Four-Letter…

…words

My last two posts have had the numbers Two and Three, consecutively in the titles, so I wondered if I could write posts with number titles to ten (and not bore every one of my tens of readers to click away from my blog).

Do not fear this post! You will find it has absolutely nothing to do with cursing, swearing, or cussing.

I wrote two posts about those four-letter words several years ago. (If interested here & here.)

I have chosen four, four-letter words:

HOME, HELP, HEAP, HEAL

 

HOME:

This is the empty nest where the Hubster and I reside.

 

We aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and a few things need fixing. We need a new driveway as the roots from an oak tree (not seen to the right and not ours) has really caused it to crack. Each year it gets worse.

We may have some new landscape by next spring because we won a landscape design package at my school auction this year. The designer comes in August to create the plan. We’re hoping our bank accounts approve of what’s in store.

Our kitchens and baths are all functional and clean. Tile and grout are set in the stone age so I find it hard to justify redoing just so we can have the latest design features. (Also, I have my heart set on a beach place so I want to keep my the funds moving in that direction.)

The kitchen floor is another matter…white vinyl. Enough said…My smoke and mirrors method of keeping it looking great is to encourage everyone to look up at the pretty plates on the wall or out the kitchen window to the backyard when they enter the room. Another method of distraction is dimming the lights; it saves money.

While trying to locate a photo of an ugly kitchen floor and because I don’t want to put my floor on the internet, I found this blog. She painted her floor. Hmm, maybe a project!

The Nester

Our backyard and sunroom are wonderful features in the spring, summer, and fall. I have spent most of my summer thus far sitting in the sunroom, no matter the temperature and gazing toward the yard.

I tend to get a bit annoyed when I spot deer grazing while I am gazing. I do my best to scare them away, but they come back while I sleep.

This used to be glorious hosta.

I know I promised no uncouth four-letter words, but I did think it in my head. Time for a reapplication of Liquid Fence.

HELP:

In my last post, I mentioned I met someone who writes a blog. She is Sue Batton Leonard. Her blog is Sow the Heart. She is very sweet and the blog is filled with charming stories. She is a published author. I decided to buy one of her books for my Kindle. It’s a memoir she wrote about her family which included a wonderful woman by the name of Fanny. Although Fanny was hired by the family as help for the author’s mother, she became an endearing and loving part of their lives.

Amazon

I am not affiliated with Sue or her blog, but I just thought it was such a sweet book that I had to let everyone know.

HEAP:

I am happy to report the heap of fabric which resided in my garage closet is gone. It wasn’t actually a heap. All was washed, folded, and color sorted for projects, but the fact is there has been no time for all the ideas in my head or on my Pinterest boards. I donated all of the fabric with the exception of one plastic container.

I am glad to have this heap off my back. Next, I will delete the projects from my Pinterest boards.

Don’t worry dog bandana friends the fabric I kept in the plastic container is for dog bandanas.

A few of my dog bandana friends:

Zoey

 

Todd

Millie

 

Chowdah’ and Chili…Preppy Empty Nester’s two hooligans.

 

Hershel

 

If I left your dog out it’s because I don’t have a recent photo of your dog sporting its stylish bandana or I wasn’t able to swipe it off of an Instagram post.

HEAL:

There are no deep wounds requiring therapy, but finding these long days of summer to feel like I am achieving something for me is invigorating. The teacher in me knows the academic lessons and my patience, tolerance, kindness, and did I mention patience are permitted to enjoy a respite. Please let the summer move slowly from here forward. I need the sunlight on my “sunscreened” shoulders, my toes in the sand (perhaps a cool umbrella beverage in hand), and time to read a book I choose to keep me on an even keel for the 190 days of the year that belong to someone else.

One of the other books I’ve read this summer and highly recommend:

AMAZON

One of my colleagues who follows me on Instagram spotted it in one of my Insta-posts and invited me to their book club dinner to discuss. It was wonderful because the conversation steered clear of school…Keep Calm and Heal.

I read it while I was visiting the Family Matriarch and the Kitchen King….an excellent spot to heal.

Until next time,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Nuns…

…got on a bus.

In the last few months, I have told this story when I ran into a college classmate in Goodwill, met with my financial advisor, and made a donation of fabric to someone who happens to have a blog (her blog here). Try not be jealous of this glamorous life I lead, most days are actually quite boring.

Pinterest

The story is about how I came to Maryland.

Way back in the fall of 1980, I was a senior in high school. Basketball practice was underway for the season.

My small Catholic high school was located in Roxbury’s Mission Hill.  The school did not have its own full gymnasium. Our gym was a room which once housed the coal used to fuel the old boiler. When a new boiler was purchased the room was converted to a half gym. Our basketball teams, both boys, and girls, usually made it to tournament play after the regular season. We did have access to the Tobin Gym (we heard the Celtics used to practice at this gym back in the day) just a couple of blocks from our school, but we couldn’t use it immediately after school, on most days our practices and home games began around 5 pm.

View from the back of the convent facing Mission Church on Tremont Street…the gym was on the same street as the church.

One evening after practice, my teammates and I took our usual walk up Tremont Street from the gym toward Huntington Ave. This intersection was normally quite busy even during the evening hours because there were multiple hospitals in the location, in addition to Harvard Medical School, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Boston State College. Most of my teammates worked in the dietary departments of the hospitals. I was a dietary worker as well, but I worked in Jamaica  Plain at the Faulkner Hospital. I had also held jobs as the evening secretary in our church’s rectory and counter-girl at Dunkin’ Donuts. I think all of my teammates had a part-time job year round and I believe like myself, many were paying their own tuition at our school.

