Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kansas Barbecue, Pigs and Full Moons -- jcarolek

This is my final night in Kansas. Tomorrow I head back to the facility where I have been taking my class all week and sit for the exam. After that, I am, officially, on vacation... and I plan to enjoy it. Still, I didn't want to leave this state without taking a few pictures to remind me of my time here.

Our class was treated to barbecue, apparently a Kansas specialty, at a local restaurant here in Overland Park. Actually, I did not even taste the barbecue, opting for the loaded baked potato...go figure. Still the others all enjoyed the local offering and the table of approximately 25 of us was buzzing with multiple conversations. Meanwhile, I took pictures of this and that, the interesting decor (a very cheerful pig), the folks eating, the food itself. Impressive to me were the fried mushrooms which have to be the BIGGEST fried mushrooms I have ever seen.... and I had one... it would have sufficed for my entire meal, but I poked at my loaded baked potato when it arrived. It was tasty, but I was already full.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I should have known -- jcarolek

Yep, I should have known, that the ice scraper I spied in the rental car when I got in on Sunday was there for a reason, and I should have known that my little post last night, the one lamenting the cold weather and dreaming of those hammock days would be asking for trouble. Today, as I sat down in class next to my coworkers, they were talking about snow. "Snow?" I asked, "Here?"... They assured me that if I would at least ONCE turn on the TV in my hotel room, I might actually KNOW that snow was predicted in this area today.

And sure enough, within the hour, the snow started falling. From our vantage point, three stories up, it looked like a blizzard, but accumulation was minimal... less than two inches. Nevertheless, it was snowing and I logged

Monday, December 8, 2008

Swinging -- jcarolek

I know it's almost the feel of the cold air, I think I'll just accept that it IS winter, even if this not technically true. And I, for one, am not a fan of the cold. I'd just as soon skip winter and jump right into spring. But, for every thing (turn, turn, turn) there is a season....yeah, yeah, yeah.

Once upon a time I lived in a place where the seasons were rather lopsided. The summers started in about April and carried on through mid October. It did snow there once or twice in the eleven years I lived there, but it was certainly

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In Kansas Remembering -- jcarolek

The weather was ideal for flying today and my daughter and son-in-law drove me to the airport this morning. We'd had a very nice night last night, the kids and I, celebrating our Christmas. My son and his wife, my daughter and her husband, and I went out to eat and then back to the house for our "party." I am so NOT a party kind of person. I had not really planned anything, but had some fixins to make cookies, if we were so inspired (we were not) and to make hot chocolate, should that suit our fancy (it did not)........................................and my guitar, of course. My son brought two guitars, one for himself and one for his sister. His wife brought her violin... and, as you might have already guessed we ended up doing little besides playing and singing Christmas carols... for the next couple of hours. We were all too full from supper to consider baking cookies or drinking hot chocolate, and so we simply made music.

When we were ready for a break, we opened gifts we'd brought for each other. Jenn and Benoit are heading to France for Christmas, and I will be on the road for Christmas, so this seemed appropriate, if early. Everyone enjoyed

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Perceptions -- jcarolek

I was thinking about my brother Tim today. Well, actually, I started out thinking about my brother Dan. At Thanksgiving dinner, as we sat around the table, fully sated and just preferring to rest for a while at the table rather than get up and have to move, we fell into discussion of "when we were kids." Dan asked if I remember how I, as a little child, would sit, back arched away from the table, arm extended "as if" to reach out to get the object, and start whining, crying that I could not reach whatever it was I wanted. As he said, I all I had to do was LEAN IN toward the object and I could have reached it. But I preferred to whine and get assistance.... Yes, I DO recall... what a WHINER!

Anyway, today I was thinking of that and thinking about how I perceived things as a youngster. Truly, all things DID seem to be just out of my reach. And then I thought about Tim

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's always the same -- jcarolek

I had a wonderful visit with family yesterday as we gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional, overeat-til-you-drop fashion. We spent the first few hours congregated in the kitchen and family room, some preparing food, others eating snack food, my niece giving free "back cracking" to any and all takers.. (I took) and my SIL demonstrating how high their two whippets can jump.... (VERY HIGH) when enticed by the toy hedgehog... you know the same old stuff... LOL

Heather cracks Jeannie's back...

We usually have two tables... the main

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Looking forward -- changes -- jcarolek

I have a habit of looking back. It's something that gives me pleasure, you know, remembering the little things that went before. Today was no exception. I took a look back at the past two Thanksgivings, and the posts I made. Thanksgiving 2006 was a non-Thanksgiving for me really, as I was glued to my work with major deadlines challenging me. I had an empty fridge and even my plan to enjoy a big Thanksgiving salad was foiled by my failure to prepare for the big event by actually going grocery shopping.

Last year I spent down in SC with my husband's family... it was bittersweet... a family still deeply mourning the loss of father and husband, Bud. And we went through the motions of the Thanksgiving that had long been a tradition there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fat Dad --jcarolek

My father was always a string bean of a man. Pictures I have of him in those early days would make ANYONE offer him a meal... he looked downright scrawny. By the time I was in high school, though, he had begun to look better nourished, though still relatively slim. I tell you this simply as a backdrop for the memory that gripped my fancy this afternoon.

I was applying the second coat of paint to my living room and was thinking about how I really wish I:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I did not know him -- jcarolek

A few days ago my choir director called me. She wanted to know whether I would be available to play at a memorial service this morning. I assured her I'd be there, guitar in hand and ready to sing at 10:20.... the service was to begin at 11.

Last night I went to bed, reminding myself that today was the day I was to play for a man I did not know, but whose family wanted his memory to be honored with song. And off to sleep

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My grandmother's face -- jcarolek

This morning as I drove to church, I marveled at the brilliant blue autumn sky, thankful that, for a change, the dreary drizzle of yesterday had taken a back seat to the sun. And then I saw it... the moon. Right there. In the middle of the brilliant blue morning sky was the lovely moon. And I thought about the man ... you know, that one that lives in the moon... the one that turns the light on at night and off in the morning, since the sun is so much brighter, the moon would seem redundant. And I thought about how old that man must be getting.... how many generations have relied on him to illuminate the night sky.

And then I thought of my grandmother... my father's mother. I think of her whenever I think of "old."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Faith and Scarlet Ribbons -- jcarolek

I had a discussion about faith with a friend one night not too long ago. We were discussing the difference in meaning "believing" and "knowing." I won't go into the discussion further except to say that it has stuck in my mind for the past few days....
On my way to northern VA today for a meeting, I popped my homemade CD into the CD player and sang along with myself and my kids...sang the songs I've sung a thousand times in my life. And when I got to the song "Scarlet Ribbons" I suddenly realized something I had never comprehended

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Warming up-- jcarolek

Tonight was chilly outside and I donned an extra layer as I headed out to the final play rehearsal before dress rehearsal tomorrow night. The show is a cute one, "Nunsensations," and the players are five women and one man who all dress in nuns habits for the performance. I am working props backstage for this production.

I carpool over with a couple of others to save on gas and enjoy the company. When we arrived tonight, I helped get several boxes and bags out of the back of my friend's vehicle. It was dark and rather, umm, cluttered, and when I pulled one of the bags, a glass globe

Saturday, November 8, 2008

None were constrained -- jcarolek

Yesterday as I was working, I suddenly heard my dog Killian alerting the world to impending danger. Since all of the delivery types had already made their appearances that day, and since the pitch of her yelp was high, as she affects to alert on non-human interlopers, I took my time getting out to see what was causing her such concern.

