Archive for Memories and Fun


Kids Say the Darndest Things

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When I was a kid, I used to watch the Art Linkletter show on a regular basis.  I guess you can tell I am dating myself. Even before I could really appreciate the character of the show, I had a liking for it. Maybe it was a heartfelt appreciation for the innocence of children.

Oddly enough, at times today when I am going about my daily business, I’ll remember the Art Linkletter show: Kids say the Darndest Things.  Perhaps it is the spirit of Jesus that resides – blessed is the joy of children. I believe it is the wonder of their wonder.  Children are a blessing from the Lord.

The following video portrays an innocence that, if you’ve ever been a parent, will bring back the memories of love and blessings.  Just think and ponder for a moment, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God,” Matthew 5:9.  Not only do these kids say the darndest things, they represent the devotion to God that doesn’t seem to be found on today’s Reality TV.

“Kids Say the Darndest Things”

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Singing in the Rain

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The thought of  a rainy day conjures up all sort of feelings, emotions and sensibilities.  Some love a rainy day, as long as they don’t last too long. Others reflect upon cloudiness, dampness of thought, the absence of warmth.  And rainy day quotations can be associated with gloomy uncomfortable forecast.

Rainy days are commonly referenced for the lack of something, confining or without.  Song lyrics have included words like “Rainy Day Blues.”  Counseling studies have noted people are more likely to suffer depression on cloudy and rainy days. And the forecast of rainy wet weather has been associated with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Over the past couple of years, it can be overheard, “We’re having a rainy day economy,” or “It’s a rainy day in America,” to depict the lack of optimism. Too bad indeed, because rainy days are good for reflecting on our choices.  Cuddle up with a positive book by a warm fire.  Stir up a kettle of homemade soup.  Share your dreams with someone.  Maybe it’s good time to stay home for a day and play with the family: bake some cookies, put a puzzle together, take a nap without feeling guilty . . . or just do nothing, because you know the sunshine is just around the corner.

In fact a good rainy day season can give you the time to connect with the Lord; examine your heart. Are you gloomy or glad?  There isn’t a better reflection of optimism than Gene Kelly’s song, “Singing in the Rain.”  You can’t watch this without wanting to sing along!  Throw caution to the wind.  If it’s rainy at your house, then stop, and pause, and then start singing in the rain! Before you know it, you’ll have sunshine on a rainy day!

I’m Singing In the Rain – Gene Kelly

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The Best of Hollywood

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Following “Bring Me Sunshine” yesterday, we wanted to continue along the same posting path for a few days to retrace some memories.  The differences in yesterday’s innocense and today’s culture seems to have gone with the wind.  

This week’s posting series is a break from the stereotyped news of today: the constant diatribe of politics, corruption, moral decay, runaway government spending and social malaise and more. There is a greater day coming and we see it. But until then, it’s fun to look back and reflect.  We hope you would be encouraged to spend more time with family, laugh more, hurry less, smell the roses and play.  Humor and play and laughter are free! 

When I was just a young boy, my mother would listen to the popular radio shows of the day while keeping busy around the house. The radio was an afternoon companion  and her laughter was contageous. A few years later, the same radio shows moved to television.  And, the whole family could see what mother was laughing about.  The war [WW II] had ended.  There was a spirit of optimism, family unity was strong and the entertainment was clean with an honest appeal. 

One of my mother’s favorite daily programs was The Jack Benny Show.  Here is Jack Benny in an innocent episode portrayal with one of the country’s sex symbols – Marilyn Monroe.  Where have all the writers gone?

Marilyn Monroe on the Jack Benny Show – 1953


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Bring Me Sunshine

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There’s a lot of people today that seem to be struggling. Life can become too overwhelming to enjoy. And the news seems to be filled with heartache and blues.  People we talk to just want to be happy.  It’s not about the money anymore.  So this week we want to encourage our readers to stop hanging on to the trappings of the world and focus on the brighter side of life. We’re just talking about fun, laughter, dance, talent and gifts.   

I was visiting with a friend this weekend that suggested, in spite of the fact that he has made millions of dollars in his lifetime; he’s lost most of it.  He is in his late 60’s and now struggling for a living.  Sounds like greater numbers of Americans, if not millions around the world. So, we concluded our conversation with an appeasement. 

My friend indicated that for the past three years, he’s been making a “minimum income,” combined with a bad job: unhappy!  So, this year in January he decided if he’s going to make “minimum income” for the rest of his life, that’s okay. However, at least he could choose to do something that would be enjoyable rather than not!  In other words, making “little income” and being happy is far better than making “little income” and being unhappy!

So, he got THE ATTITUDE!  He’s Right!  It’s time to take another look. It’s time to regroup and take a different perspective. Get out of the funky system that adds to the stress of life.  It’s time to celebrate.

So, in keeping with the theme of phenomenon, this week will be a little break from the ordinary to keep you looking for opportunities to relax, refocus, enjoy, be happy, leave the stress behind, make that attitude adjustment.  In no time, you too will be singing, “Bring Me Sunshine.” 

Bring Me Sunshine

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Travel to Albania – Country Memories

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Coat of arms of Albania

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Albania, officially known as the Republic of Albania,  is a country in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.

Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation of the Islamic Conference and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.

Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 600,000 of the country’s 3,000,000 people. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania was chosen as the top country in Lonely Planet‘s list of ten top countries for 2011.

Etymology: Albania, the name, may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albania recorded by Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria who drafted a map in 150 AD that shows the city of Albanopolis.

Albania is interpreted as “Land of the Eagles” and “Children of the Eagles”, they derive from the adverb shqip, which means “understanding each-other”.

History: The history of Albania emerges from the prehistoric stage from the 4th century BC, with early records of Illyria in Greco-Roman historiography.

The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state forms in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania. The first records of the Albanian people as a distinct ethnicity also date to this period. The area was conquered in the 15th century by the Ottoman Empire and remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when the first independent Albanian state was declared. The formation of an Albanian national consciousness dates to the latter 19th century and is part of the larger phenomenon of rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire. A short-lived monarchy (1914–1925) was succeeded by an even shorter-lived first Albanian Republic (1925–1928), to be replaced by another monarchy (1928–1939), which was annexed by Fascist Italy during World War II. After the collapse of the Axis powers, Albania became a communist state, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania, which was dominated by Enver Hoxha (d. 1985). Hoxha’s political heir Ramiz Alia oversaw the disintegration of the “Hoxhaist” state during the wider collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the later 1980s.

The communist regime collapsed in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded in 1991. The old communist party was routed in the elections of March 1992, amid economic collapse and social unrest. Crisis followed crisis throughout the 1990s, peaking in the 1997 Lottery Uprising, that led to mass emigration of Albanians, mostly to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and to North America. Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009. The country is applying to join the European Union.

Government, politics and armed forces: The Albanian republic is a parliamentary democracy established under a constitution renewed in 1998. Elections are now held every four years to a unicameral 140-seat chamber, the People’s Assembly. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, former Army General, was elected to succeed President Rexhep Meidani. Parliamentary elections in July 2005 brought Sali Berisha, an ex-Albanian communist party member, as leader of the Democratic Party, back to power. The Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania has been the ultimate goal of the post-communist governments.

The workforce of Albania has continued to migrate to Greece, Italy, Germany, other parts of Europe, and North America. However, the migration flux is slowly decreasing, as more and more opportunities are emerging in Albania itself as its economy steadily develops.

Armed forces:  Albanian Armed Forces first formed after independence in 1912. Albania reduced the number of active troops from a 1988 number of 65,000 to a 2009 number of 14,500 with a small fleet of aircraft and sea vessels. In the 1990s, the country scrapped enormous amounts of obsolete hardware, such as tanks and SAM systems from China.

Today, it consists of the General Staff Headquarters, the Albanian Land Forces, Albanian Air Force, Albanian Naval Defense Forces, the Albanian Logistic Brigade and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command. Increasing the military budget was one of the most important conditions for NATO integration. Military spending accounted for about 2.7% of GDP in 2008. Since February 2008, Albania participates officially in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea

Climate: With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions for so small an area. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean weather; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south.

Flora and fauna: Although a small country, Albania is distinguished for its rich biological diversity. The variation of geomorphology, climate and terrain create favorable conditions for a number of endemic and sub-endemic species with 27 endemic and 160 subendemic vascular plants present in the country. The total number of plants is over 3250 species, approximately 30% of the entire flora species found in Europe.  Over a third of the territory of Albania – about 10,000 square kilometers (2.5 million acres) – is forested and the country is very rich in flora. Vast forests of black pine, beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at altitudes above 1800 meters.

Economy:  Albania remains a poor country by Western European standards. Its GDP per capita (expressed in PPS—Purchasing Power Standards) stood at 26 percent of the EU average in 2010. Still, Albania has shown potential for economic growth, as more and more businesses relocate there and consumer goods are becoming available from emerging market traders as part of the current massive global cost-cutting exercise. Albania, Cyprus and Poland are the only countries in Europe that recorded economic growth in the first quarter of 2009. International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted 2.6% growth for Albania in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011. There are signs of increasing investments, and power cuts are reduced to the extent that Albania is now exporting energy.

The country has some deposits of petroleum and natural gas, but produced only 5,400 barrels of oil per day as of 2009. Natural gas production, estimated at about 30 million cubic meters, is sufficient to meet consumer demands. Other natural resources include coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore.

Agriculture is the most significant sector, employing some 58% of the labor force and generating about 21% of GDP. Albania produces significant amounts of wheat, corn, tobacco, figs (13th largest producer in the world) and olives.

Transport: Currently there are three main four lane highways in Albania: the highway connecting the city of Durrës with Tirana, that connecting Durrës with Lushnje and the Albania-Kosovo Highway. 

Aviation: The civil air transport in Albania marked its beginnings in November 1924, when the Republic of Albania signed a Governmental Agreement with German Air Company Lufthansa. On the basis of a ten-year concession agreement, the Albanian Airlines with the name Adria Aero Lloyd Company was established. In the spring of 1925, the first domestic flights from Tirana to Shkoder and Vlora began. 

