Monday, December 17, 2007

Another memory triggered -- jcarolek

This morning I read a post by another blogger, who was astounded that she had to tell her better half not to bite the dog. It reminded me of an afternoon when I went to pick my then-four-year-old daughter up from our care giver's house. Mamaw, as my children called her, greeted me with a look of concern on her face.

"I had to reprimand Jennifer today," she explained. "She bit Fritzy."

What? My daughter bit the schnauzer

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh BOY, Cowboy Boots -- jcarolek

Certain memories are always triggered by the onset of the final week of preparation for Christmas. I love all of the music, the smiles, perhaps not shared during the remainder of the year, but certainly offered in the "spirit" of the season. I am less thrilled with the pushing and rushing that puts everyone in sour moods, but I understand it.

I think about those parents busily, frantically, searching for the special gift that will light the face of their youngster Christmas morning, and I am always returned to the year of the "Cowboy Boots." We were never given catalogs and instructed to circle items that we liked (my husband's family did this). As children, we were instructed to sit down and pen a wish list to Santa. No open book test, there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Just another nightmare -- jcarolek

When I was a kid we had a monkey. His name was Chico and he was actually our second monkey. The first, Impy, had been a squirrel monkey, but Chico was a capucian monkey. he stood about 18 inches tall, I guess, and was a crazy pet. But, I loved him.

One night, for some reason I have long since forgotten, I was allowed to sleep with Chico in my top-bunk bed. Much like a normal child might be allowed to have the family cat or dog sleep at their feet, I was allowed to have Chico sleep on my pillow. However, due to his mischievous

Friday, November 30, 2007

A hard lesson to learn -- jcarolek

I was always a “smarty-pants.” Well, not really, but I was an early reader and a whiz at math. In class I always had the answer before the teacher had finished explaining the problem. I zipped through my math problems, enjoying the challenge of finishing first, since answering all the questions correctly was never a challenge!

I was the “teacher’s pet” when it came to math. Or so I thought. One day, Mrs. Mault, my third grade teacher gave us a math test. I “won” by finishing first. Nobody else knew of the competition, but that mattered not to me, I had won again! At the end of the school-day my teacher asked me

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm ready to share -- jcarolek

Come, take a little walk with me. I want you to enjoy hickory nut collecting on this beautiful November day. The woods are delightful. The yellows outshine the others right now and give a brilliant glow to the ground below.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

With a little imagination -- jcarolek

This afternoon I took a stroll down to the newly built pier WITH the camera (finally). I had a whole seven photos snapped when the batteries gave up (can we say, “poor planning?”) But what I got, I was happy with. So, I thought I’d share. This is the current state of the “pond” awaiting completion of the dam and spillway rebuild so that we can once again enjoy water, and fishing. For now, this is a “dry dock”.

Approaching the pier, at the end of our path through the woods:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ryan's Reality -- jcarolek

The little boy lived next door to us for about two years. He was just shy of five when he and his mother moved in with our neighbor, and we moved away just before he turned seven. His name was Ryan.

Ryan was one of those kids who is full of energy and cannot seem to find enough outlets to expend that energy. His daily routine included the sad faces from the kindergarten teacher, for some offense, and his sad face when he explained to us his failure to achieve the happy face. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, this little guy thought John and I were the best thing since sliced bread. Almost every day, after he saw me drive into the garage, returning from work, he’d ring the doorbell, and ask if either John or I could “play.”

One day, I was playing in the yard with Ryan, teaching him how to stand on his head. I have had this little skill in my repertoire since I was about four years old, so, to me it is second nature. I carefully demonstrated the method, as my father had taught me. With the crown of my head on the ground, and my arms,

Monday, November 12, 2007

Your daughter has the following defect -- jcarolek

Your daughter has the following defect. Yes, that is what the letter said, given to my daughter to carry home to her parents. Defect? What? Me? I have a defective daughter?? Is there a Lemon Law or something I can invoke right now? I don’t want to have to deal with a daughter that has already been deemed defective at age five!

Well, as it turns out, my daughter’s defect was her

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A truly disturbing dream -- jcarolek

I read an earlier post that was a silly picture of a supposed dream...and that made me think of a dream I had....

The most vividly disturbing dream I ever recall having was 19 years ago. I still can feel that horrible sensation I had when consciousness dragged me from my sleep. In my dream my then hubby and I were getting ready to close on our house. We were in the middle of getting all of the inspections and approvals and such. And we were living in the house, renting before completing the purchase. So, the dream started off, well rooted in reality, for this was, indeed, what we were going through.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bath time at the Nut house -- jcarolek

I found another nut dropper today -- one that I had previously overlooked. That old saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees,” was actually the opposite from my experience over the past couple of weeks. In fact, I cannot seem to properly focus on a tree within the forest, because each seems to grab my eye, even as I am trying to examine another. Maybe the better expression for my nut hunting escapades would be, “the nuts are always bigger, under the next tree.”

At any rate, and for whatever reason, today I discovered

Saturday, October 13, 2007

There was something in the air -- jcarolek

I had to laugh. I had never considered the possibility that a 125 member choral society would sing, “Splish Splash, I was taking a bath!” as their encore for their concert. But that is exactly what they sang and it was great! The audience loved it and it was the perfect ending to a great matinee performance of songs from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s.

My husband, who accompanies me to these things under some presumption of my expecting him to do so,

Friday, October 12, 2007

I hear Grandma's voice -- jcarolek

Today my daughter called from France. She uses Skype to call my land line, and the cost is very, very reasonable. Still, it is an overseas call and, though she sounds as if she is calling from next door, I find myself operating under my grandmother’s rule of long distance conversations.

I recall Grandma telling me how ridiculous it was for someone (I think it was her sister) to mention that the pet bird had died, when Grandma was calling long distance to let her know of their expected arrival time. Back in “the day” long distance

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ring that Bell -- jcarolek

When I was a young child I was completely free to roam … as long and as far as I wished. I was not getting “special treatment”. All of my siblings had the same freedom. We had only a single constraint. We HAD to be within earshot of “THE BELL.”

The bell was a smallish, brass model with a clear sound that carried….well, to be honest, none of us had the nerve to actually test how far that bell carried,

Thursday, October 4, 2007

My daughter was a mean child -- jcarolek

I like to think I set a good example for my children. I tried to teach them right from wrong, by doing, not just paying lip service. So I was a bit distressed when, on a Thanksgiving when my daughter was ten, I came to discover I was raising a mean little girl.

We had friends over for the holiday. The mother was my best friend. Her husband and she were getting divorced and so she was alone with the children that year. Her son

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spider's View -- jcarolek

This morning I went out to take a walk with my dog and cats, down the path to the would-be pond, where the would-be pier will soon be (providing the now defunct adjoining association and the new developer of a 178 home subdivision which adjoins the headwaters of the creek that feeds the soon-again-to-be-a-pond, but who actually have no access rights to the pond, do NOT object – part of the joys of owning property in RPA area). On my way out, I came across this spider, industriously building his web.

What struck me about this was the web that hung not one foot

Friday, September 21, 2007

Forever Doomed -- jcarolek

My mother always told me I was a Tuesday’s child. We all knew the little rhyme

Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has far to go.

Friday’s child is loving and giving, Saturday’s child

Thursday, September 13, 2007

An unfamiliar face -- jcarolek

Well, she arrived at my mother’s house, (her grandmother’s house) an hour or so before we were all due to meet for supper yesterday. She had driven in from DE to MD and thought she’d spend a little “quality time” with Grandmommy, as my mother prefers to be called.

Imagine her surprise when my mother opened the door and had NO IDEA who she was! LOL…

When John and I arrived for supper, we were treated to the story of how a grandmother, not one suffering

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pockets -- jcarolek

I got to thinking about them today. I guess I hadn’t thought too much about them in a very long time, so today was “pocket thinking day.” Anyway, it occurred to me that, as a child we were always required to “fold our hands” when waiting around for this or that, but to never put out hands in our pockets. This was, we were assured, one of the true signs of delinquency.

I remember wondering if it could possibly be true that I was a delinquent if I chose to rest my hands in my pockets, rather than folding them, or letting them hang gently

Stephen and Tigger -- jcarolek

When my son was nine we went to one of my company’s annual picnics. They always went all out for this event, making it a fabulous day for adults and children alike. One of the features of this picnic was the carnival type games for the children (while their parents enjoyed the pub-like games closer to the kegs…but this is not about the adult games!)