I didn't have to go far. I stepped out the front door and walked to the end of the covered porch, and looked down to the scene below. Killian, notching it up to an even higher pitch, thereby assuring me that I needed to REALLY take note, was dancing around a black snake. The snake was a pretty good sized

Monday, November 3, 2008

Teaching them the important stuff -- jcarolek

This afternoon my Dad sent me a link to photos he had taken at my son's wedding and reception last weekend. I enjoyed perusing through the photos, laughing as I recalled the fun we all had there that day. One of the images that has stuck with me all week is of my brother Ray dancing, jitterbugging actually, with his eleven year old daughter. They were so wrapped up in pure fun they appeared oblivious to the cameras of family and friends as we captured that moment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm opting for hibernation -- jcarolek

It's getting cold here in VA. I am reluctant to turn on my heat quite yet, as it just does not SEEM late enough in the season for forced heat in the house. So the thermostat hovers around 58 and I bundle up with layers of clothing to keep warm. And as I sit here stubbornly shivering, I recall times in my youth when I was cold... so cold I thought I could not bear it, and yet I did. And these thoughts help me realize that 58 isn't really cold, it's just a little on the chilly side.

When I was in high school I walked to school. Not living far enough from school to ride the bus and not having a parent who considered it appropriate to drive the kids to the various schools the six of us attended, we walked. My route to the high school was 1 1/2 miles. Back in those days, I carried my books and my violin

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Well, I never SAID I could dance! -- jcarolek

My son and his bride had a lovely wedding. The rain held off, for the most part, until after the celebration, waiting until we were all inside in the reception to actually start falling in earnest. Guests managed to get to the church before the bride, despite many getting lost. It was helpful that the bride's own arrival at the church was delayed by about 15 minutes...

I sang in the choir for this celebration. I was honored to have been asked to do so and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. About six members from our choir joined

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

His eyes aren't crossed! -- jcarolek

I was scared that first time. I was ready to go, for sure. I'd been carrying the ever-increasing weight for nearly nine months and had struggled with the fears I'm sure most soon-to-be-new-mothers experience. We were living from paycheck to paycheck, where the paycheck was incredibly small and where choices had to be made as to whether to buy food or gas. If food was the answer, then the bicycle was the mode of transportation for that week.

We had no medical insurance to cover mother or child,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm just guessing -- jcarolek

This weekend I have been working hard trying to get last minute things done before my son's wedding next weekend. Well, hmm, I'm not actually DOING anything for that occasion, but more am getting things done so I don't have to DO them next weekend. I washed everything that didn't run away when I approached... windows, bedspreads, sheets, curtains... you get the idea. I got the annual caulking event completed so my windows will be ready for the winter months. I did a little touch-up repairs and painting on some walls. Today I sanded the last post on my front porch and the only piece left to treat before the front porch is complete. I'll get that finished by Tuesday at the latest.

Now, I am relaxing and working on a fun job. I am copying the MANY VHS tapes from my travels in CA

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hunting for the mule -- jcarolek

Today I worked on my front porch all day. OK, maybe not ALL day, but from just after noon until nearly six this evening. Last weekend was spent pressure washing the decks front and back and this weekend is for treating the wood with a fresh coat of protection. Railings take forever, but the results are pretty good.
I had just cleaned my brush, fed the cats and dog and was heading into the house when I heard my phone ringing. I answered to find my pond association president on the line. "Judy, your neighbor across the pond,

Friday, October 3, 2008

There's just something about -- jcarolek

On Sunday I went to see a performance by the Virginia Choral Society. It was, as always, a wonderful performance. Audience members ranged in ages and attires, from the very young to the very old, and from the "Sunday best" to the "just got in from mowing the lawn" attire. We were all there to hear some music and, I suspect, many of us knew someone performing on stage.

The program called for "music of the 60's 70's and 80's" and sure enough, the 100+ mem

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

You may cross now -- jcarolek

This morning as I was driving to Northern VA for work, I came to a stop behind a line of cars. The short delay was caused by a school crossing guard, holding the traffic back so that the school buses could make their way into the school driveway. I was taken back to my own elementary school days when, as a fourth grader, I had the awesome responsibility of being a school crossing guard.

In those days, children served in this role. Fourth, fifth and sixth graders were eligible to apply for the unpaid positions, and I honestly have no idea upon what criteria the selections were made. I just know I was very proud of myself for being selected. I attended the crossing guard "training," earnestly practicing my "positions."

Position 1: this finds the crossing guard facing the street, both arms extended from her sides, doing her best imitation of a fence. All would-be crossing children are to obediently

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not lost or kidnapped - really! -- jcarolek

I know, I know... I've not been keeping up with my blog properly this summer. Truth be told, my summer was busy. Fun-busy. As I sit here in LAX, awaiting my flight home, I reflect back on the new things I did this summer and am satisfied I lived this summer, really enjoyed life. BUT.... for the past few days, I was in a part of California that offers little of the connectivity that we have become accustomed to. I found it very refreshing.

Instead of checking my eBay sales these past few days, I checked the rainclouds that were brewing

Friday, August 29, 2008

Blue Ridge Mountains Relaxation -- jcarolek

Last weekend my friend and I took a little jaunt, about three hours from here, to a destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We stopped in Louisa, VA to visit my daughter and her husband and shared a meal with them. After spending the night in Charlottesville we took Saturday as a long relaxing meandering day...driving first to Monticello and looking at the slave's graveyard on the grounds of the Thomas Jefferson estate. I was saddened by the lack of care shown to the graveyard, and the apparent lack of respect for the dead buried there. A vinyl fence separated the graveyard from the excavation site... of what appears to be preparation for more parking lot space.

We opted out of catching the shuttle bus to the mansion for the tour of the estate, preferring to examine this little graveyard that had no visitors...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Material -- jcarolek

A couple of days ago I received a letter from an old friend. This old friend has found himself in a position in which I would never wish to find myself. He is sitting in a state correctional facility. Once a major provider of material goods for his family, he is now facing some hard realities. He can no longer provide that which he knew to be the bread and butter of raising a family, and considers himself a failure, both for his inability to do so and for choices and judgments he made which resulted in his being in this position today.

His letter was a hard one to read. Not only because of his immediately-familiar-once-again scrawl

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sometimes -- jcarolek

Last Saturday I had my shindig. My plans had been to invite family and friends to a cookout, bonfire, music-playing good time. Of course, I was not thinking ahead to the fact that my son will be getting married in October and many of my family will be traveling here for that another trip (everyone is out of state) during the times of high gas prices, etc. was not feasible. Still, there were those who could come and I went forward with my plans.

And Saturday dawned a beautiful day. We set about the final preparation for guests, making the back yard into a little camp ground of sorts. My sister and my niece arrived

Friday, August 1, 2008

Summer Vacation -- jcarolek

When I was a kid, summers always meant the family vacation. Our destination was the same each year and I always looked forward to it with great excitement. The "Pond House" as it was always known to us was a small three "room" house on a quiet lot on Long Pond, in New Bedford, MA. To call the place "modest" is an understatement. To fathom it was where my father and his then-three siblings lived their early life is almost unimaginable to me. And yet, as a vacation spot, it was ideal..... well, maybe that outhouse thing was not so cool.... and maybe that bathing in the big metal washtub, placed squarely in the middle of the "living room" floor was not so cool.... and maybe having to pump water from the iron handled pump at the sink was a bit more primitive than I'd have liked.... but still, I loved that place.

The pond house holds many memories for me. Fishing with Dad and my brothers was always a treat. Being taught to swim by being tossed overboard in the pond, well, let's just say I had a mighty big fear of water for a while, and when I reached shore, I let out the loudest and longest

Summer Vacation -- jcarolek

When I was a kid, summers always meant the family vacation. Our destination was the same each year and I always looked forward to it with great excitement. The "Pond House" as it was always known to us was a small three "room" house on a quiet lot on Long Pond, in New Bedford, MA. To call the place "modest" is an understatement. To fathom it was where my father and his then-three siblings lived their early life is almost unimaginable to me. And yet, as a vacation spot, it was ideal..... well, maybe that outhouse thing was not so cool.... and maybe that bathing in the big metal washtub, placed squarely in the middle of the "living room" floor was not so cool.... and maybe having to pump water from the iron handled pump at the sink was a bit more primitive than I'd have liked.... but still, I loved that place.

The pond house holds many memories for me. Fishing with Dad and my brothers was always a treat.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Please, don't eat the daisies -- jcarolek

OK, so I never saw the TV show or anything, but I remember that title and it has been going through my mind for the past couple of days.

