There’s Definitely Something “Funny” Going On In Maryland

When you hear the Names – “Daddy Warbucks”, “High Roller”, & “Bunny & The Boys” – you may very well have visions of a 1930′s “Speak Easy” or a “made for TV Movie about Gangsters & the F.B.I.  But this is not a World of Powerful Crime Bosses, but it is a World of the pursuit of “Absolute Power” – Horse Power, to be exact. And if you think that there is anything “Funny” about these cars, you would be somewhat “off the mark”, since these are the actual Names of the “Vintage Autos”, “Altered, Sling-Shot Dragsters” & “Funny Cars”, who made a recent debut at the Maryland International Racetrack this past weekend.  These awesome vehicles are fully restored, modified, vintage & “hot rods” that will take your breath away with their absolute beauty & equally awesome power.  The time,  care & precision that goes into these vehicles is also anything but “Funny”   The MIR is located just North of the Virginia – Maryland border, in Mechanicsville, Maryland (between Virgina & Waldorf, Maryland).  While I am somewhat “new” to the sport of “Drag Racing” & “Nostalgic Funny Cars” – this is a very serious business with the Owners, Drivers & “Pit Crews” of these beautifully engined vehicles & their quest for the Titles of “Blown Alters”, “Blown Funny Car”, “Big Cubic Inch Mountain Motors”, “Nitro Geezers” & all “Manually Shifted” can also be “Monsters” to handle, but all of these awesome creations are driven by some of the most Professional Auto “Lovers” & Professionals in the World.   To those familiar with the Sport, the names of Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, Johnny Rocka, “Bunny” Burket, & others, not only provide a reason to attend this prestigious event, but also a “Pilgrimage” to meet these “Pioneers of Drag Racing”.  This is not only a chance to meet some of the “Legends of the Sport” but it is hosted in a facility, that not only exemplifies excellent of venue, but also handles all the details of the event with absolute precision, that matches that of those that are showcasing their automobiles.  From the delicious food offered at reasonable prices in the Concession Stand, which by-the-way is easily accessible & visible, since it is home to one of “Bunny Burket’s Cars” sitting in plain view from almost every place around the track.  The Employees are not only friendly, efficient, helpful & courteous, they also succeed in keeping the Grounds, Parking Areas, & Concession immaculate throughout the event, but also possess some of the most courteous & profession attendants that I have encountered in my travels & they manage to keep the Restrooms well maintained & well stocked at all times, as well.  They are helpful to Parents with Children, Elderly Patrons & are eager to assist anyone visiting their facility as the need arises.  From the Entrance, to the Ticket Booth, Parking Lot & Grand Stand, smiling & helpful Employees make visiting the facility a pleasant & memorable experience, as well.  We have a “Handicap Placard” because of our “health issues” & when it was “spotted” as we wait in the line of traffic, we are “escorted” to the Handicap Parking & directed to the spaces which are very accommodating to our needs & an easy & short access to the track viewing areas.   While inside the facility, we leisurely strolled though the many displays of cars, from every Era & every Vehicle Type, & enjoy talking with the proud owners, who never tire of explaining the details of their creations, restorations,  always imparting some History to everyone who stops by to admire their accomplishments & auto.  The Maryland Race Track is also conveniently located to Visitors from both Maryland & Virginia, with excellent Hotels & Restaurants close by.  There are also Accommodations, wonderful Restaurants  & the quaint Town of Colonial Beach on the Virginia side of the border.  Recreational activities are just minutes away in both Maryland & Virginia & offer Historic & Cultural sights, but also have Casino & Beach access with various Entertainment Options, too.

We were very privileged to spend most of the weekend with “Bunny & the Boys” & her Alcohol Funny Car, which runs on Ethanol (an Eco-Friendly alternative to Gasoline).  Bunny Burket is not only a terrific driver, but her entire life story is one of a variety of “life challenges” that she has successfully turned into “life lessons” & “opportunities”.  Life -  to say the least – has, at times, been “hard” & often has given her “Lemons” but instead of stopping to count them, she put them to use & just made “Lemonade” – which now has become a Cause – The “Burnout Cancer” Campaign, which she started after she survived her battle with Breast Cancer.  Her “Pink” Funny Car is also anything but “funny” considering that it runs about 230 (plus) mph in a 1,000 Ft. straight run.  Wow, I don’t know how you may feel, but I can tell you from watching, that watching this awesome machine/funny car is a totally out-of-this-world, a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for all, & is evident when witnessed by the cheers & shouts from an equally astonished crowd of spectators.  If you have the “need” for speed, or just a “thrill of a lifetime” or just want a wonderful day with the family, as you learn a little History, Auto Nostalgia & Mechanical Wizardry & really great Professional Drivers & Pit Crews – check out the Maryland Racing Track & prepare to be amazed!  In the antics of “The Roadrunner” – Here’s to: “BEEP. BEEP” &  Leaving a cloud of dust for Wile E. Coyote to run into.

 

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What are you doing on New Year’s Eve 2013?

One of my most precious Memories & wonderful times of the year, for me, is “New Year’s Eve” – the changing of one year into a brand-new year, with all it’s infinite possibilities.  As a young girl, in the 1960′s – my best memory is of my Parent’s, as they danced together on the Ballroom Floor of the War Memorial Building in Ashland, VA.  I was not yet a “Teenager” but I was allowed to attend the festivities, & to “dance” with my father, Uncle George, “Uncle” Earl & the Members of our Western Rider’s Club – a Horse Club (still in existence today), that is dedicated to providing Information, Education & the Opportunity to “learn by participation” with your horse in a variety of Equestrian Events: i.e. Calf Roping, Rider Pick-up, Barrel Racing, Trail Classes, Pole Bending & Keyhole Races, to name just a few.  I enjoyed these events very much, but the Social Events, like the New Year’s Eve Party, was the highlight of my year (& the next).  At the Annual Christmas/New Year’s Party, I learned “How to Dance” & watching my Mother & Father on the Dance Floor, is a memory that I have”re-lived” many times, sometimes with sadness & sometimes with joy in my “mind’s eye”, but always with each turn of the Calendar Page to a brand “New” Year, I anticipate “the New – Whatever may come” from the brand new start of a Brand New Calendar Year.

One of the Dance Rituals that taught me well, was The “Paul Jones” Dance - which back then (& still is now, in some circles), the name used for a number of “Mixer Dances” made popular in the first quarter of the 20th century but continue to be used in traditional dance settings right up to the present day. One common variation is as follows:  At the signal of the Caller – All the Dancers join hands to form a circle. The Ladies then move to the left (clockwise) in the circle, while the Gentlemen move to the right.(counter-clockwise).  At the third signal, everyone changes Partners & dances with the “New” Partner who is standing directly in front of them at the moment. The “third signal” – traditionally is the shouted words, “Paul Jones”, but the use of a whistle (with which I am most familiar) or other devices may also be substituted. This procedure may be repeated “as the ” Caller” (Master of Ceremonies) deems advisable”.  It was with this simple concept that I learned the art of “Dancing”, often with very nice & very polite young boys & men.  Having thus been introduced, in later years, I dated some of the young men & learned to enjoy the Dances with Music more familiar to my Generation.

From these experiences, I first experienced “growing up”.  The act of Learning & Trusting is an important part of Growing up & Maturing into a responsible Adult.  Socializing & Trusting, thus creates Skills that teach & give us those essential skills that will ultimately define who you will become in life.

Remembering fondly these memories & with a brand New Year close at hand, I am reminded that the New Year means different things to each of us & since we all have a different “take” on life – our goals, our perceptions, our future & in our “mind’s eye”, we plan & prepare for everything & so that the start of a New Year, becomes a time, not only of Reflection, but one of Planning, as well.  Finding Different ways of “Dancing” (whether on the Ballroom Floor & in the Events of our lives), requires us to assess our Past Experiences & enable us to move forward in a Direction that is most beneficial to our lives & our current situations.   The start of a New Year holds such promise & possibility, but as with everything in life, especially our “Goals & Dreams”, we must also be realistic, too.  Setting an obtainable Goal, one that can be accomplished in the designated time frame, is a great way to motivate even the most lackadaisical person & help them to “focus” on the positive side of living & accomplishment. With a realistic approach in hand, we can address our New Year’s Eve Resolutions & succeed, rather than fail, & thus with success, we find the courage & conviction necessary to actually make those changes that are prudent & sometimes absolutely necessary for a productive new beginning in our life with each subsequent year.   Oh, sure, I have had those “I’m going to….(1) Lose weight, (2) Be more Charitable or (3) Save More money in past years, too, but mostly, I have started out with an obtainable goal, that was practical, realistic & life “enhancing”, if not necessarily a major “life changing” undertaking.  And I also avoid repeating of a goal that hasn’t been accomplished without adding some major revisions, rules & obtainable objectives to the goal first.

In the year, 1999, my late husband, Rick & I had not really planned anything for the New Year, which was a momentous  “Turn of the Century” & “New Millenium” Milestone.  But when he called from Jacksonville, FL & suggested that we spend a couple of nights there (including the opportunity to “ring in” the New Year of 2000), especially with a really great “Hotel-Sponsored New Year’s Package Deal”, I eagerly accepted & even invited my Best Friend & her Husband to join us there as well.   This particular New Year, for me, was one that I had anticipated with some emotional reservations, since I had lost a dear friend, who talked a great deal about this momentous event often when we were together (almost 15 years before it was to take place).  Sadly, he died tragically before he could actually live out his visions of celebrating the New Year in 2000.  He always dreamed of partying & celebrating the event from one of his favorite “spots” – in VA (Roanoke, to be exact).  He envisioned watching the Fireworks in Shenandoah Valley, sitting beneath the “Star of Roanoke” & “Toasting a New Year, a New Millennium” & “a New Life filled with his best Dreams & Goals”, which of course, never happened.

With the coming of the 2000 New Year, Many people truly “Feared” what would happen on this all important “Tick of the Clock”.  Fears that ranged from “All  of the Electronic Devices (even Clocks ) stopping at the stroke of Midnight”, causing Computers to “lock up” & “crash”.   “Rumors of Mass Destruction” (Earthquakes & other Natural Disasters) & the “End of Days” (from Biblical Prophesies) shook the Religious Communities & the “Threat of Terrorism” (from other Countries or Cultures holding “grudges” with the United States or Americans, in general).

Rick & other Guardsmen often talked about “threats of terrorism” but most felt, with confidence, that it would come when we least expected it & not New Year’s Eve 2000.  Much like Pearl Harbor, we should have known, but no one believed it possible, especially Civilians.   As Rick met me at the Air Base, he pointed out throughout the Airport, where our Double Tree Hotel was located,  numerous Armed Guards on top of buildings & on the surrounding grounds.  “We are going to be safe – Don’t worry”, he assured me (& we were safe).   While others, here & around the world, quaked in their shoes & stayed at home, we partied with those few people, who didn’t cancel their reservations, because they feared.  As we watched the Big Screen TVs & enjoyed the Festivities – Fireworks from around the World, that joyously rang in the New Year, in Peace, Joy & Splendor, The crowds were moderate, but the Spirit of the Festivities was not dimmed & we celebrated the New Year together, with gusto! I will always be inspired & reminded of that night, & especially after “911″, I was grateful that I “braved the night” without fear of the “unknown & unseen”.  Somehow, that Night, gave me the calm sanity that I needed the most on the day of “911″.  Those of us there, had a special bond & the celebration will always be one that I will remember every detail very clearly….perhaps because I braved the night.

