Multitasking…

…respect for my colleagues.

Alphabetical Post M

 After my first career in human resources, I was an at home mom for 20 years, taking care of my own humans. When I started my teaching career back in the fall of 2009 at the ripe age of 20 30 40-something, Son-ster #2 had just started college. I was once again working for humans who do not belong to me and my nest was empty.

One morning early on the start of that school year, I gazed into the empty kitchen sink and shouted to the Hubster as we were both about to leave the house, “Come here quick, look …the sink is empty. When we return home it will still be empty.” It was an early Christmas miracle that September morn.

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Not my sink, but playing my sink on the blog today.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t sad about my boys off in college and living away from home. My experience going away had been so remarkable and life changing that I was thrilled for them to go live their lives. When they called, mostly for funds and food, they were for the most part, enjoying college life. The actual going to class, studying, writing papers, and making the dean’s list, sometimes interfered with the intended goal of a four/five-year education vacation. When they came home for breaks and holidays, they were better friends than they had ever been as brothers growing up in the same house. Maturity had replaced rivalry. (Son-sters, if you’re reading this, don’t let your heads get too big, you still do a few things that your father and I question.)

We can go from this:

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to this:

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after just one phone call about your latest and greatest life endeavors. I digress…

Those early weeks months years now of my career, let me just say, “I still am was in way over my head.”

Talk to any teacher who is in the public classroom today and you will get an earful. I will spare you the details, but a few other job titles we hold…nurse, counselor, advocate, detective, banker, decorator, actor, travel agent (think field trips), dietician, custodian, technical support specialist, data collector & analyst, bathroom monitor, and so much more. Sometimes we are so flexible with our job titles, we can’t believe we actually earn a paycheck every two weeks.

Just take a look at how flexible a teacher can be…

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I must confess, teachers in my building do this without a ball and usually wear more clothing over their leotards.

Everyday I work with a remarkable group of teachers; mostly women, younger than me… with husbands, school age & early college age children… 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 children. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. They arrive early, work all day caring for and educating those who will take care of us in our retirement, and when school is done for the day, they are still there…preparing for the next day.

Typically, after an evening home with their families, I may hear a story of them aiding their own children with homework, sports practice, doctors appointments, drivers ed, nevermind dinner, baths, and bedtime. I am humbled and in awe of their dedication toward others who are not their own blood. They share materials, resources, time, an ear, and most importantly a tissue for tears (especially my own, but I have one colleague and she knows who she is, who wins in the tears department).

In honor of their spectacular ability to be masters of multitasking (mother-teachers); this post for the letter M is awarded to them. I hope they and you have a laugh with all the Pinteresting ideas to those whose multitask with grace, common sense, and tissues.

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multi-car

multi-calm

In addition, her phone is probably blowing up with text messages that her own child is sick.

multi-brain

This happens at least once twice three times per week.

 

multi-lunch

The above is just as glamorous as it sounds…YUM!

 The Multitasker Mother-Teachers of C-Wing

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Their students and their families are lucky to have them.

One of my C-wing colleagues is a part-time teacher with full -time home obligations as a wife and mother.  I was able to catch her while she was enjoying her 12 minute duty-free lunch.

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There are more mother-teachers in my building; including one who will be a first-time  mother any day now. I’d like to offer all the mother-teachers in my building a luxury vacation…,

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Can’t you just picture yourself here, instead of standing outside the boys and girls restrooms.

but it seems the best I can do is suggest…

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Have a great weekend!

I have one more M word to remember, my Milkman father would have celebrated his 97th birthday last weekend. If interested read about him here.

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Love Letters…

… and loved letters

Alphabetical Post L

The school year started without a lot of fan fare, but plenty to do. I will try not to dwell on my level of insurmountable “busy-ness”.

Earlier in the summer, I made a request of my siblings to take possession of the last of the “courting” letters written by my father and mother from January, 1943 to April, 1945. Currently, I have only a handful of the letters.

One of the letters…

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I first discovered these letters when we were cleaning out my parents home in April, 2008. My brother, Heir*, was in the attic of our childhood home. He discovered a box of letters and cards. As I began to peruse the box, it occurred to me that this was truly an untold story. While I knew my parents loved each other, it was hard for me, the youngest, to imagine them young and smitten, for a life filled with responsiblity had replaced many of the “wooing” ways. Because the job of cleaning out a 14 room house was a challenge, the majority of the letters went back into a box. Some are still unread.

When my sister, Susan, passed away in June, I started to think about her story and about those letters. I do not want their story to go untold , so the letters will soon be mine to read, organize, do some research, and eventually write their story. Even if my siblings are the only readers of this story, at least we will know the life before us.

Speaking of letters…every year as the school year comes to a close, I start a project with all the 5th graders. To be honest, it is a project intended to keep the students busy and engaged during the last few days in elementary school. Most of the students love this project and get very excited when it is finally their turn to get started.