Some of my teammates lived only a short distance from the intersection, but a few of us had to take public transportation when family members couldn’t give us a ride.  Typically, there was a group of 10-12 waiting at the T stop. Most nights, we weren’t sure if the trolleys were running (never-ending construction) or if a bus would come in its place. While waiting we would chat and shiver, none of us wearing a hat because we were too cool. Boston in December was cold, so I can add not only were we cool (reality: freezing), we were foolish. I think many of my former classmates would also never describe me as cool, but since I am writing this creative non-fiction, I am identifying my high school self as “cool”.

No trolley ever came that night, instead, it was the bus. Those of us who were beginning our commute home stepped onto the bus. Most nights, when we flashed our MTA student IDs we didn’t have to argue with the driver about our 10 cents fare, but on occasion and because we had long shed the school uniforms we did. This night found us showing our book bags and pointing to our letter jackets. Of course, the other riders “loved” it when this would delay the movement of the bus toward their destinations.  It didn’t take much, but the driver finally relented and our dimes went into the till.

We were fortunate that night because there were seats. So down we flopped on the last remaining seats and the slouching began. At the next stop, only a few blocks away entered the next passengers. The driver began another verbal altercation only this time it was with three nuns from our high school. I can’t say I remember the exact fare for adults in 1980, but 25 cents sounds correct. Sister M.F. (her actual initials and the Assistant Principal of my school) asked the bus driver if she could ask a passenger for change as it was just the three of them and she didn’t want to use the whole $1.oo bill in the till.

“I don’t make change,” grumbled the driver.

“No, I know, I was going to check with a passenger if they could make the change.”

In order to clarify his position of “lack of coins for bills,” he barked, “J.C.”. He didn’t use the initials for the Man upstairs, he flat-out used His first and last name. I’m sure he didn’t realize he was in the company of representatives for the Man, thus the name calling in vain.

This photo was found on Pinterest after searching for nuns, no habits. The three on the left are about the age of the nuns who got on the bus that night and they dressed like the nuns I had in high school, most not wearing a traditional habit; a few still wore the habit like the nun on the right. (Nun second to the left bears a scary resemblance to my former self, see newspaper clipping in this post...I assure you it’s not me.)

Nuns of my younger grade school years

The last two nuns I had who were this habit were my 2nd and 3rd-grade teachers.

Pinterest

Just then one of my teammates offered the change. Having only 75 cents, she told Sister M.F. she could pay her back in school tomorrow.

Thank goodness they didn’t ask for a transfer from the driver, he was in no mood.

The three nuns were grateful and offered their hellos or good evenings to us or whatever was the typical polite greeting on a bus to students.

I did a Pinterest search for Nuns on a Bus and look at some of the images…

 

Pinterest

Most of you may know that nuns typically reside in convents. However, during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, the nuns who rode the bus on my commute home that night moved into an apartment in Jamaica Plain, my childhood home section of Boston. Only one T stop separated me from the nuns.  One of them, I think Sister J.C.(not to be confused with the Man and her actual initials…my high school Principal) owned or had use of a car. I don’t know where the car was that night and I didn’t ask.

We offered our seats to the standing Sisters. Naturally, they took our coveted seats. As the ride continued conversation spilled into college applications.  I told them I had applied to Boston State and a few others, nothing remarkable. I had always dreamed of going away to school, but I knew with my family’s income (not a factor as the name of my blog states = very little money) I would probably go to Boston State and that would be just fine.

“No, you need to broaden your scope,” Sister J.C. urged.

“How about our college in Baltimore?” Sister M.F. suggested.

Sister K. or C. (her Irish name began with one of those two letters) who I didn’t know well, was new to our school that year. I didn’t have her for any classes, but she nearly jumped out of the seat we had given her to exclaim, “Yes, I have a friend who is a professor there, I will contact her!”

“Uh, no thanks…Boston State will be just fine. I am the youngest of seven, my father is a milkman, my mother a homemaker who recently survived cancer, they both practically qualify for Social Security, I pay my own tuition now, and I am NOT going to be a NUN!

I never actually verbalized, the NUN part, but I thought it extremely loud in my head.

Those three nuns were positively giddy.

See what I mean!

By the time we reached the end of the line, they had it all figured out. They were going to talk to the guidance counselor, Sister K. or C. was going to contact her friend, and Sister J.C. & Sister M.F. was going to contact the Motherhouse. I was disgruntled and quick to distance myself from this bus whose final stop seemed not to be my home, but rather the nunnery.

Within days of that fateful bus ride, I received a call at my home from the basketball coach at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.  When I met with the guidance counselor, she handed me the Notre Dame catalog.

After seeing a photo of the basketball coach, who had young Paul Newman good looks…

…and begging my father to let me see his tax forms so I could complete the financial aid forms, the rest was history.

To be honest, I am a wee bit not that shallow  …I did have to beg my Milkman father for his tax forms because he honestly thought I would not qualify for financial aid. My mother was a harder sell because she never wanted me to turn 18, … her words, “I will go into mourning when you turn 18.”

She lived to 91 and most days didn’t appear to be in mourning.

