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