The Good Ol’ Days

Greetings! How is everyone?

Yep. We are two-plus weeks into August, folks. Summer has a way of flyin’ by. US Open Tennis Championship qualifying rounds are getting underway. Translation: last week of the month is almost upon us. :(

“These are the good old days,” says my hubby of nineteen years.

Many times, Hubby talks about looking back on “the good old days,” but when we really stop and think about it, aren’t we living them? Don’t our todays pile into the weeks that amass into the months and years upon which we will reflect and dub “the good old days?”

Hubby got me thinking. When my kids were younger and the days much more mommy-intense, I’d look ahead to the time when they wouldn’t need constant supervision. I would have more time for me. It always bugged me though, to feel I was wishing away not only their childhood but my younger years as well.

Nic n Kev with Kitty small Kitty–aka, Screweball–gave us quite the scare about 10 days ago. I’m happy to report she seems to be back to her 15+-year-old self.

My teenage boys (17 and 15) are quite the independent young men in so many ways. Older Son drives, has a job and can even cook for himself a bit. Younger Son will take off on the bike to go to football practice or just to the convenience store for his Gatorade vs. ask for a ride from either me or his dad. (He’s venturing into cooking but might need a little help in that department.) Alone-time with Hubby is almost the norm.

photo 3 Selfie taken during vacation. (I hate selfies.)

So now I get choked up when I pass a playground and see parents keeping their little ones safe on the equipment. I remember walking behind the boys as they rode their bikes and waited for me to catch up at the end of the block. Occasionally there is a game night, but no more stories read just before bed. They don’t need mom or dad to help with showers, brush teeth, make sure they get to bed on time.

The days when we don’t know how many kids will show for dinner are much more sparse, when Older Son was in middle school. Teens still show and hang out, but not as often—or for as long—as they did before drivers’ licenses became a permanent addition to their wallets and handbags. Luckily, they occasionally seem to enjoy the tennis court—though the regular players nearby might not consider themselves all that fortunate when Older Son’s crowd attempts doubles play.

Joanna 8-2014

I’ve shared holidays with family and just plain ol’ spur-of-the-moment great days. Pulled off one of those just last week, with an impromptu visit to a sister-in-law’s home a few blocks from the bay. Hot dogs, the pool, a bike ride near the water and homemade eggplant parm–eggplant direct from brother-in-law’s garden–gathered into a nice day that will be long remembered.

photo (60)

Hubby was right. Most days are “the good old days.” Sometimes I have to remember I don’t have to recall them. I’m living them.

The Lion Died…

But his memory will linger for a long time–if not always.

Hi all. Hoping all is peaceful with each of you. I was away from Monday through Thursday, so I guess my aspirations for posting twice last week were a tad high.

The lion at the Cape May Zoo died right around Memorial Day this past year. That’s what we heard at the zoo’s entrance as my sons, Older Son’s girlfriend and I embarked on our annual walk-through. (It seems to have become a bit of a tradition during our third-year-in-a-row trek to Wildwood. Is it possible one is never too old for the zoo?)

Wildwood sunset 2014 Sunset in Wildwoodpicture doesn’t do the sky justice :)

Uh, that’s when I originally started this post: three years ago. Yes, it had to do with the lion. Until this past Saturday morning the original sat on the notebook laptop that lives in my beloved Camry’s trunk—in case I need to stop on a random road to work on a laptop whose battery won’t recharge anymore.

Anyway, my only problem with family vacations—you moms of boys can probably relate—is that my guys (Hubby included) want to do stuff that doesn’t generally interest me. Boardwalks, beaches, restaurants—they’re okay but none of them floats my boat. Call me a stick in the mud but if there is nothing to actively engage my mind—i.e., learn—most of the time I’ll pass. (BTW, I’m bad at relaxing too.)

Boards at Wildwood 2014

Night-time on the Wildwood boards. As busy as NYC. 