My son, always a very quiet and timid child,

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Green or Clean? -- jcarolek

When I was a little girl, I was required to bathe weekly. Yes, you read that correctly. We children were on the Saturday night bath schedule in those early days. I remember not particularly looking forward to the Saturday mandatory scrub-down, but there was little room for discussion on the matter.

At some point, and I cannot for the life of me recall when this happened, I graduated to showers and I also found myself liking them, and even looking forward to them…all very fine, I’m sure, but Dad, noticing his eldest daughters’ affinity

I am nosey by nature -- jcarolek

I want to apologize to Blogville. You see, I cannot help myself. If I see you are asking for help, I will be right there, trying to figure it out. It’s just what I do! I have been trying to control this urge to jump in and help out, but it is so strong that I find myself easily overcome by it (is there a self help group for this affliction?)

So, anyways…I have always been this way. Some consider

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Shutter with the memory --- jcarolek

We could sit still for a few minutes every now and then. I have proof of this fact, as you can see. The six of us “kids” were usually going in all directions, but, when Grandad wanted to take a picture of his family, we lined ourselves up on that sofa and smiled for the camera. Dad and Mom and Granther (and I think a great aunt) stood behind the sofa, Mom supporting the baby, Ray, who was the newest member of our clan.

I was six in this photo, and within six months my grandmother, standing on the far right side of the photo, had passed away of cancer. She was a young woman, being only in her mid-fifties

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Oh, to be ten again -- jcarolek

The few months before I turned ten I spent Saturdays in Washington, DC with Dad, learning to make violins, as we molded, cut, carved, planed, and sanded our way through our first instrument. I can recall no present before or since that made me happier than the violin I received for my tenth birthday. That I had helped make it, somehow made it that much more meaningful to me. That it was my “undivided time with Dad” was also a factor in its importance to me.

I remember the pride I felt when I posed for the first time with the completed instrument. Dad stood behind me and let me take center stage with Mr. Gault, our teacher and friend. Three years later, when I made my own violin,

Sunday, September 2, 2007

When nobody was looking -- jcarolek

My first day on the job as an IT auditor a few years back was an interesting one. I was required to be up in northern VA for a face-to-face with the IT audit staff. One of the new fellows I met was a guy named Ron. There was nothing special about Ron, and I noted his name as I did the others on the team. I had much to learn about them and they about me, but, for the moment I was focused on the “mission” of the team.

That evening, I returned to my hotel and shared with hubby (who had made the trip with me) the day’s events. Since this was pretty boring stuff to anyone not involved

Friday, August 31, 2007

Things worth working for -- jcarolek

I remember being small. I remember thinking how far away everything seemed and how very far I had to go to reach things. As an adult of, course, I realize that my parents placed things out of my reach so that I would want to work harder to get them. I am not speaking of those things that parents want to put out of reach so that their children will not hurt themselves. That is another topic altogether.

How to be patient, how to figure out a way to get the desired item, and how to be willing to do the work necessary

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Learning the Hard Way -- jcarolek

This morning I ran downstairs to the lobby of the hotel to partake in their breakfast fare. I had skipped supper last night (unintentionally) as I was dead into my preparation for my presentations I will be giving today and tomorrow. So, I was hungry.

I helped myself to some scrambled eggs, a slice of ham and two mini muffins. I poured myself a mixed drink

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's a Corvette, Mom! -- jcarolek

“Mom, this is a Corvette, isn’t it?” “Look Mom! A Corvette!”

The young and eager voice carried easily across the waiting area in the dental office, where I had accompanied my husband to get an X-ray (that’s another story). The room was filled to capacity, but the youngster was oblivious to the attention her enthusiasm was drawing. Yes, you read correctly. For this exuberant youngster, the child so taken with the very perfection of the Corvette, was a girl of about eight.

She examined the magazine in which she had discovered her dream car, and she challenged her older brother to,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Barefoot and Fancy Free? -- jcarolek

Barefoot, clad only in my swimsuit and with a towel flung over my shoulder, I headed up the hill with my brothers, on our way to the BB&T (Belair Bath and Tennis) where my family had a membership. The journey was not a long one, maybe half a mile or so. My brothers and I enjoyed swimming during those long hot summer days.

Either this was a particularly hot day or we were getting rather late start, but one thing was for certain. That road was HOT. My bare feet let me know in no uncertain terms that I was

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Christmas Memories -- jcarolek

Last Sunday we spent time at my sister’s house celebrating my father’s 73rd birthday. My step mother brought with her a few “finds” which she had made while sifting through, “stuff” in the basement of their home.

What she had found were some old arts and crafts Christmas ornaments, made by my Grandmother, and gifted to her grandchildren. I know we had to have been teenagers when we received these, based on the names on the gifts tags. My brothers had all changed their preferred names when they reached about 11 years old. Timmy became Tim; Daniel became Dan, Teddy became Ted, and Raymond became Ray. Since the gift tags for my now deceased brother Ted,

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Under Cover -- jcarolek

My sister was a pretty girl. When we lived in England, at age 12 and 13 she liked to join her peers at the “disco” on Saturday nights. Being the eldest of six children, and a very responsible young lady in general, she was, perhaps, afforded a little more leniency than the rest of us were to enjoy over the years. Still, with a boyfriend several years her senior, Dad had his eye on my sister’s activities.

It seems odd to me as I recall a certain Saturday night back in 1970 or so. It seems odd because, I cannot, as a parent

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Saying Goodbye -- jcarolek

I was 6 ½ when I got strep throat. I don’t know if it was the first time, but I recall this time so very clearly because of the events that transpired on that fateful day. As was typical, the trip to the doctor’s to confirm the reason for my fever and sore throat was made on foot. We had only one car and Dad had it at work. Mom walked me to the doctor.

Once there, the diagnosis was made and the penicillin shot was ordered. Not being a stranger to that hypodermic needle, I was less than pleased with the prospect. Just at the critical point of entry, I flinched and in so doing, managed to break the needle. Now the doctor had to not only extract the broken needle from my derriere, but attempt the shot a second time. This time I did not flinch, for I was certain that to do so would have sentenced me to certain death.

Some time during that doctor’s visit, my mother was informed that her mother, my Granther, was on her last few hours

Monday, August 6, 2007

Somebody mentioned burning up? -- jcarolek

When we lived in England in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Mom liked to frequent the auctions. I have no idea where these auctions were held, but by George, she came home with quite some “finds”. Now, I suspect there were a few fairly good deals she got, but I also suspect that, for the most part, she got JUNK.

So it was that we had the occasional bonfire in the back-back yard. Yes, we had a bit of an odd yard, in that the back yard was separated into two distinct sections. The back-back yard was the location of the annual vegetable garden.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why I Do not Raise Chickens -- jcarolek

When I was 15 I acquired a few newly hatched baby chicks from my Biology teacher. It was the end of the school year and the studies which involved our observing the various stages of egg-to-birth of the chicken had come to an end. However, the wee little chicks had just arrived on the scene.

My neighbor and good friend Billy also acquired some of the chicks, though his also included a couple of ducklings and goslings. Our teacher instructed us in the make-shift incubators we should build and sent us on our merry way.

Once home, we built the cardboard and tinfoil structures,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Back in the Day -- jcarolek

A long ride in the car when I was a kid was truly one of my favorite experiences. In the 1960’s Dad drove a red and white, 1958 Chevy Station Wagon. It had the front bench seat which was occupied by Dad in the driver’s seat and Mom in the passenger’s seat. The six kids “shared” the back seat and the cargo space behind the back seat.

Now I use the term, “shared” with a bit of poetic license, for sharing implies some sort of democracy and this was certainly NOT the case in this particular instance. Age represented rank and we pulled rank with pleasure. Jeannie, being the eldest, the tallest, and the right hand to the parents (often confused with "god"), always chose first and her’s was the window

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's ALL about ME -- jcarolek

I stayed home from school sick that day, in 1968. My younger brothers and older sister headed for school. That year, our first in Cheltenham, England, my sister, next to youngest brother and I went to one school and my two oldest brothers went to another. We all walked together, as the older boys’ school was on the way to our school.

