Monday, December 30

New Year's Eve Eve

first of that gramatically correct? the night before New Year's Eve? Should it be Eve's Eve or Eve Eve's? No, that surely  isn't it. tonight...that is what I am saying. Tonight
l realized that I am very fortunate to have New Year's Eve off from work. Tomorrow I get to sleep in! And that is one of my favorite things to do!

For the last few years I have taken the day off so I can get ready for my annual gig bartending at the Renaissance Theatre's New Year's Eve Gala. Not that it really involves a lot of preparation... But I will need to slice lemons and stuff. And take a nap! That is a lot of smiling and being pleasant for me.

The show tomorrow night is "Elvis Has Left The Building" and I am sure it will be fantastic. I'm afraid I am not familiar with the show...but I know it will be funny! If you don't have plans for New Year's Eve _ I think there may be a few seats left! $40 gets you the show, snacks, soft drinks and champagne toast at midnight! And yours truly behind the cash bar. It is going to be a great night!

find out more here!

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!


hamster, hamster, hamster!

Sunday, December 29

Reflections on my Uncle Joe

I always adored my Uncle Joe. He was the kind of guy that would laugh with you, teach you to hoe the weeds around a tomato plant, climb an apple tree in the orchard, tell you stories about his travels and then show you how to tell if there was a thunderstorm approaching. I thought he knew everything about everything. I'm still pretty sure that he did.

Other people will recall Joe Reid the architect - he was a very accomplished architect. I remember times during his whirlwind tours of Washington D.C. when he would pass a building and casually say, "that's a building I worked on." I was too young to really appreciate his skill in that area.

Sometimes we would go to visit Uncle Joe, the beautiful Aunt Maria (who is from Greece and I always was in awe of her exotic accent - and mastery in the kitchen), and their sons Avo, Charlie and Robert. They were the cousins that everyone had a crush on, because they were not only gorgeous - but so kind and patient with their goofy little cousin. While we were there Uncle Joe would take us into the city to tour the Smithsonian museums, the Treasury, the Library of Congress, the Capitol, the National Cathedral, the Metro, the Mall, the underground tunnels that nobody else knew about...and it seemed like we did all that in one day. Uncle Joe did NOT let any moss grow on him. Or anybody traveling with him!

I think that is one of the reasons I was always so drawn to him - this kindred wandering spirit. I love to travel, but I didn't inherit Uncle Joe's chutzpah. When he was a young man, he decided he wanted to travel - so he signed on to a merchant marine ship as a cook. The thing was...he didn't actually know how to cook. He said he did, and I guess he figured it out as he went along. That takes some real nerve.

His time in the merchant marine gave him the opportunity to visit a lot of places. I dug out some of my grandmother's photo albums and found a few pictures of Joe as an adventuring young man. I love seeing him standing in front of the Sphinx and sitting atop a camel (he's there in the middle). But I think I like the picture of him sitting on the side of the boat. That faraway look in his eye...looking to the horizon...looking for a new adventure.

That spirit never left him. One of my favorite memories is from January 16, 1991. I was headed to see a friend in a dance production in Baltimore. But I got lost going through D.C. (Mom told me to take 95N but missed the part about going around by 395 or 495...whatever). I was supposed to be staying with my Uncle Louie (Mom's brother) outside Baltimore but when I called him for the third time from Glebe Road, in tears - he said he would call Joe to come rescue me. I was so glad to see that station wagon pull into the gas station parking lot. Joe - ever the hospitable host - said I must be hungry, why didn't we stop for a bite? We went to the Sizzler. He had never been and treated it like a culinary escapade! He had already eaten and chose to just get the dessert bar. He was delighted to find that he could eat as many desserts as he wanted!

That night he had the unpleasant task of telling me that my paternal grandfather had passed away. He was so sweet and understanding. It was just his way. Family meant everything to Uncle Joe. He loved his sons, adored his sisters and brothers, worshiped his wife...and we were all a part of his warm embrace. A lot of what I recall about him comes in bits and pieces...

