Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Relaxing Sunday

Today I was happy to spend a quiet day at home.  After a good night's sleep I enjoyed a little bit of coffee/newspaper/Sunday Morning time before cleaning up the kitchen.  Somewhere along the line I got hooked into watching "The Bible" on The History Channel.  As the day wore on I was able to get out to the gym, pick up some groceries and take some trash down to the neighborhood dumpster.  However, every time I came home I turned the TV back on to see what was happening on "The Bible."  I was able to see the familiar become fishers of men speech, the loaves and the fishes and the parting of the Red Sea.  Really, it's been quite an action packed mini-series.

When my mom called this afternoon to wish me a Happy Easter I confessed that I didn't go to church today, but I was sure to let her know that I'd spent time with "The Bible" all day.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Function Over Perfection (For Now)

It seems as though with all that cleaning up I did the other day I went ahead and cleaned up the keys that lock my back door.  There's nothing like spending 30 minutes looking for something to tax one's brain.  Eventually I gave up and came to the conclusion that the keys most likely got thrown out along with a pile of junk mail that I tossed on Thursday morning.

My memory may be lacking at times these days but fortunately I'm still handy with a screwdriver.  After a bit of handy work I was able to dismantle the lock and open the door.  Unfortunately this meant I was also going to need to install a new door lock.  No fear, I thought, I've done it once before so certainly I can do it again.  Right?

Sort of.  After an excursion to the local Home Depot I started in on my project.  For some reason things were not fitting together as easily as they were detailed on the instruction sheet.  I reread all the directions, pulled everything apart, and tried again only to come up short once more.

A few hours later I have been able to jerry-rig a solution.  So for now, the door locks and closes as it should.  I can't say it's a beautiful example of my home fix-it skills, but at least it's functional.

It will do for now and tomorrow I'll try again.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Flat Work

I feel like I've been going, going, going since the beginning of the school year last August.   On top off all that I've been working with a compromised engine since late summer.  Engine troubles have been diagnosed and will be treated so I'm sure I'll be back up to speed sometime soon.

Even so, this week off- one that was spent at home- was just what I needed.  No, I didn't get all those papers graded yet, but I did get a lot of good sleep time (my friend, Jeannie, calls it flat work)

Ah- rest- how sweet it is.  Here's hoping it's enough to get me through the next 12 weeks.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


The daffodils are up all over the place in my neck of the woods, and although I'm disappointed about the lack of measurable snow once the flowers start to sprout I'm ready to welcome warmer weather and green trees.  Even though the flowers are doing their part to prepare the path for spring the clouds and upper atmosphere have their own agenda.

Yesterday we had snow...again.  It's like the weather gods have some sort of twisted sense of humor- how funny they must think it is to send snow my way on not one, but two days, of my Spring Break.  The weird thing about the latest snow event was what all that cold wetness looked liked as it fell from the sky.

As I drove back home late yesterday afternoon I couldn't help but notice the small white balls that were falling from the sky.  Was it snow?  Was it hail?  If not, what the hail was it?

It was graupel.  Yes, graupel.  Yup, I'd never heard of the stuff either but lucky for me The Weather Channel used the word as a descriptor for the day's weather.

So, maybe it hasn't been the best weather this week- but that will change.  In the meantime I learned a little something new and that's always good.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Free Lunch

Certainly one of my favorite ways to spend a day off includes going out to lunch.  I'm sure I've written about my love of going out to lunch before- it's a quick treat during the middle of the day that doesn't require reservations or much planning.  As a teacher the thought of lingering over a mid-day meal for more than 20 minutes is a welcome bonus of a day off.

Today I was lucky to be able to meet up with an old friend for a lunch of fish tacos and a deliciously satisfying pale ale.  What could be better than fish tacos and beer you ask?  Not much...until my friend offered to pay the check.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Slippery Slope

Last Friday I dubbed my week off as "Spring Break in Yoga Pants."  I'm happy to say that for the most part I've kept true to my word.  Although I have ventured out in denim over the past few days I've also spent large chunks of time wearing my favorite black cotton britches.  Yoga pants are a slippery slope- that's for sure.  On the one hand, it's easy to complete the look with a pair of running shoes and head out for a little exercise.  Unfortunately, it's just as easy to curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and newspaper for an extended session of non-exercise.

Considering what I know about laws of motion and things at rest and all that stuff, I've tried to make sure the lounging doesn't come until the exercise is complete.

So far, so good. 

Monday, March 25, 2013


The big talk around town today was definitely the 2 or 3 inches of snow that blanketed the area overnight.  It was the heavy, wet kind of snow that stuck to the trees, covered most of the grass, but pretty much left the roads alone.  Ironically, the first measurable snowfall in almost 2 years coincided with my first official day of Spring Break.

