We Only Get One Go-round … Pass it Forward

I’ve just returned home from a class I needed to take to further my decision to become a Red Cross Disaster Services Team member.  I have quite  a few classes to go.  But … I can never have too much information for things I decide to do.  I had tried to do this back around 2001, but found being a retail store manager did not give me the ability to take time from work if I was needed.  So, I had to give up the training in order to keep a roof over my head.

But now that I’m retired, I find time is mine to do with as I please.  And now that my grandson is in kindergarten and no longer needs me to hang with him on a daily basis, I am pursuing what makes me happy. (Not that being with Shane wasn’t an absolute joy and I wouldn’t have missed it  for the world.)  But, it’s my time.  And the Red Cross.

I have volunteered most of my adult life.  Most of us do things one way or another to help those around us.  I ‘m grateful for those in my little community here at the beach who keep things organized and running, so I can enjoy those events I choose to participate in.  Without their work, it would not be nearly as enjoyable being here. What would happen if they weren’t here doing what needed to be done?  I certainly could do more.  I do the monthly newsletter, but that’s about it.  And then there’s my friend, Jim, who will stop whatever he’s doing to go fix something for someone at the drop of his hat.  Or power wash their house. Or the other Jim … Jim S.  He’s there for everyone, as well.

There are those who give financially.  Without those people, all charities would shut their doors.  I’m on Social Security, so financial contributions are limited.  I’m grateful for those who can’t give their time or prefer not to and in lieu of that, give their money.  We are all needed.  In many different ways and capacities.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do things for people who will never see me again in their lifetime or mine.  I’m uncomfortable with people telling me, “Thanks.”  When a stranger says it, it’s so much easier for me to accept than if it’s someone I’m likely to see tomorrow.

I have a nephew who totally believes that good works is not what will get you into heaven … it is accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  But I have this belief that you need to pass it forward.  Good Karma, so to speak.  Strangers have been there for me, I need to be there for other strangers.

So, when I decided that the Red Cross was the next place for me to contribute my time, it wasn’t without misgivings.  Could I do this?  I’m getting old.  Do I have what it takes?  And after tonight, I have to reinforce myself with my old attitude … if he or she can do it, so can I!   One time in tears, I said to my husband, “Why do I always think I can do everything?”  His response?  “I don’t know.  Why do you?”

It’s because I know I’m as bright … as intelligent … as capable as those who are currently doing it.  If they can do it, so can I! To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”  I refuse to let my insecurities get the best of me.  The Red Cross needs me and I’m stepping up to the plate!

Making the Perfect Care Package: How You Can Help USO Bagram Stock Up for Troops

For those of you who know me, you know I can’t praise this organization, it’s volunteers and supporters enough. If you want to do something to help our service people besides just saying, “Thanks for your service”, consider getting items for a Care Package.

The Official USO Blog

The contents of  USO care package sits on a table, ready to be packed and shipped. USO photo The contents of USO care package sits on a table, ready to be packed and shipped. USO photo

It’s easy to take the little things for granted. For most Americans, stocking up on snacks, baby wipes and Kleenex is as simple as heading to their local convenience store.

But for troops stationed an ocean away at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, stocking up on every day commodities can mean waiting on, or rationing from, care packages shipped from the United States. However, even the most thoughtful — and jam-packed — of care packages eventually runs empty.

Luckily, USO Bagram is there to help.

Thanks to the generous donations of supporters from around the world who provide USO Bagram with food, toiletries, and other personal care items, troops can head to the USO pantry to stock up on every day items they might need. In order to provide the troops with the…

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Do or Say Unto Others As…..

There has been much said and written about Robin Williams and the sad and shocking details of his death. I have nothing further to say on whether he took the right option, made the right decision, whether he was strong or weak. He did what he did because of his pain. I’ve never felt that kind of pain and can’t even imagine it. So I can’t judge, as so many feel they can. He was a wonderful actor, comedian and from what I’ve read, a good human being.

There is a well written piece that is worth reading – http://www.blogher.com/what-suicide-isn-t-rip-robin-williams – by Elizabeth Hawksworth. I encourage you all to read it. It is intelligent, compassionate and knowledgeable.

