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    Celebrating in the Wundergarten: Shhh and secrets

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    “Shhh” in a Cullman County library was likely first heard in the home of Colonel John Cullmann, the county’s founder. The Colonel was known...

    Celebrating in the Wundergarten: Cultivate Cullman Agriplex

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    “WUNDERGARTEN,” the folktale, is set on an 1870s-era strawberry farm in Cullman County, Alabama. Today, the area’s most passionate advocate for farm heritage is...

    Celebrating in the Wundergarten: Cultivate Cullman ice cream

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    “Never ask a woman who is eating ice cream straight from the carton how she’s doing.” I LOVE WOMEN and one reason is because they...

    Celebrating in the Wundergarten: Cultivate Cullman Chowchow

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    The first rule of CULTIVATE CULLMAN CHOWCHOW is: DO NOT talk about how your chowchow recipe is the ultimate. There is no “BEST” recipe...

    Celebrating in the Wundergarten: 10 treks through the Tree Museum

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    Whether you are moseying around the “mirror lake,” waddling with the ducks, rumbling with the train, power walking or pussyfooting, here are: 10 TERRIFIC TREKS...

    Celebrating in the Wundergarten: An Owl Called David Hockney

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    Whooo, some readers are asking is David Hockney? In the TREE MUSEUM, the nationally accredited arboretum, at Sportsman Lake Park (Cullman County), David Hockney...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – The adult ABCs of trees

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    THE “F-WORD” of THE ADULT ABCs of TREES is, I’m not freakin’ joking—FOOD CHAIN. (Yes, I know, I KNOW…FOOD CHAIN is two words.) Last...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – The ABCs of trees

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    Having fun while learning at the Sportsman Lake Tree Museum is as easy as A-B-C. THE ABCs of TREES A is for APPLE TREES—Exploring the great...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – The Rock the South Rock Garden

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    Shane Quick is a “Home County Hero” of mine. The modern-day trinity of Frank Stitt, the James Beard Award-winning, celebrity chef/founder of Highlands Bar...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Grandfather Pine and Grandmother Magnolia

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    BRING YOUR GRANDMA to SEE “THE GRANDMOTHER MAGNOLIA” and BRING YOUR GRANDPA to see “THE GRANDFATHER PINE” at the Sportsman Lake Park TREE MUSEUM—FREE...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Forest bathing

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    SAVE YOUR WATER, SHOWER WITH A FRIEND and SAVE YOUR SANITY WITH FOREST BATHING! “Contrary to its name, Japanese FOREST BATHING, or ‘Shinrin-yoku,’ has nothing...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Col. Cullmann’s 200th birthday party

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    CULTIVATE CULLMAN: The Countywide Arts and Gardening Celebration is joining with the “sister city” group, “Friends of Frankweiler,” to salute Cullman County’s founder, Colonel...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Cultivate Cullman

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    CULTIVATE CULLMAN: The Countywide Arts & Gardening Celebration, which includes “Culinary Cullman” and musicians with Cullman County roots, grew from a seed of an...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – WED ‘EM@TheArboretum

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    WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A “STORYBOOK WEDDING” in 2024 in Cullman County and not spend a giant sack of golden coins? Let your...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – SWEET TREAT ‘EM@TheArboretum

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    SWEET TREAT ‘EM@TheArboretum offers decades of summertime sweets from the 1870s time period of the folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN,” to the 2020s of today. I can’t...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – READ ‘EM@TheArboretum

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    READ ‘EM@TheArboretum became a regular thing for me just last summer. I was working with a large group of community volunteers, including many of...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum

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    FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum became a thing when my fun friend, Felicia Roberts, invited five pals for a picnic this spring. The fine dining setting was...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – ‘Alabama is an Arboretum’

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    Dear Alabama Arboretum Ambassador, yes, that means YOU and all of us from Governor Ivey to the youngest child in our state who just...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Legendary mothers

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    While creating the mother character, Frau Ruehl, in the folktale “WUNDERGARTEN,” I didn’t have to look far for stellar examples. I was lucky to...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Arts in the Garden

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    ARTS IN THE GARDEN is a new way to enjoy the natural beauty of Sportsman Lake, the 70-year old,  Cullman County Parks and Recreation,...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Gardener roots

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    How do we thank those who have taken the raw, sandy soil of the Cullman countryside and turned it into an Eden? One hundred-fifty...

