Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer- It's a Wrap

I did my best to eke out every bit of summer that I could.  I stopped by Jeannie's house in Annapolis on my way home from the beach.  I said yes to a beer and had a sit and chat on her deck with a fabulous view of the Severn River.  When her husband, Chip, invited us for dinner I accepted the invitation so I could stretch the last night of summer out just a little longer.  Lucky for me there were steaks ready to go onto the grill and a bevy of fresh vegetables from an early morning run to the Baltimore Farmer's market.  As if that wasn't enough, there was a selection of Dangerously Delicious Pies for dessert.

As darkness started to fall I knew it was time to climb in the car and accept that summer was over for this teacher.  Lucky me, I got treated to one last surprise- a fireworks display from somewhere over DC as I headed west on Route 50 to make my way home.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Missing My Friend

I wrote, with pleasure, about TimeHop a few weeks ago.  Recently, I've been introduced to the downside of looking back.

A few days ago I opened my TimeHop post to see pictures of a trip I took to Chicago four years ago. Although the pictures and the trip were fabulous I was taken aback to see my friend Debbie smiling into the camera.  In some ways our trip to Chicago seems like it was a very long time ago, in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday.

I found that looking back on that trip, and thinking of Debbie, made me sad.  I suppose the memories weighed heavily on my mind when I went to sleep last night.  As my mind wandered in sleep mode I found myself dreaming of a meet-up with Debbie.  In my dream I watched as she walked into our workplace like she'd never left this world.  The weird thing was that I was the only person who saw her.  She seemed unaware of the fact that she was no longer among the living and although I knew it was strange that I was the only one who saw her I enjoyed the time we had together in my dream.

I woke up late this morning.  Even though I knew I was only dreaming when I saw Debbie I enjoyed our time together in my subconscious.  It was the one dream I did not want to wake up from.

I miss my friend.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Key Card Lunch

I went to lunch with some friends in Annapolis today.  There's nothing so remarkable about that.  I mean I go out to lunch all the time.  I go to Annapolis quite a bit and I've had plenty of lunches and dinners there.  Today's lunch was a little more interesting because we went to the Fleet Reserve club downtown.  This was the kind of club where you had to have a key card to get in the front door. Fortunately, we had one since Chip is a former Navy guy.

After we used our special gold card to get us in the front door we stopped at the sign-in book and put our names on the dotted line.  From there we walked through the dark-wood bar and out onto the patio. There was a table right in front with a fabulous view of all the boats cruising down Ego Alley.

It wasn't as sunny as it could have been, but the food was good, the beer was cold and the company was lovely.  We're so fancy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Cycle of Stuff

Today's trunk load of donations to Goodwill can only mean that I have pretty much completed my summer clean-out.  Tomorrow I can head to the beach knowing that my house is a lighter than it was 62 days ago. The feeling of less is a good one.

Now I have an entire school year to accumulate more stuff.  And so the cycle begins again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Shop When You Can Eat Less?

After cleaning out my closet I can say I  would have quite the wardrobe if I lost those few pounds I mysteriously put on over the last few years.
Here's to tracking calories and hitting the gym a little more!  It's definitely cheaper than buying more clothes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Inspection, Scrutiny and Final Fate

As far as my summer project of cleaning out my house goes, I've left the best for last.  Tomorrow I will take everything out of my clothes closet and separate what's in there into three piles.  Each item of clothing will be scrutinized and inspected.  In the end there are three possible fates:  stay, go, or storage.
Shoes must suffer the same scrutiny.

It could be an emotional day, but in the end I think the final outcome will benefit all.

Monday, August 18, 2014


The beginning of the year can be pretty overwhelming.  In-service week usually consists of one meeting after another so I decided to head into my classroom today and start getting things set up.  I actually went in one day last week but lacked the motivation to accomplish much.  Today I cued up a little 70s music on Pandora and happily pulled things out of the closet while singing along to Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles.

There was no one else working in my area so I had nothing but quiet to keep me focused on the task at hand.  The only real interruption came when I noticed that the new teachers were coming into the building after a morning of orientation.  I took a moment to watch out my window as three or four cars pulled up.  One teacher slid slowly out of her Honda Civic after checking herself in the mirror.  She stood outside of her car door and brushed the lint and wrinkles from her black pants.  She was stalling- believe me, I know what that looks like.  Twenty seconds later she took a deep breath and walked confidently toward the door.

I took a moment to study her face.  I want to be sure to remember who she is so I can welcome her when we all return next week.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


And to wrap up the whole party theme... what do you give the man who has everything?  My writing friends will be happy to hear that we decided on the gift of writing.  I'd like to take credit for the idea but can't do so since my sister came up with the idea.

There were a lot of busy writers last Friday night and Saturday.  Mark and his three kids were spread out at the table on the back patio with sheets of paper, pencils and crayons.  Megan was 300 miles away at college working on the letter she would email in before the party.  Michael was in his bedroom working on putting his thoughts together.  Me?  Mine was still in my head, but I knew it would come together before the deadline because that's how we writing procrastinators work the best.

At about 8:00 last night the family lined up, from youngest to oldest, in a sort of receiving line.  One by one we wished my dad a happy birthday and handed him our gift of words.

Today he told me it was one of the best days of his life, so I guess we did okay on the present thing.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Play All Day, Sleep Well Tonight

It was nothing but blue skies and cool breezes all day today as we celebrated my dad's birthday at a cabin near the Susquehanna River.  There was swimming, boating of all sorts and a whole bunch of free time.  There was no wifi or tv so we entertained ourselves in the old-school ways of conversation and games. There was fun for every age- from 5 to 80.  At the end of the day there was cake and a nice fire in the outdoor fireplace.  