The project starts with letters, specifically those cut from magazines. The students are charged with creating a collage of every student in their class. I take a class photo on the playground. During any down time on those last few days the students busily cut and paste these “loved” letters to spell names of their classmates. Most are so excited to complete the project and take it home, but often I wonder; “is it worth it” as there are times it is a battle down to the last-minute to help some students complete the keepsake. Usually, I can be heard down the halls proclaiming, “You are going to love these letters…they will hang on your bedroom wall like art for the rest of your life!”

The Hubster reads In-Fisherman and has his own Kindle... the rest are my choices.

Some of the magazines that go into creating the keepsake.

Typically, I hang my previous class project (the one I create as a model) on my classroom wall until the following spring. Rarely, does a student question the “art”.  At the end of the day on Friday, one of my colleagues had to leave immediately when the bell rang. She asked if I could take the last of her bus riders who were waiting to be called. One of her students came to me to let me know that his brother had just entered high school. I had been his brother’s teacher . The younger boy was looking around my classroom when he spotted the end of year project. He said, “Hey, my brother has that same picture hanging in his room.”

Next, one of my own homeroom students who was waiting for her bus stated the same thing about her brother. She said he yelled at her when she tried to look at it one day because he stated it was a “fragile memento”.

Finally, I have a student intern in my class. I taught her my first year of my second career. She is currently a senior in high school. She was approaching me to sign her time sheet when she overheard the two students. She said, “Oh I still have my project hanging on my bedroom wall. My friends always ask me about it. They want to know how long it took to cut out all those letters.”

To be honest, the exchange made my day.

“Loved Letters”

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It seems my labor of love has been worth it!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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*see Who’s Who page

Keeping up…

…with a kaleidoscope of K’s.

Today is the last day of my summer vacation. I return to school for a week of preparation for the coming school year.

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This is what I will look like in the mirror tomorrow morning.

When the school year ended in June, I was in a state of sadness because of my sister’s untimely death. My class last school year was probably one of the most delightful groups I ever had as a group. They were supporters of each other, cheerleaders for every effort, looked out for each other when others were less merciful with words and actions, and above all, kind. As I tried to keep a stiff upper lip about my sister’s passing, they turned their support toward me. One morning while driving to school on those last days, I heard a song performed by Tim McGraw. It was and still is a message for them and everyone else.

Listen to the song by clicking on this….

humble & kind

Speaking of school, (Ugh!), clothing comes to mind. I spent the majority of my grade and high school career Wearin’ O’ the Plaid

My school changed uniforms after my first grade year. This is the only photo I have of me demonstrating this Oxford intelligence flare. Also note the circles under eyes...still have skin of an eight year old...amazing.

Grade school plaid jumper

 

 

days gone by

High school kilt …all the rage!

I still like some plaid, but kilts are not on my radar. I happened upon an adorable video that I tried & tried & tried to embed in this post, but alas I could not. Here is the link and you don’t need to be a member of Facebook in order to view.

This kilt baby from Pinterest is cute, but this one cracks me up!

baby in a kilt

On my last days of freedom, (rather than clean the house) I have been spending some time doing something I have a bit of a knack for…sewing. Several years ago I read the book Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan…a really good read. There is a character, Anne Marie…her nest becomes empty so she takes to collecting doll house miniatures. I am fearful that I have become a kindred spirit to Anna Marie’s character for this is what I have been sewing (and getting really excited about) for a couple of lucky daughters of colleagues.

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Hey, it keeps me out of the bars and a key to mental health!

Well that’s it for Tuesday…kudos to all the Olympians, the USA is killin’ it!

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Jubilation…

…thrill of victory & agony of defeat.

 Alphabetical Order Post: J

The summer Olympics have returned. At one time in my young life, I actually thought I was going to become an Olympic athlete… had killer instinct in competition been the only requirement then yes, “I coulda been a contender.” Lack of money and the realization of waking at pre-dawn hours for 365 days per year quickly woke me from that dream. (I suppose true Olympic talent would have helped.)

As you may recall in my last post, I mentioned I had returned home from two weeks at the beach. Well, I turned around Wednesday to go right back for several days. Jackson*, Peggy Anne’s #2, was not in attendance for my two weeks because he was busy with his summer  vacation internship in Spain. He returned to the states Sunday night after I had left; devastated that I would not be at the beach with him, he requested I come back. Who am I to say no to the beach  Jackson.

On Thursday, Jackson and I built an impressive shamrock in the sand. My photo does not do it justice.

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Ernie*, Jackson’s college roommate (also a guest at Jackson’s request) noted Jackson and I employ a thrill of victory attitude toward the sport of sandcastle building. On Friday, Ernie asked if he could join our sandcastle team. Naturally, there was an interview process (which he nailed because he was able to text his mother for a personal reference) and we asked to see his resume. Stating he usually doesn’t bring his resume to the beach he offered this…

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He put his money where his mouth is…so we said, “You’re in!” The Dream Team was complete.

For the record, these are our shovels…

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Ernie, did his best to control his envy for our plastic and wood “proprietary” sculpting tools.

