Firsts and Lasts

January 16, 2018 – I’m trying to compile a list of things I’ve only done once in my life.

It might have something to do with a friend who decided to jump out of an airplane to commemorate a milestone birthday. When I told her I could never do that, she looked disappointed asked me what happened. She said I used to be fearless.

My friend loved the experience, said she’d probably never do it again, and got to cross it off her bucket list. I wouldn’t call this my bucket list since I didn’t set out to accomplish these things – they just happened. And it’s not something to prove I’m brave or fearless because I’m obviously not. Rather, it’s a set of unique experiences that I can share (rated PG, of course).

Here’s what I came up with so far:

5. Sang a duet with Steve Perry of Journey fame in Prescott, Arizona. OK, so his song was coming through the radio and I was driving from the Grand Canyon to Phoenix while harmonizing with him, but it happened. My friend and traveling companion enjoyed it, we both laughed, and I never did it again!

4. Got snowed in during summer vacation. While visiting the Yukon Territory of Northwestern Canada the bus that was driving us to our hotel had to pull over because of snow. Did I mention this was Labor Day weekend? Twenty inches of the white stuff fell on the Canadian Rockies that weekend, which is something that rarely happens during the summer. My compadres and I spent 18 hours on that bus, and most of it on the side of the road near this strange little lodge, the Hotel Caribou, which inspired the singer/songwriter in one of my friends. “Welcome to the Hotel Caribou,” she sang. “Yukon check out any time you like but Yukon never leave.” It certainly felt true, and once I did check out I never went back.

3. Drove across the Southwest by myself. I have a few business trips and a long personal weekend away to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe to thank for this first and last. I drove from Taos, N.M. in the northern part of the state, down to Roswell, the infamous UFO landing spot near the southern border, from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, which took me through the breathtaking Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, and from the Flagstaff, Ariz. to Nogales, Mexico by myself. That’s a lot of desert with long stretches of nothing else to make it through alone. Since then, I’ve never repeated it.

2. Walked through a rain forest. It wasn’t in the deep jungles of the Amazon, but rather in the tamer landscape of the Caribbean. Still, it was a rain forest complete with tropical sounds, plenty of humidity, rare creatures, and darkness even in the light of day. The El Yunque Rain Forest is a tiny rain forest in Puerto Rico. I haven’t stepped foot in another rain forest since that experience.

1. Witnessed a glacier calving. You know that thing that happens when a large piece of the glacier falls into the ocean and causes a huge ripple? That’s called a calving, and it happened at the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska. At the time, the tour guide told us we witnessed something relatively rare. At least for me it was, and I’ve yet to experience another calving.

It’s funny how all of these firsts and lasts occurred while away from home. I suppose I’m more adventurous when traveling.

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The Day After

December 26, 2017 – Few things puzzle me more than folks rushing to the mall the day after Christmas, whether it’s to return gifts or find the best bargains. It may be a popular thing to do on December 26, but shopping is the last thing on my mind, and my wallet appreciates that.

Perhaps shopping for some is a way to avoid the post holiday blues. It’s common to feel let down when Christmas is over. You put so much time and preparation into Christmas, and the day passes much too quickly. In fact, psychologist say the more you prepare and the more exciting the holiday is for you, the more you may feel letdown the day after. Our brains need to establish equilibrium, and the higher we are, the lower we must fall to settle back into that middle space.

The let down may also be why many countries around the world celebrate Boxing Day, a day after Christmas tradition that started in England during the Victorian era when the wealthy would box up gifts they didn’t need and bring them to the poor. It’s a nice thought. As a child, my mom and dad asked us to pick one of our gifts to give to baby Jesus. On Christmas night, we had to place that gift back under the tree and it was gone the next morning. I found out when I was older that those gifts actually went to less fortunate kids.

I enjoy the day after Christmas because it’s when my entire family gets together. With some of us living in different states and others with obligations elsewhere, it’s typically the only day of the year when all 18 immediate family members are in the same room.

Oddly, my post holiday blues start on January 1, the day I should embrace the new start that lies ahead. I’m usually a glass half full kind of person, but there’s something a little sad about New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The holidays are officially over and the long winter sets in. Thankfully the feeling is short-lived.

This year I am determined to focus on the positive and feel excited for what 2018 has in store. I will treat New Year’s Day with the respect it deserves. It’s won’t just be the day the decorations come down. I’ll wait for January 2 to do that.

Christmas on the Block

December 18, 2017 – Nothing says it’s Christmastime like Alan Mann’s Christmas on the Block.

If you’re a Philadelphian who listened to WMMR in the 1980’s, you’re probably familiar with this song and love it as much as I do. If not, listen to it below and I dare you to not become enchanted.

