On Fridays, We Do Our Happy Dance!

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About a month or so ago, I started “On Fridays, we do our happy dance!” It’s a day to be happy about whatever. I’m usually most happy that I made it through another week and today is no exception, although it is a bit different. 

Normally, I have a soundtrack for my happy dance that plays in my head. I might not actually bust a move (Do people still say that?), but it does put a little spring in my step and a smile on my face. Last week, I was so excited about my boots that I kept hearing Nancy Sinatra’s anthem all day long. One of my standard happy dance, I-know-I’m-hot-stuff songs is “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees. I’ve never seen “Saturday Night Fever”, but I have seen some of the more iconic scenes, so when I’m bopping to the beat in my head, I normally have a little strut in my walk just like Travolta.

Before I got to work today, I heard two of my favorite happy dance songs, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson. Those songs usually get my blood flowing and produce a little happy wiggle or at least a loud exclamation of “Woo!” with MJ when the beat drops. Today, nothing. I’m dragging today and apparently I need something more powerful that Pharrell or MJ to get me going. 

So tell me, what is the soundtrack that plays in your head when you break out into your best happy dance?

Socks Postscript

Last night, just as I was about to turn off the lights for the night, my mom called. She wanted me to know that her friend, “Ann”, read my blog post on socks and was “moved”. I’ll call her “Ann” because she lives in a loft….Ann Taylor Loft…get it? Anyway, Ann said that she learned something about lupus, was moved by the post, and felt like she wanted to do something. She called my mom to figure out what she could do.

Mom’s birthday is coming up and she had already told me that she wanted to do a canned food drive for her birthday. Now she and Ann are organizing a socks, gloves, and canned food drive.

When I first started this blog, it was a completely selfish venture. I was trying to change my life and my perspective by forcing myself to find something to be thankful for everyday. “Something” is completely inaccurate. I wanted to force myself to pay attention to the small, sometimes seemingly insignificant things in life and to be thankful for those things. Writing every day kept me accountable. Somewhere along the line it has evolved into a mission. I think the advent of the FB page changed things for me. Now I still write to hold myself accountable, but my secondary purpose is to urge people to look at life differently and to be thankful for everything. When Mom told me that her friend was moved by my little 413-word post about socks, I got a little teary. To think that someone else in this world will have the simple pleasure of warm feet just because I took 30 minutes to share with the world why I am thankful for something as ordinary as socks is just so incredible to me.

Thank you, Ann, for reading the blog and taking some action.

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These are the extra thick hunting socks that Mom gets me for Christmas. This is my heather gray pair that is still in tact.

 

Who Is It Wednesday: McDonald’s Drive-Thru Workers

On my way to work this morning, I stopped at McDonald’s to pick up a hashbrown and an iced tea.  (Yeah, I know.  The breakfast of champions.)  It was 34 degrees this morning and the wind was whipping pretty hard.  Even though the drive-thru line was long, I was willing to sit in it because it meant I wouldn’t have to leave the warmth of my car.  When I pulled up to the window, the person taking my order was decked out in about three layers of clothes, topped off by a fleece McD’s jacket and black fuzzy mittens.  She only opened her window once she saw that mine was completely down and as soon as I began to pull away, she quickly shut her window.  The person that took my money was similarly dressed and was very quick with the opening and shutting of her window too.  I hate being cold and I can only imagine what it must be like to work at a drive-thru window during the winter. 

So today, I send a big and sincere thank you to fast food drive-thru workers everywhere.  You endure the cold so folks like me can get food and still be warm.
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Socks

Yesterday on the FB page, we focused on the little things in life that we tend to take for granted. I posted this quote.
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One person found it funny and I guess in comparison to the other quotes I post, it probably was a bit giggle-inducing, but for me it is quite the serious matter.

People with lupus usually have a number of maladies that are either associated with or caused by lupus. I have a few, but the one that really causes me issues this time of year is Raynaud’s Disease. It causes my hands and feet to be cold all the time. In the winter, my toes go numb and turn all sorts of interesting colors. 