This year, as in the past 2 years, I have celebrated the New Year with a different perspective – One of reflection, assessing all of the monumental changes & adjustments that have occurred in my life.  I hold fast to the hope that I have come to depend upon – A Hope for New Beginnings & New Adventures that I anticipate enjoying with my Partner, Timmy.  As we discuss our Retirement Years, we reflect on past “dreams & goals” & look forward to accomplishing our new goals & dreams – together.  I have made New Friends, but kept my Old Friends.  I have traveled & experienced both the Brand New Adventures, like Nostalgic Funny Car Racing, & Old favorites, like revisiting the “Happiest Place on Earth (Walt Disney World) AGAIN.  Embracing the Familiar – Our Church Worship Services, Sunday School & spending time with my Children, their Spouses & of course, my Grandchildren & my newly acquired “extended family”, complete with Mother, Brothers, Sister & Nieces, & more.  It has been a great year, all things considered, & from my assessment of it, the New Year of 2014 will be even better.  We have planned a wonderful vacation with close friends aboard the cruise ship, Disney “Wonder”, which will be a first time for everyone, except me, but it will be (for the first time) a chance to “check out” Miami & Key West, FL.  The trip promises to be filled with adventure, awesome entertainment venues, & new discoveries for all of us. Everyone is excited & deeply involved in dreaming & planning our adventures, especially those wonderful “down times” of pure relaxation & conversations.

So, to end my message for 2013, I send our “Wish” that everyone will enjoy a joyous & “Happy New Year” filled with New Resolutions, New Adventures, New Possibilities, New Accomplishments & a Life-long fulfillment of Dreams & Goals.  The New Year of 2014, already looks to be one of Challenges, but, as everything in Life – with Courage & Conviction – we can ALL overcome the adversities of life & move onward & upward.  Good-bye 2013.  To 2014 – “HERE WE COME” – Fireworks, Please!!

 

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Timeshares – “Share or Scare” Vacations?

Not a week goes by that we don’t get an “Invitation” for a wonderful “Get-a-Way” that includes a outstanding Hotel, Resort or Vacation Condo, with “NO” strings attached or maybe just a couple of “fine print items”. If you accept this generous Invitation to visit a Timeshare Presentation, you may think that you could very well receive the “riches of Avarice” & like “Scrooge”, you may also find that what you covet will be your downfall, as well.

Going to a Timeshare Presentation is enlightening to say the least, but having been to several over the years & three such Vacation Clubs recently, I have found that there is a vast difference in not only the Resort Companies, but in their list of Amenities, Prices, Contracts, Style, Locations,  &  Corporate Size, as well.  But the most astonishing aspect & definitely the most unsettling part of the experience is always the infamous “Sales Pitch”.

In this case, some of the Sales Staff started out very cordial & informative, but after a series of personal “Questions” that ranged from leisurely-minded thoughts to information on family & entertainment preferences, Travel fantasies & other Ownership-Type Property (either “owned” or “dreamed of owning”) we felt relaxed as though we were visiting with “old schoolmate or long-lost relative”. The Timeshare Salespeople’s conversation is usually over a cup of coffee or beverage, along with some type of food offering, ranging from something as elaborate as a Full Meal (Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner) to just Coffee, Tea or Soda with a light food tidbits, such as Sweet Rolls, Muffins or Appetizers. Brace Yourself – Now comes the Purpose of our Invitation – The Properties that will change our lives & provide more excursions & vacation options that we could possibly do in 20 lifetimes. Glorious trips that take us “around the World & across the Seas” without worry, for just a “fraction of the cost” that we would pay a Travel Agency.  Really?

The Travel Books of Vacation Destinations was impressive, I have to admit & it did truly have so many options that it reminded me of the old Sears Catalog that I used for my Christmas Wish List as a child of the 60′s, but after a few pages of “Dream Vacations”, I found myself anxious to get down to business & the infamous “sales pitch” that was sure to follow.

Usually it starts with Dreams of a One, Two or up to Four Weeks of worry-free vacation time, leisurely pursuits, great eateries & lots of relax time, that sounds great until your Host or Hostess gives you the “price” of your “dream”.

The Ownership Sticker Price sounded higher than the U.S. National Debt, but before you faint from the experience, your Salesperson gives you a much lower price (while “rattling off” some stipulations & less amenities (of course).  As you look over the options, & again shake your head in despair, don’t give up hope, because, just like Magic, you get another “scaled down” option, which continues with more value-oriented options, & then even more savings options & on & on & on …. well, you get the picture – Right?

Now the total cost has reduced from buying the White House to buying a used Decade-old SUV or Camping Tent, with a One-Night Stay & “No Frills”, but wait….here’s the “Kicker” – You must “snap up” this generous Offer today, right now, before you leave, or it will be gone FOREVER!  This is a One-Time ONLY Deal & you can NEVER come back to another Presentation, even if you finally can afford it & you are just “dying” to buy into this terrific deal of a lifetime.

You tell me – what is wrong with this picture?  You eat, you see & you dream – NOW you buy, with NO remorse, & NO regrets.  You take your hard earned money & you just buy, buy, buy because tomorrow you won’t regret your hasty decision to decline such a generous offer because it is “the Vacation of a thousand Lifetimes.  Really?

Of course, you decline & now as you struggle to break free from your Captor & politely leave, you are bombarded with even more pressure to invest in “the Vacation Dream”.  You finally convince the Salesperson that you are definitely NOT interested – you are finally FREE right?  WRONG – you are now subjected to three or more “other” Salesmen (some even posing as “Owners” or “Investors”, who are very serious about NOT letting you pass up such a magnanimous opportunity.  FINALLY – After hours of captivity, you finally threaten to jump out of the window & then you are unceremoniously released from bondage, in disgrace you are shuttled to the Check-Out Desk to retrieve your “Gift” – which has now cost you a bundle in time, patience & aggravation, even if you DIDN’T BUY.  But guess what happens IF you DID, in fact, BUY a Timeshare? You are treated to a “Toast of the Bubbly”, Salespeople from every corner of the room, rush over to shake your hand, & in addition to receiving numerous “Complimentary Gifts” from the Resort, you are treated to a Broadcast Announcement of Congratulations for all to hear, because you are NOW – Officially a Timeshare Owner!  Wow.

While I have experience such Salesman Tactics, I can also say that I have had a very few that are somewhat less aggressive, although the majority of the them  have proved to be otherwise.

I DO, in fact, OWN a Timeshare, at Massanutten Resort-McGaheysville, VA.  It is an active Timeshare, with activities throughout the year (winter & summer) – even a Discount Activity Card, that is very affordable & definitely worth the cost, especially with children, who enjoy getting wet.  With an indoor Water Park, great nearby Virginia Wineries, Historical sites, & of course, Washington DC, just a short distance away, as well as numerous Tour Bus options for travel, & the opportunity to visit for the day, week or weekend, the Resort is a great destination to bring your Friends & Family for a visit.

With Massanutten Resort being about about 2 1/2 hours from our Home, it makes a great get-a-way whenever we feel the need  for a “break”.  The On-site Restaurant is awesome & I love the Mini Golf Course, & beautiful Mountain Views, which are gorgeous in the Summer & Winter & Skiing is awesome (& the roads are well maintained all year).

After many years of Ownership & with the help of the Timeshare Travel Staff, I have learned at least a few of the “Techniques” of customizing my Vacations & Getaways, including how to Bank, Trade & Use my Weeks or Points for some wonderful, custom-tailored “Time-Outs” from our sometimes hectic & stressful life.  I also have a Membership in RCI – A Travel Exchange Company (which to me is definitely worth the relatively small Annual Dues) that keeps track of my information, periodically offers me some good travel opportunities & options, ranging from last-minute Cruises, Hotel Rooms or Destination Deals for a “quick & cheap” break throughout the year.  My personal Concierge (Trip Planner) helps me with planning & customizing my leisure time “escapes” with ease & efficiency.  The staff is always friendly, knowledgeable & helpful, taking whatever extra effort & time needed to make sure that my vacation will be a wonderful experience & NOT a Nightmare Event.

The BOTTOM LINE is this:  Timeshares “CAN” be a Blessing or a Curse, depending on how much money, time, education & resources that you have in your corner.  Picking the right Timeshare can be problematic & the information that in a “Presentation” can be confusing, & often misleading.  Finding that perfect “Deal” is easy but you have to have a complete understanding of the system, including which weeks are the best for you, based on WHEN you vacation, HOW you vacation & the TIME of year that YOU require.  Buying an “off week” (one that is NOT popular may NOT be in your best interest).  Your lifestyle, family size & age are BIG factors in vacation planning.  School Schedules are definitely something to consider, since “school breaks” typically influence the availability of the resorts & hotels, as well as the destinations, like beaches, theme parks, & other popular locations, as well as “inflate” the price of the Timeshare Unit because of it’s popularity, remember the “RED-WHITE & BLUE” – these are used to determine not only popularity of the location, but also the price of the unit.   “RED” Weeks are the Most Popular & most expensive, “BLUE” Weeks are the Least Popular & the cheapest.  The “WHITE” Weeks fall between the Red & Blue Weeks in popularity & price.  For some Destinations, like Walt Disney World, ALL of the Timeshares are Red Weeks, because it is popular “all year”, however, there are definitely times when the crowds are less, making you visit to the parks, a much more enjoyable vacation adventure.  (Check Out – Allears.net – Travel Tips).

Timeshare Resorts will offer “Attraction Tickets”, “Hotel Stays”, “Sporting Events” & other incentives that are really a great deal, but only if your blood pressure & patience can endure the Presentations.

My best advise is to: (1)Do some research on the property, what amenities it offers, what is the cost of a typical unit, what weeks are available & what activities & sights are nearby (2)Check with Friends or Family who may own or use Timeshare Ownerships & (3)Know what you want in a Timeshare: (a)How much you can comfortably afford (based on your yearly debts, leisure or vacation budget) (b) How FAR do you want to travel for a “Time-out”? (c) How OFTEN will you realistically use this Timeshare? (d) Are there times that you would use it “for the day” or “a weekend” & (5) How popular is the location & is it going to be harder to access for a “last minute” trip?

Remember that the more popular the Resort, the greater the “Trading Value” but also keep in mind that some Timeshares are more busy, in general – during the holidays & summertime.  Some, like those in Florida (Orlando) are busy ALL of the time, which can be great for trading but really bad for visits, especially “last minute getaways”.  Your method of Travel is definitely a consideration, owning a Timeshare in a location that you would LIKE to visit often, may NOT be the best choice, unless you know that you will have the time & money to visit it.   Needing to “add” more days for traveling to a destination or “taking” more days away from your allotted time at a resort, may not be the best idea.  If you have children in school, vacations may not be as “easy” to plan, especially if you have to travel during “busy” seasons, when everyone else is traveling too.

Do your Homework & carefully consider what you really want & need BEFORE investing that money into a Timeshare, as “health issues, logistics, & cost factors” may prove to be too problematic & costly for your budget late on down the road.  Even Timeshare “Trading & Booking” has its own costs – Membership in an Exchange Club (like RCI), Processing Fees, as well as, keeping track of your Banked Weeks & Points, what you can “trade” or “not trade” for, what weeks or points are about to “expire” & how “the Seasons” effect where you travel (Weather Factors (Hurricanes & Snow or Rain), Holidays, School Schedules, Popularity, Annual Events Schedules (NASCAR) & many other factors may turn your Dream Ownership into a horrific Nightmare (& don’t forget that you have a Yearly Maintenance Fee, in addition to the initial Cost of your Timeshare, as well as Club Membership Fees that must be put in your yearly Budget, too).  Having a good Travel Resource & Timeshare Ownership can be a great asset but ultimately MOST of the planning (& Cost) will be entirely up to you.  Happy Trails & Happy Travels.

