wwcitizen: (Long Road Ahead)
These past few autumn weekends, there have been times in the morning or late afternoon that we have had the windows open at the kitchen table. Light, cool breezes whip the blinds about making a friendly "tack-tack... tack... tack tack". We are sitting at the kitchen table reading through our news feeds or looking up recipes for that evening's dinner.

It's around these quiet times of day when I hear familiar distant sounds that tug at my soul. These specific sounds are off the in the distance, so I cannot see what is making the sound, which further tugs on me. At each occurrence, I want to run to the office to post about these distant sounds.

These sounds always bring forth throngs of memories. Some sounds even remind me of smells, such as hanging out the laundry mid-afternoon or passing by barns where the smell pork curing sneaks onto the sidewalk. Other sounds make me want to book a trip somewhere or just get in my car for a spontaneous road trip! Most of the sounds remind me of my grandmother or my childhood.

Every time these sounds occur, we are sitting quietly in the house. I suppose at those moments of focus and stillness that my soul is most willing to listen. I'm probably most present in that stillness.

Each sound is unique. Each memory is unique. The season of the memory or place the sound takes me to is fairly distinct each time. I love those distant sounds.
wwcitizen: (Disney Steve - Pooh)
This 5-day trip to Disney was a lot of fun! We did Epcot for 3 days till we were so full of the park that we didn't have anything left to do. We did all the movies we'd never done (Canada, France, etc.) and discovered parts of the pavilions we didn't know existed like in Morocco, Norway, and Japan.  We didn't do everything in Japan or China, so we did leave some things for later visits. Plus, Epcot is always changing up stuff in Futureworld (at the front of the park).  They had a really cool educational Piggy Bank game to play.

Next time, I think we want to spend more time in Hollywood Studios. We did one 3/4 day there, as usual, and that's never enough; we've never done the outdoor shows or The American Idol Experience. Hollywood Studios is more geared for older kids and adults than the Magic Kingdom.  We spent one full, full, full day in the Magic Kingdom - till like 1AM.  When you stay on Disney property, the parks provide extended hours so you can be in the parks - either before/after the parks are officially open; they're called "Magic Hours".  During the Magic Hours, the ride lines go down and you can get on EVERYTHING till your heart's content (you have to flash your hotel/resort key). We went on It's a Small World 3 times, I think, and Space Mountain 2 times (well, Matt did - my back was out). In Tomorrowland, we were all able to go through Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (a definite precursor to Toy Story's Midway Mania) about 5 times.
It's always fun to do the parks with the kids, too. They know the parks really well, too. Michael (11) and Samantha (13) have been probably 25 times and Gianna (5) has been probably 7 already; Gianna got her first haircut there - at about 8 months old!! We always do at least 3 character meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) where characters come to your table for pictures and autographs. Yes, the characters sign these little autograph books - great marketing for Disney!! 
Disney is always starting up new collecting schemes. The one that Michael and Samantha slowly got me into was the pins and lanyards. All over the parks and in all the Disney stores, there are these great quality pins of all the characters (hard to find Winnie the Pooh, though), signs, vintage signs and park names, elements of the parks - like Cinderella's castle, the monorail, a turkey leg (it's a thing at the parks), the rides, the areas of the parks (Adventureland or Tomorrowland, etc.).  Some of them are so cool, but stepping outside the Disney frenzy and fervor, you realize they're absolutely wasteful.  Still, I've bought like 12 of them over time. The kids have EASILY 100s of them. 100s.  OH!  And AT the parks, the characters (any employee working around the park) will have their own lanyard with pins that only characters can purchase. The characters have them to trade with the kids running around the parks. Then the kids get the coveted "character pins".  It's a great marketing scheme.  The pins that the characters get from the kids, then go back on the shelf for sale!  They're making money hand-over-fist at the parks.
One thing that's always fun to do - for us - is to wear our Pride Mickey. When we wear those, everyone comes out of the woodwork. We strike up conversations we'd never have otherwise. Sometimes, we also get a little special-er treatment, such as getting a roll of  stickers to win the kids' sticker contest or get seated in a restaurant without reservations (happens more often than we realize, actually). We also found "family" throughout the parks on rides with their families or at the tequila bar in Mexico - that was a fun evening for sure!  We were told every time we came across a "family" member that we were there a week early.  LOL  Gay Days are June 2-4 this year.I catch myself feeling the pull of the Disney fervor more and more. And by the end of each trip, I'm sick of Disney stuff but still wanna look at it and shop around.  It's a love-hate relationship.  The Disney stores spread around the country's malls and outlet centers provide very different stuff than you find at the parks. That stuff is not nearly as good as what you get in the parks, either - from quality, quantity, and selection. They want you to be at the parks because they make SOOOO much money off every person or kid that goes there.

