Category Archives: Nostalgia

Dead Lizard!! Dead Lizard!!


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I had the most amazing conversation with a little boy on a bicycle, while I was taking a walk around my neighborhood last week!

I was just past the new construction site I told you about in a precious post…

Haven’t Seen One Of These Around Here In A While!!”

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I was listening to my inspirational Gospel tunes on my iPod, and thinking…

“Things are progressing nicely at the construction site!”

My Dad was a carpenter, so every step in the building process interests me!

I remember as kids, my Dad would ride us by every house he had built, and proudly say, “I built that house!”

I perhaps didn’t appreciate it then, but after having built all our houses over the years…

I appreciate it now…

Great job, Dad!!


Suddenly,  this little boy, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, came barreling at me on his bicycle…

While I was thinking, reminiscing, and listening to my music…

Shouting, “Dead Lizard!!  Dead Lizard!!”

I pulled out one ear bud…

And said, “What!?!”

He repeated it again!

“Dead Lizard!!  Dead Lizard!!”

“Where?”  I said…

He pointed up ahead…

“Want to see it?” he asked…

“Of course!” I said…

I just love kids!!  Don’t you???

I see people on my walks all the time…

Mostly those walking their dogs…

I don’t walk mine, my husband does that…

Because my crazy Siberian pulls my arm out of its socket!

It’s not a calm walk!!  Ha!!

Anyway, I talk to a lot of people on my walks, pet their dogs, say “Have a nice day,” etc.

And not once has anyone said anything as amazing as,

“Dead Lizard!!  Dead Lizard!!”

That’s why I love kids!!

So the kid on the bicycle turned his bike in the direction I was walking…

And raced to show me the way to the dead lizard you see in the photo!!

Soon, he turned back to me as I was apparently following too slowly!

“Come on!” he said…

“Can’t you run???”

Apparently he doesn’t understand age!  Ha!

So I walked a little faster to please him!

When we got to the dead lizard…

He proudly pointed to it, and said, “There it is!”

“Ahh,” I said.

“You’re right, it’s definitely dead, alright!

How do you think it died?” I asked…

“Did you run over it with your bike???”

In FL, little lizards run back and forth, and in front and around you all the time…

I remember when we came to FL for vacation, before we moved here, when my son was young…

That he went to grab one, and it let go of its tail to get away…

My son started crying, thinking he had killed it…

But we explained to him that it’s their defense mechanism…

And they can grow their tail back again!

Quite amazing little creatures, these “Lizzies!!”

So the little boy on the bicycle says…

“No, I didn’t run it over…

I found it this way!!”

I’m glad I came along for him to share his “find” with!!  Ha!

After we looked at it for awhile, I said…

“Merry Christmas, and thanks for showing me the dead lizard!”

And he turned to ride back the way he was going, and I continued on my walk…

Quickly though, he had another thought and said…

“When you go around the corner and see a black truck…

That’s my Dad’s truck…

Say to him, ‘Bryson said, Hi!'”

“Oh, you live around the corner?” I asked…

“We’re renting!” he said…

“Okay, I’ll tell him!”  I said as I continued walking…

He turned his bike around, and sped off ahead of me, to make sure I gave his Dad the correct message…

And beat me there!

Sure enough, there was his Dad washing his black truck!

So I said, “I’m supposed to tell you that Bryson said Hi!”

He laughed, that laugh that’s says, “Yup, I know my kid and that’s exactly what he’d say!!”

Bryson called to his Dad, “We saw a dead lizard!!”

His Dad said, “Great!

And Bryson, remember, stay where I can see you!”

While doing the “I’m-watching-you” motions…

“I know  that, Dad,” he replied…

And then he pedaled away, but on his own block this time!

So I said, “Merry Christmas, Bryson”

And he said, “You already said that!”

Yes, he’s right…I did!

Dear Jesus…how can anyone hurt a child???

Dear Family, Why I Write…


In an Italian family it’s a way of talking without being constantly interrupted!  Ha!

These photos were taken at my Mom’s 90th Birthday Celebration!!

I miss her now that she’s celebrating all her days in Heaven with Jesus…

I love my BIG, crazy Italian Family…

Everyone should have one…

Adopt one if necessary!

Me, Mom, and my Sister…

My Son, my younger Brother, and his Wife…

My Husband and my Cousin’s Husband (who’s from Oklahoma, and he says we say, “SAAAAAUCE!”)

Everyone’s talking and taking photos of each other…at the same time!

Family photo, but my older Brother couldn’t make the trip to FL 😦

My Mom and her precious Grandson!