I can only speak to those he left behind … his current wife, his ex-wives, his children and all the remainder of his extended family, his friends, co-workers, the person he bought his cup of coffee from. All of these people are greatly affected. All are thinking about what they did or didn’t say to him What they might have noticed or done to make him feel better. How they wish they had known what he was feeling. These are all things people close and not so close expressed to me on hearing of my husband’s death. And I suspect, those in his world are feeling they let him down somehow.

But the thing those who are left behind will eventually come to realize, it wasn’t about anything they did or didn’t do, it was all about their loved one/friend and how that person felt about his or herself. While we look at someone and see a success, they look at themselves and see failure and shortcomings.

I just read that his daughter had to close her social media accounts because of harassment. How could people be so cruel? What is it within some people to cause them to be cyber-bullies? Why are we so mean? Why do some of us have so little compassion? Have we forgotten – “If you can’t say something nice about someone (or to someone), don’t say anything at all?”

I think it’s time for us all to reacquaint ourselves with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

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The price of the meal isn’t always most important

Last night I went out to dinner with a friend. I had never been to this particular restaurant before, so I was interested in trying it out. It was right on the beach in Surfside Beach, SC. We were seated at a table on the outside deck, overlooking the ocean –a nice setting and beachy atmosphere. The food was a little higher priced than I felt it should have been, but it was enjoyable, nonetheless – fried oysters and flounder.011

As we sat there, I couldn’t help noticing all the vacationing families. And I became nostalgic. I was taken back to the late 60’s and early 70’s when my husband, kids and I used to go to Ocean City, NJ. We were living in Pittsburgh at the time and as I recall, it was about an eleven hour drive.

We stayed in a tourist home, one block from the beach and boardwalk, in a basement room with a bath down the hall … for $4 a night! You couldn’t beat the price, even in those days! We continued to go there for several years, but eventually progressed to a room upstairs with it’s own bath for $6 a night. The lady who owned it, Anna, was left the house and the summer income made her able to keep it. It was one of those big, white houses with a wraparound porch, black shutters and wide steps leading up from the sidewalk to the porch … the kind you still see in pictures.

We had our routines and our favorite places to eat. One of our favorites was a German or Pennsylvania Dutch place that always had a long wait for a table. But the food was wonderful. Back then, they had a dish of cut-up celery, carrots, and pickles on the table for you to munch on while waiting to order or to receive you food. Now, that would cost about $6 as an appetizer! My family was partial to the chicken and dumplings. And they always served jello or rice pudding for dessert. There might have been other desserts that you could order at an additional cost, but I don’t remember. We always had something on the boardwalk … a freshly made Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich, saltwater taffy, fudge.

So as I sat there watching these families, I wondered – were they first time visitors to the area or was this a “must go to” place every time they were here. If it was a “must go to” place, it had to be the setting. The food was just average. Or maybe it was just what I chose to order. Would they look back years later and remember eating there?

My family will be coming here in a few days and my granddaughter has her special places to eat. But, we’ve never gone to a restaurant right on the beach. I’ve introduced them to the places that had good food. But, I think I should expand my horizons, so to speak. Give them another sense of being “at the beach”. So, I think I’ll take them to the place we went last night, even though it was a little pricey with average food, all the while knowing full well my granddaughter will want one of the most expensive dinners on the menu (much like her dad always did).

As we were driving back home, passing all the families walking along pushing strollers and such, I was back in time and realizing I’d become a little jaded about the beach. Living here, I forgot how exciting it is for all the tourists. All I see is the traffic, longer waits at restaurants, busier stores, and more crowded beaches. It’s time for an attitude adjustment on my part.

Bonsai … not enough information

I first fell in love with bonsai back when I still lived in Southern California and my sister-in-law and I toured the Huntington Gardens in San Marino.  Some of the specimens were hundreds of years old. Their little stunted trunks were massive and gnarled.  How do you get trees to do that?

Enter an acquaintance from Georgia that I met through other friends.  He has spent years working on his bonsai collection.  He told me how he killed many of them in the process of learning how to do it and he encouraged me to try it.

Well, I never could seem to fit it into my schedule.  I did buy a book about two years ago and was all enthused, but alas, that was a far as it got.

