Inspired

Happy Monday, folks. Between the two blogs and the normal day-to-day (with the extra life throws in as one goes), I’ll most likely be alternating my posting schedule. Thank you for your continued kind support.

These past few weeks, I’ve had varied reasons to reflect on drive: that inner something that propels one through the challenges life brings; keeping one’s focus on the prize despite obstacles (external and internal). For some reason, my mind jet-setted to a lady patient I had in my first, in-patient rehab setting.

This lovely lady will go by Margaret (not her real name). Margaret was about 65 when she came to me. She was much disfigured and disabled by a long-standing history of rheumatoid arthritis. Diabetes had also taken its typical (associated) toll on her vision and circulation: she was legally blind and had been admitted to rehab due to a below-the-knee amputation of one of her legs.

Margaret couldn’t really turn her head b/c of the arthritic changes. Her fingers were thick little sausages that couldn’t open wide enough to really hold on to a walker. And her hips and knees were already fairly contracted into flexed positions.

Little by little, Margaret shared pieces of her story. Sometimes, more than I wanted to know, on a highly-detailed and personal level. She had many a reason to be bitter and resentful of her past, but was one of the kindest, quietest patients ever.

Because of her multiple deformities and weakened state, no one expected much of this tiny, hunched lady. She was fitted with a prosthesis anyway. The physical therapist most likely adapted her walker so she could hold on to it, and Margaret found a way. She was able to walk short distances with her very-devoted daughter nearby, enough to manage in her living space.

For some reason, she wasn’t able to return home right away and wound up on an ‘alternate level of care’ at our sister facility. Unfortunately, ‘alternate level’ wasn’t good. Long story short, Margaret wound up with an amputation of the other leg, ABOVE the knee.

Anyone who has worked with prosthetic patients knows that walking with two below-the-knee prostheses takes less energy than getting around with one above-the-knee.

To this day I don’t know how she did it, but Margaret pulled it off. There was no way she should have accomplished what she did, but I’m thinking her drive, spirit and motivation made the difference. So did her daughter’s support.

Who am I to make excuses when I remember that?

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The Comeback Kid: Asbury Park, NJ

Yep, summer has wound down to its unofficial close. (Feeling sad.) It’s been a really nice one, weather-wise for sure, and in other ways). BTW, it’s not just the back-to-school part that impacts me—it’s the readjusting to the schedule, bringing work home again and shorter days. (And I hate Eastern Standard Time. Just sayin’.)

Since it’s Labor Day, I figured a post about the beach would be appropriate. (And Tess’ posts about her recent visit to China might have inspired me a bit too. Hi Tess!)

Finally made it to recently refurbished Asbury Park last week. The revitalization process of this one-time East Coast resort is still in progress. Revitalization on many levels got underway in 2002.

Quick fact: At the onset of the previous century, Asbury Park’s only competitor in the beach resort department was Atlantic City.

From Wikipedia:

Quick fact: ~600,000 folks vacationed there during the annual “summer session.”

Quick fact: Musicians Bruce Springsteen and actor Danny DeVito hail from Asbury Park.

Quick fact: The very cool Stone Pony venue is opposite the boards on Ocean Avenue. Bruce Springsteen—with his E-Street band, featuring the awesome (but late) saxophonist Clarence Clemons—rocked that watering hole on many an occasion.

Find more detailed history on the origins and development of Asbury Park here. (It’s pretty cool.) The opening of the Garden State Parkway led to fewer folks needing to take a train to the beach. Legalization of gambling in Atlantic City took a lot of the traffic too—at least, that’s what Hubby says—and the addition of Sixx Flags Great Adventure Theme Park didn’t help the Asbury Park cause either.

My history with Asbury Park:

I’ve supposedly been there as a kid. I’d be lying if I said I remembered.

