...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bridges and Brew

Crashing through the wooden bridge.

I have many memories of growing up in the house in West Shokan. I spent 18 years there before I moved out. I will share more of them in later blogs. However my older siblings and parents told stories for years of the exciting adventures of living in the country. Some of these were before Rick and I came along or were just too young at the time to know what was going on. One of those stories was of the oil truck that collapsed the bridge.

You see, there was a stream that separated Dry Brook Road from our driveway. When my family first moved in and for many years afterward (even I can remember this) the bridge was made of lumber. I think the only things supporting the planks were beams that connected the two sides (picture a ladder placed across the stream). I do seem to recall wooden beams under the bridge when we played in the stream.

I assume the bridge was originally made so crudely for the sole purpose of getting vehicles to the house and that was all the materials that were on hand and it worked, for a while. However, if I remember correctly, the oil deliveryman was leery of the bridge and didn't want to cross it, but someone convinced him to do it. Oil deliveries had been made many times before, so they knew it could be done. However, someone may not have taken into consideration how much oil was in each truck. Anyway the driver eventually was convinced. (Never doubt your instincts, people!) and he drove over the bridge. The picture tells the rest of the story.

Because the planks were placed on top of huge beams that connected the two banks of the stream. A loud noise was made every time you drove over the planks. This was a clue to us that we had company coming! This proved very handy when the Still was in operation.

The Still? You ask. Oh, I haven't told the story of how the biggest barn on the property was used as a distillery for, yes, you guessed it -- Moonshine! The Giuliano Family purchased the property and then rented it out to a group from NYC. These folks built a huge vat in the barn and had pipes running all through the property to run off the mash and operate the Still. In 1950, it was raided, the men arrested and the Still shut down. Click on the title above for the newspaper article. The story goes that a pilot working for the NYC Reservoir was patrolling the area for the security purposes when he noticed the roof on the barn had no snow on it. They sent officers to investigate and jackpot!

It made for a very exciting history of the house. In the house itself was a trap door to the basement. As kids Rick and I used to dream up stories of how the trap door was used. Once I learned of a second attic in the house, I used to wondered if there was hidden treasure up there. I also wondered if money was hidden in the ground somewhere on the property. Years later when I would put in gardens in various parts of the yard I would come across the pipes that were buried in the ground, but no treasures.

Across the creek I discovered an area where old bottles were dumped. It was fascinating finding all those bottles and wondering what they had held and who put them there. (Makes one wonder what future generations will think of all the garbage and appliances we have in land fills.)

Relatives of the Giuliano's still live in the area and shared a few more details of the Still with me. Thank you Florence! As stated above, I will share more on later blogs.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beary Green??? A recycling idea.

After our mom passed on, the family cleaned out the house. After selling some items or donating them, we stored some to take time to decide at a later date what to do with them. Among those items were several fur coats that belonged to our mom. They had to have been passed down from Grandma as Mom and Dad never had enough money to by fur coats.

After a few years of being stored in the attic, we found a woman in West Shokan, NY that made bears out for old fur coats. We commissioned her to make several bears. Lynn, Elaine and JoAnn all have bears. There was still fur left over, so we decided to have more made. We gave these bears to Grandma's other granddaughters (our cousins), Lorraine and Barbara on their 60th birthdays.

I wrote the following poem to go with the bears to explain its history.

            The Bear Facts
                                             by JoAnn Bell
I come to you from far away,
A place you used to come to stay.
Where family gathered and food was shared
And hikes abounded if one dared.

Quite unique a bear am I,
Sit back, listen, and I’ll tell you why.
My fur is made of a special coat.
Not any old skin, off some meaningless boat.

A hand-me-down that brought such pleasure,
Only its owner could properly measure.
Of course my beginnings were that of a beaver
But my form has been changed just for you the receiver.

I once warmed your family and kept chills at bay
First for your Grandma; and then your Aunt Faye.
For her use as a coat for your Grandma, some scorn
And then as a jacket for her daughter was worn.

And now on to you, I am passed down in love
With best wishes and blessings of God from above.
Though I came to you from a tattered past,
My latest makeover for decades should last.

Hand-sewn and stuffed for your special day,
From West Shokan to St. Johns I come to say:
To all Muller cousins you’re special indeed
And we celebrate with you and offer this seed.

Record your life stories and events you have seen
The people you’ve met and the places you’ve been.
Write down all your memories or those that you dare
Include pictures and journals and even this bear.
Some eyes may get teary, like dusted with dew,
As you share my beginnings with somebody new.
And who knows what bears or secrets abide
In someone’s old coat or jacket or hide.