It all began on Monday night. I had worked all day in Linthicum, MD and had made the drive to McLean, VA to attend an awards dinner at which my team was to be honored, along with six other teams, for our contributions to the company. It was a big deal and we had to have group photos and such. There were drinks and hors d' oeuvres served before we all went into the dining room and took our seats at our assigned tables. It seems this week has been full of such activities. On Monday night I was assigned to table 9.

The coordinator of this event had ensured

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My wedding date -- jcarolek

Well, yesterday I attended one of my best friends' son's wedding. He is also one of my son's best friends and my son was one of the groomsmen. The trip to Toms River, NJ was a long one on Friday, but it was worth it. The affair was a very nice one and it was great seeing some old friends I had not seen in a while.

At the reception, I located my place card and noted

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Last NIght -- jcarolek

Last night I dreamed I was in a house off a main road in some small town... I don't think it was in Gloucester, because nothing really looked familiar. But I was in this house alone, as I had been several times fact, I was coming to believe it was MY place to hang out. There was something very comfortable about the house.
It was a small house, with only four rooms, and each of those rooms was small. There was a small, soft bed in the bedroom and I liked to just lie down and take a nap there.... nobody knew I was there and it was so soft and comfortable. The rest of the house is not as clear in my waking mind, but that bedroom is very clear, and that was where I found myself enjoying a few stolen minutes of complete quiet, more and more often.

One day, when I was asleep in the bed, the owner came

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I would have been embarrassed -- jcarolek

I was getting things ready for a get together of family and friends I am having here on the weekend of August 9. I am not a huge planner, typically ending up with last minute decisions and such, but, since I am traveling so much right now, thought it prudent to at least "consider" what I need to get in order.

And as I strolled through Walmart last weekend, getting picnic supplies, I happened upon a volleyball set up....yeah, one of those cheesy ones, and I thought about picking it up.... some of the younger folks like to play....maybe even some of us older folks....and then I thought back to a party I attended many moons ago when I was one of the younger folks...

The woman with whom I first

Monday, July 21, 2008

A lovely white-haired fellow -- jcarolek

I drove to Long Island, NY with one of my coworkers yesterday. We rented a car and shared the driving....I took the easy, open roads during the daylight hours, and he took the gridlocked, noisy roads after dark....seemed fair to me! We arrived at our hotel at 10:15 PM, after a nine hour drive...I was ready to relax!

But, of COURSE, I got sidetracked into things of interest, and it was 5:00 AM before I lay my head to the pillow to get a couple of hours rest. I arose

Friday, July 18, 2008

Interesting day -- jcarolek

My "day" really began the night of the 16th. I had just returned from work to the hotel, being the only one who would remain on-site for the final day, when my BlackBerry vibrated wildly, demanding my attention. On the other end of the phone was one of my new hires, who had left the site less than 30 minutes earlier, had managed to get 7 miles down the road toward his Suffolk, VA home before his 1994 Mercedes began to overheat. I spent much of the evening working with him to get his car to the shop and him back into a hotel for the night.

Meanwhile, I was fighting a feeling in my gut about a friend who was embarking on a long weekend journey down memory lane. I just felt queezy about it, and could not shake

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Little bits of paper -- jcarolek

Tonight was another treat for me. I thought I was coming up to the Baltimore area, preparing for my work week here, and going to dinner with my Dad and step mom in their home nearby. When I awoke this morning and checked

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mountains and rivers -- jcarolek

Yesterday I took a drive to visit my daughter in her home near Charlottesville, VA. It was a beautiful drive there (and a dark drive home, but that's another story.) I was struck with the beauty of the countryside through which I traveled. Had I actually stopped to take pictures, I am certain they would have been far more spectacular, but I was not displeased with the ones I took from the moving car. From Gloucester to Richmond, the road is lined with trees, giving the ride almost a corridor effect. But as I neared Gordonsville, VA, and the shop where my daughter works, the roads opened to pastures with a distant view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the sky a brilliant blue, softened with fluffy white clouds, the view was simply beautiful. And it was hard to believe that most of the week here it had been raining and gray.

I had a lovely visit with my daughter and we shared a meal

Thursday, July 10, 2008

About squares, perfect and otherwise -- jcarolek

In just a little while I will no longer be perfect. Yes, I know it is very hard to believe, especially for those who have had the opportunity to actually "experience" me during this past year, but this was one of my very few years of perfection. My first year of perfection was when I was 1, the second when I was 4, the third when I was 9, the fourth when I was 16, the fifth when I was 25, the sixth when I was 36....and this most recent, the one that is fast coming to a close, the year I was 49.

Anyone looking at this pattern, a pattern, incidentally that is consistent for all of us, not just me, will notice that our years of perfection, at least in the sense of perfect "squares" grow farther and farther apart. My next

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trafalgar Square -- jcarolek

With the recent water dumping on my laptops, courtesy of the Holiday Inn in San Diego, I have been working through attempting to back up "stuff" from my hard drives....lest things go further south with the laptops that are still limping along. Of course, many of the items being backed up are photographs, and as I back them up, I find myself looking at the albums again ... this naturally makes the process a lot longer, but it also makes it more enjoyable.

I came across some photos I took in 2004

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

In-between places -- jcarolek

I was looking at some of my pictures from my recent travels to CA. I have spent time in the cities, at the beach, in the mountains and in all of those "in between" know, the ones that are not your destination, but are the journey through which treasured memories are discovered. And I was looking at the pictures I take around my own stopping grounds, here in VA. Here too, I have the ocean, the cities and the mountains....and I live in one of those, "in between" places.

What struck me was the feeling of "home" I have experienced in my recent travels, and certainly, the greatest feeling of home comes from the people

Monday, July 7, 2008

Not just another crying baby -- jcarolek

He was the last to board the plane as we prepared to leave the Las Vegas airport where I had spent my first layover on my return trip from CA to VA. The minute I saw him, I knew he would be finding his way to the empty window seat beside the middle seat I occupied. He was an interesting looking young man with his little white hat, glasses, beard and long shorts. And he looked a bit agitated. But then again, plane travel these days can be quite stressful, so that was not jumping out at me as odd.

Sure enough, he was to be my travel companion for the 4 1/2 hour flight and I was thankful that the flight appeared to be devoid of crying/screaming babies (they seem to be drawn to me.) No sooner did this young man flop down in his seat than he began to cry. I saw him try to control it. I heard him try to be discreet, but he was in full breakdown mode and within a couple of minutes was sobbing. He turned his head toward the window and struggled for composure, but composure was not his for the asking at that moment.

I felt, somehow, like an intruder, a voyeur of sorts, and wanted with all my being to give him the privacy he so desperately needed in order to collect himself. As the flight attendant instructed us to pay mind to the safety briefings, I was aware that my young travel companion was falling deeper into his grief. But I said not a word, trying to focus my attention on the exit doors and the oxygen masks...and how to act in the event of a crisis.

As the instructional video wrapped up, I could not shake the notion that this young man had been seated next to me for a reason, and I had to engage him, try to connect so that he would know he was not alone, for alone was how I felt he must feel. Quite out of character for me, I spoke to him first. I simply asked if I could help.

The next two hours of our flight were spent with a young man, a little younger than my own children, sharing with me his overwhelming emotions of having spent six months abroad

Friday, July 4, 2008

Paris Hilton and Tsunamis -- jcarolek

San Diego was fun...and not so fun, depending on how one grades such things. I had a wonderful visit with my brother and his family and did a little sightseeing. My friend and I did not know where we were going much of the time and we ended up seeing things by accident that we would never have planned as part of our San Diego adventure. The Border Patrol dudes on the four-wheelers, wearing ski masks, flying along the steep dirt "roads" was a very interesting sight to me. Being informed that we were driving where only foot and horse traffic was permitted (not marked in any way, I might add) was curious, especially because, when asked how we COULD get to see the ocean, these same guys told us to drive to a place that was CLEARLY marked no-trespassing and just walk through the opening to the side of the locked gates....yeah, right! Whatever!

