Wet reflections off the cold asphault.
Bare trees still.
Soldiers at attention.
Ominous storm clouds.
Grey and forbidding.
Drops bounce off the windowsill.
Plummeting towards the earth.
Wind gusts past.
Sharp and cold.
Winter's chill hangs.
A few of my favorites are:
#3 Thrift-store scavenger hunt: Anyone who's a regular at the area Goodwills, Value Villages and the like knows that there are some items you'll find at any thrift store in America. Other items can be found with regularity but are far from sure things. Look for a copy of Rush Limbaugh's wretched The Way Things Ought To Be -- every Goodwill in America has at least one. The same holds true with What to Expect When You're Expecting.
#7 Free billiards: A handful of places in Charlotte offer free pool for folks on a budget. Elizabeth Billiards, a smoke-filled favorite among certain past and present CL staffers, is known to give out free pizza on Fridays. Of course, they probably want you to shell out a couple of bucks for beer (that free pool ain't paying the light bill). Invite your friends and look thirsty. They owe you money anyway.
...and of course:
#8 Greyhound station sightings: Snobs may sneer, but for my money (or lack of) the bus station on Trade Street provides excellent fodder for people-watching. Remember: Bus stations don't typically employ metal detectors (though I have seen a drug-sniffing dog or two) so the bus depot is where you see the seedier side of interstate travel. Nor do people take buses on business trips, so their travels are more likely to involve a story. And if they're going Greyhound, they likely have plenty of time to wait and might not mind telling a tale or two. Sit around and look bored. You'll see things (601 West Trade St.).
*People watching is one of the best sports ever. Not a sport, you say, oh foul naysayer!? Of course it's a sport. Much effort and concentration is put into effective people watching. And it is not just the watching. The creativity and skill required to evoke believable (or not so much)KGB/007/Jason Bourne type stories is a unique talent not owned by the teeming masses. Catching the drops, watching the eye contacts, seeing the acknowledgements and understanding the hand signals is a gift. Truly it is. Try it sometime, and see how much the CIA really is watching you. (the conspiracy theorist in me rears it's well masked head)
I thought I could add a few of my own favorite cheap dates to the list.
1. Wal-Mart Super Center: Everything from Big Screen TV's to yogurt can be found in this mecca to the consumer gods. Strolling the aisles can open new worlds of people-watching as Wal-Mart cuts a large swath out of America's hierarchical cross section. From welfare folks to Saks 5th Avenue types, everyone needs something at Wal-Mart. The toy section is the best place. I once got chased by a security guard as I did laps on a Razor Scooter. During the summer, you can try out all the different kinds of lawn furniture and dream of your perfect sun-room.
2. Shopping Mall Window Shopping: Near my home there are two large shopping malls and multiple shopping centers. I love to wander the shops and check out sales and people watch and try things on and sample the "Try Me" items, listen to the sales pitches from the kiosks and go in stores in which I have no interest in buying things just to make sure the minimum wage earning teenager is not playing on their cell phone. I rarely buy things unless I'm actually on a mission for something, but the energy that I gain from the interaction is invigorating. The sounds and scents and eye candy is great entertainment. And it's free (as long as you're not duped into buying something you don't need anyway). This last point does not count for shoes. There is never a wrong time to buy shoes.
3. Going for a drive: Where does this road go? I think I'll turn right here. There's a sign for a park, let's check it out. Wonder what the houses on this street look like? I love to wander around town and look at houses and trees and find out what roads connect to what. Charlotte is set up like a wagon wheel, with Uptown as the axle and main arteries spreading out in all directions. The 485 freeway is the tire as it circles the entire city. The rest of the roads are a maze of curves changing direction and name at will. Some roads, you actually have to turn left or right to stay on the same road, if you go straight through the light you will be on a different road. Driving around Charlotte is always an adventure. *Always travel with a street map in case you get lost. I don't trust Garmin's. Also, with the price of gas inching up, this date might not fall under the $5buck range. If not, you should probably buy a new car.
4. Tour Uptown and Check out Hotel Lobbies: D and I spent the last 3 days Uptown and wandered the streets taking pictures of architecture and Christmas decorations.We toured the grounds of an old church and graveyard. There are many hotels in the city and they all have nice open lobbies. You do not have to be a guest to sit and enjoy the lobby area. Most connect to some type of restaurant and bar area with a TV set on and possibly a water feature. You can relax on a couch and read the newspaper, catch up on the sports news and maybe partake in the buffet (again this would be more than $5bucks but you could do it if you wanted to). As long as you are unassuming and do not draw attention to yourself, you could hang out in a lobby indefinitely as they are open 24 hours. I do not recommend spending more than a few hours in one, then move down the block to the next fancy hotel lobby and try out their sofa's.
5. Open Houses and Model Homes: Viewing Open Houses and touring Model Homes is a good time waster with some fun, cruel and productive results. Not only can you create fantastical stories of your Southern California real estate market pre-bubble bursting bankroll that is burning a hole in your pocket, thus raising the hopes and dreams of a struggling real estate agent, but you can get great decorating ideas as well. You can also see why Martha Stewart should have stayed behind bars as the perfectly themed rooms vomit their excess into the hallways. And see why the mover-outers are moving out when you hear the next door neighbor screaming at his ever barking dog, and the teenagers across the street revving their rice rocket engines. Usually there are some kind of goodies to partake of and brochures & flyers galore.
