The Fourth of July 2011

So, I figured it’s okay to be a little decadent on the Fourth of July… Tried a new recipe I found in a Baptist cookbook from my mom’s friend. (My mom’s Catholic cookbook had bread pudding with whiskey sauce, wine stew, and Kahlua cake — but not one brownie recipe. My Mom thought that was funny also.) ; ) I love cooking and baking, but have to stay away from eating the sweets because of the sugar; it makes me so tired and foggy in my thinking. It’s just not worth it. But every once in a while, like on holidays, I figure it’s okay. Hey, at least I added blue and red berries on the vanilla ice cream to top it off, right? ; )

It was a pretty nice day. Did some research, digging through old online newspapers. When you have time, read our Declaration of Independence, as presented in the Virginia Gazette on July 26, 1776:

Also, read about what our Founding Fathers suffered after signing this great document:

I think if we all investigated more and read primary sources once in a while, instead of only the interpretations of others, we’d gain so much insight — of our country’s early days, for example — and we’d have a better appreciation of what was going on then, what they were fighting for, and how much they sacrificed. We truly do have a great country and heritage. It’s not perfect and never has been, but we’re constantly growing, and that’s good… But I don’t think we can grow well if we don’t know how we started.

Back to the present. It was a hot one; heard it got up the mid 90s. And a thunderstorm rolled through around the dinner hour. Instead of grilling out, we opted for the kitchen, making chicken (for my mom) and a veggie burger (for me). For sides, we had homemade cole slaw, baked beans, cornbread, and pasta salad. And water. And lemonade and root beer. Well, like I said, it’s okay to be a little decadent on the holidays, right? ; ) And mainly I’m including the details so I’ll remember.

My all-time favorite Fourth of July was a few years ago, when I took my mom on a surprise weekend trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We stayed in one of the restored houses. It was so much fun … everything about that little getaway, including just walking around the town together, stopping for ice cream, watching the fireworks, hearing the Declaration of Independence read out loud, knowing you were in a place that people walked and made decisions in back in the 18th century…

My second favorite Independence Day was driving up to Manhattan with Susan, a friend of one of my sisters. It fell on a weekend, and most of the locals had gone away on vacation. We roamed the city on foot and loved every step of it. Both of us had been there on different occasions before that, but neither one of us had seen it so empty. We could cross the roads with no problem, got dinner reservations on a Saturday night in a popular Greek restaurant with no waiting, and saw my friend Jeremy’s show with no glitches either. We also had tea at the Plaza, investigated part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and saw the spectacular fireworks.

Tonight, a few neighbors shot off some reddish fireworks before the rain, and all throughout the neighborhood you could hear firecrackers. Then, it poured, with thunder and lightning. A different sort of fireworks. But after it was over, the revelry started again. Mom and I also watched the DC and NYC fireworks while sitting in front of the television. Really, really beautiful displays…

I’ve always loved the Fourth of July and everything it represents. Maybe I was influenced by fourth-grade Virginia history classes and having to learn Patrick Henry’s speech and then going on the school field trip to Jamestown, or family trips to Colonial Williamsburg.

I remember as a kid being drawn to all the biographies in the library of the people who lived back then. Although I loved fiction, too, I’d pick up a copy of the life of George Washington over The Wizard of Oz. Weird, maybe. But oh well. ; ) I think it was the beginning of character construction for me, helpful in acting and writing.

And so many other Fourth of July celebrations, like hammering caps on the patio with Beth, and going to the William and Mary ice-cream socials — and traipsing around Colonial Williamsburg — with Mark and Rob, and cook-outs in the backyard, and fireworks at the Oceanfront or at Mount Trashmore (yes, built of trash…) or at Waterside…

The Fourth of July is like the midway point of the new year. It’s a time of hope and gratitude, of appreciating how our country formed and seeing how far we’ve come, and believing that, together, we can keep building on that firm foundation we were blessed with, and then continue to grow from there.

Plus, everybody needs to just stop and celebrate at different points throughout the year, especially on holidays and special occasions. But, really, wouldn’t it be great if we had that celebratory feeling every day? I think we’re fully capable of it. Because we have the ability to choose. Joy over feelings of the opposite.

If you were an actor who had to go on stage six days a week for a three-month run of a dinner theatre comedy, you’d have to check your feelings at the door. If you had a bad day, so what? Check it at the door. And what’s amazing was that even if you had a bad day, when you left the theatre that night, you felt fantastic. It never failed.

I experienced that several times, and it helped to teach me that feelings don’t have to dictate your life. You can choose to change those feelings by simply “acting” the opposite way, and then the feelings follow. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but any actors reading will know exactly what I mean.

Still, when you’re not doing a comedy, it does indeed take work sometimes to get yourself out of ruts. But it’s do-able and the rewards of freedom from the negative are worth it.

Now how did I get on that tangent? Ah well. I’ll keep it. Anyway. I guess my point is that each day can be like the Fourth of July. Truly. Do something special, maybe just between God and you. Go out and look up at the stars one night. Or take your time weeding the garden and really notice everything from the worms to the shape of the blades of grass.

Pretty soon, you’ll start noticing more and more, and you’ll start appreciating more too. Take joy in what some might call the little things — because they offer their own kind of spectacular displays that turn a not-so-good day into a wonderful one.


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