Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tis The Season

It's almost Christmas time. I always hope that this makes people kinder and gentler. Sometimes that's true, but not all the time. However, I've been lucky this season and I'll share with you two quick anecdotes.

Around two weeks ago Brie and I decided to ride to work together because we were expecting inclement weather and Kitty wanted me in a safe SUV. Never mind the fact that I'm an extremely safe driver: Brie has an all wheel drive Tucson. So off we went.

Brie wanted to stop at Dunkies to get an iced latte; and I decided to get a small milk to take to work for my cereal. Brie gave the order and we drove up to the window. Since the cashier hadn't given her the price, she asked her when we got to the window. The cashier said, "No charge. The person ahead of you paid for yours too."  Needless to say we were flabbergasted. "Wow, that's awesome!" we enthused. Then Brie said, "Now I want to pay for the car behind me. How much?" The cashier told her and Brie paid: happy to pay it forward.

Yesterday I had to go to a certain store to buy a certain someone a certain present. This involved driving back to Saratoga after I had already been home. So in the rain I drove there. I located the item, or items and noticed none were on sale. Sighing, I hoped there would be a coupon in their flyer. Nope! So I resigned myself to paying full price.

Heading for the register, I hoped that I would get a kind looking cashier to ring me up, but it was a dour-faced older woman at the register. So no asking her about a coupon!

As she was ringing me up, I said, "I'm surprised you guys don't have any coupons this week." She looked at me and after a moment said, "I think I have a coupon we can use." Imagine how happy I was to hear that! So she finished ringing me up, waved a receipt-looking piece of paper under the scanner and announced, "$37.89."  My jaw almost dropped. That was a big drop in how much it was supposed to be! I told her thank you, paid and when I took my receipt I saw it had on the bottom 'total savings $43.27'! How had she made that happen?

I thanked her again and she replied, "Merry Christmas." I couldn't believe it. It's hard to find people that still say that! "Merry Christmas to you too! It's always Merry Christmas to me." "Me too!" she said enthusiastically. We smiled and then I left the store, feeling light-hearted in spite of the rain. Who would have thought the dour-faced lady would have been so nice?

I guess it's the power of the season. I'm happy that it is! This time of year certainly brings out the best in people. I can't wait to see what else is in store as we get closer to Christmas. And I can't wait to see what I do to makes people's days brighter! It's all about paying it forward; and there's no better time than the present.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Memory 3

When I first moved back home after the implosion of my marriage, it took me a while to get back on my feet. I moved back on August 3; but it took me until November 21, my birthday, to procure employment with a local company. Thankfully my cousin Ivy was instrumental in helping me get the job.

Within a couple of weeks Ivy let me know that the company was having a Christmas Party at the Queensbury Hotel and she would drive us there. This put me into a panic because I had a baby and a toddler, had just started working and pretty much had no money to buy a fancy outfit. Ivy, who was a superb seamstress, was making a ball gown out of gold lame and black velvet. I knew I'd look like the poor relation but what could I do?

I told my mother my dilemma and explained that I would make a poor showing in front of my new friends and coworkers because I didn't have the funds to buy a nice dress. Marie said, "Why do you need to spend a lot of money? You can go to the department store and I'm sure find something that will be just fine for you. I always say at the end of the day, wear what makes you  feel comfortable."

I thought about this a lot. Then one night after work I asked Ivy if she would drive me to Zayre's so I could find something. "What do you think they'll have there?" she asked. "I don't know but it's in my budget so there had better be something."

So at midnight that night I was walking around that store remembering what my mother had told me. And then I saw it: a turquoise oversized sweatshirt that reached mid-thigh, just like I used to wear to the club in my heyday. It was well within my budget at $9.99 so I figured I could do something with it. It looked good in 1979, so why not in 1985??

I didn't let Ivy see what I bought. After all, I knew I'd have to accessorize like crazy to do something with just a sweatshirt dress!

The night finally arrived. I wasn't one to wear makeup, but I did my eyes and lips. I did my nails in red. I borrowed a fancy turquoise and black belt to accentuate my waist (yes, I had one back then). I put on a couple of long silver necklaces and silver drop earrings. Then I had on black high heels and off-black hose with a seam up the back. Very sexy...

When I presented myself to my mother she said, "See? You look wonderful! No one will know it's a $10 sweatshirt."