So, the first year, after a family ride on the go-carts followed by brunch on the famed Wildwood boardwalk, I started thinking about how I might like to wile away a few hours. I’d done Cold Spring Village with Hubby years ago and liked it. I also thought about taking a ride to the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a ten-minute drive from our hotel. (The gardens behind it are ridiculously gorgeous and quietly peaceful. Follow the walkway pictured below and–surprise!–you’ve stumbled onto the inlet, where the view of the inlet and beach are stunning. BTW, double-clicking on the photos to enlarge them will provide sharper detail, as much as my lowly iPhone 4’s camera can capture.)

Hereford lighthouse front (1) Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse back

Back of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse gardens

Hereford InletLighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse gardens (2)

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse inlet

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse inlet

IDKY, but I also kept toying with the notion of a trek to the Cape May Zoo. I’d never visited it, but had always heard nice things. I chose door number three and texted the kids an invitation.

My guys were a couple months shy of 16 and 14 at the time. They came simply because it was “something to do.” (Yep, even the boards and rides get old after a short while. And Older Son probably felt badly his ma was doing something alone. Nah. No such issues. Me-time rocks.)

photo_2[1]   Joanna ‘n’ her boys. Y’all can decide who is who. BTW, this photo is from first trip to zoo, in 2012. Didn’t take any group shots this year. :(

I certainly enjoyed that afternoon, and since the kids asked to go again on both subsequent trips to the area, I assume they did too. The zoo is pretty danged big, beautifully maintained and packed with about 550 creatures, most of who are easily viewed in their exhibits. I particularly like the zebras; their markings are so stark. I also enjoyed the quiet calm surrounding the giraffes and their new baby.

Aside: the zoo is always free, with non-mandatory donations accepted. (Cash gets tossed into a ‘mailbox.’)

The lion ties into this recounting how, Joanna? Well, it involves Younger Son, who can be the best kid going on his better days. Oy. Not so much when he gets himself in a mood, thinks he’s right or (wants to be). Those are the days I offer him up for Lent, rent, or to the lowest bidder. Hubby and I are much improved reacting to him, but he’s often brought out a side of us we don’t very much like on many occasions.

photo_3[1] This boy be reachin’ the bear’s mouth by now. Bet he could get a live version to growl, too. Just sayin’… ;)

He might have been in that kind of humor that first “annual” trip to the zoo. Guess he couldn’t wait or might have wanted some space from the rest of us when he asked if he could walk ahead to see the lion. (Three years later I don’t remember such minor details.)

Gave him the okay. He was 13+ and old enough to do so.

He was just out of sight when a roar rumbled through the zoo. We surmised it was the lion.

“Figures,” I told Older Son. “Your brother probably got on the lion’s nerves already.”

We caught up with Younger Son, just outside the lion exhibit. Ironically enough, on that very hot day, Younger Son thought the lion was dead. (He wasn’t.)

We made our way through the rest of the zoo. Just before the last leg, Younger Son asked if he could go see the lion once more.

“Sure.”

I kid you not: the kid took off and the beast roared for a second—and only other—time that trip.

We were really saddened to hear that incredible creature was no longer there. But Younger Son will never shake being known as the boy who could inspire the lion to roar.

Do you do repeat vacations? If so, where do you go? Are there ‘traditions’ or go-to activities that are part of every trip, or do you devise new ways to pass the time? Do you have a “challenge child?” Were/are you your parent(s)’ “challenge child?”

Thanks for stopping in and for SHARING if you choose to do so. Have a great week!

All the best,

Joanna

Image

Checking In (And Out?)

Hi all,

Just popping in to say ‘Hi’. Hope each of you is enjoying this very mild summer those in my neck of the US are experiencing.

I might be posting later this week–not quite sure yet–and wanted to let you all know I’ll probably be a might (more) inconsistent for the rest of the summer. So many things I’d like to focus my attention on–so little time to get it all done, especially when one has the attention span of a gnat. (I think I downgraded myself from flea, which is most likely appropriate.)

In the meantime, I came across a very interesting blog post by mystery author Susan Reiss. She discussed storyboarding one’s novel. I’ve used a similar technique with a sticky-notes app on the iPad and really liked the visual effect (i.e., using one color for one character’s POV, etc). Hope some of you find it helpful! I’m also sure Susan wouldn’t mind some company at her blog and Facebook page, so please drop in and say hi for me too!

