Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year, New Beginning

I know it’s just another day to many people but for me, New Year’s Day is a new beginning every year. Red and I chatted about it last night.

Kathy: Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet?

Red: Think about, Kathy. You write my life. The only thing I can control is to bug the crap out of you to keep writing. I just keep pinging at your brain and hanging around until you sit down and put the next chapter of my life in the manuscript.

Kathy: (laughing) You’ve done a fine job of that this year. No need for improvement there.

Red: How about you? That’s the real question – what are you going to do get done this year?

Kathy: Well, I only had 5 resolutions last year and I managed to accomplish 2 ½ of them. That’s not too bad, but I think this year I’m going for the gold.

Red: What’s that?

Kathy: I’m going to dedicate myself to propelling a book of mine into the top 100 bestsellers on Kindle.

Red: Now that’s a commitment! Aren’t you afraid of telling everyone in the world that?

Kathy: (chuckling) I’m pretty sure not everyone in the world reads this blog…

Red: (pouting a little) Well, they should! I’m just saying.

Kathy: You might be a little biased. Anyway, I think it’s a great idea to let other people know what your goals are if they’re not too personal. I really believe New Year’s Day is a time for renewal, for new beginnings. If you tell the right people, they can help you get there. Right?

Red: Right, I guess. I wouldn’t know. Being simply a character in your head, I don’t have a lot of experience with this. So, I’m just going to defer to you.

Kathy: Maybe I’ll have you make some resolutions in the next book.

Red: Oh, which book is that? The sequel, Red is an Attitude, or the sequel’s sequel?

Kathy: Maybe I’ll set the third book in the right time frame for a New Year’s party. That would be good. I love a New Year’s party anyway.

Red: Are we going out this weekend?

Kathy: Nope, staying home. I’m starting a new beginning myself this weekend. In fact, we’re holing up for the entire three days to knock out a new novella. Are you with me?

Red: Is it about me?

Kathy: Nope, sorry. But I’m pretty sure you can inform this new character, Maggie.

Red: Hmmm. I guess I’m onboard. Do you think she’ll dig Michael Buble, too?

Kathy: I say we give it a try. You can sit on my right shoulder and Maggie on my left. It’ll be fun.

Red: Will there at least be Bloody Marys?

Kathy: How about eggnog?

Red: Oh, yeah! It’s on. Happy New Year everyone!

Kathy: From both of us…

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Love My Family More at Christmas

Families come in all sizes and shapes. Whatever your family looks like - small or large, related or unrelated - I wish you the very best season of love.

I Love My Family More at Christmas

Of course, I love my family.
I love them every day.
From the eldest, my Pops, to the youngest,
Grandson, nearly 400 miles away.

I’m proud of the baker, the nurse,
The painter, the soldier and the chef.
Not to know how I feel about them all
You would clearly have to be deaf.

The brothers-in-law are all blessings to me
And the nieces and nephews bring joy;
Every one a credit to the marvelous two,
Married 60 plus years now – oh, boy.

So wrap them all up in ribbons and bows
And let me take them home to my heart,
Because it’s always the same every Yule,
My family is truly the very best part.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Embracing Your Inner Santa

My lovely daughter is in town visiting her mama from sunny Phoenix. Here in Sacramento we’ve had our share of chilly weather, so it’s feeling a lot like Christmas, thank goodness.

I took her to my favorite local restaurant for breakfast this morning and we had a bit of a wait. We started watching the others who were waiting, which included several adorable children. Suddenly, there was a tiny uproar as one boy started hollering “Santa” repeatedly. We peered around the corner to spot the object of his attention.

There stood a man, leaning against a walker, who was a dead ringer for Santa if he was just hanging out with the rest of us. He had a full head of long white hair and a billowy beard to match. His face was round and friendly, with the requisite sparkling eyes. The only thing missing was his familiar red suit.

The man smiled sweetly at that noisy boy and the rest of the kids, who were now calling to Santa, too. In his right hand, this Kris Kringle look-alike gripped a green felt bag decorated for Christmas, looped around the walker’s handle. He reached inside for each child and produced a candy cane, warning each one to wait until after breakfast.

As he made his made through the crowded waiting area, an older gent, probably in his eighties, was heard to say, “Thank you, Santa.” Our St. Nick, who was nearly the same age as his admirer, just smiled and made his way out of the restaurant.

Now, I suspect this benevolent candy-cane dispenser was probably a retired department store Santa, because he certainly had his style down pat. What struck me the most about him was his acknowledgement and enjoyment of the fact that he was the image of Santa to both child and adult. He came prepared with his bag of candy canes, dispensing joy and wonder right along with the striped Christmas treats.