Copyrighted 2009. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Birds and Bees

Jim & Asher feeding birds in Florida.
It is challenging at times to come up with something to write for this blog. Not that I am a loss for words, but each time I have to evaluate what I want to say, how I should say it, who may see it and how it may be misconstrued. Hence the delays between entries.

Today I was reading another blog and it brought to mind a memory that I thought would be a great blog. Keeping in mind my kids read this and like to hear more on my childhood and our family times, and that my relatives may also see this, and friends may vary in how they take anything I write, this topic may amuse (and educate ?) all the above.

It starts in my early years of Junior High, no wait, I remember the film in elementary school, uh, oh, wait, it started actually earlier than that with a boy...no can't go there.

Ok, let's fast forward to my own kids and then back up...maybe...

One thing I vowed after getting married and even before having children, was to make sure that if I ever DID have children, I would educate them in the birds and bees and not allow them to learn by trial and error.

So, I was grateful when I learned about Dr. James Dobson's book, "Preparing for Adolescence". It was suggested that the parents read the book and then decide when the child was old enough to start a conversation or read the book together. (Nowadays there is a whole curriculum based on the book.) So I read it. I was so happy to see how it was well written and answered many questions I had had in my pre-teen years that were never answered. It also talked to the kids as young people, mature enough to handle the subject and discuss a facts of life with appropriate language and respect.

After reading the book, I decided that my eldest son was not quite ready and put it away for a year or so. Then when I felt he had matured enough, we read it together. Well, at least until the chapter about the actual process of pre-fertilization (?lol). Then I handed the book to him, told him to read the chapter and when he finished, if he had any questions, we could go over them. So he sat on his bed and read. Within about 15 minutes, he came out of his room, marched over to his dad, handed him the book and said, "Do you see what she is making me read!"

Jim read over the pages Bryan had pointed to and looked up at me and with a shocked expression on his face said, "Is he old enough for this?!?" Thank you Dr. Dobson for helping both parents start the discussion! Needless to say, Bryan learned a valuable lesson in love, life and secs (sic)...that obviously made his marriage fruitful. ;)

Several years later, while home-schooling my two youngest sons, I had to cover reproductive education (I am refraining from using the three letter word as I don't want e-stalkers Googling it and harassing me.) I was fine with that. I tried to cover the book and the lessons with both of them at the same time. Big mistake. First I gave each of them the book to read and said we would discuss it once they were finished. So we sat in the livingroom and I started the discussion with, "So, do you have any questions?" To which I got no reply. So I decided to take a different tact and started quizzing them. With the very first question, the giggles started. You would think they were a couple of girls. They kept looking at each other and breaking out in laughter. Soon we were all laughing. I think it was Dan who finally said, "Mom we already know this stuff." More giggles ensued. "Fine," I said, "Then I will continue to quiz you until I am sure I know that you do know. We did and they did!

Fast forward to time when after watching a shocking Oprah episode on what kids were "doing" these days and what the little plastic bracelets meant that they wore and what the lingo was. I asked my teen-aged son, Aaron, to confirm if what they were saying was true. He had been on his way from the kitchen to his room when he stopped and came back and said, "Mom, if think that is shocking. You don't want to know what girls are doing these days." My mouth dropped. OMG!

Now let's go way back to when I was in high school....HIGH School, mind you! I was so excited because we were being forced to take health classes. HEALTH = secs (sic). This was it. I was finally going to learn the truth of how it all works. Oh, I had read the Reader Digest book on it and knew the sperm had to fertilize the egg. The woman had the eggs, the man had the sperm. I got all that. It was how they got together that was missing from every book, every conversation, every Play-boy mag, every encyclopedia that I had ever searched. My parents (nix, that) my mom never cared to share THAT PART of the lesson on what F_ _ _ meant, when I asked her. (More on that later.) So now the Health Teacher in good old OCS (Onteora Central Schools) was going to answer my darkest question.

Okay, so first we had to get through the drug education part. I was happy to do that the first quarter only because I knew the next quarter was the one subject I had been waiting for. For my final, I did a collage of all drugs including coffee and got an A. Then the second quarter started and after a few weeks I realized, oh no, he's not going to tell us! Once again the egg, the sperm, the genitalia, transmitted diseases, birth control, blah, blah, blah. What a let down. So I took matters into my own hand....not literally, get your mind out of the gutter. And it comes time for the final. I decided to have some fun and maybe educate the teacher a tad. I did a report on prostitution using the book: "Everything you wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask" the book that finally told me everything!  I got an A. Not only that, I received an award at the end of the year for having the highest grade in Health Class (embarrassing!).