When we reached their school (Dean Close) we waited and watched as they crossed the busy road. And then we carried on to our school (NewCourt). We ranged in age from 11 to 6, my sister Jeannie being the eldest.

So on this day, at home in bed with some ailment,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Balancing Act -- jcarolek

When I was a young mother, living with my then-hubby and son in Tallahassee, FL, my youngest brother began his college career at FSU. He had attended high school in Italy, so, back in the US, he was anxious to “fit in” and have some good extra-curricular fun.

A few of my brothers and I had been active in community theatre and drama clubs during our Jr. High and High School years, and Ray had been one of the four of us who had enjoyed this pastime. So, since FSU had a dynamite theatre department, he decided he would audition for some roles. At the time, they held auditions for all the productions at the beginning of the semester and Ray landed a few bit roles. He decided these would not keep him sufficiently busy, so he decided to take one of the unique FSU offerings. The FSU Flying High Circus.

I laughed when I heard about this. My brother had never struck me as a gymnast or any particularly sports-inclined kind of kid, but what the heck. As a supporting sister, I went, when invited, to see “Home Show” under the big tent that year.

The first thing I had to do was try to control my laughter when, after watching the very cute, very fit female members of the circus enter, I saw the guys enter. All had a similar build. Muscular, very fit, and while the girls were wearing pretty little flashy costumes, the guys were wearing sequined embellished stretchy pants…and no tops…Now, this was not particularly funny until I saw Ray, tall and skinny, with a very distinct “farmer’s sunburn” he had acquired as they set up the tent. His physique was completely different from the others, and, well, to me, he just looked funny.

Nevertheless, cheer we did, and in a few short minutes I began to be amazed at what my brother could do. He and three other guys did an incredible gymnastic balancing act. He and his female partner performed a mind boggling routine on the double trapeze, a routine the circus folks referred to as “sex in the air.” He and three other guys performed a routine wherein they used a female performer as a jump rope, and threw her through the air to each other in some curious game of keep away. He juggled and he performed a slack wire routine. All of these were serious crowd pleasers and he executed them flawlessly.

Over the next few years I watched him and his partner bring back stunts from the FSU Flying High Circus days of the 50’s which included roller skating and Ray swinging his partner around by the ankles, bringing her face closer and closer to the ground, until she literally was able to light a match on the floor….a match she held between her teeth. And to think Ray had never even roller skated before he got the idea to bring back this particular act!

The act that remains in my brain all these many years later, though, is the one he performed on that slack wire. He walked out on the wire (about 6-8 feet off the ground), carrying a ladder and some clubs. He placed the ladder at about a 45 degree angle on the slack wire. He then proceeded to climb up to about the third rung of a four rung ladder. If you can imagine, he is now actually balancing on the rung of a ladder which has him about 45 degrees away from the wire itself. He then began to juggle….I saw him do this routine juggling tennis rackets, regular clubs, and fire clubs.

I remember thinking then, how on earth could anyone do this. And especially my brother…never known as Mr. Coordination! Nevertheless, he did it and he did it well!

He gained much from his experience in the FSU Flying High Circus. He was selected to get paid as a performer/instructor at Calloway Gardens, GA every summer while he was at FSU. He was featured in Southern Living Magazine,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Banana Pudding for Breakfast -- jcarolek

She slapped the pages down one by one, with the vigor of someone who was angry with another. She “flipped” through the magazine and she carried on a congenial conversation on her cell phone, as she sat in the chair beside me as I waited in the dentist’s office this morning. I tried to concentrate on my SUDOKU puzzle and not rip the poor magazine from her abusive hands. I tried to focus, counting 1 to 9 (I was doing SUDOKU, you know) to calm my frustration with her

Monday, July 2, 2007

From this angle -- jcarolek

As a youngster I was shorter and chubbier than my sister who was 14 months my senior. She was “pretty and smart” and I was, well, I was Judy. I was a tomboy and loved to play in the uneven bars in the school playground. I thoroughly enjoyed swinging my legs up over the bar and hanging upside down. I was not afraid of even the highest of the three bars

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Faith, Love, and Trust -- jcarolek

Today was a special day. My stepfather celebrated his 85th birthday (he actually turned 85 earlier this week) with family and friends. As always, we had lots of fun, gathered at their favorite local “diner,” taking one entire end of the facility. My brother, sister, nephew, niece, niece’s boyfriend, hubby and I sat at one table. As is typical, we joked and told stories of the silly things we did as kids, the things our kids did and so on.

Meanwhile, at other tables friendly conversations were being held by all, and the room hummed in a happy, dull roar. Waiters took our orders and served our food and people moved around, each taking time to stop for a few minutes to wish John a happy birthday and thank Mom for having such a nice gathering to celebrate his birthday.

At one point Mom, whose voice is anything but timid,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You can call me Christopher -- jcarolek

When I was in college at FSU, many moons ago, I attended year round. I managed to finish my BA in 2 ½ years, but to do so required taking heavy loads and taking no breaks. Still, I wanted to enjoy some time with family, and so it was that during my second summer, my youngest brother flew down from Maryland to spend a week or two. We had a great time, but it was a story he told me during that time that I think about occasionally, when I see very odd, rather unexplainable behavior, on the blogs and elsewhere.

Ray was a paper boy and as such, went around to his clients’ houses on a regular basis to collect their

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Her First Art Kit -- jcarolek

She was destined to be an artist. I just did not realize it at the time. When my daughter was only two she started her artistic experimentation. I, like every female living in the US today, had a tendency to receive make-up for Christmas from those who clearly had no clue that I don’t wear the stuff. Never mind…it was a gift, so I kept it.

Jen decided early on that she should help make Mommy

Friday, June 22, 2007

Unable to Help -- jcarolek

When my daughter was about 20 months old we were in the process of trying to buy a new house. One afternoon, we had a meeting with the realtor and I left work early to meet my husband at home so that we could drive together to meet her. Hubby was running late, but had loaded the kids into the car to take them to the babysitter’s house. After loading them in and buckling then in place, he realized he had locked his keys in the house.

He went into the back to retrieve the emergency key to the house and dashed in to get his car keys. Meanwhile, in the car, the 3 ½ year old boy and 1 ½ year old girl were getting bored. The back passenger windows were “child safe” – they went down only halfway.

Well, I don’t know about your kids, but, particularly in my daughter’s case, mine were inclined to “test” these constraints. So it was that, as I drove up to meet my husband, to drive to our engagement, I witnessed my 20 month

Friday, June 1, 2007

Confessions -- jcarolek

I can admit I have not always acted with decorum. I have let my temper get the better of me and been very sorry after it happened. I could justify my anger and my reaction but I could not undo the action I took. One such event occurred the year before we moved to England.

I was in fourth grade, my sister was in fifth. I had already lived nine of my years measuring up quite inadequately to my older sister, and her latest “talent” was one that really

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It happened one day -- jcarolek

I moved to VA in November of 1988. I bought a house in the boonies but it had a feature that made it ideal to me. It was situated about 1/4 mile off the highway, down a private dirt road. A charter bus service ran a bus each day “across the river” to the primary employer of this area…approximately 45 miles from my house. The bus stopped each morning at my dirt road and three men and I joined others traveling to work. I left the house at 5:45AM and was lucky to step off the bus by 6:00 PM each night. But I did not have to drive, or hunt parking where parking was never available, or deal with traffic. No, for the HUGE sum of $21.00 per week, I could read, sleep, knit, chat or whatever suited me, in relative comfort for the hour plus ride to and fro.

One day I was running just a wee bit late leaving work and as I rounded the corner to cross the street to the bus stop, I saw the bus pull away without me. Now, it was a cold day

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Artist -- Lawrence C. Lemmon

My grandfather was the 20th Century man. Born in 1904 in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, he was the eldest of five children. He was somewhat sickly, took a little longer to get through school than was normal, lost his mother at age 16 and was required to help raise his younger siblings. His father worked long hours at the mill. Larry, my granddad, took over as the other parent.

Larry did graduate and went on to attend and

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's All About the Song

I enjoy singing. I have sung all my life. It was one of the ways my father shared his time with his six children. At night, in the dark, all six children sitting on the beds in my brothers’ room, we learned the songs that Dad knew. He taught us to harmonize and helped us hear ourselves when we strayed off key.