    150 ways to celebrate the Cullman countryside on our 150th birthday

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    The 1870s founders of Cullman County in the “Hill Country” of north Alabama traditionally celebrated the area’s birth year as 1873. So, 2023 is...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Weathering storms

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    “Every storm, no matter how big and strong, passes eventually. Just know and remember that your spirit is much bigger and stronger than any...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Alabama folktales

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    The collector’s edition of “WUNDERGARTEN,” the folktale I set in 1870s Colonial Cullman, was birthed this week. (Signed copies available at Leldon’s in the...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Osterfeuer (Easter bonfire)

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    Easter holidays in Colonial Cullman of the 1870s, the time of our folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN,” were celebrated as they were in Germany, the homeland of...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Cullman Erdbeerfest May 6

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    “Guten Morgen, Fritz, when are you and Frau Ruehl hosting the Erdbeerfest, this year?” I could imagine overhearing such an exchange this morning when...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Kuchengarten

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    KITCHEN GARDENS are a timely topic to explore as we move toward Easter Sunday and traditional Good Friday plowing and planting. In 1870s, Colonial...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Dear garden giant pretzels

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    What Cullman needs now is love, sweet love…and a DEAR GARDEN. This would be a gathering place embracing things we hold dear: tradition plus...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Real lavender cookies

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    CULLMAN GARDENS inspired the magical-but-real setting for the folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN.” Let me guide you to the specific spot up a gentle path through the...

    COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Quilted pan-roasted vegetables

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    CULLMAN QUILTS inspired the art style I used to illustrate the folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN” (see the Cullman Quilts poster, available at Leldon’s in the Warehouse...

    52 ODES TO JOY: The S.U.N.S. JOY MUSEUM

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    “CHOOSE JOY: Positively add more happiness and contentment to your life with a 30-minute visit to The S.U.N.S. JOY MUSEUM.”  That’s a bold claim for...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. NEW YEAR JOY 365

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    To increase your likelihood of a HAPPY NEW YEAR, here are 365 S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) ideas from the past 52 weeks:  JANUARY  Choose joy...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. HOLIDAY JOY

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    “JOY is the true gift of Christmas.”—Pope Benedict XVI  Are the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza holidays more blissful or more stressful? YES, all the above. There...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. BY DESIGN

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    “Home is a vessel for your joys.” That one-liner felt original to me this year and crystallized decades of pondering design. Friends were building...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. LIFELONG LEARNING

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    “WOOK! WOOK!”, a double exclamation, were my first words. I was mimicking my hyper-observant, deeply curious mother as she pointed out discoveries -“LOOK! LOOK!”...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. WORLD ALPHABET

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    JOY TO THE WORLD  Joy to the world,  All the boys and girls.  Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,  Joy to you and me.  - written...

    52 ODES TO JOY: FRIENDSGIVING

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    ODE TO FRIENDSGIVING  Let’s not wait until November’s fourth Thursday  To give thanks for, and also with a friend.  Today, tomorrow, Friendsgiving can be any such day.  Be...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. AMERICAN ALPHABET

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    “Joyous aging” is as easy as 1-2-3-4, which you can remember with the simple S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) acronym.   S.U.N.S. AMERICAN ALPHABET reflects on...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. MUSIC

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    “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination,   and life to everything.”  - Plato  “Speak to one another with psalms,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. TEAS

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    TEA FOR TWO Picture you upon my knee Just tea for two And two for tea Just me for you And you for me alone. - Music by Vincent Youmans;...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. WINE

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    “Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.”  —Francis Bacon  Wines...