So – Enjoy your Free-Time, fore-go those “hard sell – chain you to a chair” Timeshare Presentations – unless you are “hard up” for a couple of Theme Park Tickets or Dinner Shows.  Better yet, find a friend or relative that will let you “experience” visiting their timeshare & talk with them about their experiences.  If you buy from where they own, many Timeshares will give them “sale incentives” or “perks” that can be used for a Recreational Activity or Restaurant Meal.  If you do visit one with a High Pressure – Must Buy Today Attitude – Just walk away.  Don’t be bullied into “buying” the concept of they won’t sell to you later – trust me – they will sell to you whenever are willing to buy.

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Hello, Walt – It’s Me Again

When all the world seems to be in chaos, I retreat to the one place on earth that embraces me with everything wonderful – “Hello, Walt – It’s Me Again”.  Yes, I am heading down to visit the “Happiest Place On Earth” AGAIN!

My family & friends may tease me about this “love” (obsession) with Walt Disney World, but they know “deep inside” that they love it as much as I do.  Yes, it can be crowded & yes, it can be expensive, but there is no other place that I have visited that makes me feel as safe, as cared for, as appreciated, & as spoiled as The Cast Members (Employees of Walt Disney World) make me feel.  And believe me when I tell you this, I have visited quite a few “Amusement Parks” in my lifetime, some that I will enjoy re-visiting & some that I hope that I NEVER visit again.  The amazing thing to me has always been those amazing “Cast Members”, the almost “invisible” costumed workers that are present in every “nook & cranny” of Walt Disney World, because they are the friendliest, most helpful & absolutely the nicest people in the “World” created by Walt.  If you happen to meet them in their “off times”, they will stop to help visitors that “look lost or confused”. They will talk with guests casually, helping out as needed & in so doing, may also impart their love of their job, the company & how Walt Disney (Man & Company) has helped them to be successful in their jobs & secure in their lives. And by assisting them in earning Scholarships & thus creating the means of earning the money, dedication & experience to have a Lifetime of Career opportunities.  They come from all backgrounds & in many cases, all countries, & they all impart the same wisdom & general philosophy of Walt Disney, himself, which was “You can design, create, & build the most wonderful place in the World, but it takes People to make that dream a reality”.

In today’s world, we seem to have lost that attitude of “making the dream become a reality”.  In my shopping travels, I see huge stores – warehouses of everything that you could ever want to own, aisle after aisle, but the average Grocery, Drug & Mass Merchandiser is totally devoid of sales people.  If you have a question, the timidity to ask for assistant or to ask for more detailed information on a product, AND supposing that you can find an actual “live” person, you are greeted with a “scowl & abrupt” attitude, like you are an interloper or an enemy, rather than someone that can potentially help them keep their job by supporting & patronizing their place of employment, & of course, all the products that they carry.  They fail to realize that it “IS” there job to greet customers & make them welcome. To understand what their products are & how they work. The ability to impart this information, not just when asked, but when they “see” a customer looking at products is crucial to increased sales & return visits.  To actually take the time to “walk over, greet” the customer, with a smile & ask the question, “Hello, is there anything that I can do to assist you with our products or services?” seems to be a totally alien concept to the average Salesperson.

In these tough economic times, it is all to easy to “feel the pinch” & reflect those feelings in our attitudes & demeanor when addressing others, whether it is in our personal or professional lives, but the truth of the matter is that the”bottom line” (literally) is this: Without the support of customers, you would not HAVE a job.  And, without a job, most of us, can not survive everyday needs.  The loss of income, on any level, particularly considering our accustomed level of enjoyments & creature comforts, is devastating to us & our family.  Our jobs keep us living in a manner that we have become accustomed to or at least are comfortable with, & in some cases, while a job may be just tolerable, it is an absolute necessity that insures our survival & the survival of our family, whether it is the bare minimum income or an income that provides at least a margin of “creature comforts”.

So, how to do keep that “sunny-side up” attitude in a world of “nay says”, “Hippocrates”, & “down-right nasty individuals”?  It isn’t easy, at all, but I always go “back to the basics” & whether you “believe or don’t believe” in religious teachings, some things are just “common sense”.  What you “give to others”, you “could receive in kind”.  In other words, if you give “negative attitude, actions or words” to others, you may very likely get back that same negativity.  But, often, if you treat others with the respect & kindness that you, yourself would like others to give to you, you very likely will get what you asked for.  Of course, there are those who are going be “jerks”, & that’s to be expected, but you can & should “elevate” yourself to a higher level of maturity.  And that is the “most well kept” secret of all.  If you Do NOT “elevate” yourself & your attitude to a higher level, the you risk “sinking” to their level, because there is NO “even” ground or “getting even”, ONLY “ups & downs”.

Many of the 1960′s generation, spoke of “Karma” (Good & Bad) – which simply means, “what you give, you receive”. Either “elevate” yourself to a higher level (in all manners of life) or “sink” to a lower level, which in the case of Karma, is believed to comes back in the future & in subsequent lives (If you embrace re-incarnation).  Beliefs, aside – to me, personally, I have a feeling of “loss” whenever I allow my mouth to “run away with me” & I “forget” (temporarily) to use my good manners & show the respect for others that I was taught throughout my childhood.  Whatever you give to others, you will receive in kind – good or bad.  And Karma aside, I do actually “feel” better when I am respectful, courteous, & kind to others, even if it is not reciprocated. I like to think that perhaps I have given them something to ponder…”Why did she do that? I just don’t understand. I was very “forceful” (i.e. rude, abrupt, disrespectful, overbearing, etc.)but she responded without anger.  Isn’t tranquility what the great “Thinkers & Philosophers” taught?  It is not necessary for everyone to believe in a higher being or calling, but to do, to act, & to speak, not like everyone else, but by being mindful that mankind advances in Peace, as well as in War, perhaps at different paces, but definitely in a forward motion, if you consider technology, experience & results over time as a factor.

In some ways, I believe that Technology, itself, has contributed to our general lack of “politeness” in our methods & usage of communication devices, but that is not entirely the problem, by any means. Volumes have been written on the subject, so I don’t really need to “go there”, but my point is simply this….there is NO substitute for a “one-on-one” personal & physical interaction.  Not dozens of messages on the Computer or a pleathera of Billboards & Scoreboards. Not in the guise of Facebook, Twitter, I-Phone or other electronic devices but in the totally personal, face-to-face interactions of everyday life. The speed of communication is something that I don’t want to slow down but I DO want to take the time to be “mannerly”. To make technology “work for us” rather than “erode” our courteous ways or send us backward, as opposed to sharing our manners, caring & polite ways, while advancing us forward in all areas of life. Even the early Astronauts replied from hundreds of miles above the earth, “Roger Houston, Thank You”.

So how do we “fix” this “Breach of Manners”? One smile & one step at a time. Allow yourself the time to “See, Hear & Feel” what is right & what is wrong. When someone needs help or kind words – “HEAR” what the people are saying, not just the words from their mouth but the tone & emotion in their voice. By the “LOOK” on their face, & the “FEEL” in your body language & the emotions of their heart, you can actually assess & “feel” what it is like to be that person & to experience their joys, sorrows, confusion, vision, etc. Only by mentally & in some cases, physically placing yourself in their situation, or “walking a mile in their shoes”, can you begin to see their point of view & have “empathy” not just “sympathy” for them. Look around in stores & don’t “fuss” at those that are present in that place, but go to the “source” of the problem – the companies that own them, & express your frustrations & disappointment with them for NOT meeting your needs in a professional, concerned & caring manner.

Time moves only as fast or as slow as we allow, meaning that we must first slow down & have the wisdom & patience to see what is wrong within ourselves. Then turn that revelation into the energy & vision that will enlighten ourselves for our betterment & the betterment of others. By these actions, we CAN make the needed improvements. It would truly be a “Wonderful World” if we all took a lesson from Walt’s words & in turn, put those words into actions. To begin emulating his vision, & by remembering those Disney Employees & their quest to “make it a magical day” for us all, can we make this vision a reality. I believe that we can IF we have the heart, the soul, & the mindset to do so, one day at a time.

Thank you Mr. Disney – from one of your many grateful guests.

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Open Your Heart & Take Flight

As a young child, I was described as a kind, generous & giving child, but I know that I was not as I appeared to the outside world, because I had within me, a hidden secret.  I was possessive & I aggressively tried in vain to hold on to things & people as long as possible, never wanting them to be away from me & believing that by holding on to them tightly, they would always be present in my life.   But that was, simply because, I had never truly learned “The Lesson of the Captured Bird”.  The story goes something like this:

“Pretty bird, I’ve got you now, though you’re quick and clever. You flew right into my net & now you’re mine forever”

The bird replied: “What good am I to you? Let me go I pray”.  Let me fly with sweet song & to you, I shall repay”.

“But Pretty bird, I’ll give to you, Sugarplums and candy.”  I will always care for you & Life will be so dandy”.

The Bird replied, “You may think you love me well, but you will bring me sorrow.  For, if I stayed, I never “strayed” & ate your sugarplums, then I would die tomorrow”.

(THE LESSON OF THE CAPTURED BIRD – A Russian Folk Song)

Throughout my life, people have come & gone.  I tried hard to hold fast to them & make them love me the way that I wanted to be loved, but each time, though they loved me, they left my life, like passengers on a train, each departing as they reached their destination, & I, sitting by my window, watched them with great sorrow, as the train continued onto the next stop.

With the passing of my friends or family members, I felt the pain of their departure, the lack of communication & the guilt of not having made an effect to be with them during their life.  I felt that I should have paid more attention to their words of wisdom, and learned from the lessons of their life, but I, like so many of us, had an agenda & that took precedence over everything & everyone in my life.

The first real love of my life, outside of my family, was Jeffrey, was the son of a Minister.  He had an odd response to being asked “how he liked something”.  His response was always, that It was good or bad, “considering”.  After a while, and hearing this response at least dozens of times, I become increasingly annoyed & said, “What is in the world does  that mean? – Considering what” and his reply was, “It’s just something my father always says”, which was not really the answer that I wanted to hear, for to me, it gave very little, if any explanation, until his death, by suicide some years later.  You see, I had never even considered anyone else’s opinion, feelings or conclusions, except my own.  The word itself, “Considering” means – in view of; taking into account, taking all of the circumstances of something into account; all things considered, which is realizing that everyone has their own view of things.  It’s not JUST my opinion, JUST my option or even JUST my beliefs, but all of the opinions of those around me & despite my desire to hold people close in my life, my possessive nature & controlling attitude toward people confounded me, for I seemed to “lose” people from my life on a regular basis & in varying ways – those lost by chasing them away, from neglect & for a variety of selfish reasons & many others, I lost by death.  Those were the ones that I realized too late, that my “consideration” of their importance in my life, was lost during my life, because of “me” & then later because “death” had a schedule to keep & I had “missed” the precious time of “waiting” for the last “whistle stop” in the long journey of Life.

But is that really true?  Is their leaving really a matter of my idea or theirs?  Is it a mutual decision, or a divine intervention?  But more importantly, the question is whether it was just their time to leave.  Over the years, I have read & studied many beliefs, theories of the mysteries of life & death & although everyone has an opinion of the People who come & go out in our lives all the time, it is the quality of the time that we spend with them & the quality of what we learn from them while they are with us that matters.  Whether, in theory, they leave of their own choosing or are called away by another source or a “higher being”, their departure should not solicit an attitude of regret at their passing but being one of reflection & a learning opportunity should be from their time spent with us.  It should be a reminder, with each passing, that our time with others, is “finite” (it has a set number of years, days, hours, minutes & seconds) that create an “unseen” hourglass with the sand pouring out until the top of the glass is completely empty.