I'm certain everyone will sleep well tonight.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Big Day

Even though August 25th is the actual day, we will celebrate my dad's 80th birthday tomorrow.  The entire family- my mom, two brothers, one sister and a collection of nieces and nephews are all together to recognize the big day.

80 is a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but a bit more remarkable for my dad and his seemingly endless array of heart issues.

When I think of all my close friends I can only count a few who still have both parents still living.  Of those who do even fewer can say their parents are still together.

So, yes it's a big day.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Small Steps

I find it's best to take the whole back to work thing one small step at a time.  Today was baby step number one.  I hauled two bags of school related stuff I cleaned out of my spare room to my classroom.

An empty classroom can be an overwhelming kind of place.  Twenty-one years later I still remember the mini panic attack I had when I walked into my very first empty classroom.  If memory serves me correctly- and in this case I think it does- I muttered something like what the hell am I doing here?

Honestly, there are a few of those thoughts still in me whenever I walk into my empty classroom at the end of the summer.  Just like I did 21 years ago I push that uncertainty to the side, open up my closet that is stacked with the things that make the classroom my own, roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Minor progress was made today-but it's a start.  I'll be back next week to take a few more steps forward before I have to dive all in on August 25.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Time's a Ticking

When I awoke this morning and saw that it was after 9:00 I knew my summer vacation was almost over.  It takes me some time to get into the groove of sleeping late.  Nine weeks ago sleeping until 7:00 was a joy. By three weeks ago my wake up time had inched forward to about 8:00.  And now here I am, rolling out of bed at 9:00 like I'm some sort of retired person.

I have about 10 more mornings that don't require any sort of alarm clock.  Yes, I know I should be getting back into the groove of the early wake-up call.  Certainly I should try to start adjusting my wake up time, 15 minutes at a time, so that first blare of the alarm at 5:30 won't be such a shocker.

Yup.  Maybe I'll start that next week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sleepy Time

It's hard to understand why anyone would call what I went through last night a sleep study.  Meaning it's rather difficult to study anyone while they sleep when so much is done to keep them from sleeping.

Let me explain.  I wrote about the snoring problem last week so there's no need to go back to that. Once my class 3 mouth was identified a sleep study seemed like the next logical step to make sure I don't have sleep apnea- something that my father suffers from.

I showed up at the sleep study center at about 9:45 last nigh in a comfortable pair of exercise shorts and a t-shirt.  In hardly any time at all a staff member had me connected to about 24 different wires.  The connections would be used to monitor everything from my leg movements to my brain activity.  The same staff member that wired me up would watch and listen from another room.  All I had to do was sleep.

Yeah, that's definitely easier said than done.  I did my best to get comfortable.  That was difficult seeing as there were so many wires.  In the back of my mind I wondered if it was possible to strangle myself while sleeping.  At least I knew my technician, Oscar, was there to rescue me if needed.

I read for about 25 minutes, turned out the light, closed my eyes and did my best summon slumber.  It didn't come, but then again why would it?  I could hear the buzzing of fluorescent lights from outside my door.  I wanted to roll over and find a more comfortable position but the tugging of all the wires stopped me.   Before long there was a gentle knock at the door.  It was Oscar to let me know that something had come unplugged.

I read some more- until about midnight -when I tried, once again, to fall asleep.

Over the years I've suffered through a few sleepless nights.  I've found it best to keep my eyes softly shut and count- not sheep, just numbers.  So I counted.  And counted. And counted some more.

Eventually sleep came- sort of.  It was a restless sleep, full of starts and stops but I made it through the night without dislodging any more wires.

At about 5:00am Oscar was back with a wake-up call.  By 5:20 I was completely unplugged from all the sensors, on my way home and back to bed after a quick shower to clean out the sticky paste needed to adhere the sensors to my head.

I awoke at about 8:00 to a rainy, gloomy day- the perfect kind of day for napping.

Monday, August 11, 2014


My confidence level was on the rise after a successful project-filled weekend.  After taking a moment to admire my newly painted chairs I decided to tackle the CD that was stuck in my car audio system.  It didn’t take too long to remove the entire dashboard unit- it was nothing more than 8 screws that needed to be taken out.  Feeling good I brought the unit inside to investigate the inner workings under the light of my dining room. 

More tiny screws were removed, as were all of the CDs.  

All was well until the springs started springing.  

I now have a few small silver springs, even more tiny screws and one rather large piece from the unit sitting on my dining room table.  I have no idea where that mysterious large piece came from and how to put it all back together again.

Time to call an expert.

Ching-cha-ching.  But at least I saved money on removing the unit myself.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekend Projects

It was a big project weekend over here.  I sanded and painted the two adirondack chairs and side table that sit on my brick patio.  The chair project took yesterday and today to complete as I wanted to be sure to put on two coats of paint and needed the chairs to dry between each coat.  Once they were dry this afternoon I swept and cleaned up the patio so the shiny new chairs could look their very best.  The set was way overdue for an updated finish last summer it was rewarding to finally see the finished product this afternoon.

While I was waiting for paint to dry I took on a little redecorating project in my living room.  I've never been one to have the same furniture arrangement for very long, so I decided to rearrange the couch, chair and television.  The latest layout is one that I used when I first moved in 14 years ago.

Tonight I find there's a wee bit of soreness in my body.  I suppose all that sanding, painting, and furniture pushing woke up a few muscles.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I spent close to three hours in a darkened movie theater this evening watching a young boy grow up. The movie was Boyhood. I've heard a lot of chatter about the film.  A few people, whose opinions I respect, told me how much they loved the movie.  I was certainly interested in the premise of making a movie over the span of 12 years that allows the audience to witness the growth of the main character, Mason.

Unfortunately, that initial interest didn't last me until the end of the movie 164 minutes later.