Obviously, I am still here in Maryland today and given the husband and sons, the convent was definitely not the future I had before me back then, but I am eternally grateful and truly believe I am here today because…

Three Nuns Got on a Bus.*

Two of those nuns were my coaches during my junior year in high school. L: Sister J.C. – R: Sister M.F. We went to states only to be eaten between two slices by the team from Sandwich High School on Cape Cod.

See you soon…

 

*Should divine intervention cause this post to become viral, I suppose my donation to the yearly college fund will have to be more than the current lackluster amount.  

 

Two words…

… neither of which is lottery winner.

     I started this post over a year ago when I was working on my boring series of alphabetical posts. Don’t worry I won’t link any of those 26 posts here.

     It all began with a vocabulary game I have my students play in class every day. The game is much like the Heads-Up game which is an app on Android phones/iPhones. My game is quite similar although the technology is much savvier shabbier.  One player holds an unseen word to his/her head while the other gives clues to help the player determine the correct word. The goal is to correctly name as many words as possible in one minute. If the cardholder identifies the correct word, a point is scored. The clue giver can also tell the player holding the word to pass. The team with the most points after one-minute wins.

     Instead of using an iPhone, my students use a low tech device called an iCard. In case you’re new to the latter form of technology and because visual learning usually produces excellent comprehension, let me elaborate using my photo-journalism skills.

 

When it comes to technology, I am frugal…I can get two iCards for the price of one. The former name index card for iCard, not so trendy to 5th graders.

 I started this game with math vocabulary, specifically for the geometry unit. Watching the game face of a student holding the card fixed on the forehead while the clue giver stretches both arms above the head in true touchdown fashion…

     “You know this …when straight edges stay the exact same distance apart and continue to infinity & beyond…thank you Buzz Lightyear.”    

Guess:  “PARALLEL LINES”

It was indeed like a touchdown, and I truly believe this genuine gameplay increased their understanding.

I soon introduced the game into my written language lessons when we were told we could no longer teach vocabulary in isolation. While I tend to agree with the premise of memorizing words and definitions on a list does not necessarily increase true understanding, I thought there has got to be a way to include building vocabulary as students had significant deficits. The game engaged them and it didn’t feel like pencil and paper learning. In many ways, they were creating their own understandings by trying to communicate the definition to another.

I did have to set some rules for the game…for instance, when the game was played in Math the clue giver couldn’t describe the word as…

  “…a boys name”

     Guess: “RAY”   (Insert annoying wrong answer buzzer sound.) ….the definition had to resemble,  “a line with an endpoint that extends infinitely in one direction.”

Now that you understand the game, I would like you to refer back to the two words written on the iCards in the photo.

The first word …dawdle

What a glorious word and one that was new to 100% of my 5th grade students. I like it when my students can use context clues to determine a definition of a word, so a sentence to paint a picture for them… I watched a student dawdle back to the classroom after using the restroom down the hall.

“The learning will wait, I have locker tags to read”…says every student who discovers the amount of time they can spend outside of the classroom in the hall.

They knew exactly what the word meant and began to use it similarly when playing the game.

Before you knew it they themselves were heard in discussions with each other, “Please stop dawdling at the pencil sharpener, I need to sharpen pencils too.” In my mind, they said please, but that may not have always been the case.

Needless to say (and probably, once again only in my mind) my game was a success.

The other word in the photo above is kettle. When I learned students had not a clue of this word, I honestly was shocked. They had no life experience with a kettle.

I inquired if anyone drank tea or had a parent who drinks tea. All could state they knew about tea…whew. Finally, one of the girls shouted, “I think my grandmother has a tea kettle.”

Well now that we have established that I am of the generation of her grandmother, my tea may now have a bitter taste.

Scary, but I may see an actual resemblance to myself.

     It seems a tea kettle may no longer be a thing in most homes. We own a tea kettle, but we are not big tea drinkers. In the summer months, we usually make a few batches of iced tea using our kettle,  but otherwise, it just sits on its throne (the back burner of our stove top) in a state of “shiny-ness”.

     Most of the students thought making tea meant boiling water in the microwave…obviously, this is a method that does produce steamed water so I wasn’t about to split hairs, but I knew the word kettle would find its way into one of the many literary texts life may impose upon them so they would need to learn the word kettle.

The gameplay would continue and I had to put up with a year of listening to:

“You know, that pot with a handle and spout that your grandmother or Mrs. Beemie puts water in to boil and then make tea.”

Guess: “Kettle”

    I am not a big tea drinker.  Hubster and I are mostly coffee drinkers, usually in the morning and an occasional Irish decaf coffee over the holidays. Over the years we have purchased and used a variety of coffee makers. I am pretty sure our first coffee maker was this beauty…

mr coffee

 Since this original maker, we have probably killed about one dozen coffee makers. We don’t do a lot of research when buying a coffee maker because we are usually buying a brand new coffee maker under duress…approximately 10 minutes after we discover the one sitting on the counter has died.

With the death of a coffee maker comes an immediate quick trip (no dawdling involved) to Dunkin’ Donuts for medicinal purposes so we remain on an even keel in the wee hours of the morning and the rest of the day.

Our current coffee maker is a Black & Decker. I wish I had bought two of them when our last one died because then I would have a replacement that I actually like and brews decent coffee, but alas I did not.

At present, the kettle is brewing for summer tea and I will dawdle about the house now that I have finished some summer purge. The gentleman who has been helping me unload at the Goodwill and I are becoming fast friends…I may bring him some sweet tea, not that he has time to dawdle. Some people still work in the summer.