The closest place I could find to show me what to do is two hours north of me in Wilmington, NC.  I called there earlier in the week to find out the hours they were open.  Ronnie told me that on Saturday morning at 10, he gives a class.  Yippee!  So instead of driving up on that day, I held off until this morning.  Rain was predicted, so I gave myself a little extra time in case of an accident or bad conditions.

I left home at 7:45 this morning, stopped and filled my gas tank and bought a bagel.  About 15 minutes later, as I was heading north, the raindrops began.  A little further along, the sky was so dark and menacing that I hoped I wasn’t going to caught in a vortex and dropped in the ocean. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to swim to shore.  The rain was pounding down so hard I could hardly see where the lane was.  And I was only 30 minutes into the trip.  I still had another hour to hour and a half to go!

Now I have to say … driving in rain is very stressful for me.  When I was a teenager I stopped suddenly at a red light and spun around and around through that intersection.  My Guardian Angel kept me safe because I didn’t collide with anything as I came to a stop.  I never got over that frightening experience. So, on this trip, my hands were glued to the steering wheel!  When the rain was pounding down the hardest, I was wishing my nose could have been on the windshield so I could have seen better.  How do all these other drivers see so well that they can zoom past?  I couldn’t see … how could they?

My GPS quit working a while ago, so I was driving with my Mapquest directions as I was coming into downtown Wilmington in heavy rain.  Yikes! Getting to the place was actually a piece of cake, thankfully.  Finding how to enter the property was a little more confusing.  But, I made it. The parking lot had these big ole potholes — small lakes, really.  So instead of changing my shoes, I kept on my paint spattered Crocs.  By this time the rain was lighter, but I still needed my umbrella to get to the door.  I read the sign that said, “Ring the bell.”  I can follow directions with the best of them.  I rang the bell.  A man opened the door and looked at me.  Okkaay … “Bonsai?”  He pointed to all the vegetation around me on tables.

“Do you want indoor or outdoor,” he asked.  “Outdoor,” I responded.  I already have so many indoor plants that when I have to bring them in for the winter, I don’t have enough room for them. He pointed to these cute cypress ones and said, “$50.”  I asked him how you care for them.  He then informed me that you water them and when they need trimmed you bring them back and he trims them.  “If you try to do it yourself, you’ll kill them.”

“Well, I want to learn how to do it myself,” I sputtered. I was feeling intimidated by him, which doesn’t happen often.  I’m usually the one intimidating, if I can believe what people tell me.  He told me he gave classes on Saturday mornings.  I was becoming very confused, what with the rain and intimidation.   My mind was racing, isn’t this Saturday morning?  Yes, I’m sure it is.

So, I bravely said, “Isn’t this Saturday? Where’s the class?”

“Not today … too wet.”  Swell.  Just swell. I’ve driven 2 hours through a monsoon, used a quarter tank of gas, bought a bagel and there’s no class!

So, I give him my best response.  “These are too expensive for me.”

“I have some indoor ones for $25.”  He took me into a greenhouse and showed me cute little plants and gave me an explanation of how you want certain shapes.  All the while the raindrops were falling on my head and ruining my hairdo.  So what did I do?  I bought one!

I went on this adventure to get a free bonsai class, spent money on gas and a bagel, plus a bottle of expensive water and I BOUGHT a bonsai plant. An indoor one, at that!  When did I turn into a wimp??  I have friends who wouldn’t have believed me, if they had observed me.  Wimpy is not part of my character!

As I was driving back home, realizing I had spent over four hours and not achieved my objective, with the rain still falling, I was once again struck by the fact that some people see better than me through their windshields.  I decided when I bought a new car, I’m was going to get one that had more speeds on the wipers than just intermittent and regular.  I really need a car with a higher speed for when it’s raining really hard.  So I began trying to see around my steering wheel to look at my wiper switch.  What?  Are you kidding me?

I’ve owned this car for 10 years and never knew there was a higher speed!  Sure enough, it said, INT, LO, and HI.  Who knew?  I guess besides adding “Wimp” to my description, I need to add “Clueless.”

Oh and here’s my latest purchase…..DSCN0958 DSCN0959