And you know what? She was right! Even Ivy, in her gold and black velvet ball gown, couldn't believe how fancy I looked. Truth be told, I think she was a wee bit miffed that people at the party made such a fuss over me, but I'm sure they were being extra nice to the new girl.

It was a great Christmas party and a great memory.  I also have great memories of the Christmas party I just attended last night. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Memory 2

This memory comes from just 4 years ago, if memory serves. Each year for the past several years, I invite people to stop by on Christmas Eve for a snack, or to play games or just to visit because I love to entertain. Even if it’s just for a few minutes I like to see people to wish them a Merry Christmas.

But this particular December, I wanted to do something different. I decided that I wanted to make a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner just for me and my girls. Afterwards people could come over: but dinner was just going to be the three of us.

So for this special event I went to the local butcher shop (love those!) and purchased a prime rib for us to have for dinner. This was something that I love, but I’d never cooked before. I was so excited at the prospect of serving this: right up until I brought it home and Kitty announced, “I don’t like that.” I told her that in that case she didn’t have to have any but could eat the sides and be satisfied with that. Seriously? How could she be my child and not love beef???

Anyhoo, I told people that my house was closed for dinner, but afterwards the usual open house would be in effect. I fortunately had the day off, so I spent it cleaning and then putting dinner together. I wanted it to be special, so I set the table with placemats, real china, lit candles and took out the large wine goblets. Granted: we didn’t have any wine, and I don’t drink anyway, but that Iced Blue Lemonade flavored Kool-Aid sure looked pretty in those glasses!

During this time Kitty mentioned how good the prime rib smelled. I told her she couldn’t have any because she hated it. Of course I was kidding: I said she could have a tiny piece to taste.

And what do you know? That one taste turned into an entire serving because it was delicious! My first prime rib and it must have been delicious for Kitty to eat it, because she doesn’t even eat steak. Or maybe it was because the only other item on the menu was Mandy’s finger rolls. I was so excited about the meat, and I love finger rolls sooo much, I kind of let the other food slide. But it didn’t matter because it was a lovely dinner; we toasted each other with the Kool-Aid in the fancy goblets and just had a great time with just the 3 of us. Then after dinner we quickly cleaned up and opened the doors to a few friends and a couple of family members to drop in.

I sure would like to have that prime rib dinner again. And maybe this time: have a salad or a vegetable too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas memory 1

It’s the holiday season, so I thought I would share a few particular memories as we head towards the actual day.

This one goes back to when Brie and Kitty were little kids. Kitty had been particularly good that year, but little Brie’s behavior had been…well, let’s just say less than stellar! So I told her that if she didn’t behave: Santa wouldn’t bring her any gifts and she would be visited by the Coal Man! And everyone knows the Coal Man brings coal instead of presents.

But cocky little Brie didn’t believe that for a minute. So she continued on being…Brie.

Christmas Eve finally came, and I sent the girls to bed. Brie said, “I can’t wait to see what Santa brings me tomorrow!” I said, “How do you know Santa will bring you anything? You weren’t a good girl this year so you might get something from the Coal Man!” She giggled. “No I won’t. There’s no such thing.” “Okay then, we’ll see in the morning.”

When the girls were asleep, my sister came over: bringing the gifts I had stashed at their house. “Are you going to help me wrap?” I asked. “Oh I’m not good at that,” Robin said, settling on the couch with my remote to watch something scandalous on MTV.

I snatched the remote out of her hand, put the Yule Log tape in the VCR and told her that I needed help wrapping.  “Fine,” she grumbled, sliding onto the floor. I handed her something very easy to wrap: a gumball bank. In a rectangle box, what could be easier?

That’s when I found out what was easy for me was rocket science to my sister. It took her 45 minutes to wrap that present! “What in the world are you doing over there?” I finally asked.

She huffed and puffed and turned and taped and wrapped and finally said, “I don’t know how you do it every year. This is hard!” Only for her, apparently! But she finally got it looking somewhat like a lumpy present, albeit not one I’d want to receive! “Now grab a Christmas tag, write her name on it and try to move a little faster on the next one. I’ve already wrapped 12 to your one!”

So after the sisterly wrapping party she finally went home and I finished placing all the presents under the tree. Boy: the girls would be so surprised when they saw the bounty “Santa” left!

Of course they were up at the crack of dawn, woke me up and we made our way to open presents. While I was helping Kitty, little bad Brie grabbed the lumpy present and shook it, trying to figure out what it was.  She looked at the tag in horror: and then burst into tears! “Brie, what’s the matter?” I asked in concern. Why was she crying on Christmas?