Bear with me as I jump back in time once again to my early years. I think I was in fifth or sixth grade when a boy asked me if I wanted to f_ _ _. Wanting him to like me, I said, "Sure!" I guess my enthusiasm overwhelmed him because his next question was, "Do you even know what it means?" Sheepishly I admitted I didn't and he suggested I find out first. So that's when I went to Mom. Shocked her out of her gourd. (I have a habit of doing that with some people even today.) After her explanation, I was still not sure. Thus the start of a dialog between me and a girlfriend. These conversations went back and forth, as we shared what we learned from our parents and friends and tried to figure out this whole secs thing. Needless to say, we thought we were pregnant many times because of "The special way a boy touches a girl," that our moms failed to elaborate on.

Parents, please, talk to your children on their level when you think they are mature enough (and that's probably younger than you think) and be factual, be thorough, be open, and if you can't -- get the book, "Preparing for Adolescence".

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Search of the Rain Forest...

Asher Rain Bell
Today it finally poured several times and gave us much needed rain. I LOVE the rain! I should clarify that, I love rain storms. I can't stand the prickly rainfalls or mists that hardly seem worth the effort. But give me a good, drenching rain and a cup of Chai and I am a happy camper. Ah, take that back. Probably the only time I do not like a good soaking rain is when I am camping. Especially when I am camping with kids or the tent leaks. {{{{ugggghhhh}}}}.

When I was a youngster, I used to sit on our front porch and watch the rain. Wow, that's a memory I really have to dig for! My dad had a lounge chair out there and sometimes we would sit together, not saying anything. Other times I think I may have talked my head off, but he didn't seem to mind. When it would stop raining, I remember running out to our dirt driveway to make river-lets for the water to run down. I found myself doing that years later in our back yard and couldn't believe the joy I found in doing it!

To listen to rain outside the window in the summer has such a calming effect on me. Doesn't everyone sleep better when it rains? Okay, maybe not during a thunderstorm or raging winds, but a nice steady rain. As I get older I find I sleep later -- that being until 7:30, not my usual 5:00 AM -- when it rains. And then I still want to just roll over and snuggle under the covers and listen.

I don't mind being out in the rain either, as long as I am prepared for it. Once I got stuck doing my office calls in the pouring rain. My pants were soaked from the knees down. Yes I had a raincoat, yes, I had an umbrella, but the rain came down sideways. Not only that, my pants were long enough that just getting in and out of the car, they were sucking up the puddles!

I love kids who stomp in puddles. (Of course, I like it better when they are not mine or my responsibility, lol.) Unless kids are on their way to church or some other dressy place, who cares! The mud washes out, they can change out of the wet clothes (especially if you carry and extra set with you). As long as it's not a frigid winter day, go stomp, I say. Have you happened to notice kids are magically drawn to them anyway!

I am amused by folks, mostly women, who are so afraid to get their hair wet in the rain. None can beat my hair when it's wet on a humid day. Frizzzzy! If I can tolerate it, anyone can. I always yell to folks standing and waiting for it to stop before they run to their destination or cars: "It's only water!"

Don't comment and say anything about acid rain....I don't want to hear it, okay?

Anyway, I know just few others who enjoy the rain as much as I do. It was such a shock for me to learn my son and his wife, Jessica, LOVE the rain. They may even love it more than I do, as they gave their second son, Asher, the middle name Rain. Asher Rain -- doesn't that just sound poetic? I remember when Asher was just learning to talk and he told his mom, "I wuv the wain, Mommy. I wuv it on my head and on my arms and on my back." Now does that kid live up to his name or what!

My kinda kid. Maybe when he's older we will snuggle up together during a hefty rain storm and read a good book , or maybe just sit and watch it pour down, or better yet, go find a puddle to jump into! Aah, a taste of heaven.

(Photo above taken by his dad.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Cup of Tea

Every morning I enjoy a delicious cup of Chai Tea as a part of my routine.

I had my first cup of Chai when I worked at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. The tiny yoga teacher (whose name escapes me at the moment) invited me to her house for lunch and made me a cup. I watched as she ground fresh ginger into a pot of hot water with a mixture of tea and spices and heated it up. Once hot, she poured in a huge amount of milk and heated until it was very warm. Then she filled two mugs and yum!

She did share the recipe, but I have never been able to duplicate the delicious smooth cup she made for me that day. Through the years since, I have taste-tested many Chai teas in restaurants and coffee shops. Little did I know I was on the cutting edge, when I tasted that first cup. Because now it appears every respectable coffee shop has an offering of Chai tea or Chai Tea Latte (which is probably what I really had the first time).