So I managed to write a post about two words, hopefully, I didn’t put you to sleep.

One of my molars chipped off this morning so to the dentist I go… and the convenience store because even though I do have dental insurance, I’m pretty sure I may need some lottery winnings.

Until next time,

 

An Honest Review…

…A stay with the Family Matriarch & the Kitchen King

  

Photos of the house decked out for the 4th of July from a couple of years ago.

When the family gets together it is always a great thing especially if you are the houseguest. I recently spent a week at the home of my sister, the Family Matriarch (FM) and her husband of almost 49 years, the Kitchen King (KK). Whenever I stay with them, the KK always jokes about the review I will leave when I check-out so here it is because you asked for it.

Check-in: *****

…any hour, day or night, friendly staff willing to hold your wallet for the entire stay

Besides the fact that they have difficulty making eye contact with their free-loading favorite guest, they are typically quite cordial and humorous.

Price: *****

…where else can a relative mooch for free

This doormat made me feel right at home.

Cleanliness: *****

…as long as you clean up after yourself, the owners will give you 5 stars (I have used this video in a post a while back, but it is always one of my favorites when it comes to cleanliness being next to Godliness.)

Food: ***** + *****

…a previous guest◊ stated “restaurant quality” food on demand and I concur with this guest. The menu selection is too vast to list, but trust me, no one goes hungry, just ask my hips.

Pizza for three…now you know why my hips can talk.

 

Accommodations: *****  and      Location:*****

… room with a view of the Atlantic Ocean… fortunately, no upcharge as long as you tell them it was foggy and you couldn’t enjoy your view. (SHH! There was no fog…see photo below.)

…footsteps away from the Atlantic Ocean (depending on the season, this can be good or bad)

GOOD

By the dawns early light…I am going to tell them this photo was from a few years back…don’t want the pesky upcharge.

BAD

Same view…Still from a video taken this past January…scary and the reason I visit them in Florida during the winter.

Activities: *****

…never a dull moment (some of my posts from visits past… here, here, here)

…walking on the beach, enjoying the sun, reading on the porch, wide-screen TV, free wi-fi, shopping close-by, bike riding through the neighborhood, annual clambake (held in my honor after all that’s why they call me “greatest”), and new this year moving furniture from three rooms and clothes in closets from the second floor to the third floor so that the hardwood floors could be installed. #12,000steps #IthoughtIwasaguest #ifyouareluckyenoughbeatthebeachyouareluckyenough #freehelp #thatiswhatmakesafamily

The New Floors

This is my claimed room. It is called the blue room because of its usual blue and white decor. No blue and white decor because I carried it to the third floor.

 

The green room, if you’re catching on you can infer that decor in this room is normally green. Yes, I schelped it up to the third floor.

 

The bunk room, pre-sanding, and overcoat. Due to my journalistic integrity, I must confess, I did almost no lifting from this room, but I was excellent moral support, which is what really matters.

A little word of advice if you are ever invited to stay with them for longer than 24 hours…do not share too much of your skill set because before you know it you’re bringing your own sewing machine to make slip covers. 

My Guest Project 2017 

And just in case you think you can tell them you will be arriving with no special talent…beware, they believe everyone can hold a paintbrush.

Those balusters and pickets aren’t going to paint themselves…truth be told those are vinyl, but the first picture in this post is the beach side of the house. Everyone in my immediate family has painted those balusters and rails.

 

Check out: *****

…always bittersweet, but at least they give you back your wallet. (Strange… I have mysterious charges on my credit card…Hmm, boat repairs?)

Now I know why they were so anxious to get the boat in the water while I was visiting.

This quote is always a winner when it comes to time spent with the FM & the KK.

 

Until next time,

 

◊ My Sons-ster #2 wrote a thank you note to the Family Matriarch & Kitchen King when he was about 15 years old, thanking them for his visit to their home. In his thank you, he wrote that their food was “restaurant quality”… the description is so fitting and true…we use the term quite frequently.

The Country Cousins…

…a memory from a Country Home

In the last several days, I have been experiencing a bit of nostalgia hanging over my mood. One of my cousin’s daughter’s posted a family photo from 1963 on her Facebook page. While I am a baby in the photo and have no memory from that exact day, it stirred in me a time when life was so much simpler.

The photo posted was a black & white version of this one. Aunt Claudette* sits in the center front with my cousin, Joanne* standing at her legs.

Every time I see a photo like this from my youth I recognize the importance my parents placed on having an extended family when both of them had childhoods that at times resembled chapters in a Dickens novel. ( you can read about them here & here). It seems strange to think I am older now than my parents in this photo and many of my cousins & siblings are older than the great-uncle and his second wife also in the photo.

A day like the one above usually began as a Sunday excursion via our family station wagon after Mass to visit the country cousins. They lived 40 miles outside of Boston in Grafton. Typically, we played outside all day; piling into their rowboat (no life vests), trekking through the surrounding woods (no tick checks), riding their bikes (no helmets), and we didn’t return home until it was dark. Oddly, when we played hide and seek my cousin Joanne (closest in age to me) and I always had the best hiding place because the older cousins never wanted to find us found us until it was time for the city cousins to go home. We were the city cousins because well, we lived in the city.