In every one of us, there is a quality that others see, which if we’re lucky we can perceive ourselves. When that happens and the quality is one that brings happiness to others, I firmly believe we should embrace it, enhance it and come prepared to pass it around.

I know someone with a devastatingly wonderful smile who uses it very sparingly because she doesn’t want to be known as the “smiler.” I say, why not? Give that smile away, just like candy canes, to everyone who wants one.

A man I work with doesn’t enjoy being thought of as kind because he feels it will diminish his business persona, yet whenever he lets his kindness show, others feel better and work harder for him. Like the smiler, he hasn’t embraced his inner Santa yet.

Too bad for the world, that neither of these two have realized what a wonderful gift each has been given and learned to spread it around. What about you? What is your special gift and are you sharing it?

Thanks, Santa – for a wonderful moment today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What to do When The Spirit Grabs You

I love Christmas time! Right around the second week in December you can feel a change come over everyone – co-workers, customers and clerks in stores, wait staff, the guy pumping gas next to you – everyone. Red and I started really feeling it ourselves this week.

Red: That woman actually insisted that you go first! And you had just as many items as she did.

Kathy: I know. It’s the coolest thing. People are just so kind this time of year. Did you know the waitress patted my arm yesterday when she said “Happy Holidays?”

Red: (smiling widely) I did. Course, she wouldn’t have done that if she’d known you were having lunch with your imaginary friend – me!

Kathy: (laughing) Maybe not – but still… I feel like hugging the whole world.

Red: They’ll arrest you if you try, you know. (I nodded sadly) But there’s stuff you can do to feel the spirit of Christmas way down deep without endangering your freedom. Like how about getting a bunch of $1 bills and going in search of Salvation Army bell ringers?

Kathy: Hey! That’s a fun idea. I’ve actually only seen one this year. Mini-road-trip. Are you up for it?

Red: Tell you what, why don’t you save that one for when Vanessa (my daughter) visits next week. She’ll love it.

Kathy: Yeah, she will. Okay, so what can we do together?

Red: I liked your mall-sitting idea with a cup of hot chocolate and a good seat near where Santa’s taking wishes. You can wish everyone you see a Merry Christmas and it won’t even seem weird.

Kathy: Let’s do that today, okay? And I’ve had another idea floating around in my head. I want to buy a bunch of socks, wrap them up and give them out when I see people sleeping on benches around town. These folks are everywhere.

Red: That’s a great idea! If you end up with extras we can take them to the homeless shelter on Christmas.

Kathy: (tears threatening) That’s the spirit, Red. In the meantime, I’m writing a poem this year for my family as an extra Christmas gift, so they know how special they are to me.

Red: I guess there’s only one thing to do when the Christmas spirit fills you up…

Kathy: What’s that?

Red: Dump it on everybody else!

We laughed together and raised our glasses of eggnog in a toast to the best in people. Happy Holidays everyone – from your two redheaded friends on the Veranda.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Thing About Bagpipes

I’ve always loved bagpipes as far back as I can remember. I believe it came from being an old movie buff in my teenage years and watching the pipers lead men into battle in more than one black and white film. It was the playing of the Garryowen – an Irish country song – on bagpipes that inspired the 7th Cavalry in the 1941 Errol Flynn movie about General Custer, They Died With Their Boots On.

The Garryowen is still the official song of the present day 7th Cavalry. You’ve definitely heard the song, but probably don’t know the name. Just Google or YouTube it and you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh, yeah.”

When I was the editor for the Maricopa Monitor, one of several community papers for that small town outside of Phoenix, Arizona, I was fortunate enough to cover the events of the fire department Pipe and Drum Corps, the height of which for me was a full page color spread I published one week. Dressed in full piper regalia (kilts and all) this group performed for the community and brought a certain dignity to various fire department ceremonies.

The pipes are not an easy instrument to play either and to do it while marching in time as a group is extremely impressive. When those pipes begin to trill with that distinctive wail, I dare anyone to remain unmoved. There can be joy, grief, pride and any number of other emotions evoked, whether the sounds fill a hall or hillside, by just a single piper. However, when presented by a group together as the Maricopa Fire Department had, accompanied by the drums - well, my heart was in my throat every time.

I don’t think about my own funeral much, but I have decided I'd like there to be a bagpiper. Have you ever heard Amazing Grace piper-style? Truly amazing. However, I’m not religious, so I might request the Garryowen instead.

And as much as I honor and respect bagpipers for their musical ability, Red would never forgive me if I didn’t mention the side-benefit - all those kilts. What red-blooded woman doesn’t love those?