Family photo with my dear Cousin (My super prayer partner!)

Our family’s really close, we all grew up going to church together…

My Mom loved to talk!!!!


Everyone does in our family!

We miss you, Mommy!

9/11 Emergency!!


I want to remember 9/11…

We were having our house built here in FL, but we were still living in NJ at the time.

The day started like any other…

I was at work already teaching at the middle school.  I had a class first period, then I had a planning period.

As usual, at the end of class, I planned to grab my cup of coffee and walk upstairs to make a phone call, check my teacher’s mailbox in the office, use the restroom, chat with anyone in the teacher’s lounge, and return to my classroom for third period.

Nothing out of the ordinary…

Until my teaching partner came back from her planning period to tell me that she just heard in the office that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center!


My mind is racing…how can an airplane not see the Twin Towers????

That’s all she knew!

So I start down the hallway…shouted out “Hi!” to the English teacher in his classroom, who was listening to the radio on his break, and he said,

“Come listen to this!!  Another plane has hit the other Tower.”

I’m shocked by now, because I realize that it’s not a freak accident…two planes have deliberately rammed into the Twin Towers!!

We don’t know what we need to do…we’re quite a distance from NYC, so we weren’t worried for our safety, but my sister lived in Chelsea at the time…so I’m beside myself for her…

I’m trying to calm down…think rationally…continue my routine…

So I go to make my phone call, which is to my dentist, as I planned…

But, when I get the secretary on the phone…

She’s screaming…

“Oh, don’t you know what’s happened???  Doctor’s family lives in NYC, he’s left to go there…he’s frantic…I can’t talk right now, I have to leave this line open!”

So by the time I got to our school office…everyone was in an uproar…

I went straight to the teacher’s lounge where I found one of our teacher’s aides on the phone with her husband.  He works in NYC, and is calling her every few minutes…letting her know one tragedy after another…

We can’t believe what she’s telling us!

“Plane crashed in Washington DC…plane crashed in PA, one tower down, two towers down, firefighters lost, police officers lost, medical people from all over swamped with injured people, people walking the bridge to come over to NJ…”

We all go to the library where there’s a TV, and all I can see is a representative of the terrorist…explaining why this happened…


My mind isn’t working…I rush back down to my room…try to call my sister…can’t get through…try to e-mail her…don’t get a response…I’m praying so hard for her by now…

And praying for all the other teachers, also…

Since, I start hearing colleagues say, “My brother and his wife work at the World Trade Center, my friend’s brother is over there, my cousin’s friend’s fiance was in the City…

We’re getting bit and pieces of the news…

My son attends school here , so I know he’s safe, but my husband’s been home all morning watching this unfold on TV…

So after he hears about the plane crash in PA, he comes racing over to school to pick up my son!

I see him in the office when I’m on my way to lunch…

And my heart stops because I think he came to tell me something happened to my sister…

He tells me he’s tried calling her all morning, but he can’t get through…

And that he wants my son to come home now!

Many other parents thought the same thing!!

So I go upstairs to the lunch room and quietly explain to my son (a 6th grader at the time), that  he’s safe, but Dad was here to take him home…

That something happened in NYC, and for him to pray that his aunt was safe, too!!

I’ve never felt more helpless in my life!

I called my church, and my pastor said that our church was going to be open all day for prayer…

I told him I was very concerned for my sister, and we prayed.

I kept trying her phone and e-mail…

And finally by the end of the day…

She responded to my e-mail…

She was devastated by everything…

But she was fine!

Praise God!

She said she was just about ready to leave for work, when she heard it on the news…so she stayed home…

Thank God!

She later found out that her boss’s brother was missing…

She and her co-workers, as soon as they could, posted fliers, searched hospitals, shelters, etc., but…

He was never found…

My colleague’s brother and sister-in-law, who worked at the World Trade Center…

Were never found…

We later went to their memorial…

Without bodies to mourn…

My colleague’s friend’s brother was never found…

My cousin’s friend’s finance was never found…

My cousin’s daughter was on her way to the City by ferry from NJ, but was sent back after the first plane hit…

She’s fine…Praise God!

I left school in a daze…I headed over to my church…I plopped myself in a pew…

And just breathed a deep breath…

I thanked the Lord for sparing my sister, and my cousin’s daughter…

I prayed for those who lost loved ones…

I prayed for those in harm’s way…

I prayed for NYC…

I prayed for our country!!

