No More Pencils, No More Books…

Well folks.  I believe I’m finished.  God has carried me through many years of reading, writing, classes, notes, research, essays, journals, lectures, study groups, accounting, marketing, management, computers, history, etc. and now I’m finished.  I wish I could say I’m in the running for a doctorate but alas, no, or should I say, not yet!   With all the extra education I’ve received in addition to my degree, I could certainly be an Honorary something or other…?

I appreciate everyone who reads my blog, “likes”, “comments” and has given me encouragement.  You’ve taught me more than you know.  I feel very blessed.

 THANK YOU!

Without further ado, I’ll be prancing around in the privacy of my home office doing a “HAPPY DANCE”  but you won’t be able to see me.  Hee Hee.  Just picture me clicking my heels and singing along with the following – one of my childhood favorites! 

I’m taking the rest of the evening off since I have bigger mountains to climb tomorrow!

Grazie & Buona notte!

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Traditions and Customs: Do They Impact Our Lives?

With the holiday season upon us, I like to ponder the many traditions and customs our family has passed down through the generations.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years are among the most popular of the many holidays celebrated with great joy at this time of year.  Celebrations of family, home, community, spirituality, good bounty, gift-giving, and revelry are prevalent.  Even those who live by themselves, without family members or other loved ones nearby can find love, comfort and happiness during the traditional festivals. 

We may consider traditions and customs similar; however, according to Merriam-Webster, “a custom is a practice common to many or to a particular place or class.”  On the other hand, “a tradition as an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior, such as a religious practice or a social custom.  Traditions are representative of a person’s culture.”When I was a child, our home barely accommodated six children and two parents, yet we always found room for relatives to celebrate the holidays with us.  This meant not only setting up several large tables in the dining room and living room but in the basement as well, to serve our many guests.  I recall my brother and I having to surrender our bedrooms, as several distant relatives chose to stay on with our family for several days or longer.  Looking back, I find it amazing how we accommodated all those people with only one bathroom!

As my older brothers and sisters started having families of their own, the celebrations grew more contemporary; however we still preserved the traditions and customs of the previous generations.  A favorite tradition is the Easter egg-roll and hunt which began when my nieces and nephews were old enough to maneuver the egg on a spoon; a generation later, their children were doing the same and soon, another generation may begin.

Of course, most who celebrate the more common American holidays still have the traditional turkey feast on Thanksgiving, complete with a vast assortment of autumn vegetables and fruit pies, not to mention stuffing and gravy.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has countless photos of family members with puffed cheeks as they blow out their birthday candles; always an attractive photo.  We generally eat similar food on the same holidays too; Lamb on Easter, Fresh Ham on New Year’s Day, Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, and Turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  There are rituals surrounding religious services, and customs of opening or exchanging gifts, stringing popcorn, decorating wreaths and trees, sending cards, putting up lights and so forth, which make the holidays so enjoyable.

Traditions, customs, rituals and habits all have their place in our society.  Even if you don’t celebrate any of them, you’ll find yourself entangled in the labyrinth of holiday madness no matter where you go.  From crowded airports and rail stations, to post offices and banks, garden centers, grocery stores and malls; the masses are in full swing when the holidays come around.

It’s nice to take time and reminisce about the holiday traditions and customs we hold near to our hearts.  Having a large family is wonderful at this time of year however even if I found myself away from home, I would still be able to enjoy the memories and continue the family practices of my past.  To me, traditions ignite the embers in a dormant soul which brilliantly surge with the first spark. 

Dropping supplies off at our parish food bank followed by church services is the prelude to Thanksgiving morning.  I’m looking forward to watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television this week, as I’ve done for many years, as I prepare an assortment of baked desserts and side dishes to bring to the celebration at my sister’s house.  I hope to enjoy a day of gratitude, hope and customarily traditional activity with many family members as we pray for blessings on all.