I don't have anything bad to say about the movie. But then again, I've got nothing good to say either.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Small Town Afternoon

Although I have, in the recent past, complained about the way my little town has grown I find that I am still able to have small town experiences now and then.  I am still able to pick up my prescriptions at the local Safeway without ever having to give anyone my last name.  The bagger at the Giant always says hello to me when he sees me and the Jordanian owner of a small pizza place nearby greets me like a family member whenever I stop in- even if it's been over a year since my last visit.

This afternoon, after borrowing a hand sander from a friend who lives nearby, I headed over to the Apple store in Clarendon.  As I drove up a side street I recognized a friend and former colleague sitting in front of her son's bakery.  Much to the annoyance of the driver behind me I stopped the car to say hello.

Linda greeted me with a big "Hey Mary!  What are you doing?"

I told her about my errand at the Apple store and assured her I'd be back to visit.

Before long I was back at the bakery.  I walked in to a warm welcome from Linda's son, the owner.

"Hey!  How are you?  Haven't seen you in awhile!" came the call from the corner table where Josh was going over some paperwork with a friend.

Linda made her way to the front and told me about the Key Lime Pies she was getting ready to make. We talked about the book we're reading for our book club and she caught me up on the former students and their families who had come by to visit her.

I sat with her and chatted for about 20 minutes and noted that she knew almost every customer that came in.

Before too long I was on my way, happily heading back to my car with a free sample in my hand.

That free sample?  It was something called a "Brookie," which is a brownie-like cookie.

Yea- it was fabulous.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Losing Patience

I've been dealing with this "eye thing" since early April.  The cysts that appeared out of nowhere on my upper and lower eyelids are called Chalazions.  According to they occur when the narrow opening through which a meibomian gland secretes its material can become clogged from narrowing of the opening or hardening of the sebaceous liquid near the opening.  If this occurs, the gland will have a backup of the material it secretes and the obstructed gland will swell.  This leads to thickening of the walls of the gland and leakage of oil into the lid itself, causing inflammation both within the gland and the eyelid itself.

This kind of thing happens to people who suffer from blepharitis and allergies.  Lucky me, I suffer from both.

These Chalazions- I've had 6 cut from my eyelids in the past 3 months- are stubborn.  Everything I've read online has said they can go away as suddenly as they appeared.  I'm hoping that today's incisions and a new round of medication does the trick this time around because I've simply had enough of the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hi Mom!

Before I said goodbye to my mom this morning she remarked, "I really like reading your Scattered Thoughts, Mary."

"Did you see I wrote about your garden?" I asked.

Yes she did and she didn't really like that entry so much.

No worries, Mom.  In the end you got the last laugh, because those beautiful tomatoes I picked from your weedy garden were left on the counter at Jeen's house.

I had to buy my own tomato for dinner tonight.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hiding Among The Weeds

My mother's tomato plants barely tower above the weeds that need to be pulled in her garden.  From a distance it looked like the weeds had just about taken over every inch of space,  but once I stepped up a little closer I could see quite a few red growths on the scraggly tomato plants.

The garden bed, she wasn't pretty, but the tomatoes look pretty darn good.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Feels Like Home

My little neighborhood is quite lovely.  Well, that's my opinion.  You see, as I drive around Arlington these days I find it hard to believe all of the changes that have taken place.  Last week I met an old friend and longtime Arlington resident for dinner.  As we talked about the detour that we ran into on our way to the restaurant we discussed how different everything looks.  Arlington just doesn't look like the Arlington we used to know.

Parkfairfax, the historic area where I live, is hardly a mile from the ever-changing Arlington.  Even with its close proximity to such a fluid area of development this neighborhood has stayed pretty much the same since it was first built, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1942.

The over 200 buildings that are scattered over 132 acres are all brick structures.  Large trees provide plenty of shade for residents that enjoy getting out on a warm summer day.  It's a dog friendly kind of place.  In fact, I know of two dogs that stop at a neighbor's house every day knowing she'll be there to greet them with a special treat.  Cats are welcome too- and there are plenty of critters for them to catch if they enjoy the hunt.

The last 72 years have seen a lot of people come and go in the area.  Some, like Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, went on to bigger homes and jobs.  Others- people I know- left only to return to the area later on.  One neighbor told me she came back because this place always felt like home. 


Sunday, August 3, 2014

One and a Half Stars

I went to see "Get On Up" today.  It's biographical movie detailing the life of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. 

Detailing might not be the best word because I walked away from the movie realizing that, although I never knew much about James Brown, I didn't know all that much more after spending over two hours in a theater.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pedalling Progress

We citizens of the DC area were treated to yet one more day of seasonably low humidity I headed out on my bike for a quick ride.  It was only a week that I wrote about my frustration as I watched rider after rider pass me by.

What a difference a week, and an-iron rich diet, makes.

Although there were a few cyclists that passed me but I did my share of passing as well. The best part of the ride came right at the end when I realized how steady my breathing was as I pedaled myself uphill the last mile back to my house.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

Seeing August 1 on the calendar makes this teacher just a wee-bit anxious.  By now I've really grown accustomed to the slower days of summer.  I've been able to catch up on medical appointments, exercise, clean and enjoy a few trips out of town.

It feels like time speeds up once August hits so I'm about to get more focused on sorting through my stuff and cleaning the upstairs of my house.  Also, there's a basket of summer work projects that I brought home from school at the end of June.  Yup, it's time to take a look-see at what's going on in there.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Class 3 Citizen

So I snore.  I've snored for many years much to the frustration of those who may be sharing a room with me. I try to be accommodating about the whole thing by making sure I have plenty of earplugs to pass out.  Even so I still have to hear all about the racket I make while slumbering the next morning.