So many people…firefighters, policemen, EMS workers, doctors, nurses, etc…

And civilians…

Not military…not warriors…

Just going to work that ordinary day…

A day that turned the City into a war zone.

Though we were miles from NYC, Washington, and PA…

We felt the impact of the 9/11 attack…

It impacted us right on our doorstep…

When I see the beautiful 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial Fountains on the site now…

The majestic, flowing waters bring peace…

And I think it’s appropriate that every person’s name is forever engraved there.

May God heal our wounds…

But, may we never forget…

Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice…

Thanks Mr. Sargeant…Wherever You Are…


Soooo, I dug through some old, old papers and I found it!

The first fiction story I ever wrote in sophomore year in high school for my favorite class…English, with Mr. Sargeant.

Check out the comments my favorite teacher wrote on my paper!  I love that teacher!  Even back then, he knew…I was destined to write!

I’m putting this story on my blog more for me than for you…it’s part of my past…my history…a story I actually completed!  Ha!

And it will give my son a laugh…

It’s such a sweet story…I’m going to leave in all the innocent nuances.  Remember, it was written a long time ago…

Is it the same now-a-days?

I substitute in high school now, so I think not!

So here you go…my title page…read on…

ENGLISH II – PERIOD  5 –  November 18, 1964


This teen fiction short story is dedicated to my favorite English teacher, Mr,
Sargeant, for his pleasure and enjoyment.

Please note:  The conversation spoken by Jeanette must be read with a strong
French accent in order to get the full enjoyment that it is meant to give.

Mr. Sargeant’s Comments:

“Very, very well done!!  The best in the class!

Good detail!  Good dialogue!  Good organization!


I’m sorry, but I don’t have a strong French accent.

How about an Irish one?”

Don’t you just love that???  Thanks, Mr. Sargeant…wherever you are…this is still dedicated to you!!  For inspiring me & apprecaiting my story!!

They were finally on their way to the United States and there was no turning back now.  Jeanette Dupont was, of course, very excited and very scared.  She was sure she would love the United States for she had heard so many wonderful things about it.  She sat on the boat looking out over the water, dreaming of her new life in America. She had tried very hard to master the language, but found it necessary to use her own language for the more difficult words.

“There you are, Jeanette!  I have been looking all over for you.  We’re almost there, aren’t you excited?” her mother said as she approached her, and interrupted her daydreaming.

“Oui mama, je suis tres agite!” Jeanette answered.

“Now Jeanette, you know what I told you. You are to speak English now, or no one will understand you.  I had a terrible time telling people what I wanted the last time I was in the United States. If you want to come here to live, you cannot speak French all the time,” Jeanette’s mother said firmly.

She kissed her mother on the cheek and answered apologetically, “I…am…sorry, I…weel…try…harder.”

“Now hurry and get cleaned up, we’re almost ready to land,” her mother said happily.

The trip across the Atlantic on the big ocean liner had been very pleasant-and thrilling for Jeanette, yet she still couldn’t wait to get to the United States.  Jeanette, a “petite” 17-year-old, with long blond hair and blue eyes, was really something to look at. She was
always bubbling over with some sort of exciting news.  Although she had been a little hesitant when her mother had discussed plans to live in America, her mother knew that Jeanette would have no trouble at all making friends in her new surroundings.  She and her mother had become great companions since her father’s death five years before.  Now that most of the grief was gone, Mrs. Dupont felt that coming to the United States was the best opportunity for her to become a successful writer.

Jeanette sat in her room just thinking before getting  ready to leave the ship.  She was very pleased with her mother’s decision to move to the states and she loved her dearly for it.  She knew that her mother’s main reason was to secure a future for Jeanette.  Her only fear was that her new classmates would not accept her, even though her mother constantly assured her that she would fit in very well. She had many friends in Paris, where they lived, and she had been sad to leave them.  She would miss them greatly, especially if she did not make any friends at her new school.

She had promised to write them each a letter once a week and she desperately wanted them to visit her, but that seemed impossible.
Jeanette’s mother had purchased a small, contemporary house in one of the suburbs of New York.  Everything would be ready for them when they arrived, since they had sent all their furniture and clothes ahead.  Jeanette had been enrolled in a beautiful neighborhood high school, while Mrs. Dupont had a job in New York City that she seemed happy about.  When they finally arrived in New York, Mrs. Dupont was anxious to show Jeanette her new home.  After a short ride they pulled up in front of the house.  Jeanette took one look and gave a shout.

“Mama, eet ees beeuteeful,” she said with such glee that her mother had to laugh.