Not one to worry about a little about snowfall I went on with my plans for the day.  After a quick trip to the gym I headed next door to take care of the second errand of the day- a new spring pedicure.  After a relaxing hour in the spa chair I headed home, happy in my Capri workout pants and flip flops, smiling as the last of the snowflakes hit my fabulous new "Roadhouse Blues" toes.

It looks like we'll have a warm-up by the weekend and I'd say that my feet are ready, and waiting, to show off a bit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Getting Cleaned Up

There's nothing like the possibility of a parental visit to get things cleaned up in a hurry. 

After speaking with my dad this morning it seemed like having him and my mom spend the night might make it easier for them to get to a doctor's appointment down this way.

It wasn't until I hung up the phone and looked around that I realized I had a little cleaning up to do.  Newspapers were strewn around the living room along with cups, plates and napkins- all a result of one very relaxing day yesterday.  Dishes in the sink needed to find their way to the dishwasher and the trash needed emptying.

Yikes, I thought, I better get busy.

And get busy I did.  Dishes and trash were herded to their proper place.  The vacuum hummed along the carpet, sucking up all those nasty little crumbs that had fallen by the wayside.  The kitchen counters got a quick, but efficient, wipe-down and within a relatively short amount of time the house was ready to welcome visitors-even the parental type. 

In the end, my parents decided it was just as easy to stay home tonight, so they won't get to see how great everything is looking over here. 

That's okay, there's nothing like starting off the week with a fresh, clean look.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Slow and Steady

When I packed things up at work yesterday I also took two rather large piles of papers that needed grading.  Since it's the end of the quarter I had a few rewrites to go through as well a large pile of essays that the students just finished.

Certainly all this work has the potential to mess with my plans for a restful, whatever, whenever, wherever spring break.  I've walked by the piles of work all day today.  Since they have taken up residence on my dining room table I even had to push them to the side earlier this evening when I sat down to eat dinner.

Tomorrow I'll split my two piles into 5 smaller ones and set myself up for getting through the work a little at a time. 

Here's hoping slow and steady really does win this race.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Whatever, Wherever, Whenever

I grinned as I shut off my alarm this morning.  Even though an entire day of whatever might happen in 6th grade was yet to come, I could smile knowing that come Monday I would not be bothered with the sound of an alarm.

Time.  It's the thing that everyone talks about wanting more of.  Really, I have enough time; we all have the same 24 hours each day.  What I'm looking for is down time.  I want to string together seconds, minutes and hours and fill them with nothing in particular.  I want to enjoy the feeling of being wherever I happen to be without the feeling that I should be somewhere else, doing something else.  Thankfully, I will do just that next week.

I will be wherever I want to be at any given moment.  And if in that moment I decide I want to be somewhere else doing something else, I'll do that. 

Yes, that's what I call Spring Break.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hitchin' A Ride

Hitchhikers- now that's something you don't see too much of these days.  No, I'm not talking about those things that attach themselves to your clothing as you walk through the woods.  Think more along the lines of a lanky, long-haired guy standing on the side of the interstate with a duffel bag and a cardboard sign in his hand.

My brother was one of those long-haired lanky guys that used to stick out his thumb when he needed to get somewhere.  It was an acceptable mode of transportation at the time and one employed by both of my brothers and most of their friends.  One of those guys was known to pack his clothes in a guitar case- he thought the guitar thing increased his chances of getting picked up and since he often thumbed it home from college it made it easier to lug home his dirty laundry.

I tried my luck at hitching a ride only once, and even then I did it with 2 other friends.  We were at the beach and tired of waiting for the bus to come so someone stuck out a thumb and hoped for the best.  A ride came before the bus so we hopped in and lived to tell our tale.

Somewhere in the early 80s one brother was trying to get to Boulder, CO to see the Grateful Dead.  My mom was kind enough to drive him out to western Maryland where he could try his luck hitching a ride along Interstate 70.  Luck was with him that day-within an hour he was seated in the front seat of someone's car.  That someone was heading for Denver.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Watching and Waiting

I enjoy checking in on the neighborhood when I take my evening or afternoon stroll.  I like watching the progress of different renovation projects and am always interested in the creative touches that homeowners add to make the residence their own.  Sometimes I even manage a peek in an open window allowing me to check out paint color and kitchen cabinetry.  All snooping is done while walking so no need to worry. I'm no peeping Tom or anything.  Nevertheless, I have noticed a good number of changes on my usual routes over the last few years.

Today as I walked around it wasn't the kitchen lighting and cabinetry that I saw, what I kept seeing was pets.

There were cats of all colors looking out windows.  Maybe they were looking for birds.  I know when I leave in the morning I always open up the curtains in the living room window so my cat can lounge in his window seat all day and watch his "shows."