To demonstrate our Olympic spirit, our “Dream Team” spent two hours with no breaks manipulating sand, sweat, sunscreen, and water to erect our tribute.

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Jackson earns all the creative praise, as he requested we construct the Olympic rings. He implemented the use of Google to be certain the rings were equidistant …as the tide went out he was quick on defeat his feet to advocate for use of wetter sand to contrast the Rio 2016 logo after noting the NBC logo to the left seemed too similar in color to stand out in the sand. (L-R) Ernie, Jackson, me.

In my mind, We received a gold medal in Olympic sandcastle building. Ernie earns the team spirit award for running back & forth for more water, limiting his creative suggestions to one, and laughing when I recommended we forego the Copacabana Beach dress code of Speedo for them as rumor had it the young men had skipped their appointments for a “Bro’zilian” prior to the trip. The man sitting under the umbrella (not in our beach group) was sorely disappointed with the news as he realized I would also pass on going topless. Ever a team player and knowing there is no I in team, the rest of the beach applauded with jubilation at my team spirit.

This was the last day on the beach. Friday evening, we returned to the condo for dinner, Opening Ceremony watching, and closing ceremonies cleaning after 3 consecutive weeks in Olympic Beaching.

Peggy Anne and I are quite the task masters when it comes to cleaning the condo which is returned to her good friends after our use. According Hubster, Peggy Anne’s sons, Ernie, and my own Son-sters; Peggy Anne and I resemble the individual below when cleaning the house.

clean up

Click here to view….it’s worth it! 

Go USA!

Have a great Monday!

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*names changed to protect the innocent (Peggy Anne & Jackson in WHO’S Who)

 

Infectious…

…disease and Tricia Nixon.

I have just returned home from two weeks at the beach. My blog celebrated two years while I was away…cue the non-partisan confetti and balloons.

confetti and balloons

 

In past years when I have taken this lengthy “rejuvenate the child-bride within me” vacation, I usually had one or two posts waiting in the wings. This year, I let the ball drop (much like the confetti and balloons above).

In part this was due to the lack of good ideas for an “I” post in my quest to complete 26 alphabetically ordered posts. A few I’s that were tossed around were a post about Instant Gratification and Instagram. As you can tell by the title, there was no instant gratification with infectious disease and since I don’t follow Tricia Nixon on Instagram, you may be wondering how I make the connection with the two topics.

Here goes…

I love being on the beach. It has been many years since I was a sun-bather; rather I spend the majority of the day on the beach sitting under an umbrella with at least 30 spf sunscreen protecting my delicate skin while reading a book. I do enter the ocean provided the waves are not too rough and the child in me cannot help, but build a sandcastle.

 

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Not my best work, but this “hexa-pus” did score a few head-turns. Thanks to all my “likers” on  Instagram.

 

I suppose it’s rather strange to see a 40 + 10 + a few more years-old woman building a sandcastle on the beach, but to me it’s relaxing. Also, once I have sand on my legs I feel obligated to enter the ocean, only to return to my umbrella shelter and book. (I finished Girl on a Train and The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss…both great reads.)

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While sitting on the beach, I tend to be a “people observer”. Let me just say, I don’t wear a bikini (you’re welcome). I used to wear a bikini as seen here, but no longer as my body has become older and wider wiser.  Since my last several swimsuits have been ordered from Lands’ End, I am curious if there are no mirrors in brick and mortar stores that sell bathing suits for I cannot believe that people actually thought that some of the suits they were wearing fit properly. I don’t just mean too tight or too small;…a few suits were too large. I saw more “full moons” than Neil Armstrong when ill-fitting swim suits were swept off bodies during the crest of a wave.

Warning: You may not be able to “unsee”!

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I did not take this photo…it was borrowed from the internet. Credit

In addition, I observed many young families making memories. This of course had me longing for the days when my Son-sters were a part of our  beach vacations.

Ocean City, 1996

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Son-sters used to gather little shells with holes so that I could insert on my gold chain.

In the evening, the Hubster and  went out to dinner most nights. As we pondered the menus of our various dining locales, usually bay side, I once again was a“people observer”. Mostly, I was trying to determine what they had ordered for dinner to see if I wanted to copy their choice.

Seafood Nachos

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This was delicious…not sure what the little green sauce was, but yummy!

One night, we sat next to a family with three daughters. As they were looking at the menu, one of their daughters (a preteen) complained in the most articulate way possible that she “despised” everything on the menu. She wanted to leave. Her parents were offering every option they could think of in order to coax her to stay, including stopping at the golden arches after they finished their meal. She was having no part of it. She complained and complained until they finally left. Hubster and I were shocked at her behavior…Hubster texted our Son-sters to thank them for their good behavior while growing up and going out in public with us.

Unfortunately, this whole scene was somewhat of an embarrassing déjà vu for me. Way back in 1971, shortly after school was out for the summer, my parents packed Baby Boy, Keary, and I in the Milkman’s 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass for our annual trip to Canada.