On a trip to our favorite book store, Barnes and Noble, we discovered they had Chai tea. Jim and I ordered two cups and while it was a bit sweet, we could taste the delicious spices that were calmed by the warm milk. On the counter we noticed a container of Tazo Chai Tea and considered buying it. I am not sure why we didn’t, but for some reason we just drank their tea. About a month or so later, Jim bought me a container of Tazo Chai Tea for my birthday. I have been addicted ever since.

At our worst addiction level, we were having a cup of tea every morning and another at “High Tea” between three and four in the afternoon on those cold winter days. Nothing warms you up or calms you down, like a cup of hot Chai tea. After I noticed a few extra pounds creeping on, I decided I needed to cut down. So we dropped the afternoon tea and just had a large mug of it at breakfast.

Be mindful however, that the warm milk relaxes one so much that you may want to return to bed after a soothing cup!

So now I sit here at my computer, doing my crossword puzzle, reading my daily blogs, catching upon the latest news drinking my delicious cup of hot Chai Tea Latte.

What could be better?

BTW, we did cut down on the Chai we added to make our cups. The directions on the package called for way too much Chai. So now it is a perfect cup of early morning soothing tea. Also it helps to ask the coffee shops how many "pumps" they make their Chai with and have them cut back one or two. Otherwise it's just a bit too sweet.

Care for a cup?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mullers then and now...

Faye Muller holding JoAnn, Elaine, Jimmy, then in back George, Lynn & Charles (1957)

Yes, I come from a large family! I was born eight years after my brother, Jimmy. Ricky was born two years after me.

In this recent photo: Rick, Jim, Lynn, George, Charles, JoAnn and Elaine (2010).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Muller Family Homestead

The Muller homestead is up in the Catskill Mountains of New York state. Take the Thruway to Kingston, then drive up Rte 28 to Boiceville,. Turn onto 28A, drive in to Watson Hollow  to Moonhaw, to Drybrook (or Druykill as it is properly named), and then to Hillside. As you can see by all the road names we is in the boonies.

Great place to grow up though. That is until you were a teenager and especially if you were a girl. Once guys found out where I lived, they asked me to meet them somewhere. When Jim came to pick me up on our first official date, he ran out of gas way up in Allaben trying to find a gas station that was open! I had to go rescue him with gas from our lawn mower. Is that the start of a great love story or what?!?

My parents moved to this home before I was born. They had five kids of their own and lived with two other couples (I can't remember if the others had kids or not). All three families move up to the country to build houses. Those houses still stand today in the Town of Ulster, Lake Katrine and Halcyon Park.

The home was a large farmhouse with two porches and three barns. After a while, my father bought out the others and they moved on. So it was just the Mullers when I came along. My maternal grandmother had moved in with the family at some point, but she died shortly before I was born. They had added on a bedroom and bath off the kitchen for her when she came.

The house was warm and cozy with solid pine paneling in the living room and low ceilings. Originally there were four bedrooms upstairs, but later walls were removed to make two larger rooms. I was the sixth of what would be seven children total. So the extra bedroom downstairs, not to mention second bath came in handy. The back porch was a coal porch and was eventually taken down. But we had a lovely porch along the entire front of the house and a stream running along the one side of the house.

I loved growing up there. We could climb the hill outside our house and feel literally on top of the world. We could swim or skate in the stream. We had trees to climb up into or when they fell over by a storm, forts to hide inside of. We would use our imaginations to create horses or houses or ships in the huge rocks down by the stream. We also had a massive rock in the back yard that was split and allowed us to play on it or in it. There were ponds with polliwogs, fields of deer, and raccoons, possums, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks and mice. In addition to that our family raised a bull, goats, chickens, and later sheep. We never had a dog, as Dad said they would chase the deer away. I did get a cat when I was in my teens.

At night we would sit on the porch listening to the peepers (frogs in the ponds) or later in the summer, the katydids, crickets and cicadas. Some nights we watched meteor showers or satellites flying through the air. The nights up there were as black a coal or pitch black as we used to say. We always had the stream to cool and calm us on those hot summer nights. People who visited always thought it was raining outside because of the stream.

It was a great place to raise kids. My mother used to say she always wanted to live in a a place where she could yell as loud as she wanted and not be heard by the neighbors. The only neighbors were "summer people" and were not around most of the time.

It was small town life at its best. You could go visit anyone and doors were always unlocked. Cars were in the driveway with the keys in them. I remember going to one elderly man's house to visit him just to have him bring me a ladle of ice cold water from his well where he pumped it by hand. My brothers and sisters and my husband (truth be told) all attended one room school houses for their primary schooling.