He named all his dogs Oscar. One of them liked to save the kids who were "drowning" in the pool at my Aunt Twizzie's house. The only problem was that we weren't drowning until Oscar tried to save us. I think I still have a few scars on my back from being saved.

The night that he saved me from Glebe Road was the night that the Gulf War began. Since I had been driving for about 7 hours (including 3 hours of being lost), I had listened to NPR's coverage and we talked about that at our great epicurean adventure at The Sizzler. He thought I might want to keep up with what was going on, so he moved a TV into the guest room for me. The guest room that I wasn't even supposed to be in - since I was supposed to be at Uncle Louie's!

He showed me where the two cherry trees were in Aunt Twizzie's orchard. We ate cherries until I was sick. He didn't tell anybody why I was sick.

There were two huge evergreen trees in front of my great grandmother's house - he showed me that if you climbed inside on a rainy day, it was dry and quiet - just like a tent!

We visited he and Aunt Maria when both our families were at the Outer Banks at the same time about 10 years ago. He said that we really needed to have some ice cream and so he just went out and got some! It didn't matter how many times my parents or his wife said, "oh, no, Joe...we don't need that..." He saw the look in my eye when he mentioned it - or maybe he just really wanted some himself!

I'm going to miss him.

I hope he knows how much I learned from him.

I hope that I can put some of it into practice.

Saturday, December 21

Don't shop, adopt

I may have decided what I want to be when I grow up. of several options. Food critic, wine taster, librarian...and my current desire? Animal rescue. Not throwing myself between clubs and baby seals (although I know that was a dream of mine when I was in 4th grade), I want to be like the people of the Lynchburg Humane Society and the Angels of Assisi in Roanoke.

You may recall (or you can click here to catch up) that I fostered a cat for AoA. Since that time, I've been a fan of their Facebook page. Daily appearances in my news feed show a staff and volunteer force that wants one thing: furever homes for every unwanted cat and dog (and rabbit, guinea pig, etc.). In addition to hopelessly adorable kittens - I am treated to pictures of cats and dogs whose humans have turned their backs on them.

Yes, I know that sometimes it is because of very reasonable circumstances. Perhaps an elderly person who must move to a home or facility that doesn't allow pets. Or maybe a family that has lost an income and can no longer afford to properly take care of their fuzzy friend. But there are also the stories that are much less understandable - abused and abandoned pets. No matter what the reason, a lot of the pictures are of dogs and cats that look confused and lost. They don't understand why they are in this scary place with cages and strange smells and not enough hands to pet couch to snuggle on.

In the midst of this scene - which could be very depressing - is the spirit of the staff and volunteers. It is infectious. These rescuers have found a great use for social media - they share the stories of these animals with their "fans" and then those people share the stories with their friends. You see encouragement from other volunteers - and that all translates into hope for the next pet, and the next one, and the next one.

One of my favorite rescuers to read about it a foster named Willy. He has a goal of fostering 100 dogs. I know he's going to accomplish it. A foster takes in an animal so that the animal can #1-get a break from the stress of the shelter environment and #2-relearn trust in humans. One of his current fosters is a hound named Fallon. So scared in the shelter that he (she?) huddled in a back corner trembling. For a few days, the postings were of Fallon burrowing behind couch cushions where he felt safe. Last night's picture was Fallon sleeping as "liquid dog" - so relaxed he was sleeping in this awkward position. Content. Safe. Secure. Loved.

Willy has an assistant in his goal of getting dogs ready for their furever home - his buddy Olaf. Olaf is a goofy dog...and I believe is part pit bull. This "scary bully breed" dog is a marshmallow that not only allowed Fallon to use him as a pillow - but when he was awake and Fallon was still resting comfortably, he just stayed put so he didn't disturb his new friend. If that doesn't make you catch your breath with are a robot.

Some of the Angels fans keep telling Willy that he will "foster fail" with Olaf - that Olaf isn't going anywhere. I think Willy just rolls his eyes and smiles a little. He is dedicated to finding the perfect family for each of his fosters. He knows that the right situation is out there for Olaf and he'll keep letting people know about this wonderful dog until the match is made. Because he knows that will open up a new space for his next foster - which opens a new space at Angels - maybe that opens a space at the "pound" - that keeps another pet from euthanasia.