But then right before I made it back to my house I saw a sad, sad sight.  It was a dog.  He was a fluffy little guy with an adorable face centered in the window.  And wow, did he look concerned.  He was obviously not looking at birds or squirrels or any sort of wildlife.  He was waiting- waiting for that special person to return to him.  It was just about 5:00pm by then so I'm sure he knew it wouldn't be long until he heard the familiar sound of the car engine, followed by the slamming of doors and then finally the jingle of keys in the lock. 

Hurry up people; your pets are at home anxiously awaiting your return.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Talking To Myself

Speaking of getting a little help from your friends- I got another boost today.  You see, I've been dealing with some medical stuff lately, which has caused my energy level to sink to an all time low.  Low energy means it takes that much more self-motivation to get my arse out the door and moving.

Confession:  I've been driving my gym bag around town way too much lately.

This morning I had a little chat with myself.  Actually, it wasn't so much a discussion as an order.

Mary, you will exercise today.  No. matter. what.

This afternoon I realized that I a friend who stays with me when she's in the area for work was coming back into town this evening.  And although she offered to stop at the store and pick up something for dinner I already had a pretty substantial list going in my head. So I knew that I was going to have to watch out for that little voice that often tries to steer me away from exercise and toward the couch.

Uh, oh...if you go to the grocery store you'll never have enough time for exercise.  I mean you also have to make dinner.  You have guests!  That means you can't just shovel down a bowl of bran flakes and call it dinner.  

Oh, yes, I can be rather convincing.

The best defense is a good offense, isn't that way they say?  With that thought in mind I walked into my local Giant and headed straight for the produce section.  I picked up some green leaf lettuce, Romaine, spinach, peppers and other assorted salad goodies.  At least if I did talk myself out of exercise there would be salad- and Teriyaki chicken.

Connie arrived just about the time I was putting the last of the groceries away.

"Hey, I don't know what you're thinking," she started, "but it's so nice outside I'm thinking about throwing on my sneakers and going for a walk before dinner."

"Yes." I smiled.

Now what was it you were saying?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Morning Tired

With only four days left until the start of Spring Break it's hard to tell who's count down is louder, the students or the teachers.  For the most part everyone is trying his or her best to hold it together until 2:24 on Friday when break officially begins.  My countdown is more about morning wake-ups- for me that is by far the worst part of the day.  I think, and the rest of my body agrees, that 5:anything is way too early to get up.  I really don't know how I've done it for the past 9 years. There is a tiredness that seeps into me this March of year nine making me wonder if it's all caught up to me, which is why I am so dang tired so much of the time. 

No, it's just that time of year.  I'm exhausted but not so spent that I can't remember how I feel right before Spring Break just about every year.  While the kids at school share their vacation plans- many of which begin Thursday or Friday of this week- I dream of sleeping late, puttering around the house and recharging myself so I'm ready to face the last 12 weeks of the year.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thankful for My Village

Having a small village of friends means I have a large assortment of experts to call on when needing help with life's day-to-day problems and inconveniences.  Today's unplanned car dilemma was made easier thanks to one of my village members.

Unfortunately, my newly repaired car wasn't quite as fixed up as I thought it would be.  Last night while on an Indian food run I had noted the temperature gauge racing to hot after driving all of about one mile.  Ugh.  I hate dealing with car stuff, so my first instinct was to ignore it and hope the problem would solve itself overnight.

That didn't quite work out as planned.  This afternoon I lifted the hood and poked around the engine to see if I could make sense of the problem.  Obviously, something was going on with the coolant level in the radiator.  The wet spot underneath the car led me to believe there was a leak somewhere.  Thanks to that leak I was going to have to take it back to the shop where I'd only been less than 24 hours before.

Enter my go-to car expert, Mary Ellen.  I've known her for over 25 years, which means we go back long enough to have known one another when we were zipping around town in cars that were not always in the finest state of repair.  If memory serves me right, it was Mary Ellen that taught me how to pop the clutch on my Ford Escort when it wouldn't start.  She was also known to shop all over the area when looking for a cheaper car repair, even going as far as Scranton's largest auto junk yard in search of a new engine for her little Subaru.  So today, when I was faced with that pesky radiator problem she was the first person I asked for advice.

Within 15 minutes of my call for help she was at my house and underneath the car looking for the source of the leak.  Her hope was that it was just a loose fitting that we (she) could tighten up.  I poured water into the radiator, and onto Mary Ellen, as she looked for the problem.  Without a clear answer we drove it back to the service station where it sits waiting for a second opinion.