Our Ride

Not our wagon and this is not us….we resembled models in a magazine and the four best models girls are missing.  credit: gearpatrol.com

My Aunt Claudette was a gentle soul who never ever wanted controversy and looked for the good in everyone. She was two years older than her brother, my father, the Milkman. Aunt Claudette and my father shared a birthday. She and her husband, Uncle William* married sometime around the start of WWII. I only know this because my aunt wrote letters to my father while he was in the Army Air Corp during the war and described the milestones her firstborn child, my cousin, Janine* was making.

In addition to writing about sewing, baby teeth and a birthday, she cautiously penned her concerns for my Uncle William, who I believe was serving in Europe. My own mother told me that Uncle W. was a driver for General Patton. Although I have never been able to verify the Patton information to be true, if in fact true, then it would explain a lot about my Uncle W.’s outward “crusty” and at times abrupt personality. While I mean no disrespect toward my Uncle, it was my first impression.

I suppose those first impressions are firmly in place, but my time spent in their country home with vast lands along the edge of the Blackstone River were some of my fondest memories and chipped away the “crust” of my initial impressions.

Aunt & Uncle had seven children. My own parents noting the stress, anxiety, expense, & 24/7 work involved fun Aunt & Uncle had with all those children went ahead and matched them with seven children of their own. Honestly, I believe their enthusiasm toward their Catholic faith played more a role in the large families for both. From 1947 to 1965 there was a toddler roaming underfoot at the family gatherings.

Long before I was born, I count 11 of the 14 cousins. My father holding my brother, Baby Boy, and Pépé, my paternal grandfather, his arm around the waist of my brother, Piano Man. Pépé died six months after I was born.

I can remember the excitement just getting into our car for the hour-long ride. Seating arrangements in the vehicle were determined by the person who yelled the loudest, so that meant my mother told us where we would sit. My father took mostly back roads although the Massachusetts Turnpike was literally a border of my Uncle & Aunt’s property. As I understand it, my Uncle and Aunt once owned the land that the section of highway crosses.

As we drove into Grafton, my father would point out various landmarks; like the firehouse where his cousin’s husband was the town fire chief, his Uncle Raoul’s residence, and the lakeside home where his father and step-mother had resided for a time. Once the lake was sighted, I knew my country cousins homestead was just about to be in view.

The house set back from the road. A large circular gravel drive met our approach from the street. A barn (not pictured in this photo of unknown origin) was to the right. The barn housed Uncle’s tractor, a very old pick-up truck, the fleet of family bicycles, and a menagerie of bunnies, one named Thumper.  In front of the barn was a flagpole. The Blackstone River, out of view in this photo is to the left of the front of the house. A giant swing set sat only yards away from the river. I could never swing as high as I wished on my own, I always required a push to reach the lower branches of the towering trees.

The swing set with six tall swings, two smaller swings hung from the bar to the left ( I don’t see them in this photo), and a see-saw to the right. The barn is shown on the background from this view of the house.

I seem to remember visiting the country cousins at least four to five times per year, but I also spent several lengthy stays when I was four and five because my mother had surgery that kept her hospitalized for several weeks and another time my mother went to Canada to settle my Aunt Gabrielle’s (another of my father’s sisters) estate after she died in a car accident in 1968. My father had to work and the older siblings were all in school during the day so I was shipped off to stay with Aunt Claudette and Uncle William. Although I missed my family, I loved staying there.

One morning, as I sat eating breakfast at the long kitchen table I gazed out the door to the side of the house, as Uncle walked toward the flagpole. His army boots (he wore every day) created a glistening spray of mist around his feet as he stepped through the dewy grass. Once at the pole, he carefully unfurled the red, white, and blue flag; he clasped the snap hooks through the grommets and raised the flag in the rays of the morning sun. He did this every day.

The famous flagpole

I know Uncle worked in a factory, but I don’t know what he did. He rose early not only for work and the flag, but Uncle raised ducks and geese to sell the eggs. Their kitchen housed an extra refrigerator just for the eggs and loaves of bread in the freezer to feed the birds. The duck coop was set back to the left of the swing set. It was built by Uncle of salvaged wood, covered in tar paper, and windows at the front. Several mornings I had begged to go help him with the eggs. My offer of assistance was refused.  Being quite precocious and not one for accepting no for an answer, I implored him with the fact the Make Way for Ducklings was my favorite book.

He finally obliged.

As I mentioned earlier, I was one of the city cousins so I was unprepared for the “fowl” odor that was about to greet my delicate nostrils inside the coop. The hay and nests were clean, but ducks beings living things not only produced eggs, they yielded a significant amount of morning malodorous waste along the straw at the floorboards. As Uncle plucked the eggs from the nests and encouraged me to do the same, my body convulsed in the aroma. I danced around the coop gagging and heaving.  The ducks and geese quacked and squawked at my intrusion on their morning routine. Knowing I had pleaded with Uncle the opportunity to join him, I desperately tried to reach for one of the oval wonders that sat poised for the taking.  I pinched my nose with one hand and stretched the other toward the nest. Just as my fingers were about to surround the warmth of the elliptical sphere, one of the geese snapped at my thumb. I whaled, cried, and continued the nauseous two-step around the fetid floor. I shuffled my sneakers through duck poop and ran toward the house. Uncle could barely keep control over his fragile load in the basket as he roared with laughter. At the time, I thought it was mean of him to laugh at my pain, but thinking back I know my behavior must have created quite a comic sideshow.

Not me, but I did enjoy a bowl of Cheerios. credit: Pinterest.

