Laughing in the rain…

Did you ever notice that some people laugh alot and others don’t? I don’t mean smile, or nod, but just laugh. What does it take for you to laugh?

I am generally not super serious, but it takes alot to make me laugh. There is a woman i eat lunch with who can do it. I’m not sure why, but she is hilarious. I’m not a generous laugher i guess, but not on purpose. Sometimes though, it hits me. Bad karaoke makes me run away because i will laugh so hard i cry, and that’s just rude. Bad Christmas songs, or good songs done so badly…we have a “Dance Party Christmas” CD that must be some guy sitting with a synthesizer in his basement because they all sound the same. Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, for my musician friends.. Finally, my favorite humorist, Jack Handey. He was on SNL and Deep Thoughts is one of my favorite books. Here is a sample of his offbeat humor:

Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words mank and ind. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery and that’s why so is mankind.

When this girl at the museum asked me who I liked better, Monet or Manet, I said, “I like mayonnaise.” She just stared at me, so I said it again, louder. Then she left. I guess she went to try to find some mayonnaise for me.”

If you’re at a Thanksgiving dinner, but you don’t like the stuffing or the cranberry sauce or anything else, just pretend like you’re eating it, but instead, put it all in your lap and form it into a big mushy ball. Then, later, when you’re out back having cigars with the boys, let out a big fake cough and throw the ball to the ground. Then say, ‘Boy, these are good cigars!”

Yes, that’s what makes me laugh. While I was walking Chester I had a Jack Handey thought. I was thinking about my birthday and that I can say I was born in 59. When I’m a hundred years old, I will have to say i was born in 1959 so they don’t mix it up with 2059. That will be a pain.

I heard it said that for something to be funny, someone has to get hurt. I don’t believe that. the world can be funny, sad and delighful all at the same time. I can’t help seeing the irony or off the wall humor in people. People are weird, including myself! If we can’t laugh at ourselves and the world, we will not make it.

When I was in the Aadams Family musical I grew close to my Aadams clan. We went to the end of season awards show. Our Wednesday won Best Supporting Actress, and our director won, but our musical didn’t win, and Morticia didn’t win, although we felt we deserved it. It was raining, and of course we forgot umbrellas. She and I walked to the cars and talked in the rain for a few minutes. Our Gomez pulled out, almost hitting us. Morticia’s comment? “How romantic.” We realized it was a perfect Aadams night..we lost, we got rained on, and Gomez almost hit us. As Allison/Morticia put it, “a little rain, a little pain,what could be better? “

When life gives you lemons, think like an Aadams. Read some Deep Thoughts. Listen to Jonathan and Darlene. Sometimes you’re the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue. Stay strong and have a good week! And laugh a little!

the clan
always smiling!

Geauga Lake and memories…

They say that people come and go from our lives, some leaving deeper marks than others. Some are bound by blood, some by choice, and some by a memory of a time or place. Walking Chester at the end of summer inevitably draws my mind to a memory of a place that owned all that summer is, and the adventures of eight random people that worked there.

I was a tutor in a high school during the school year. But in 2005, when my children were old enough to be on their own over summer vacation, I got a job at Geauga Lake Amusement Park. If you grew up around Cleveland, you know Geauga Lake. If not, I’m going to take you there but from the inside. Geauga Lake used to be across a lake from Sea World, and it was a hometown version of Cedar Point or Six Flags. By that I mean it was smaller, fewer rides, not the really high coasters, but essentially all the fun. Truth is, it was one of the nearby places that had seasonal jobs that paid decently. I was only there for two and a half months. In and out, make a few bucks. Little did I know.

When I started, one of the first things they have you do is to get a uniform. The uniform consisted of a white collar shirt with khaki pants. These clothes were not made for women who are short and chubby. It was awful. I had to get pants to fit my waist and hem them about six inches. The shirt was fine but we had to wear it tucked in. Oh, and don’t forget the nice ascot. No matter. Misery loves company and we were all in it together.

My job was in the rides department office. My hours were from 7:00am until 2:30pm. It was about an hour away, so I left home at 6:00. When I pulled in the gigantic parking lot, nobody was there. The rides building was a little yellow and brown squatty building down a sidewalk outside of the park. I’d go through a side gate and there I was. The sidewalk was sandwiched between a big wooden roller coaster and a creek. 7:00 am was early, and I could see the maintenance workers still with their lights on, working on the ride, checking and double checking. Every so often an empty car would careen past being tested. On the other side, I smelled the creek. To this day, I can’t tell you what it smelled like except that if I smell it, it takes me back. The frogs would still be singing when I arrived; rain or shine it seemed. I’d punch in with my badge and it was off to the races.