Have a great one!

Joanna

Love Takes on Many Forms–Part 2

Welcome back, friends, and many thanks for stopping by twice this week.

When I left you last, I had totaled the much-despised, glow-in-the-dark-mobile minivan. Used the $$$ as a down payment on my beloved Camry and paid the rest off via use of 0% credit card.

(If you have a burning desire to be all caught up, here is the link to Part 1.)

Ten-plus years have come and gone since then. My Camry and I are quite close. It’s been very good to me—much better than I’ve been to it in terms of oil changes, fuel-injection cleaning, etc.

Not sure if other long-term Toyota owners would agree, but I’ve learned any work this vehicle needed fell under the umbrella of maintenance. Because this thing runs until it absolutely can’t (i.e., the engine started seizing when I let the oil change go for too long—oops!), I never KNEW my baby needed attention.

Camry 2002 My baby would miss me if I let it go, lol.

This brings me back to why I’m writing this post. I toyed with buying another Toyota. B/c I’m never in the mood for adding payments to my monthly bills, new or leased wasn’t a choice. (Besides, I fell in love with the new Mazda’s styling. We’ll see, in two years when Younger Son will be wanting a car.)

My self-imposed budget suggested buying an older Toyota (or VW Jetta or Passat, both of which I looked at too, since Older Son is a “V-Dub” kind of kid). I’d be buying a vehicle right around the age it would probably start needing the kind of work mine did. And I already know my baby is mechanically sound. It’s older and occasionally needs TLC in more expensive doses.

BTW, Hubby would have hit up the 401K for me to get the Mazda. New. I declined.

So, a few weeks prior to writing this I stopped at a new garage in the neighborhood. Hubby had been there a little while before and talked to the mechanic about my car. Wanted to meet the guy myself and show him my Camry. I didn’t know Jack—the mechanic—had replaced my battery this past winter. I liked him right away.

Wouldn’t you know? Chatting with him—as question-asking writers are wont to do—led to him telling me he was a certified Toyota mechanic x18 years before he went out on his own and opened the garage in my neighborhood. He stressed over and over what a good car the Camry is.

He also saved me $200+ on the repair. Picked up my car the same day I wrote this. Feels like I bought it yesterday.

And here’s another, pretty crazy coincidence.  God putting Jack-Certified-Toyota-Mechanic on my path wasn’t enough. Jack asked how I came by the car, so I told him my crashing-into-the-compressor story.

He stopped short and looked at me. “How long ago was that?”

“IDK. Younger Son was four. Maybe eleven years ago? The compressor was parked a few blocks from the school.” I mentioned looking up at the man at my passenger window.

“You mean Joe?”

“He lives in __________.”

“That’s the guy!” Jack said.

“Why? Were you there too?”

“No. My son was.” (He’s Jack’s only worker.)

And off Jack goes to confirm this story. Which his son did.

It is a seriously small world, folks, and little by little, we’re adopting Jack and his son as our go-to mechanics. They’ve serviced three family cars in two weeks and go well out of their way to keep us happy.

Tell me I met him by accident.

Have a great week,

Joanna

Love Can Lead You to your Angels–Part 1

Hi everyone. Hope all is well with all of you. Are we seriously past the midway point of July??? Why does summer  fly by faster than the other months?

A while ago, I promised a short series that tied into some recent posts from Kristen Lamb. Because writing the first seems to have erupted open a big can of worms in my already-overconvoluted brain, those are on  the back burner for now. I will get to them eventually. Kristen touched on some really important topics parents deal with, some which can be very challenging to younger parents. I’d like to do them justice.

In the meantime…

Every now and again ANOTHER thing happens to further my belief that God puts people in my path exactly where and when I need them.  (Feel free to substitute the universe, Higher Power, or whatever you choose to call an outside force you believe impacts your life—assuming you adhere to the a tenet that an outside force impacts your life. If not, call it coincidence.)