The house had natural wood siding, huge windows, and two skylights.  One in the family room and one in her bedroom.  There was a deck encircling the house which overlooked a professionally landscaped front yard.  Jeanette fell in love with it immediately.  It was autum, so the trees and bushes were golden in color giving the house a magical appearance.  As soon as her mother opened the front door, Jeanette ran through each room singing and dancing.  It pleased Mrs. Dupont to see Jeanette so elated.  Since it was Saturday, they took their time to set up everything just the way they wanted it.  They were having a great time and by Sunday evening the house was just right.  But, this gave Jeanette little opportunity to meet any friends over the weekend.

So as Monday came, she still had not met anyone to walk to school with.  School in this area had only begun about a week ago, so she hadn’t really missed much work, it was just that she wanted to have friends to go to school with.  Jeanette got ready for school that
first day with a mixture of nervousness, and also relief that the day was finally here.

“Come on Jeanette, hurry, you don’t want to be late on the first day.  I’ll drive you because I think there are more information forms for
me to fill out,” Jeanette’s mother shouted from downstairs.

Jeanette’s first thought about the school was that it was the most modern one she had ever seen. She was sure she had seen modern buildings before, but they just didn’t seem to come to her mind at this moment.

“I think you’re going to like this new school, Jeanette,” her mother whispered.

“Me too!” she answered.

They went into the office together to fill out the papers, and then the school secretary showed them where her home room was.
Her Mother left, and since she had a few minutes before the bell rang, she decided to walk arround the school by herself.  She was walking down the hall looking everything over when suddenly from around the corner someone came rushing into her.  She was so startled by this accident that she could do nothing but sit where she had fallen.  When she finally did look up, she looked up into the eyes of the cutest boy she had ever seen.  She sat there for at least two minutes just staring at him, and she later realized that he too, must have been doing the same.

Finally he spoke,”Gee, I’m awfully sorry, let me help you up.  I was in such a hurry that I didn’t watch where I was going!  Are you alright?”

Oui, , I…am…fine,” Jeanette stammered, suddenly ashamed of her strong French accent.”

“Oh, you’re the new French girl we’ve been waiting for!  Ummm, not bad,”  he exclaimed giving her his full attention now.  “Not bad at

“I…do…not…understand…when…you…say…you…have…been…waiting for…me,” she said, very confused now.

Wel,l the news got out somehow that a French girl was enrolled in our school and most of us boys have never seen a real French
girl, so we were kind of curious.  I’m glad I saw you first though.  I did didn’t I?” he asked hopefully.

“Oui, I have not met anyone else yet,” she replied sadly.

“Oh, I can take care of that, come with me,” he said leading the way down the hall. “Where’ s your home room anyway?”

“Right here, room 203,”  Jeanette was breathless, she had not expected to meet anyone so soon, and now she was being escorted by one of the cutest boys she had ever-seen.

“Well what do you know, this is my home room too!  Now I can keep a watch out for you.”

Jeanette laughed and he smiled.

“Come on, I’ll introduce you to some of the other kids.  Hey, you didn’t tell me what your name is, how can I introduce you?  Mine’s Ronnie.  Ronnie Renalls.”

“Oh , my name eez Jeanette.  Jeanette Dupont.”

“Okay Jeanette, let’s meet the other kids.”

“Hey, Ronnie, whose the doll?” a boy shouted out as they walked in the room, and Jeanette blushed.

“Kids, I want you to meet the new French girl.  Her name is Jeanette Dupont,” Ronnie announced with great pleasure.

Everyone started talking at once, saying “Hello” and asking, “Can you speak English?”

Jeanette was too confused to say anything, so she just stood there listening, but she was also very happy.  She felt that she was pretty lucky to have met such a popular and friendly boy like Ronnie.

“Boy, Ronnie, you didn’t waste any time in meeting her did you?” one girl shouted out.

“Oh I just ran into her in the hall and I mean that literally.  I collided with her while I was rushing to get here as usual.  Fortunate for me,” he laughed, and everyone laughed with him.

“So wait a minute everyone, give her a chance to breathe.  Jeanette, this is Judy, our very successful cheerleading captain, she’s going
steady with Bob here,” Ronnie said pointing to a good-looking boy sitting near Judy.

“You make it sound like hands off!” Bob answered sounding regretful.

“Well isn’t it?!” Judy replied firmly to Bob.

After Ronnie had introduced her to all the kids in her home room, it was time for classes to start.  She and Ronnie matched her schedule with everyone ‘s to see who she could walk to classes with. They found that Judy was in her next class and in her lunch period, too.   And that another girl named Darlene was in her gym class, while  Ronnie was in her study hall at the end of the day.