I’ll never forget three summers ago, I was at meeting that took place in a hotel. It was really hot outside, but the rooms were frigid, at least to me. I got to the room early so I could stake out my spot and get comfortable. Before a lot of people came in, I slipped off my shoes and put on my warm fuzzy socks. They were purple with white dots. I remember because it’s the pair that I kept in my car for just such emergencies. After the room filled up and I had done all the hand-shaking I was going to do, I put on my gloves. I know I looked crazy, but even with my socks and gloves, my feet were still freezing and my fingers were tingling.

For the past few years, my mom has given me these really thick hunting socks that she found at a sporting goods store. I have four or five pair, but I’m going to have to replace two pair because I wore a hole in them. There’s a hole in a green one and a hole in a gray one. I’ve thrown those out and now I have a mixed-matched pair. So when I tripped across the quote, it made me think about that pair of socks and how important socks are to me.

Socks can also be very important for our homeless neighbors. Can you imagine living on the street and having wet socks or no socks at all? This year, Kid President made the month of October “Socktober” and did a sock drive. I found out about this initiative late, but I plan on taking part next year. I hope you’ll consider joining in the effort too.

I am thankful for warm socks.
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Sentimentality

Late last week, I called my mom because I hadn’t talked to her in a few days. She was in the midst of writing a play and I wanted to know how it was going. Somewhere during the conversation, she asked me if I had plans to go see “Annie”. Now, when you do things alone, you never really have “plans”. Plans are something you make involving other people. When you’re flying solo, you just decide what you’re going to do and you do it. I had decided that I was going to see it opening weekend, but I didn’t really have plans. Mom thought the movie came out on Christmas Day and thought that we could go see it together then, but since it comes out on the 19th….and then her voice trailed off. That was my queue to say that I would wait to see it with her on Christmas Day and that’s exactly what I said.

My mother has never been a touchy-feely, huggy kind of person, but she would give great gifts with cards that would make you weep. She’s always been pretty powerful with words. I’ve never known her to be a highly sentimental person either, which is why I was a little surprised that she wanted to go see “Annie” with me.

“What’s the big deal about ‘Annie’?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

I grew up in Virginia; not northern Virginia, but the Virginia with mountains and farms and really thick accents, and antiquated views on race. By the second grade, I had already had two experiences with race that I still carry with me.

I saw the movie “Annie” when it was released in 1982 and was swept up in the Annie-mania that quickly ensued. I had the soundtrack and memorized every song. So when my hometown Fine Arts Center held auditions for a local production of “Annie”, I was beyond excited. Mom took me to the auditions. I remember being a little nervous and a lot confident when I walked up on the stage.

“What part will you be auditioning for?”

“Annie.”, I said and a hush fell over the crowd. I’m sure my mom’s heart must’ve been beating a mile a minute.

Oh wait! I forgot to tell you. I’m African-American.

In this part of Virginia in the early 80’s there was no way in the world they were going to cast a little Black girl as Annie and my mom had to have known that. I guess somewhere in me, I probably knew it too, but I didn’t care. I knew that of the girls that I had seen audition, I was the best and I figured the best girl should be chosen as Annie.

“Okay. What are you going to sing for us?”

“’Maybe.’”

“Okay. Go ahead.”

I picked that song because I knew everyone else was probably going to sing “Tomorrow”. I wanted to be sure the director remembered my performance. It didn’t dawn on me that the only little Black child auditioning for the play would be memorable enough.

I took a deep breath and belted out, “May-be far a-waaaay or maybe real near byyyyy, he may be pouring her cof-fee, she may be straitening his tie. May-be in a houuuuse…”

“Thank you very much.”

I knew they weren’t going to let me sing the whole song, but they didn’t even let me get to the good part. I smiled, or at least I think I smiled, and walked off the stage.

They cast me as one of the orphans. I think I had two lines.

Fast forward 30-something years and now “Annie” has been remade with a modern twist to the story.