    52 ODES TO JOY: RADIATE S.U.N.S. JOY

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    RADIATE S.U.N.S. JOY to add more sunny happiness and warm contentment to your world and to others. American literary legend, Edith Wharton, glowed with...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. EXPLORERS

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    “The JOYrontologist” is saluting joy-seeking explorers this Columbus Day holiday. As we raise flutes of Prosecco and chow down on veal pizza (recipe below),...

    52 ODES TO JOY: AUTUMN S.U.N.S.

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    ODE TO AUTUMN Autumn days are here, blue sky clear and dear. Let’s harvest a bushel of joy and fall cheer. Our S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding)...

    52 ODES TO JOY: MORE F-WORDS

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    F-WORDS  ̶̶  there are so FLIPPIN’ many FANTASTICATIOUS ones! Here are a few more fun, FLAVORFUL faves after all of these from the former...

    52 ODES OF JOY: THE F-WORDS

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    F-WORDS are not used frequently enough. At least that’s true for some F-WORDS. There are so many FABU F-WORDS, I’ve FINAGLED them into two...

    52 ODES TO JOY: BRAND NEW, NOW YOU

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    ODE TO BRAND YOU If you were a brand, Would you be fresh and sweet as Krispy Kreme, Or aged and mellow like a sip of Jim...

    52 ODES TO JOY: BETTER WITH AGE

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    “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be…” - Robert Browning “The JOYrontologist” recommends: If you only read one book about joyous aging in...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. SILLYASS FITNESS

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    ODE TO THE “E WORD” Isn’t it a sweet surprise That play is a workout in disguise. Chic gym clothes can never glamorize The boring drudge of exercise. S.U.N.S....

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. SOLITUDE

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    ODE TO SOLITUDE Solitude and loneliness Are far from the same. Solitude is exquisite pleasure; Loneliness, excruciating pain. My name is Ben and…I am a GREGARIOUS HERMIT. There, I’ve...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. JOY JAUNTS

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    For the last several years, I’ve enjoyed leading an April-in-Alabama history walking tour through Cullman.  Like Martina McBride sang, “word gets around in a...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. QUEST

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    ODE TO A WORLD-CLASS QUEST Today, I’m on a world-class quest for the ultimate food fest. I started off so Hungary and thought to Czech my...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. DANCE

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    After turning 70 this year, I’m performing in my first, classical ballet. Seeing all those ballerinas on tiptoe, I’m wondering—why didn’t they just get...

    See ‘Peter and the Wolf’ July 29

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    CULLMAN, Ala. - "Peter and the Wolf" is a fun, brief story ballet for all ages. In fact, in the Friday, July 29, one-night-only...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. GIVING

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    “If you have no charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”—Bob Hope HILARITY FOR CHARITY is a perfect example of...

    52 ODES TO JOY: HEART IN HAND

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    “If we all just lend a hand, we can lift some hearts.”—Melody Minagar  HEART IN HAND is a centuries-old symbol of compassion and a willingness...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. DINERS

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    “When do we learn that the world, like any diner worth its salt, is open 24 hours a day?”—Daniel Handler  American diners are the perfect...

    52 ODES TO JOY: FUN FREEDOMS

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    Remember when America was all about freedom-loving fun and people fought for “The Right to Party?” Even in 1773 (evening of December 16), our...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. ZINE

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                                                            ODE TO JOY-ZINES                                    A self-pub, a journal, a dream board, a zine;                                    All the positivity one might glean.                                    For you and by you,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. DADS

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                                                                          ODE TO MY DAD                             Dad, I’m glad you were one of my favorite parents,                             Even though we disagreed about most sermons and nearly...

    52 ODES TO JOY: THE 1-HOUR S.U.N.S. JOY LIFT

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    NEVER TRUST A GERONTOLOGIST UNDER 70! Please hear me saying that playfully. However, I’ve done my 70 years and spent much of it studying...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. SUMMER

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                                                                           ODE TO SUMMER                                                   My longtime favorite season is summer.                                                   Though fall, spring nor winter is a bummer.                                                   At 70, this thought’s not a...