I will probably grieve for those who have “passed away” in body for the rest of my life, in some form or another & this is natural & expected when one considers how long & how well we lived the life that I shared with each of them.  We believe our lives are good & it still surprises me when someone offers me condolences & comments that they cannot imagine the pain that I must be enduring after losing those that were so dear to me.   I am the now “oldest member of my generation”, my children & grandchildren keep me “alive” & my continuing belief is that we are “destined” to be with certain people, who educate & support you through the journey of life & their interactions with you help teach you the lessons necessary for your life.

I have known many people in my life, & after my husband’s death, I felt that I would never be “partnered” with anyone again, but “life goes on” & life refuses to let you “quit”.  Life moves “forward”, Life finds new “adventures”. Life finds new “challenges”, & Life creates “new experiences” that can enrich our lives.  It is to our benefit to take advantage of these opportunities, but many of us simply “allow the parade to pass us by” without any interaction or inspiration.

But people don’t know the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.  Looking at me, they saw a person very much in control of my life, but I was far from perfect, mainly because of decisions or circumstances that I have made or created in my past.  While not going into details, suffice to say, I made questionable decisions along the way & they “came back to bite me”.  But I didn’t let those circumstances affect the love & respect I felt for those around me.   And I didn’t hold tightly to others, except in a loving embrace, but instead, mentally gave freedom to my children & family.  I “trusted” my family, without imposing controls, without questioning their decisions, & by embracing mutual decisions through discussion & without any concern that I would be less important in their lives.   I knew that I would honor my relationships with my friends & family.  It would have been easy, during times of stress & adversity to give in & question or blame others for my “turn of events”, but I learned that I must stand together with my family & friends in complete trust, for as I often put it to others in disagreements… “Let’s not fight because we are all that we have in life”.   To which, I would receive the reply, “No, we are all that we need or want in life.”  But neither of those statements is really true, for we had to live in “the world” of other people, confronted by people that had or could cause us pain & we had to exist with the full knowledge that we should handle these trying situations as a family & a “team” – “United we stand, but divided, we fall”

In the military, they have a “buddy” system – An assigned partner that acts on your behalf & you on theirs, so that you are never alone.  Someone to live, work & relax with.  This someone starts out as a stranger, then becomes a companion, then a partner, & maybe eventually becomes a confident & in times of danger, a protector.   And, in order to be “the best you can be” for yourself & your “buddy”,  you must learn as much as possible about that other person for in doing so, from the encounters & the discussions made by each other, as well as the trust & loyalty that is established, good things & good trust will result.  My late husband &, now my Life Partner, I did just that – we became “buddies”.  And it works.   I was reminded the other day of an “old saying” that I was reminded of when you hear one story from one person, & another story from a different person, with each story painting an entirely different picture of each one’s shared experience.   The moral of the story is to “beware” because, “The first liar is always perceived as being truthful & the second liar doesn’t stand a chance of being believed”, but I feel that is because we don’t wait to hear “the rest of the story” – the combination of everything.  Supposedly Court Judges, hear “everything” but this isn’t true either, because of court “time restraints”, the Judge oft times ONLY hears the “Reader’s Digest”  version.  We just jump to the conclusions of the first story & we hold tight to that verdict.  We even defend our conclusions when challenged, & if proved wrong, we simply say that “we just didn’t have all the facts”, like that is an excellent “excuse” for our ignorange & lack of conviction when it comes to actually “seeking” the “whole truth & nothing but the (whole) truth”.

And isn’t that the point?  It’s not that we “didn’t have the facts” but that we “didn’t wait long enough to hear the “flip-side” of the experience, which oddly enough, refers to the old “45 speed” vinyl records of the 1950’s & 60’s, because the “flip side” was rarely if ever, the “better” song recording.   But in our ignorance of the “other side”, we did not do a proper comparison & therefore come to the often “permanent conclusion”, that the first liar is being right – a stance that we then defend, sometimes to our death, while avoiding the “part” we played & falsely believing that we are somehow “entitled” to make this judgment.  But that effort, like holding the small bird in your hand, is not what the lesson was really about at all.  In our lives, If we hold too tightly to that which we love, our “bird” may not escape, but the bird is also very unhappy & neither of us will gain any joy from the experience.   If we hold onto the Bird too lightly,  we take the risk that our bird will escape, never to return & our perception is that we will lose our source of inner joy.  The “secret” is that we must “trust” &  by trust, we allow the bird, its “freedom” & in return, if we have done our job well,  the Bird will reward our trust & will return to us.  There are No guarantees of return but while the returning would be a joy, is it being realistic or are we setting ourselves up for failure & heartache?

And so what is the point of my story, you may ask?  The point is quite simple.  First,

(1)     LEARN ABOUT SOMEONE FROM OBSERVATIONS & DISCUSSIONS

Spend time with that special someone, before you join together in a physical, financial or legal relationship.   Trust  yourself to being open & honest with your partner & be grateful for their being honest with you.   Never “judge” another person for their past, but address the possible issues of past decisions that may arise in your future together.  Old friends, family & co-workers rarely “go away” forever & in reality, they never should.  Dealing with past events, is a “learning experience” for both parties & is important in all relationships.

(2)    BUILD A TRUST THAT WILL ENDURE

By being together & talking together about “every”thing & holding nothing back, you learn to trust.  You learn to let go of restraints & you will experience the freedom of trust.  Not just sharing your interests, or their interests, but in sharing with each other, a common interest  or by exploring new things, so that you will learn share each other’s perceptions & opinions, always keeping an open mind in the process.

(3)    LEARN FROM YOUR ENCOUNTERS & REMEMBER THE LESSONS LEARNED

Practicing patience – Rome was not built in a day & we need to learn to develop a sense of adventure.   The revelations of the experience will amaze you.   For “soul-mates” are not chance meetings, but the meeting of two minds, two hearts, & two warriors, who learn about each other’s strengths, weaknesses, experiences & the lessons learned in their lives, that causes people to become “soul-mates”.  My husband considered me to be his “buddy” & it was my great pleasure to accept the title.

(4)    TAKE THE JOY FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES TOGETHER – The experience of living each moment together in truth & honor should be cherished  & remembered for the lessons learned, for the pleasure that being together brings & for the memories that you carry throughout your life.

A great love is not captured, & it is not preserved by holding on to something so tightly that it is a captive bird.  Really Great  “Love” is FOUND, and it remains FREE.  A great MARRIAGE is NOT just the “wedding” Ceremony itself, not in the giving & receiving of the wedding “vows”,  the rings & all the “pomp & circumstance” of the moment, but in PRACTICING & CONTINUING TO HONOR those vows, along with A PLEGE to LEARN, to SHARE, to TEACH, to REMEMBER & to HONOR each other by SHARING your life, NOT by CONTROL of your partner or enduring their control of you.  All of your life & all of the time, including the highs, the lows, the questions & the conclusions that you experience, whether you are together or apart should be on every level  – PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, TRUTHFULLY, LOVINGLY, & RESPECTFULLY.  For it is only when you practice this technique that at your parting, whether temporary or permanent, you will still “feel” together by forever helping & learning from each other.  Be true “soul-mates”, even to death.  And this freedom, gives you will still be free to find that someone special again.  And if that person becomes your “partner” & “soul-mate”, consider yourself blessed.

By letting your “inner” self go & by letting others teach you, you will open yourself up to NEW experiences, NEW beginnings & NEW lessons.  Life is NOT just a journey, but, as Robert Frost so eloquently put it in one of his poems, “I shall be telling this with a sigh, for somewhere ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  (The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost).

So, in conclusion:  You will find that FREEDOM is in reality, the ability to let OTHERS be free, as well.

(1) stop & ponder, let the lesson of the captured bird, be your guide.

(2) Choose your road wisely & share the experience, by living your life to the fullest.

This article is dedicated to my “Mom” (my husband’s mother) – Mom, You are the light of reason, the example of someone who willingly shares, teaches & lives life well & to the fullest.  You are accepting of all who share time with you & by your example you have taught us that life is meant to “be lived”.  The unconditional love that you give to others & especially your presence in my life has been & continues to be a very great gift. Thank you – I have learned much.

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How willing are we to do “Whatever It Takes?” to get the job done?

 “Happiness is when, What you think, What you say & What you do are All in Harmony” – Mahatma Ghandi  

How many times have you heard the phase, “I’ll do it, whatever it takes”?  I use the phase often & in a variety of situations, such as “I am going to get this or that done, WHATEVER it takes”.  In reality, I am NOT being totally honest with myself or to those within the range of my voice, because I don’t actually intend to do “WHATEVER it Takes”.  What I really mean to say is that “I am going to put forth some effort as long as it doesn’t “cost” me anything, because I am unwilling or unprepared to do actually “go that extra mile”, “to invest extra time”, or “risk using the needed resources or extra effort” necessary to actually accomplish the task using an “all-out”, “whatever it takes” attitude to accomplish it.

My life has been influenced by a variety of people, including, but not limited to – my family, friends, & on occasion, individuals whose actions have sometimes confounded me.  There have been those that have inspired me & others by using their words, deeds, actions, tenacity, courage, wisdom or just the living of their day-to-day circumstances, the good or bad events, with a “Whatever it takes” attitude throughout their entire lives.

The definition of the phase, “Whatever it takes” means, according to my on-line dictionary, simply  “Anything that may be required to achieve an objective or strong affirmation of willingness to accomplish something that we passionately desire & want to see completed”.  While this is indeed a lofty goal, I can honestly & fully admit that many of my “dreams” have been circumvented by my own lack of commitment.  My willingness to risk losing my hard-earned resources, exert the extra drive needed to “push myself” or go to the lengths that would be necessary to physically or emotionally accomplish the goals that I have set for myself, are often in “short demand”.  In other words, my dreams haven’t always had the necessary drive, desire or courage necessary to really achieve my dreams of success.

This past weekend, at Budd’s Creek Race Track, in Maryland, I was privileged to meet “a Legend” in the Nostalgic Funny Car Racing Circuit, a person who redefined the image of women in the Drag Racing Profession.   Using her Professional Title, a name that she earned working as a Playboy “Bunny”, she ran her first race in 1964 at the Old Dominion Drag Strip, in Manassas, Virginia, at a time when women drag racers were a “rare occurrence”, which ultimately earned her the title of “The First Lady of Funny Car Racing”.   When she & husband, “Mo” bought a 1964 Red Mustang, on a Thursday, entered it at the Race Track the very next day, & won the race, you are talking about a great lady with a great deal of confidence, tenacity, & down-right fearlessness & you have just described Carol “Bunny” Burkett.  After that race, Bunny never looked back & became the most Competitive Female Drag Racer on the East Coast Circuit, as well as the Most Popular Drag Racer across the USA.

This photo, taken in the late 1960’s, Bunny poses beside her second bright red Mustang, which I have to admit was my “dream car”.(Publicity photo courtesy of Bunny Burkett’s Website) Link:  www.bunnyburkett.com  

The Tom “Smoker” Smith’s Miss Universe of Drag Racing tour made her a “household icon” & Bunny quips about the tour with affection, calling it “a traveling circus”.  It was definitely a “hit” with the fans, who liked the racing, but also the “strut your stuff hot pants” contests of the Miss Universe drivers.  Despite having to “play by the rules set forth because she was a woman”, the experiences of Bunny’s Life & Career, have been a necessary part of her life, & she does not view them with regret, but sees her choices as ones needed to fulfill her dreams, as well as provide her team with the necessary funding & popularity required in the sport of drag racing.   She sees her life’s timeline as a chart that defines her in ways that she may never have accomplished with any other method.  Bunny didn’t just “settle” for a lifetime of experience, she actually “experienced a life” & one that “molded & defined” her, as well as allowed her to meet her far-reaching expectations & goals.  She overcame whatever obstacles she encountered with courage & conviction.   And Trust me when I say this, she has definitely had many “obstacles” to overcome.  She has experienced the “victories”, the “extraordinary circumstances” & the “miraculous events” that created her life path.  Her Career & Life choices, such as becoming a Playboy Bunny, had its own set of obstacles, & she suffered serious injuries resulting from two race car crashes, & a variety of other important events in her life, like raising children.  Her very serious battle with cancer, not once, but twice, resulted in a mastectomy, showing that Bunny accepts life as it comes at her.  She still finds the time to greet her fans with all the grace & charm of a very accomplished & gentile Lady.  Always with a smile, she encourages her long-time fans, as well as those of us who are “new-bees” to the thrill of the sport, the opportunity to learn & enjoy.