“You were right!” she wailed. “The Coal Man left me coal!” “What are you talking about?” Then I looked at the tag and burst out laughing. Robin had written, “To a naughty little girl. Love, THE COAL MAN”!

Once I was able to contain my mirth, I had her open it so she could see it was only a gumball bank. Then all was right with her world…

I understand that I shouldn’t have laughed at her distress. But I will tell you: she was MUCH better the following year!

Friday, October 24, 2014


My mother had left me a voicemail at work.  Even before I retrieved it, I
had a feeling that I knew what it was. “Hello?”

“Ms. Marie, you rang?”


“Is something wrong?”

“I think we have a problem.”

“Which is?”

“It’s your father.  I think he stopped breathing.”

I could feel my mind shutting down and automatic pilot kick in.  “Are you sure he’s not breathing?”

She hesitated.  “Yes.”

“Did you call 9-1-1?”


“Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”


“Is anyone else home?”

“Yes.  Keith and Robin are here.”

“Have one of them call 9-1-1.  You need me?”


“I’m on my way.”

As I hung up the telephone, it felt like someone was sticking thousands of needles into my face and chest.  I remember thinking God; I hope I’m not having a heart attack. I guess I was in shock.

I walked to my supervisor’s cubicle.  She took one look at my face and stood up.  “Rita, what is it?”

“My father just died,” I replied faintly, and felt tears run down my face.

She immediately put her arms around me.  “I’m so sorry, sit down.”   She took my hands.

“I have to leave.”

“I know.  Who can I get to drive you home?”

I wiped my face.  “I can drive.”

But she wouldn’t hear of it.  “You may think you’re okay but I’ll feel better if someone else drives you.”

I thought for a second and regained my composure.  “Leena in HR.  I’m sure she’d be able to.”

“You stay right here and I’ll get her.”

I stayed seated in Terry’s cube as I tried to fathom the fact that my father was dead and no one had called the ambulance.  Then I saw Leena race by on her way to my cube.  I stood up as she came back and saw me; then she ran over and enveloped me in a hug, murmuring words of comfort.  Sure enough, that started me crying again but only for few seconds.

“Where’s your stuff?  Are you ready to go?”

“I have to turn off my computer and get my purse.”

“I can take care of that,” Terry said.

“I have to fill out a form for leaving early.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Terry said as the three of us made it over to my cube.  “Leena, can you pull your car up?  Rita and I will meet you there so we can avoid any questions.”

“Sure thing.”  She gave me another squeeze.  “I’ll meet you in a couple of minutes.”

At my cube I quickly put an ‘out of office’ message on my email, told Terry that I’d do the phone voicemail later and collected my purse and little work bag.  She thought we should go out the back way to avoid any questions, and I agreed.  However, when we got to the back entrance, there was no Leena.  After a couple of minutes we realized that she probably went to the front lobby entrance, so we went there and luckily didn’t encounter anyone on the way. 

Sure enough, after a minute Leena drove up and I got into her car.  “Don’t worry, I’ll get you home real quick,” she said in her Louisiana drawl.

That proved to be prophetic.  I had no idea her little Honda could go that fast; but thankfully there were no state troopers on the highway that afternoon.  Even though I know we talked, it’s difficult to remember much of what was said.  I told her about what my mother had said, and she asked, “Do you think anyone did call 9-1-1?”

“I’m sure someone did.” I had my hands tightly clasped together.  I was subconsciously willing the car to go faster because I knew I needed to get to my parents’ house.

When we finally hit that block I could see there was already an ambulance in attendance, and a police car was there as well.  “This doesn’t look good,” I said.

Leena pulled up at the service station right next door and I jumped out of the car after quickly grabbing my things.  She followed me into the house…

Tomorrow marks 10 years since I lost my father.   This is an excerpt from a book I wanted to write about his last year with us. But as you can see: I wasn’t able to do it.

I loved my father and I still miss him. And that year was one that had a major impact on my life, and changed me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Hmm, maybe this will be the year I finish the book. Within the next 12 months, conceivably. With that being said: I’ll keep you posted…

Miss you Daddy Clank.


Monday, September 1, 2014

What's That Like?