As of 2007 Albania has one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. The data for 2009 is 1.3 million passengers served and an average of 44 landings and takeoffs per day.

Railways: The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a standard gauge rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives. 

The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private transport was effectively prohibited. Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country’s roads are still in a very poor condition, there have been other developments which have taken much traffic away from the railways.

Demographics: The Albanian population is relatively young by European standards, with a median age of 28.9 years. After 1990 the Albanian population has faced new phenomena like migration, which greatly affected the distribution by districts and prefectures. Districts in the North have seen a decreasing population, while Tirana and Durrës districts have increased their population, due to internal immigration.

Albania’s population estimate in July 2009 was at 3,639,453 with an annual growth rate of 0.546%. Albania is a largely ethnically homogeneous country with only small minorities. The large majority of the population is ethnically Albanian. The exact size of ethnic minorities is not known, as the last census that contained ethnographic data was held in 1989. According to the latest news, the next census containing ethnographic data will begin in April 2011 with EU counsels assisting in certain fields. The pilot census is already being conducted, while the official one will being on April 2, 2011.

Language: The dominant and official language is Albanian, a revised and merged form of the two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk, but with a bigger influence of Tosk as compared to the Gheg. The Shkumbin River is the dividing line between the two dialects. In the areas inhabited by the Greek minority, a dialect of Greek that preserves features now lost in standard modern Greek is spoken. Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania include Aromanian (Vlach) Serbian (Montenegrin), Macedonian, Gorani (Našinski), Bulgarian, Romani (Gypsy).

Religion: There are no official statistics regarding religious affiliation in Albania. The CIA World Factbook gives a distribution of 70% Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics. A Pew Research Center demographic study from 2009 put the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 79.9%.  In 2009 According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, roughly 38% of Albanians are Muslim, and 36% Christian. According to the US State Department, estimates for active participation in religious services are between 25 and 40%.

The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late-11th century. At this point, they are already fully Christianised. Christianity was later overtaken by Islam. After independence (1912) from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian republican, monarchic and later communist regimes followed a systematic policy of separating religion from official functions and cultural life. Albania never had an official state religion either as a republic or as a kingdom. In the 20th century, the clergy of all faiths was weakened under the monarchy, and ultimately eradicated during the 1940s and 1950s, under the state policy of obliterating all organised religion from Albanian territories.

Culture: Albanian folk music falls into three sylistic groups, with other important music areas around Shkodër and Tirana; the major groupings are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the “rugged and heroic” tone of the north and the “relaxed” form of the south.

Albanian folk songs can be divided into major groups, the heroic epics of the north, and the sweetly melodic lullabies, love songs, wedding music, work songs and other kinds of song. The music of various festivals and holidays is also an important part of Albanian folk song, especially those that celebrate St. Lazarus Day, which inaugurates the springtime. Lullabies and vajtims are very important kinds of Albanian folk song, and are generally performed by solo women.

Education: Before the rise of Communist regime, Albania’s illiteracy rate was as high as 85%. Schools were scarce between World War I and World War II. When the Communist regime gained control in 1944, it gave high priority to the wiping out of illiteracy. Strict regulations were introduced, anyone between the ages of 12 and 40 who could not read or write was mandated to attend classes to learn. Since then the country’s literacy rate has improved remarkably. Today the overall literacy rate in Albania is 98.7%, the male literacy rate is 99.2% and female literacy rate is 98.3%. With large population movements in the 1990s to urban areas, the provision of education has undergone transformation as well. The University of Tirana is the oldest university in Albania, founded in October 1957. 

Sport: Football is the most popular Sport in Albania, both at a participatory and spectator level. The Sport is governed by the Football Association of Albania, created in 1930, member of FIFA and a founding member of UEFA. Other played Sports include Basketball, Volleyball, Rugby union, and Gymnastics.

Entertainment: Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH) is the public radio and TV broadcaster of Albania, founded in 1938 in Tirana. RTSH runs three television stations named Televizioni Shqiptar (TVSH, TVSH 2, and TVSH Sat), and three radio stations, using the name Radio Tirana in addition to 4 regional radio stations. The international service broadcasts radio programmes in Albanian and seven other languages via medium wave (AM) and short wave (SW). The international service has used the theme from the song “Keputa një gjethe dafine” as its signature tune. The international television service via satellite was launched since 1993 and aims at Albanian communities in Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and northern Greece, plus the Albanian diaspora in the rest of Europe. RTSH has a past of being heavily influenced by the ruling party in its reporting, that being left or right winged. 

Health: Health care has been in a steep decline after the collapse of socialism in the country, but a process of modernization has been taking place since 2000. As of the first decade of the 21st century, there were 51 hospitals in the country, including a military hospital and specialist facilities. Life expectancy is estimated at 77.43 years, ranking 51st worldwide, and outperforming a number of European Union countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Cuisine: The cuisine of Albania – as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations – is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania has been claimed or occupied by Greece, Italy and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine. The main meal of the Albanians is lunch, and it is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Lunch also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal areas of Durrës, Vlorë and Sarandë. In high altitude areas smoked meat and pickling is very common. 

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Albanian Klarinet Music

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