Life's little inconveniences are better when faced with the support of others. Even though I've known that for many years, it still feels good to know there's always someone to call when a little bit of help is needed.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gas Station Art

I spent about an hour today hanging out in a local service station and noted some interesting goings on.  To begin with, have you ever noticed the hodgepodge of decor that adorns many a gas station?  While spending time at Gray's Automotive I noticed a Redskins pennant autographed by former owner Jack Kent Cooke.  The faded piece of memorabilia had been framed along with a picture of Mr. Cooke, the gas station owner and a girl I presume was his daughter.  Next to the pennant and picture was a card handwritten in thick, black magic marker, it read:  Jack Kent Cooke was here.  The date of the visit was included as well.  As I said it was framed, what I didn't say was the framing was really nothing more than all three items behind a piece of glass surrounded by a brown wooden border.

Next to the Jack Kent Cooke tribute was an out of place hunting-like print of a gathering of deer in the forest. It had been set in an ornate wooden gold frame.  Yup, it was quite a sight to behold next to the jugs of blue wiper fluid.

The last piece in the collection was a print of a pink cherry blossom.  The owner is Japanese so I can only guess it was a nod to his ancestry. 

In the meantime, I'm thinking about offering up some sort of art for car repair deal.

Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Mary's College Part 3

St. Mary's was a small, liberal arts college, there were only about 800 students living on campus in 4 dorms.  My largest classes came during my freshman and sophomore years when I was enrolled in my required survey classes such as math and psychology.  The rest of my classes averaged around 15 to 20 students.  The small class sizes made it difficult to hide out in the back, meaning even if I didn't accomplish all the required reading for class I usually did enough to sound like I had.

As an English major it was easier to talk my way to an answer during a class discussion.  That didn't come as easily in Astronomy.  My professor, Dr. Weir, was famous for giving a quiz at the beginning of each class.  He knew it was the best way to keep his students on track.  He also enjoyed evening field trips so we could take part in some real-world learning.  Unfortunately, those evening trips often meant meeting up in a dark field on the edge of campus at midnight.  As if that wasn't enough he would ask that we come back an hour later, and an hour after that, to observe the changes in the night sky.  I can't say I liked the interruption in my sleep, or fun, schedule; but I sure did gain a better understanding what was happening in the sky.

Sailing was another thing.  It took a bit of practice but I eventually figured out how to tie most of the knots.  The classroom part of the course was easy enough; I learned the rules of the water and other lessons of general water safety.  And then came time for the class to move outside to the water.  After foolishly volunteering to demonstrate the proper way to rig up the sails, my sailing partner and I were pushed away from the dock and sent onto the river with the wind.  We lived to tell our tale but not before hitting a few other boats along the way.  I didn't sail much after that, I preferred to enjoy the serenity of the river while lounging in a canoe.

I finished up my four years at SMC with an independent study class.  Once a week I would walk the path up to Montgomery Hall and meet with my English professor to discuss the short stories of American writers.  For someone who rarely read every word they were assigned it was a risky move.  On any given day I had the ability to be the best in the class or not.  

Once again, I stepped out of my comfort zone and survived.

Graduation came all too soon for me.  In May of 1984 I packed up my things and headed back home without a clue as to where I was going next.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Mary's College Part 2

There was a lot to be learned in college, but I'm sure it won't surprise anyone to hear that most of that learning took place outside of the classroom.  The lessons learned there are simple, but so often forgotten: take time to look around-really look around- and enjoy what's in front of you, relax, laugh with friends, and watching a good sunset can take the edge off of any day.

There was a lot to see in St. Mary's, but certainly one of the most memorable sights came sometime during my freshman year when a friend and I were walking along the river one evening.  We decided to take a wet shortcut to the boathouse when I was surprised to see our footprints glowing in the sand.  Lucky for me my friend was majoring in biology and was able to teach me all about bioluminescence in algae.  I had never seen such a thing before and didn't see it again until a few summers ago when I explained to whole thing to my nephew while we stood on the beach in North Carolina.

Laughter.  I experienced more than my fair share of that while living the good life in southern Maryland.  Fortunately I still get opportunities to laugh with the same good friends today.  The friends I made down there were the kind that you know are going to be a part of your life for the rest of your life, which is a great way to keep the laughter going.

The other part of campus that would make any alumni's "best of" list would be the treat of so many sunsets on the St. Mary's River.  Many evening meals at the dining hall were followed by a stroll over to the historic cemetery at Trinity Parish for the best view.  I can still picture myself sitting on a bluff, surrounded by buttercups, looking down as the blue sky yielded to the rich oranges, reds and yellows of the setting sun.  The air was still but my friends and I were laughing as we took in the beauty that was our daily existence.  That's what I call relaxation at its finest.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Mary's College Part 1

I'm really much more of a small town kind of gal.  Even though I've spent the last 25 years living 5 miles from the nation's capital I'm much more comfortable in a one stoplight town- three or four is okay as well.