    52 ODES TO JOY: YOUR HERO MEMO

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                                                            AMERICAN HEROES by Cheryl Alexander (American poet, Cheryl Alexander, about her ode to heroes: “This poem is dedicated to all the heroes in our...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. AGE JOY LIBRARY

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    I LOVE LIBRARIES and I have a dream of a beautiful, FREE, public one with happy colors, patron-selected seating, art murals, craft/study/activity areas, cubbies,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY

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                                                                 When I get the urge to purge,                                                              I first put on some music.                                                              A little more punk and a little less dirge,                                                              Then...

    52 ODES TO JOY: ZEST FOR ZZZ

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                                                                    ODE TO ZZZ                                                      ZZZ are A-okay methinks,                                                      Each regarded with great esteem.                                                      A long sleep or just 40 winks,                                                      To doze, perchance to...

    52 ODES TO JOY: FLANEUR JOY

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                                                                        ODE TO WANDERLUST                                                  I long to walk there, maybe there and then there.                                                  More joy-filled I’ll return, you may surely trust.                                                  In my...

    52 ODES TO JOY: BLOOMIN’ JOY

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                                                                    ODE TO BLOOMING                                                 Stealthily, they commanded the hill,                                                 Though no cannons nor bombs were booming.                                                 No movement detected, all seemed deadly still.                                                 Then,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: BEGIN AGAIN & AGAIN

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                                                                  ODE TO REINVENTING                                                   Any given day can be a time to start over,                                                   It just takes hard work, luck and good intention.                                                   So,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: YOU & JOY BIRDS

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                                                                    ODE TO JOY BIRDS                                                   The singing kind are such joy birds,                                                   One rarely hears a whiner.                                                   Chirping, tweeting, hummingbirds                                                   Make a fine day...

    52 ODES TO JOY: FOUR, JOYFUL SEASONS

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                                                                  ODE TO FOUR, JOYFUL SEASONS                                                          Spring is joyful, then there is also this,                                                          Summer is such sunny bliss.                                                          Autumn is a sweet molasses...

    52 ODES TO JOY: THE FUN, S.U.N.S. USA PLANTRY

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                                                           ODE TO A PLANTRY                                      Old Mother Gantry went to her pantry,                                      Looked angry, then trashed it all, blankly.                                      She restocked as a fun,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: The Fun S.U.N.S. Longevity Diet

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                                                                          ODE TO A FUN, HEALTHY DIET                                                                           Try as I might,                                                                           A fun, healthy diet                                                                           Seems an oxymoron in daylight                                                                           And a darker mystery...

    52 ODES TO JOY: LAUGHTER

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                                                              LAFF EVRY DAY!                                      Laff, laff for your brain and your heart.                                      Laffing makes you strong.                                      Laffing makes you smart.                                      Laffter is good for...

    52 ODES TO JOY: A JOYFUL LONG LIFE

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                                                            Too Young to Be Seventy—by Judith Viorst* Deep in my heart I believe I’m Too young to be seventy. There are times when I’m wearing my...

    52 ODES TO JOY: THE FOUR GARDENS to GROW JOY

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                                                                   AN ODE TO GARDEN JOY                                      A book and a glass of wine in a garden is all I need;                                      A sip, the sunshine,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: BOOK JOY

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                                            ODE TO BOOK JOY                             Books are magic transportable.                             Free libraries make them quite affordable.                             It is well-known but still reportable,                             Libraries need us...

    52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S.

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                                                    ODE TO S.U.N.S.*            Smile-making is thinking and doing, all positively done.            Uniting is connecting with someone and with everyone.            Neighboring is sharing and...

    52 ODES TO JOY: SPELLBINDING

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    ODE TO SPELLBINDING                                                      Hocus pocus, fully focus.                                                      Cast off the spell of the phone,                                                      And fully succumb to the joy zone.                                                      Presto, change-o, feel...