SainteAnnedeBeaupré, 1971

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A photo from this trip taken by Keary… (L-R) The Milkman, my mother, Baby Boy, Me.

We usually drove a direct route up the portions of I-95 that were complete and then cut across the backwoods of Maine to Jackman and on to the Canadian border. I was never consulted about the route; however I was an observant; even at a young age.

I’m sure we left at the crack of dawn. I am also certain that had I not had impetigo covering my nose, I would have been sitting smack in the middle between Keary and Baby Boy. Instead, due to the infectious disease on my face I sat between the Milkman and my mother in the front seat. (Infectious disease be damned, my parents were going on vacation.) As they were teens, Baby Boy and Keary were absolutely mortified with my scaly nose. They stated they would not sit near me, nor would they sleep in the same bed with me as sharing beds was typical on a family vacation. Keary lost this battle because as the only other same-sex sibling on this trip, she would sleep with me. At the young age of 8, I was a pariah in my own family. The photo of my family at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is one of the few from that vacation…all taken at a safe distance from my nose.

Our trip took us from Boston up I-95 and into Bar Harbor, Maine. It seems my mother had other plans for the first day of our vacation. The date was Saturday, June 12, 1971 ( I had to Google the exact date).  Tricia Nixon, daughter of then President Richard Nixon, would marry Edward Cox in a televised ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. My mother, insisted we stop at a motel with TV. It was probably about  1 pm when we stopped. My mother wanted us to eat “lupper” (lunch & supper) before the wedding was to be aired so we drove into Bar Harbor proper. A thrifty seafood meal was intended, but I had other plans. I complained about every menu choice my parents suggested. Given the infectious disease growing on my  face, my parents did not want to make a scene. Trust me, I did not get away with this kind of behavior ever, but for some reason my scaly nose, whines of a finicky eater, and exhausted parents caused my parents to choose a rather fancy restaurant. I don’t know what I ate, but it was probably fried. When the check arrived the look on my parents’ faces were of shock.

Close-up of a carton of french-fries and chicken

I know my mother had budgeted $400 for meals for our two-week vacation for five. (She was quite an economist when it came to eating.) You’re probably wondering how an eight year old knew the budget. Well, about a week before we left for vacation, my mother and I were walking to my dental appointment. On our walk and only two blocks from our home, my mother was mugged…she screamed; I holding her hand turned and screamed as well. She would not let go of the purse. The young man picked my mother up and threw her into the street. She released the purse and I ran screaming down the street. When the police officer questioned us, my mother told the officer that she had $400 in cash in her purse because she had withdrawn that amount for food for our upcoming vacation. As it turned out my mother had forgotten that she changed her purse for the walk to the dentist. While this event still impacts some of my behaviors today, at least the money she had saved all year was not stolen.

Anyway, back to the shock and awe on my parents’ faces…the check was $42, more than one-tenth of the designated allowance for food. I never lived it down and meals were strictly budgeted for the rest of the vacation. The impetigo on my face, would not be the tour guide for the rest of our vacation.

For the record, my mother and I watched Tricia Nixon marry Edward Cox on the motel TV while the Milkman, Baby Boy, and Keary swam in the motel pool. I was banished from the pool due to the infectious disease.

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Have a wonderful week!

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Homework…

…not an “old school” h word

On June 23, 2015 our little neighborhood in Maryland was struck with a catastrophic hail storm. We were home when it hit. At first, we thought it was quite a spectacle to witness. We took some photos and Hubster ran out to grab a couple of the pieces of hail.

Hubster’s Hand Holding Hail (4H)

(I couldn’t resist the “H” alliteration)

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He only did that once because as soon as he got out there the hail took a turn for the worse. It went from golf ball sized to tennis ball sized in a blink. Suddenly, the sound on the roof became a parade of elephants trampling across rather than the pitter-patter of pesky pecking pigeons.

More 4H

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View from bedroom window

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By the time it was over, we actually felt like all was well until Hubster looked at his car. Pockmarks graced the hood and roof. My car was parked safely under the humongous oak tree which provides afternoon shade for our driveway. The tree, which we typically curse in the fall due to the amount of leaves that blanket the lawn, suddenly became my car’s protector.

Hubster’s car was 13 years old. (We tend to drive our cars for a long while.) Anyway, he thought about getting it repaired, but instead opted for a shiny new vehicle. My car was two years old so I offered to switch his new car for my more classic vehicle. This option was nixed.

About a week after the storm, we had another thunderstorm; only this time, torrential rain. Rain cascaded over our storm gutters. The next day, Hubster decided the gutters must be clogged. He took out the trusty ladder. Once he reached the gutters, he noticed the screens which are supposed to protect the gutter from getting clogged were all bent in from the hail storm the week before. He also noticed the roof was pitted. Ugh!!!!!!

We had to get a new roof, rain gutters, and down spouts.

Roof being delivered last August

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Since we were getting a new roof, I determined other outside “homework” (the school teacher in me) must take place. I did the hard work of choosing the shingle color and popping over to Home Depot to choose the new siding, shutter, and door paint colors.