At ten I took up the violin and found in it, a

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Always Leave a Paper Trail -- jcarolek

I had intended to make my sister’s birthday cake. But, as is often the case, one thing ran into the next, and I found myself short on time. So it was that I dropped by the local Wal-Mart and purchased a ¼ sheet cake, unfrosted, purchased the frostings and returned home. In just a few minutes I had frosted the cake, creating the “plain” backdrop against which I would place the cake topper.

We made the trip to Dad’s in just about three hours and upon arriving, set about to the important activities...always part of the family gatherings…small talk….snacking on all the goodies…basically catching up. There were ten of us able to particpate in the celebration today and we all stopped briefly to watch the horses race around the track and watch the winner nose out his tough competition…and then we returned to small talk…snacking…and more catching up.

At some point, the actual “dinner” was prepared on the grill and we all sat down to share my sister’s 50th birthday meal. We had steak, shrimp, salad, corn on the cob, vegetable medley, stuffed mushrooms, bread and butter, and more….after grace…we got back to the business at hand…small talk…eating supper…and more catching up.

Soon, we were all filled and we continued our catching up as we helped clean up the dishes, and prepared for the presentation of the cake. I positioned the cake topper atop the cake, and set about adding a dozen candles. I was somewhat impressed with how tough it was to stick the candles in the cake, but I persevered and I achieved my goal. Once I had the candles lit, I carried the cake into the dining room, to the familiar tune of “happy Birthday.”

Jeannie responded to our request to extinguish the candles BEFORE the cake topper caught on fire, by blowing out all twelve. I then set about cutting the cake…once again, I noticed it was quite a sturdy cake, and took a little muscle to cut through. I served the cake to my family members and my husband was the first to start eating his….I was still serving pieces of cake when John asked, “Judy, is there paper under this icing?”

Well, of course there was! Blind as I am, I had not even seen the piece of paper that covered the entire sheet cake. I honestly thought I was looking at the “golden brown” cake while I was icing it. So I had succeeded in icing over a nice sheet of paper, rather than the cake itself. To get a better visual of my accomplishment, please take a cupcake, in the cupcake paper, and turn it upside down in on a plate. Now, do NOT remove the cupcake paper, but carefully apply icing over the whole thing. Now, stick a candle in it, and serve it to your unsuspecting guests!

But, my vision problems are legendary, and this latest faux pas, served to resurrect tales of past “accomplishments”. Everyone enjoyed their cake, as they accepted their piece, scraped the icing off the paper, pulled the paper off the cake, reapplied their icing to the actual cake and then ate it…..

And now you will understand when I say, “I always like to leave a paper trail….”

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Dream Born 50 Years Ago -- jcarolek

May 19, 1957. Tallahassee, FL. My mother gave birth to my parent’s first child. A girl. She was named Jeanne and called Jeannie, after one of my father’s favorite songs, “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.”

In fact, Jeannie did have light brown hair and was a father’s dream. She was always the responsible one, the one dedicated to hard work and cleanliness, homework and good grades, helping in the parenting of her younger siblings.

As number two of the brood of six, I was not so certain she was a sister’s dream. In those early days, I would have described her as a sister’s nightmare….the measuring stick against which I, the less likely to live up to the expectations, was measured. Somewhere, in the transition from childhood to adulthood, that perception changed.

Today, I along with my father, step mother, and several other family members, will share a birthday dinner gathering at Dad’s in celebration of that dream come true fifty years ago today. For indeed, my father’s first born child has lived up to and exceeded any parent’s dream, and her brothers and sister have truly been the beneficiaries.

Have a great day as I will, celebrating Jeannie’s 50th~

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I wonder -- jcarolek

“Dad, the teacher said we have to watch Jonathan Livingston Seagull on the TV tonight as an assignment. We have to write about it for English class.”

I was in ninth grade when my teacher made this assignment. I know her intention was good, and she never stopped to think about the unintended consequences of such an assignment. I was, as far as I know, a member of the only family in Bowie, MD in the 1970’s who did NOT have a TV. Dad did not believe in them and felt the country was raising a generation of children whose babysitter was the TV. We, on the other hand, were not so encumbered!

I knew Dad would be angry. I’d been through this

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tick Season does not just mean Lyme Disease -- jcarolek

When we moved to Virginia in 1988 we moved into a house in the woods. I loved it. My then-hubby loved it. Our two children loved it. We had a lot to learn about living in the woods, as both my hubby and I had been raised in the average subdivision neighborhoods of our day.

The second spring in VA, about the end of May, 1990, my son complained of his ear hurting. Upon inspection, I found a tick and removed it from the outside of his ear. Twelve days later, on a Sunday, my son had a headache all day. Naturally prone

Friday, April 27, 2007

Just one of my imperfections -- jcarolek

I started talking at a very early age. My sister, just fourteen months older than I, was not as early a talker, but her diction was perfect. Mom always said Jeannie never spoke until she could use full sentences. Not me! I was jabbering away and blissfully unaware that I was talking with a lisp. OK, so I’m not really sure at what age I developed the lisp, but I do know that when I was in elementary school, I had to go to the “speech” class several times per week.

I recall the speech therapist or teacher or whatever she

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Imagination -- jcarolek

Tonight I was thinking about my brother Ted. No particular reason. He just popped into my brain. I was thinking about the time I returned home from college to discover he was sporting a rather large “bandage” on his face. It turns out it was whatever they used to “fix” a broken nose.

Now, I asked my brother, “How did you break your nose?” He went into a lengthy explanation (yes, the genes MANDATE our giving lengthy explanations) about how he had been playing football with some friends and had gone out to intercept a pass, and run into a tree….breaking his nose.

Well, of course, most football fields are not laid out with trees as strategic “traps” so I had to ask, “Huh???” It turns out, the explanation was quite simple.

He and his friends had been playing football with an imaginary ball, at dusk, in the neighbor’s landscaped (with trees) yard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How we hear what is said, or, wicked giraffes -- jcarolek

My father tells the story of how he came to fear giraffes. Now, understand, he was raised during those early years in a three room house on Long Pond in New Bedford, MA. Giraffes were NOT running amuck in those parts, even in the 1930’s.

So one night, Dad, then a little boy, dealing with a cold

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blissful in my ignorance -- jcarolek

When I was twelve, my friends and I liked to play around with the Ouija board. We lit candles and we adopted an air of hushed anticipation as we posed those all important questions of the future and awaited the reply delivered through our hands as the “pointer” moved about the board.

Yes, the question of who my sister would marry (a man from Cairo) was of utmost importance to us then, but, interestingly, has yet to come true. And of course the question of how many children I would have (12) was apparently a ten-spot off the mark, but we BELIEVED nonetheless.

One such night, my friend Linda and I sat in our temple of Ouija and scooted the pointer around the board, gathering such insight into our future as how old we would live and from what we would die (I died at age 37 from a brain tumor). Having determined our own fate, we looked to our “circle of friends” and asked similar questions about their longevity. We were pretty creeped out when the powers that drove our hands announced that one of our friends would die at the age of 13. He was already 13. We asked it again and received the same answer. But we got no answer when we asked how he would die.

Well, we went to bed that night, worried sick that our friend was going to die, and knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that we had no control over it. For if we somehow acted on the “knowledge” we had, the fate predicted would never come true, and yet, we knew it had to come true….the Ouija board said so.

I did not tell my parents. I did not tell my friends. I thought it would be a burden I would have to carry with Linda. The burden, as it turns out, was not to be carried long. For two days later our friend was swimming at the pool we called the Lido. He went head first down a slide and hit his head on the floor of the pool. He did not live out his 13th year.

Linda and I never again played with the Ouija board. I never wanted to “know” what was going to happen in my future or another’s. The burden is just too great. I have always felt profoundly sad for those who do “see” the future. I believe it would drive me crazy. I’m far more comfortable living each day, one day at a time, making the day the best I can for myself and those around me, knowing, of course, that someone, somewhere, might be burdened, already knowing of my demise, and yet being able to change nothing. I am quite blissful in my ignorance.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sad and Happy -- jcarolek

Last night my daughter returned from a bonfire where she had visited with my son, their dad and a family friend for the last time before she headed back to CA. She arrived back at my house around 10 PM. She and I had a great time. I introduced her to the new cat, Benson and she spent some “quality time” with our dog, Killian, who loves Jen to death!

And then, Jen and I just sat and talked, and talked and talked.