I have a 2002 Camry I absolutely love. Bought it at a great price from a local rental car dealer in 2004. It had 32K. It now has ~130K miles and has needed exhaust and mount work for close to a year. (I kept putting it off. Quotes I got were quite pricey. Figured I had until this past April before I had to pass inspection. April came. April went. So did May, and I was at June’s exact mid-point when I drafted this. It is July’s midpoint as I edit and post, BTW.)

Did I mention I’m a procrastinator? A very good one?

Anyway, the Camry is my second Toyota. My first was a brandy-new Celica GT I bought when I got my first real job. Sold that baby at circa 89K b/c the trans was banging, and I was told I’d have to have the trans rebuilt to the tune of $2600 or so. I learned the car sold a second time. To the best of my knowledge, the trans work was never done.

Once I got pregnant with Older Son, Hubby started thinking along the lines of a minivan. With three part-timers (a.k.a., Hubby’s boys, a.k.a., my stepsons), we wanted to be able to travel in one vehicle when the boys visited.

I won’t share which brand, but we did buy a new minivan, a new model that had just been released. It was okay at first, but as time went on, issues showed up. These included alternator problems—corrected under warranty—and transmission issues (which started rearing their ugly heads about one month before the five-year warranty ran out).

Forgot if we got it repaired. All I know is, one morning I had a whole five minutes extra time between schools after dropping off Older Son. I remember wondering if I should splurge that time getting a cup of coffee. While I pondered that I reached down for my purse to grab my cell phone.

Looked up just in time to see the plumber’s compressor in front of me (not that I knew it was a plumber’s compressor).

Didn’t see it in time to stop before I plowed into it.

(Note to self: Multi-tasking while operating a motorized vehicle may not necessarily be the best idea. Nor is buying a vehicle that hasn’t been around long enough for it’s problems to show, especially once the warranty runs out.)

A familiar face showed at my passenger window. I knew I hadn’t seen the man in quite a while, and I certainly couldn’t remember his name. “I know you!” was all I could say before I started crying.

He nodded. “I’m Joe. Don’t worry. Make sure you’re okay.”

I was. That was my luckiest crash ever. Totaled the stupid minivan. We still had full insurance coverage and got more for it from State Farm than I could ever have made selling it.

Put that cash toward my current Camry. The second I got back in a car—a blessed Toyota—I knew I was home. My minivan days were done.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll stop here for today. In the meantime, tell me about your relationship(s) with your vehicle(s). Do you have a favorite make or model? Does your car become a part of you, or are you a leaser who easily lets go?

Have a great day and catch you later in the week!

Joanna

 

Tailor-Made Dental Appointment?

Hi all. Hoping all my American friends enjoyed the extended, Independence Day weekend, and that everyone else got to do something productive, fun and/or relaxing too.

Today I’d like to dedicate to my dad, gone twenty years on this date. Rather than get into something long-winded, I figured I’d share a little episode from back in the day when my dad was still here. (If you’re into reading tributes, feel free to access his here, written two years back.)

I am a crafter. I love making pretty things! Back in my hospital-working days, I loved splinting, too. Always found it so cool to take a flat piece of plastic and custom-mold it into an object of healing.

I’ve painted, made photo albums, frames, stenciled—just name it. (Yes, writing absolutely counts. Writing a scene makes me so happy: taking a blank screen and giving it sight, sound, taste, smell. People talking, living, etc, all b/c of a thought or idea that took on life via how words are combined.)

Just recently, I tried my hand at a very simple quilt.

Quilt (front)  05-2014  Made my own binding! (Raise your hand if you love YouTube. :) )

Assembling the pieces with pins reminded me of a time I took my dad to the dentist. (You’ll get the connection very soon, I promise.)

Quilt (back) 5-2014 This is the flip-side. LOVED this simple fabric!

Long story short, the dentist started poking around in my dad’s mouth. After a while, he asked if my dad had worked as a tailor.

I was flumgubbered. “How on God’s earth could you know your patient’s occupation by looking into his mouth??”

Dentist went on to explain that tailors tend to put pins in their mouth, often when measuring clients for alterations. (I’d witnessed that action many times—do it myself every now and again, too.) Over time, the pins leave tiny scrapes on the enamel; these are visible to the dental expert’s eye.