St. Mary's City was that town.  I'm sure it was big stuff in it's heyday, as the fourth permanent settlement in British North America and as Maryland's first capital, but by the time I arrived in August of 1980 it was not really much of a town at all.  There was a post office, a church and one flashing light.  The nearest store of any kind was about 3 miles away.  St. Mary's City was really just St. Mary's College. In fact, tourists would often flag us college students down as we strolled along Route 5 on our way to class.

"Excuse me, could you tell us where St. Mary's City is? " they would inquire.

"Uh, you're in it."

Life at St. Mary's College was small in size, but, wow, it was large in so many other ways.  To start with there was the river.  The St. Mary's River is impressive.  I'd bet if you asked anyone who went to school there what their favorite part of campus was they'd say it was the drive down Rt. 5 into St. Mary's City.  Shortly after passing an old tobacco barn and a dive bar, The Green Door, the road bends around to the right a bit.  After a short drive through a stand of trees the road curves once more and opens up with a grand view of nothing but river, trees and sky.  When the water is filled with the sails of 420s, Lasers, and windsurfers it's downright fabulous.  I have four years of memories crammed into my head about that place, but nothing beats the way the river welcomes me every time I go down that way.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons Learned on Rainier Ave.

Yup, I learned a lot up there on Rainier Ave. - some good, some bad.  I learned I don't really like babysitting.  I remember babysitting some kids across the way and just hating it.  The only person I liked babysitting was my young neighbor, Gerald.  I would sit with him on Sunday nights while his parents went off to church.  Gerald was the easiest child I've ever sat for.  He pretty much entertained himself while I was there and when I let him know it was time for bed he would, without a word, turn towards the steps, smile and say, "Okay, good night then!"

Yes, it was that easy.  And if that's not enough, his mom always made me some sort of dessert to enjoy while they were gone.  On the one occasion when there was no cake to munch on she apologized profusely and let me know that she'd left me all the fixings for a banana split. 

I learned playing in the snow can be painful...especially when chasing someone (Freddy) with a snowball and slipping on a patch of ice that lay hidden underneath 6 inches of snow.  To this day I can still recall the horrific sound of my bone breaking.

I learned it's really not that fun to miss three weeks of school.

Thanks to those three missed weeks there's one thing I didn't learn- how to diagram sentences.  There are days when I wonder if I missed anything at all. Other days I'm sure I there is a void in my life that could be filled by that one skill.  One day...

I learned how to drive.  It wasn't the easiest thing in the world, well the driving itself was okay, but throw in learning on a stick shift and parallel parking and things get a little dicey.

On a similar note I learned when driving in a torrential downpour be careful of streams that rise out of their banks.  The water is deeper than it appears.  You should not attempt to drive through no matter how safe it looks.  However, if you make the wrong decision it's best to climb out the window and hold onto the car until reaching shallow water.

As far as school goes, I found out that middle school really isn't much fun for an introvert with a low level of self-esteem.  Thankfully, high school is better.

After 7 years on Rainier Ave. I learned enough for the next stage of life.  In August of 1980 I packed up my things and headed south to St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Monday, March 11, 2013

New Digs a Little North

My family and I arrived in Bel Air during the summer before I started 6th grade.  The house was brand, spanking new.  The housing development was new as well, one of the first of many built in Bel Air at that time period.  Since then the entire area has continued to explode- to the point where these days I have a hard time recognizing the places I knew so well back then.

The year was 1973 and boy did our house show it.  Every room was adorned with a different tri-color shag rug.  There was gold in the living and family room, green in the boys' room and a fabulous shade of orange in the bedroom that my sister and I shared.
New construction meant we finally had central air conditioning.  I was sure I wouldn't be sweating out another summer but didn't count on my mother policing the thermostat.  She was one money saver that's for sure- if she deemed it hot enough to turn the a/c on it didn't go on until after dinner and was turned off as soon as she got up early the next morning.  Yeah, it wasn't exactly what I had imagined the comforts of forced, cooled air to be but it beat having nothing at all.

I lived on Rainier Ave. for 7 years- longer than anywhere else I've lived.  I started off as an insecure 11 year-old and managed to survive the challenges of adolescence, middle school and high school before heading off to college at the age of 18. 

Yup, I learned a whole bunch while living in Bel Air-so much; I don't even know where to start.

Let me think on all that a bit more...I'll get back to you tomorrow...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gothard Rd. Part 2

The one thing that stands out to me about the time we spent on Gothard Rd. is the amount of freedom us kids were given.  Not only were we running about on the Cul-de-sac for nightly games of Kick the Can, we were running all over the neighborhood.

Back then we was usually myself and Cheryl, who had moved in across the street sometime after my family had arrived.  Cheryl and her family had come from Michigan after her father accepted a job with another favorite team, the Baltimore Colts.  We were the same age so it made sense that we hung out together.