Aunt Claudette and my cousin, Joanne greeted me at the kitchen door. Aunt Claudette hugged me. She tended to my dented thumbnail and wounded pride, while Joanne and Uncle deposited the eggs in the refrigerator. Once safely refrigerated, Uncle would pull two frozen loaves of bread from the freezer to thaw for the day. He would walk back out to the coop and open the door. The ducks waddled behind him as he made his way toward the river’s edge. One by one, each would dive into the river with Olympic precision and synchronicity. When Uncle returned from work at the end of the day, he would stride to the bank of the Blackstone and begin quacking, within minutes the ducks and geese would return. Uncle broke the bread and tossed the bits toward the hungry ducks. With greedy quacks, the ducks consumed their meal without hesitation. Since this activity amongst the waterfowl involved an open-air environment, it was one in which I could continue to participate. Uncle would then march his flock back to the coop for the night and repeat the next day. I don’t remember the year there were no more ducks, but I never went into the duck coop again.

Uncle in the cap, note the army boots. …the Milkman enjoying time with his brother-in-law.

The house and lands which my Aunt and Uncle owned have been vacant for many years. My Uncle died in 1991 and my Aunt in 1992. The house and land were sold in 1993. I have just learned that back in December 2017 the house, which still sat empty on the land, was burned in a fire which continues to be investigated.  While the house may be in ruins, the memories are forever blazoned fondly in me.

When I stayed for long stints at the homestead my bed was just below the right front window on the second floor under sloped eaves.

I hope to write a few more posts about my visits to the country cousins…so stay tuned.

*names changed to protect the innocent

Article about the house and fire…real names included, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Re-post because….

…it’s National Siblings Day!

I had no idea this holiday even existed as sibling rivalry love was evident every day with my own two Son-sters.

They are grown and flown …living many miles apart, but I do hope they take this message with them wherever they go. It was the same message my mother instilled to my siblings and me.

siblingsA blast from the past:

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Hard to believe that #2 is taller than #1 now...

Here’s another message to my Son-sters and my own siblings:

big family

Here is a kindergarten view of my family:

 

family art

We were quite a good-looking bunch back in 1967…It is evident that I knew shoulder pads would be the “in” thing someday.

A dead ringer for the above artwork.

the crew

Just over twenty years ago…The Milkman’s 75th.

If you have a sibling reach out and touch him or her, you might just make his/her (and in my case, their) day.

Happy National Siblings Day.

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PS: I know I keep promising new posts, the pesky full-time job always seems to come first. I have several in the works, cross your fingers I manage to complete one soon.

Play Ball…

…an Ode to the Milkman.

This is an essay written by me several years ago. At the time, I shared it with family and friends who urged me to continue writing.  Today I re-post because so many have asked for it…who am I to say “no”. 

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My outfit for the one game I attend every year …I leave the baseballs at home…The Pete Rose baseball was obtained by Hubster in the 80’s.

Opening Day

I am not exactly a true blue or in “Baltimorese”, orange and black baseball fan, but there is something about Opening Day that signals the beginning of a new year. It may be spring or the thought of a renewed chance to win it all. This could be the year for the Baltimore Orioles and perhaps, we just need to believe, Hon.

For many years of my childhood, I watched as my father had once again believed that our beloved Boston Red Sox might finally have their year. The last time the Red Sox had won the World Series was in 1918. My father was born in 1919. He was a life-long fan.

 

When I found letters he wrote to my mother during World War II he penned his devotion to the team even while stationed across the country with a bombardier squadron in the United States Army Air Corp. As we know, most major league baseball teams were disbanded during the war, but he still had faith. I am sure this mention of the team in their love letters was what finally convinced my mother he was the man for her. Truthfully, she was not a sports fan, but thankfully for my sisters, brothers, and me; she somehow managed to forgive him his baseball transgressions and marry him anyway. He loved all sports actually, but there was a true allegiance to the Boston Red Sox.

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Many childhood memories for me include the smell of summer air with the kitchen windows open and my father listening to the game on the radio within earshot of the occasional train passing by on the elevated Orange Line. I would often ask for an interpretation of some of the commentary, “Swung on and miss.”

He was so engrossed that sometimes he didn’t hear my question. Fortunately, I figured out the lingo on my own.

clock radio

As a very young child, I had no concept of the past, I asked my mother, a devout Catholic if she lived at the same time as Jesus Christ, her response was a resounding, “NO”. I then went to my father, the dedicated Red Sox fan, and inquired if he was alive when Babe Ruth played baseball. He spoke of watching the “Babe” play at Fenway Park for the Yankees. Who knew that someday I would reside in the town where “Babe” was born. These baseball conversations were some of the sweetest because he was not often a man of many words, but I can hear his voice name Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski like it is happening now.

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One of the Milkman’s favorite players…I remember there was a song about Carl Yastzemski

I attended college in Baltimore when in 1983 the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series. It was so exciting to be in a town where a team had taken the coveted trophy. The day after the Orioles clinched the World Series, my father reached me on my dorm room phone to talk about the win. Because I was living where a team had won he was just as excited even though it wasn’t his team.

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I don’t know for certain if this is the winning moment.