We found Bunny sitting comfortably on the back end of her car, eating her favorite treat, “fresh fruit”, relaxing & interacting with her “boys”.  She encouraged us with a most “genuine air of hospitality” to sit & talk with her, & she took the time to introduce us to her equally friendly family, crew & Canine Mascots – “Cubby” & “Molly”.

Bunny remarked that the crash “made her the person that she is today & that having to deal with Cancer was a challenge she never expected.  Still throughout the challenges, she found she had become much stronger along the way.  She talks about her life freely, sharing her fears & feelings, while signing autographs & encouraging others to enjoy her favorite sport, or perhaps buy a souvenir or two.  With her easy manner of speaking, she passes along her empowerment, encouragement & shares what motivates & inspires her. As she stated to me, “That’s what all of this is about now”, my contribution to racing, the experiences of my lifetime, & the wisdom gained from my life, family, friends & even my competitors.  In her lifetime, the challenges she faced & the decisions that molded her in so many ways, kept her “grounded” in the things that mattered most.  My visit with her both inspired & amazed me.  Her casual calm reflections of her life made me feel the need to “slow down” & “renew my own commitments, to stretch my goals & to reach for my dreams with that same calm resolve, determination & acceptance of life.

There may be people who believe that I have “settled” for whatever fate decreed, or perhaps that I didn’t made the best choices available to me, but I feel the circumstances & knowledge available to me at the time, gave me all of the necessary information needed to make an intelligent decision.   I don’t believe in “second guessing”, or regretting “what may have been”, I do instead, embrace “what is”.   I dream, I’m content with my life & I don’t “look back” & wonder about “the road not taken”.

As for the future, I strive to accomplish my desires, change my life for the better & enjoy the experiences that have come my way.  I enjoy a life that I believe was “lived well”, perhaps not always as I had imagined but a life filled with more good experiences than bad ones.  I am grateful for the people I hold dear, the friends I have, the people that influence my thoughts, & those that alter my perspectives, give me inspiration, & educate me.  I realize that “any other twists & turns of my life” & I would have been a very different person & despite what may have been, I am grateful for this life.  Whether it was “guided by an unseen hand” or simply the result of “a destiny of own my design” , it has been a good life & one that I feel has been well lived.  It is important to believe that the “lessons of life” we encounter in our journey from cradle to grave, are important to who we are, & where we are going.  Learning from the people we encounter, accepting the mistakes we make, enjoying the triumphs of our life & celebrating the revelation of the events that we experience, is often enough to provide all of the answers that we really need to appreciate the true meaning of happiness.  The acceptance of that good life, in turn, may also inspire others in ways that we can never imagine.

“Bunny” Burkett, influenced her destiny, but she also accepted, modified, & totally altered her life using the circumstances & opportunities that presented themselves along the way.  With each “twist & turn”, she “rolled with the punches”, “jumped on the opportunities” & “accepted life as it came at her”, with all the grace, charm & gentility of “a very great lady” – one that we, as women, should strive to emulate.   We need NOT to demand equality, but learn to EARN our equality.  Strive to NOT “complain” about any perceived injustice, but OVERCOME obstacles in our path by using all of the resources available to us.  Bunny didn’t “buck” the system, she worked the system.  She accepted an opportunity when it presented itself & strived to excelled in her field, using her intelligence, patience, knowledge, & education.  She learned all that she needed to know for success, & all the while, embraced herself & enjoyed being a woman in a man’s world.  She earned the respect that was due to her because she was good at her sport.  She wasn’t “just another woman in a man’s world”, she was an accomplished, knowledgeable, fearless, & determined Race Car Driver & Owner, & in my opinion, one that I will encourage my granddaughters to  emulate.

MY NOTE TO: Bunny, her family & crew – Thank you for allowing us to “enter into your world”.  While most of your fans battled power outages, storm damage & the closing of the track, we were privileged to spend time with you.  Thank you for extending your hospitality, sharing your wisdom, encouragement & experiences, & for taking the time to honor us with your presence, as well as, sharing your family with us as well.   We look forward to seeing you again soon & if you need a hand at the track, just give us a call.  It would be an honor & a privilege to work with you in any way that you required.

Fondly, Gwendolyn & Timmy (Sandston, VA)

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The Death of the State Fair of VA – March 08, 2012

Do you dare to visit the Virginia State Fair? How about your desire to get on some crazy rides after eating three corndogs, a funnel cake and some neon blue cotton candy, before going to see a singer who hit the pop charts in “how long have I loved this group?” category. Actually, I’m joking, and the music at the fair is awesome. In fact, so is just going to the State Fair of Virginia, and something I have enjoyed since age one, right up to the present age of fifty-eight.

DEATH NOTICE – It is with a heavy heart that I must report the death of the State Fair of VA, at 156 years of age, on March 08, 2012, from complications that resulted from the move from Henrico County to Caroline County. Many believe that neglect on the part of friends and supporters may have contributed to the decline in health and ultimately caused the demise. Ill health plagued the State Fair, starting sometime prior to the move to the new location, and an ultimate downturn in health resulted, ending in its death. Memorials may be posted on Facebook by family, friends and others.

“Did You Dare To Go To The Fair?”
To give you a brief and recent history, the State Fair of Virginia moved to the site of Meadow Farm, which horse racing fans recognize as the home to Racing Legends, Riva Ridge and Secretariat, winner of the Horse Racing Triple Crown and now home to Secretariat’s Great-Grandson, “Rainaway” – an appropriate name for the State Fair mascot, since it is almost a given that “rain” and the State Fair always seems to have a natural attraction. The event is something that is definitely on my “must do” list each year and to those not familiar with the fair is something that everyone should experience at least once. But be forewarned, it is something that very well may become a permanent part of your annual calendar schedule as well.

September has always been a special time for me, with everything changing “gears” in preparation of a new season. Starting with Labor Day, and the beginning of school, the changes of the weather and the cooler temperatures make it an exhilarating time of the year that also holds the bonus of my birthday and the State Fair of Virginia. Many people harbor the concept that a County or State Fair is little more than a traveling carnival with animals, assorted crops, archaic crafts, homemade baked goods and other such items like Aunt Bessie’s famous Elderberry Jam, but the State Fair of Virginia, is so much more. Perhaps it was that old-fashioned relic of the past in days gone by, but the State Fair of today, has evolved into a kaleidoscope of events, displays, resources, shows and informational sources that are of benefit and interest to a wide variety of people. From state-of-the-art technology and practical knowledge of the care and dedication that Virginia farmers and growers have for their animals and crops to the entertainment venues, competitions of all varieties and everything from Lumberjacks and Craftsmen to Animal Handlers and Bake-Offs.

The State Fair in this new location has become not just an event, but “the event” of the year. It still holds fast to its history, its dedication to the education of our youth and the public about Virginia diverse history, agriculture and heritage, but it also embraces the future and blends the old with the new in amazing interactive ways. While the size of the venue may seem daunting to many of those with young children or the older generations, the distance walked is made easy by the many paved areas and walkways through the site, as well as a tram, which provides some transportation relief, although it does run “sporadically” and without a posted schedule. The park is divided into seven sections (areas) – Livestock & Cultural, Media General Trail, Equine & Festival Stage, Farm Bureau, Kidway & Midway, South Festival & North Festival Loops.

While Animals and Crops are the traditional mainstays of County and of course, the State Fair and it is quite impressive to see a Watermelon, 154 lbs, my son’s weight and a Pumpkin, over 1,019 pounds, large enough to hide one of grandchildren inside. As expected, there are many animals of varying types, ranging from Chickens to Lamas and everything in-between, along with the feeling that Noah would be very proud. I enjoyed watching the Youth Milking Goat Competition, and listened with interest to the background information on the young handlers in the ring. Their talents and interests ranged from becoming an Artist to being an Astronaut, along with their other competitions, which embraced Mathematics, Science, History and Sports. The State Fair, which has its own scholarship program, also embraces many youth organizations, such as 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Animal Rescue Groups, Charitable Organizations and many, many others. These talented youthful competitors not only handled goats, but showed that “Down on the Farm” was more like “Reach for the Stars”, as they expertly displayed their many hours of training, interest, love of animals and expert knowledge to the judges, in the hopes of landing a ribbon, scholarship and the chance to achieve their dream of a college education and career.

Other events, such as Mutton Bustin’ and Barrel Racing, showed youth that was fearless, determined and talented in the more fast-paced competitions. These young individuals had obviously spent many hours practicing their event, while caring for the animals that partnered with them on a quest for victory. Other impressive events such as Pleasure and Dressage Classes, tested the participant’s knowledge of their animals, as well as the care, training and grooming, which required at least as many hours as any sport team athletes and showed that a partnership and power of partnership can result from a bond with animals. I remembered fondly, the many hours of training, working and competing in such events in my youth, and the appreciation that you develop for your animal partner, who faces each competition with the same determination and will to win, as its handler. You don’t own an animal, you belong to each other and you form a bond that you remember throughout your lifetime.

The events included in your “Fair Ticket” may be the Demolition Derby, a heart-stopping game of tag using real cars, musical competitions, such as the Banjo, Fiddle, and Karaoke, or perhaps, a Tractor Pull, Cowboy Shooting, Bull Riding (live and mechanical), Draft Horse and Mule Pulls, and Celebrity Cook-offs, just to name a few of events that ran though-out my visit during the middle of the week. I particularly enjoyed the BMX Stunt Show, Flying Frisbee Dogs and the Racing Pigs. It’s impossible to “do it all” and I already have a long list of “to-do things” on my visit next year that I didn’t do this year. For the smaller kids in our group, Rowdy Rooster and his Hot Rod Car was an entertaining show provided free, with seating, while the adults in our group took a mini break and enjoyed some of the fair food, which for us, is a required element of the total fair experience.

The one other great “must-do” list item at the State Fair, is to indulge your taste buds in some unique and unconventional food options. The health-conscience critics, of course, wouldn’t agree, and I’m sure my doctor would frown at this edible tradition, but enjoyed in moderation and with family or friends, is always on our family’s “must do” list. Some of the more curious choices, were of course, the variety of “fried” foods, Twinkies, Fried Ho Ho, popular candy bars, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and everything imaginable, proving that “anything” can probably be battered, fried and consumed with amazing results. There were numerous varieties of meat treats, ice cream varieties, and even a Donut Burger, consisting of the usual meat patty, with numerous toppings, served on a Krispy Kreme style donut, and while compelling, we declined to sample, at least this time.