So, along the way, we saw a few interesting signs. One of these signs informed us that we were in a Tsunami zone,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

San Diego is nice too -- jcarolek

Last night we went to eat, my brother and his family and my friend and I. And it was nice. We shared a meal in a Mexican restaurant and shared stories of long ago and recent experiences. And we laughed. My brother clarified that my loud and sometimes embarrassing cackle of a laugh is simply a family characteristic....we shared a cackle over that too.

At one point, a three member "band" swung by our table and asked if we had requests. We suggested a couple and our requests were met with disdain...guess we don't know the "right" requests. Nevertheless, they eventually started playing a song that they knew (not one we requested), and amazingly, as so often happens to me, I was thrown back in time.

I don't know the name of the song, but it was a song my father used to sing to us when we were kids -- the ONLY song

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Daisy, Daisy -- jcarolek

Last night, after finishing up at the office, I returned to my hotel room. Within minutes my friend's husband called, telling me that Chris had instructed him to pick me up and bring me home with him...we were going to play, sing and eat... I had to laugh. I had told this co-worker friend of mine that I was going to be in her neck of the woods for a few days and had given her my "possible" available times to get together. She decided she would take all three of those times! And last night was the first.

So just at 6PM i jumped into the car and Doug drove us to their house. We had another wonderful evening...eating, talking and telling stories, listening to Trevor (their seven year old) recount his field trip where he got to hold an exotic.....COCKROACH (LOL). We eventually retired to the living room, where Doug and I played and sang, while Chris and Trevor mellowed, Trevor falling asleep to the song I had learned for him...the one his mother sang to him when he was a baby in the neonatal unit..."I Will" by

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From a Distance -- jcarolek

When my daughter was in fourth grade, she sang in the school's annual talent show. The song she sang was the Bette Midler one, "From a Distance." Her voice was clear and strong and the auditorium of parents and family members actually hushed....
"From a distance the world looks blue and green,
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream,
and the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Taming jungles -- jcarolek

I might as well admit it now. I like yard work. I like digging and growing and mowing and pretty much all of it. But one thing I find particularly enticing is what I call the "taming of the jungle." Left to its own devices, my "yard" would swallow my house whole in just a couple of years. Let's face it, the little patch of clearing upon which my house was erected, used to be just more of the same woodland that still makes up almost 7 acres of my property.

So, every spring or early summer, I pull out my trusty little electric lawn mower, the one that I have totally abused for six years now and it STILL has not even whimpered,

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Impatience -- jcarolek

Impatiens are one to the easiest flowers to grow around here. Once planted, they pretty well tend to themselves, with the occasional gift of water from mother nature or the garden hose. And they produce a lovely flower, bright, and cheery. Summertime in my garden abounds with these insignificant little flowers which gather, in true congregational manner, to present an eye-catching effect.... but we aren't there yet, and I am growing impatient!

Another week away from home, on the road for my "real job," has me chomping at the bit to get outside,

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Sometimes Artist -- jcarolek

I was looking through some photos my niece took during our recent visit at my dad's. One is of Dad singing with me, and that is something sweet in and of itself. But I noticed in the picture, a picture hanging on the wall. This black and white oil painting is always a special one to me.

When I was 10, 11, 12...somewhere in that age bracket, I was a would-be artist. I loved to draw and I also loved to paint. I had taken up painting with oils on canvas, inspired by my granddad, whose many oil paintings adorned the walls

Friday, June 6, 2008

Leaving Florida -- jcarolek

In a few hours I will be leaving Florida, having had a successful trip, both business-wise and recreationally. I enjoyed meeting a fellow blogger for supper on Wednesday night, and yesterday I took the opportunity to drive up to Tallahassee to visit my brother. I had not been back to Tallahassee in at least 14 years and let me tell you, things have changed!

The five hour drive each way was well worth the time and effort. I was treated to the grand tour of Tim's home, currently under serious remodel (a perpetual state for my brother) and got to visit with him over supper. We "caught up" on

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Slow, but steady -- jcarolek

Tonight I was a little late getting to my dinner engagement, where I was to meet tj, a lovely young woman I met here on the blogs, and had the opportunity to meet tonight in person. She was, as she had promised she would be, patiently waiting. I had to run back to the car as soon as I touched base with her, because I wanted to get my capture a new/old friend in real life. We had about half an hour to get acquainted outside of the restaurant as we waited for our number to be called, indicating our table was ready.

I was thrilled to meet tj. She wanted to know if I was surprised by how well she spoke, and I answered truthfully. Nope, not surprised at all. I found her to be exactly

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I have to go to the bathroom NOW!!! -- jcarolek

As I sat in the Atlanta airport this afternoon, awaiting my connecting flight to Melbourne, FL, a woman and her three young children sat down beside me. The two eldest were boys, and typical of such creatures, spent the better part of the hour plus wait, aggravating each other. Meanwhile, the youngest, a little four year old girl, natural restlessness augmented with soda and Starburst candy, spun and rolled in the chairs, legs in the air, shirt pulled up to her armpits, skirt whirling about, as mom tried to tame her. She was a bundle of energy and a vocal one at that. Somehow I knew, I JUST knew, these were destined to be on the same plane to Melbourne, and would be seated in close proximity to me.

I was not wrong. I was in the very last row and

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stamps and Burl Ives -- jcarolek

I've always been a "busy" person. As far back as I can recall, I was doing something, filling every free moment with activity. I can honestly say it has been the rare occasion that I have actually experienced boredom. Of course, as a kid, Mom and Dad made certain we had plenty of chores to fill the hours that might otherwise lead to boredom, and with six kids in the family, there were always games and battles to be won and fought.

But I also had my "special" interests that were mine alone and to which I devoted many hours. One of my favorite pastimes was my stamp collecting. Now, admittedly, this sounds like a dreadfully dull pastime for a young girl, but the stamps from around the world fascinated me. As I lay on my belly

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Four children, $468 parking and a copperhead -- jcarolek

Saturday was another busy one for me. I wrapped up my work in southern CA, did just a wee bit of sightseeing and then made my way to the San Diego airport. As things happen in my life, so it was Saturday. I did not check my flight schedule before packing up my computer, confident that my memory was reliable for the information stored more than two weeks ago. In my mind, my flight was a USAir flight leaving San Diego for Dulles at 11:00 PM PDT. So, I set out with plenty of time to return my rental car, grab the shuttle to the terminal, check my single bag (my overstuffed backpack),

Friday, May 30, 2008

A little boy -- jcarolek

While in Los Angeles last weekend, I spent some time at a co-worker's house, sharing a wonderful evening with her and her family. I arrived late in the afternoon, and was greeted at the door by my friend, her husband and her little boy. This was the first time I had been to their home and they made me feel immediately welcome.

The little boy, an only child, 7 years old and bursting with energy, was the obvious star of the night. He engaged us with his ready grin and his lively eyes framed with a headful of red curls. We visited. We shared a meal. And we were treated to a show, created and performed by this little star. He had us captivated.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

She Wears It Well -- jcarolek

OK, I admit it. I'm being lazy! I'm up here in one of Dad and Lynne's guest bedrooms, while everyone else is downstairs eating breakfast, going for morning walks etc....I am editing photos from yesterday's party before heading down to help get ready for today's party. Yesterday was a lot of fun, highlighted by none other than the birthday girl herself.

My mother is a "knitter" and she loves to knit for others. She was quite anxious to see how Alicia, her now 21 year old granddaughter would like the present she had made her. We all dutifully came in from the deck, where the grill was still offering the pleasant aromas of the marinated meat

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hand-Me-Downs -- jcarolek

It seems I have lived a life of hand-me-downs. Of course, I was the second child in a family of six children, with parents who had to make the best use of every resource they had, and once clothes were purchased or made for my sister, they could not be discarded when she outgrew them. So, thankful at least that I WAS a GIRL and these hand-me-downs were GIRL clothes, I accepted the clothes that fit my tall skinny sister well, and which would stretch uncomfortably around my chubbier frame, while ALWAYS requiring hemming....since I grew up 40 years before it became fashionable to walk on the hems of pants and such.