When my stepsons were little boys, Hubby and I did a day trip there. Honestly and sadly, it was already a ‘welfare’ and ‘ghost’ town. The Casino walkway  linked Asbury Park to Ocean Grove (“God’s square mile at the Jersey shore” and still-dry town). The cleanliness of Ocean Grove and the nice maintenance of its many Victorian mansion/beds-and-breakfast structures contrasted starkly with the littered beach and abandoned boardwalk on the other side. In the Casino, however, at least one shop remained open, but one had to wonder how long that lingering business could last. (I’m sure it didn’t.)

Asbury Park Casino
The Casino–or its skeleton–with some kind of construction work evident inside. The walkway links Asbury Park with Ocean Grove, which borders AP on its south side. The man in the center was playing a guitar and singing. The acoustics were okay.  (Photo by Hubby.)

The other day Hubby and I were looking for a day trip. I wanted to go to the  shore, but wasn’t looking to spend a day on the beach. Due to riptides and a death at nearby Sandy Hook, bathing was highly restricted anyway. (Not that the ocean has seen me in it during the past 20 years or so, but Hubby likes to dive in here and there.)

Inside the Casino walkway
Inside the Casino walkway –photo by Hubby. 

Hubby suggested Asbury Park. Since I hadn’t been near it since my fifth wedding anniversary (that would have been April 29, 2000), I jumped at the idea. I love a place that offers something new I can learn. Yes, I’m nerdy like that.

Asbury Park Casino Mural
How awesome is this mural lining the Casino walkway? The lady might have been painted 5-6 years ago. A I found it quite impressive.

The entire scene—including the ride—changes flavor frequently. One goes from the parkway to the state highway to the main drag, which isn’t necessarily the prettiest of places.

Ocean Avenue, however, has been cleaned up. (So has the beach, beautifully so, compared to how it looked the last time I went.) Several of the original buildings and hotels have been restored, or restoration is in progress.

Asbury Park beachfront
I took this photo from the north side of the restaurant overlooking the beach. Nothing relaxes me more than sitting on or near the beach when the PM breezes come in off the ocean.

There’s a retro-feel to the place, with a few typical beach-style shops and places to eat on the boards, as well as a mini-mall of sorts at the restored convention center.  (It reminded me of the North Wildwood boardwalk, which is much calmer and far less attraction-oriented than the Wildwood boards.)

Restaurants that are open to the water—with sheltered dining available should the weather dictate—are on opposite outside walls of the mall. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the north end, at a wooden table made from an industrial electrical wire spool, sipping from Hubby’s drink while overlooking the Atlantic.

View the convention center and theater and its outdoor seating area.

View the inside the convention center, aka, the arcade.

View Tillie, the (creepy) face (IMHO) of the Jersey Shore. Not sure if Tillie is a he or a she, but that face was painted on opposite sides of the demolished Palace Amusements building. (Tillie has been repainted onto the Wonder Bar, as a tribute to Palace Amusements. )

Asbury Park wasn’t terribly crowded. Granted, it was a Thursday. Hubby made some good points about why the area isn’t the best for the comeback the city hopes to make.

Asbury Park boardwalk
The boardwalk, taken from the Casino, which faces the north side. Think the guy on the bike–with the six-pack–posed?

(1) There are no amusements (i.e., rides or stands)—on the boards or in the immediate area—at present. (BTW, the original carousel was sold and currently resides somewhere in Myrtle Beach.) A sprinkler park, mini-golf and a store that offers crafts-for-a-cost (i.e., sand art, pottery, etc) seem to be the most entertainment for parents with younger children.

(2) Asbury Park is right on the coast. It is not a peninsula. No bay. (No striking sunset over the water, either.) No inlet. No boat traffic. No marina. That also limits chartered boating and fishing activities, I’m sure. (Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, the Wildwoods, Cape May and other more frequented shore areas are peninsulas.)

Asbury Park carousel housing
Carousel’s housing. Although empty, it has been refurbished and occasionally used by theater group(s). Note: When Hubby and I brought my stepsons here, this structure had been turned into an indoor skateboarding park. Planks everywhere and a kid charging $8/person to use it. Innovative, but  creepy to hear a thunder-like sound coming from inside there in a relative ghost town.