Well, today I learned all about something called the Mallampati score.  It's a way of classifying the anatomy of one's oral cavity.  There are 4 possible classes that one's oral cavity can fall into.  The preferred is Class 1 but most people fall under Class 2.

I'm a Class 3 gal.  So yeah, that's why I snore.  The doctor who explained the whole thing to me today was very kind when he told me where I fell on the scale.  After explaining the whole thing in detail he added, "it's not your fault-it's just your anatomy."

You're speaking to the congregation doc.  I've been trying to tell my friends that for years!

Earplugs anyone?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Watch Out For That Inflation Storm

On July 13, 1985 a few friends and myself threw a couple bills together, came up with about $25, and spent the afternoon together over a bushel of steamed crabs and beer and watched something called Live Aid.  The crabs lasted through the afternoon- just long enough for us because by about 6:00pm we climbed in our cars and headed south to Columbia, MD for a Jimmy Buffett concert.  It was a fine day indeed full of laughs, music and good crabs.

Tonight, almost 30 years later, I met up with a friend at a local dive known for a good crab feast and spent over $100 for a mere 18 crabs.  

Wow- how's that for inflation?  

Tonight the crabs were just as good and the conversation just as lively.  There wasn't any Jimmy Buffett, but boy, do I like those 1985 prices a whole lot better.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


This afternoon the squawking outside grew to such an intensity that I had to get up to see what all the noise was about.

The backyard looked as still as ever.  A gentle breeze blew through the tall tree behind my house as a squirrel darted from one branch to the next.  And the squawking continued.

I stared in the direction of the noise but was unable to identify the source at first.  It took a minute or two for me to find the small brown-headed nuthatch hiding nearby still full of noise and excitement.

A little internet research tells me that the type of serial vocalization that this little guy (or girl) was engaged is given when birds are fairly close together, either during times of apparent excitement or normal foraging.

I'm going with excitement because if you were in the DC area today you'd know the cool, fall-like weather was something to squawk about.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Check Up

I never mind going to the doctor all that much.  I know there are many who don't feel the same way. Just last week my niece was stressed out about her summer physical.  Blood was going to be drawn and for her the only thing worse than the doctor's office has to be the needles that hide out at the doctor's office.  The only needle I'm not fond of is the one that is used to administer a cortisone shot.  If needed I'll take that needle, but I don't like it.

Today I got a little blood drawn- no problem.  Before that I spent a few minutes chatting with the receptionist who also happens to be a student from the first class I taught in Arlington. 

When the doctor entered the room I smiled as if seeing an old friend because I was seeing an old friend.  Lucky me- my doctor is also someone I've known ever since I moved to the area over 25 years ago.  We lived together in two different group houses and did a lot of growing up together.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of catching up with one another we moved on to the medical part of the appointment.  As I walked toward the door I ran into my doctor's sister who was helping out in the office.  We also lived together in one of those group houses so we stopped and talked for a bit.

By the time I checked out with the receptionist I realized I'd been there for almost 90 minutes.  That was odd to me- I felt like hardly any time at all had passed.

The clock moves quickly when catching up with old friends.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Whistle (Or Sing Along to Music of the 90s) While You Work

After taking a day off of my summer cleaning schedule I was back on track with empty bags to fill.  I put my energy into the wall of bookshelves that outline the two windows in my living room.  There was a good deal of dusting to be done as I moved photos and knick-knacks form the shelves and rearranged the space.  

Behind the closet doors on the left side of the unit I have stashed all of my old CDs, a few cassette tapes and a small stereo unit.  The unit was covered in dust.  When the iPod came out and into my hands the stereo unit got used less and less. I've considered getting rid of the whole thing at times but since I'm not ready to get rid of the CDs and cassettes it seems best to keep everything together.

After dusting off the stereo I started shuffling through a small collection of mixed CDs.  I made a whole bunch of those back in the early and mid 90s when there seemed to be a new road trip on the schedule every other weekend.  There were a few label-less cassettes that had been separated from their case so I picked one and popped it into the player to figure out where it belonged.  

I never got past that first cassette.  I spent the next 90 minutes cleaning, dusting, singing, and decrapifying to the sounds of Talking Heads, Might Mighty Bosstones, Erasure and a few other musical friends from the 90s.  

Thanks to the music I had four bags filled with everything from trash to Goodwill donations in no time at all.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kids Today

Pedaling along at a somewhat leisurely pace I quickly became aware of the number of people who were passing me.  In the beginning I took the cyclists zooming by in stride.  I had decided to go ahead and ride the 18-mile loop around Arlington so I was happy with the slow and steady pace.  

I was happy until about the 15th bike flew by with a ring of the bell and the by then familiar call-out "on your left."  Was I really moving that slowly?  I mean I know I'm a bit out of shape but c'mon- really? 
Not wanting to dwell on the situation any more than I already had I focused on the scenery.  Boats zipped up and down the Potomac River as airplanes descended for their landing at National Airport.  Before long I looked up to see two 20-somethings ahead of me-and boy were they going slow.  With a tiny smile inside I rang my bell and called out “on your left."  

It's the little victories that are often the sweetest.  

I savored that victory for a bit.  To be honest I even started thinking about how I could fit it into my blog later in the day.

Too bad the feeling didn't last.  Just after I rounded the corner past the airport runway I watched those same two gals pedal by.  And if that isn't bad enough, they didn't even bother to give a warning they were about to pass.

Damn kids.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Beach Memories

For as long as I can remember summer meant a weeklong family vacation at the beach.  The sand, water as far as the eye can see, along with the soft crashing of frothy waves- is there anything else that can invoke such serenity?  Not as far as I can see. 

