So far…

Out of the blue last night, an old friend sent me a message that resulted in a little walk down memory lane. We weren’t really a troublesome bunch. We mostly kept our noses clean, made the grades, and managed not to get into much (if any) trouble with local authority figures. That’s not saying we were angels, but our fun was mostly mild and between a mixture of luck and a few adults willing to look the other way occasionally, no harm ever befell us.

One of the memories whipped up last night was the music that soundtracked all the ripping and running we did along the crick. Most of it really belonged to the generation before us, but the one that stands out just now is Joe Walsh. Now, it’s probably fair that most people think of him as “one of those guys from The Eagles, but Joe has had a pretty storied career as a solo artist too. His albums were a regular feature coming from our car stereos back then.

One song we played damned near to death over the years was “Life’s Been Good.” It’s a catchy little tune released in 1978, making it more or less as old as I am. If the five of us guys who palled around back then had a theme song, that would probably have been the one. We were damn near inseparable. They were the brothers I picked for myself. Despite the time and distance and other life circumstances, I think of them as brothers still.

I got a little reflective last night. Between the time of the year and a little conversation about the old days, that’s probably to be expected. The fact is for as much as I relish bitching and complaining, like ol’ Joe, life’s been good to me (so far). I’d hate to give the impression that I don’t recognize and appreciate it every single day. I may not have gotten everything I ever wanted, but in so many ways it’s been a charmed life – with precious little I’d want to go back and do differently… and many, many things I’d pay real money to go back and do one more time.

Give a little…

It’s Giving Tuesday and despite my well-earned reputation as a Grinch among men, there are causes I feel strongly enough about to break open my wallet. You won’t find any namby pamby feed the starving or house the poor tomfoolery here, though. In keeping with my basic life philosophy that people are generally awful, but animals are amazing, this year’s donations have gone to:

Cecil County Animal Services – Though minimally staffed as an arm of county government, CCAS does phenomenal work as an open-admission shelter. They aggressively pursue partnership opportunities with local rescue organizations and businesses and are supported by a small, but faithful group of volunteers. I haven’t found a way to “just send cash” as this is a government operation, but they maintain an extensive Amazon Wishlist of things the animals in their care need to thrive. This one has a special spot on the list because one of my own herd got his start with them as a failure to thrive medical emergency kitten. 

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – IFAW operates here in the US and in countries around the world, intervening to protect habitat and assist animals in need. In their own words, “Our vision is a world where animals are respected and protected. With offices in 15 countries and projects in more than 40 countries, we rescue individual animals, safeguard populations, preserve habitat, and advocate for a better future.” 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Chesapeake Bay and its watershed is probably the single geographic element that most defines my beloved home state of Maryland. If you’ve never watched the sun come up over the salt marsh, or spent a summer morning working a trotline for blue crabs, or seen a flight of migrating waterfowl drop down on the water, you’re missing out on some of life’s great pleasures that are all too easy to take for granted as a native son. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation describes their work as: “Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 18 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.”

Plumpton Park Zoo – Yes, yes. I know places like zoos and aquariums are controversial. True-believer rabid conservationists will insist wild animals should only be in the wild. That’s a fine theory and if places like Plumpton were sending out expeditions to acquire new exhibits from the four corners of the globe, I’d agree. The fact is, most of the animals in a place like this have never set foot in the part of the world where “they’re supposed to be” and can never be reintroduced to that world. They’re here, now. They need supporters and advocates here, now. In a part of the world where most people will only ever see run of the mill domestic animals and pets, places like Plumpton Park play a key role in exposing a population to animals that they will never see outside of a television program. If we can use that as a base to instill an interest in wildlife and wild places, not supporting them would be irresponsible. 

There are a number of other organizations that I like to donate to throughout the year – as specific needs arise in their programs. Those are usually more targeted donations, aimed at helping one particular animal or program along the way. The point isn’t just to single these four out so much as it is to encourage you to find a cause you can get behind – whether that’s with your time, your money, or you social media platform.

There’s no lack of worthy causes, so what are you waiting for?

A simple thank you…

It would be easy to get carried away with superlatives on Veterans Day – the most, the best, and so on. Plenty of blogs, Facebook posts, and news outlets went that way. It’s hard to go wrong following that route.

My approach is a little more basic: A simple thank you to that long line of men and women who have served our nation in uniform. It may not always be easy to tell on the other days of the year, but your sacrifices did not go unnoticed, for without you there would be no us.

Say anything…

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means it doesn’t much matter what I write here. If historical precedent is to be believed, all of nine people will actually see it. Even so, it feels like I should make some kind of effort to eliminate a little more white space from the internet. That seems particularly important since throwing down a holiday edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week on Thanksgiving seems vaguely inappropriate, Besides, I want to reserve the right to skip tomorrow if that seems like a better alternative given the food coma tentatively scheduled to begin shortly after dinner is served.

In the spirit of the impending holiday, I’ve noticed that many of my friends have been listing the things they’re thankful for in a daily post on Facebook. It’s hard to disagree with most of them – friends, family, a roof over one’s head. I’m pretty sure I even saw Miller Light suck in there somewhere. I’ll simply say ditto. My list probably isn’t all that much different from anyone elses and since they’ve already covered the high points, the only thing I can think to add to the list is this: I am spectacularly thankful to have a shower that is now back in full working order. You don’t fully appreciate how nice a thing a working shower is until you’ve been living for three weeks with one that’s gone haywire.

So yeah, if last year was the year of being thankful for being back in Maryland, this is the Thanksgiving where I celebrate the marvel of indoor plumbing. Given this trend, look for next year to feature a deep, heartfelt appreciation for fire or the wheel.