Hubster completed the majority of “homework” by painting the entire house late last summer.

I chose the new light fixtures as well. He acquired the electrician to install.

Our neighbors were quite impressed with “our” homework. Many inquire if we are moving…No, we are not moving.

Home, Sweet Home

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It was worth all the work…please, no more hail.

 

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My little annual garden by the mailbox always brings a smile to my face.

Have a great day!

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Greatest…

…a superlative G word

Approximately 46 years ago I became an aunt at the ripe old age of seven. At the time, I was devastated that my brand new niece would be given the same name as my own. I can’t explain why I felt that way, but I do remember pouting on the steps of my childhood home once I learned a girl was born.

My namesake being held by her mother.

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Upon my first visit to the new parents’ home, I found the name borrowing to be very exciting.

I became known as Auntie C…because of my closeness in age to the majority of my nieces and nephews, I was anointed their leader and playmate. I would be an aunt 10 times before I became a mother myself. My own two sons would look up to their cousins who were older, wiser, and “the coolest”. (Little did the Son-sters know I was responsible for their cousins’ “coolness”.)

In what seemed like a flash, my nephews and nieces began to get married. Then as nature would follow, children would be born. Suddenly, my nephews would be called Uncle and my niece & namesake would be called Auntie C…my own brothers and sisters would also be called Uncle and Aunt (at present, 8 more times). The problem was my name…how could there be two Auntie C.s? It was decided that they would call me Great Auntie C. Obviously, I loved being called “Great”…when the name fits, it really fits.

A boat ride just for me…

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Perhaps one of my relatives could have told me I didn’t have my life jacket safely buckled.

When my niece, C’s son began to talk, he heard all of his cousins call his mother, Auntie C. One morning he woke up and asked his mother, “Mom, are you going to be Mom today or Auntie C.?”

She laughed, “I am your Mom, your cousins call my Auntie.”

That confusion aside he asked about me…she explained the relationship. It just so happened I was arriving in town that day. All the cousins were together when one of them asked, “When will the “Greatest” Auntie C. arrive?”

My niece and her son, Brendan* turning toward me.

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My nephew, Link*, beginning to feel a bit queasy inside the cabin.

Everyone laughed and a name was born….they call me the “Greatest”. You should see the looks I get when one of them calls out across the beach, “Greatest, are we going to build a sandcastle?” or “Greatest, can we get an ice cream?”. Needless to say sandcastle building and ice cream out the “ying-yang”.

Ask and ye shall receive

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Mason*: “Greatest can you build me a sandcastle?” Greatest: “Of course I can build you a sandcastle.” Socks help keep the sensitive feet from burning on the sand.

More

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Great Niece and Great nephews: “Greatest, we need to practice for the sandcastle competition.” Greatest: “Do you want to build a snowman?” 

When it was time for the competition, I must admit I was a bit tired from all the castle building, but the “Greatest” tries not to let them down those who idolize her.

Team Sea Serpent

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Try to look only at the youngsters. Their fearless leader should have closed her beach cover-up.

 

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One of our team members was wooed away by the call of free ice cream.

Time for dinner

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Appetizers in the yard…steamed clams, steamed shrimp, and Maryland crab dip. Interestingly, my niece, C’s fiancé, Brad* has a cast on his arm (an unfortunate arm meets ice incident…He’s a wonderful guy and I am thrilled for both of them). All weekend, all we heard was, “I have a cast. I can’t build a castle.” Seems eating clams, shrimp and crab dip are not a problem in a cast.

 

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Family Matriarch and Kitchen King….this was not the meal we ate after the appetizers, but I forgot to take a picture because I was overwhelmed with the food for that meal which included; mussels marinara, steak tips, crab cakes, homemade potato salad & cole slaw, and corn on the cob. The Kitchen insisted that we have lobsters one night, who am I to say no.

Did someone say Ice Cream?

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Echoes of “You’re the Greatest” heard between bites. (L-R) Scarlett*, Jake*, & Link

Once sandcastle and ice cream needs are met…it is time for s’more fire on the beach and fireworks….

The “Greatest” does not disappoint.   

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(L-R) Jake, Scarlett, their Dad, my nephew, Jay*, my niece C. and Brendan

 

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Lucky photo of remnants of sunset and first fireworks of the evening.

Because homes at the beach don’t come free, it is always a family effort in good times and maintenance. Everyone contributes whether cooking, entertaining, (see above photos)….

finding beach glass,

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Found by the “Greatest”

sewing,

 

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“Greatest” can you bring your sewing machine with you? 

Blood, sweat, and tears …

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Blood: I stabbed myself in the finger with the seam ripper. Sweat: They don’t call it a sweat shop for nothing. Tears: Did I mention the stabbed finger? I’ll be fine.

and learning something new.

My phone has a panoramic photo feature. I did not know how to use it. My nephew, Adamo and my great-niece, Scarlett taught me how to use it.