I remember thinking how unfair it was that Jeannie got all the "good stuff" and I got all the used stuff. Truthfully,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Forever Goldilocks -- jcarolek

When I was a kid I heard the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. I remember considering that Goldilocks quite brave to venture into a place unknown to her and to, once inside, have the nerve to sample the porridge in the bowls on the table. Had it been THIS little blond, curly haired youngster, I would not have been so brave. I wasn't sure whether she was really brave or just "dumb."

But I suppose I was focusing on the wrong message when I was a little one. I related not to the finding of the perfect chair, the perfect bowl of porridge at the right temperature and the perfect bed to sleep off a satisfying meal. Instead

Four Guys and Me -- jcarolek

Today, though I did not know it when I awoke and started working in my office at 3 AM, I was to have an office full of action. Yes, that's right. My little 10 X 12 room that serves as my home office for my real work, my eBay shipping center, my upstairs eBay blogging headquarters, and my occasional nap-time place on the futon, was to be invaded by a team of four guys installing my new 2 1/2 ton AC/heat pump unit.

Now, to be honest, it all started off innocently enough at about 7:30 AM. Killian alerted us to the fact that no-good delivery types were approaching and had the audacity to actually drive their vehicle into HER territory. I rewarded

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mom's Hands -- jcarolek

On my mother's birthday last month, I took the opportunity to photograph her hands. I did this upon the suggestion of another blogger, who, as she watched her mother pass away from cancer, spent many hours studying the hands of the woman who had raised her. For the love that was between these two was demonstrated not so much in the words, "I love you" spoken, but in the actions of these hands.

My own mother was a little surprised when I snapped a photo of her hands, and asked why. I responded with my typical, "why not?" And she then went on to explain that at 73, her hands look better than did her own mother's who died

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sleeping with the windows open -- jcarolek

When we closed on our newly built house six years ago, we were presented our "home owner's manual." This loose bound notebook of goodies held such things as the warranties for the appliances, the care and keeping of the house in general and the warranty on the house construction itself. As with anything new, we poured over the book, getting acquainted with our abode. All was going along swimmingly when hubby spied the notation that, "these houses were built in such a manner that they should be protected by controlling the interior climate." Basically, the advice offered was that opening the windows should be done ONLY when the outside atmosphere was ideal...low or no humidity being the key factor.

Well, anyone who lives in these parts of VA will know that there are relatively few days in a year when humidity is low AND the weather is conducive to WANTING to have

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Finding Harmony -- jcarolek

I know there is harmony in the world. I feel it; I hear it; and I try to capture it. When I sing with others I don't actually feel I am "making up" the harmony, but rather, finding it where is already exists.... waiting in quiet anticipation of a voice on which to be carried.

Tonight I had my very high-tech recording studio in full swing. Yes, that's right. I had recorded myself playing my guitar

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hugely Inappropriate -- jcarolek

So, I thoroughly enjoy playing the guitar in our choir. I especially enjoy playing when our other guitarist (the one who can actually PLAY) is there. Today was such a day. And, as usual, we had fun, not only playing the music, but bantering with each other.

Trey's mother is our choir director. As we prepared to practice one of the songs, she declared, "OK, we need to decide who is going to sing what."

Being the general smart alack I am, I piped up with,

Friday, May 2, 2008

Beehives -- jcarolek

A few years back I was amused to read about a competition to be held here in little old Gloucester. I knew that the local "paper", you know, that one that gets published every now and then, but on no apparent schedule, is called the Beehive, but never realized it had some historical tie to this area. The competition made it clear that we ARE the beehive, county??? still not clear on THAT one.

Nevertheless, someone made a LOT of money manufacturing big beehives and local businesses and residents purchased them, painted them and entered them into the competition. It was BIG news around here....everyone was BUZZING with opinions on the most creative, etc. etc. I mostly watched and laughed....could they be SERIOUS??? Well apparently

What are you Doing? -- jcarolek

I was squatting down, looking at the weeds that covered that hillside in Berkeley. My friends were also exploring the lookout over the town from this vantage point and snapping pictures as they visited. I, having yet to have adopt the "camera in my pocket for all occasions" posture, was in my own little world of investigations.

"What are you doing?" my friend asked as I was holding a purple weed very close to my good eye and peering

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Keeping it in Perspective -- jcarolek

Today I had to drive up to Baltimore to meet with my boss for a "transition" meeting. He is leaving and I will be, at least temporarily, taking over his management responsibilities, along with my own. I was not thrilled with the idea of the drive, or the need to spend the night in yet another hotel room, but that's part of the deal, so I roll with it. I have been fretting about this latest announcement since I heard it on Tuesday, and actually welcomed the face to face meeting with my boss and a couple of other guys from our team. But, still.....

So, I took a copy of the CD of music I had made for my mom for her birthday and popped it in the car's player, and harmonized with myself on the trip. That was kind of fun and different. Thankfully, if others in the cars around me whilst stopped for bridge construction, heard "us" singing, they were polite enough not to "laugh out loud!" I also took with me my trusty camera for my "shots along the way." This little pastime is quite rewarding. Since I don't actually look through the camera's viewfinder, or at the little LCD screen when snapping the shots, I have no idea what I have captured until I get home and download them to my computer.

What I noticed today was perspective. I saw things

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Horsing Around -- jcarolek

I have never lived with or had any experience with horses. I have had friends who owned horses all their lives and I have a sister who always dreamed of owning horses. But not me. I was content to admire them from the car as we drove by, or look at their pictures in the magazines or newspapers. But I was not drawn to them.

Tonight I was making my way through the photos my friends and I took whilst I was out in CA and came to those taken on April 16th. We were just driving through the countryside, seeing what we saw, stopping when we chose -- smelling the flowers, if you will. We happened down a dusty dirt road with some stunning trees, fences and other rustic appeal. We stopped and shot dozens of photos.

At one point, I was so engrossed in my own picture taking I accidentally crossed in front of my friend

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We Love You Dave -- jcarolek

Today was one of those days that really makes me sit back and think. We started the day as we ended last night, without power. Tornadoes took their toll on Suffolk, VA, south of us and apparently some micro bursts or something graced our neck of the woods at about the same time. Trees were ripped and shredded and lying on power lines, resulting in the not uncommon for this area, power outage.

Still, some 18 hours after the power went out, it was reestablished and I breathed a sigh of relief. I certainly do not mind, "roughing it" but I had some important obligations to fulfill today and being unable to shower (we are on well water and without electricity we are .... ummm ... without water), would have made me feel kind of grimy. So, I hopped to and got the shower, took care of my morning meeting for work, conducted an interview and headed on to the main focus of my morning.

On Friday, April 25, 2008 as many enjoyed a Friday evening of relaxation or excitement at the end of a work week, a young man, just 25 years old, decided for reasons unknown certainly to me, to take his life. He hung himself and left many wondering what they could have done to have affected a different outcome. He was, by all accounts,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Running Away -- jcarolek

When I was a teenager, I swore I was going to run away from home. I didn't want to be under the same roof as my parents and brothers and sister. I wanted to be free to do as I pleased without anyone else's opinion or rules. Of course, most of the time I was too busy doing chores, going to school, participating in extra-curricular activities and such to have time to run away, but I had it on my "to-do" list. I brought it out for consideration every now and then and almost ALWAYS when in a fit of anger at my mother, who seemed bent on making my life unbearable. But time ticked on and I did not run away.

Finally, one day in, I believe 10th grade, the stars aligned and my run-away plan was enacted. I grabbed my backpack, shoved some clothes and my tooth brush in it, grabbed my guitar and headed off. I was DOING it! Now, anyone who has contemplated running away will know that USUALLY a person does a little better if they have a destination to which they are running, as opposed to simply running away from their current location. Savvy teenagers who really want to get away, have a plan that includes at least an idea of a destination. I had no such plan. I realized rather quickly as I started down the road, that I was going to have to come up with a plan of where to go.