On the plus side, Asbury Park is RIFE with history and nostalgia invoked  because of the preservation of its many original structures and images. One can easily imagine what it was. With a little effort and some amusements, I believe it can prosper, especially with local traffic. (I heard its downtown district is getting a shot in the arm too. That can only help.) It’s a place where I enjoyed a few hours. I definitely might not mind spending a day, or even a weekend at one of the restored hotels. Chances are, I’d wind up writing about it some more.

Asbury Park heating plant
The heating plant, designed to provide heat for winter activities at the resort’s Casino and Carousel, assuming I read the articles correctly. These were designed by the same team who designed NYC’s Grand Central Station.

Sorry I got a little long-winded, but thank you for indulging me. As someone who has some trouble letting go, I love the preservation of times past.

Have a great week,

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

Crappy Voice(?) and Angel(s)

Happy first Monday of March, people! Please tell me spring is a-comin’–I am D.O.N.E. with snow and the cold.

So how cool is this li’l cutie hubby found on Facebook? I certainly hope he’s for real! (Video is 1:34–pinky swear it will make your day!)

So last Wednesday was blog-post fodder, everyone. A little of everything: kid drama and humor; a could-be problematic incident for me with an angel (?) or heavy-duty coincidence stepping in.

Day started off okay. Managed to focus and work on a report despite much preferring to chat with coworkers.

Drama showed with one of my third graders who has next-to no impulse control when he’s with one particular classmate. Tried seeing what I’d do when he pushed my buttons. Forced me to  put on my “discipline” hat  (i.e., make an active choice to not make excuses for his behavior b/c of his special needs).  I followed through: “Third warning. Back to class and tell your teacher you lost a point.” (This is big for them in class, lol. I felt so mean too. When you’ve had kids on your roster since they were three, you start to love them much the way you love your own.)

So we were practicing “French”, as his classmate refers to cursive handwriting. (Beats the kids who want to write in “curses.” Yes, many of my guys have delays and/or difficulty with speech, especially articulation. You learn the lingo after a while.) This little cutie of Costa-Rican born parents somehow inherited a mild accent that his parents don’t have. He is not, however, lacking in command of English or connecting verbal dots.

One of the girls was having a hard time with forming the letters. I took a peek at her paper and started to comment on where she was having a problem. “Okay, Mrs. Joanna. Please don’t yell at me.”

Huh???

“Since when does Mrs. Joanna yell?” (I rarely raise my voice.)

Li’l Costa Rican accent pipes in: “Mrs. Joanna doesn’t yell. She’s just using her crappy voice.”

He. Did. Not. Say. That–Oh! Li’l Accent Boy was referring to my typical line when they’re making me nuts, “Why do I need to use my crabby voice?”

What can I say? My students get to know me too.

And the day progressed until I had to leave one school to go to another. Dragged three bags, my binder and a travel coffee mug to the car. Had to do a bit of shuffling to get to the keys, dump everything in and take off.

Got to second school with five minutes to spare before session time. Grabbed the bag I’d prepacked for the 5th graders and reached for the binder with ALL my goals, objectives and progress logs.

Binder is not there.

NOOOOO! I did not leave it on the trunk and drive off!

Yanked out cell.  Called first school. Begged secretary to leave her warm office space and go to cold parking lot to look for blue binder. (Of course, the stuff inside is legal documentation as of this month, not to mention kids’ first and last names on EVERY page. And so goes HIPPA.)

Secretary came up empty. I entered second school and immediately wailed to art teacher, who is kind enough to share his room every week. (Yep. I have no real home in ANY school I work in. ‘Nuff said ‘bout that. Among the reasons I had so much stuff getting from door to car of first school.)

“Oh man,” art teacher says. “Know what’s really funny? I was wondering how you can always be so positive.”

“I’m positive I left my binder on the trunk and drove off.”

Suffered through that session—I was a tad flustered and preoccupied—and noticed a missed call from an unfamiliar, but local, landline.

Hope kicked in and I dialed my voicemail. Yay! Secretary found my binder about three blocks away, corner down in the snow! Papers dirty and wet, but cover not blown open and NOTHING missing! (IDK how it survived a left, a right and another left before finally losing contact with the car.)