My first Pano

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The “Greatest” Pano

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On my last day, I woke up to a rainy day, eventually the sun came out, but the fog off the water was stubborn. Suddenly a “fogbow” (fog rainbow) occurred. I managed to capture it.

Have a “Greatest” day!

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*names changed

PS: Speaking of the greatest….I was able to squeeze in a lunch with my greatest blog inspiration, Katie Clooney of Preppy Empty Nester…it was like we have known each other all our lives and so much more….Lunch was the greatest!

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The Three F’s…

…Forced Family Fun

(alphabetical posts return…who doesn’t love an F word?)

When in the course of human events, families are brought together in a moment of mourning that resembles more of a party; it becomes necessary to reminisce. My family holds many true events in our lives to be self-evident that time spent together is always fun, whether brought together freely or by force.

When it comes to force; let me clarify that no one need notify the Department of Social Services. At no time, in the history of family tyranny was any member dragged kicking and screaming to an event; however I can’t promise that no one ever left without kicking and screaming.

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There are six of us now…(L-R) Piano Man, Beemie, Family Matriarch (FM), Baby Boy, and Heir.

Prudence, indeed, does dictate that no family event be destructive.  It is the Right of the Family to lay a foundation of delicious food, organized entertainment (usually involves us singing, someone playing the piano, occasionally karaoke, puzzle making, sandcastle building, cribbage, scrabble, charades, &  me someone crying), hours cooped up in a packed car, and everyone talking over one another. In the end the most likely effect is Safety and Happiness.

The history of dedication to the beliefs of Forced Family Fun come in the way of photographs to be presented here as proof and submitted to a candid world as our country approaches its 240th Birthday, a few samples of the Three F’s ala Birthday Celebrations of my family.

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A dual event for the FM and Susan…FM front right, Susan in the back just to the left of the light on the wall. Girl at the left unknown, but seems genuinely thrilled to be invited.

 

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Keary’s 11th Birthday….she is in the white dress with navy belt…I appear not to have been invited in the cat top and “head lice free” hair cut, but due to my 5-year-old popularity among her friends who cherished the times I invaded their privacy; still managed to photo bomb this photo well before it was a thing.

 

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My 40th 50th Birthday…me in the crown (they recognize my royal status)…many family members could not fit on the stairs. Also, while I don’t hold a grudge, some couldn’t make it.

 

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The Milkman’s Birthday (1975?) with my nephew, Jay.

 

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Milkman’s birthday (1991) with #1 Son-ster…plenty of cakes to go around.

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My mother’s birthday (1984).

Hubster and Son-sters…here are a few of your birthday celebrations.

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Hubster at 30…#1 Son-ster…#2 not born yet.

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#1 celebrates 4 years… #2 on the right, waiting patiently (patience not always a virtue at age 21 months) for cake.

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#2 celebrates 2 years

To my brothers… I am petitioning for Redress in the most humble terms that you be more forthcoming with family photos of your birthdays so that I may declare your birth-rite to the Three F’s in birthday posterity.

Because we have mutually pledged to each other our Lives, our Fortunes (← funny), and our sacred Honor I do declare; Forced Family Fun occur on a more regular basis.**

God Bless the USA!

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** a few lines from my post borrowed from the Declaration of Independence (DOI). Apparently the DOI was not well-received by the King 240 years ago so I hope my spin has a better response from my tens of thousands of readers.

Please Excuse…

… the interruption in my quest for 26 alphabetical posts. An alphabetical post starting with F will be concluded in its entirety a few days after this brief 30th Anniversary message.

This post is brought to by the writers of a few song lyrics. Credits at the end of the post. I want to stay on the right side of the law.

Wise men say (mostly, my mother) only fools rush in…*

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You say your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation…..♥

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The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall…♦

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I hear babies cry, I watch them growcorinne190

 They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever knowcorinne189

 And I think to myself

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What a wonderful world!◊

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*”Fools Rush In”: SONGWRITERS
MERCER, JOHNNY / BLOOM, RUBE

♥”Only the Good Die Young”: Billy Joel

♦”When You Say Nothing at All“: written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz.

◊ “What a Wonderful World”:  written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss.

E is for…

…eulogy.

For obvious reasons (read here) it has been almost two weeks since my last post. 

It is with a heavy heart that I publish this eulogy which was written by me and read to family & friends at my sister, Susan’s memorial last weekend. She was previously known as the Irish Twin on my blog to protect her privacy, but I feel it is important to name her as my parents intended. 

Yesterday is gone, today is almost over…never pass up a chance to love and reach out…tomorrow isn’t promised.

Susan was born to stand out, rather than fit in…

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First Communion, 1956…Susan in her glory in the veil and white dress. My three brothers and the FM.

Some may describe her as simply a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mother, an in-law, a grandmother, and a friend.

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A family portrait, by her 1956.