“A love for tradition has never weakened a nation; indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.” ~ Winston Churchill

Young at Heart; A Celebration of a Life Well-Lived

It was a sunny, brisk autumn day yesterday.  Limited resources due to complications created by last week’s storm did not prevent us from celebrating the 92nd birthday of a woman who is like a second mother to me.  Having the opportunity to visit with Mrs. M., as she sat proudly in her living room, all dressed up and genuinely proud to be honored on such an occasion, was a blessing.  The festivities brought back fond memories of my childhood, as it included lots of music, food, laughter and wonderful conversation in a warm, loving environment.

Mrs. M., ever the lady, did not hold back while thanking her guests for helping her celebrate another milestone.  Her articulated vision of us kneeling on the carpet in front of her in admiration had everyone chuckling.   Don’t let her size fool you either.  Petite, soft-spoken and rather fragile, Esty M. can still catch one off guard with her quick wit and humorous wisecracks.

A highlight of the evening was when the guest pianist performed a couple of Mrs. M’s musical compositions on the piano.  A music lover since childhood, Esty delighted in hearing her pieces frolic along the ivories.   One of her favorite arrangements “My Dance for You” was tenderly played as a tribute to her late husband with whom she would have celebrated her 70th anniversary the day before.

One of the lines of my favorite Jim Croce song, “Time in a Bottle” reminds me that “there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.”  Last night gave me the incentive to renew my interest in playing the piano.  It also encouraged me to discover some classic literary works I’ve thought about but never read, in particular Anna Karenina, The Sun Also Rises, Sister Carrie or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

As I listened to Mrs. M.’s CD this afternoon, I realized how quickly time passes us by.  If we don’t take advantage of the precious moments we have, they’ll be lost forever.  I hope I’m fortunate enough to celebrate my 92nd birthday with family and friends.  That day seems so far off but may be here sooner than I think.  In the words of Jack Dawson (of Titanic movie fame), “here’s to making each day count.” 

“Any sage will tell you the secret to longevity is to outlive your predictions and see them to fruition. You cannot gloat from the grave.” ~ L. Vincent Majestic

Keeping Gratitude in my Attitude :D

I believe in miracles.  A decade ago, I suffered a heart disorder that, had I been alone would have killed me.  Fortunately, it was not my time.  After that incident, I thought twice about my life and the choices I have as well as the decisions I make.  My life is pretty damn good today and I will continue to be grateful for the opportunity of having a second chance at life.  My family is happy I’m still around too.

One thing I learned after that incident is never to lose gratitude for the things I have rather than suffer disappointment for those I don’t.  Right now I’m in a difficult position for a number of reasons; however I still have the proverbial roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back.  Being unemployed and not having an income are only temporary situations.  They aren’t as important as the love I share with my family and friends and my spiritual connection with my Higher Power.  I am content knowing I will be provided for as long as I put the effort in every day. 

My emotions may fluctuate but I never have a bad day.  Although you don’t have to believe in God to feel inspired, I find it helps greatly and keeps me grounded.  If I start thinking negatively, I find something or someone to help me transpose my thoughts.  Today was another eye-opener for me. 

I don’t ever recall reading CNN online.  For some reason, I clicked on it this evening and read a story about the enormous sanitation problem India faces.  After reading the article, my entire mood changed.  Frankly, I felt quite ignorant of the fact that more than half of India’s population does not have access to running water, something I don’t even think twice about.  626 million people defecate in the open in India…in the open; primarily by the railroad tracks.  Even in the poorest neighborhoods, residents have refrigerators, televisions and cell phones but no toilets.  Believe it or not, many feel it is unsanitary to have a toilet in the house, which is a cultural issue to be addressed.  The problems that arise from defecating outdoors, however, are very serious and pose greater health risks, especially to children. 

After reading the article, I just sat back as tears came to my eyes.  I had just finished a nice dinner, washed the dishes and was sitting at the table drinking a glass of nice cool water with a slice of lemon.  The plight of the Indian population would not have affected me had I not watched the video.  There was a reason I happen to visit that particular site.  I do not believe it was a coincidence.  Now I need to take action even if I’m not exactly sure where to start or what to do.  The miracle today is that I’m still alive and able to make a change, however small, in this world I’ll eventually leave behind.  And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”  ~Aldous Huxley