We covered a lot of ground in those days.  There was a 7-11 about a mile away.  It became an almost daily ritual to head over that way for candy cigarettes, wax lips and some strange candy that was made to look like lipstick.  Yeah, us kids were not only running free through the neighborhood, we were also stuffing as much sugar as possible into our mouths while we did it.

We spent most of our time outside.  There was no air conditioning inside and the black and white TV that sat in the corner of our living room only played 4 or 5 stations.  The outside offered a whole lot more fun than anything going on inside the house.  When Hurricane Agnes arrived in June of 1972 we were not deterred; we put on bathing suits and headed out the front door to play in the storm. 

The Bookmobile drove through the neighborhood each week, so did the fruit and vegetable truck.  The older man who owned the green panel van always had purple grapes to hand out to kids.  The Charlie Chip man came through on a regular basis delivering chips and pretzels to the neighbors.  We weren't one of the lucky ones getting a delivery from the chip guy but I sure wished we could be.

There were three good years on Gothard Rd., and then before I knew it we were moving north to someplace called Bel Air.   I didn't know much about Bel Air, except that it was located in Harford County, and that county was always getting snow days.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gothard Rd. Part 1

By the time I started third grade I had moved into the split-level house on Gothard Rd.  This time around it wasn't just my family of six that moved in.  My paternal grandmother, Mom Mom to all of us kids, and my great aunt moved in with us.  Mom Mom had recently suffered a stroke.  Finding a place that provided a space for the two of them was important so we found a new rental property about 5 miles from the house on Othoridge.

The neighborhood was full of kids and although it wasn't easy making friends at first, eventually we all got used to each other and learned how to have fun together.  In the summertime we had epic games of kick the can in the Cul-de-sac to the left of our property. 

The Vietnam War was the lead news story of the day.  Pictures of soldiers and war covered the pages of The Baltimore Sun and the now defunct, News American.  At the age of 8 I didn't really understand what was going on over there but I do remember wondering who was winning on regularly. 

My grandmother and great aunt weren't the only additions to household on Gothard Rd.  After years of asking, begging and pleading I got my first pet.  My third grade teacher, Mrs. Carey, was quite the saleswoman.  We arrived at school one day and found kittens running all over the classroom.  Lucky for us they were all in need of homes!  To this day I can't be sure what it was that convinced my mom to say yes, but the next thing I knew I was coming home with my very own gray cat.  Deciding on a name was tough.  I was still an Orioles fan so of course Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell were in the running for some time.  Eventually I settled on the name of my favorite cat food spokesperson of the day and named my new kitten Morris. 

Did I mention that my mother specified the cat had to be a boy?  She was not about to deal with any cat that was going to sneak into some closet and have a bunch of kittens.

Oops...Morris turned out to be a girl.  Not only did she sneak into the closet and have kittens (twice), the closet she decided to sneak into was the one that stored my mother's clothes and shoes.

more tomorrow...

Friday, March 8, 2013


Yes, there are the all those houses that I lived in.  From Baltimore to DC, and back to Baltimore again, there have been a number of places that I've "grown up" in.   But really, it would be irresponsible not to mention one more place before I go any further- and that would be my grandmother's house on the eastern shore of Maryland.

If anyone were looking for a litmus test to see if they can classify themselves as a real friend of mine I'd have to say it has to do with my maternal grandmother.  If you can retell 3 or 4 good "Granny stories" from my childhood, then you and I are pretty good friends.  If you have been privy to a few of those stories then I've opened up to you and let you pretty far into my real world.

It was a "back door" kind of place.  The only people who came to the front door were the ones that didn't come by that often.  Most people climbed the rear concrete steps and entered through the kitchen without ever a knock on the door.  For the most part that's where all the gatherings took place.  Everyone found a seat around the Formica table that took up a good part of the kitchen and settled in for food and chat.  Pop Pop's chair was the only reserved seat- he sat in his chair by the window. His was a perch that offered up a view of the garden out back, allowing him to be a part of the conversation when he wanted, while he kept watch over his pride and joy in the back yard.

In the early years my grandparents were without the comforts of a real bathroom and that was okay with me.  I never minded heading out back to the outhouse.  Yeah, it smelled kind of nasty, but it was just part of the way things were down on the eastern shore.  When I was still small enough baths were taken in the kitchen sink followed by a thorough drying off by Granny as I stood on a kitchen chair by the stove.  Dinnertime meant the best lima beans ever, fresh squeezed lemonade and homemade ice cream.

At night I would climb the wooden stairs to Granny's bedroom where I snuggled up next to her in bed.  My grandfather slept in his own room down the hall- another story on its own- with a Mason jar of ice-cold water next to his bed.