“I’ll see you in study hall, Jeanette,” Ronnie shouted down the hall after the bell rang.

“Fine, I weel see you then.”

When she and Judy were by themselves, Judy asked, “Well, how do you like our school? You know you’re very lucky to have made such an impression on Ronnie, there isn’t much most girls in this school wouldn’t do to get a date with him.  After all, being captain of the football and basketball teams make him pretty special, and of course he is so terribly cute and friendly;”

Jeanette wanted to tell Judy all her feelings about her new life, but there just wasn’t time. S0, all she said was, “I love this school, eet eez so beeuteeful! You are all so warm and friendly to me. I hope we can become good friends.”

“I’m sure we can,” Judy smiled.

Jeanette went through the rest of the day in a daze, meeting so many new people was very tiring.  She looked forward to seeing Ronnie in study hall, and when they met, he motioned for her come over and talk to him before the bell rang.

“How are things going? Anybody give you any trouble?” Ronnie asked.

“Non, I love za school and everyzing,” she answered happily.

“That’s  fine. How about letting me walk you home after school today, okay?  I have French this year as one of my subjects and I have
just decided that you are the one to help me with it.”

“I would reely bee happy to, if you weel help me weeth my English.  Weel you?” she shyly asked.

“Of course, I think, this will work out fine.  You’ll pass English and I get a French tutor,” he replied.

After school Jeanette met Ronnie as he walked her home, she got to know him a little better and found that even though they were from different countries they had many things in common.

As they approached her house she saw her mother drive up and she waved.

“Mama, this eez Ronnie Renalls.  He has been so friendly to me today, he introduced me to everyone.”

“Well, this is certainly a pleasure, Ronnie.  I’m very happy to meet you.  Jeanette needed someone like you today, she was so nervous
this morning,” Jeanette’s mother said greeting them.

“Oh , it was my pleasure!”  Ronnie said as he looked at Jeanette.

“Mother, Ronnie asked me to help him with hees French lessons and he ees going to help me with my English lessons.”

To Ronnie she added, “Why don’t you stop by here tonight so we can geet started?”

“It ees alright, ees it not Mama?”

“Of course it is,” her mother answered.

“Well that’s great, I will, thanks. I’ll have to get home now though if I’ll be coming back tonight.  Okay?  I’ll see you tonight then
Jeanette.  Bye!” Ronnie waved goodbye and left.

As Jeanette and her mother walked into the house, Jeanette exclaimed, ” Mama, j”aime les Americains!”


*For those who have not had the pleasure of studying the French language, Jeanette said, “Mother, I love the Americans!”


Bloggers…Thanks for going back on this  journey with me to my past creative endeavors!!  Hey, I remember writing another teenage fiction story…called “Careless Love.”  Now, where can that one be??

A Best Friend Just Gets You!



I worked hand-in-hand with my best friend for 26 years…I retired first…and when she finally retired…I had a lot to say!

It seems like I’ve known her forever!  To this day, it has been a very cherished friendship.  When I retired, here’s what she said about working with me:

“We graduated at the same time from college, but we didn’t meet until five years later when she was hired as my maternity leave replacement.  This was the beginning of a cherished friendship. Here we are 25 years later…she’s retiring and I’m still working!  What’s wrong with this picture?

What an impression I must have made sitting at the table in the Home Economics room, with my feet up on the chair with the 12 girls in the class coming to me for help on their sewing projects. This job was a piece of cake, is
that what you thought? Those were definitely the good old days (before we had boys in our classes!  Ha!).  I had a few days to orient her with the classroom, curriculum, the up-coming fashion show that we put on in those days, and the procedure for purchasing groceries at the local A&P.  Teaching in Sussex County, on that first trip back from the grocery store we had to stop and wait for the cows to cross the road. This was a new experience for the girl from suburbia!  Bet you didn’t know that was in your job description!

Did you know that she’s is a cooking teacher, but doesn’t cook? Her husband does most of the cooking.  Thirty years ago we never dreamed that we would be teaching 25-30 students at one time in 5 tiny little kitchens. I don’t know what we were thinking!  Cook, clean, wash dirty towels, keep up with inventory, etc., all day at work, then go home and keep doing it!  But, now, we’re no longer called Home Ec. teachers, we’ve graduated to Family and
Consumer Science teachers.