The park itself was empty of guests at 7:00am, but workers are there 24 hours. Most of the employees are in high school or college. Some are international and come to the US only to work there. These are the ones that work all night, then all day, then sleep for a few hours and do it again. I honestly never saw anyone work as hard as they did. The rides office was a beehive of activity each morning. My job was payroll; entering and fixing errors in ADP. I learn quickly and became good at it. I learned that the lifeguards made the most money. They had the skill and responsibility and were kind of on another plane. The rides operators (and us) considered rides the best department in the park. We were the thrill seekers, the cool ones. There were eight of us in the office. We all had to fill in if we were needed—I usually didn’t have to because, well, people want to get paid. But besides doing payroll, one of my jobs was an hour or so on dispatch.

Dispatch was the heartbeat of the rides. We had a manager, Andre. His code was 201. We had codes for every possible scenario. I don’t remember most of them but I think 18 or 19 was the code for an irate customer holding up a ride line. There was one for a storm and the closing of the rides, one for vomit on a ride, and our favorite, code 37. The script was, “Base to 201, Mr. Hyde’s is 37.” Mr. Hyde’s was a ride that slowly went up, and then dropped passengers down quickly. Mr. Hyde’s was perpetually broken. Did you figure out the code? Yep…37 meant broken. Actually it meant broken without customers on it. 38 was not so lucky. We uttered that phrase probably 3 times an hour. At one point maintenance opened a secondary office at the base of Mr. Hyde’s. One of them was stationed there waiting for the inevitable code 37. At the end of the season we got shirts with the top ten reasons to work in the rides office…Mr. Hyde’s was number 7.

One of my best memories, outside of when the log ride leaked and flooded the midway, was when my kids came to visit after work one day. I was able to get a sizeable discount, and of course I got in free, so it was fine to go in the afternoon. We rode the water ride about ten times since my daughter loved it. We ate fries and junk, and the kids went on the bigger coasters. We ended the evening at the water park. I don’t think they realized how much that night meant to me.

I could go on with stories forever; the lake that must be half full of passenger items from the ferry, the operator who sprayed water on his ride and told Andre it was wet from the rain so he could just sit there (even though the rest of the rides were up and running…nice try),. There were the storms when everyone piled into the office sitting on desks laughing and talking. I could tell you that for the international students who stayed in the dorms, there were midnight movies in the water park, with popcorn and snacks. There were carp as big as dolphins (maybe not, but you get the idea) that we could feed with fish food for 25 cents. Most of all there were people laughing with their families and friends. I used to walk at lunch just to see them. There was an excitement in the air; a fantasy world of fun. I was a part of it.

Geauga Lake closed two years later in 2007. The water park stayed open until 2016 but it’s gone now too. It was bought, and now sits vacant. Last night I watched a video of a drone flying over the now overgrown park. I literally cried. Usually I like abandoned buildings and sites, but not this time. The structure was there without the heart, the people.

I know things change. My elementary school was torn down, and soon my children’s probably will be. Our favorite restaurants change hands, stores come and go. I think what bothers me about Geauga Lake is that some of the coasters are still there. It’s like they are waiting for someone to send a car down to test it…for Mr. Hyde’s to be code 37 again, and for the girl who loved the water ride so much she went on it over and over. One summer it was all mine. I shared it with seven strangers, Katie, Greg, Michelle, Melissa, Jennifer, Patrick, and Carlita. We were rides, we ruled.  Number one on the shirt? Without dispatch the park doesn’t run! Two and a half months can form a lifetime of memories. Sometimes that just has to do.





Happy birthday to me…

So the big thing has happened. I am now officially old. I turned 60 which really doesn’t seem possible. I always thought 60 was old, and now I am. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but it came anyway. Just like the Grinch and Christmas, it came. You know what? It wasn’t all that bad. I took Chester to the Lake Erie pier near our house for a walk. I took the day off work. We went to Paninis that night for dinner. And, I got my new “compliant” driver’s license. Anyone who has not gotten theirs, take heed..if your name is different on your birth certificate and on your driver’s license, they will ask for a marriage certificate (if it’s due to marriage that is..) I had heard this, and was ready, so it was quick and easy. I look like a convict in the photo, but it’s a license not a billboard. So it was a nice day all around!

Here’s my thought on aging: I don’t like it. I don’t like not being able to do the things I used to because my older body can’t. I don’t like arthritis, or the myriad of other aging related annoyances. But it’s all OK. I’m glad and grateful to be alive and have more days. What good does it do to worry or dwell on it? I figure I have waaay too much to do. So happy birthday to me!