They even make money off the seniors that go. Matt's Aunt Jenny (who loves Donald Duck - below at Chef Mickey's) went with us this time without her daughter - she's probably 83 now. Matt's sister rented her a little scooter that she could use every day and get recharged overnight for the next day. She drove that thing around the parks all day. Granted, you have to have a little finesse to drive them and park them, but at least she wasn't thoroughly exhausted every day and could keep up with the clan more easily. At the parks those scooters rent for $75 a day - on top of all the other fees - hotel, food, park entry.  This scooter Tricia rented was about $25 a day and was really sturdy. Thing is, if your scooter's not Disney property and your battery dies in a park, you're really screwed. But, thankfully, that never happened!Notice the sidewalk pic (above)? That picture was taking moments before Jenny almost whacked off her head on a chain!  Yeah, that's the picture of Jenny entering what we now call, the "Death Trap For Scooters". She rounded one of the inner corners and got spooked when the scooter jolted a bit. Instead of releasing the accelerator, she clamped down, speeding the scooter INTO a section of chain! It took FOUR BIG BURLY MEN - including Matt and me - to move her on her scooter and the scooter away from the chain to a safe place. Jenny had grabbed her neck, releasing the accelerator (thankfully) and one of the men quickly threw off the scooter key (so it wouldn't move anymore). From where I was standing with the kids, it looked like Jenny was having a seizure and we all jumped into action. She's OK, but beyond her purchases for the weekend, she's got some pretty bruises on her arm, shoulder, and neck to prove she had a fight with a chain and won!  That was surely a scary Disney moment!

Getting there and being in the hotel alone is pretty pricey. You can get a meal plan which is - in the grand scheme - economical (I think you can get this even if you're not staying on Disney property - somehow tied to your park passes). If you're paying to be on Disney property, you can take advantage of lots of "free" things - like Disney's Magical Express (AWESOME!), which takes your bags when you arrive in Orlando and transports them to your hotel room within 3 hours of your arrival, and when you arrive at the airport, they transport you to your resort. Same when you leave, but you can check in for your flight at your resort and you don't see your bag till you're at your home airport. Matt and I did that and took off to Epcot for almost the full day before we boarded the plane to come home!  We squeezed in a couple more things - like lunch in Morocco (EXCELLENT!) and a couple of beers in England.  We found out this time around that the restaurant in the Japan pavilion is AWFUL! AWFUL! AWFUL!
Very memorable trip indeed. I took many fewer pictures this time around, too, than in times past, because I've now got them all - except the new goofy pictures of us in the parks, with each other, with the kids, around the characters, etc.  Oh, but at Epcot, this weekend we were there was the last weekend of the Epcot Flower Festival! Many, many Disney characters were highlighted around the park and World Showcase as topiaries.  They were (most times) really well done. The peacock under the Epcot ball was hard to photograph, but was really breathtaking.  I was pretty disappointed with the Bambi topiaries in a butterfly net house, though, because they weren't made of any flowers or plants at all!  But all the major ones were pretty good. There's also a Mickey topiary at Hollywood Studios that I captured and show at the end below.

When I'm at Disney, my inner kid comes out - fully.  Even the kids told me that I'm a bigger kid in Disney than they are!! LOL  I think that's fun.  When I get on the plane to go to Disney, I completely shut off from work and any stress around town that I've been feeling leading up to the trip - it's all gone.  It's truly always a de-stressing trip!!

We probably won't return to Disney World until 2014, when they finish the NEW FANTASYLAND!  They removed Toontown, which is probably good - it was very much a little kid's place. The new Fantasyland looks like it's going to be really cool!  They're also expanding a section of the Grand Floridian Resort, where we've not stayed yet. The picture below shows the expansion. There's also a video of our time in Spaceship Earth at Epcot and here's a link to our game you can play that we posed for (if our game doesn't show up, enter the code KQCQ2FMXMMRH8Q for our game). Enjoy!
wwcitizen: (CologneForChristmas)
Friday night on the way to our niece's 5th birthday party, we raced into Toys R Us to purchase a couple of Barbie dolls for her birthday gifts. Matt dashes into the store and screams, "Barbies!  STAT!" at the Customer Service Rep.

The surprised girl pointed back to the "Babies/Dolls" sign in the middle aisle of the store, watching two big, burly guys rushing to review the store's doll situation. As fate would have it, we two were looking for Fairy Barbies.