These are just a few of my favorite things. Dear Lord, I am bored.
Christmas started early for me this year. D surprised me with tickets to see Handel's Messiah at the Belk Theatre on the 19th. I had never heard the full version of the Messiah before. It was so dramatic, with the orchestra and soloists and choir. When the audience stood for the Hallelujah chorus, tears pricked my eyes. The dedication and obvious enjoyment by the artists was striking.
We had dinner before the show at Morton's Steakhouse. I had the double cut Fillet Mignon (yum)! D wore his suit and I wore my fancy maroon velvet dress. A drunk lady in the restroom told me I looked fabulous. Always nice to hear.
My sister came down for the weekend and we had Christmas morning early on Sunday. We opened presents and ate pancakes and laughed. She flew out to Texas the next day, I'm so glad I got to see her and spend time together. Our friendship really has grown.
I only had two Sunbeams in Sunday School, but we had a great time making paper chains with the Christmas story pictures on them. My kids got to take home the decorations for their own tree and they can tell their family the story of the Saviour's birth.
D had yet another surprise for me, a 3-night stay in the Marriott in Uptown Charlotte. We checked in on Sunday night and I was speechless when I saw the jacuzzi tub!! It was big enough for two and I took full advantage of it. D and I toured downtown and took pictures of the Christmas decorations. We relaxed in our hotel room and soaked in the tub. I feel so spoiled!
2. I've come to realize that when I talk:I should probably shut my mouth and think first.
3. I've come to realize that, if I love someone:I need to have realistic expectations.
4. I've come to realize that, I need:different things than I thought I did.
5. I've come to realize that, I lost:something I didn't even know I had.
6. I've come to realize that, I hate it when:get lost in my own head.
7. I've come to realize that, if I'm drunk:I need to talk to the Bishop.
8. I've come to realize that, marriage:is a lot more than just living with someone.
9. I've come to realize that, my faults: are not as bad as some would have me believe.
10. I've come to realize that, I'll always be:God's daughter.
11. I've come to realize that, I have a crush on: he who makes me laugh.
12. I've come to realize that, the last time I cried was: when I was begging for something that I'm terrified to get.
13. I've come to realize that my cell phone: gets more attention than more worthy things.
14. I've come to realize that, when I wake up in the morning: I choose how my day will be.
15. I've come to realize that, before I go to sleep at night: I need to slow down my thoughts and just breath.
16. I've come to realize that, right now I am thinking about: going back to bed.
17. I've come to realize that, babies are: God's gift.
18. I've come to realize that, when I get on Myspace:it's the pictures that make my day.
19. I've come to realize that, today I will: actually be productive and give myself credit for what I have done and not hound myself on what I didn't get done.
20. I've come to realize that, tonight I will: thank God for the day.
21. I've come to realize that, tomorrow I will: have the opportunity to start over again with a clean slate.
22. I've come to realize that, I really want to: know if I can do it on my own.
23. I've come to realize that, the person who is most likely to re-post this:probably has better things to do, but is intrigued by the answers they will find within themselves.
It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday at this time. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, then just GET ALONG WITH, AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santa's and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is My wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don't forget; I am God's Son and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember........
I LOVE YOU,
“EMILY is every woman who has ever sat at a business meeting while someone else took credit for her good work.
EMILY is every young professional who’s been told to wait her turn and every seasoned one who’s been told she still has to pay her dues.
EMILY is every working mom who’s managed to balance a checkbook, who’s managed a clean house, a corporate budget and a 12-year-old’s basketball tournament in one day.
EMILY is every stay-at-home mom who has ever been asked, “No, I mean, what do you do? What do you really do?”
She is every woman who’s ever had to defend her right to be pro-choice. She’s every woman who’s ever had to explain her choice not to have a child.
She’s every woman who has ever demanded a raise because she’s been doing the same work as the man in the next cubicle for the same number of years, and she’s still not getting the same pay. She’s every woman who has ever wondered why the company won’t cover her contraceptives, but will cover that same guy’s Viagra.
EMILY is every working mom who has ever fought for quality day care or family leave time. She is every woman who has given up a single day of vacation to care for a sick child or a sick parent.
EMILY is every girl in every classroom whose hand was still in the air after the boys got their questions answered.
She’s every athlete who’s ever been told, “She throws like a girl.” She’s every candidate who’s ever been asked how she can run for office and have a family at the same time.
She is every African-American woman who has had to work three times as hard to be considered as good as her white male colleague.
She is every Jewish woman who has ever been called a princess.
She is every Hispanic woman who has been asked how long her family has been in this country.
She is every woman who has been called too soft or too strong or too aggressive or too nice or too ambitious to get the job done.
She is every woman who has ever been measured against a glossy picture in a magazine.
EMILY is the seamstress who has sewn the graduation gowns for years but has never worn one.
EMILY is every woman who helped set up this room today and who will clean up after we leave
… and that same woman who only wants her daughters to dream big dreams, because EMILY knows that young girls cannot be what they cannot see.”