Though she is doing well in CA, she has decided

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wedding Vowels -- jcarolek

Tonight I had dinner with my daughter, son and hubby. As we sat eating our meal at the restaurant, we chatted about Justice of the Peace presided marriages. Jen wanted to know whether when getting married by the Justice of the Peace, the couple had to say vows, or just sign a piece of paper.

Well, I began to answer, explaining what I knew about it,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Eskimo kisses? -- jcarolek

Good morning all. I just have a few minutes before heading off to more of my four day meeting, but wanted to check in and see how everyone is doing. Yesterday was blustery – very windy but at least the rain had subsided. My daughter went to visit a friend of hers who lives and works nearby and then she returned to the hotel room and made supper for us. What a treat that was! Usually, when I travel I just grab junk to eat, as I am not a fan of eating alone, but also shy away from going out to eat with “the crowd.”

After supper, she left for Richmond and will spend the

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Truly a delight -- jcarolek

Good morning all from windy, gloomy, Northern VA. I arrived safely yesterday afternoon and shared a wonderful night with my daughter…she’s still sleeping…I will head out to my all-day meeting in just a little while, but wanted to share some of my daughter’s photos of her adventures with you.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and make many sales,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

She was such a timid little girl -- jcarolek

Today I sang and played guitar at the wedding of a lovely young lady to her chosen young man. I sing and play at many such events and I have seen different approaches to this ritual of union. But today I was struck by several things.

This young lady, Michelle, had been in my daughter’s first Brownie troop…I have known her since she was five.
She has always been a tiny, timid little girl, who stammered when asked to decide ANYTHING…be it grape jelly or strawberry, orange juice or milk, she stood tongue tied, shrinking back into herself.
For the first three years I knew Michelle, I rarely heard her say a word…her best friend Jennifer ALWAYS spoke for her.
The only place I saw her act completely confident was on the stage in her dance routines, for dancing was her “sport.”

Today, rather in contrast to the timid little girl I had always known, I saw a confident young lady, who, having completed

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A single little scarecrow reminded me -- jcarolek

On my drive to No VA yesterday, I passed a roadside market, where produce from the owner’s farm is sold. They had erected a healthy looking scarecrow, I think more as an attraction to potential customers than as a real deterrent to crows. Nevertheless, his happy face brought back a memory I thought I’d share.

When I was 10 years old we moved to Cheltenham, England. I have a scrapbook of those years in my brain as vivid as if I could physically turn the pages and touch the pictures

Just another of life's embarrassing moments -- jcarolek

When we returned to the “States” after living in England for three years, my parents had to register all of us for school. Three of us were of Junior High School age (7th, 8th, 9th grades) and the other three were elementary school age (5th, 4th, and 2nd grades). I was the 13 year old heading into 8th grade. My brother Tim was heading into 7th.

I recall with amused clarity the conversation the principal

Sunday, April 8, 2007

An Easter story (of sorts) -- jcarolek

Before we purchased the land on which we built our house, my husband used to like to take his daily walk back through the dirt roads on which this property bordered. Many times he took our dog Killian with him on these walks. Always, he had Killian on her lead.

Once, about this time seven years ago, my in-laws were visiting and my father-in-law, quite a walker in his own right, went with hubby and Killian on their walk. With no properties developed in this 100 acre track of land, my father-in-law encouraged hubby to let Killian off her lead to run through

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Washing Dishes and Cast Iron Skillets -- jcarolek

Arguably one of the most detested chores when I was growing up was washing the dishes. Now, please understand, from the time I was 5 ½ years old, we lived in a “modern” house that had a dishwasher, so the chore would not seem to have been overwhelming. Still, I recall it as being the one on the job board (yes, my mother kept a great job board to ensure equitable assignment of daily chores amongst her six youngins) that I truly hated.

The whole concept of washing dishes the “old fashioned way” on a daily basis was pretty alien to me. So, when we moved to England when I was 10, I discovered there

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Rocking Gently on the Waves -- jcarolek

My grandfather painted some great paintings. I have shared them before in my blog. I love these paintings that grace the walls of my house. They help keep me connected to a man born more than a century ago.

Tonight I was looking at the ship. This ship is anchored on the wall above the mantel in my living room. I supposed I will always keep it in the living room, for it was always on my family’s living room wall as I grew up. There is something abiding about this particular painting that grounds me.

I recall lying on the living room floor with my brother Tim, a huge piece of brown paper on the floor between us, upon which we drew the island paradise we were sure we would find and live in once we were “all grown up.” And above us the ship rocked gently on the waves.

And I recall lying under the card table in the same living room, carefully affixing stamps into my stamp albums, listening to Burl Ives sing Waltzing Matilda, lost in my own little world. And above me, the ship rocked gently on the waves.

Yes, and on Thanksgiving when my grandparents came to share the feast with us, and we moved the table into the living room, to accommodate the extra diners. We all ate and laughed and after supper, Grandad drew a caricature

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Hills are Alive with the sound of embarrassment -- jcarolek

When I was 11 my grandparents flew over from the US to visit us where we were living in Cheltenham, England. They visited a few days in our home and then we all set out to go to Scotland, where my grandfather had some genealogical research he wanted to do. Our train ride took some time, but we loved the trip

Our final destination was a hotel called the Tornadee Hotel. Getting to the hotel was more fun than actually being at the hotel and I suspect Dad knew we six kids would be a little antsy just sitting around while Grandad

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A measure of success -- jcarolek

Until my 20th reunion, I had never considered attending one of these affairs. I don’t like parties and I generally feel I can make better use of my time (productively). But that year, my best friend from high school was making the trip, and I decided it was worth my while just to see her. We arrived within minutes of each other, and, though we had not seen each other in at least 18 years, we fell into easy conversation, as if we’d never missed a step!

Our lives were so different from those we had “planned”

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Learn how to duck! -- jcarolek

Almost two years ago I underwent surgery to repair my sinuses so that breathing through the right side would become an option. According to the CT scan, I had badly deviated septums on both sides, a bone spur that had completely cut off the right nostril and cartilage which was supposed to be anchored to bone at the base of the nose, be which was anchored to nothing. (how lovely) Now, understand, I knew nothing of all this “interesting stuff,” until they finally sent me for the CT scan after I was unable to stay free of sinus infections for any reasonable time. When the doctor told me of my three “fixes” he was curious about the cartilage one. He wondered how it had become unattached from its bony

Monday, March 26, 2007

Look in the Mirror -- jcarolek

Today I had the opportunity to drive along I-10 from Biloxi, MS, where I am staying this week, to Pascagoula, MS, where I am working this week. The drive was an easy one and gave me a bit of time to think about “stuff.”

When I was a little girl, I had a doll house. Actually, my sister and I “shared” the doll house, and honestly, I never recall playing with it. But there it sat on the dresser, the front facing the door of our bedroom.

One afternoon, during “nap time” (a time when we were

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight -- jcarolek

My hubby and I had arrived home, a little later than usual that evening, as we had waited a few extra minutes at the babysitter’s as she was sending us home with freshly baked lasagna. So, it was dusk as I juggled the lasagna, a baby and the key, trying to unlock the front door. It took a while, but finally, the key turned in the lock and the door swung open.

Hubby, who entered first, immediately noticed things were awry.
“What the heck were you doing?” he demanded of me, when he saw the TV, stereo, etc. pulled out into the middle of the living room.

Before I had a chance to defend myself, he strode

Monday, March 19, 2007

I was fired -- jcarolek

I was 17. I had landed a job in a summer camp for rich kids in upstate New York. I would be teaching arts and crafts. My boyfriend also had a job at the same camp. He would be teaching hmmmm…I don’t actually recall, but something sports related. Both of us were hired to come up there a month early and “build the camp.” OK, so I did not get hired to come up and build the camp, but I was hired to come up and cook for the 40 guys who were hired to build the camp.

So, up we went. Those weeks spent on Lake George will

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On the Wrong Side of the Tracks (again) -- jcarolek

We lived in a typical suburb in Bowie, MD for much of my young life. We had strict rules, because, at least in those days, it was easier to raise six kids by the RULES than to try to convince them the rules were fair, equitable, yada, yada, yada. One of the rules was "never cross the main highway, Rt. 197." Another rule was "always be within earshot of 'the bell'" Mom rang to call us in. Had we been better at complying with that rule the other would have been unnecessary.