We found about 4 different kinds and bought her three of them. The strangest one seemed as though it should require batteries to make the wings flap. Upon further inspection, it looked as though there were no battery requirements, but the instructions showed a little girl doing something with the legs of the Fairy Barbie.
Say what you will, but it looks as though the little girl is squeezing the legs together and the wings are flapping. Truth is, you're supposed to just shake the doll back and forth, frontwards and backwards to make the wings flap. LAME!

We ran to get gift bags, tissue paper, a card, and some squiggly ribbons, then quickly got to the check out. In the car, Matthew drove and I feverishly packed the bags with Barbies and wrote out the card. In my mind I was picturing tissue paper and ribbons comically flying behind the car as we flew up the highway to the hibachi restaurant for dinner. We were already about 30 minutes late for dinner.

I told Matt in the frenzy, "Let's remember to name the Fairy Barbie with the flappable wings... Fangoria!  Her name'll be Fangoria, so that Slagothor has a friend.  Since Fangoria has pink wings, she'll be the leader of the Mean Girls."

In the cacophony and stress of the hibachi restaurant, we forgot to mention the doll's name. Rest assured, it'll happen: Fangoria will find her place in Gianna's doll entourage.
wwcitizen: (NJ Quarter)
Money is fascinating. The history of money tells the story of civilization, commerce, governments, economies. It's hard to imagine the world without money and everything being taken care of, but more and more people are using credit cards, online bill paying, and check cards, such that money isn't as noticeable. When I'm in another country, I try to save a little bit of the money (a coin or a bill) as a souvenir.

It's fun to pay attention to your bills!
Do you ever go to WheresGeorge.com? Do you know what it is? WheresGeorge.com is a fun site to enter your US bills and see whether they've been and where - after you've spent the money - they end up. How often do you see the stamp on any of your bills like this?

Someone somewhere along the line of this website and tracking mechanism decided to make a red-ink stamp - like you see on this one-dollar bill section pictured above. I don't have one one of the convenient stamps; I've see that people have sometimes taken to writing "WheresGeorge.com" in red ink on the bills they catalog. Anytime I find one of these "marked" bills, I try to enter it into the system as soon as possible. If I have nothing to do on a given night, I'll enter all my bills ($1 mostly, $5 sometimes, and $10s & $20s). It's fun to see if anyone has also entered any of the unmarked bills.

It's fun to pay attention to your coins!
When I was a little boy (yes, I was once) growing up in the 70s, before more TV channels than you could surf in one day, and cell phones or computers, my dad got me into "looking coins", as he called it. Dad sat me down at a gray metal military-looking folding desk. Then, with a wide smile, he whipped out a couple of rolls of dimes, nickels, or pennies onto the desk's surface. The nickels and pennies were more numerous. He was bringing me up to be a numismatist!

I opened the wrapping carefully so the coins didn't go everywhere, one roll at a time. He told me, "Go through and look your coins to find oddities." I took that "look" to mean carefully scrutinize every coin, front and back, to see the oddities. The most blatant were always easy to spot: different mints, various minting years, different pictures on the fronts and backs, and sometimes missing things - like the mint stamps. There are multiple minting facilities, but for the people's currency, it's either "P" for Philadelphia, which is prevalent on the east coast, or "D" for Denver, which are prevalent in middle America and the west coast. If you're in Texas or Chicago, it's hit or miss what you'll find, for instance.

This past Christmas, my dad gave us kids all some coins he saved for us from years ago. I've been periodically spending time looking my coins - pennies, nickels, dimes, half-dollars, dollar coins, etc. After I'm done, they're all going into a (FREE!) safety deposit box. Here are some pictures of new pennies! Have you seen these? I think they're really cool and it's fun that the US mint is noticing a rise in coin collecting as a result.
wwcitizen: (Face-Serious)
Bullying today is reaching all time highs in this country. With churches, religious organizations, and communities coming out against gays, kids these days have greater exposure to blatant discrimination - from adults! From their adult "role models". They might not verbalize, "If my parents are treating these people like this, then I should do the same thing at school - to her or to him!"

We and our kids are listening to radio hosts or certain pastors saying that homosexuality is wrong. If kids keep hearing that homosexuality is wrong, we are allowing the perpetuation of discrimination. Anti-gay sentiment and bullying in schools is the fruit of bad teaching. The same is true about racism. Racism is a taught and learned thought process. Religious elitism is also a taught and learned thought process.

You can't talk a child into being gay by helping them understand that some kids are gay and other kids aren't or that some kids are straight and other kids aren't - it's not their fault for being the way they are - straight, bi, or gay. There is no "gay agenda" of teaching kids to be gay. Bullying and suicides must stop in this country and the gay community knows there is something we can do - teach parents, teachers, and kids how to treat each other - no matter their orientation, heritage, race, handicap, or religion.