I'm impressed by all the dedicated staff and volunteers that I've "met" through Facebook. And even though my one rude cat is all I can handle right now - I will keep spreading the word about the great work that they do.

Are you looking for a furry family member? I beg you to consider this: Don't shop, adopt.

Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Consider training as a dog walker...or go fill Kongs with peanut butter...or do some laundry at a shelter. Or maybe even open your heart and your home as a foster.

Too much for right now? Then at least consider dropping off some food, litter, treats, toys or peanut butter at your local shelter.

Olaf would want you to.

An Observation

Friday night. This is the night that I'm usually up late because I LOVE sleeping in on Saturday mornings.

Such a gorgeous night sky out there tonight. Sometimes I wish a had a camera that could capture that sky... I've seen it done, breathtaking images. I see them in person and want all the people who are sleeping to get a chance to see them. (much in the same way that I enjoy pictures of breathtaking sunrises more than the experience of it in person) (but, from time to time, I enjoy those too.)

I realize that I get dragged into each season kicking and screaming...for a while I resist...
I refuse to wear a winter coat, ignore the existence of gloves, sometimes even drive with the window down.

It is my resistance to winter.

But then, on a night like tonight, I get to see the crisp beauty of the winter night sky. The dormant trees outlined in the silver of the moonlight.

And we make peace with each other.

I know winter must be endured to get to Spring. Which I will resist for a couple of weeks. Battle with the pollen and the bugs and want to hang on to winter for a few more days. And then I will see the wonder that is Spring...and make peace with the season.

The flowers help.

Winter solstice.

I'm feeling balanced.

My Christmas wish granted.

Saturday, December 14

The Card Shop Comes to Life!

Disclaimer: All of the images in this post have been blatantly ripped off from Andrew Musick - father of an outstanding singer and all around great guy. Sue me. 

Saturday, December 14, 4pm at Centenary United Methodist Church there will be a Christmas pageant with very awesome youth and children. And I freely admit that I am biased. Some people will doubt this statement...but I love all these kids. And this show is great fun - written, directed, produced by my talented sister Denise Bryson. Denise has been writing Christmas plays since I was about 7. The only difference is that now she has more than my brother Gordon, sister Susan and I to play the parts! (I think I was usually the angel in our family plays...yeah...I'm sure of it!)

The pageant this year will include a youth bell choir directed by Mari White Smallshaw. (Yes, THE Mari White Smallshaw. Of radio fame. I'm one degree from cool local personality, too.) I was very flattered when Mari invite me to step in as a youth. Okay, filling in for an absent youth. You can see me at  the right there - I'm the one trying to count to 4. Thanks Andrew. Great picture. Sigh. But the youth are great!! I love the sound of hand bells. (which reminds me...the Bells of the Blue Ridge are performing next week. Check out their website. And maybe I can get a post in about that too!).

After the two numbers from the youth bell choir - the children (young people? tots to tweens? no?) will perform two songs under the direction of Centenary's highly skilled director of music Danny Moore. Last year he wrote all of the songs in our musical extravaganza - this year he contributes two songs to the "main event" - the play (with music!) Centenary Card Shop: After Hours.

Between the choral performance and the play - we will have the extreme pleasure of hearing Mr. Kane Campbell perform Silver Bells. Accompanied by Johnson Scott (aka Professor F. Johnson Scott, III faculty at Lynchburg College. Yes, THE Johnson Scott. I am one degree from musically talented). Kane is part of the triple-threat Campbell Crew. The family has Kane, Cooper and Callen - they are cut straight out of a catalog. Gorgeous mom and dad with three sweet children. During the Card Shop Cooper sings a song as an elf figurine brought to life - he's so darn cute that his little sister couldn't stop hugging him while he was singing tonight. Nearly knocked him over - but Cooper kept on belting out his song. They are my favorite.

