled a book I read several years ago.  It was kind of a Christian science fiction story which revolved around guardian angels fighting for the human beings on earth.  They were constantly battling with the demons that encircled the humans to which they were assigned.  The demons' names were things like, "Self-Doubt," "Greed," and "Shame."

The evil beings would buzz around the ears of the earthlings, whispering condescending words that the humans immediately believed about themselves.  They'd slouch over, burdened by the weight of it.  The angels would swarm in and engage in battle with the demons, warning them to keep away from God's precious creatures.  It was some powerful stuff!  It occurred to me that if this was the case, then I was DEFINITELY in need of two of these guys.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to speak to my angels, since we're now aware of each other:

Dear Guardian Angels:

Hi fellas!  I'd just like to start off by thanking you for, so far, a job well done!  I've managed to live 47 full years without a whole lot of tragedy or drama, and for that I'm truly grateful! Also, thanks for having my back each night after my tours as I walk back to my parked car in downtown Nashville. I've always felt some kind of protection on those nights, now I know the source!  You guys ROCK!!

I imagine the "fighting off my demons" thing can be pretty tiresome for you both.  As we all know, I've got plenty of them buzzing around to keep you busy.  Lately, Anxiety and Body Image have been running pretty rampant, so I'd really appreciate if you could just stick a large, sharp saber right through both of their hearts.  That'd be just terrific.  Also, quick question:  Is there, by any chance, a guy named "Keep Her Metabolism As Slow As Possible" encircling me?  If so, could you please see that he dies an intensely painful, slow, torturous death? Thanks!

Here's my last question and then I'll let you get back to work:  Did God send you here to fight my lymphoma? Boy, would that be awesome.  I've been trying so hard out here on my own, and there's a chance I may be losing this current battle.  I could sure use a couple of celestial warriors on my side, because I'm feeling a little weary these days.

Lastly, thanks for believing that I'm special enough to protect.   That may be worth more to me than the actual protection itself.  Another demon bites the dust...

Thanks for Reading!

Monday, May 30, 2011

For the Fallen

These past few days, I've noticed many of my Facebook friends posting things like this: "Have a great weekend, everybody! Remember to honor the veterans!"

I am an enormous supporter of those veterans who have served our country with bravery and pride.  I'm actually married to one of them.  But even my husband will tell you that this day is NOT about him, nor any of the military men and women who are living today.

Today is Memorial Day.  It's the day we remember those who died while serving in wartime (hence, the "memorial" part).  Memorial Day was originally known as "Decoration Day" and was created shortly after the Civil War to honor those who lost their lives during that conflict.  Following World War I, it was extended to include ALL fallen soldiers from all of our wars.

My earliest memories of Memorial Day involve the parade that was held each year in my hometown of Northfield, Ohio.  I marched in it with my Girl Scout troupe, then my softball team, and later, with the high school marching band.  The parade would always conclude at the town cemetery, where a short ceremony would be held, then the playing of "Taps" by two high school trumpet players.  One of them would stand near the speaker and play the first few notes, the other would be placed further back in the cemetery, hidden from view.  He'd echo the notes just played by the first trumpeter.  Even when I was small and couldn't quite grasp the brevity of this ceremony, the sound of those mournful trumpets made a permanent impression on my young heart.

Today, I'm old enough to understand the enormous sacrifice that these soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and their families have made for my freedom.  So, on this day especially, I'd like say "thank you."  I won't forget what you did, nor will I ever take for granted the liberty that you defended with your life.

Here's a video that I believe did a pretty decent job of explaining what today's about.  Hope you like it, and that you have a very Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

No More Kings

Since I am a proud member of both The Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel Fan Clubs, my knowledge of any music written after 1985 is pretty weak.

So imagine my surprise a few months back when I was introduced to this song by the wonderfully confident and talented Sara Bareilles. I love this girl. I'm using the word LOVE here.

Having spent a great deal of my life in the realm of show biz, I know a little something about people telling me what I had to look like, sound like, or most importantly, WEIGH, if I wanted to become a legitimate success.  I walked around feeling enormously inadequate for the majority of my performing life, because I failed to live up to what these "experts" were telling me I needed to be.

Somehow, this lovely, confident young lady has found the nerve to do something I never could.  She's declared "Enough!"  This song announces her refusal to listen to those who think she is somehow deficient.  Instead, she's going to take the wheel.  It's awesome, my friends!

So, if you're feeling your confidence slipping a little today, or you've ever experienced someone spewing hurtful words your way under the banner of "helpful advice," I want you to listen to what Sara has to tell you in this video.  Don't let anybody be the king of you.  You ROCK!!

 I can't stop watching it!  It makes me feel more confident with each chorus!  Hope it does the same for you!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here's a Tip...

The summer after I graduated from college, I moved back to my hometown for a few months to plan my upcoming wedding.  I got a job as a waitress at the local restaurant, not only to earn some much-needed cash, but to gain some experience as a server.  I knew that once I headed to NYC after the wedding, I'd probably do my share of waiting tables as I pursued my career in theater.

