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!!