    52 ODES TO JOY: NEIGHBORING

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    ODE TO NEIGHBORING                                          Neighbors come in lots of flavors;                                          Lovers, haters, givers, takers.                                          Not to belabor, though no message greater,                                          Love all neighbors on...

    52 ODES TO JOY: UNITING

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                                                                  ODE TO UNITING                                  (Dedicated to John Lennon and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) I have a dream and I’m inviting All to end the fighting...

    52 ODES TO JOY: SMILE-MAKING

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                                                   ODE TO SMILE-MAKING When you’re smiling, the muscles it takes are 17. But, when you’re scowling, it takes 43 and looks so mean. When you’re smiling,...

    52 ODES TO JOY: SUNSHINE

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    52 ODES TO JOY in 2022

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    Ode to AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS My country ‘tis a sunny land of joy-giving heroines and heroes, Like Don Ho, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Allen Poe and Rudolph Valentino. And,...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Holiday Island Birthday Party

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    “Let’s get away from sleigh bells. Let’s get away from snow. Let’s make a break this holiday, dear, I know the place to go. How’d ya...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Creating Joy Birthday Party

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    “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” These words, spoken by U.S. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, inspire all to create joy and cultivate optimism...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Starry Starry Night Birthday Party

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    “Starry Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh, one of the most joy-giving paintings in the history of art, is a major crowd-pleaser at MOMA...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Wonderful World Birthday Party

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    “The Wonderful World of Disney,” a hugely popular television show on Sunday nights for 25 years, gathered America around a tribal fire for magical...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Life as Opera Birthday Party

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    “Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings,” wrote American joy-giver, Robert Benchley. Another music critic...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Carnegie Hall Birthday Party

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    How do you get to Carnegie Hall? PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. Only the most-accomplished performers play Carnegie Hall. Built in 1891 by the philanthropist visionary...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The O Happy Day Birthday Party

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    “Oh Mickey, you so fine.” At “The O Happy Day Birthday Party,” we’ll see ya round like a doughnut with Mickey Mouse, Georgia O’Keeffe,...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Stars and Stripes Forever Birthday Party

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    Royal Princess Grace Kelly grew up in a charming two-and-half-story American Colonial-style house at 3901 Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. This is our destination for...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Trick or Treat Birthday Party

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    The invitation for “The Trick or Treat Birthday Party” this Halloween weekend suggested fun costumes inspired by the American West—“YEEHAW, y’all come as your...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Tonight Show Birthday Party

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    (Announcer): “From ‘Television City’ in beautiful Burbank, California—It’s ‘The Tonight Show Birthday Party’ with Johnny Carson and this week’s special, joy-giving guests: singer/songwriter Katy...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The JOY to the Max Birthday Party

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    The Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC is our destination for “The Joy to the Max Birthday Party.” Completed in 1917,...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The I Love Saturday Night Birthday Party

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    We are in Bedford, New York about an hour north of Manhattan for “The I Love Saturday Night Birthday Party.” Set amid 250 acres...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Twistin’ Party

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    We are twistin’ and turnin’ on a plywood structure built atop a barber chair. This gyrating contraption was created in the early days of...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Breakfast at Tiffany’s Birthday Party

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    Breakfast at Tiffany’s is now a literal “thing,” not just the title of a Truman Capote novella and an Audrey Hepburn movie. Inside Tiffany...

    365 JOY-GIVING AMERICANS for 2021: The Playin’ With Fire Birthday Party

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    When fire-hot lightning strikes sandy beaches, naturally occurring glass sculptures are often created below the melted sand. Sandy beaches surround all sides of Seattle,...

    365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Whatcha’ Got Cookin’ Birthday Party

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    We cruise through acres and acres of red dirt, northern Alabama cottonfields to our destination for “The Whatcha’ Got Cookin’ Birthday Party.” In the...