When I was younger the family took its annual beach vacation in June.  We’d pack up the sedan with all sorts of provisions and head southeast to Ocean City, MD.  Days were spent on the beach with buckets, shovels and worn canvas rafts.  The smell of Coppertone lotion was everywhere as were other young families with a small entourage of toddlers.  Black and white photos from the late 1960s show my sister and I with sun-bleached hair and big, bright smiles as we pose for the camera in our two-piece bathing suits that had been made especially for us by our grandmother.

Jumping the waves meant standing at the surf’s edge, with my hand tightly clasped in the security of my father’s, waiting for the waves to come.  I’d measure up each one and time my leap so I could avoid the catastrophe of being knocked over by the force of the water.  Shrieks and laughter provided the soundtrack for my courageous feats of synchronized jumping.

As I got older I paddled my way out into the ocean on one of those faded rafts in hopes of catching a wave in the sweet spot.  If my timing was right I would be able to ride the moving crest all the way in to the sandy beach.  When things were really going my way I might find myself scooting through the tube of the water wall before coming out on the other side.  That didn’t happen all that much.  I often found myself trapped in the collapse of the lip before being turned upside down in the wave’s trough.  For a second or two my body would spin and tumble while my brain instinctively searched for a way out of the water prison.  Just about the time my brain headed for panic mode I would pop up and out of the water-feeling confused- with a cup of sand in my bathing suit bottom and my eyes fluttering as they adjusted to the sunlight above the sea while scanning the surface for my missing raft.

I was about 28 years old the last time my family went to Ocean City together.  I had moved out of the house by then but was happy to meet up with everyone for a few days on the beach.  With the passing of time our little group had grown to include my brothers' wives and others.  There was also my grandmother who made her first trip to Ocean City in many a year.  Her legs weren’t steady enough to get her onto the beach but she kept watch on all of us from her seat on the porch overlooking the ocean.

The group may have changed, but the time on the beach was very much the same.  There was some digging and sand castle building as well as a few good rides atop waves.  Yes, there was sand in the pants as well.  In our younger years we would have spent the evening playing Chutes and Ladders or Life.  The older, wiser group settled into a few spirited games of Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit instead. 

Many things remained unchanged by the passing of time.  They include the serenity provided by the infinite crashing of waves, big and small, along the Atlantic shoreline and my mother’s go-to dinner of Shake and Bake chicken.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Writing Time

After an eight week break my writing group is scheduled to get together tomorrow night.  Yippee!  No really, I'm excited.  

Sure, it can be a bit stressful- trying to figure out what I'll write about and then actually sitting down to write is difficult- some days it's more difficult than others.  And then there's the food thing.  If I'm slated to cook dinner for the group the menu plan is always more or as stressful as the writing part.  

Not this time though.  I'm in charge of appetizers and as soon as I saw the large, green avocados in the grocery store I was set on an appetizer of feta/avocado dip.  

The writing.  Honestly?  I haven't been feeling very creative as of late.  I can't tell if my brain is clogged with ideas or if there are no ideas at all.  It doesn't really matter which one because the output is exactly the same...but who wants to hear about that?  (Answer- No. One.)

So today I hopped on my bike for a leisurely pedal down a local path in the hopes of clearing up the clogged matter.  I think it worked.

Is the writing done?  No, but it's coming together in my brain and I've got all day tomorrow to put all the pieces together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Way Back Then

One of the more recent luxuries afforded to the citizens of the DC area is grocery delivery.  You see, we're all very busy around here.  What with all these kids, soccer games, PTA meetings, yoga classes and such there's hardly a minute left in the day to do anything as time-consuming as grocery shopping.  So, a few years ago a couple of the grocery chains added on the service of home delivery.  For about $8 it's possible to get all your shopping done and delivered to your door without ever leaving your laptop.

My grandmother had the very same service in her small town forty years ago.  Oh yeah, and it was free.  I remember every once in awhile a lanky young man would appear at the back steps of her cedar-shingled house with a brown bag or two of groceries.  He would make his way into the kitchen and set the bags atop the blue and white Formica table.  The same young man might even sit a spell- perhaps long enough to drink down some fresh lemonade and converse a bit. The only money that was ever exchanged was a dollar bill or a handful of change given as a tip to the young delivery boy.  The rest of the groceries would be paid along with the rest of the household tab at the end of the month.

That's how they did it way back then.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time to Decrapify This Place

There's nothing like spending a week in a rented beach house to motivate one to de-clutter the house.  Well, maybe that doesn't push everyone into cleaning out drawers and closets of crap but it certainly works for me.  Fortunately I also have the gift of another 4 weeks of free time to wade through the junk, trash and other assorted stuff that has found its way into small and large parts of my house.

Sometime last year I heard about the 40 Bags in 40 Days Decluttering Challenge.  The idea behind the challenge is to map out parts of your house to declutter- one area at a time.  Once an area is identified it's time to get rid of trash and emotional clutter.  Trash is easy for me, but I have to be in the right mood to toss that emotional stuff.

Today I started with the front closet that is crammed with coats and a bunch of other stuff that most people would store in a shed or broom closet.  Since my small house has neither of those the front closet is quite the multi-purpose space.  Bag one of trash was removed.  Next, I moved onto the junk drawer.  It's not called the junk drawer for nothin'- that's for sure.  Bag number two was filled thanks to the junk drawer.

At this rate I should finish the 40-day challenge in half the time, which works out just right given my summer schedule.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Home Movies

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Tonight I settled in to check out the Netflix series House of Cards.  It's been on my "to watch" list for some time now.  Friends had suggested I tune in but on top of that I know that it's filmed in my hometown of Baltimore.