We never had organized sports, or were driven to games when we were kids. We would just walk down the road, kids would gather and soon everyone - girls and boys - would be playing baseball, or swimming at Red Rocks or Flat Rock or go sledding at Asam's hill. It seems so old-fashioned and such long time ago. but it really wasn't. It was a different way of life than most experience today and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Feel free to click on the title to go to the website to see the house and surrounding area.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Men in My Life

Aah, these are the present men in my life. From left to right they are my sons Bryan, Aaron, husband, Jim and son, Dan. The two little guys are Bryan's sons: Elijah, 9 and Asher, 3.

We seem to only make Bell boys in this family. At least on the Jim Bell side -- his brother, Doug, has a daughter and the Muller side hasn't done much better as we have one niece now 42 and one great niece 19! (Weren't we taught in high school biology that the males rarely made it from conception to birth?)

Anyway, when I think back on my childhood, I often think God knew what he was doing in not giving me a daughter. It was tough enough raising boys, I doubt I would have survived raising a daughter who put me through what I put my mother through.

It was always my dream of mine to be a wife and mother. When I was in school, every time someone asked what career plans I had, I always hesitated. Can't I just be a mom that stays home and takes care of her children?!?

Jim and I met through a mutual friend. Our families knew each other and once Jim and I got to know each other, we both talked about getting married. We decided to move in together. This was while I was still in high school (shock-a-roo to all my high school chums, eh!?!). My dad had always stated that when we were 18 we could move out and make our own rules, until then -- and under his roof -- we had to follow his. (Sound familiar to any of you?) I was one of those rebellious kids that always took whatever they said literally and moved out five months after my 18th birthday!

After about a year of living together, I was getting uncomfortable not being, "Jim's wife" when introduced or introducing myself. I also wanted kids and didn't want to bring a child into the world outside of marriage. (Ok, I was old fashioned to a fault in some areas.) So we started making plans for our wedding. As I said, I had planned all this for years, so before we knew it all the plans were in place and instead of the October wedding date, we moved it up to July 10th!

We had a lovely ceremony in the Shokan Methodist Church (Jim's family were non-practicing Methodists) and had our reception at the Shokan Park. The day was perfect. No humidity. No major heat. I had handwritten all my invitations and made my own flower baskets for the bridesmaids. We splurged on the cake (done by an independent baker) and on the bridal bouquet, corsages and boutonnieres. Most of this we paid ourselves, but the parents insisted on paying for some things. When my mother found out Jim's parents were paying for the minister, she insisted paying for the food at the reception. Go for it! :)

Back to the men/boys in my life -- After we were married a few months, we thought about having children. I was out of work and we were adjusting to one income. I was more ready than Jim, I guess because I started crocheting baby clothes. My Aunt (she really wasn't an aunt, but a really good friend of my mom's) saw me crocheting and asked who it was for. When I replied, "my baby", she asked if I was pregnant. When I replied, "Not yet!" she laughed that I was preparing before I was even pregnant.

I believe we tried for several months (an eternity it seemed at the time) before I did get pregnant and in December of 1977, Bryan Bell was born. I always thought I would want to stay home with my children, wait until he or she was ready for Kindergarten and then get pregnant with then next one until I had four. Of course in my perfect plan I would have a boy, a girl, a boy and then finally another girl. We almost did that. NOT.

Aaron was born just shy of five years later in September 1982. I remember coming home from the hospital and stating to my sister, "Well, I can eventually put the two boys together in one room and use the other for our daughter." My sister just laughed and said something to the affect, "This one just got here and you're planning the next one!?!" I am always planning you see....always.

Well Dan came along a little quicker than expected in September of 1984. I tried hard to have a girl this time. When I had Aaron I took pink "horse" pills instead of blue ones. I tried to psyche myself into believing I would have a girl. It was even worse when I was expecting Dan. I wouldn't let anyone tell me it was a boy or think what would happen if it was another boy. However just two days before he was born, the nurse at my check-up listened to the baby's heartbeat and stated, "Whoa that's a boy, no doubt about it, listen to that heartbeat!" Another nurse came in and agreed. Shortly after that the doctor came in and said my blood pressure was high and I need to go home and rest.

That was not a problem as they had all given me shocking information (another BOY! no wonder my b/p was up!) that I had to chew on while I waited out the birth of this baby. Thankfully my sister had come to stay with us again to help out...cook, clean, play with the boys. So I remember sitting on my lounge chair soaking up the rays, thinking that I better adjust my thinking to this baby being another boy.