Lately there’s a thing that shows up on facebook or somewhere that says a person is asking you to donate for their birthday. I’m not going to do that; I don’t expect donations unless you want to donate a cookie. Then I’ll take it. What I would like for my birthday is for you to do something fun. I don’t care what, buy some M&M peanuts (my vice), go for a walk, pay something forward, or watch a favorite comedy or movie. Do it for yourself and do it in secret; whatever makes you happy. Start a puzzle, call a friend, buy something online, and then when you feel happy, just smile to yourself and I will psychically know that you are sending me good vibes.  Um… yes, you skeptics, I will!

The pictures i have included are three at the pier, and one of a fruit basket my husband got me. He calls it “fruit cake” Please note the “60” made out of pineapple…

Have a wonderful week!

City Dogs…

Today was the annual City Dog Reunion. City Dogs is a program that promotes and works with “bully breeds” who are frequently not adopted from kennels.  Let’s be honest, most are pit bulls. In Cleveland, as in many areas of the country, pit bulls are prevalent. Yet because they were, and unfortunately still are sometimes used in dog fighting, the breed is looked upon with trepidation. In addition, any injury by a pittie is going to get media attention. Some cities have a ban on pit bulls, others have rules on fence size and insurance.

The City Dog Reunion consisted of maybe 50 or so pit bulls. Some would think that it would be a melee of fighting dogs, but they were the most well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. Truth is, pit bulls are great dogs, for those that look beyond the outer shell.

Anyway, Chester had a wonderful time at the reunion, and so did we. There were station/tents set up a good distance apart from each other, and a “passport” you could get initialed when you went to the tent. We got lots of freebies, bought some City Dog stuff, and Chester entered the “most expressive ears” and “best smile” contests. He didn’t enter the “biggest head” or “best trick” since his best trick is getting us to give him more treats. He got lots of loving from the people there, and there were multiple baby pools set up for the dogs to drink from or get in, whichever suited them. I did learn that many of the pit bulls love water; not just drinking but playing in it. Chester really doesn’t like to swim, but he drank and watched the others jump around. There were no fights, and it was a feel good kind of day. All of the dogs were exhausted at the end of the three hours judging from the facebook photos. I know Chester was! All in all, it was loads of fun and a super celebration of “pibbies.”  Yes, they played, yes, they sniffed each other’s butts, yes they ignored each other, yes they rolled in the grass, basically they were just like any other breed.

Chester is 25% pit bull and 25% boxer. The rest is a mix. This qualifies him as a City Dog, but he doesn’t look like the typical pit bull. At one point, a lady made a comment that she “forgets that they have other kinds of dogs than pit bulls” at the Cleveland city kennel. She was being nice, there was no offense taken, but it gave me pause. Truth is, I wondered if others thought we were interlopers, if we belonged. The adopters and other owners were very welcoming, don’t get me wrong. I just wonder in the back of their minds if they assume he is not a pit bull based on what he looks like.

Of course since my mind then takes everything to the next step, I thought about how much we all make assumptions based on appearance. I speak with a lot of people on the phone daily, and many I have not met in person. Our company just added photos to the staff directory and it’s freaking me out a little. The first thing I did was go through and look at the pictures of people I talk to a lot. They don’t look anything like I imagined. I had to pause. Does it matter? I know who is kind, who is a good worker, who is quick to respond, who has a wicked sense of humor and who is frankly, not easy to deal with. Does it matter if the guy I speak with has a beard that would rival ZZ Top? What do they think of me? Did they think I was younger, prettier, more composed, or just the opposite?

Part of the problem is time. To build a good relationship, I was taught there are five “must haves”—time, space, positive tone and words, living in another’s shoes, and being connected. (The Good Life)  I want to think on time for a moment; how much time do we give people? Do we have time to get to know them? Or do we make assumptions based on first impression, then move on. Just like people glance at a pit bull and move on. The inside person may be just like me, but I’ll never know unless I make an effort over time.

This world is fast paced. I get it, my job involves quick thinking and analysis of a situation. I listen to calls to an incident hotline and determine if the situation needs investigation based on the rule and a quick assessment. But the investigators I assign the case to–they spend 45 days with the incident. They will know the person much better than I do. In fact when I go back at the end and read how it turned out, I’m often surprised. I don’t have the gift of time. Yet I think that the world would be a much better place, and I would be a better person, if the visual first impression was just that, a first impression. The thing about first impressions is that often there are no second or thirds. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a second chance? Had time to know you and you, them?