I could not go back home to make this plan, because I had already made my start, so, I decided to go up to my favorite "thinking place." The Bowie Mansion "hill"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Good morning -- jcarolek

This morning I awoke easily, refreshed, as usual from my few hours of dedicated sleep. And I thought about a time when I was NOT so refreshed and did NOT awaken so easily. Certainly, when I was a teenager, I received more creative threats from Mom than I care to repeat, on the subject of getting up in the morning.... (of course, there were also the creative threats about my messy room, or should I say, my messy "side of the room" since my sister was a meticulously neat roommate, but I will save that for another post.)

My brothers always had their alarms set and they would begin blaring at ungodly hours, because THEY could and did sleep through that din.... not I. I was awakened

Monday, April 21, 2008

Even squirrels -- jcarolek

Nothing was out of scope for my camera on my recent California excursion. Not even the squirrels who inhabit the park were too common to be overlooked. As I make my way through more than 3000 digital images captured by me and my friends during the past two weeks I find myself laughing at some of the less suspecting subjects of our focus.

One of the little fellows that caught my interest was a furry little squirrel who seemed completely oblivious to me. I snapped at least a dozen shots of him as he went about his everyday business, leaving the observation of the inspirational views of Yosemite to me. And little did he know that his very existence was part of that inspiration for me. The grand

How things have changed -- jcarolek

This afternoon, having spent more than nine hours glued to my office chair, having returned to the rigors of everyday life here, I decided I needed to get outside and do something constructive. The fact that it had been raining here for more than 24 hours, and flash flood warnings peppered the area was no deterrent to me. I wanted "out" and I offered myself a perfect project outside. Weeding my front "garden." OK, I have to be honest. My front garden is REALLY just a swale cut into the land to direct the flow of water AWAY from the house's foundation, but I plant flowers and ornamental

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Safe and Sound and Inspired -- jcarolek

It was a perfect trip -- like a dream in many ways and so very real at the same time.  As I resume my "everyday" life, I am left with the memories, the beauty, the vastness of it all and the realization of a little bit more of "me" that I found in her majesty.

I'm off to my normal Sunday activities, but will be back later with more from a time which, I am certain, has had a profound effect on my perception of "my" world.

Photos hardly do it justice, but they do trigger the memories and with the memories, the reliving of those feelings.


We Played -- jcarolek

My trip to California was a business trip. I am used to such trips. Typically, I spend very little, if any, time at all seeing the area where work takes me, opting to focus on the "matters at hand" and assuring myself that I will take time to enjoy the "places" later in life, when I am not under pressure of the "corporate world." I do usually try to have at least one "fun" evening with someone I know from the area, or with one of the other attendees.

This business trip though, I had already decided was going to be the first of my "new" approach to business travel. I was going to see what there was in the world outside of the confines of my hotel. And a friend attending the same conference provided the catalyst for this new approach.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On a "jet plane" -- jcarolek

I finished packing for my trip to CA last night. I will depart from here in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow. As has been the case recently, this morning I awoke with a song on my mind and tongue, and I had to laugh...No mystery on this one! The song? Leaving on a Jet Plane (Peter , Paul and Mary version).

What's funny about this to me is that it WAS one of my favorite songs WAY back in about 1970 while I was in school at Charlton Park Convent in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire,

Saturday, April 5, 2008

It was a beautiful Wedding -- jcarolek

The "crowd" gathered for the moment of truth...the committing to each other of their love, their dreams and their lives. The crowd was small, to be sure, consisting of the bride and groom themselves, mother of the bride (me), father of the bride, grandparents of the bride, two friends of the the bride/family, and the Justice of the Peace. The ceremony was to be held at the couple's cottage they rent in Louisa, VA, a beautifully rural town near Charlottesville.

Jen had selected her "spot" as a rock out in the field behind their cottage.....we "walked" the several football field lengths through the soft, bramble covered terrain, and I only lost my shoes about eight times!

Yesterday we remembered and laughed (again) -- jcarolek

Yesterday was the first time I had spent any real amount of time with my ex-husband in ten years. Similarly, it was the first time in those same ten years that my dad and step mom had spent any time with him. And, of course, over those many years, certain things are forgotten....the way he says his words...the urgency with which he approaches everything, and the impatience he has with others.... mostly, I like to remember the better qualities. And yesterday was Jen's day and we happily attended her simple, but lovely wedding.

As we headed out the door to make the journey through the pasture to the rock upon which the wedding ceremony was to be held, James, (my ex) told Jen she should ditch the umbrella, because it wasn't raining. "No," we all agreed. That is not an umbrella, it's a parasol! And it will look great with her wedding "gown."

"Oh," he said, almost to himself, "a parasol....."

Friday, April 4, 2008

I finished staining the deck, at least -- jcarolek

I finished staining the deck that afternoon, frustrated that the labor pains I had been enduring for three solid days, had come to a screeching halt, seemingly without producing that long anticipated birth, the birth of my second child. I resigned myself to the fact that I was not in control of this situation, but that the child within would dictate arrival time, and I might as well just get on with business….at least I’d be able to sleep that night.

And sleep I did…for three and a half glorious, lovely hours….before I was bolted out of slumber with back searing pain…they were back and with a vengeance!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Shendandoah in my top desk drawer -- jcarolek

Yesterday afternoon I was looking for some things. I had lost track of a DVD recorded of a concert we gave a couple of years ago....I wanted to find it, to listen/watch it. So, I was on a hunt. In my top desk drawer in my office, I found a LOT of interesting items. There were the usual -- paper clips, pens, pencils, free AOL discs, stick-it memo pads, a single shoelace......

And no DVD.

Just as I was about to move on to my NEXT hunting ground, I spied something lying quietly at the very back corner

My favorite April Fool's trick -- jcarolek

The best April Fool's joke I ever saw was about 15 years ago. My then-hubby and I were watching the 10PM news on April Fool's Day and they were interviewing people about the best jokes played on them or that they had played on others. Hubby thought one was so funny, he just HAD to use it.

So right then and there, he hopped up out of his recliner (very few things were worthy of this level of energy exertion) and headed to the kitchen. There, he took a rubber band and proceeded to the sink. There, he pulled the vegetable sprayer up and placed the rubber band around the handle,

Monday, March 31, 2008

Old Lady Night Robe -- jcarolek

Well, I got the call today. My daughter and her boyfriend/technically now fiancee will be getting married at 5:00 pm on Friday, at their little cottage they rent in Louisa, VA. I will be making the three hour drive to witness this moment, and in attendance will also be one of their good friends, and their landlords!

I asked Jen what I should wear for the occasion and she said, "well, I just bought MY wedding dress from Goodwill."

"Oh, that's great!" said I. "What does it look like?"

"Well," she said, "it's like an old lady's night robe."

OMG...OK...never mind, I'll see it when I get there! I have no doubt she will look lovely in it, but I cannot imagine it myself!

So, a bit concerned that this was maybe going to be a PAJAMA PARTY, I asked what she wanted ME to wear. She said I could wear whatever I wanted...but just not to worry too much about it...after all, HER wedding dress cost her $3.50! (yeah, that's my daughter!)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Daffodils and Memories -- jcarolek

When we moved to Virginia at the end of 1988, we moved into a house that was in the middle of the woods. With a gravel and dirt (heavy emphasis on the DIRT) road, a quarter mile long and too narrow for two cars to pass, as the access to our new home, we definitely got to know our neighbors well...immediately. Three houses were serviced by this road, ours being the "end of the the line", not because the road itself ended, but because it became such a bog just after our driveway, that passage beyond was impossible.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Just a bunch of monkeys? -- jcarolek

When I was a kid, we had a monkey....well, actually, we had two over my childhood, but the monkey of which I write is Chico...the number two monkey....the capucian. When we moved to England in 1968 Chico had to go into quarantine for a period of months. While in quarantine, Dad arranged for Chico to have a little "dental work." Unlike our first monkey, Impy, a squirrel monkey, born and raised in the wild, but instinctively gentle with children, Chico reacted to all, children, adults, family, strangers, in similar fashion....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Today -- jcarolek

When I was a senior in high school, I, and my best friend, sang a song in my senior recital. She was actually a year behind me in school, but all members of the advanced choral class participated in the senior recital. Becky sang the melody and I sang the harmony. We are/were both sopranos so, the song we chose was one that suited both of our voices. "Today"....sung originally, I think, by John Denver.