Dan was the first of our babies that Jim made it as my Lamaze coach. He was slightly unprepared for the first two, but now he thought he could handle it -- ya think? Anyway, he was Jim the Engineer with full gear! He had the stop watch, the clip board, the pencils and other supplies all ready to go when we arrived at the hospital. "Is that the start of contraction?" "You NEED to tell me so I can start the stop watch!" "What do you mean you have to get up to go to the bathroom? You're allowed to do that??" Oh, God, it was so funny.

Anyway we had our three little Bell boys, two blonds and one red head -- don't ask! They were the cutest little boys. Bryan was talkative (and still is), Aaron was quieter and shyer (still is until he's comfortable) and Dan will talk non-stop once he starts.

We always marveled at how different they were. I used to think Dan and Bryan were alike, but while they are in some ways, others they are not. Each one has their own strengths. Each one has their own talents. None of them are great athletes though they could have been. None of them like competitive sports. They all played soccer and tried other sports, but never were thrilled with it. Aaron was the only one to bring home trophies for bowling.

Then we entered the computer age. Bryan took off with it in his teen years. Dan, who by the time he was four we realized had a mechanical mind, took to computer games like a duck to water. Aaron tried to grasp and study it but it didn't come as easy for him. But if you needed a voice of reason, someone to tell us the direction we should go, or to be a mediator, Aaron was there and was excellent at it.

It is funny now to see where they are at in their careers and see how their personalities and traits have come through. Bryan always loved little kids (even though he fought with his brothers like crazy as a youngster). Bryan married at 21 to a wonderful young woman he had met when they were just three years old and has the two sons. He designs websites for Ariba in GA now.

Aaron is lucky to have survived the antics of his brother, Bryan. He was like a guinea pig. Bryan was so much older and want to shoot him up in the air off a teeter totter that he made himself. Needless to say, Aaron didn't fly very far ;). Aaron found his niche and now runs the computers for the inventory and shipping of a publishing company in Florida. He met a young woman that was born in NY, but raised in FL. They were just married this past June.

Dan used to have a fascination with fans as a baby and toddler. "Fan, fan!!!" He used to yell every time he saw a ceiling fan in a restaurant. He became a whiz on the computer thanks to his brothers, not to mention the time he put into playing the games on it. He now designs simulation videos for the armed forces -- believe it or not, the one simulation he loves working on involves helicopters! Do I see a correlation between the fans and the rotor??? ;)

Now we come my two beautiful, adorable, grandsons. They are so much fun! So cute and so full of energy. Since I am soooo experienced in raising boys, they can't quite pull a fast one on me like my kids did. I have to say they have a wonderful set of parents raising them too. Bryan is so much more strict than we were. (I still can't believe it!) But I love to watch my son, love his children in all aspects of their upbringing. He adores being a father and husband. Hmmmm sounds familiar... ;) It is so rewarding to see your children settle down and make plans for their lives and then follow through...hmmm, what new plans can we make today?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Tonight I had dinner with a friend I have known for more than 30 years. I met Anna at Olan Mills when we both worked there as telephone solicitors. I will have to share our experiences there another time.

Anna and I worked together for less than a year, I think, but we connected. I remember going to her home in Saugerties and meeting her extended Italian family. As the years went by, we both married and had kids. Some time later when our kids were little, we ran into each other and she came over for a visit. It was like the years just melted as we brought each other up to date on our lives.

We were supposed to get together again a couple weeks later, but Anna had to cancel due to hurting her back. Unfortunately, I didn't think it was anything more than a pulled muscle and I didn't follow up with her. A few weeks went by and I called her to see about getting together and she shared very openly how hurt she was that I had never called to see how she was doing. She had really done a number on her back and was laid up for quite awhile. I was embarrassed and felt really bad. Unfortunately, that incident caused another lag in our friendship.

Then years later, I was working for the American Cancer Society and our paths crossed once again. This time we met often due to our work. She worked as a bookkeeper in a surgeon's office. I came to know her coworkers and we would chat during our times in their office. Then Anna's husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and we encouraged and nurtured Anna through that trial. Soon I left ACS and Anna and I tried to stay connected by phone. We got together occasionally for breakfast or lunch as we both live in Saugerties, but the business of our lives drew us apart once again.

Then a friend who was still working for ACS, saw Anna and said I should call her and once again we met up.

Now our children are grown. We are both empty nesters and are sharing our lives. We have made it a point to put a dinner date on our calendars every month, so we won't lose touch again.

It is amazing to me how some people keep coming back into our lives over and over and others don't. There have been people I really would like to run into again, and they live nearby, but our paths never seem to cross. I wonder why that is.