Love for her because she was family was easy; at times liking her and keeping her within your circle was challenging; especially when she would seek you out in the wee small hours of the morning after you had been up all night trying to put a sick two-year-old to sleep. Most of us, her siblings, will state for the record, as we are safely out of earshot, that Susan’s apple didn’t fall far from our mother’s tree.

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Our mother and Susan…a proud moment.

Through the years, I recall hearing from our mother (almost with a statement of pride) that Susan contributed to a nervous breakdown of one of the nun’s at Our Lady of Lourdes School.

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Hard to believe the above was true, but trust me it happened.

The next memory repeated from our mother was that Susan stated under no uncertain terms would she attend a Catholic high school. As the story goes, because she was adamant about this, Susan would attend a local public junior high. Due to proximity, her designated school was less than desirable, per our mother. Being frightened for Susan’s well-being our mother went to the Washington Irving School (WIS) in Roslindale and told some story (probably not true) in order to have Susan enrolled. Whatever the story was, it worked. Susan would attend 9th grade at WIS and go on to graduate from Roslindale High School (RHS), where according to our brother,  the Piano Man…she learned the latest dance moves and would come home with a new 45 or album to show the family how to dance. Dancing to her own tune would be the unspoken mantra for life.

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Susan was a trailblazer; for which I suppose the rest of us can be grateful because if Susan had forged the route, whatever we did that may have disappointed our parents seemed far less a problem because Susan had already pushed the envelope…before us.

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Relaxing on our parents brand new living room set…we were not permitted to sit on sofa unless the slip covers were present….mutiny in action!

An early memory for me, was one afternoon returning from a shopping trip in downtown Boston with our mother. I was kneeling on the train seat looking out the window on the Orange Line which paralleled our childhood home. Our mother was also gazing in the same direction as the train lumbered above Washington Street passing our house. Susan had the window to the third floor bedroom open; she had half of her body hanging out the window in order to smoke a cigarette.

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The window she was hanging out of was actually in the back of the house.

The walk home with Mum from Green Street Station was grim. As we opened the back door, Susan was sitting at the kitchen table acting rather nonchalant. Our mother, who was smoking mad, laid into her with the usual inferno and brimstone that was appropriate for Susan’s rebellious effort toward doing what she wanted in a smoke free home. Unfortunately, Susan would continue on a smoker’s path for most of her life. At 13, I myself, who apparently didn’t take the advice of “Don’t try this at home”, suffered the same fate as Susan, only I gave it a try in the bathroom…live and learn. My first and last cigarette!

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Around the age the window incident occurred.

Susan was quite the trendy dresser.

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She saved this pink suede miniskirt. She wore this many times, single digit size on the label inside. Susan bequeathed it to Keary when Susan married, but as my nephew, his wife and I were cleaning out Susan’s home; we discovered Susan took it back.

After graduating from RHS and then Boston Business School, Susan went to work. She was truly a Downton girl, taking the subway to her job in the city. Her weekly paycheck went to more fashionable clothing for herself; although I have a vivid memory of a lime green plaid jumper that she bought for me, more cigarettes, and dancing at the Surf in Nantasket Beach or heading down the Cape.

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Her good looks and sense of style earned her an opportunity as a model with the Ford Agency, New York City as part of the Fashion Board for Seventeen Magazine.

A model in the making

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Susan was our parents second child. She arrived 12 months and 4 days after the Family Matriarch (FM). The term Irish Twin comes to mind, although we were clearly good “French-Catholics”.

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Often undeclared; I believe, Susan looked up to the FM, but at the same time always felt like she was in her shadows. Given Susan’s bright-eyed beauty, boisterous personality, bold disposition, and fragile temperament; it is hard to imagine why Susan felt that way, but she did. It was difficult for everyone in our family to instill in her that standing shoulder to shoulder, in fact made you stronger than squaring off face to face.

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My wedding… given our body mass index in this photo, we look like we have survived a famine.

Often fighting for her independence in true Boston form; suddenly Susan, felt the need to move out of our parents’ home. This day stands solemnly before me with Susan positioning herself on the second floor landing throwing some kind of duffel bag down the steps to the hall below. With the duffel bag at the Milkman’s feet, he pleaded, “Susan, cut it out now.”

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My #1 said this photo reminds him of Sally Draper in the later seasons of Mad Men.

She would move mountains to make this happen. There were tears and hostile words among most who watched her dial with force, on our rotary phone, the number for the local taxi company. In what seemed like an instant she was gone.

Although she never revealed the address of her new home, if she wanted to come home, the Milkman was a phone call away. He would drive to Kenmore Square to pick her up and bring her home for a visit or holiday.

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In November, 1969, Susan stood with the FM as her maid of honor when the FM married the Kitchen King, one of the sons-in-law who managed to survive our mother. Not long after this wedding, Susan would bring home a young Navy Seaman, Ronald M. to our family Thanksgiving in Jamaica Plain.