The rides at the fair are impressive considering that they are delivered and setup each year for this event. There are rides and games designed with adults and children in mind and separated into different areas, which grouped the rides together by age appropriate, while still keeping all of them within a comfortable walking area. Height Restrictions are enforced and each ride has a measuring stick at the entrance with the appropriate height clearly marked. The area around the ride is usually large enough to get a view of the riders and the Ride Attendants are very good with the visitors, especially the younger children. I was very impressed by the care, patience, concern and attention of the ride handler to the riders, and they took the time to check the safety of each child’s restraint, as well as watch for children that were having “any issues” with the ride while it was in motion. On one occasion, we had put my two year old grandson on the “Rip Tide”, a jet-ski ride that bounced up, down and around and we had parked our stroller on the backside of the ride.    At the ride’s conclusion, we found ourselves unable to get back to the “Exit” as quickly as we had hoped and my grandson was ready to exit the ride area. The Ride Attendant patiently kept him within the corral exit area until we were able to arrive and said that she always made sure that each child was returned to his proper parent or guardian. On another occasion, she told everyone to stay seated, while she stopped the ride within moments of seeing a child, who was obviously scared and ready to cry. She helped the child off, giving her words of comfort and gently escorted her to her parents at the exit gate, telling the child and parents that she could come back and ride whenever she wanted. On another ride, “Dylan’s Dozers”, the Attendant noticed a little boy “punching” the arm of the little girl next to him. The Ride Attendant stopped the ride, told everyone to remain seated and wait, because the ride was not finished. He then politely removed the little boy, returned him to his parents, and announcing to everyone to get ready to go, put the ride in motion for the duration of the ride

This year’s pricing of tickets was a bit higher than I remember from last year, and most rides took at least five or more tickets for adult rides and three tickets or more tickets for the “Kiddies” Rides. Individual Tickets cost one dollar each, with a price of twenty dollars for twenty-five tickets. Wristbands were the “Best Deal”, if you planned to ride more than a few rides, with a cost of twenty dollars, but be forewarned, these bands are good for one day only, and you must purchase a new band for visits during any other days that you visit the fair. Ages two and under, can ride FREE, but still must have an armband to ride. To those of you who like to visit the fair after five o’clock in the evening, the “FAIR DEAL” is a good deal with admission tickets and ride wristbands costing just ten dollars each. Be sure to check the website, http://www.statefair.com, for dates, times, and other ride information and entry details. There are discounts available to “ACTIVE” military and their families, senior citizens, etc. – check out the website details for these as well.

The many things to do at the State Fair is impressive and entertaining for the whole family, with many of these activities, shows, competitions and events offered to the public for free. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

COMPETITIONS: Fiddle & Banjo, Brunswick Stew Cook-off, Tractor Pull & Demolition Derby
SHOWS: King BMX Stunt Show, Lone Star Pro Rodeo, Masters of the Chain Saw
KIDS: Uncle Ty-Rone & High School Rodeo, Muttin’ Bustin” & Rosair’s Racing Pigs
GUYS: Cowboy Mounted Shooting Match & Demolition Derby (Driver’s Wanted)
GALS: All American Cowgirl Chicks & Celebrity Cook-Off
ANIMAL LOVERS: Aussie Kingdom (your picture with a real Kangaroo) & K-9’s in Flight
ROMANTICS: Dominion Fireworks (one night only)
MUSIC LOVERS: Festival Stage (Big Names), Theater Stage (Variety –Novelty) & Heritage Stage (Folk)

In short, no pun intended, there is lots to do at the Virginia State Fair, and in its new location, it has much to offer everyone, and everyone’s tastes and interests. It’s not the carnival of olden days, but it does combine the past and the present with new vision. The fair is well worth the entry fee and for the frugal, it can be cost-effective with planning and a realistic budget, as well as being a day of entertainment and discovery.

For those with children, the fair may be somewhat of a challenge financially and emotionally, having to deal with the many distractions and noise elements, but a well planned trip is well worth the investment and educational value.

First:Use the website and decide what you want to do, to see and to experience. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience many school related topics. Second: Ask your child’s school and teachers if they have planned a school sponsored trip to the fair or if they can suggest any specific areas, subject related topics or experiences that can be “tied into their current curriculum” and if students can earn any extra credit for attending, followed by a report on their experiences and educational activities, while attending.

For those with disabilities, the walkways, bathrooms and other areas are very accessible, but for those with difficulty walking, the distances between the areas may be somewhat of a challenge. My best suggestion is the use of a wheelchair, scooter or walker, and a well planned visit with lots of rest stops, which can easily be accomplished by visiting the shows, demos and events. Just be sure to arrive well before the start of these attractions since the seating capacity is limited. There are two areas for handicap parking, both provide a short walking distance to the ticket booths and the attractions and the main fairgrounds.

STATE FAIR OF VA 2011 – “The Fair was So Sweet; All I Wanted to Do was Eat”
On my first visit to the fair, I arrived with two of my sons, their wives and six of my eight grandchildren. I started the day by breaking the rules, skipping an early breakfast and the array of baked items at my church, to indulge in my first “Fair Food” in twelve months.

First Menu Item: a Sausage, Onion and Pepper Sandwich, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I had “snitched” a bite of my daughter-in-laws Gyro with an unbelievably awesome Herb Dressing, while the grandkids enjoyed a custom mixed “Slushy”. My grandson stuck with only one flavor, Blueberry, while my innovative granddaughter choose a four-flavor combo of Strawberry, Lemon, Blueberry and Lime, out of the dozen plus flavors available. The purchase included discounted refills. But fairgoers be forewarned that you should ask vendors about discounts, refill policies and “fair deals” to get the most “bang for your buck”. We tried refilling our slushy drinks at an identical vendor in another part of the midway, and found that they did not honor the discounted refill of our original vendor, so we rerouted our trip and marked on our maps those vendors who, in our opinion, deserved our patronage. Next we had our traditional Funnel Cake with Powdered Sugar and Cinnamon, freshly made as we watched it being cooked, wonderfully flavored and served piping hot. I wore my satisfaction all day in the form of powdered sugar flecks on my clothes – also a tradition with eating at the fair, as well as the photo that my son’s wife snapped for her Facebook page. Again, be forewarned, that the “little munchkins” in the group, need to be patient while the food cools, so it’s a good time to take in a show or put them on a “kiddies’” ride, while you are waiting. And remember to leave some of the treat for them when they exit the ride.

We explored the world of animals in Old McDonald’s Farm, which is quite an experience, with an extensive array of animals everywhere, along with super-size thongs of parents, children, strollers and babies, both human and animal. The building is a wonderful place to learn about nature, as well as some educational facts about each type of animal. Each exhibit within this tent shows facts about that type of animal, along with the names of the varieties, plus some interesting trivia and fun facts. The tent is also the showcase for “Rainaway”, Secretariat’s Great-Grandson. He stands quietly watching the mass of people entering and leaving the tent, but don’t let his aloof demeanor fool you, he is alert and watching, but like most thoroughbreds, he prefers a quiet stall to large crowds and as a retired Race Horse, he has certainly earned his place among racehorses in his own right, with the distinction of being kin to a very famous athlete, as well. I am always fascinated by the numbers different breeds of each type of animal. There are separate competition tents, based on type of animal, such as the chicken tent, which contains at least sixty to hundred breed types, color combinations and of course, examples of each breed type by sex and age, as well as, one for the many breeds of pigeons, cattle, sheep, llamas, etc. To some of the backyard Chicken enthusiasts, there are always some for sale and provides the chance to get the best breeds, free advice, and hobby suggestions, all at a “fair price”.
We decided to get ride wristbands for the kids and parents, and I opted to watch our youngest grandchild, just four months old, as she delighted in experiencing a very active midway, with lots of noise, people, sights and sounds. I enjoyed the “pint-sized” rides, that included a Bulldozer Caravan, a High-Flying School Bus, Rough-Water Boating, Flying Fish, and Race Cars, sporting names like Home Depot and Lowe’s, among others. A Fun House with moving parts, was a disappointment, since most of the moving parts, were not working, making us especially glad that we had purchased the wristbands, rather than the five or more tickets that most rides required. Later, we shared a Foot-Long Hot Dog and a Blooming Onion, with Ranch Dressing Dipping Sauce. Before our departure, we felt compelled to try the Fried Kool-Aid, which tasted remarkably like Strawberry Cake surrounded by a crispy, sweet crust, sprinkled with Powdered Sugar, of course. There were many, many tempting treats at the Fair that we just didn’t have the time or the stomach capacity to try on this visit, but like Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another Day!” We have already started our list of “must try”, “curious about” and “bravery required” food items to explore next year, including the Frozen Hot Chocolate, Fried Cheesecake and other interesting temptations.

STATE FAIR OF VA 2011 – “All I Wanted to Do was Ride, Baby Ride”
While I had arrived early at the fair to meet my sons, their families and enjoy the day, one of my sons arrived just after me, while the other was several hours later, with the early family departing early in the afternoon, the rest of the family stayed into the night to enjoy the fair experience. My grandson’s birthday is also in September, so he had the choice of one ride, and along with his mother, father and sister, he enjoyed the Giant Ferris Wheel. I have to admit my brief desire to ride one of the two giant Ferris Wheels, but considering my dislike of heights, thought better of the idea and just enjoyed waving to my family with each rotation, but also reminding me of a quote by E. B. White – “I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris Wheel”.

While they enjoyed the thrill of seeing the fair at night from their lofty perch, I took their youngest child and played the “Duck Pond” Game, with a guaranteed prize, but soon discovered that while every child gets a prize, it may not be the one from your duck if you don’t pay more money. I opted for the two dollar – one duck – one prize since it was the cheapest way to actually win. I have often been told, “fortune follows the fickle” but in this case, my grandson scored a winner, and was able to proudly show his family the small beanie fish that he won with the number two on the bottom of his duck. We walked around the fair and looked at the many rides and some of the food treats and then left for the parking lot.

With the hour growing late, we decided not to opt for a wristband, considering that the next day was school for the grandchildren and a working day for their mother. The weather during the fair can be quite sporadic, with sunny, hot days, followed by cold wet nights. The open areas provide little shade and relief from rain, unless you are near some of the exhibit areas or main buildings.
The bathrooms are convenient, and clean, but also have very narrow walkways in front of the women bathroom stalls. The changing area is adequate, but located in an area with lots of people coming in and out of the door. The restrooms in the Farm Bureau building are much better but are usually more crowded.

STATE FAIR OF VA 2011 – “Second Time Around & Around We Go”
On my second visit to the fair, I enjoyed some of the cooking shows, competitions and exhibits. My friend, Sandra, accompanied me on Wednesday, and we arrived around nine-thirty and waited patiently for the gates to open. We started out in the Commonwealth Building, looking at the wide variety of Arts and Crafts, including the popular “Table Setting for Two” Competition. This popular Challenge, invites entrants to create a table setting, complete with menu, correct place settings and decorations that best represent the chosen theme, which, this year was “Corn, Peas, Beans & Barley”, for the Adult Division and “Your favorite Book, with you having dinner with the Main Character for the Youth Division. I enjoyed the variety of book choices in the youth division and was truly impressed with the settings, especially considering that each child received not help while setting up their display and the ages ranged from five years to twelve years old.
I was determined to go over and see some of the wonderful world of Equine Events, but ended up settling for the Mule Jumping and an Arnold Palmer Ice Tea, located on the path toward the stables, which was a delightful combination of homemade lemonade and tea, a bargain at four dollars for a large drink and the “perk” of two dollar refills, as well as a delightful display of some very well-trained and talented mules and riders. We also visited the Farm Bureau Building filled with vendors of every kind, tons of booths, some familiar, others unique or many new to this year’s fair. I particularly enjoyed the Sky Blue Ice Cream, with its creamy texture, generous portions and delicious flavors, as well as the puzzles with moving cars and animals, designed for with parents and children in mind. There were also vendors for health-conscious people, home improvement for weekend builders and a variety of service organizations, as well as the Virginia Lottery, with the chance to get a picture and autograph with “Lady Luck”.