Through the technology of FaceBook, I have been able to connect with former classmates, coworkers, family and friends that I haven't seen in years! It has been wonderful to catch up with these folks and learn where their lives have taken them. Many of us were not close friends in school, but we make the connection and suddenly we are sharing photos and stories together.

Next week I hope to have lunch with one such friend. I knew her in high school, but confess, not that well. She has faithfully posted a blog for four years! I have been reading through these blogs for the past few weeks and getting to really know her. I can't wait to talk to her face-to-face. Her life has been a lot tougher than mine. We both have raised children and had some struggles. I cannot even begin to compare my life with hers as she has done most of hers as a single mom.

As I read her blogs, I appreciate my husband of 34 years, my children, my brothers and sisters, and my friends a whole lot more. I am ever so grateful for the foundation my life was built on with lots of love. I didn't come from a perfect family, but who does? I haven't raised perfect children, but they are happy and successful in their lives. I haven't had a perfect marriage, again who does? But if I left this world today, I would know that I have achieved my purpose in life and if I get to go on another 20 years or more, I want to continue in applying what I have learned to help others.

Thank you Anna and Patti, you along with so many others, have made an impact in my life and I am glad you are a part of my life today.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Did you miss it?

Hey, I have been meaning to ask if you have checked out the photo above? When my husband Jim and I were down in Virginia visiting his sister, we drove out to this little park to relax. I grabbed the camera and tried to capture some nice photos.

I walked up over the little knoll in anticipation of seeing the water and the sun setting. I was happy to see I wasn't too late. I took several photos and with each click the clouds formed a new rendering of the sky.

It wasn't until I looked at the photos on the computer, that I realized there was a bird flying in the upper left hand corner. I also remembered there was a boat on the water and if you look very carefully you will see it. It's there, right smack in the middle of the sunbeam on the water!

I was astonished that I had clicked at just that precise moment to successfully catch it in the beam. It wasn't easy looking through a camera (a digital no less) with the sun blinding you. As if the sun's rays weren't enough, the reflection on the water made it almost impossible to see. So I just snapped and wallah, just what I was hoping for. I don't have PhotoShop or I may have been able to bring out the boat a little more vividly.

I love surprises like that. I love pictures like this. I have always loved the beauty of nature and all that makes up our world. I have always wanted to live where I could look out on the water. But if I never do, I will always treasure these times I had to see it and photograph it.

If I was to caption this photo, it would be a struggle to come up with one that says it all. As I look at it, I feel a sense of peace and calmness. I also feel that even though I may think I am all alone out there floating along in life, I am never alone. It also speaks to me of being in the light and guided by something bigger than myself.

Sometimes life is like that little boat and we are drifting along barely aware of our purpose. Then other times, we are moving through life as fast as our little motor will let us; and while we may kick up a fuss as we go, we miss so much. But no matter what we are doing, we are still in the flow of life and moving along somewhere between heaven and earth. We wonder what is out there. Sometimes we are burned and sometimes we are poured down on. We need to make choices and learn how to cope with what comes along, hopefully learning along the way. Other times we need to just sit back and enjoy the view.

More powerful ships may come by and we may feel like we are holding on for dear life. But as long as we stay in the boat or hold on tight we will be okay. There will be faster speed boats out there and some dingys; some more experienced sailors; and some novices learning the ropes. We all need to share this great sea of life we are in. No matter how small we think we are, we can still help those that are in need whether it be the rowboat that lost its oars or the canoe that has capsized. It is when we reach out to help those in need that we suddenly find our purpose in life and that we aren't the insignificant speck we thought we were.

Most sailors learn to navigate by looking to the heavens or using a compass. With today's technology, we seldom have to rely on such old school techniques. But even the biggest ships need to navigate through storms and can't always count on their high tech equipment to guide them to port.

Where do you look for your guidance? Do you have a compass to guide you? Do you ever look up to see what's in the heavens? Or do you wait to be rescued?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Power of Words

I have often heard that words are powerful and over the past few years I have come to have a healthy respect for the ones I put out there. While the written word is powerful enough, the spoken word is by far, the most powerful.

How many times do we wish we could take back the words we spoke in anger? How many times have we said something and immediately wished we hadn't? It is an important lesson to learn how to think before we speak and to speak what we truly mean.

In my last blog, I alluded to the fact that I have written many an email only to have it misconstrued. I never meant to be mean or hurtful. I do however, wish to make my point of view known. I do have a 'gift' of writing and can express myself on paper easier than face-to-face. I sometimes think I communicate all too well on paper (or through today's technology).