There is the hope that gay kids will be accepted for who they are; there is no cure for "The Gay". For whatever reason a child is gay, other kids notice because parents, TV, radio, and other kids teach kids what gay is already.

I had never heard the term "gay" or "faggot" at home, but I certainly heard it enough at church and school. I heard it in elementary school, middle school, and high school. To the point that I changed middle school and high school four times before I graduated and escaped to happiness and freedom in college. I got ridiculed by peers, pastors, and adults at church because I was gay (but didn't accept myself because of society's hatred of gays - I hated myself). My mantra was, "I want to get out of here; it's gonna be so much better once I'm gone from here." This was true to the point that I told my father (who doesn't remember this), "I don't know what I'll do if I have to stay in this school one more day." My dad loved me so much that he pulled me out of school over the holidays - midyear - and I went to a different high school for 18 months. Then, eventually the bullying got so bad at the "new" school, that my father and I moved out of town, across the state, and into a completely new community.

People from my childhood had no idea why I left my home town and from my church why I wasn't going to church anymore. People from my high schools and middle schools had no idea why I changed schools. Why tell those bastards how they made me feel? They won enough by pushing me out and away.

Thank God, and truly, thank God, I didn't commit suicide. I wish that a similar situation had had a happier ending with the 8th grader in Houston. I understand, as do many gays and lesbians, what was on that kid's mind: "I want it to stop and I don't know how to make it stop other than killing myself." Even though his parents were supportive of him and he had love there, having to be around bullies for at least 8 hours a day was extreme.

Today, there is an evil agenda afoot to continue discrimination in schools and allow bullying to persist, under the guise of Christian values. Frankly, churches of any kind have no place in public schools. Public schools are supported by the government, which is separate from churches. People who want their kids brought up with certain religious biases and beliefs have every right to put their children in private schools to teach them what they want and further discrimination and hate. Public schools should not be their playgrounds.

If you haven't seen this, it's a short clip of an interview with Anne Rice about Christianity. Candi Cushman, from Focus on the Family, doesn't even realize that she's the blatant mouthpiece of hate, discrimination, and acceptable bullying. As a person who believes in Christ and prays to God, Focus on the Family and the likes of Candi Cushman disgust me in their deceit.

wwcitizen: (NJ - Greetings)
How would YOU write animal sounds?

Chicken laying eggs = Bwok-bwok-bwok-b'kawk! Bwok-bwok-bwok-b'kawk!
Rooster = Rau! Rau! Rau-rau'rau-rau'rau! (less of that "Cock-a-doodle-doo", you know?)
Horse = Whehn-hn-hn-hn-hnnn... p-p-p-p-p-pppp
Pig = rn-rn-rn-rn (groveling); Rehnn! Rehnn! Rehnn! (running); Rehnn-rn-rn (irritated)
Brown bear = Wah-wah-waaaaaah (pant pant pant)

I woke up this morning to the wonderful sounds of some birds singing and they brought me back to my childhood in the springtime again (much like an earlier post back around Christmas '09 when I was at my sister's house).

I just realized that I hadn't shared the link to the BEST website for bird songs I've found yet (this one used to be the best site, but they've removed the listening pages). If anyone else has one, shoot it my way. You can play all the songs simultaneously and it sounds like you are IN THE FOREST or in a wooded park and you haven't even left your house. It's wonderful - especially on a cloudy, rainy, foggy day when your husbear's still asleep and you're lethargically nostalgic.
wwcitizen: (Dont Know)
Unapologetically and therapeutically, I have to post about this one instance that has remained for the last few days as one of the strangest things I've encountered in Facebook from a childhood friend. Someone from my childhood posted a picture (I have a copy of the picture for some reason in my collection) of our church van. I'm not sure where we were headed in the van in the picture, but our church did many puppet mission trips to NYC. We also took the van to week-long Southern Baptist summer camps and to ski retreats. On the ski retreats, we skied during the day, returned to the church-owned cabin, cooked & cleaned up from dinner, and had Bible study.

There have been various and many comments (50+!!) about the picture with memories of the trips we took in that particular van in the 70s and 80s, and that that van was replaced by a bigger van/bus with bigger windows, a great stereo, and A/C!!

One of the folks who posted - and the most recent as of Mar. 14 - is a couple of years younger than me, but we used to have sleep-overs together as kids, went to school with each other, and considered each other friends. His older sister was my age, but there's apparently no contact between them at all. I think I remember a few years ago his mother passing away, which made me sad. They had a beautiful home and she seemed like a good mom. She was always so sweet to me, too.