Later we watched the “Flying Dogs”, a show featuring “Frisbee” catching dogs, who braved a sixty-foot plus jump into a large body of water, just to retrieve the coveted disk and return it safely to their owners, who delighted at showing their talented dogs antics and jumping ability. Afterwards, we headed off to see some of the animals, crops, milk and possibly the always popular Soy Donuts. The Aqua Displays, Student Gardens, Pumpkins Carving and the ever-popular Corn Bin for Kids, was a place to watch, relax and enjoy the happenings. With the hour growing late, and the desire to avoid the evening crowds and traffic, we headed out to the parking lot and I planned for one more visit with my family on Sunday, which would be my last opportunity to enjoy the yearly pilgrimage until 2012.
Sunday arrived, and my middle son, his wife, and the three grandchildren, returned to the fair. We purchased wrist bands so the kids could enjoy as many rides as possible. We also indulged in more food, this time opting for the Chinese Menu for the ride home. Along the way, the visited the Farm Bureau, to get a serving of Sky Blue Ice Cream and checked out some of the other vendors, and of course, a “pit stop” at the bathrooms.

As the kids headed off for the rides, we made stops at some of our favorite Kiddies Rides, and some of the more adventuresome ones as well. I couldn’t believe that our two year old and four year old just loved being on the “The Scrambler”, which is like riding an egg beater in motion or watching our four year old and her dad on a ride that spun faster than I could imagine going. The rides at the fair are impressive and certainly seem to be well attended and managed. From the “Wild Mouse” to the “Drop Zone”, kids and parents were laughing and having a good time. The area is also well maintained with benches and kids sitting areas throughout, but shade (or rain) shelter is not available, so be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen. The midway lanes are wide enough for the crowds and there’s plenty of room for baby buggies and people to share with ease. The avenue is also well designed with newly planted trees that will someday become wonderful sources of shade and beauty.
During this visit, we explored Heritage Village and explored the area of “Farming in the Past”, with live oxen pulling a wagon, old tractors, demonstrations, environmental activities, freebees and exhibits, the area is a definite “must stop” for parents, children, and older individuals to enjoy and learn. We briefly stopped to watch the Wood Carving Demo, an American Eagle in Flight, made with a chain saw, standing over twenty feet tall. In a display of such carvings, stood a beautiful, detailed and life-size Great Horned Owl, perched in a tree. The Environmental Building next to the Demonstration Area, held live native Virginia Animals and Plants, as well as, numerous Educational Activities and Interactive Displays for Adults and Children. For those who love rocks, the back area, had large, labeled tree samples and rocks to explore, as well as “burn off a little excess energy” in and inviting pastoral setting.

I enjoyed watching my son, my five year old granddaughter and two year old grandson, making their way through the glass house was the highlight of his wife and my visit, since he maneuvered easily through the glass house, his children were a handful in this situation. With the grandson in front and the granddaughter following, he confidently went through, then realized that keeping them together was impossible. Our granddaughter, bumped her way along, until finally finding the right path to reach her dad, while his wife and I laughed until we cried at the two of them. My granddaughter was totally unconcerned about the bumping but became more intent in her pursuit of reaching her Dad, as she made one wrong turn after another until finally finding the right path to reach him, also laughing all the way. Our totally fearless grandson came out first and bravely slide down the exit slide but forgot to keep his legs straight and tumbled the last two feet to the ground below, biting his lip in the process. After a few moments of “Ouch”, he quickly turned his attention to the rides and promptly forgot about his injury.

My youngest granddaughter just loved the sights and sounds of the fair experience. Her eyes were alert to everything and except for the loud noise, which disturbed her sleeping, she embraced every aspect of the fair experience. But her real delight came after dark, as the Midway Light Shows started. She squealed with delight at the pulsating light show and the blinking displays on everything from rides to vendors. Her hands were busily waving and her legs never stopped moving as we strolled through the midway.
The long hours of standing and as the crowds were still coming in as we left around 9 p.m. and we bid the fair “farewell” until next year. Truly for us, this is a family tradition that I hope I will be able to enjoy for many years to come. I hope that my readers will agree and give this once a year venue, a “fair chance”. You may be surprised and hopefully as delighted with the experience as I am.

State Fair of VA – “Same Time – Next Year”

As fate would have it, I was born right in the middle of the animal judging event schedule at the State Fair of VA in 1953. My mother went to the hospital on Friday and of course, my father and grandmother stayed at the hospital until my birth on Sunday at noon. My father and uncle had several cows, goats and chickens in the competition on Saturday and my father was the only one that “handled” the livestock during the actual judging, but my Uncle stepped in at the last minute and although somewhat nervous handled the job without incident, as well as scoring several awards in the process. According to my grandmother, Daddy, who had stayed at the hospital every minute, came into Momma’s room on Sunday after my birth, made sure she was doing alright, gave her a big kiss, held me and then went to the State Fair to see if any of our livestock had placed in the judging from the day before. Upon returning from the fair, his gift to me was not an oversized stuffed teddy bear from one of the many “hawkers” along the midway, but a saddle for the pony that he would buy me on my second birthday. A petite handmade leather saddle, the smallest one ever made by the B.T. Crump Co. of Richmond, VA, was perhaps an unusual gift, but one that was given with a great deal of love, instinctively knowing that the time spent together with our equine companions would bring many hours of joy as we rode and trained our horses and ponies.

This story of my youth, reminds me of a comment made by comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, “If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair, and look around because after five minutes at the fair, you will be going, “you know – we’re alright – we’re dang near royalty”.

My first experiences at the State Fair of VA are stories about the event that my parents told me in later years, but I did “go” each year and for most of my life, my father and mother gave me tickets for me and my family as a birthday gift. Henrico County, used to give each student a free ticket and was home to the State Fair of VA, until the property was sold to the Richmond Raceway and the fair moved to its current location. I was raised on a small farm in western Henrico County, near Short Pump Elementary School, on Nuckols Road. The area has significantly changed from the late 1950’s, and today is almost unrecognizable from it rural beginnings. Starting with chickens, I worked my way up the “animal exhibiting” ladder, showing pigs, cows and finally horses. I enjoyed the competitions at the State Fair of Virginia, my 4-H Club, and the Western Riders of VA Horse Shows, learning that it is not always necessary to win, but always to do your best. I have a box of ribbons, trophies and memories that I treasure, and always remind me of my past, my accomplishments, my friends, family, mentors and my wonderful, loving animals, as well as our horses, without whose dedication to me, allowed me to enjoy what we accomplished together.

Each year, I visit the fair, and I remember the days of long ago, but I also embrace the new, the improved, the traditions and the innovations. The fair is a place of bonding, discovery, fellowship, competition, revelation and it’s just pure fun. Whether you indulge in rides, food or just watch, the fair has something for everyone and everyone gets something back. So go, enjoy, discover and look forward to returning each year. Make it a tradition and shared memory. Its only ten days each year, so take the time and indulge yourself in tradition and exploration.

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Proud Virginian – A Little Background Information

I was born in 1953 in Virginia, the only child of parents, John “Owen” Golden Hughes Maiden and Jacquelin Lee Oldfield Maiden, both of Virginia. My father was born in Elkton, Virginia – a small town located in the western part of the state, along the “foothills” of the Shenandoah Mountains. My mother was born in Phoebus, Virginia – a small town located in Hampton Roads, near the Chesapeake Bay in the eastern part of the state. They met in Richmond, Virginia – our state capital in the late 1940’s, shortly after World War II and my father, smitten with my mother, asked her cousin for a date, which took him almost a year to finally achieve.
Fortunately for me, they did have that first date and two years later, were married in Fredericksburg in a small civil ceremony. I was born six years later, in Short Pump, Virginia, which has evolved from a small spot of farmland, just west of Richmond to a thriving metropolis, filled with stores, restaurants, shops, along with a maze of roadways and tons of traffic.
Still standing, but renovated numerous times, is the school that I attended from the First Grade, under the tutelage of Mrs. Johnson, who would later become the school principal. I attended the school through the Sixth Grade, which was as high as you could go in Elementary School at the time, and then attended John Randolph Tucker High School, graduating in 1972. I continued my education at Virginia Commonwealth University for a very short time and earned the accomplishment of having “some college” but no degree.
As you can see from some of my stories, I was a 4-H (Virginia Tech sponsored clubs, consisting of over 250 project areas and competitions). I also belonged to the Future Farmers of America, and was known as a “farm girl” from the age of two years, starting my reputation by raising “Game” chickens, provided for me by our Ferrier and Blacksmith, Mr. Bass. My father, having helped my Grandfather on their farm, in the foothills of the Shenandoah Valley, and later in the Glen Allen and Short Pump area, taught me to love the land and nature.
I truly loved all types of farm life, mainly the animals, and especially the horses. Our stable consisted of several thoroughbreds, Tennessee Walking Horses and my Shetland Pony, “Frisky”, along with the typical and sometimes, not so typical assortment of livestock, including hoofed, horned and feathered varieties. At the age of three, I started learning about the care and raising of animals, when my father handed me a bucket of corn and carefully instructed me on the “art of feeding the feathered livestock”, our chickens. I did enjoy feeding the hens and although somewhat intimidated by the “Rooster”. I always looked forward to the Springtime, when the new “chicks” arrived and I also learned very quickly not to underestimate the protective nature of the hens, since they could be every bit as intimidating as the Rooster when provoked.
Successfully raising all manner of ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, pea “cocks” and pea hens required discipline and I was always mindful that animals were basically gentle by nature, although extremely unpredictable, as well. Over the years, our menagerie included a variety of domestic and exotic species, including, an enormous Emus, and the smaller varieties, down to the tiny exotic Finches that enjoyed their life, both in a large cage and in “Free Flight” in our “country kitchen”. We also had both domestic and wild quail, as well as, ducks that were released into the wild when grown. Our assortment of turkeys and domestic peafowl, provided not only beauty but a practical use since they I loved all manner of insects, like ticks. I enjoyed learning about our animals and the experience of caring for them served to teach me well the lessons of life, and our relationship with nature, humans and the all important lessons of our concerns and caring for others.
My favorite time of year has always been Autumn season, with “the Fall” leaves and the vibrant colors of the season that always warms my heart and prepares me for the colder Winter yet to come. Autumn is the time of Harvest, The State Fair of Virginia and the Annual Tobacco Festival Parade. While Virginia’s colors may not be as vibrant as some of the states further North, she makes up for her less impressive colors, by combining her colors with an impressive abundance of animals, along her beautiful highways, that meander along through the Shenandoah Mountains. This abundance of native wildlife, deer, turkeys and even bears, is easily spotted and often in large numbers, especially at Big Meadow, an open area with beautiful vistas and photography opportunities. With hiking trails and horseback riding trails in abundance, both the open and wooded areas are very accessible, boosting some incredible views, serious rock scrambles and wonderfully enchanting waterfalls and brooks, some of which are very secluded, if you are willing to make the “trek” to see them.
While the Tobacco Festival Parade is now longer in Richmond, our capital city, the area offers a truly spectacular Christmas Parade down Broad Street, which is the main road that leads from Downtown Richmond westward. The parade, which for many years, was sponsored by Ukrop’s, a local grocery chain; it is now sponsored in part by the National Grocery Store Company that purchased the local chain. The parade hosted two very famous celebrities, Sergeant Santa and the Legendary Miller & Rhodes Store Santa, who alternated years, serving as the Grand Marshall of the parade. Local Businesses, Organizations, School Bands, and other groups provided floats and parade units that frequently exceeded the hundred parade unit maximum. Pedestrians from Richmond and the surrounding counties, lined the streets, at least three or four deep, hours before the parade start, just to watch the parade, which lasted several hours and had a varying range of weather conditions, from cold to hot, dry to wet, and which is generally the typical “norm” for Virginia. In other words, “If you don’t like the weather in Virginia, just wait a minute and it will change to something else, hopefully to your liking”.
Broad Street Road continues West through Henrico County, which is fairly hard to miss, since the beauty of the median strip, lined with trees and statues, stops and the bland, plain lane breaks start, beckons the traveler to venture onward toward the mountains of Virginia. The journey continues past Charlottesville and the traveler has their first “glimpse” of the “blue” ridge of the Virginia Mountains. Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, is just ahead as well as, the homes of John Madison and many other historical notables. The mountains of Virginia, while not as majestic or impressive as those in the western part of America offer the traveler, gently rolling ridges, subtle beauty, muted colors and quiet hillsides and meandering roadways. The traveler is able to explore the curving roads, rock “scrambles” and gentle, cool brooks filled with rainbow trout and delicious catfish. Quaint bridges, one or more covered, reflect Virginia’s past and the road traverses through the Valley, to some impressive local folk festivals, filled with local crafts, photography and unique food products, as well as an abundance of locally grown seasonal crops. The mountains, with the motion of a gentle swaying rollercoaster, beckons visitors to explore the numerous caverns and underground wonder in their own right, found throughout the state, as well as our neighbor states of North Carolina and West Virginia.
Each fall, when I was younger, my father organized a Horseback Ride in the Madison County area, at Grave’s Mountain, which at the time, was only known to a few people, outside of the “locals”. The family owns an Apple Orchard, Processing Plant, Quaint Cabins (used for Pickers & Seasonal Guests) and an impressive Grave’s Mountain Lodge, filled with local crafts, friendly natives, local celebrities, musicians and excellent cuisine, all year long, especially during the Fall Harvest, which boasted the best of the crop… Applesauce, Apple Butter, local grown produce, especially their “specialty” apples, such as the “winesap” apple, cider and other crops.
Our yearly horseback riding was a delightful combination of scenery, meandering trails, local hospitality and just plain fun, for all, from the youngest to the oldest visitors. Our trip was always set for the first part of October, arriving on Friday and followed by dinner at the Grave’s Homestead Home, which was just “down the road, a piece”, where we were served a delicious meal, filled with everything imaginable, in great abundance. As we sat around the table, it felt like a scene from “The Waltons” and everyone enjoyed their “down home” attitude, “table talk”, local happenings and their hospitality and generosity.
Bright and early, on Saturday morning (I’m talking 4 a.m.), we would walk about ½ a mile down the road to the Grave’s Horse Stables, to catch, groom, saddle and ride, in that order, up through the orchards, along the meandering Fire Trails, and on to Big Meadows, which was our “stop” for Lunch destination. The trails along the mountains, especially the Fire Trails, are both fun and frustrating, because of the pattern necessary to traverse the mountains. You see, you start at the bottom of the mountain and you travel upwards by constantly crossing “back and forth” along the side of the mountain. It is a very interesting, and somewhat disconcerting sight to see your fellow horseback riders, several “road” layers below you, as they go first to “left” and then to the “right” as they ascend. The road is very comfortable for both the walkers, horses and riders. There were many “rest stops” and on occasion, I saw some local wildlife, deer, turkey, and other native birds. I loved the fall foliage, and especially the beautiful flowers, as well. On one such “rest stop”, I removed my beverage from my saddle bags, and decided to “park” on the large pile of rocks along the trail, instead of the pile that could be reached by walking across the stones in the brook. Unfortunately, my chosen seat was also the resting place for one of the local residents, namely a Rattlesnake, which fortunately for me, was quite advanced in years. After unconsciously offering “Mr. Rattle” my drink for over thirty minutes, my uncle came by to “check on me” and very calmly asked that I rise slowly and come over to where he was standing. I did as he asked and he showed me my “sleeping companion”, whose “rattle” was quite big, with the upper rattles missing, indicating his advanced age. After that incident, I decided to “use the better part of common sense prevail” and I joined the others in the brook, for which my Uncle reminded me that “may or may not” contain water snakes, as well as water that would freeze your drink in minutes.
Today, I sometimes, visit Grave’s Mountain Lodge, for dinner or lunch, but be forewarned that “reservations” are highly recommended, because this now popular destination, is no longer the “secret or not widely known” destination of the past. In addition, they offer Festivities year long, as well as some of the best in Music, Wine, and Local Harvest events.
REFERENCES:
www.gravesmountain.com
www.richmondparade.com
www.Virginia.org

