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Copyright 2017, Susan DeLay

Americans love the last weekend in May. For one thing, it’s a holiday, which means a day off. Banks are closed. Most offices shut down. Rush hours ease up. And unless you’re in the far reaches of the Yukon, it’s a pretty sure bet you can stow your mittens, snow boots and puffer coats until winter. Or at least late fall.

BBQ Season has officially arrived.

 Time to uncover the grill and clean it up for an onslaught of burgers, hot dogs, and, for vegetarians, tofu and veggie meat, which, by the way, is not meat. (Some say vegetarians like the holiday because it gives them an excuse to eat a hot dog.)

I dust off my famous baked bean recipe, which includes beans, bacon, catsup and brown sugar, plus a dash of cayenne, a splash of bourbon, and a few secret spices that will go with me to my grave.

Grocers say sales of hot dogs are the second highest at Memorial Day. Only the Fourth of July beats it.

You Can Get a Good Price on a New Mattress.

 Turn on the TV and you’re guaranteed to see at least two mattress commercials per hour. Hurry. Don’t miss out. Get them while you can. (Like mattresses might be extinct in June.)

No one knows why the best deals on mattresses are at Memorial Day (and also Presidents Day), but it’s true. If you want a new mattress to replace your old, lumpy, dust-mite-infested mattress, now is the time to do it. Mattresses used to last 20 years. They still do, but now mattress manufacturers encourage sleepers to replace their bedroom staple every eight years. This is just a guess, but I think it’s to sell more mattresses.

 It’s a Day Off!

The majority of Americans don’t mind a day off and when it comes in the form of a national holiday it’s even better because it might include a parade, a party and cupcakes, My cousin concocts an adult beverage called a Sneaky Pete that she serves during summer holidays, starting with Memorial Day. She won’t share the recipe. I’ve offered to exchange it for my baked bean recipe. It’s an exchange of equals because of the bourbon in my beans. She politely declines.

Memorial Day Honors Military Men and Women Who Died in the Service of Our Country.

 I watched a man-in-the-street interview with a reporter who approached mall wanderers and asked if they knew why we have a holiday called Memorial Day.

The responses were funny at first. Then preposterous. Then embarrassing. Then irritating.

Stupid responses included:

  1. Wow. I never thought about it. Ummm. I don’t know.
  2. So we can barbecue. (This isn’t National BBQ Day, folks.)
  3. So we can sleep in and save gas driving to work.
  4. It’s America’s birthday party to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. (Makes me wonder if they think the Fourth of July is to honor people who can count to four.)
  5. To honor the surfers who created the surfing culture. (Dude!)
  6. It’s a bogus holiday so companies can sell stuff. (Like mattresses, maybe?)

One guy got it right. He said to honor the soldiers who died serving our country. Bingo. We have a winner.

My friend Joan sent me an email with pictures depicting Memorial Day celebrations. I was especially moved by the one taken at a parade that captured an older man standing in front of his wheelchair and watching the approach of the American flag. He was the only parade spectator who stood for the flag.

When my Dad was alive, he never missed Jackson’s Memorial Day Parade. Wearing his ball cap that recognized WWII veterans, he’d watch the parade from near the steps of the Court House. The last year he was alive, my brother took him to the parade and he watched from his wheel chair. But when the Stars and Stripes passed by, my brother helped Dad to his feet so he, as a veteran, could salute the flag in honor of the fallen U.S. military heroes who gave up their lives to give us our freedom.

Memorial Day is not a day about BBQs, mattresses, or sleeping in. It is a day of remembrance for Americans to honor those who paid for our freedom with their lives—even those who don’t know or don’t care.

But especially for those who do.

 

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copyright 2016, Susan DeLay

Every time the ASPCA commercial for shelter dogs comes on TV, I have to change the channel. I can’t watch the forlorn, unknown-1frightened eyes of abused puppies while Sarah McLachlan sings “Arms of an Angel.” It gets me every time, and if hadn’t started changing the channel, my home would resemble a kennel and kibble would be a line item in my budget.

The ASPCA must have spies who know what that commercial does to me because they’ve started sending me mail. They’re soliciting my donation to make the horrible cruelty to animals stop. ASPCA will be among the organizations I consider when I make my yearend charitable contributions.

‘Tis the season.

Most of my donations will go to pay for my exorbitant health insurance premiums. Although I did see a man standing near an intersection and holding a cardboard sign on which he’d written, “Will work for insurance.” But let’s not go there.

I will have a few dollars to divide among favorite charities. It’s a ritual. Before New Year’s, I turn on the Hallmark Channel, pull up my online bank account and watch sappy Christmas movies while sending out checks to nonprofits. It’s a beautiful thing, especially if there is hot chocolate involved. With marshmallows.

The Snowball Express turns 11

The nonprofit that caught my eye this year is Snowball Express. I’d never heard of the 11-year-old organization until a friend told unknownme about her neighbor whose Marine sergeant husband was killed while serving in Afghanistan. A few days before Christmas, his vehicle rolled over a land mine and no one in the jeep survived. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, both under the age of 10.

For the past six years, they have boarded the Snowball Express and headed to Dallas, Texas for an all-expenses paid trip where they spend a few days with other children and surviving spouses of fallen military heroes.

It’s for the children

Snowball Express honors America’s fallen military members who have made the ultimate sacrifice since September 11, 2001 by connecting the families who are going through similar circumstances. While they are enjoying special activities during the event, they are building friendships rooted on common ground.  To participate, children must be between the ages of five and 18. Many of these heartbroken kids have found best friends among those who also lost a mom or dad.

According to some, Snowball Express was named after the 1972 Disney comedy of the same name. The hero of movie overcomes insurmountable difficulties with the help of family and newfound friends. That’s where the similarity between Hollywood movie and real life ends. The Disney character’s struggles are over in 93 minutes. Children who lose an active duty parent face ongoing struggles that can last a lifetime. Snowball Express offers a little joy, friendship and healing, giving many of the kids a chance to feel normal for the first time. They realize they’re not the only ones who’ve experienced the same kind of loss.

American Airlines, the official airline of Snowball Express, provides most of the travel accommodations for these Gold Star families, arranging air transportation on charter and regularly scheduled flights. In 2016, more than 1,800 children and spouses representing all branches of the military, attended the event.

Volunteers do the work

Because more than 90 percent of total contributions go directly to support the Snowball Express programs, most of the work is carried out by volunteers.

Celebrities like Dick Van Dyke, Tony Orlando and Gary Sinese pitch in to raise awareness. Gary Sinese, who has supported Snowball Express since it began, closed the 2016 event with a concert by his Captain Dan Band.

Volunteers who work for the airline gather at departure and arrival gates to send off the children, and later to welcome them home. Because they’re employees, they have no trouble getting through security clearance at the airport, despite the red and green striped tights and jingle bells. American flight attendants and even the captain and first officer have been known to don Santa hats for the festive flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.

I saw pictures of Santa placing a little boy into the overhead bin of an aircraft. The boy was giggling and laughing all the way. Ho…ho…ho. The only thing missing was Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer, who were probably busy helping the pilot with preflight checks.

Snowball Express is a charity I plan to support this year. If only I could figure out a way to give each of the 1,800 family members a shelter dog.

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