Archive | December 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

There is so much negativity in the world these days. We are surrounded by it and it is constantly reported in the media.

I prefer to focus on more positive things. I was thinking about this today at lunch. I was eating a salad in the mall food court near where I work. A young mother was holding her toddler son in her arms, while trying to position the stroller and place something inside it. The stroller lost balance and began to fall. A man sitting at a nearby table jumped up to catch the stroller. The mother expressed her thanks while her young son stared at the stranger with wide eyes. The man returned to his seat and the mother resumed what she was doing.

It was all over in a matter of seconds and I’m sure no one thought twice about it. It was just one of those every day courtesies that people do all the time.

But as I thought about it I realized how much we need other people to help us get through every day. And isn’t it true that it is the little things in life that really matter? Had the man not jumped up to help, the stroller would have crashed down, perhaps hitting the child on the way. All eyes would have turned to the mother and I can imagine she would have been somewhat embarassed. It was just a little incident that was avoided because of a man’s quick thinking, concern, and kindness. Not really a big deal, I guess.

But, in this season of gift giving, maybe the best gift isn’t a large expensive present, but instead the present of being present…and there to extend a kindness and a smile.

A Random Act of Culture

I was in the mall near where I live and walked past the entrance to Macy’s. I thought I heard a couple of voices singing and peered into the store. I saw a group of people standing around, apparently listening to the singing. Intrigued, I entered the store, only to soon discover that many of those I thought were watching had started singing too. It was a flash mob I had wandered into!

It was absolutely unexpected and totally delightful. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to pull out my phone and take some pictures or capture the sounds. But I was so enthralled and captivated that all I could do was stand there and enjoy the experience.

At the end of the ‘performance’, someone raised a sign that said ‘You’ve just experienced a Random Act of Culture.”  How wonderful!!!

Here’s a link to a flash mob that happened last year. It’s pretty awesome!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU&feature=relmfu

 

Classical music for the masses

Andre Rieu

A few days ago, I attended a concert in the large city near where I live. It was held in the large venue where you will find major league sports and rock concerts. But this particular event was neither. It was a concert by Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

The tickets were acquired by making a donation to our local PBS station while they were airing an Andre Rieu concert. The music was enjoyable, but truthfully, I wasn’t overly excited about attending the concert in person. I was expecting it to be rather dull and hokey.

Our seats were on the floor level, I guess about mid-way back and off to the right side. I was comfortable on the padded seats until an extremely large husband and wife took the seats next to me. He was so large that he was partially on her seat and she was so large that she was partially on mine. Our hips and thighs touched during the whole concert. Makes me shiver to recall that part.

Once the concert began, it took me a couple of minutes to acclimate and just relax into it. But once I did, I found the whole concert to be exhilarating and lots of fun. Andre Rieu is a showman. He is an expert at engaging the audience and making the time you are there one of complete enjoyment and happiness. In fact, he calls his music ‘happy music’. Besides the wonderful music being played, my eyes were taking in the beautiful setting and the vibrant colors of the ballgowns worn by the orchestra. There was fun interplay between the orchestra members and everyone in the venue was having a good time.

I have always been partial to Johann Strauss waltzes. As a child, I remember playing them on our old record player over and over again. I would dance and twirl and pretend I was a princess dancing to the beautiful music. Several of those same waltzes were played at this concert and as I closed my eyes and listened, I thought back to my childhood happiness at this same music.  I hated for the evening to end and apparently so did everyone else.

Afterwards, I was reflecting on the evening and thinking about classical music as a whole. I am not one who typically attends classical concert events. I am mostly uneducated about this genre of music and find some of it to be complicated to listen to, unless there is a rondo refrain that returns the music to a theme and helps make it more cohesive to my untrained ear.

I have a suspicion that classical music critics do not like Andre Rieu. The fact that he makes this music enjoyable and fun and employs a few silly antics to engage the audience is not what one typically expects to experience at a classical music concert. This was no dour concert where you must sit quietly and listen and then applaud politely at the end. This was bold and boisterous and exuberant. Andre Rieu is making classical music accessible and enjoyable to people like me, who enjoy good music but who might otherwise feel out-of-place and intimidated.

Bottom line? If you have an opportunity to attend an Andre Rieu concert….GO!!!

Focusing on My New Car

This blog has been too long neglected!

When I was here last, I was trying to decide what kind of car was in my future. I was considering three different cars. I did research on them and after much consideration, a choice has been made!

The car I finally chose and now own is….tada (drumroll here, please!!)….a 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback! I have owned it for two weeks now and I am thoroughly enjoying my new wheels.

In order to get exactly what I wanted, the car was special ordered. It took about 5 weeks from the date it was ordered until I took delivery. Since I was traveling for two of those weeks, the time really went by quickly. The car I chose is dark gray with a light stone leather interior. It has a moon roof and the new Ford ‘myTouch’ computerized touch screen. That is where I can access the radio (including Sirius!), my iPhone through the car speakers, the climate control, and some navigation and other features. This car is just amazing!  I had no idea you can get so much technology in a car. It’s like driving a computer….the engine and tires are almost secondary. Ok, well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Oh…here’s one more thing on my car…a back-up sensor. So if there is something out of my line of vision when I’m backing up, I hear a warning beep.

The car should be getting between 27 and 37 miles per gallon. I guess there must be a breaking in period, because right now the car is telling me that I am averaging 25.9 gallons per mile. That is short of what I expect to be getting and I’m hopeful that will improve. The car has just under 500 miles on it now (yes, I’ve been doing some fun driving).

This picture of the steering wheel and cockpit looks like an alien's face!

Overall, I am thrilled with my new car. I have absolutely no regrets about chosing American over Japanese. The car handles well, looks good, and is so fun to drive. What more could I ask for?