Before the recital began, Becky and I were "running late," a not-too-uncommon occurrence for us. Becky and I still had our purses on our shoulders and we KNEW we could not go on stage with them. So Becky said she'd go put them up

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

He flies through the air -- jcarolek

I believe I was in second grade when I learned the song in school.
"He flies through the air with the greatest of ease
That daring young man on the flying trapeze
His actions are graceful, all girls he does please,
And my love he has stolen away...."

Funny, I'm sure the words I recall are not precisely correct, but they are how I learned it and how I remember it....and I wonder WHY it was a song taught in second grade???

Another I recall, learned at about the same time, was about a train called the "Dummy"

"I got on the Dummy but didn't

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Not much like a fairy - jcarolek

Today was a beautiful day, chilly, but bursting with sunshine. The morning started out well, with hubby being surprised by his Easter basket I had prepared while he slept last night. Why he was surprised, I have no idea. I have been making an Easter basket for him every year since we were married in 1999. Still, having no children to thrill any longer, I guess it's pretty funny to seem HIM act like a big kid when he spies an overflowing Easter basket!

I was reflecting back on the days when my children were small and Easter was about discovery of hidden eggs, delight in the chocolate laden Easter baskets, and donning

Friday, March 21, 2008

Once upon a time -- jcarolek

When my daughter was very young, under four years old, she used to have a favorite pastime. She loved to stand in the center of the couch, looking up at the family portrait that hung on the wall behind the couch. She would stare at the images of her father, mother, older brother and herself as an infant, for long periods of time...and all the while she was smiling.

It was cute to see, but I wondered what was going

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cape Cod or Colonial -- jcarolek

In 1963, upon returning to the U.S. from Cyprus, we moved into our first "new" home. Dad and Mom had entrusted the oversight of the construction process to Grandad, as trying to keep tabs on such a project from half a world away would have been virtually impossible. Our new house was in Bowie, MD, and the "model" selected by my parents was the "Cape Cod."

Growing up in this house, I became well versed in the "reason behind" the selection of this particular model over the three other models offered in this community of homes built by Levitt. Models NOT selected were the "Rambler" -- single story, three bedroom, L shaped, left or right bend option, the "Colonial" -- two story, three/four bedrooms, with or without a front "porch", and the "Country Club" -- two story, five bedrooms (I think), front porch. The "Cape Cod" offered two stories, four bedrooms, two baths, and a front porch.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

We were going to live there -- jcarolek

Tim and I are 15 months apart in age, I being the elder sibling. We have an older sister and three younger brothers, but Tim and I were somehow "connected" in a way different from the others. I think part of it was that we were both dreamers. And we had BIG dreams.

I was thinking about the deserted island we were going to "discover" when we grew up. We already knew exactly what it looked like, for we had spent hours lying on our bellies on the living room floor, a huge sheet of brown paper serving as the "canvas" for our creation. While all of us enjoyed coloring in coloring books at that age, Tim and I found it more enjoyable to work "outside of the lines," creating our own world.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Kid Again in Spring

When I checked the temperature this morning, it was 60 degrees....for a change...and the sun was shining....sure, the wind was blowing, but its March, of course its blowing. I decided that after I ran my errands, I was going the spend the afternoon outside, working on cutting down the over 4ft tall "grass" that now covers the dry pond floor. I want to get this cut, particularly around the pier so that when the water is back in the pond (end of spring they are now saying) I will be able to get the jon boat and the canoe out with ease.

I purchased a "sling blade," as hubby calls it, to accomplish my mission. I grabbed my camera and headed down to the pond. I took my "before" picture so that when my work was complete, I would be able to take my "after" picture and pride myself on how much I had accomplished. (Oh ye of lofty ambitions, LOL) I set my camera on the pier and

Silly Story - Just for Fun

My first husband once went to borrow a circular saw from our landlord.

He left our trailer and a little while later returned with a look of consternation on his face. -- He was holding a black

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fletch -- jcarolek

Fitting in has always been a challenge. Where others might consider I fit well, I was uncomfortable or unhappy, and where I felt I would feel comfortable or happy, I was, more likely, not welcome. I learned pretty early on that being anything but myself was a recipe destined to failure.

So it was that, as I set out for FSU that September morning with Dad, I was nervous. This would be the first time in my eighteen years on this earth that I simply could NOT just go home to the relative security of my little bedroom,

Friday, February 15, 2008

You are getting on my nerves! -- jcarolek

When I was 12, living in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, I had a small group of friends, with whom I spent every "free" moment. None of us attended the same school, because, at least in those days in England, children from the same neighborhood went to schools selected for them by their parents, not like the school zoning in the US. So, after school and weekends were really the ONLY times we had to play together.

In our group there were two boys, Simon Dean and Mike Poraj-Wilczynski, and three girls, Anna Gartell,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Peas and Onions -- jcarolek

When we were kids, WAY back in the 60's, and early 70's, we always went on family vacations by car. Our family of of eight loaded into first the 1958 Chevy Station Wagon, and later, the 1972 (I think) Chevy Station Wagon. Long trips and short trips alike were filled with the driver (always Dad) leading the passengers (well, Mom was "excused") in song. We sang songs Dad had taught us and we harmonized. And, for the most part, this kept general squabbling to a minimum.

As we got a little older, the singing did not necessarily occur as consistently, conversation being a viable option.....

As with conversation or dialog of any nature, interpretation by the receiving party is not always quite in sync

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The tree -- jcarolek

In 2004 a huge tree fell across the path to my pond. The portion of the tree that actually lay in the path was the topmost portion. The tree, at least 100 feet tall, had actually been rooted on my neighbor's land. The portion of the tree that lay across the path was at least 20 feet tall as it WAS the top of the tree. I looked at this fallen tree and wondered how I was going to clear the way so that I could, once again, use my comfortable and familiar path to get to the pond.

I walked to the roots of the fallen tree and climbed up to walk the length of the tree, to get a feel for what I was dealing with. And I knew, without a doubt, this was not something I could tackle alone. And I had nobody capable of helping me, at the moment, so I did the only thing I could think of. I worked

Thursday, January 31, 2008

He looks like he knows where he's going! -- jcarolek

When I was 19, home from college on a school break, my three youngest brothers and I took a trip into Washington, DC to visit my mom who had moved to an apartment there. I hated driving in DC, and so, in a pathetic attempt to get my brother Dan to drive, I declared I was trying to strengthen my bad eye, and put the patch over my good eye. Now, understand, this was an exercise I was SUPPOSED to do many times over the years, but never liked doing because it made me feel so sick to my stomach....but driving in DC was worse, so, on the patch went.

Dan begrudgingly took the wheel and one of my younger brothers rode shotgun. My other brother and I rode in the back seat. All went well for the first 15 miles or so, until we actually got into the city limits, and began that most aggravating process of trying to navigate unfamiliar roads teaming

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Riding the bus -- jcarolek

When I began my formal education, it was in Cyprus, and I have no earthly idea how I got to school...I just don't recall. However, when I started school in the U.S., I was a first-grader and the school was about a three or four block hike...we traveled on foot, my sister and I. And in the next few years, we were joined by my two eldest brothers. Walking to school was the norm for us. Actually, walking everywhere was the norm. We walked to the grocery store, the movies. the library. But every day, we made the hike to school and back.