Nevertheless, brothers Dan and Ted wanted to “get something” from the local jiffy store. Getting there,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Snakes and Such -- jcarolek

Thank goodness we kill those black snakes that meander through the “yard” every now and then!

I, for one, am not a fan of killing snakes or anything really. But, much as I try to intervene every time one of these “horrible creatures” is discovered in “our territory,” my husband often manages to “take care of the problem” before

Friday, March 9, 2007

We may never have water again -- jcarolek

We might never have water in our pond again. It’s true. Why? Well, in September 2006, the dam, the one built after hurricane Floyd caused the old earthen dam to fail, taking with it the main “highway”, failed. This failure was due to a condition known as “piping” rather than the “over top” failure during Floyd in 1999. Nevertheless, the water flowed out and we were left with a marshy area.

Since that fatal day when Ernesto took our dam

PIGDOG -- jcarolek

My dog just let me know I needed to let her run free on the “acreage.” Nighttime is generally spent on the enclosed porch where she snoozes happily in her heated dog kennel….but….the nights are coming more and more alive….

So, she scratches at the door and I got out and do her bidding. I open the screen door and down the steps she flies, off into the woods, making the most ungodly “pig” noise!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tru it is -- fish 'n chips -- jcarolek

Friday afternoon was always my favorite when we lived in Cheltenham, England. A short bicycle ride from home in an area we called St. Marks was the small, but very busy fish and chips place. Armed with the money Mom had given me, I peddled my way to pick up that weekly bounty.

I took my turn in the queue and when I reached the counter, I announced clearly the amount of fish and chips required to feed our family of eight. Quickly, the owner wrapped the order in newspaper, held it closed with a short piece of tape, collected my offered payment and handed me my package. Peddling faster than on my trip over, I made my way home with the fish and chips, piping hot in their newspaper

Ever wonder why some people are just plain odd??? -- jcarolek

Ever wonder why some people are just plain odd? Well, I can speak only for myself and so I will. I think the root of my one odd self can be traced back to my childhood, where, as I have mentioned before, we had a monkey.

Having a monkey for a pet was fairly unique, even WAY back then. We had a dog and a cat and the guinea pigs and hamsters et al, but the monkey was the culprit in my oddity. He ate “monkey chow.” I mean, we gave him his cup of coffee (with cream and sugar) every morning and we gave him his fruits and table scraps, but all monkeys should eat Monkey Chow. And so, in the garage, was a GIGANTIC

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

When the squirrels came to play -- jcarolek

In the backyard of my house in James Store, VA, in the middle of the woods, on a little over six acres, I cleared a space for my gardens. One was to grow vegetables and the other was to be a strawberry patch.

In due time, with soil properly worked and seeds and seedlings acquired, my vision of bounty was beginning to take on a reality. I was excited. I worked hard and tended my

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Perceptions and Expectations -- jcarolek

Everything I see and everything I understand is based how I would react in similar situations. Or is it? Many times in my life I have been astounded by how others have reacted to a situation, because their reaction is so mind-boggling when compared to what “I would do.”

But, as with everything, some lessons must be learned the hard way. I must live them to KNOW how I would react. Below I have put forth real life occurrences, my anticipated reaction, and my actual reaction.

1. In 1985 my aunt called to tell me that my grandparents’

Monday, February 26, 2007

What I truly treasure -- jcarolek

A song my father taught us when we were very young, in part, describes my personality. The song, "Don’t Fence Me In," is a simple one:

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in,
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in,
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze,

Recurring dream -- jcarolek

I had a recurring dream when I was young. I began having the dream when I was in Jr. High and continued throughout highschool.

I was trying to make my way down the halls of the school, trying to get to my next class before the bell rang. The halls were so crowded I was feeling overwhelmed. In my dream I

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I carried the burden of the United States of America -- jcarolek

Have I ever mentioned how I carried the entire United States of America on my shoulders when I was only ten years old? Well, I did, or at least I was convinced I did.

As we prepared that spring of 1967 for our move to Cheltenham, England, Dad explained very carefully to his brood of six, “Everything you say and do, while in a foreign country will be judged to be that of the ‘typical American.’ You represent your country when you are on foreign soil and I trust that you will represent it well.” (or something along those lines)

Well, that’s pretty heavy stuff for a ten year old. Even my big sister, at eleven, was not strong enough to carry

Friday, February 23, 2007

Either Yale or FSU -- jcarolek

“Please arrive at the band room in the high school at 10 AM to be fitted for your band uniform.”

It was with no small amount of excitement that my son awaited fulfilling this invitation. For three years he had been playing the saxophone - the one owned by my brother who passed away when Stephen was just six.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stephen did it! -- jcarolek

One day, more than 18 years ago, I came home from work to find life as usual at my house. Hubby was comfortably positioned in the rocking recliner, feet propped up, TV blaring. Kids were “somewhere,” but no noise over the TV, so, sort of “peaceful.” As I crossed the living room to my roll-top desk, the desk that served as my complete office in those days, to put my briefcase down and sort the mail, I was greeted with the standard, “What’s for dinner?”

Well, as I was winding up for my just as standard

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stealing 101 -- jcarolek

I am sometimes amazed when look back at the old photos and see the beginnings of the works of art that each of us is. We were once so small and yet, even in our very early stages, we were filled with that personality that would grow and define us, set us apart from all the other artwork that is humanity.

Jen was always my little outgoing character. Walking at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday -- jcarolek

Well, as I prepare for another Easter season I think back to one about ten years ago. I worked with a great guy who was of the Baptist faith. One afternoon, he decided to go over to the drink machine and purchase a soda. Being the gentleman he was, he asked if he could get me one as well.

“No, thanks, Byram,” I said, “I gave up sodas for Lent.”

Do as your father says! -- jcarolek

Do as your father says!

I was raised with that admonition and, by Jove, so were my children!

School picture day arrives and Stephen dons his favorite shirt, under which he is sporting a T-shirt. Dad says, “It’s too cold out there. Put on this sweater vest!” Stephen objects,

Monday, February 19, 2007

James Store -- jcarolek

When we moved to Virginia from Florida in 1988, we bought a house in a little place called “James Store, VA.” It is one of several “po-dunk” places in this neck of the woods and I was drawn to its rustic, quiet “ambiance.” We did not have the luxury of mail being delivered to our house, but had the opportunity to go each day and chat with Mr. Cox at James Store, where, as the postmaster, he carefully rubber banded our mail together each day.

Getting out mail was an activity we all looked forward to and it was with a little sadness that we accepted the news,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Finding the Gum Drop -- jcarolek

When we were very young, my father used to play a game with us. On a brass tray he turned over three or four small, fluted brass “goblets” and under one he tucked a gum drop. Carefully we watched as he moved the goblets around on the tray. We followed every move and finally, when Dad had finished all the troop movements, we were invited to guess which goblet covered the gum drop.

We became very good at this game and it, of course,

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pretending it wasn't happening -- jcarolek

When I was in ninth grade, I was seated next to a girl named Jean Hostetler in science class. This was simply because my teacher believed in seating everyone “alphabetically”. I was Judy Fletcher, and her name came right after mine. Jean was a big girl and I was not. She was also a bully. On a regular basis she would casually slam me on the head with her science book; you know the big heavy one!

Well, I was never a fighter and I believed in that whole, “turn the other cheek” thing. But, to be honest, I was really just scared of her. So, I PRETENDED

Thursday, February 15, 2007

With these eyes -- jcarolek

When I was born, it was with eyes severely crossed that I first viewed my world. There was little question I was going to need help or never have reasonable vision. As luck would have it, the leading authority at the time for my condition was resident at the hospital in which I was born. Dr. Marshall Parks performed my first surgery when I was eight months old. Both eyes were affected and so surgery was performed on both.

I recall all my childhood, when I would look in the hall closet, amongst the band-aids and aces bandages, cotton balls, gauze and the likes, were two odd looking navy blue fabric “things” with ties on either side, and something akin to Popsicle sticks encased in the cloth. When asked, my mother explained that these were the splints I was required to wear for that time immediately after my eye surgery. They were tied around my little arms ensuring I could not bend my elbows, thereby further ensuring I could not pull my patches off, etc. Why she kept them in that closet all those years, is beyond me, because I could see no other “alternative use for such devices.”