And Annie is African-American.

I’ve been excited about this movie ever since I heard it was being made. I can’t wait to see it. It will be a dream fulfilled; a sort of victory to me.

My mom and I have mentioned my audition a time or two in the past, but she’s never told me what she thought and felt as I stood on stage and boldly proclaimed that I wanted to be Annie. She must’ve felt something or else she wouldn’t have suggested that we see the movie together. Maybe this experience will prompt her to share.

Today, I am thankful for my “Annie” experience and my mother’s sentimentality.

This is me with all of my opening night gifts.  I'm holding a little necklace with a pearl on it that my mom gave me.  That's a story for another day.

This is me with all of my opening night gifts. I’m holding a little necklace with a pearl on it that my mom gave me. That’s a story for another day.

Postscript: Here’s what Mom had to say. “What I remember is my child couldn’t understand why she couldn’t be Annie. How do you explain to a child that being good does not always matter when you are Black? What I remember is being proud of my daughter. What I remember is my daughter saying to me ‘If I cannot be Annie, I will out dance anyone on that stage’ and you did.”

Jack Called

I was quite happy when I woke up and realized that Matilda let me sleep until after 8:00.  I really needed the uninterrupted sleep, especially since she woke me up around 12:30 to go outside in the rain.

I finally started moving around 8:30.  As I was putting on my coat to go for my morning walk, my phone rang.  Based on the picture that popped up, I thought it was my sister.  Then I heard, “Hi! Greldu joorup shhhhlop?”  It was my nephew, Jack. We exchanged pleasantries, he in his 18 month old language, and mine in the sing-songy tone that we all use with little people.  Then my sister realized what was going on and grabbed the phone.  “I’m so sorry!  Jack, you can’t be…I’m so sorry.”  I tried to assure her that it was quite alright that he called me, but I guess she thought that maybe he had disturbed me in some way.  She apologized one more time and hung up while fussing at Jack.

Now, some of you might think that Jack called me accidentally because he is so young.  Nope.  Jack called me purposefully.  My mom has told me how he scrolls through the phone until he finds the picture of someone he wants to talk to and then presses the telephone icon because he’s figured out that’s how you make the phone ring.  That’s how I know that Jack wanted to talk to his aunt this morning.

I’ve been grinning all morning.

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These Boots Were Made for Dancing

I have to tell y’all what’s had me doing my happy dance today. It’s really not that big of a deal, and it probably is a true indication that I’m getting older, but it made me so excited, I actually did a little jig as I exited the store. 

In the late 90’s, my stepmom bought me a pair of tall boots. I didn’t wear them very often initially because I thought they made my legs look like twigs. When I did wear them, it was always under a long skirt so that you couldn’t see how small my legs were in comparison to the opening in the boot.

 At some point in time, I stopped worrying about that and started wearing the boots much more often. In the past seven years, they have become a staple of my wardrobe.

Last year, I thought that it might be time to retire them because the heels were looking a bit rough. I took them to a local cobbler and he fixed them up enough to get me through the season. When I walked into the cobbler’s shop last week, I went with a shy, sheepish look on my face, with my head held a little low. I asked him if he could put new heels on my boots. He quickly said no, but he would do what he could to get me through another season. In the back of my mind, I knew I was asking a lot of this man so I started to figure out how I was going to afford a new pair of boots. I even went out looking for a pair, but to no avail. There was no other boot out there that was as perfect for me as this boot. The height was perfect. The heel was perfect. The fit was (finally) perfect. Nothing else compared to my 15+ year old boots and I wasn’t ready to let go of them quite yet.

Today, when I walked in the shop, I went in expecting a miracle, and I saw the shop in a completely different way. There were shoes strewn everywhere; all waiting for their turn at redemption. The walls and floor were the same green as surgical scrubs. Bits of leather covered the countertop next to one of the cobbler’s tools. As I searched for my claim ticket, I noticed talk radio blaring in the background and I paused to hear that some locality in South Carolina had charged some officers for the killing of black men. The cobbler took pity on me and started showing me boots and asking if they were mine. I found my ticket at the same time as he showed me my boots. When I looked up, it was as if an angelic glow surround him and my boots. I couldn’t believe how great they looked. Unless you were closely inspecting them, you would have no idea that they weren’t new.