Francis Underwood is the main character.  He's out for vengeance after feeling the newly elected president wronged him.  The show takes place in DC.  There are many big shots of the DC skyline that include things like the Washington Monument, the Key Bridge, and other easy to spot local landmarks.  At the end of the first episode the camera rolls out from a single shot on the main character as he sits outside of a "DC" restaurant chowing down a rack of ribs.  Once the camera pans to the larger scene down the street this Baltimore girl had no problem recognizing the marble steps and brick townhouses that are well known in her hometown.  

I'm sure there are many viewers out there who were fooled by the camera but not me hon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Let the Cleaning Begin

With no excursions planned for the next four weeks of summer break it's time to hang at home and reorganize the chaos that the school year has inflicted on my home.  It's best to start one room at a time; so today I started in the guest room.  I didn't get too far as I found myself cleaning up one half of the large closet for quite some time.  While searching for a few cleaning items I ended up reorganizing the crate of cleaning supplies that lives in the bottom of the linen closet.

Some may say I didn't accomplish too much today-that I let my wandering attention get the best of me. I'd say the two bags of trash I took to the community dumpster are evidence of today's work.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Game Time

It was only a month ago that I cleaned up my classroom and headed down to Richmond for Mary's first lacrosse tournament of the summer.  In that short amount of time I've watched Mary and her team play in two more tournaments.  My sister and I have driven over 1800 miles lugging coolers, lacrosse sticks, bag chairs, sunscreen, bug spray, snacks and so many water bottles along with us.  I have heard the songs of summer- Rude by Magic, Wiggle by Jason Derulo, and Fancy by Iggy Azalea. I still can't identify the names of each artist when their voices come out of the radio but I'm getting a little better.  On the lacrosse front I've watched Mary and her team win one game after another for a record of 12-0 this summer.  Today I watched as they came back from a score of 7 - 3 at halftime to win their final game of the summer 10-9.  It's been fun watching this group of high school juniors hang out between games like your average group of 16 year-old girls would.  They talk, text and laugh constantly. There appears to be no drama on this team and as far as I can tell the girls really enjoy their time on the sidelines between games.  All that fun definitely works in their favor on the field.  It's been a great tournament season for the girls.  I look forward to seeing them play again in Orlando come November.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Tomato Report

I am sad to say that my maters have disappeared.  Upon my return from last week's vacation I found that my two growing green tomatoes had disappeared. 

It looks like I'll be buying my summer tomatoes at the vegetable stand like most other people.  Here's hoping I'll have better luck next year.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Four Weeks Later This Place Isn't So Bad

It was just about a month ago that I traveled to Richmond for Mary's lacrosse tournament.  Back then the 90-mile trip took about 3 hours.  95 South seemed to be one moving parking lot from Alexandria to Richmond.  It wasn't a pleasant drive at all.

Today we're back for the last tournament of the summer.  I'm happy to report that today's drive was much easier to swallow at about one hour and forty minutes. 

I can tell you this- I like Richmond a whole lot more this month than I did last month.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Too Much

I watch way too much television.  That I am sure of.  Living alone it's easy to get into the habit of turning on the TV for a little background noise while doing other things.  Perhaps that isn't such a bad thing, but just wondering if it's a bad thing surely tells me that it is.

Growing up we had a black and white TV that sat on a gold metal cart in the corner of the room.  We had VHF channels and UHF channels and they were tuned in on two different dials.  The set itself was probably about 19 inches in diameter.  If a larger set were desired one would have to go with the console model that came in a cabinet.  We had one of those later on.

There was no remote back then, which definitely kept harmony in the family room.  Last week I watched as my brother-in-law clicked away happily from one channel to the next like he was spinning some sort of roulette wheel.  Just about when I started to get into something he would click on to the next thing.  After about two days of TV roulette I learned not to get too involved in anything.  

Before remote control was a standard part of television viewing it was common to watch one show from beginning to end.  In fact, during the prime time viewing hours we were likely to stick with one network from 8:00pm onward.  TV roulette didn't happen back then because that would have meant someone having to stand by the set and switch the channels.  Nobody wanted to do that.

Today there are so many viewing choices.  Not only is there broadcast television, there's cable and on demand choices as well as streaming services.  There's really no such thing as "appointment TV" anymore.  Thanks to DVR I never have to watch anything when it's originally broadcast- I can watch it days or weeks later when the time is right for me.  

So, maybe my TV viewing has gotten a little out of hand.  I'm willing to work on that.  In my defense, TV has gotten a little out of hand as well.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Almost Broken

One of the challenges of summer break is getting my feline housemate on board with the later wake-up call.  So far Scout is still set on a wake-up time of about 6:30 am.  That's a little early for me so I've been doing what I can to play sound asleep until he tires of his paw punching, meowing and face licking alarm techniques. 

I slept until about 8:30 this morning- a perfectly civilized rise and shine time as far as I'm concerned.  A few more days and that cat should be just about broken in for the summer sleep schedule.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Time Travel

My niece recently introduced me to an app called Timehop.  Timehop accesses pictures that the subscriber has on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media sites and uses what's already there to remind one of what happened in their life the year or years before.  The app also includes a bit of trivia about other things that happened on the day. 

I learned that Saturday was the anniversary of the Etch-A-Sketch.  I was also treated to a few of my own pictures from last year's beach vacation.  Today I saw more beach pictures but also got to revisit my trip to California three years ago and a trip to NYC I took four years ago. 