Ron was certainly smitten with Susan and when honorably discharged from the Navy stayed in Boston in hopes of winning her hand. They married in July, 1970. Without this match we would not sit here today with Rex*, Ranger*, his wife, Maggie*, affectionately known by me as “The Saint”, as well as Annabelle* and Ranger Jr.*, Susan’s cherished grandchildren. Forty-six years ago next month, our family lost Susan to distance as she moved with Ron to Muncie, Indiana his hometown.

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(L-R) My mother, the Milkman (our father), the FM, Ron, Susan, the Piano Man, the Heir. July, 1970.

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The once happy couple with me on their wedding day.

When cleaning out our parents’ home back in 2008, with Susan in the room, I found a letter amongst our mother’s possessions. Knowing Susan’s fondness for removing evidence, I have to be honest; I quickly absconded with it (see it’s in the blood) and brought it home to Maryland.

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I forgot about the letter, but recently found it. When I read it I was filled with emotion for I knew Bill M., Ron’s father, wrote a heartfelt letter to my parents just four days before Susan and Ron’s wedding in Boston to offer comfort as Susan would soon move away from the family.

Bill tried to ease our parents worry about the family she would now be moving toward. He wrote about two young people in love who did not want to be apart. He assured our parents, after meeting Susan that not only was she easy to look at, but she fit right in with their family who did not have monetary wealth, but plenty of family love. He wrote that Susan had shared our parents’ apprehension at such a speedy Love Story and that he himself shared some of these same feelings with the two lovebirds. It is sad for me to think that I never was able to share that letter with Susan, but fortunately I have now read it to her two sons who know that she was indeed loved by the M. family. Having spent two summers in Indiana with Susan and her in-laws in my early teens I always felt they were a wonderful family who made me feel right at home.

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This was a several page letter.

Susan was an incredible smother…mother. Rex and Ranger speak fondly of the wonderful science projects she created for them. She They often won awards for the projects she tirelessly produced on their behalf. In 1982, Susan returned to Boston with the boys for a several months long stint. She enrolled Rex in the second grade at Our Lady of Lourdes School, however she found no place in Kindergarten for Ranger because of the late enrollment. Due to Boston’s bussing, Ranger would have to attend a public school a great distance away. Susan would have no part of this and having learned from the best, our mother, she found the closest and best public school for the cherubic Ranger. Once again no room in the inn, so being wise on her feet and tearing a page from our mother’s playbook, she declared Ranger a Native American. A seat was suddenly opened.

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Susan, her two sons (my nephews) in the front Rex* & Ranger*…my nephew, Adamo* ( youngest son of the FM) is the little guy to the right. The FM in the hat carrying a box, the Milkman to the left.

Susan would return to Muncie and eventually her husband Ron would be transferred to Oklahoma. There they tried to make a life. Circumstances were not in their favor.  In 1989, Susan moved with her two boys to Maryland. I know they appreciate all the efforts their mother took to make a life for them when she was a single parent. Today, I see that they stand in awe of the fact that although their parents divorced, somehow these two people managed to push them towards adulthood. Their closeness proves that their mother and father shared lessons of a family’s love.

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In happier times.

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Their first trip to DC when they moved here to Maryland in 1989. I can’t explain my outfit (me on the right) other than to say I was a nursing mother.

While raising two teenagers on her own, Susan worked for Johns Hopkins University, Institute for Policy Studies. Knowing that a business school degree would not earn her security for life, Susan persevered and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from the Johns Hopkins University. Academic accolades were prominent as well as invitations to membership in prestigious academic clubs.

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With her JHU Fellows in the 1990’s.

Her job provided her opportunity to travel the world. She went to Africa, The Netherlands, Estonia, Romania, and Rome. It seemed the world was calling.

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One of her trips to Africa.

With elation came deflation; each occurrence does not require an itemized line for having lived through it with her or at times, without her because of her intense need for privacy; the road was rocky. Those mountains she moved to get out of the house so many years before became walls; disguised as frequent ups, downs, sideways and byways. She interpreted our lack of enthusiasm toward the latest and greatest proof that life had not handed her a bouquet of roses as we were somehow against her. As those who cared for her tip-toed around on egg shells in hopes of not wanting to send her away again, it was often problematic to keep one’s own strength.  We truly did care and want her to be happy. We reasoned and offered a helping hand that at times was bitten as we reached out.

Susan returned to Boston for ten years and was present for the care of our parents as their lives came to an end. Eight years ago, Susan returned to Baltimore to rejoin her grown sons. The bites would heal even though they still hurt. We came back for more because Susan was our parents’ daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mother, an in-law, a grandmother, and a friend.

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1994…the Milkman’s 75th birthday

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Three grandchildren not born yet, 1986….eight great grandchildren as of today.

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How I choose to remember her.

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All the family we could wrangle before it was time to eat…at the FM and KK’s home. In the front is one of my great-nephews, he is three…we typically do not include face painting at our family memorial services, but he attended a birthday party earlier in the day. He was a stand out at the Mass.  Susan would have loved it.

In loving memory of my sister, Susan…gone too soon.

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*names changed …need a refresher on Who’s Who, read here.