We didn't spend a lot of time in the living room.  There was a couch, which Granny always referred to as the davenport, and a black and white console TV.  Next to the TV sat a wooden telephone table.  It looked a bit like an old fashioned school desk except it was made for sitting while talking on the phone-something that may seem odd to the cordless phone culture of today, but was just right for the bulky, black rotary dial phone of the 60s and 70s.

During the summer the conversations moved out of the warm kitchen to the cooler screened-in porch out front.  My favorite spot was the wooden porch swing where I could sit for hours and listen as the grown-ups talked about everything and nothing in particular.  It was on that porch that I would earn a quarter here and there for massaging my grandmother's feet with rubbing alcohol helping to relieve the pains of the day.

That cedar-shingled house may not have looked like much to any passersby, but to me it was, and still is, the heartbeat of my childhood.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Othoridge Road- 1970

Memories of life on Othoridge Road can be summed up in a few words: Cicadas, flying wigs, and Brooks Robinson and the Baltimore Orioles.

It was 1970- a big year in Baltimore not because the 17-year cicada had returned, but because Brooks Robinson was on third base.  Yes, the cicadas-we always called them locusts- were everywhere.  The noise was deafening, especially since we lived in a house without any sort of air conditioning unit.  Summer heat meant all windows were open in hopes of coaxing some kind of breeze out of the humid Baltimore air.  After the cacophony of the cicadas died down we were left with their crunchy shells.  The remnants of their short existence littered the lawns and hung onto every tree in our neighborhood.  It was a pretty miserable summer.  Fortunately, my cousins lived next door and didn't mind supplying me with discounted snowballs from their summer snowball stand.

I've discovered that the snowball stand is somewhat of a Baltimore thing.  Yes, they've popped up a bit here and there as of late, but for me it's not summer without a good ole' Egg Custard snowball.  When I was younger, and my cousins were handing out the friends and family discount, I always went for chocolate with marshmallow on top.  It was a perfect, delightful mess.

Before I get to Brooks and the boys I should explain the flying wig thing.  Wigs were in fashion back then.  My mom had one that sat on a Styrofoam head in her bedroom.  She took it out for special occasions-occasions like my 1st Communion.  I'm sure she looked great in her new wig, I don't remember for sure.  All I remember of that day, besides myself in a white dress and veil with my handpicked bouquet of dandelions, is the moment my mom walked under a tree only to have her wig lifted right off her head by a sneaky little tree branch.

The Orioles had a big year in 1969 but fell short of the winning the World Series thanks to the Mets.  I don't remember all that but I do remember loving my black and white Orioles baseball cap.  One of my favorite pictures is one of my sister and I- sitting at the breakfast table, over our respective bowls of Cheerios, with wide smiles and Orioles caps firmly in place hiding our bed heads.  I'm sure it was that summer of winning Orioles baseball that made me the O's fan I am today.

In some ways it was on Othoridge Road that my memories of my own life begin.   The mind pictures from this point in my life are numerous, really they're much more than snapshots, they're short movies of who I was and what I was doing at the beginning of a new decade. stop... Gothard Rd.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Life in Lutherville...Part 1

To tell you the truth, I had to call my mom this afternoon to clarify where we lived once we left the DC suburbs, and headed north back to Baltimore.  We didn't return to Govans; we moved a little farther out of the city to the Baltimore County town of Lutherville.  We actually lived in three different places in Lutherville- I was stuck on which one we moved to first.

Thanks, Mom, for setting me straight and helping me to understand why I didn't remember all that much about a little rancher on Ridgely Rd.  You see we only lived there about 6 months.  Mom told me it was a rental property and at some point the owner wanted to take the house back.  My parents agreed to vacate the house if they could find someplace to go.

The brick one story house had a large backyard and a long walkway out front that led to the sidewalk.  There was a larger backyard with a gentle slope downward to a hedge of some sort.  When we first moved in we sat on patio furniture in the empty living room. I never thought about why, I only thought how fun it was to be sitting on a beach chair in my own living room.  We Shall Overcome was the song of the moment and I remember hearing it for the first time while sitting on that odd assortment of furniture.

I had started first grade at St. Joseph's, a small Catholic school, not too far away.  We had our first-ever teenage babysitter while living on Ridgely Rd.  She taught me that you can stay up as late as you want with a babysitter, but once you hear the car door slam in the driveway you have to run right to bed and pretend you've been there for a long time.

And then we were gone.  In fact, I remember going to school in the morning from Ridgely Rd. and coming home in the afternoon to a new house about 3 miles down the road on Othoridge Road.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Colesville Rd.

The house in Silver Spring, a suburb outside of Washington, DC, was a large, white brick structure.  The house-front faced a busy Colesville Rd. My dad would walk out to the bus stop in front of our house each day and catch a ride to work.