Our profession and job has certainly changed a lot in a quarter of a century. It’s a good thing that we are so flexible! Because, the administration decided that we were even flexible and knowledgeable enough to teach computers without any real training. But we were thankful to have a job!  Since they were always telling us our job would be the first to go with budget cuts.

Of course, like any long-term friendship we had a few snags along the way. My over-active thyroid probably caused the first. It seems that I was pretty hard to get along with and that my normally sweet nature was replaced by unpredictable outbursts. And your many menopausal symptoms and mood swings have at times been
very trying also. Some days the room felt like the North Pole, both in temperature and atmosphere. I hope you had a heavy-duty air conditioner installed in your new Florida home.

I can’t imagine what it will be like coming back in September and not having you there!  E-mail us a few pictures of your newly built FL home completely finished, since we’ve seen a thousand black and white printer copies at every stage of construction!  By the way, does anyone know if there is an available ink cartridge in the building? Ours seems to have been used up completely by the copies of your house taped on the wall behind your desk!

I guess you won’t be needing your multitude of precious sticky note reminders anymore…Period 8 put up chairs…Do lesson plans, Get groceries…Order supplies…and Start wash to remind you of things at school.  Or, Pay the bills…Call your Mother…Pick up your son on the way home.

Here’s a list of things that I know you will not miss:

Wearing the aroma of Peanut Butter Cookies

The ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ safety video

Constantly repeating directions

Ordering and shopping for food

Bulletin boards and display cases

Lunch Duty

Constant interruptions from other teachers/staff…”Do you have … ?  May I borrow … ? I’ll bring it right back …

Organizing parent volunteers

The nauseating smell of someone brewing Hazelnut coffee in our classroom

I know this is your Recipe for a Happy Retirement:

Sleep late

Write stories and books

Relax by the pool

Eat out

We love you…you made a difference in all our lives!”

Does she Get Me, or what???

So, what was it like teaching with her!  Here’s my “retirement-rebuttal-roast” to her when she finally retired!!

She has always been a happy, smiling, wonderfully encouraging friend.  If she likes you, she lights up with a smile and a kind word the minute she sees you!

Then one day, out of nowhere, her thyroid decides to stop functioning and the best friend I knew and loved, LEFT for one whole year!!

In her place was a mean, arrogant, aggressive ogre!  Where had my sweet, loving friend gone?!?  We all still blame her that year for causing our other dear friend to have a heart attack!  He’s ok, but…Yikes!  All about disagreements over the Computer Curriculum.  Can you imagine?

Well, maybe we shouldn’t go there!!  Because, after a difficult year of praying for the right medicine adjustments for her, and just trying to stay out of her way, my sweet friend returned.  Yippee!

My husband asked her years ago, when she was going to retire…and, because she has two daughters, she told him she had two weddings she had to pay for before she could even think about retiring.  So he said, “Well, you should have had a plan!”  With that, coffee came pouring out of her nose, all over her desk, and she struggled to say, “This is my plan, working forever!”  So she’s retiring now, since her girls are married off!   Thank God…before she becomes one of those…you know…the ones who don’t know when it’s time to go!

Oh, P.S.-don’t worry about the spilled, snotty coffee all over her desk, it will eventually just disappear under the debris!  You can’t find a thing in that rat trap!!

Here’s her filing system:

A.   Day 1 of school in September-Take the empty, clean, cleared off desk, move it in place, load all papers, books, mail, folders, thread, needles, cooking tools, potholders, sewing projects, cards, money, buttons, markers, scissors, videos, dishtowels, memos, pencils, pens, food supplies, and grocery lists on top.  Keep piling ‘til last day of school.

If you ever saw her desk, you’d understand.   Some teachers freaked out, if they had to cover her class…we all stayed clear of that desk!

B.   Keep everything from your entire thirty-something years of teaching in your desk drawers.  Never, ever throw out anything!

C.  Day 124 of the teacher’s school year-Take your right arm, swish it across the desk sending everything into a big, kitchen garbage can!  Wheel the huge can of debris to the dumpster!

D.  Start over in September!

You gotta love that system!!  No sticky notes in sight!  Knows where everything is!  It’s all in that brilliant mind of hers!!  Wow!

My best friend is very easy-going and laid back, and since she had her children before I had my child, she taught me to apply that attitude to nutrition, housecleaning, and child rearing.  For instance, the time I had lunch at her house and her youngest daughter was licking Kool-Aid off the dining room table.   No problem!  She taught me never to be concerned about dust in the house, says, “Don’t disturb it, it’s good for the furniture!”  And, also, that Chocolate Chip Pie was okay to have for lunch, because you might not have room for it after eating…so better to have it before, or even instead of lunch!