Alan Mann was a local singer/songwriter who played clubs in Philly during era of The Hooters and Robert Hazard. Sadly he died in 1987 after jumping out of his South Street apartment window to escape a fire inside the building. His legacy, a touching tribute to a Philadelphia home for the blind in the Overbrook section that decorated their house with Christmas lights for their neighbors, thankfully lives on.

Legend has it that it was the first music video from an independent artist to be shown on MTV, and we have Yoko Ono to thank for that. She heard the song and loved it, believing it sounded like something John Lennon would’ve written.

Merry Christmas!

Seven Years and Counting

November 6, 2017 — Seven years ago this Friday (November 10, 2010) I started this blog.

Back then, I was a member of the 10 percent unemployed, and thought that starting a blog would keep my writing skills fresh and give me something to do between interviews. The next marketing/communications job was out there, and I’d blog until I found it.

After I started a new communications manager position in 2011, I kept on blogging. Now, 1,218 posts later and seven years in, I still dabble, though not nearly as often as when I posted daily.  I also mix in my photography with written posts, and my pattern has become one photo (for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge) on Fridays and one written post each week on Mondays. It’s a schedule I can live with, still maintain a career and enjoy a bit of free time with family and friends now and then.

My blog didn’t change the world, or gather as many readers as a New York Times article, but I have my faithful followers and it’s been a great ride. A lot of interesting people found me and reached out to me with compelling comments and for that I am truly thankful.

 

 

Moving On

September 25, 2017 – “Girls you’ve gotta know when it’s time to turn the page.”

That line from Tori Amos’ “From the Choirgirl Hotel” is most likely about moving on with your life, but moving on with anything, even to a new home, can be traumatic and fulfilling. You find yourself in a new space and even though you’re surrounded by your own familiar possessions, everything feels different.

Today, I am moving into a new home. I’m happy with the decision, but I know I’ll miss my old home for a bit, in the same manner that while I love Citizens’ Bank Park, the newer home of the Philadelphia Phillies, there are aspects of their old home, the infamous Vet’s Stadium that I miss, too. But shaking things up and starting from scratch is healthy and one of the upsides of moving.

I spent the last several weeks packing up my belongings (which is why there wasn’t a blog post last week), the movers arrive at 9 a.m. and I’ll be on my way.

Tune on Thursday, when I’ll post my photo of the week, and again on Monday, when I’ll hopefully have something new to say.

Comfort Food Favorites

August 14, 2017 – Who doesn’t love a bowl of their favorite cereal?

As a kid, I thought breakfast was the best meal of the day because of cereal. Of course, I grew up when Corn Pops were called Sugar Pops and that was a beautiful thing.

Cereal not only filled your tummy back then, but it also entertained you. Remember reading the cereal box while eating? My sister and brother liked to do the same, so we had to take turns with the Frankenberry and Count Chocula boxes, and getting the prize inside the cereal box.

For many adults like me, cereal remains a favorite comfort food, and it’s still a special treat to sit down with a bowl of Lucky Charms or Coco Krispies. It just makes you feel like a kid again. I like healthier cereals, too and a nice bowl of Crispex with a sliced banana usually does the trick. And I’ve recently discovered the wonderful flavors of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Bethlehem Inn Granola.

So what are the top breakfast cereals of all time? Here’s a list from Buzzfeed ranking them from worst to first. Of course, there are a few I’d add and take off the list, but reading it will make you run for your bowl and spoon!

It’s All Relative

July 24, 2017 — My father always says the 1950s were the best time in our country’s history.

He’s not alone since it is a sentiment shared by many people of his generation, who also believe that life in the 1950’s was simpler and more enjoyable.

I was born in December 1959, so I can’t say I remember life in the 50s, but I do remember the early 60s, which weren’t that different. Traditional roles were the norm, men were the breadwinners of the family and few women worked outside of the home after they married.

Back then we believed our politicians, didn’t question our doctors, and enjoyed a booming economy. There was sense of confidence within the business community that almost any problem could be solved quickly. The government helped boost this confidence by imposing price controls on commonly used goods to slow quickly rising costs. They also passed antitrust regulations to prevent corporate takeovers from strangling competition in the market place. Small businesses were also abundant, including mom and pop stores such as newsstands, candy stores, shoe repair shops, drug stores and food markets. People shopped locally back then, and the small stores thrived.

So, it was a good time for many in this country, but certainly not for everyone, especially those who were discriminated against since the 50s predate the civil rights movement and women’s liberation. Still, my father is correct with his statement, but so am I when I tell my son that nothing compares to the 1970s or 80s. It’s every parent’s prerogative to tell their children that the world was better back when they were young. But I try to remember that even now, at a time when it seems like it couldn’t get any worse, we’re still living in someone’s best time.