Boy, did I suck at being a server.  No, really, I mean it.  I was terrible.  I am a horrible multi-tasker, so I'd run literal laps around the restaurant as I tried to remember to bring each requested item to each separate table.  If the host sat guests at more than three of my tables at a time, I'd usually panic, hyperventilate, and/or cry.

When I finally DID move to NYC that Fall, I humbly admitted my server-challenged abilities, and decided to go the temporary secretary route instead.  The restaurant world breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Some good did come of my short-lived waitressing experience, however. I have an enormous respect for those who do this job well, and I tip generously.  Actually, I've always been a pretty big tipper (if I do say so myself!), even when the service is sub-par.  I may leave a little less, but I know what it's like to hold a job where your salary is low because your employer knows your pay will be supplemented by gratuities.

When I receive service that is poor, I try to understand that maybe the waitress (or hairdresser or nail tech) is just having a bad day, and I still leave something.  Maybe the customer before me was abusive and surly, or maybe she's just exhausted because this is her second job and she was up all night with a crying baby who refused to be consoled.  Or maybe he's a college student who forgot to put a lemon in my Diet Coke like I requested because he's distracted by the fact that he has a really important final tomorrow.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when at 47 years old, I am once again working for tips! That's right, in my current position as a ghost tour guide, my paycheck is pretty meager, because my employer knows I will receive tips each night.  There is even a portion at the beginning of the script I recite each evening which refers to this.  That's where I remind my guests that "gratuities would be greatly appreciated" at the end of the evening.

Because of this, I work very hard at making my tours special for each of my guests.  I memorized, word for word, ten (TEN!) pages of an intricate script, involving dates and historical facts.  I try to add my personal flair to the stories (without changing the facts) so that they are sure to be entertaining.  I take my guests to the best places to capture "orbs" with their cameras, and I wildly "ooh" and "ahh" when said orbs actually appear on their digital screens.  As we walk from location to location, I ask them about where they're from and what they do for a living.  I listen with wide eyes and gasps of fright as they tell me about their ghostly encounters experienced in their own homes and places of business.

A few nights ago, I had a effervescent woman on my tour who gasped and showed me her "goose bumps" after each story I presented.  When we arrived at the last location, she asked me to go slow because she was so sorry the tour was coming to an end. As I finished, she shook my hand, thanked me for a wonderful time, and left. Without leaving me a tip.

This happens time and time again, actually.  People smile and laugh through the majority of the evening, tell me they had a delightful time, and then refuse to tip me.  They watch as others press some folded bills into my hand, watch as I tell them how much I appreciate it, then turn and walk away without giving me a second thought.  Now, I must tell you, I'm not a single mother who desperately needs this cash to put food on the table.  My income is just a supplement to what my husband makes.  But still, it stings.

My husband has worked in every capacity of the restaurant business for the majority of his adult life.  He told me that this is just how it is when you're working for tips.  He told me that it often happened when he used to tend bar, putting himself through college.  He said he'd take special care of his customers.  He'd prepare the drinks just the way they liked, engage in witty conversation, and provide excellent, prompt service. Then, they'd get up and head for the exit, leaving no tip at all.  He told me he learned not to take it personally, and that I shouldn't either.  But I do.

So, what's your theory regarding gratuities?  Are you a generous tipper?  Have you ever worked in the service industry?  If so, how did you get past the sting of being "stiffed?"  I'd really love to hear it.

In the meantime, I hope that the next time you leave the table, the salon chair, the pedicure foot bath, or the wonderfully informative, tremendously entertaining ghost tour, you'll think about us poor folk who tried to go the extra mile for you, to make your experience special.  And I hope you'll show your appreciation with a little monetary token of thanks!  Also,

Thanks for Reading!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Look, Ma! I'm Versatile!!

My good friend, Shady Del Knight over at Shady Dell Music and Memories has bestowed me with this lovely Versatile Blogger Award!!  Isn't it pretty?  I've ranted about Shady in a previous post, but if you still haven't been over to his terrific site and checked out his wonderfully eclectic mix of music and memories, you MUST do so immediately!!  He's also an incredibly supportive commenter to THIS blog, and for that I am intensely grateful!

The rules upon receiving this award are to first give credit to my presenter, then divulge seven personal things about myself.  Like Shady said in his own blog, I feel I've gone on about myself here ad nauseum, and there really isn't a whole lot more to reveal.  Plus, let's face it, I'm just not that interesting!!