It’s been very easy, and such a blessing over the years to be friends with this God-fearing woman…deacon of her church, who taught me so many important, sacred, life-changing phrases, like “Sometimes life sucks!”  I don’t think I’d have made it this far without her wit and easy laugh!!  That laugh (Well, really a cackle!) that you can hear all the way down the hall!!

I’m glad we ended up in the same crazy profession, teaching the same crazy subject, and most of the time working in the same crazy room.  No wonder I don’t cook, it’s overload!!  But it was a great ride and she always made the journey fun, and sometimes downright hilarious!  I miss it all, and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Dear friend…you made a difference in all our lives, and we are all better for knowing you.

If there’s anything I forgot to mention, it’s because I’m four years into retirement now myself, and I don’t have to tax my brain any more when I don’t feel like it!!  You’re going to love that part, too!!  I’m enjoying my “Recipe for Retirement”…thanks!I  Miss you and I’ll always call you my very special friend!

With all that constant friendship and companionship over the years, you can really see that we “Get” each other!

Now, stop and go listen to “You Get Me” by Zoegirl on their With All My Heart album.

Jesus is our Best Friend.

We must develop that constant friendship and companionship with Him also.

So we can say,

“Lord, you get me!”

“Ode To My Last Year Of Camp!!”



1.  The kid with the screechiest voice is always in YOUR cabin!

2.  The bed-wetter will always choose the upper bunk!

3.  The kid who picks his/her nose is always at YOUR table!

4.  The sleepwalker wants the bunk by the door!

5.  Never let any kid set an alarm clock, just so they can wake up early to do their exercises!

6.  One kid will always fall in the stream, creek, swamp, mud, etc.!

7.  You can over pack and still not have your hat or gloves!

8.  Kids need to go to the BR as soon as you get far enough away from the dining hall!

9.  Even when there’s a relatively mild winter in NJ, it will always come the 3rd week in March in time for camp!

10.  The “Swamp Walk” is not fun in the pouring-rain!

11.  You can only assist with the  “Cider Press” station once, and then it’s bo-o-o-ring.

12.  There’s not enough privacy unless you wake up an hour before the kids and shower very quietly!

13.  The snow is beautiful unless you’re doing “Orienteering”, “Survival”, “Wetlands Ecology”, etc., and your head and feet are soaking wet!

14.  The mountains are gorgeous unless you’re climbing one…and feel a heart attack coming on…and you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone!

15.  If you are cold, wet, hungry, and tired you won’t care whether you can read a compass or not, even if you’re the

16.  By the end of camp, you will thank GOD you Survived!

17.  Only the camp director can hike without his gloves and not get frostbite!

18.  When the weather’s bad every day is one too many!

19.  When the weather’s bad and all the kids and teachers are whining…the director will run out of  “Whiner Cards!”

20.  Kids cannot carry the luggage their parents pack for them!

21.  And it’s always wet and muddy where they drop their pillows!

22.  Your stuff never packs the same when it’s time to go home!

23.  My son was at camp on this last trip, so I know that even if your mother is at camp, you will still not dress with the proper cold weather gear!

24.  And even if your mother is at camp with you, you still need to clean up after yourself!

25.  When it’s snowing, you can never have on enough layers!

26.  When it’s raining, it doesn’t matter if your poncho looks dumb or not!

27.  At camp, you never get to see the end of a movie!

28.  The “Snake Man’s” Show is still great after all these years. The snakes are still awesome and the big bugs are just
plain “creepy”!

29.  Adults, during camp week, you can only “go to the bathroom” if someone brings their famous BRAN muffins!

30.  At camp, there’s enough food to last a normal person an entire week, but don’t make the mistake of bringing any of it to your cabin, or you’ll invite the very large carpenter ants to sleep with you!!

31.  When you get home from camp, vow to go on a “Starvation Diet”!

32.  Never plan to do anything the night you come home from camp, and if there’s school the next day, forget it!!

33.  Kids are wonderful at camp!!

34.  Teachers are fun at camp!!

35.  I will never forget the “Camp” experience!

36. Teachers, next year plan ahead, take your VACATION the 3rd week in March, and come visit me in sunny FLORIDA!!

37.  ‘Til then, good thing I have all these GREAT memories!!

Thanks For The Memories, Charley!!




…How inadequate we felt the day before the hurricane hit.

…What do New Jerseyeans know about preparing for a major tropical hurricane? ..