Baseball was dear to him. He did not have season tickets as it was too costly for a man with seven children, but he was the proud owner of a club level seat in front of the small black and white TV that eventually took the place of the radio in the kitchen. The glow of the game would sometimes continue late into the evenings even though my milkman father had to get up before dawn to deliver the milk. He believed every year would be their year. In 1975, against the Cincinnati Reds, the Red Sox went to the seventh game of the World Series. The disappointing loss only brought stronger conviction that his team could someday win it all.

tv in dark

When I graduated from college in 1985 and returned to Boston the year before I married, he was still watching the game, only someone had upgraded the TV and now he was watching in living color.  Because this man had done right by his children, he was fortunate to have been the beneficiary of game tickets, now and then, facing Fenway’s “Green Monstah” and even took a grandson on occasion. He still believed they would win.

green mostah

One evening in the spring of 1986, only a few months from my wedding he sat in his aforementioned seat in the kitchen watching the game. A young pitcher by the name of Roger Clemens was striking out opposing batters with ease. The fans at Fenway were frenzied and began posting K’s somewhere out near the “Green Monstah”. As I paused to watch the game, I was confused by the K’s. The posted K’s stood for strikeouts my father explained. Clemens was on his way to striking out a record number of batters. It was history in the making. I took a seat with my father by the kitchen table with only the radiance from the screen giving light to our nervous excitement of the moment. We didn’t speak but just basked in the glory that this might be the year. Roger Clemens went on to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. He was the first to do so and I watched it with my father.

the ks

A few months later my father walked me down the aisle to my wonderful husband who according to my mother, stole me from my hometown. The only thing that concerned my father was what baseball team would I be “rooting for.” Of course, with crossed fingers, I stated, “the Boston Red Sox.” I think he knew my allegiance may change, even though through birthright I am forever connected to the Boston Red Sox.

Back in Boston and later that year, the Red Sox once again went on to the World Series. The New York Mets won. He would not be disillusioned by the loss and continued to cheer for the home team. Like most Boston fans, he was once again, left to suffer in silence.

On March 26, 2004, with only days away from Opening Day my father died. In the fall of 2004, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. It was 84 years of Opening Days never to witness this unbelievable event. However, I do believe his divine intervention may have played a role in their unbelievable four games to none in the best of seven wins against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Present day: A few Red Sox souvenirs adorn my classroom.

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After sharing this essay with other several years ago a friend found this mint condition t-shirt in a thrift store here in Baltimore and she gave it to me.

 

Fourteen years and three World Series wins for the Boston Red Sox have passed since he was buried on March 29, 2004.  My family sang the Star Spangled Banner and Oh Canada, for his native country by his graveside that day and I can’t help but think he was watching down on us. If he could have spoken, his words would have been, “Play Ball.”

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In loving memory of my father, the Milkman, he embodied the love of God, family, country and the Boston Red Sox. Wishing all baseball fans, no matter the team, the love of a father I called my own.

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Fall costume parade 2013…the day after the Red Sox won the World Series.

This fabulous photo of my two sons, a son-in-law, and a nephew…at Fenway Park last summer. #1 Son-ster standing pointing to his friend who is a Red Sox photographer and deserves credit for this great photo (B. Weiss, credit) The legacy continues.

Go Orioles! (Sorry Dad, but I know you’ll forgive me)…and if not then, Go Red Sox!..or any other team, with the exception of the New York Yankees*. Some things never change.

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*no offense to my Yankees friends, but enough already.

Foresight…

…is 20/20 in the rear-view mirror

     Hello again, I know it has been  what has seemed like a lifetime since my last post. I have no perfect excuse for not writing; however I will try a couple of classics for life’s procrastination:

Lazy

Anyone who knows me, knows this isn’t true…I am always doing something! 

The Dog Ate IT

This could work if I were 9 and owned a dog.

     With the excuses out-of-the-way, let’s move forward with the post.

I am teaching math and science this year to both 4th and 5th grade students. I enjoy both subjects, but math is my favorite…thank you Sister Alice*, CSJ and Sister Ellen*, SSND, both were tough, but excellent teachers of all things algebraic and “trigonometrical” ( yes, a made up word).

About one month into this school year, I was getting ready to proceed with some direct instruction for one of my math groups. Students who are seated further away from the whiteboard screen have a sticker on their desk which means they have the option of moving to flexible seating before this instruction begins. While this transition was taking place, a young man whose desk does not have a sticker on it proceeded to sit in one of the more coveted seats.

You can clearly see why they all want to sit on this furniture. I sewed slip covers last summer from remnants and samples. I painstakingly stitched both  our school mascot, the chanticleer, and our school’s monogram on those pillows. Yes, those are the Beatles on that chair.

The students began to complain…“Hank*, your desk doesn’t have a sticker on it. You can’t move.”

As you can see, we have many bosses in my class. Anyway, I did not immediately ask Hank to move, rather I listened to the discourse, before acting.

Hank was quick to respond to his bosses peers, “No, I can sit here. I have been to the eye doctor and he told me to move forward. I am going to be getting glasses.”

Finally, I chimed in, “Hank, I didn’t know you needed to sit closer to the board. I am so sorry, you should have said something sooner.

Hank then proceeded to tell us he had been diagnosed as “foresighted”. I could not help, but chuckle and quickly requested the evening’s lottery numbers. Hank was a good sport when I explained the difference between foresight and farsightedness. I decided not to break it to Hank, but I’m also pretty sure that farsighted means it is more difficult to see things when you are closer to what is being viewed. We still laugh about it to this day and I have yet to see a pair of glasses on Hank.

Fast forward to this past week….