Also, in case you didn't remember it was a mere 13 years ago that Legally Blonde first premiered in movie theaters.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


330 miles later I am home.  The traffic gods were with me as I was not a part of a 22-mile rolling back-up heading south into Corolla and Duck, NC.  The only snag was an hour of standstill traffic- the kind where everyone is out of his or her own cars and wandering around the highway trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  On most days that sort of thing would have done me in, but since there was a cool breeze blowing I decided to grab my book from the trunk in hopes of finishing the last fifty pages.  After I had only flipped two or three pages I heard engines starting up again and noted the traffic ahead starting to inch forward.  The rest of the book will have to wait for tomorrow as will most of my unpacking.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What A Difference A Day Makes

Megan woke up this morning to a whole new bunch of possibilities.  You see- she's 18 now so that means she can do many, many things today that she couldn't do yesterday.  For example she can now (legally or without any parental consent): buy tobacco, change her name, get a tattoo, get a piercing, buy spray paint, work more hours, sue someone, be sued, purchase liquid white out, pawn something, get married, or get divorced.  If that's not enough to keep her busy on this birthday of hers she can also get a loan, buy insurance, donate blood, enlist in the military or sign a legal contract.  Fortunately, we had enough on our plate this last day at the beach.  Those other things will have to wait because today there was beach sitting to do, a Frisbee and a kite to fly and S'mores to make as we enjoyed one last beach campfire.

Lucky for Megan she usually gets to celebrate her birthday during our beach week.  In fact, it was only 14 years ago that she announced, on the morning of her 4th birthday, she was old enough to cross the street by herself.

You've come along way Meggie, and I'm happy I've been around for the ride.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


You know you're in a beach town when no one around you seems to be wearing clothes- everybody is wearing bathing suits or a combination of a suit and shorts.  Shoes are optional but if feet are covered at all it's only with flip-flops of some type.

Ocracoke Island is that kind of place.  Other than the older gentlemen who ran the ferry service from Hatteras Island everyone else seemed to be dressed in some sort of beach wear.  

Years ago Ocracoke was a favored rest stop for the infamous pirate Blackbeard.  He was killed in the area after being hunted down by Captain Robert Maynard.  Nowadays Blackbeard is big business in the small village found on the south end of the island.  It has also become home to many gift shops selling a variety of t-shirts, artwork, handcrafted pottery and jewelry.  It's easy enough to get around for some shopping either by foot, bike, or golf cart.  Traffic lights don't exist on the island, although traffic may come to a stop to let a mother duck and her ducklings cross the road for a paddle around Silver Lake.

As far as I'm concerned Ocracoke is the perfect place to be.  I was happy to spend the day walking around this wonderful world today.  It's been at least 4 or 5 years since my last visit.  The only problem with a day on Ocracoke is having to get the ferry to leave and go back to the other world.  Today as I walked around I texted a friend who shares my affinity for Ocracoke.  I shouldn't come to Ocracoke- it just makes me want to quit my job and move here.

I know that's a pretty unrealistic dream but it's nice to think about.  There is a school on the island- Ocracoke School- home of the Dolphins...fear the pod.

I like that.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Working Those Legs

Pedaling into a headwind isn't that easy, but as I made my way down NC12 towards the village of Hatteras I found myself enjoying the challenge.  The sun was beating down on my back and my legs were pumping their hardest to move the bike forward in spite of the wind that didn't seem to want me to go anywhere.  Knowing that the return trip would be a whole lot easier and the sound of Jimmy Buffett singing in my ear buds kept me going. 

Before long I started focusing on my legs- I was impressed with their ability to lower and lift, lower and lift, lower and lift and so on.  Don't get me wrong, it was hard work but suddenly I was enjoying the way exercise felt.  I didn't particularly like the way the wind was blowing right at me, but I did like the way my body was dealing with the situation.

And I was right about the return trip.  It was one sweet ride.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We'll Be Back

I've stayed in 6 different houses in this small beach town that I vacation in each summer.  The deal is find the house you like and hold onto it as long as possible.  Tonight I lay my head upon the king size bed in my room at a home known as Sun Dispatched.  

Sun Dispatched has been our vacation home of choice for the past four years.  We happened upon it after driving around to look at what was available.  My sister and I liked its proximity to the beach- it's about a 50-yard walk to the sandy path that goes over the dune and onto the beach.  The porches that surround the upper floors of the house offer a view of the ocean as well as a distant peak at the lighthouse down the highway in Avon.  There are just enough bedrooms to accommodate our group comfortably and there's even a hot tub for everyone to enjoy.  

Tomorrow is the last day that we renters can go ahead and hold the same vacation home for the same week next summer.  So at some point tomorrow Jeen and I will drive down the road for a little shopping and gallery browsing- perhaps we'll have a cup of coffee as well- and then we'll head over to the realty company and sign on the dotted line for next year's beach vacation.  

Once that's done the countdown will begin all over again.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Going With the Flow

Tonight, just when I thought we had all settled in after dinner my brother-in-law announced his desire to head back to the beach to fly kites, throw around the lacrosse ball and maybe even have a bonfire.  My sister had just spent two hours in the kitchen fixing dinner so she wasn't too keen on the idea.  The O's game was on and I was kind of looking forward to seeing how their game against the Nats played out, so I was right there with her.

No matter what we thought or what our other inclinations might be, within 20 minutes we were on the beach with kites diving through the air and a mediocre game of toss going on.  (It took me awhile to get the lacrosse throw going, but in time I worked it out- sort of). It was a windy evening but that didn't stop Michael from getting the bonfire started and before long we were huddled around the pit of flames charring away our soft, marshmallow treats. 

The moon shimmered on the water as low, soft waves broke at the shore line.  One lone surfer tried his best to ride in a curl as we all remarked about shark feeding time.  Down the coast I watched for the shining light of Cape Hatteras Light as it turned to cast a glow for all to see.  Above me I spotted a few constellations that I knew by name and adjusted my sight line to follow the trail of a satellite skimming through the sky. 

Content with the warm, gooey S'more that I had eaten I lay my head back and closed my eyes- happy in the moment.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Nothin' Finer

Is there anything better than the kind of tired one feels after a day spent soaking in the sun on the beach?  I think not.  