We own a part pit bull. But he’s not like any other doggie, he’s simply Chester. He’s treat motivated, hates bunnies, loves digging squeekers out of toys, likes other dogs, chases cats, and sometimes goes into wild dog mode where he runs through the house at top speed. He’s one of a kind just like you and I are. It’s been a year since we adopted him and it took every bit of that year to get to know him. There are people who we can get to know too, if we take time and have an open mind.

The pictures are Chester at the reunion…he’s tired but happy!  😊


Tattoos and memories…

This has been an interesting weekend. Last Wednesday night I got the tattoo I was thinking about. Then Sunday was the Nightingale (my mom’s family) reunion. I stocked up on Advil. FOR THE TATTOO …come on now😊 So how it all began..

When I see dead animals on the side of the road, I become incredibly sad. It’s overwhelming in a way. The problem is, I drive 35 minutes to work, and there are a few guarantees in Cleveland: orange cones/construction, a slow down around MLK Boulevard and Dead Man’s Curve, and dead animals at the side of the road. Like with sad movies (I will NOT be seeing the Art of Racing in the Rain, although the book was excellent) I have to limit what I take in, so I try not to look. One day I was driving and noticed a dead bird. I started to feel bad when it hit me…the bird didn’t know it was going to die. Birds live their lives completely in the moment. That bird was flying along probably at full speed, then boom, gone. There’s no worry or anxious thought about the future. There’s no regret of a lost past. In the moment. That bird made every moment count because the moment is all it had. I knew then I wanted birds in my tattoo to remind me to live the moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow, live today.

The second part of the tattoo is the four seasons. Living in Ohio, we have the most amazing change of seasons. We can go from 92 degrees in summer, to 10 in six months. And in between, we revel in the beauty of spring and fall. I could draw a parallel to our lives, moving in and out of seasons. I want to be like my birds, flying through and over the seasons, experiencing each one. I want to remember the seasons too, because they always change. John F. Kennedy said that there is no present, only the past rushing into the future. To hold on is to be left behind. I agree, but would add that there is only the present, because the rest is past rushing into the future. Live in the moment.

At the Nightingale family reunion, a lot of memories were shared. It was fun to learn about our history. It was also fun to see those we grew up with, and to realize how much they really do mean in our lives.

I always looked up to my cousin, Wes. He was older, and I remember being about 12 years old, at a wedding, and sitting watching the older people dance. I was too shy, and back then, people weren’t as free to just dance alone (I’m so glad that changed!) Wes asked me to dance, and I felt included. I appreciate that gesture, it shows how much little things matter.

His family visited my mom when she was dying. I didn’t know she was dying, or I probably would have been a nicer daughter. I wasn’t awful, just a teenager. But she was really happy when they visited. She glowed. Aunt Florence, her sister, and Wes’ wife at the time visited her hospital room when I was there and gave her two cookbooks. She cherished them, planning the gourmet dishes she would cook when she got better.  I still have them.

Much later, cousin Wes wrote a book. He was a pediatrician, so there was doctor humor in it…get it? Humor? Don’t worry, he will get it. Some verses I laughed at, some elicited groans. Then he wrote another. And another. One was purchased for a television show. That was a novel about his dad, who I remember as a quiet, kind man. It is quite good, and is interesting on its own, even if you didn’t know my uncle.

Wes has ALS. He is not able to write physically and communicates with effort. These books were written before, during and after he became diagnosed. ALS is a roadblock, but only that. He lives in the moment. He was able to write books, for God’s sake, with ALS. What if he had said, “Oh woe is me, I can’t write any more because I can’t type.” At what point did he give up and say, “Oh, I can’t communicate any more so I’m just going to quit? “ Right, he didn’t. He lives for the moment. I’m sure he is writing more as I speak. None of us know how much time we have, whether we have ALS or not. How dare I put off living until tomorrow? I don’t.

It was great to see him and my other cousins and assorted relatives at the reunion. I included a picture because I’m really proud of this wonderful group of people. Each one has a story. Like my birds, they live to the fullest. Nightingales don’t quit. One teaches Zumba, one leads a grief counseling group, one helped design Harry Potter World at Universal, one works at inner city schools as a nurse, one is “the trombone guy”, one owns his own business, one is a very well respected dentist, one is over 90 years old and a pickleball champion, one is a pastor, one is a senior naturalist in a fantastic park system, one is a wrestler, and one has his own albums on spotify. That’s just a few of them, there are so many more! (there were 8 children in my mom’s family, so there’s a lot going on!)

Live your life like the birds. Don’t worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself. Remember, the seasons come and go. If you are in winter, spring will arrive. Enjoy the beauty of the day!