I took Kitty to the store this afternoon. When we came home, I pulled into our parking spot and I just happened to look at my rear-view mirror and out the back window. I saw my neighbors from across the way getting out of their vehicle and going into their townhouse. That got me thinking: what's that like?  What's it like to actually live with someone you love, that loves you back just as much?

I left my husband a lifetime ago, with 2 babies I have raised myself. In all of these years I have never lived with anyone other than my daughters. I felt that I needed to set a good example especially since I had girls to raise, and raise properly.

So I set my "good example" but now I wonder: did I miss out on something special?

Sure I dated on occasion, and I've even been engaged a couple of times. But none of that panned out into the type of relationship that I'm missing now.

I am looking for forever. I am looking for the relationship where I am the woman: not the one where I have to be the man too. Where are the real men: the ones who don't play games. The ones with their own vehicles, jobs, and abodes? The emotionally mature ones who know how to court and how to treat a woman with respect? The ones who are there for the good times and bad, and who love unconditionally? I'm looking for the ones who accept me for who I am and don't try to change me. And how about that man who realizes I don't have the body of a 20-year-old because I'm not 20?? And loves all of this chocolaty goodness because he realizes how special I am, and how this body can still turn it out? I'm looking for that man.

So who knows? Maybe, before I know it, this will happen. So instead of me watching my neighbor go into her house with her boyfriend, I'll be greeted at the door by my man: the one whom God finds worthy of me, After all: as the child of the King, that makes me a Princess. And that's what I deserve.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Visit From An Old Friend

Last night my good friend Dave Thomas (not to be confused with the Wendy's guy) was IM'ing me about a project he is embarking on. Dave and I met when we were both working at WCKM and I just adore him. Afterwards, I fell asleep. Since he and I had been talking about radio, I had a dream about a guy I used to know...

JK and I met in the radio program at Adirondack Community College more years ago than I'd like to mention. We couldn't have been more different: I was a girl of color, he was white. I was citified and he was country, I liked R&B and he liked classic rock. I was 17 and he was 30 and had served in Vietnam. But that didn't stop us from becoming friends and developing feelings for each other. It was a rather innocent relationship since I intended to remain a virgin until marriage. But we still went to mixers and parties, danced and made out, and all was relatively well.

But of course it couldn't last; and the last time I saw him was my second year of college. The last time I heard from him was a year after that. He had moved to California and sent me a letter. I responded but then didn't hear back from him.

So getting back to the dream: I saw him and went up to give him a big hug. He had always had the best hair: long, luxurious dark chocolate brown and I always loved to run my fingers through it. So of course in the dream I did this and he was smiling. Then I started noticing things. He was wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, and I noticed that they were very faded. I then noticed that he smelled differently: something I didn't recognize. And then I noticed that he looked kind of faded. But he was still my JK.

I went to work today and told my co-worker Amy about the dream. She said, "Why don't you Google him and see if he's around somewhere?" I said he had a really common name; but I went to Google and put in "John Kelley Whitehall". Imagine my shock when his obituary was the first thing that popped up! I gasped and Amy said, "Is that him?" I answered yes. She said, "I'm so sorry" and went back to her desk while I quietly shed a couple of tears for him. He died July 15, 2013...

Apparently, talking to Dave T. about radio got my subconscious thinking about when I studied radio, so JK came to mind. I believe that he was faded in my "dream" because it was his spirit paying me a visit. I had wondered what had become of him after all these years. I just wish I had looked for him sooner. My daughter says that I have a kind spirit, which is why I get these periodic "visits" from those who have passed. I am glad I got to "see" him.

So in honor of JK, here is the poem I wrote for him when I was 17:

Nature’s Son, Freedom’s Child.

Wind-kissed, sun blessed,

Yet his soul is not at rest.


Elusive as a passing thought.

Out of reach, like a star;

With you yet his thoughts are far.


Alighting for a too-brief moment

Only to be off again:

Afraid of too much time to spend.


Moody as an Autumn sky,

Sometimes brooding, tempest-laden,

Other times: a sun drenched haven.


A gentleness like summer rain.

The pacifying quality

Of calming, sweet serenity.


Indian Summer in the flesh.

Radiating warmth and peace.

Unfortunate:  it soon will cease.


A kindred spirit with the sea.

A tranquil surface, only under

Untamed passions much like thunder.


Spending time within himself.

Solitary as the night

Before the rays of morning light.


The only master of himself.

Forever planning to run wild:

Nature’s Son, Freedom’s Child."

R.I.P. my friend...