This was his posted comment to the picture of the church van: "I was not in that van. However, I love you all and ask if anyone remembers poop in a cup on the way home from a ski trip."

I have no idea if he's joking. I have no idea what kind of person he is now, although his pictures present him as a rocker - he plays the drums. He also looks vastly different from how I remember him and his hair at one point was really long and permed (80s scary male perms). The question left the inferred image of "Two Girls, One Cup" in my mind, although I never actually saw the video (thank goodness!!).

Comment welcome!
wwcitizen: (Default)
... or even uncles who think that little kids with teapots are "the most adorable things..."
Cup of Tea

One day my mother was out and my dad was in charge of me.

I was maybe 2 1/2 years old and had just recovered from an accident.

Someone had given me a little 'tea set' as a get-well gift and it was
one of my favorite toys.

Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when I
brought Daddy a little cup of 'tea', which was just water. After several
cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my Mom came home.

My Dad made her wait in the living room to watch me bring him a cup of
tea, because it was 'just the cutest thing!' My Mom waited, and sure
enough, here I come down the hall with a cup of tea for Daddy and she
watches him drink it up.

Then she says, (as only a mother would know.. :)

'Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water
is the toilet?'
wwcitizen: (Default)
We saw The Trip to Bountiful, probably one of my favorite movies tonight with friends. This movie brings back so many memories of my childhood and my grandmother. The music and acting pull at my heart strings throughout the story. Geraldine Page is so fantastic that I just want to reach through the screen and hug her to let her know everything will work out for the best. And it does and she's happy. It's such a good, sweet, triumphant story. One of my wonderful sisters bought it for me after I had searched and searched for it on DVD - Amazon didn't have it for the longest time, then I kind of forgot about it. One day a couple of weeks ago, it just showed up at my house; my sister had surprised me with it. Made my day.

Hearing the hymns sung by an elderly country lady brought huge, longing tears to my eyes. It was wonderfully cathartic.
wwcitizen: (Stone Angel)
A childhood friend's mom died on Oct. 10. I just found out about it today. A flood of memories came rushing in about her and her son, Tony. He and I grew up together in NC and his mom was always so sweet to me. She taught me how to roll up my sleeves (as silly as this is) so they wouldn't unravel. She also made awesome soup - thick with ingredients and not too soupy.

Here's to a lady who will be missed and who left an indelible imprint on her world:

She worked at the local newspaper for 43 years in a number of capacities, and most recently was a features and lifestyle editor. She worked simultaneously in admissions at the local hospital for 23 years. She was a member of the NC Press Club, held various offices, and had been honored with the Communicator of Achievement Award. She had been a board member of the Family Support Network of Eastern NC and member of the county's Women's Commission.

Simply amazing. Here's to you Rosalie!
wwcitizen: (workplace)
This afternoon just before a meeting, I was outside taking a break from the hecticity of the day. Across the way a man was being called off a planter in front of the building having tried to gaze into the Ground Zero chasm. This is standard practice since it's not only a possible security issue, but more importantly a safety concern.

The gentleman complied and looked at me for "confirmation" that he had been treated fairly. I showed him the "Please Stay Off The Planter" sign and we started up a conversation about Ground Zero. His wife joined us as I was telling how to get to the PATH station to look into the construction site, if they still have it open.

At that moment it hit me that this man was wearing a baseball cap with "ECU - East Carolina University" on it. My father taught and practiced clinical psychology at that university, all my siblings attended that university, and I had piano, art, language, voice, violin, and some science classes there when I was in elementary school. When I mentioned this to them, he extended his hand and asked me my name, and we chatted about their graduation dates. It was quite exhilerating to talk to someone from my hometown in NC.

Well, one thing led to another and we discovered that I grew up with his son, Eric. He got so excited that he called Eric and we said, "Howdy" for a minute or so. His mom once I got off the phone said, "So, were you with Eric on the DC trip with the ice bucket incident?".

I said, "Yes, ma'am, I was, but I don't remember who it was that actually did it.".

The "incident" transpired on Thomas Circle in DC at the then Holiday Inn in the red light district of DC. The boys in the room next to mine dumped a bucket of ice onto an unsuspecting prostitute down on the street. I couldn't believe that that was such a big deal that PARENTS would remember it. I remember us boys talking about doing it in the hallway, but then when I was watching out the window, I couldn't tell who actually threw out the ice. It was her son, Eric.

Well, didn't we have a good laugh! That certainly brightened my day for sure and put a smile on my face that hasn't disappeared since. The "ice bucket incident". Who knew?


wwcitizen: (Default)
Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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