Years ago I bought a laptop with the hope that I would find it easier to write anywhere I chose. I tried over and over to stimulate the writer in me only to realize something wasn't right. Later I discovered that there is a therapy in hand writing a piece. I can express myself so much easier by writing rather than typing. I have had to train myself to slow down when I type to let the thoughts come through my fingers to the keys and get down what I feel. If I wish to share what I write, I also need to try to see if what I say is saying something other than what I really mean. I go back a forth between "this is who I am, so be it" and "think about who is reading this".

Then come the words we verbalize. Wow, have you ever stopped to think about the words we say? The words many say from day to day, without thought or out of habit? I believe these words are affecting us without our evening knowing it.

Just think how many times we say things like: "It's killing me", "I AM so sick and tired of this", "It's driving me crazy!" While many may think these are just casual words not to be taken seriously, consider the impact IF the words we say DID impact us in some way.

I know for me I have started paying attention to what I say. I have tried to catch my words before I speak them and turn them into more positive words. I avoid those that could bring me down or degrade who I am or others. I try to say something uplifting and encouraging rather than depressing.

Ever hear the advice to stay away from negative people? It is so true. Those folks who see the cup half empty most of the time are miserable to be around. You never want to share with them concerns for yourself or others, because they will bring you or the others down with their words. We must counter those negatives with positives.

I remember one time a supervisor of mine came to me after she turned a program over to me that she had been running and said, "The State report just came in and we are at the BOTTOM!" Knowing I really had nothing to do with the state the program was in, I smiled and said, "Then there's no place to go but up!" After another similar experience with the same woman, she growled and yelled, "JoAnn, you are such an idealist!" Thank you, Susan, those words I WILL accept!

That brings me to another problem in our world of words. We tend to accept (maybe it's just me), the things others say to us as true. "You look tired" some people used to say to me. I would feel awful when they said this. I realized later on that I didn't have my glasses on, or some other trivial thing, like windblown hair, that gave them that impression. One day I listened and then said to myself, "No, I just need to get some sunshine" and would head outside or to the bathroom to get away from their negative vibes -- after I put my glasses on and combed my hair, lol.

Some people say the words we put out there set forth processes in the "Universe" and that makes those words come true. I do believe what they are saying is somewhat true. Not that we can say, "I have a million dollars" and BAM! our bank account suddenly earns mega interest. But if you say negative or positive words, it does start you on a path to that end. I also believe you can and should stop the process by countering those negative words with something positive and uplifting. I usually say out loud, but quietly to myself, "I rebuke that" or "I don't accept that" to stop something they may possibly have put in motion.

It is said life and death are in the tongue and we need to train our tongue. Great advice! I ask you to just think about what you say from day to day. What you take in that others say from time to time. Think before you speak. Counter what others have put out there and let's see if that doesn't make a difference in the world even if it only in our own personal space.

I once told a woman "You have such a beautiful family, God bless you for sharing them with us." To which she replied, "Thank you, and I will receive that blessing!"

Imagine if we all said things like that?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

And we're off!

I love to write and I started an "off-line blog" after seeing blogs on the internet and thinking it was cool. What is not so cool… it’s on the internet! If there is one thing my son, Bryan, taught me it was that ANYONE can break into your supposedly “safe” domain at some point no matter how many firewalls or anti-whatever safety precautions you take. I also learned, thanks to email, that people don’t always take what you type the way you meant it and feelings get hurt or worse -- really, really upset. I know I have read some things on the internet and wonder, “Do they realize who may see this?”

So it is with some fear and trepidation, that I start this blog. After doing an offline blog for a few months. I realized there are things I do wish to share. What I have experienced and how I handled those experiences may just benefit one person out there. If that is the case, then this blog has served its purpose.

The title comes from an embarrassing habit I have of talking or laughing (mostly laughing) to myself when I think I am alone. However, on several occasions, some folks overheard me and started to wonder about my sanity. Once, after hearing me laughing to myself several times in the office, one of my bosses made the comment: “You’re in your own little world, aren’t you, Daisy?” (his pet name for me). To which I replied, “YES, I am! And I really like it there!!!”

So there you have it. Sometimes the real world is a hurtful place and as I start to wallow in my thoughts, inevitably, I will think of something; that leads to some other thought; that leads to something funny and I start giggling to myself (or so I thought.) "My Own Little World" includes the happy (and maybe a few not so happy) places I have been in life. I can laugh at most of them now. And that helps make my time on this earth a little more tolerable. So let’s think of something hilarious together and make our world a little brighter, if only for ourselves.