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“To Blog” or “Not to Blog” – Was there really any question?

I have always enjoyed sharing my experiences with others. Hopefully, while passing along the wisdom and knowledge that I gained from my “trials and errors”, I have helped others to avoid the pitfalls and surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant that I have endured. It is with great pride that I have (with the help of my son and wonderful daughter-in-law) a website that allows me to express myself, share some tales of the past, a little history, some interesting facts and of course, my favorite stories about Virginia, as well as, some humorous stories from my childhood and early family experiences. I also have some “tales” from the past that my family passed along to me, gathered at our many family outings and gatherings.

Let’s face it; Life has a way of throwing us “curves” along the way. Sometimes the surprises and “ups and downs” of events and people can be pleasurable, funny and while the other events or happenings may be unpleasant in some way, can they be avoided with a little advance warning or better planning? I hope that my readers will benefit from my experiences, so as to avoid some of my mistakes and I also hope that my readers will enjoy the more humorous events that have not only served to enlighten me but have provided some inspiration to me in my life’s journey. For those of you that may consider sharing their experiences and the general “ups and downs” of life, I hope to hear from you, as you share your life’s adventures with me. If little else, hopefully my blog may give you some insight into the past, and provide you with a glimpse or a “snapshot” of life, way back when.
Virginia is a beautiful state, full of history, full of opportunity and constantly changing. It reflects not only the past but embraces the future, as well. The many changes, just during my life, have been astonishingly impressive, and though sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, they are always interesting, entertaining and may just give you some of the insight that it have given to me. I hope you will enjoy these “blogs” and will visit my website often. Since I value the opinion of my readers, please feel free to offer your opinions, comments and thoughts. And even though I may not always agree with everyone, I am open to the opinions of others, and will seriously consider utilizing the suggestions of my readers, their memories and suggestions, …so grab that tall drink, pull up a semi-comfortable seat, and sit a while. I look forward to your visit and hope you will return often.

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Moving on in Life, Love & Finding a Way to Embrace the Future

There are few things in life as difficult as losing a life mate, but life does, in fact, go on, & after “the end” comes, we must embrace Life as fully in the days ahead, or so everyone tells you. And so, after my loss, life for me came to a “halt”, without direction, without a course, but my sorrow turned outward & I turned to my faith for comfort. And in that faith, I found that life does indeed go on.

My favorite quotes come from Eleanor Roosevelt. Her insight & courage have served me well in the past & so I turned to her for courage & inspiration during this dark time in my life. The following quote was my “light in the darkness” & I found comfort & inspiration:

Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage & confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself – If I have lived through this horror, then I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing that you think you cannot do”. And the bottom line in the journey of life is this – That we do not understand, JOY – until we face sorrow, FAITH – until it is tested, PEACE – until faced with conflict, TRUST – until we are betrayed, LOVE – until it is lost, or HOPE – until we are confronted with doubts.

I lived everyday that I could with my husband, as he battled cancer, but in the end, I had to let go. Then faced with the end, I had to move on with my life, and rebuild it into something worthwhile for myself & my family. After much contemplation, I started my journey first by going to visit my church. That decision to attend the services on that first Sunday was awkward since it had been over a year since I had actually been in “my” church. I had used the hospital chapel & visited with friends at their churches, but had been avoiding my “own” church, for whatever reason. Although, my church family never abandoned me & there constant visitation with my husband & myself, I still refused to attend services. In my scattered thoughts, I vaguely remembered a promise that I had made to my “Spiritual Shepherd” promising her that I would attend her Sunday School Class just one time. So reluctantly, I decided to honor my word & start with that plan. While I believed that this was my decision, I soon found that I was being guided by “that unseen hand” & I found unexpectedly, that my life would begin again as I entered my the classroom that morning.

Being somewhat unfamiliar with the time that the Sunday School classes actually began, I arrived at my church a bit earlier than was necessary & to my surprise as I entered the classroom, I met the one person who would, in the course of time, change my life & give me a reason to once again embrace living & enjoying being alive. He sat silently at the far side of the table & looked up at me as I entered the room. His eyes immediately drew my attention & I felt all sense of apprehension leave my body as he gently “smiled” at me. I walked to the opposite side of the table & sat down. The conversation between us came quite naturally & I found that we talked with ease about a variety of subjects. Soon, the rest of the class entered the room & I was “introduced… as a recent widow”. In that moment, I was felt “untouchable”. I felt the atmosphere in the room “chill” somewhat, but as the weeks followed, I continued to I look forward to Sunday School, because of “the gentleman across the table”, who always “smiled” at me as he entered the room. I found my class & classmates to be just the “tonic” that my mind & soul needed. The study book, which seemed to peer into my thoughts & insecurities, restored my faith & helped to ease my pain. It gave me inspiration & to insight into what my future could & should be. It allowed me to “let go” & “move on”. I continued to go to class, with the intention of learning but always secretly anticipating the sight of the “smile” from my “gentleman” classmate. Although quiet, he always “smiled” & we always exchanged brief pleasantries. There were times when he was absent and I felt somewhat disappointed & “let down”, but with each Sunday, my driving force was not only the comfort of church, my studies but also the exhilaration of talking with “my smiling gentleman”, as my girlfriend called him. And despite my many conversations on the subject with her, I was totally unable to remember any of his features, except his “smile”, which frustrated my girlfriend to no end.

Christmas was fast approaching & it was on that occasion that this gentleman called me & after several hours of conversation, we decided to meet for Christmas Eve. We enjoyed first dinner, then a tacky light tour of the city, & ended with the Midnight Service at Church. All of this was because of his “smile” as I entered the Sunday School classroom that fateful morning. The gesture was simply the act of a friendly greeting that became my inspiration to continue going to class. His phone call at Christmas to comfort a lonely friend became a friendship that inspired me to once again embrace life. His continued presence & our time together has became more than either of us had imagined, and we embrace the future, as our relationship continues to grow & evolve.

Both of us had experienced a “loss” in our lives & all that the term implies, but through our faith & with a simple “smile” at an opportune moment, we each reached out of ourselves, to once again embrace “life” & “love”. There are many today, who don’t believe in “faith”, and who also are finding that life overwhelms them at every turn. They don’t have the faith that leads to “believing”, which in turn, frees the soul to embrace life. Life is always going to be full of challenges, choices & general chaos. Without faith – a belief in something, you will fall for anything & that leads to sorrow. I find that my faith comes easier when in the company of good friends, & that my friends come in many forms. I have found friends in the many organizations that I enjoy, like church, the Eastern Star & the 4-H. But wherever life takes you, remember that it just takes the willingness to “smile” at a stranger that really makes all the difference. And it takes a person’s own willingness to offer that “smile” that makes others want to “pass it on”, which in turn, continues to complete the circle.

As Spring approaches & the world becomes a warmer place, a beautiful rejuvenation of nature also takes place, so take the time to visit a church, visit a friend, or just sit in a park & “smile” at a stranger. Make the most of your days, & create a new vision of the future. Remember that you are NEVER alone & all you need to do is to reach out of yourself. Life goes on & so must we.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – E.M. Forster

To my readers: Embrace & Enjoy Everything that God Gives to You & Yours

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