“How much do I owe you?” I said with the grin of a Cheshire cat.

“$12”, he said matter-of-factly.

“$12?! For a new pair of boots?! Are you sure that’s all?”

“Yes ma’am. Just $12.”

And then he smiled.

I quickly pulled the money out of my wallet and handed to him. 

“Do you want a bag, ma’am?”

“No, sir! I’m gonna put these on as soon as I get in the car! Thank you so much! You saved me from having to buy a new pair of boots this season.”

“You’re welcome, ma’am. Have a wonderful day.”

I have been following his directive all day long.

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I am listening.

Sometimes we are quick to dismiss or ignore the very thing that we asked of the universe because it doesn’t look, sound, feel like we expected.

At some point last week, I received a solicitation letter from the Maryland Food Bank.  I normally ignore end of the year solicitations because I never have any money this time of year.  I remember this particular piece of mail because I was on the phone with my sister and complained to her about receiving it.

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“I hate these year end asks!  How did the Food Bank get my address anyway?!  I’ve never gotten anything from them before.  Some list I’m on must have been sold. (Insert the implied “bah humbug” here.)”

But even with that attitude, for some reason I didn’t rip it up and throw it away.  I put it on the top of a stack of mail and forgot about it.

During the weekend, as I was planning my Facebook posts for the week, I remembered that Tuesday was #GivingTuesday.  I love the concept, especially in the face of the highly commercialized and materialistic days that come before it, and I decided to highlight it on FB.  It was then that I recalled the Food Bank letter and decided that is how I would participate in #GivingTuesday.

On my way to work, I decided that I would give $25 to the Food Bank.  I figured that even though things are tighter than tight right now, I could give $25 and still make it until the next payday.  When I got to work, I pulled out my checkbook to write the check.  As I did that, I thought, “I should do a short blog post about this to support #GivingTuesday”, so I started taking pictures of the mail and the check.  In doing so, I had to move some things out of the way so I could have a clear space on my desk.  There was a legal pad on the corner of the desk that I moved and for some reason, I decided to flip through it.

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That’s when the universe gave me a little shake, just to be sure I was paying attention.

You see, three weeks ago, I was sitting and waiting for some clients to come visit me.  I had just read an article on vision boards and thought that I should at least jot some things down that I really want to accomplish next year.  This is what was on the list.

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Do you see the second thing on the list?  “Feed People.”  When I wrote it, I had big visions of giving out turkeys, sponsoring some big community dinner, or opening a non-profit restaurant that not only fed people in need, but also trained them to work in the restaurant industry.  Instead, here I was, writing a little $25 check to the Food Bank.  As I sat pondering the significance of what had just happened, I reread the letter from the Food Bank.  The last line read, in part, “P.S. Your gift can work miracles.  For every $25 you donate, more than 50 meals can be provided to your hungry neighbors throughout the Eastern Shore.”

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As the chill ran down my spine, all I could do was whisper, “Thank you.”

I hope you will participate in #GivingTuesday.   For more information,  check out the Facebook page here, or the website here.

Radioactive Eggs

I’ve been having trouble with my stomach for the past couple months.  Yesterday, I went to the hospital to have a final test done to see if they can determine what the problem is.  It was called…well, the layman’s term for it was a stomach emptying test.  I had to eat a scrambled egg that had been laced with some radioactive stuff, two pieces of toast and I had to drink a cup of water.  Then they took a picture of my stomach every hour to determine how long it takes for food to move through my stomach.  There was just one hitch.  I HATE EGGS.