But I can't overlook the quartet of talents in the Smallshaw family. (once again parented by two of the most wonderful - and gorgeous - people that I know) Wes is the lead in the play - deftly keeping the Cards in the Shop in order. Rick not only performs with his violin - he also co-produced the show with Denise! At this very minute he is making last minute tweaks to the order of the show - just like Broadway! Charlie isn't just playing a card...he's also playing bells!! And looks a lot more confident doing it that me! And all I can say with spoiling the fun - Jimmy Smallshaw will steal the show. I love those kids. They are my favorite.

I can't show partiality to my niece Taylor and nephew Braeden - wouldn't be fair. But the little blonde chick and her twin brother will make your heart melt (like these kittens...) Have to love them. They take after me. They are my favorite.

And I have loved the Layne family since before Ella was even born. Betsy and Allen are the kind of folks that you want to sit around a campfire with and tell stories until the moon rises high in the sky. They are good people that come from good people. And they have raised the kindest young lady - Gabriella and the coolest young man - Turner. I think they will also be the kind of folks that you want to sit around a campfire with. They are cards. They are great. They are my favorite.

Wait...I can't forget the raven haired Jasmine and the impish Bree. They have voices like angels (which turns out to be very appropriate for one of them) and they are brave enough to get up there and sing solos! I am very inspired by both of them. They are always smiling. They are patient with little girls who adore them and want to be next to them all the time. I love them. They are my favorite.

Ah. Jennifer Coffer. I will resist digging out the picture of her singing when she was about 7. She is amazing. She has this superior voice. One of those people who has this mighty power behind her voice. I had to tell her tonight that she didn't need to crowd the microphone. Like, "could you stand about 5 feet back from it?" She is also goofy. She volunteers for JIFF. She comes from a fun family. They are my favorite.

A few of our performers couldn't be at practice tonight. But they are cool They'll be fine. They are old pros at this play-thing. And Denise has a way of putting everyone at ease. She reminded them tonight:
"Who is coming to this show?"
Kids: our families
"And the congregation...and people who love doesn't matter WHAT happens! They are going to love you anyway!"

And she is right. Our audience WILL love it! And I feel more Christmasy already! I hope you all come to the show. And if it isn't our show that you make it to... Make it to Christmas show some place. See the joy in a young face belting out a song (no matter what key) and watch the shiver of joy and the lit-up face when they hear their family and friends clap and cheer. It's my favorite.

Friday, December 13

The return of the hamster...

Last published on August 20. That is what my blogger dashboard just told me. I got to check that...brb...

Shocked...I am simply shocked.

oh...holy frijoles...that can't be real.

nothing in September, October or November.

I am. horrified.

I loved writing this blog. What happened? Well, I was in this excellent play (Dearly Beloved with the Bedford Little Town Players directed by the lovely and talented Karen Hopkins). I owe you guys a post about that experience. Remind me if I don't get to that in the next week. I loved it - and met some really cool people. And I miss those folks. But all the driving back and forth...and there was a trip to the beach. A great time, but I really need a real keyboard to blog.

And sometimes...I just didn't knowif I had anything pithy to say

The phone is difficult. The best I can do is text because I can't do much with graphics on the mobile interface. Probably just me - and I can't resist adding the pictures. My friend Chuck Taylor (yes, THE Chuck Taylor...he wrote for Billboard. Interviewed Celine Dion. THAT Chuck Taylor. I'm one degree from cool writer) told me that it adds something. Gives it some pop or something.

Squirrel. some point I realized all my
pictures for this post were going
to be cats. This one sealed it.
This post isn't supposed to be about me. Or the fact that...I know! I've slacked for way too long. If I don't make the time to do something that I really enjoyed - writing - I've lost balance. I'll do better. I like the Beaten Hamster.

And this one is just ridiculously cute!

So - I'm going to create a whole new post. That will be TWO. TWO posts in one day. That has to give me points. The cool and creative kids, youth and creative adults deserve a post just about them. Not my personal navel gazing...

brb...and set your calendar/alarm/notifications or whatever to make sure you are at Centenary UMC at 4pm tomorrow (today...Saturday...I'm writing as fast as I can!) - December 14th!

Thanks for your patience.