This gal is in for one fabulous night of sleep and is quite excited about it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Beach Time!

I found out about 2:30 this afternoon that Hatteras Island would reopen to visitors at 4:00pm.  By 5:15 I was in the car and on my way.  I'm not usually a night driver, especially if I'm going it alone.  However, after considering the crowd swell that is sure to occur in the morning I thought it best to try something different and hit the road.  My GPS told me I would arrive in Frisco, NC at 11:45pm- almost 6 hours later.  I was sure I could cut some time off that estimate. 

I sailed down 95 and cruised right through Hampton Roads, Currituck and Coinjock.  There wasn't a brake light in sight as I happily zipped along singing to the best of the 80s on the radio.  Driving through Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills I was treated to a fireworks display lighting up the night sky.  It was about 10:30 when I took the left onto Route 12 to take on the last 55 or so miles of my trip.  12 is a two-lane road that winds through the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge before it connects to the many small towns that dot the the coastal highway.

I was safely at my destination by about 11:30- a record setting time for this drive.  331 miles in 6 hours and 15 minutes- with two stops along the way.  I may have figured out a new way to beat the traffic to the beach.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Small Change of Plans

Hurricane Arthur has indeed delayed my planned beach week on Hatteras Island.  I kind of saw that coming, and although I'm a bit disappointed at missing a day or two of the beach, it's been nice to hang out at home after spending a great deal of time on the road lately.

I never made any real plans for this July 4th holiday as I assumed I'd be heavy into packing and preparing for my journey south.  So tonight I'm watching the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air from the comfort of my living room.  As the greens, whites, reds and blues fall across the DC skyline to the sounds of John Phillips Sousa I can hear the explosions out my window.  Perhaps they are from the very fireworks I'm watching- I'm not sure, but it sure feels like I'm almost there.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Small Town Fun

In small town Bel Air the 4th of July starts out with a variety of events at the local high school.  There's a little something for everyone- whether it be pie eating, frog-jumping, or a watermelon eating contest.  Later in the day, people line Main Street to watch the parade floats and bands as they pass by.  After the parade everyone makes their way back over to the high school to spread a blanket and get ready to watch the fireworks show.  Kids run around with sparklers glowing and neon necklaces of all colors. After the last traces of fire and smoke disappear from the skies above people gather their belongings and head on home. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hoping For The Best

The weather was hot today.  I've lived in the Mid-Atlantic all of my 52 years and today's hot wasn't much hotter than the worst I've ever experienced, but still it was a scorcher.  After finally gearing up for my morning 3-mile walk I headed out the door at about 9:30am.  Even though I was able to stay on the shady side of the street I was drenched in sweat by the time I made it back to my door 45 minutes later.

There's a storm by the name of Arthur brewing off the coast of Florida. Usually a storm so far south wouldn't mean too much to me. Arthur may bring some rain this way but by Saturday the temps that are hovering in the high 90s today should fall to the 80s.  Apparently we're in for quite a nice weekend.

Too bad for me I'm scheduled to spend all of next week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina-the same place that Arthur is most likely to make landfall.  Tonight I hear that mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the very same town that I have paid to lay my head on Saturday night. There's not too much I can do about Mother Nature from here so I'll just chill in the air conditioning, keep an eye of the forecast and hope for the best.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

At Your Service

With not one thing on my to-do list today I took advantage of a content and sleeping cat and had a bit of a lie-in.  By 8:00am my furry friend had slept long enough and was ready for me to rise and prepare his breakfast complete with a first course of tasty cat treats.
I have learned that a hungry cat can be quite relentless when asking for breakfast so I didn't waste too many more minutes enjoying the comforts of my bed.

While the dark roast brewed in the coffee maker I served up a Fancy Feast for my furry friend.  An appreciative low and long meow signaled his happiness with the offering as he put his head down to the silver bowl and began noshing away.

With breakfast served I moved to the couch with my cup of coffee and tuned into the morning news show.  Before long I watched as my enormous cat lumbered back up the stairs on his way back to bed ready for his first nap of the day.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Landscape Lullaby

Most of the day was spent traveling north on Interstate 81.  Even a good 8 hours of sleep wasn't enough to keep me from being lulled to sleep by the rolling green hills and impressive mountains that were found in every direction I cast my eye.  Fortunately, I wasn't driving.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post Game

After five games and two days of lacrosse in Nashville Mary's team had the tournament championship t-shirt in their hands and smiles on their faces.  The team didn't face much competition the entire weekend,  but did get a good game out of their last opponent of the tournament.  There was a great deal of pushing and shoving along with a few yellow cards, but at the end both teams came together to shake hands and offer "good game" greetings.

The parents on the sidelines were much more vocal in the last game as they played unofficial referee for every minute of the 30 minute game. They certainly didn't agree with every call made but in the end their smiles were almost as wide as those of the players on the team.

Within an hour of winning the championship Mary was fast asleep in the back seat as her mother/aunt entourage drove east on Route 40 to make our way back home.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Way Back Then

While sitting on the sidelines of my niece's lacrosse game today I noted a pink can sitting in the cup holder of a canvas chair to my left.  I did a double take.  It couldn't be.

"Is that a Tab that you're drinking?" I asked.

"It sure is!" was the reply.

What followed was a solid three-minute conversation of the good ol' days of Tab; the only diet drink there was before the rollout of Diet Coke.  The two of us reminisced about way back then and other drinks that have faded from view like Fresca.  We also decided that knowing so much about something like Tab or Fresca most certainly dates us a little.

I could describe the woman who sat next to me on the field as middle-aged, but I won't.  You see I too was a pretty big Tab drinker back in the day.