My Town Monday: Serving Those who Served for the Holidays

Veterans line up for a homemade meal at the AMVETS monthly luncheon

On the third Saturday of every month, our AMVETS chapter takes a variety of delicious, homemade foods to the Dayton VA Medical Center and serves lunch to dozens of resident veterans. The vets always appreciate the good food, and after lunch, the AMVETS host Bingo, which the vets always meet with enthusiasm.

During the holidays, the AMVETS make the December luncheon extra special, with a visit from Santa, a care package stocking for each vet, and entertainment.

The vets eat while the girls sing

I’m the chauffeur for the entertainment: my daughter and whichever friend(s) can join her. This year, one of her choir friends came along, and they sang several Christmas songs. My daughter played flute for a few while her friend sang, too. Even though they messed up a few times, no one seemed to notice or care. The vets, as well as the AMVETS serving lunch, gave the girls a hearty round of applause. Even though all I did was drive the girls out there, it’s a good feeling to contribute to something that makes the day a little merrier for those who served us and sacrificed so much.

Of course, it’s just one of many activities our local AMVETS chapter does to give a little back to their fellow vets who are less fortunate, health-wise.

Do you participate in any special charitable activities over the holidays – or all year long?

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Time Management: Just Fifteen Minutes!

Time management has been a challenge for me for as long as I can remember. And keeping my house clean?

(Excuse me while I go have a good laugh)

Okay. Anyway, yes, the day job makes a convenient excuse. Not sayin’ it’s a good one, but it’s mine, and I’m sticking to it. Actually, I no longer worry about it, because now that my husband’s retired, he does a lot of it, and trades work with a friend to do some too (don’t hate me!). But when I was laid off a few years ago, I knew I had to step up.

Enter Flylady.

Before: My shoes were out of control!

Flylady’s website is full of tips to get your house (and other aspects of life) under control through routines. She sends out motivational emails every day, and sells products on her website that she’d personally used and determined to be the best value for what they do. She also has a lot of great sayings:

“Your house did not get messy in one day, it’s not going to get clean in one day!”

“You cannot organize clutter, you can only get rid of it!”

“Baby steps get the job done!”

“Just fifteen minutes!”

What a difference ten minutes makes!

Words to live by!

While I was out of work, I did a good job getting clutter under control, and I kept up with the house fairly well. But reining in clutter is an ongoing task, and I haven’t kept up with it since going back to work several years ago. Yesterday, I tripped over shoes in my walk-through closet and decided enough was enough. Surely it wouldn’t take that long to declutter my shoes, so I noted the time and figured I’d spend fifteen minutes on it and see what I could get done.

Buried in that junk, I found three pairs of boots I hadn’t worn in at least two years, and five pairs of shoes that were worn out (and I also hadn’t worn in a year).  Those went out. Behind them, way in the back of the closet, were a cleaning bucket I’d thought was lost, and a laptop I had from my first software development job, that I bought in 1997! Even if it could run modern software, the screen was just about shot the last time I fired it up. So I found a place that recycles computers for free, without using toxic chemicals or shipping it over to China, and I put the boots in a bag for the next AMVETS pickup.

Time? 10 minutes!

Okay, five more minutes. I decided to tackle my husband’s shoes, since his size-14s are even more of a tripping hazard than my shoes. He didn’t have any to throw out, but I did move a few he doesn’t wear often to the back, behind his slacks.

Fifteen minutes total, and I was done!

The rest of the closet awaits for my next fifteen minutes, some other day, maybe tomorrow!

Have you ever put off something because you thought it would take a long time – then when you finally jumped in and got to it, found that it didn’t take long at all? Have you found anything as ridiculous as a non-functional, 14-year-old laptop??? Got any decluttering tips? Please share!

My Town Monday: AMVETS Never Forget

AMVETS September 11 memorial

The AMVETS color guard - the guy on the left is my husband

Last night, my family attended a ceremony to honor and remember those who risked or lost their lives during or after the September 11, 2011 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Several area dignitaries were present, and we heard some moving speeches where the speakers not only remembered the fallen, but pointed out how the attacks changed the U.S. (and the world), and how our responses to them and to those who served are part of what makes us human.

This rescue unit was one of those deployed to NYC on September 12, 2001, to assist in search and rescue efforts

Requirements to join AMVETS are more open than those of other veterans’ organizations, such as the VFW or Foreign Legion. Any active-duty member of the U. S. armed forces may join, as well as those who have been honorably discharged. Overseas service or specific medal achievements are not required. Additionally, family members may join through the AMVETS sister organizations, the Sons of AMVETS and the AMVETS Ladies’ Auxiliary. These organizations are open to the children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings of current AMVETS members, or deceased veterans who would have been eligible to join AMVETS. My husband is a member of the Sons of AMVETS based on his late grandpa’s honorable military service in both WWII and Korea.