Relief set in. I am not anxious by nature but this rattled me a bit, mostly b/c of the confidentiality thing.

Took at least two hours before normal calm set in. Then I realized had the other secretary picked up my first call (when I noticed my binder missing), the one who found it would have driven by the blue book stuck in the snow and ice and never thought twice. Instead she said she drove past and then, “OMG, blue!” registered. (She lives nearby and goes home for lunch daily.)

Everyone can talk coincidence as much as they want. My angel(s) stepped it up this past Wednesday. I did not complain about having to break down almost the entire binder and cover three beds with papers for them to dry. Made sure to lay them out in alphabetical order, as they are organized usually, so that re-organizing them would take less time.

Once the book was back together, I got to write the blasted notes. I suppose I was grateful I had everything I needed to do so, and will be able to turn them in, as is expected, within the next few days.

And we’re square with HIPPA (for today, anyway).

Thanks for indulging me.

This one’s kind of open. Talk to the topic or just talk. Sorry I went a little long, but at least I got something to write about in the end. (There’s that annoying positive outlook again… ;))

Have a great week,

Joanna

Vinca Beats the Odds

Happy week of Thanksgiving, everyone. If you’re celebrating (and get to do the cooking), hope your fridge is already housing the bird and all the trimmings. Every year I swear I ain’t messin’ with the fine china, but when else will I use it? (Besides, Christmas, that is. I do really love it and–hey, there is no school and no cooking the day after the holiday, so what the heck, right?)

So maybe I’m a geek or a Pollyanna or a ridiculously positive person (RR is shaking his head yes to all three, I’m quite sure), but I am inspired by things that someone else might not even pay attention to.

Every year, I do some flower gardening. (Hubby is the veggie man.) Every year I try to add one more perennial (i.e., type of plant that comes back with little or no help from me), but there’s always room for an annual or two.  This year though, I hit Lowe’s at the end of the season and came back with a bunch of little flowering plants, but none of the impatiens or vinca I normally add.

IDK, I know annuals come from seeds, lol, but the plant is not supposed to come back, correct? Well, I started the season noticing tiny marigold seedlings mixed into the weeds I call grass on the side of the house. Found at least eleven. Transplanted every one where I normally plant them every year. Got a full spread. Every seedling made it to full growth and blooms. Cleared them out a few weekends ago.

We won’t discuss the sunflowers. Haven’t planted those annuals for at least three years now. Go figure.photo (1) That wall behind me gets crazier every year. That’s last summer’s photo. Don’t you love how I hide the hips and thighs behind the poster?

Sunflowers These are now the norm. I promise I planted a few seeds several years back.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I thought I saw a vinca sprout peeking from the edge of a little flower bed under a tree on the side of my house. Not sure if it popped up during a few very warm fall days, but uh, that thing was not supposed to grow at all (even though I did have them there last summer, 2012). Not only should that li’l fighter not have been there in the first place, it should have had full sun. (It was hidden under the crazy mums that come back every year. Found it when I cut back the mums killed by the deeper frosts.) And, the li’l bugger should NEVER have bloomed in early November, AFTER several frosts, a couple of which hit the mid-20s. (Hardy plant or inspiration that, given the right combination of circumstances, pretty much anything can get past the odds?)

vinca in Nov 2013  Crazy!

You know me. I am inspired.

Is it just me? Or have others run into similar experiences?

May you all feel gratitude, Thursday and every day–I know it keeps me peaceful!

Joanna

Did The Kids Figure This One Out on Their Own?

Or do they just “get” something the rest of us don’t?

Happy Thursday after Easter, friends!

I apologize for not getting this up last week. Impending Spring Break messes with timelines for school-related paperwork, which has to take priority. (I always wonder though: God-forbid something serious happened to the person doing the write-up a few days prior–i.e., an injury–doesn’t the paperwork NOT get in on time? Does life stop because of that? Just sayin’… :))

Anyway, these thoughts were inspired by a conversation between me and my older guy a few weeks ago.