The surgery to straighten my eyes and the glasses I began wearing at ten months were designed to have me glasses-free by ten years old. Well, apparently, nobody told my eyes this and, still in glasses with one lazy eye at twelve years old, my mother took me to the eye doctor in England. This guy was a local and chosen either by word of mouth or randomly…not clear on that. His recommendation was that I have surgery on my “lazy” eye to further correct that eye and help me achieve binocular vision. (with a lazy eye, the brain cuts off the signal from one eye, so as to achieve a single image, rather than the double vision produced when both signals are trying to be accepted. The person therefore, has no depth perception, as vision from both eyes, binocular vision, is required to have depth perception.)

Well, Mom let this UK doc know in no uncertain terms that he would FIRST have to get it approved by our US doc. When Dr. Harte asked the name of my US doc, Mom told him, and he started to laugh. It turns out that in 1970 there were seven leading experts of in this area. Dr. Parks and Dr. Harte were two of them. So, I had the surgery, at age 12 ½ and recall the whole experience vividly.

The results of the surgery? Well, I have permanent sutures in my right eye (as opposed to the soluble ones used in the US by Dr. Parks), and most of the time my right eye does not “wander” any longer, but neither does it work in conjunction with my stronger left eye. So, I remain a monocular person, seeing everything in only two dimensions.

One day, when I was 21, I was at work when I was struck by an excruciating pain in my “good” eye. The vision was going in and out and I was scared. My boss told me to go to see the company doctor, which I did. The company doc looked at my eye and, in the tone of a parent, accused me, “You’ve been RUBBING that eye!” OK, so sue me! He was right, I had been rubbing it, because I had allergies and they made my eyes itch!

So, he took a closer look and declared I had a cyst on the eye and needed to see an ophthalmologist immediately. I called Dr. Parks, but he was in Australia so that was out. I had to select a new doctor and fast. I did and was told to come to his office in two hours.

Upon my arrival, the receptionist asked to look at my eye. I showed her and she gave me paperwork to complete (pretty hard to do when the vision keeps going in and out on your only good eye.) As I completed the paperwork, the phone rang. It was the doctor. The receptionist conveyed to him that the cyst was indeed on the eye and not the eyelid. In just a few more minutes, Dr. Gonzalez made his entrance, still clad in his hospital scrubs.

His examination of my eye revealed a cyst too large for him to feel comfortable removing in the office, so I was immediately admitted to the hospital for surgery the next day. The concern I was informed, was twofold. The cyst was pressing on the optic nerve, disturbing my sight, and the cyst was fluid filled, and should it burst (like from rubbing my eyes) it would contaminate and infect the whole eye.

My surgery the following day went well, though it took three times as long as the doctor had anticipated. Still, the cyst was removed and the eye stitched to ensure rapid healing and reconstruction of the shape of the eye. (cysts are like icebergs…what the doctor could see on the top was the smallest part.)

When I went for my follow-up visit, just after being discharged from the hospital two days later, the doctor told me he believed that cyst had been growing there for 7-8 years!

And so it was that my vision in my only “seeing” eye was recovered just short of real trouble. As part of my recovery, I was not allowed to read ANYTHING for six weeks. I challenge ANYONE with seeing eyes to successfully adhere to that one. I mean, street signs, advertisements, you name it, we are constantly reading.

I can honestly say, I have never taken my vision for granted. At 48 years old, I am thrilled my vision is correctable to 20/25 in my good eye (20/50 in the bad one). I marvel every day at the fact that I can see as well as I do and have NEVER disliked wearing glasses. They are as much a part of me as my eyes themselves.

My friend’s son will be undergoing surgery soon for a condition related to the one which made me cross-eyed. His eyes wander out, rather than in. This was referred to as “wall-eyed” when was young, though I think it has a nicer sounding Latin name. My friend is worried about her six year old son – worried that the surgery will ‘hurt.” As told her, even at twenty one when I had my most recent eye surgery, I do not recall the pain being overwhelming. I have encouraged her to prepare him with love, letting him know that he is in good hands and that the surgery will help him see better for the rest of his life.

I always feel I am operating on borrowed time with these eyes, and I use them as much as I can. I try to make what I am viewing, something worth viewing and remembering. For I have always been certain I will spend the latter part of my life without the luxury of vision. When that happens, I most assuredly want to have memories of things worth remembering.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Murph -- jcarolek

When I was 21 I worked for an insurance company in Washington, D.C. It was a boring job, but made “fun” by one of the characters who worked with our group. Our task was to transfer paper files to microfiche. This was a boring, boring job and I was thankful that “Murph,” as he called himself, was on the team. He was an old guy (56) and we were mostly a young bunch.

Murph was quite a story teller. He regaled us with stories of his current living conditions. It seemed his wife had died the year prior and he now lived with his brother-in-law, George, George’s wife, Renee, and their pet poodle “Poopsie.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

When he was young -- jcarolek

His happiness could be achieved with a simple red balloon. He's all grown up now...takes more to impress him! LOL Sorry, old crummy photos, but, still, fun to look through!

Nothing profound, just a little change -- jcarolek

My daughter was five when we moved from Florida to Virginia. We moved to a home on a little over 6 acres of woods. We traveled a dirt road on which ours was one of three homes. Our mail came to the little “general store” at James Store, VA. We stopped in daily to collect our mail, which Mr. Cox, the postmaster, had neatly rubber banded together for us.

And in the winter we tarried a while in the warmth of the wood stove and chatted with this older gentleman. He was a funny, wise, southerner who loved to talk abou

Monday, February 12, 2007

It could have been me -- it might still be -- jcarolek

I graduated college at 20, armed with a degree in Political Science and minors in German, French and Math. I had taken 2 ½ years to complete my college education and I was SURE the world was mine for the taking. Then came that pesky little thing called applying for jobs.

Well, I’m sure most of you have experienced the “hmmmm, educated but unskilled, don’t call us, we’ll call you,” reception as did I during that first round of job hunting. It wasn’t that I didn’t have experience working, for I had been working

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I challenge you to a duel! -- jcarolek

As children, we were not allowed to play with sticks. I’m uncertain where exactly in the rule ranking this particular rule fell, but it was well up there. Being perfect children, the six of us adhered closely to those rules (of course we did!)

Background information: We moved to England in 1968, when I was 10 and took with us our pet Capuchin monkey, Chico. In those days, the monkey had to be quarantined for about six months, I believe. At any rate, Dad was busy making Chico

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Tugboat Cookie Jar -- jcarolek

The cookie jar sat atop the refrigerator. It sat there my entire young childhood. It was a ceramic cookie jar made to look like a tugboat. Mom and Dad received it as a wedding present. The cookie jar held the home-made sweets that Mom made. It sat atop the refrigerator, out of sight (sort of) and out of harm's way.

Out of harm’s way, that is, until the day I found the PERFECT hiding place. Yes, hide and go seek was a favorite

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ice and Snow -- time to look UP -- jcarolek

Ice and snow are winter expectations. Those of us who live in the mid-Atlantic coastal region, thrill when we see the white stuff, and most of us are happy that we don’t have to see it day in and day out. But we miss some important lessons that those who live with more of this stuff just seem to know.

I learned the lesson one day when, after the power had been out for more than four days due to an ice/snow storm, we were finally able to get out to our truck which we had parked

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's all about me -- jcarolek

When I was in my final year of college at Florida State University, (GO NOLES!), I had the opportunity to understand the meaning of the expression, “it’s all about me.”

It was a Friday night. I no longer lived in “the dorm” which is how we referred to my first residence at FSU. Still, my Smith Hall buddies always invited me to the dorm parties. But, as was typical, I was working this Friday night and could not attend the first part of the event…the keg party. I could, however, join them for the ROLLER SKATING PARTY that began at midnight.

So it was that I found myself, not a great skater in the first place, whizzing around the rink – the only one sober!

A little background…there was a weird guy who lived in the dorm. His name was Frank. He was “weird”, not only because he was “like 40 or something”, but also because he thought he was cool hanging out with the Freshmen, etc.

Needless to say he was not one of my favorites, but there Frank was drunkenly skating BACKWARDS, showing off, as if anyone was really impressed. Well, I recall thinking how I wished I could just get away from this dweeb, when he came sailing past me…well, almost.