The driveway in the back of the house was reached by an access road of some sort.  I remember the garage connected to the house.  My sister was older by the time we moved in, old enough to cry whenever her mother left the house without her.  On those occasions when it was necessary to leave Jeen at home we would hatch an escape plan.  We never left the room together, often I would run out ahead of my mom right through that garage and climb into our waiting Ford Fairlane. Mom would run out behind me and we'd take off as the cries of an unhappy baby filled the air.

I went to Sligo Creek Elementary School down the road.  Kindergarten was a half-day thing back then.  My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Graham, was always kind- even when I told her the class praying mantis had died at my house over the weekend.  Kindergarten was more fun than learning but I learned a whole bunch that year just the same.

I learned it hurts to break your arm, that if you sit behind the kitchen door and eat a bottle of baby aspirin the doctors at the hospital pump you stomach.  I learned pumping your stomach is the same as making you throw up.  I spent hours on the side patio trying to learn my phone number and finally did.  I met my neighbor, Mrs. Cowger, and learned about making friends.  Her son taught me how to color inside the lines.

While living in the big house on Colesville Rd., I also learned that it was possible to fly to and even walk on the moon.  I saw it for myself on our black and white TV.

We didn't stay in Silver Spring for long- only for about one year.  By the time I started 1st grade I was back in the Baltimore area.

Monday, March 4, 2013

On the Move

Today we read the last chapter of Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher.  It is in that chapter that Ralph tells of the special kind of goodbye he got from his neighborhood friends before he had to get in the car with his family and head off to their new home.

Afterwards I asked the twenty students who satin front of me if they'd ever experienced a move like Ralph.  Surprisingly only a few- maybe 5 or 6- had.  Wow. By the time I was their age I'd moved 6 times.  Luckily, although I lived in three different places from 1st to 5th grade I never moved far enough to warrant a change in school.  Staying at the same school made the move a little easier but still there were always a new group of neighborhood kids to size up and figure out.

The first house I remember was located on Hollen Road in the Govans section of Baltimore City.  My parents, two brothers and I lived in a small bungalow not too far from a stream down the street.  Most of the memories I have of my life there are more like snapshots- and they are similar to the same snapshots that can be found in the family photo albums stored in my parent's basement.

Hollen Rd. conjures up pictures of my baby carriage, swallowed pennies, Fran and Mandy across the street, grape vines and the arrival of my sister, Jeen, who was lucky enough to enter our lives only days after we had come down with the chicken pox.

It was on Hollen Rd. that I learned not to leave my wagon in the driveway that was shared by our neighbor.  Luckily, she felt bad for running it over and replaced it with one that was even nicer than the one I had.  Yeah, it had the real wooden sides- I couldn't believe it.

Hollen Rd. was a happy place.  I can't say I remember leaving but I do know our next stop was a big one.  We left Baltimore and headed to Washington, DC.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Show Time

After a quick drive up the interstate I found myself back in my old high school for a performance of the school's spring musical.  This time it was a wonderful interpretation of Disney's Aladdin.  Yes, there was music, dancing, a blue genie and general merriment.  It wasn't as big a production as the fall show but the smaller cast gave it their all and the audience was treated to a show full of energy and fun.

Thirty-two years later the auditorium looks pretty much the same as it did when I worked the stage crew for our production of Fiddler on the Roof.  The sets look a tad fancier these days but the smiles and shrieks of the cast at the end of the show are just as wide and loud as they were back in my day.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spring is Nice And All But How About A Little Snow?

It seems as though spring is ready to burst forth from the earth.  Green stalks have already shot up through the soil in my backyard and the first hardy daffodils have staked their claim in the sunny sections of the neighborhood.  There's been a lot of chatter amongst the birds- if I had to guess I'd say they've been talking about the lack of snow this winter. 

Yes, the subtle signs of spring are a welcome diversion from the monotony of winter.  Even so, I wouldn't mind too much if that snowstorm everyone has been talking about made a direct hit on the nation's capital.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Darn Good Day

As far as days off go I'd have to say that the one I had today was just about perfect.  After  a slightly painful medical test in the morning and my weekly allergy shots I had the rest of the day to myself.  It turns out a day with not much to do was just what I needed.

Going out to lunch always makes me happy.  As a teacher it's a treat to be able to sit for an hour or so and enjoy a meal prepared by someone else.  Today's meal of fish tacos was fabulous on its own- throw in a midday beer and a few laughs with a friend and wow what a treat it was.

After lunch I spent about an hour strolling up and down the aisles of Target as I looked for nothing in particular.  By the time I had checked out, to the tune of about $150, I had six bags of everything I was sure I needed. There will be new purple towels in the bathroom, a bright blue ironing board cover and one well-organized desk.

Yes, lunch and a Target shopping spree.  It's hard to imagine much more fun than that isn't it? 

How about an afternoon nap?  Yes, it was a darn good day.