Most Friday mornings I drop my sixteen year-old son off at school. Our other regular passenger is his ‘girlfriend.’ I keep asking myself why I still put quotes around that word; they haven’t broken up once, and she’s been around three years (plus).

Yep. 1/26/10: that used to be part of my older guy’s text signature. This year, that date fell on a Saturday. It wasn’t until AFTER I picked them up at The Olive Garden that I realized why they’d made dinner plans and just assumed someone would drop them off and pick them up. (Yeah, the mommy in me got a little cranky with them doing that, but I’d missed the bigger picture up front. I got over it soon enough. And I got on my kid’s case about getting her flowers. Won’t tell you he’s lazy, but he can be a bit lackadaisical when it comes to doing things.)

Back to Friday mornings. He was doing his hair for school—I swear he’s the daughter I never had when it comes to his appearance—and I happened to ask about a woman who is best friends with the girlfriend’s mother. (Names are made up.)

“How’s Melanie?”

“She’s good.”

“Did she and Henry get back together?”

“Yeah. They’re back and forth all the time. They fight over stupid stuff. They’re like teenagers.”

“Have you and Fiona ever have a fight?”

“Not really. Her mom and Melanie are envious of us. They want to know what our secret is.”

I laughed. “I’ll tell you the secret: control. You and Fiona don’t try to do that to each other. You let each other be.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

Funny. I’ve got a pair of teen sweethearts who inherently get that. (Hubby and I do okay in that department, but every now and again it creeps up. Then we deal and hopefully have learned something new about each other, eighteen years down the married line.)

I’ve watched these kids in action over the past three years. Like her mom who grew up the youngest of five and the only girl, Fiona’s friends are mostly boys, the same ones who are my son’s core group. (Doesn’t seem to phase him none, to his credit.) Her appearance matters but she’s no diva, which is nice.

She and my son spend a ton of time together, but neither cares if one does something without the other. And—thank God!—there’s NONE of the ridiculous, “You can’t talk to that girl” or vice versa. (I’d probably bean either or both if they did. Can’t stand that nonsense.)

We’ve spent vacation time with her family and she’s come away with us. Spend that much time with someone, s/he’s bound to get on one’s nerves. Not so with this girl. They’re a lot alike—even resemble each other a bit—in how overall easygoing each one is.

Got me thinking about how much control gets in the way of having ANY relationship, and not necessarily a romantic one.

When one lives and lets live, life is so much easier on both sides. I can be me without worrying about feeling judged. Disagreements are seen as differences of opinion and not as a personal affront (most of the time anyway). I can do what I need to do without worrying someone else is going to get bent out of shape. When that goes both ways with a spouse, parent, child or friend, I’m can pretty much guarantee a respectful, peaceful and mutually satisfying relationship where two-way interaction just flows naturally.

What are your thoughts on this? Any experiences come to mind that you’d care to share? If positive, what made them so? And if not, how did you deal?

My little home in the woods. Water to go on in about a week–that means we can actually start going again! I’m psyched! 😀

My little home in the woods. Water to go on in about a week--that means we can actually start going again! I'm psyched! :D

Have a great day, all!

Joanna

Remember the Titans?

We’re talking the classic feature film here, one of my all-time favorites.

Hi all–hope you’ve had a nice weekend and that all is well–or as well as it can be!

Happened across this article on Yahoo! and found myself tremendously inspired. Superstorm Sandy left her mark. (If you like, you can read my 2-part thoughts post on her here and here.) She devastated too many to count in more ways than I’m sure any of us can truly realize. Here though, is some very young proof of the human spirit and how indomitable it truly is, especially when it functions as a collective.

As per Remember the Titans, this story sounds like it has all the makings of another classic one I’d love to see interpreted on the big screen. (What can I say? I’ve got a thing for against-all-odds stories, especially those that involve sports!)

Later this week, a super-easy, incredibly tasteful side-dish recipe for lazy but-love-to-eat cooks like me!

Enjoy and have a great day,

Joanna