My clumsy left foot, unnaturally clad in its shoe with wheels, managed to find its way directly into the oncoming path of the drunken Frankster. Before I could scream, well, anything, I was down! I hit hard enough to knock myself out! (ouch)

I recall coming to and knowing that another friend, Norman, must be standing over me. I just knew this because last I’d seen Norman, he was sweating profusely and I awakened to something “dripping” on my face! As I came to, so did the pain. It was my wrist that hurt and I could not lift it up.

Well, wouldn't you know know, the folks who rent the skates ALSO doubled as the “medic on duty!” The guy told me to open my fingers and close them. I was able to do so and he declared me fine and gave me some ice to put on the wrist. It felt as if I had jammed my wrist, and it felt as if it was still out of place.

No problem. I have all types of friends. “Larry,” I called to my friend, (I think he was majoring in something akin to pre-med), surely qualified to do my bidding. “Will you yank my hand really hard. I think I need to get the wrist back in place.” Larry, also having been a participant in the earlier keg party, was probably not on top of his game, but he knew enough to say, “Fletch! You’ll scream!”

I promised I wouldn’t and he complied with my wish and yanked my hand. OUCH!!! (but I did not make a peep!) Well, needless to say, that did not fix the problem. All night I waited while they finished their skating and endured the stop at the drive-through burger joint and finally made it back to my bed. All night, I never let go of my arm, which I supported with my right hand.

When I awoke on Saturday morning, I decided I had to change my clothes. When I let go of my arm, it swung in an unnatural fashion. Well, Norman came to my rescue, took me to the Student Health Center where the x-rays revealed a broken elbow and then to the hospital where I had the full-arm cast applied. The doctor was a little baffled by the x-rays. “Your elbow was clearly out of joint as well as broken, but it is back in joint now. I’ve never seen that happen.” No, I did not tell him about having Larry pop my arm for me!

When I returned with Norman to the dorm, we got on the elevator to ride up to see some of the others. Before the doors closed, in came Frank. He looked at me and said, “What did YOU do to you arm?” I told him what HE did to my arm and he replied, “OH! Yeah, well if you think that’s bad, you should see the BRUISE I have on my butt! My keys were in my back pocket when I fell!”

(I declined the offer to "see"…nothing I’d rather see less!)

So, it was that I learned, there really ARE people who believe it is ALL ABOUT THEM!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Do your own thing, or, don't make the smurfs "blue" -- jcarolek

I was going to title this, "Monkey See, Monkey Do," but in light of the recent Monkey Business, I chose the above title.

My son is two years and one week older than my daughter. He was potty trained before I delivered her (thank you for small favors) and he was about three when

Monday, January 22, 2007

Get the Bell off my Street -- jcarolek

One of the many family rules under which I lived as a youngster concerned the Ice Cream man. Now understand, this staple of American summertime was popular in my neighborhood. But my father had several issues with the whole concept. 

First and foremost, he did not want the guy to park in front of our house and ring that blasted bell. My father was convinced that if we purchased from this guy once, he would stop in front of our house every day. I think his assumption was valid, considering we had six children and the stop would have been a lucrative one.

Secondly, Dad was convinced that the ice cream man would gyp us (you know they are all out to steal kids’ money.)
Third, we didn’t have any money ourselves, so Dad would have to cough up the money for our frozen fancies.
Finally, the timing of the ice cream man’s trip through our neighborhood never failed to coincide with Dad’s

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Significant -- Insignificant -- jcarolek

From the fire there were salvaged only a few things.

More than twenty years ago, my grandparents’ house burned down, as they slept. Awakened by the smoke, my grandfather, a double amputee, went in search of the origin. My grandmother, awakened by his calls, heeded his caution to get out and go to the neighbors. He thought he could get the fire out, but he was wrong.

When my uncle called to tell me of the death of

Friday, January 19, 2007

Standing too close to the fire -- jcarolek

I stood in front of my fireplace this morning, warming my chilled feet and legs by the gas logs’ flames’ warmth. I stood, as I always do, with my back to the fire, allowing the warmth to envelope me. I was reminded of a time years ago when, at the age of 10, I stood in just such a fashion in front of the “fire place” in our living room in our house in England.

Now the fire place was really nothing like any I had send before, or since. It had no logs, fake or otherwise

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A time and a place -- jcarolek

A few years ago my husband was exercising on the treadmill. His morning routine well underway, he had the TV in the exercise room broadcasting the early morning news programs. With interest, he received the news that this day was “National Prayer Day” (did anyone know there was such?) Well, I have never followed up to verify the validity of this event, but the result of my husband’s reception of this information is well documented.

In learned fashion, John closed his eyes to say his prayer. This threw his pace off just a bit, but sufficiently to ensure that he failed to keep up with the programmed speed of the treadmill. Off the back of the treadmill his foot slipped, in the process breaking the back of the treadmill mechanism, rendering it unusable!

By this time, his eyes were wide open, his prayer

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Chatting with Jen -- jcarolek

What a wonderful way to close out another day. My daughter called from CA and we chatted for nearly two hours. We chatted about important, world affairs type topics, and we chatted about thoughts and hopes and dreams type topics. And we talked. Really talked. Not Mom telling daughter about the ways of the world. Not daughter telling Mom that she, “just doesn’t understand!”

How I love being the mother of a daughter who has grown up, maturing sufficiently to want to call just to chat with her old Mom! How I love being able to enjoy my 23 year old, adult daughter, who is truly also my friend.

I remember when I was young and my mother

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The eye -- jcarolek

I was driving home today. In front of me at a stop light I saw the following:

  • A woman driving a car, with three kids that I could see jumping around in the back seat
  • Not sure if there were any in the front seat
  • Woman was on a cell phone and smoking a cigarette, so window was open
  • Woman kept screaming at the kids and gesturing wildly for them to sit down and behave.

It brought to mind the phrase my father used to ensure stellar behavior on road trips. Understand, we had one car, a 1958 Chevy Station Wagon, and Dad drove that car to work every day. Mom and we kids walked everywhere we needed to go, be it grocery shopping, school, doctors, library, or whatever. So, getting to ride in the car was a big deal.

We six kids would pile in and off we would go. Most of these were trips of about an hour or so, going to visit my grandparents, but, we also had the annual vacation trip “The Pond House” in New Bedford, Mass.

For the first few minutes, all went well. The pecking

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Even I can have irrational thoughts -- jcarolek

I was about three months pregnant with my daughter when I had the opportunity to understand the difference between having a horrible thought and acting on that horrible thought. I had taken my 18 month old son for his routine checkup and had stopped on my way home to pick up a few must-haves from the grocery store.

I decided to shop at the Winn Dixie where my then-husband was “third man” (whatever the heck that was…something like the guy who gets to work the crappy hours when the manager and assistant manager are too smart to work.) So, it was

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tis the Season (just ask my neighbors) -- jcarolek

In case you are wondering, it is officially the Valentine's Season. How do I know? Well, I have neighbors who keep me abreast of the current season.

From 11/20 – 1/6 it is Christmas. The Christmas lights adorn the house. The very large front yard is dwarfed by the giant blow-up santa, snowman, etc. etc. No doubt, it is Christmas.

Today, as I drove by I noticed the change in season. Today there is a flag of pinks and reds with hearts hanging in the front yard. There are similarly colored heart-shaped balloons of some nature, hanging in the trees.

If history repeats itself, promptly on February 15th we will enter the season of Easter. These are not Irish savvy people, so St. Patty’s Day does not rate a season. But the blow up bunnies and the giant Easter eggs will grace the yard until the actual day has passed.

After Easter, we enter into the long season

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Put a lid on it! -- jcarolek

When I was 15, I learned my lesson about knowing when and how to throw my weight around. At 5’ 4 ½” tall, I had long enjoyed towering over my four younger brothers, though I had never been able to look my 5’ 7” older sister in the eye. So it was that I was all-powerful when speaking to my brothers.

My family operated by THE RULES. We had rules for everything and by golly, I knew the rules and enjoyed enforcing them. On a particular Saturday, my brother, then 13, made a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He poured himself a glass of milk and trotted off to enjoy his “snack.” Always the good monitor, I informed him that he had left the lid off the jelly jar.

He looked at me and continued to eat. OK, I was a cool sister. I let him eat. When he was done, he cleaned his dish and headed out of the kitchen.

“Dan, you didn’t put the lid on the jelly jar.” I reminded