Thanksgiving Reflections – 2017

My, what a crazy year this has been.

Thanksgiving is normally a time for introspection and reflection, for remembering everything that you have in your life, and for spending the day – or at least the afternoon – with friends and family.

I will be spending my Thanksgiving alone.

This is probably for the best.

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Remembering My Mother

Ann M. Skinner, 70, passed away Monday, September 19, 2016. Ann was born and raised in Chicago, IL, graduating from Maryville Academy and attended the Moser Secretary College. She raised her family in Plainfield, IL where she was very active with her children’s schools and the community. She and her family moved to Memphis in 2004. Ann spent most of her career in the secretarial field, however, the last 15 years she spent as a telephone operator with Target Stores which she retired from in 2011. After retiring she then relocated to Morristown with her husband.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Stanley and Alice Poterala.

Ann leaves her husband of 47 years, Greg Skinner; son, Scott Skinner; daughter, Shari Riley; granddaughter, Taryn Riley; sisters, Barbara Hanas and Jackie Nogle; and extended family members of various cousins, nieces, and nephews.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24 at Mayes Mortuary with the Rev. Gordon Smith officiating.

In lieu of flowers the family asks for memorials to be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY 10605 or www.LLS.org.

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My mother’s funeral was yesterday. The facts are summarized in the obituary clipping above that featured in Wednesday’s Citizen-Tribune; the paragraphs below are from my eulogy to her:

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Where I Come From – Part Two

Last June, I published a blog entry that was near and dear to my heart. In it, I wrote about my paternal family tree. I first told of my grandfather, a WWII sailor, Middle East adventurer, Paraguayan coffee plantation owner, and Prohibition-era beat cop who fathered eight children with three different women. I then blogged about my grandmother, an incredible cook who outlived three husbands and had a closet filled with identical-looking blue house dresses. Finally, I introduced Loyal Readers to my father, a decent man and Army vet with an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball and a functional case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the latter of which is simultaneously annoying and endearing.

But that is just half of the story.

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Top Ten Life Lessons for My Younger Self

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Roughly half of my blog posts these past few months have been top ten lists. Alas, here is one more.

I woke up this morning* at the not-so-ripe age of 41, and to a plethora of Facebook greetings from friends near and far. Social media has its ups and downs, but I must confess: it always makes me smile to receive birthday greetings via Instant Message, Tweet, or Wall Tag.

*Written one week ago but not published until 5/21 because of computer problems. Meh.

FB birthday greetings notwithstanding, this hasn’t been much of a birthday. Efforts by coworkers to invite me over for a night of card playing and beer drinking failed, through no fault of their own. And I have been feeling under the weather ever since I awoke this morning to the fetid aroma of dog farts. “What is wrong with me?” I thought, and then the answer dawned on me: I am 41 years old. Holy crap.

Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday that I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, driving cross-country with my friend Chuck and stopping off in Denver, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon en route. But that life-changing relocation happened in 2000! Likewise, I can hardly believe it’s been six years since I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. For that matter, I can barely fathom that it’s already been two years since I moved to Tennessee from Mexico City with my tail between my legs.

I never really “got it” whenever I’d meet someone who entered a depression upon turning 30 and still being childless or single. But my first day of my 41st trip around the sun has been something of an eye-opener. I am tired, and I have seldom felt less certain about my place in the world than I do at this moment. If this is just, as the saying goes, the first year of the rest of my life, then I should relish it. But can someone pass the back pills first? 😉

Here, with a hearty dose of humor packed between the dollops of honesty, are the top ten life lessons for my younger self:

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Where I Come From – Part One

My genealogy is fairly straightforward: mostly Polish on my mom’s side and Norwegian on my dad’s. There is a smattering of other ethnicities as well, most of them Anglo-Saxon: Lithuanian, Scots-Irish, Welsh, Dutch, English, Danish, etc. And Cherokee Indian. No, seriously. According to a family tree that my father sketched out as far back as he could, my great-great-great grandmother was a Trail of Tears-era Cherokee by the name of Running Fawn. I wish there was a photograph of her in existence somewhere.

Where am I going with this? Well, Father’s Day was 10 days ago, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with my own father these past few weeks. My mom has been visiting her daughter and granddaughter on the other side of the state, and it has given my dad and I time to get to know each other better. Our recent time together has confirmed something that I long suspected: although we are sometimes so different that I wonder – jokingly – if I was adopted, I know that most of the time, I am my father’s son.

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Post #100!

This is my 100th post on GringoPotpourri. Over the past two years, I have tried my best to blog about a variety of topics. Mexico – where I lived for much of that time; California – where I lived before that; and Tennessee – where I live today. Movies – one of my greatest pastimes, particularly during the cold weather months; hiking – another great hobby, and something I hope to write about with increasing frequency in the future; photography – with me in front of the lens as well as behind it; even politics – though politics-lite is perhaps a better way to describe my occasional rants about issues like U.S. intervention in Syria and Sochi as a venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

And I’ve written about travel. I have many passions in life, several of which are mentioned in the paragraph above. Travel, however, is at the top of the list. Many of my Loyal Readers are like-minded travelers. I thank them for continuing to follow my own adventures; several of these readers lead adventure-filled lives themselves. Although not every post I make is about travel, today’s entry is. The post can be enjoyed by anyone – my fellow journeymen to be sure, but also the dreamers and armchair travelers. I beg your pardon for continually plugging my blog across social media, and I thank you all for sticking with me these past two years and 100 posts! Let us raise our imaginary glasses to another two years and 100 more posts!

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