Go figure!

Your turn: have you ever had someone guess at your (or someone else’s) profession, vocation, day job, etc) via some ridiculously seemingly unrelated clue?

Have a great week, friends!

Joanna

FIFA World Cup and Polish Boyfriends

Hi all. I’m definitely a bit behind this week. Just started the summer program in my school district and spent about four hours total trying to schedule three mornings worth of students. I suppose lots of folks hope to win the lottery, but I’d be satisfied with $500/week for life. Then I’d take the summer off—for once since my early teenage years, when I wasn’t old enough to work. (I’d still have to keep the day job, but figure $350 after taxes ain’t a bad thing…)

Anyway, y’all know tennis is my game and I’m currently following Wimbledon. Yes, I know, Rafa is out. He managed to hold his own during a trouncing by qualifier Nick Kyrgios, but I’m happy Rafa beat Rosol in the second round. The rest—it is what it is. Who knows? Federer might take Grand Slam #18. That would work too. :)

tennis Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

I’m not a big fan of soccer—that’s my little Italian mamma’s thing. She keeps me updated on FIFA World Cup standings, but I know it’s a big deal to lots of folks (including many of my favorite tennis players).

We’ve talked about the anxiety that seems to run on my mom’s side of the family. I promise you, some of these wonderful folks can take the simplest of situations and work themselves into a ridiculous frenzy over what they conjure into horror shows in their minds. Earlier today I remembered some loony stuff that ties into the 1990 World Cup.

I was working at my first full-time job, at a hospital in one of the boroughs of NYC. My friend had gotten married right around that time. She and her new hubby lived in a neighboring borough, had a couple of cats and needed someone to apartment-sit.

I offered. My anxious Italian mamma was not happy with my decision. In fact, she was so annoyed with me, she told me I shouldn’t have bothered calling her on the Monday immediately following the wedding, my first day as cat-sitter.

So the next day, I hung out late at work. Stayed to watch the final match, West Germany vs. Argentina, the team that took out the host team, Italy. (My friend might not have had cable. This many years down the line, the details are a tad fuzzy.)

soccer player

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

Aside: I’m not sure how valid this statement is, but don’t most Italians believe Italy should always win when it comes to soccer? If I remember correctly though, there was some questionable stuff associated with Argentina’s win, so any fans of Italy rooted for West Germany just to see Argentina get its due.

BTW, I didn’t call Mamma. (She told me not to bother the day before, right? I was being a good listener :D .)

Went to see a private patient after the game. Rolled into my friend’s apartment around seven or so.

I might have been in five minutes when the phone started ringing. (This was in the pre-cell phone era.)

At the other end was a work friend. “Call your mother. She’s looking for you and she sounded upset.”

A second friend called a very short while later. This one lived in my state, about twenty minutes from my house. “Call your mother. She has no idea where you are. She’s really worried.”

My newly-wedded friend’s mother called. “Call your mother! My husband’s going crazy over here.”

Turns out, my mamma went through my phone book and started making calls to any name she recognized. My newlywed pal’s stepfather—let’s call him Teddy—was born in Poland. His English is broken (but very entertaining) to this day.

I learned Teddy had the misfortune of picking up the phone. His conversation with my mother had him defending himself that he had no reason to take up with a 26-year-old girl. (My friend and I still laugh about it, and Teddy has retained the honor of being “first Polish boyfriend.” The second one never worked out. Thank. God.)

Anyway, I’m sure I wound up in an argument with my mamma that evening.

But for the sake of the people in my phone book, I called her the rest of the time I apartment sat.

Any FIFA World Cup memories of your own to share? Or stuff your parents did to make you nuts stories to tell about? You’re among friends here!

On a separate note: Quickie shout-out on behalf of long-time friend and very prolific screenplay writer Ric Rodriguez. He’s recently discovered blogging and sharing about his journey and other thoughts.  Check out his website/blog and show him some love! Many thanks to those of you who take the time to do so. :)

American flag

Happy Independence Day to all my American buds! (Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Here’s to a wonderful day,

Joanna

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