So, I've decided to borrow a page from Shady's book (or, in this case, blog!) and discuss seven DIFFERENT things.  Shady, true to his blog theme, actually revealed seven bands that "rocked his world" when he was in college.  Fun stuff!   Since I already had a blog topic rattling around in the old noggin, I thought I'd incorporate it into my OWN Top Seven List. But first, allow me to explain:

As you may have read in my recent posts, life's been a bit challenging lately.  There's been a whole lot of negative news that Alan and I have been attempting to rise above (thank goodness we have each other, otherwise I don't know WHAT we'd do!).  We were doing pretty well there for awhile, but lately we've been getting weary, and it's been hard to remain positive.  Trust me, it can be terribly exhausting looking for the bright side when there's so much gloom everywhere you look.  I have NO idea how Pollyanna managed it.

So, I was thinking I'd try another tactic.  I'm going to list seven of the pettiest, most ridiculous pet peeves that drive me crazy.  If we focus on the stupid small stuff for just a while, maybe we can forget about the big problems hanging over our heads.  Are you with me?  Let's do this!!  Here goes:

Seven Stupid Pet Peeves:

1.  People Who Don't Use Their Blinkers.  Seriously!  This has to be the LAZIEST form of inconsideration!  Really?  You can't gather the effort to flick your finger and move the blinker switch on your steering wheel so I know you're changing lanes?  REALLY?

2.  People Who Don't Say "Thank You" When I Hold the Door for Them.  It was raining, I got to the door, but saw you just a few yards behind me running to the entrance.  So I waited and held the door.  Silently, you walked through.  REALLY?  By the way, YOU'RE WELCOME!!

3.  People Who Are Intolerant.  Wait, this one's not petty at all.  I really, really hate this.  But it's too important to remove, so I'm leaving it!

4.  People on Facebook Using Poor Grammar and Spelling.  If I read one more sentence like this:  "Your right,  we had a gr8 time to,  I'll send pitures ASAP," heads are going to start rolling!

5.  People Who Read My Name on a Form and Still Call Me "Joann."  (Medical receptionists, I'm looking at YOU!)  Joann is a lovely name.  It's just not mine.  My name's JOAN.  See the difference?  You might as well call me Mary or Wanda.  These are also beautiful names, also not MINE!!

6.  The Fact That I Can't Buy a Bottle of Wine at the Grocery Store in Tennessee.  Seriously, it's the law.  I have to schlep to a liquor store because apparently our state legislators think this is somehow protecting me, or causing me to drink less.  Poor, clueless souls.

7.  People Who Tell Me to Bury A Statue of St. Joseph in My Yard When I Mention That My Home Isn't Selling.  Seriously.  St. Joe's been in the ground at that house since last May.  I even dug him up and moved him to a different location when a certain site suggested it. It's not working (I, personally, am beginning to believe the guy just really hates Pennsylvania).   So, basically, if you mention it to me again (telling me how GREAT it worked for YOU), I will cut you.

WOW!!  I don't know about you, but I feel TERRIFIC!! Now it's your turn!  Tell me what stupid, petty thing really irks YOU!  I can't wait to grumble with you!

And thanks again, Shady, for the lovely award and acknowledgement.  I can't tell you how much it means to me!  And finally, as always,

Thanks for Reading!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thanks, Mom!

I've written a great deal here about my Dad.  In fact, this blog was titled after a phrase Dad often uttered, and I've discussed his idiosyncrasies and work ethic in more than one post.

And yet, one person has remained in the background, content to stay in the shadows.  That's my Mom, Saundra Lee Simmons Donnelly.  I thought I'd remedy that today in order to honor her this Mother's Day.

This is a picture of her before she married a paranoid, quick-tempered husband and gave birth to five children in the span of seven years.  Doesn't she look so beautiful and rested?

Truth is, Mom has always been a beauty, inside and out.  While Dad was out working three jobs to pay for food and ballet lessons, Mom was single-handedly, lovingly, running the show at home.  

I don't think Mom ever left the driver's seat of our station wagon from the years 1972-1986.  She was shuttling us to ballet, softball, band practice, and gymnastics.  She was our girl scout leader and the first to volunteer for countless fundraisers for drill team, majorettes, and Thespian society. She sewed our ballet and swing choir costumes, hemmed our skirts, mended our blouses, and taught us how to knit, sew, embroider and crochet.  

She was always so quiet, lovely, and beautiful.   I remember being a little girl and hoping I'd turn out just like her.  Unfortunately, I inherited Dad's slow metabolism and short temper.  Sometimes, life just isn't fair, people.  

(This, by the way, is a picture of Mom holding my dog Trixie.  Like all animals, Trixie adores her because she's so sweet and gentle.  Here, she has fallen asleep, burying her head in Mom's arm.) 

But soft spoken and ladylike as Mom was, she definitely had her "Mama Bear" moments.  I remember one occasion when she felt that our band director had treated one of us unfairly, and she called and firmly gave him a piece of her mind, insisting he "rethink" his actions.  He did!

So, here's to you, Sandy Donnelly.  Thanks for everything you've done, all you continue to do, and for making me feel so loved and special all these years! I hope I've made you proud, and that you feel that the woman I've become was worth all the hard work you did for me! I love you!!

Thanks for Reading!!