Several lovely gifts began this new year for me, including morning skies ranging from soft pink to exuberant rose, and one evening with a spectacular cloud across the western sky singing hallelujahs in shades of pink, coral, rose and orange.
Then there was the evening with a little crescent moon in the west hinting of greater mysteries in the sky beyond, and the evening star offering competition in brightness.
I rarely look out the back window of the "guestroom" (read catchall and Toby cat's sanctuary) but yesterday I did, and was treated to a swath of wine leaves amid several clusters of light green leaves, a reminder from my New Zealand dogwood that autumn color can perk up winter.
I read my horoscope pretty regularly just for fun, but last week there was a pretty good one: "Worry has its place as long as it doesn't last long. If the stress puts you in action, it was worthwhile. Just be sure to use negative tension as a signal to move. Don't park in it."
Congratulations to my friends Nancy Alumbaugh and Esther Milnes Schmierer. Both of them were named volunteers of 2012, Nancy for her work with PALS (People Assisting Lodi [animal] Shelter) and Esther for her long-time work with the Crane Festival. They were chosen by the readers of Big Monkey Group's monthly community magazine, Lodi edition. To name what these two committed women do would be to take up more space than I'm allowed; suffice it to say they give generously of their time and energy to support important facets of our community.
Speaking of PALS, they have opened a new thrift shop, Wags to Riches, located on East Pine Street across from Lodi Adopt-A-Child. I've heard some good stories of treasures people have been finding there; shall have to go see what I can find, although I'm trying very hard these days to get rid of things. Solution: Donate them to the shop and help raise funds for a new animal shelter. Lodi's been needing one since before I came to Lodi — and that was 55 years ago.
Another one from the American Legion magazine: A grandmother mouse took her children out for a walk in a grassy field. They saw a cat coming, and hid in the grass. The grandmother mouse cried "Woof! Woof! Woof!" The cat thought a dog was near, and ran off. "And that, children," said the grandmother mouse, "is why it's always handy to learn a second language." [Abridged] No groans, please!
And in the same vein: At Christmas, the family always gathers here at my home, and, after presents have been opened, we pop Christmas crackers. This year, in addition to the paper hats and tiny favors, there were slips with some pretty good jokes and random bits of real information. Here are a couple of the jokes: What do you get if you cross a snowman and a vampire? Frostbite. What do you get if you cross a pig and a centipede? Bacon and legs.
All right, I have a weird sense of humor!
Speaking of Christmas, I heard a story which, to me, reflects the true meaning of Christmas. A group of church people took food and socks to the homeless in Lawrence Park. Someone also donated several blankets and sleeping bags, which were handed out to those most in need. On the edge of the crowd, the volunteers noticed a new young man who had no outerwear at all and was shivering. Immediately, two of the homeless who had received warm coverings pulled their new blankets out of their packs and gave them to the newcomer. These people care for each other. How are we doing?
Several churches serve food and provide clothing to the homeless. One such group is the Wise Men and Women from Grace Presbyterian Church. For the last five years, every Friday they take a noon meal to the park. Several local restaurants donate food and other people donate money or clothing. The only time they don't go is during the Grape Festival; the area is too crowded. My friend Gary Kellam, who coordinates this service, says it isn't just the homeless who are fed. Sometimes there are others who need a good meal, too.
For a winter delight, attend the International Ballet Institute's Jan. 14 and 15 presentation of "The Snow Maiden," followed by a Winter Fest and Snow Maiden Tea. The ballet is at 2 p.m., the fest at 3. Cost is $5 at the entrance, 4 1/2 E. Pine St. Both events will be repeated at the Children's Museum of Stockton on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m.
Gwin Paden is a writer, retired teacher, and long-time Lodi resident.