AMVETS is focused on service, both to veterans and to their posts’ local communities. The national organization has services to help veterans, particularly those with disabilities, navigate the maze of paperwork and documentation often required to receive veterans’ benefits. My husband’s AMVETS post serves a special luncheon at a nursing and rehab facility in the Dayton VA once a month, and also holds events to raise money for Disabled American Veterans and Hair for Kids, a charity that provides wigs for children with hair loss due to cancer treatment or other medical conditions.

Did you do anything special in remembrance of the September 11th attacks? Were there any special events in your hometown, and if so, did you attend any?

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My Town Monday: The Holiday at Home Parade and Festival

Ever since I can remember, Labor Day has always included the Holiday at Home parade and festival. I grew up in Kettering, the south Dayton suburb where it’s hosted, and remember setting out lawn chairs to watch the parade a few times when I was little. Other times, especially when it was really hot or rainy, we watched it on TV.

Dayton History had a nice showing in this year's parade

So I knew the event had  been around since at least the early 70’s. Curious, I looked up the official website to find out when it all really began. Initially called Kettering Day, the first event was held in 1959 and hosted by the Kettering YMCA for a membership drive. Community leaders got involved and encouraged the Y to add a parade and program of events, and it was so well-attended it was a foregone conclusion it would become an annual event. Eventually, a contest was held to find a new name, and community leadership chose Holiday at Home because it encourages residents to stay home and have fun around here, rather than travel. Although it’s centered in Kettering, all are welcome, and many other south-side communities are involved.

The Millennium Falcon was the coolest float in this year's Holiday at Home Parade

Public events begin the day before Labor Day, when the festival begins. It includes an arts and crafts show with vendors all around, food, and live entertainment.

The parade is the capstone event, and begins around 10 AM on Labor Day. The Holiday at Home parade is the largest in the Miami Valley. Area residents stake out parade-watching spots as early as the day before by setting out lawn chairs (which amazingly, as far as I know, don’t get stolen). The parade attracts an audience of over 10,000 people, and that’s not counting those who watch on TV. School and community marching bands, veterans’ organizations, civic groups, nonprofit organizations, and local businesses participate, with floats, performances, or vehicles in the parade. My husband’s AMVETS chapter’s riders’ group rides their motorcycles in the parade.

What's Star Wars without the Cantina? Jabba the Hut's in residence, enjoying a live jazz band from Fairmont H.S.

After the parade, which ends around noon, the festival goes on, with more food, arts and crafts, and entertainment. There’s also a fantastic classic car show, which is by invitation only and includes some sweet rides you don’t always see at the cruise-ins throughout the summer.

All in all, it’s a good time, and sure beats driving through Labor Day traffic.

If you live in the Dayton area, do you go to the Holiday at Home festival? Or watch the parade on TV? If you’re from elsewhere, what do you do on Labor Day weekend – does your community give you a reason to stay home?


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Blessing of the Bikes – a Blending of Motorcycles and Faith

For once, it wasn’t raining, I didn’t have a migraine, and I didn’t have tons of other stuff to do yesterday. And, it was the Blessing of the Bikes , rescheduled from last week due to – surprise! – rain. I finally got out my Harley for the first time this year (see above as to why) and took off with DH and a bunch of our AMVETS friends.

This was the 11th year for the Blessing in Dayton, and the third time I’ve gone since I got my motorcycle five years ago (last year, it rained, and the year before that I wasn’t feeling well). My husband has been going almost since it began.

Every year, there are thousands of motorcycles there. It seems to get bigger each year. In addition, there are food apparel, and accessories vendors, live entertainment, and a custom bike show. This year, there was a Shriners group with historic Shriners bikes and an antique paddy wagon on display – very cool! I tried to get them to arrest my husband, but they wouldn’t take him.

The main component to the event is, of course, the blessing. It begins with a series of prayers, asking for divine protection and a safe riding season. They’re Christian, but people of all faiths are welcome at the event and no one seems to mind. Then, priests walk up and down the aisles of motorcycles and toss holy water on them and the riders. My husband asked for – and got – an extra splash – appropriate, considering his often crazy job of leading funeral processions.

All they ask for this is a $2 donation. Here in the Dayton area, that goes to two worthy charities: Ambucs, which provides scooters and trikes to people with mobility impairments, and A Special Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally-ill children.

Afterward, a lot of people head out to after-blessing parties. DH and I went shopping for yard stuff, then home. Curious, I looked up the blessing. It turns out that the first Blessing of the Bikes happened in New York City in 1999, and was for bicycles. (It was held in a cathedral, so that might have been a problem for motorcycles.) Like our current version in Dayton, the blessing was conducted by Catholic priests, but the event was open to riders of all faiths. There are now blessings held world.

Do they hold the Blessing of the Bikes in your home town – and is it for motorcycles, or bicycles? Or if you live in the Dayton area, did you attend? Or if you don’t have a motorcycle, would you if you did? Got any info on other fun motorcycle events DH & I should check out this summer?