I have been going through the suitcase of letters my parents wrote to each other in the years leading up to their marriage in 1945. Mostly, I have been organizing according to date as the letters are quite lengthy. In addition, there are cards and letters from other family members (some written in French, my father’s first language…which I am attempting to translate). This is a slow process. This past Wednesday, which happened to be Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, I was unable to sleep so I got out of bed and decided to go through more of the letters. I came across the Valentine’s Day Card, my father sent to my mother in 1945. It was so sweet to see it, also there was a letter dated February 14, 1945. I took a photo of it and sent it to my siblings.

When I came home from school on Wednesday evening to the news of another school shooting. I found myself feeling nauseous because I am often fearful that although we practice for these types of scenarios in some ways I do feel helpless.  I turned off the news as I couldn’t watch the heartbreak and despondency as this is always too close to home. I rested the remote on the end table and noticed I left the card and letter I had taken a photo of sitting where I had left it in the morning. I decided to read my father’s letter to my mother.

It seems I may need to apologize to my student, Hank because being foresighted may be an actual diagnosis. In this lovely letter to my mother, just a little over two months away from their wedding date, my father wrote that he believed that they would someday make cute babies (they went on to make seven cute babies). He also wrote of picturing how much fun it would be fussing over these little miracles of life.

The first two miracles he fussed over… the Family Matriarch and Susan… twelve months apart.

He went on to say…”we might spoil them, but with our principles…and with those we learn in our way of life will make them pretty good living citizens.”  

My father had foresight.  He spoiled us as much as a man could with love, patience, and principles. We are “good living citizens”.

This photo from 1994….my Milkman father and his Sweetheart, surrounded by their cute babies.

Happy Presidents Day!

*names changed to protect the innocent.

 

 

Zero, Zilch, Zippo…

…all = nothing!

Alphabetical Post Z

      I must say, this was the worst idea I have ever had. Alphabetical posts…at least I can say I am not a quitter. I made it to Z; even though it took 14  15 16 months to do it. My creative non-fiction writing ability was really put to the test…fortunately, none of this was graded because I may have scored a big huge ….

zero

Feel free to print and use for adult coloring…pencils not included.

The summer was busy with odds and ends that consumed much of my time.

Immediately after school let out on June 13, I drove to Massachusetts to enjoy a fun-filled week with the Family Matriarch and the Kitchen King. I also visited my sister, Keary, where I received the three years worth of correspondence of my parents during WWII. I believe there is a book in there.

Once back in Maryland, I cleaned a closet in the garage (I will spare you the photo of the actual empty closet). The following photo is the intention for the currently empty closet.

 

empty closet

I think the housekeeper (me) will love it.

 Closet cleaning meant multiple trips to Goodwill for donations. I happen to live where our Goodwill receives donations from the “movers and shakers” of the metropolis; thus while donating at the back door I have been known to pop to the front. I recently scored this beautiful Vera Bradley bag…I don’t think it was ever used.

 

vera

The housekeeper thought the bag was beautiful, so I might just give it to her.

In addition to serious closet clean out, I also sewed slip covers for some furniture in our sun room. While cleaning that closet in the garage, I found leftover fabric from when I originally made the slip covers which have become quite faded and damaged by the sun. The furniture out there is a mish-mash of various hand-me-downs, but I love the room and especially enjoy sitting out there in the summer to watch my garden grow. ( if interested you can read an old post I wrote about the room here)

 

 

The pillow in front was sewn over 10 years ago…if you look carefully at the double welting, you’ll notice the solid fabric from the back pillow that I just completed is the same fabric as the very faded smaller welt…the ottoman is next. I’ll try to remember before and after photos.

The beach was fabulous this year. Once again, Peggy Anne hosted and we had a blast. Below are a few snapshots from our time at the beach.

I would go back in a minute.

 

 

We really loved our reader sunglasses.

 

Squished into a car for fabulous bagel breakfast at Uber Bagel.

 

 

Christmas in July gift exchange.

We built exactly one sandcastle…

It seems I managed to fake my way through this “Z” post.  Now I’ve said my ABC’s….The next time I write, I will fill you in on my beautiful niece’s wedding a couple of weeks back and some back to school makeovers in my classroom.

 

Happy Labor Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday,…

…Today, & Tomorrow

Alphabetical Post Y

Yesterday, Hubster and I celebrated 31 years of wedded bliss. If you follow me on Instagram, then you have already seen this photo, if not then here we are yesterday, as well as 31 years worth of yesterdays ago…

Image (1) Moving on …Today, as in the Today Show….I used to love the Today Show. It was my go to morning show from a very young age. I remember the days of Barbara Walters & Tom Brokaw . I even pictured my self as the next Jane Pauley after she took BW’s seat. My inspiration for my life in broadcast television came from the following…

MTM hair

jane pauley

It seems I thought the only qualification was my long hair back in the day.

     The Today Show just doesn’t hold the magic of the past. Since I have been out of school for the past two weeks, I have only watched some of it each morning. A few mornings, I have even jumped ship and headed over to Good Morning America. I feel like an unfaithful viewer.

     Tomorrow always brings a promise…

free beer

 Hubster & I enjoy a visit to an Irish Pub when we are at the beach. We like it because we can walk to it and the food always satisfies. Upon a recent visit, we noticed a sign similar to the one above written on a chalkboard. Both of us made a comment and discussed whether or not we thought there was an Irish holiday the next day. We ordered and a younger couple came and sat next to us. The man told the bartender that he had been to the pub yesterday and thought they were offering free beer today. The bartender turned to the chalkboard and said, “Oh no, free beer is always tomorrow.”

Until tomorrow…

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