When I was 10 we moved to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in England, and for the first year there,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Just go to your room! --- jcarolek

I heard this command more than once in my early years. Not that I was a bad kid, particularly, but I had a knack for telling everyone "the truth" about EVERYTHING. While on the surface, this might sound like a great trait, in application as a child, it was not a good plan. I lacked the discretion necessary to tell the truth about only "my stuff."

Yes, I was compelled to correct my brothers, sister, mother, father, dog, cat, monkey, name it...if they spoke and I did not hear "the truth," I HAD to set the record straight. Over the years I was punished on more than one occasion for telling the truth.

Of course, in later years, I began to comprehend that MY truth was not necessarily THE truth. Yes, hard to admit though it was, I had to accept that I was not always right. And even on the occasions I WAS right, by blurting out the truth

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Will we ever grow up? -- jcarolek

From my earliest memories, my sister and I were collectively referred to as "the girls" and our four brothers as, "the boys." It made good sense back then. Jeannie and I shared a room, so it was the "girls' room," and likewise, the four boys shared a room. We even referred to each other in these terms. They were the boys and we were the girls. Eventually, we needed to further distinguish the various groups living in this house, and the boys were split into the "big boys" and the "little boys." Understand, there were only seven years between my sister (the eldest) and our youngest brother. But, the distinction was necessary.

We all grew up and moved away. We went to school, or served in the military. We found a partner,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Holding Hands

When I see people holding hands, it is usually young lovers, or parents holding the hands of their precious children, lest they dart off into the path of danger. It is something that gives comfort and strength, that words simply cannot express.

When I was 15 I became a Candy Striper at PG Community Hospital in Maryland. Once or twice a week my father drove me to the hospital and I put in my few hours there. I "passed nourishments" for a good portion of my time, and spent the rest of the time simply helping the patients with "human comforts." Sometimes that was reading to them the Get Well Soon cards they had received, sometimes it was running a brush through the thin hair of an elderly patient, dying of cancer. Always, it was the little thing that the patient

When I Was a Kid

When I was a kid there were certain things I completely did NOT understand. And I never asked for clarification, because it was clear that I SHOULD understand. One such thing that escaped my early comprehension was the expression, "I'd use the latter" or the "latter is a better choice."

Treasures Rediscovered

The Christmas my children were 5 and 3, we thought we'd make a recording of them singing with me, to give as a gift to their great grandmother, whom they called "Babcia". In their little voices, this Polish "grandmother" sounded more like "Bah-chi." We began our recording, having each of them say a Merry Christmas wish to Bachi. We then commenced

The Morton Salt Girl Umbrella

When I was about eight years old, I sent away for the clear dome shaped umbrella, the handle of which was the yellow Morton Salt girl. I'm unclear as to why I was so taken with this umbrella, but taken I was and Mom allowed me to send my saved money and the necessary labels into the prize

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Morton Salt Umbrella -- jcarolek

When I was about eight years old, I sent away for the clear dome shaped umbrella, the handle of which was the yellow Morton Salt girl. I'm unclear as to why I was so taken with this umbrella, but taken I was and Mom allowed me to send my saved money and the necessary labels into the prize center to claim one of my very own.

I was very proud of my new umbrella and looked forward to the day I would get to use it. I did not have to wait long. For several rainy days, I made certain I had my trusty umbrella protecting me from the rain as I walked to and from school. And to be honest, it is the ONLY time in my life I can recall feeling proud of owning a piece of clothing or accessory.

One day, not too long after getting the umbrella, we had a wicked thunderstorm brewing. It was not yet raining but the wind was blowing hard, and I had the idea that I could pop open my umbrella and let it catch the wind....(I MIGHT have been overly influenced by Mary Poppins). So, I popped it open and laughed with glee as the strong wind caught in the dome of the umbrella and literally pulled me along. This was FUN!

However, my fun lasted only a few short seconds,

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stitched with Love

One of the dresses I recall loving the most as a young girl was a pink and white gingham, sleeveless "sheath-style" dress my mother had made me. She had made my sister one just like it. What made it particularly special were the little black cross-stitched cats Mom had embroidered just above the hemline. Jeannie and I were garbed alike, even though we were anything BUT similar in appearance.

I can't say I had the same love of the waitress uniforms my mother made for us. Though my sister seemed rather pleased with her uniform, I can still FEEL the expression captured in

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We thought it was such a good idea -- jcarolek

I was in second grade and already looking for a way to "liven up" the class. Our teacher had our desks put together in groups of six, with three desks facing three other desks, thus making a "large table" appearance. This allowed the sharing of crayons, paste, scissors and similar tools of the 2nd grade trade. I did all the normal experimentation....colored my clothes, ate paste, made "snowflakes" out of my homework...I was a creative kid.

One day at lunch, one of the kids who bought hot lunch (we always had to pack our lunches) was sprinkling pepper on his food and it made him sneeze. We decided it would be WAAAYYY funny to bring pepper into school

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Boxer, for Kelly -- jcarolek

The Boxer is the song I thought of as I was boxing up some goods today. It was the first song I learned to play on the guitar, and my friend Kelly taught me the chords. Thinking back on it, I find there is something interesting in the fact that this song was the first I learned from Kelly and the final stanza really defined her life better than even she could ever have known at age 16 when I was starting my love affair with the guitar.

"In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
til he cried out in his anger and his shame

Monday, January 7, 2008

I am rarely headline news -- jcarolek

Growing up number two in a family of six kids gave me an appreciation for the benefits of "remaining on the back page."  Sure, I had my talents, and I shone in ways my bothers and sister did not, as they shone in ways I could never hope to shine.  But I learned pretty early on that when I was in the headlines of the family newspaper, it was usually for things I had done for which I was not proud.  Earning an A in Biology was expected, bringing home a D in Math Analysis was cause for a meltdown.  I did both. 

I was not alone.  I was not singled out. I probably had an equal share of the headline news achievements as did each of my siblings. And I suspect they were equally loathe to find themselves on the front page.  So, I learned, as we all did, that there really are two ways to stay out of the headline news.

The first way, and the way most of us tried initially, was to lie, cheat, steal, do whatever it took to cover-up the facts before the family reporters brought them to the editor.  Yes, that worked sometimes, but more often than not, the truth eventually came out and, believe it or not, the family press found the cover-up even bigger news....broadcasts were carried worldwide.

The second way was to simply do what was expected, walk the straight path, sit and enjoy the scenery, explore without pillaging and, in general, behave.  While at first this seemed a rather daunting task, understand, everyone WAS focused on ME, I eventually came to prefer this route.  Of course that meant I had to study for my classes, stay awake in class, do my chores, practice my violin, eat what I put on my plate, and such, but it allowed me a wonderful freedom.

I had the freedom to read the front page, each and everyday, and never see my name with the latest scandal.  And I could enjoy the fruits I reaped by studying, practicing, working hard, eating right.....

I still prefer to avoid being headline news.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Out House -- jcarolek

I worked with a man who shared a story with me that opened my eyes to something I had previously taken for granted. I have no idea how the discussion began, for it clearly had nothing to do with work. The topic was out houses.

When I was a kid we used to vacation in New Bedford, MA where my father had spent his formative years. The small, four "room" house had been home to a family of at least six, and maybe eight, as I am not certain when the family moved to Florida. BUT, the house was serviced by a pump at the sink in the "kitchen" and an out house that was dubbed, "the Down Below." As a child of the modern era,

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Less imaginative than others -- jcarolek

When my daughter was in elementary school, she tried out for a team. The team was Odyssey of the Mind. I, for one, had no idea what this was, but, she wanted to try out for the team and I generally supported my children's interests. So I signed the form that allowed her to stay after school with all of the others trying out for the team. My duty was simply to pick her up at the correct time.

Well, always concerned I will arrive late, I headed out early and arrived while the tryouts were still underway. I eased into the auditorium where many students and parents were watching the proceedings.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

African Violets -- jcarolek

African violets are some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. I cannot discern a fragrance from them, but they are just perfect in their rich colors on dark green foliage. However, one or two have always been enough for me. Not for Cecelia.

Cecelia was a woman I met when I began working at the state library of Florida. I was a computer operator and the