I’ve never liked eggs.  I remember my mom trying to get me to eat them as a child.  She would douse them in ketchup and even that wasn’t enough for me to eat them.  A few years ago, I was going through a series of infusions and the recommendation was to have a high protein breakfast before the infusions, so I had to start eating eggs.  I figured out a way to prepare them so that I could tolerate them; scrambled hard with lots of cheese.  The eggs I was served yesterday were barely scrambled and there was no cheese.  I’m not even sure they were real eggs.  The smell was horrible and the texture was unlike anything my tongue has ever experienced.  I gagged with every other bite, but I ate it all and was able to keep it down, mainly because I didn’t want to have to go through that experience ever again.

After spending the entire morning in the hospital, I went straight home and went to bed.  My stomach gurgled all day long, but I’m thankful for the radioactive eggs because hopefully, they will lead to an answer about what ails me.

“Changing Your Focus” Day Eight – Bad Turned Good

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Day Eight Bad Turned Good

Alexandra Elle

We’ve all encountered rough patches in our lives; those times that if felt like every open door was quickly and violently being slammed in our faces; when our best just didn’t seem good enough; when you felt like you were struggling to tread water but you were still sinking.  But thankfully, you made it through and in the process, you found out exactly what you are made of.

Or maybe you didn’t.

Maybe you still see those times as negative.  Maybe you didn’t find the lesson in the hardship.  Maybe you can’t find a thing to be thankful for in the struggle.  This exercise is designed to help you see what you’ve missed.

Think of three incredibly rough times in your life.  Go back as far as you need to find them.  Having trouble?  Let me help.  Here are my three rough times.

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The year my parents split, I was 15 or 16.  Some days, I’m not sure that I learned anything from that situation, and then there are other days I feel like I learned all I ever needed to know about life from that situation.  What I know for sure is that there was a lot of good that (eventually) came from that situation.  For one thing, my Mom discovered who she is and what she’s really capable of in life.  That was an invaluable gift.

The year I lived in New Jersey was the loneliest year of my life.  I was there the for the first anniversary of 9/11 and the train from Jersey City to Manhattan hadn’t been reopened yet. I worked in NYC and all of the people that I knew lived in NYC, but I couldn’t stay to hang out after work because I had to catch the last ferry to Jersey because I didn’t have a car.  I was living in an illegal apartment in the attic of a brownstone.  It had bugs.  Really big bugs that seemed immune to Raid.  I was consistently broke, so broke that all I could afford to do was go to work and eat, and I could barely do that.  I got sick that year and I wasn’t sure what was wrong.  The doctors I saw didn’t know what the problem was either and instead of saying so, they all made me feel like I was crazy and making the whole thing up. That year taught me that I’m a lot tougher than I ever thought I was.  Having endured that year, I am pretty sure that I can get through almost anything.

My first year of law school was tough in a lot of ways.  I was living in Alexandria, VA with my sister and going to school in Baltimore, MD.  It was a 46 mile trip each way, which took an hour or more with traffic, and I was driving a tired 1982 Mercedes diesel station wagon.  On its best days, it would go from zero to 60 in about two minutes.  On its worst days, I felt like I was pushing the car with my sheer will.  Early one Tuesday morning, I picked the car up from the shop after a very expensive repair.  You see, that car loved to leak oil from every possible (and sometimes impossible) opening.  I was on my way Contracts class in the pouring down rain when the car completely gave out on me, not 10 miles from the auto shop.  I was stuck on the side of 495 in the pouring rain and all I could do was cry while I watched oil stream from my car and run down the road like a small river.  I don’t remember how I got to school that day, but I remember the Dean of our school saw me crying about the situation and he called me into his office.  He told me that I was in school because it was part of a bigger plan.  He said that God would handle the details and I shouldn’t worry about the car situation.  I heard what he was saying but I didn’t know how to stop worrying about it.  Not having a car could mean having to drop out of school in my mind.  But of course, my Dean was right.  My Dad was able to put me in a rental until we could scrape together enough money for a used car.  That experience solidified my faith and I look back on it as the beginning of a shift in my thinking.

So what are your three rough patches in life and how did they turn out to be something for which you should be thankful?