…Floridians told us not to worry, we’ll be “fine.”  We were alive, Thank God, but we were not fine!

…That storm preparation is such hard work and continues until the last minute.

…If you’re going evacuate, you need to make that decision BEFORE the last minute.

…My annoyance that all this “preparation” was messing up my brand new beautiful house.

…How my priorities have changed since then.

…Your “treasures” just become stuff you have to move.

…My husband in “crisis mode.”

…Me in “melt-down mode.”

…The shock when Charley picked up speed with winds of 145 mph, becoming a category 4 hurricane and heading right for us.

…Thinking we should have gotten hurricane shutters.

…Feeling scared when the power went out.

…Hailing the newscasters who kept us informed day by day on our little transistor radio.

…Praying the roof would not fall in on us.

…My son, praying, “Dear Jesus, please forgive us for all our sins, so we will be ready to go to Heaven with you.”

…Feeling God’s ASSURANCE of protection from the storm.

…Experiencing how hot it is when you’re under a mattress with no air-conditioning.


…Praying for the safety of our family, friends, and neighbors.

…Hearing our house being pelted by projectiles.

…Feeling our house shaking and hearing our garage door rumbling.

…Crying when my husband sees our lanai screen rip off our house.

…The sound of glass breaking, knowing the storm was in our house and our stuff was getting wet and damaged.

…When we ventured out, a police officer told us to go inside, there could be tornadoes.

…Hearing on the radio that one tornado may have touched down near-by.  Right where our church is.

…The shocking, heart-wrenching sight outside our house the next day.

…Finding it hard to believe, but many others were far worse off than we were.


…Grateful to God for the safety of family, friends, and neighbors.

…The joy of helpful neighbors with a grill.

…I thought we’d just go on as usual the next day, but seeing that it looks like a bomb hit here.

…Seeing the destruction everywhere, like a war zone.

…Wondering where to start cleaning up this mess and rebuilding.

…Learning that “replacement of landscaping” is not covered in our insurance policies.

…All mature trees in the neighbor fell, thankful that we didn’t have any.

…Palms trees were bent, but not broken.

…Believing God’s gift to Florida is air conditioning and missing it!.

…The days and days of debris pick-up were exhausting, it’s so hot, and no relief in sight.

…I had no idea we could be so needy, and I’m so thankful for those from everywhere who met our needs so fast.

…Piles of dirty, stinky laundry are just in the way, when you have no way to wash them.

…Frustrated to have no way to communicate with loved ones, we felt cut off from the world.

…Frantic family and friends who couldn’t reach us by phone, while watching the photos of the devastation on TV, and sending us money.

…Food spoils in the refrigerator and freezer with no power to keep it cold…there must be a better time to clean them out than after a hurricane.

…Realize that food doesn’t mean as much as a refreshing shower, even one just a little trickle of water.

…Letting friends use our shower, in exchange for a trip to a working laundromat for clean clothes.

…It’s 95 degrees, all the windows in the house are open, and the neighbor’s generator is so loud, but it’s too hot to get a good night’s sleep anyway.

…Finally found some battery operated fans, Amen!!

…Noticing that pickuping up debris in the hot sun, day after day, gave me the best tan I’ve ever had, but lots of bug bites, too.

…Driving is dangerous when six-lane highways have no traffic lights.

…It’s hard to find anyone when there are no street signs.

…Seeing blue tarps on every roof, and huge mounds of debris everywhere is very depressing.

…Our pool looks like a septic tank filled with all our lanai screen debris in it.

…Garbage will smell after it’s been outside along the roadside for days when there’s no garbage pick-up.

…You’ll want to kiss the feet of the garbage man, and the guys who pick up all the aluminum from the lanai screens, when they finally come.

…You’ll rejoice when Publix opens, even when you need to bring your flashlight.

…Ice is a precious commodity.

…But, ice in a cooler is a messy replacement for your refrigerator/freezer.

…I really appreciate a clean house, and I can’t remember anymore when I had one.

…The threat of mold can make you crazy.

…Interesting to know what’s in a Red Cross “disaster kit,” and so appreciative.

…The concern and love from family and friends, Thank God they know how to pray.

…Sensing after seven days of this, it was time to get out of town.

…My sister was an angel who carne to our rescue with the offer of her condo.

…We’ve corne to think of it fondly as “The Land of Plenty.”

…Found a church to get spiritually refueled.

…The kindness of a friend who provided pampering at a beauty salon, and rest and relaxation at the beach

…We returned home when power was restored, because my husband was too exhausted to cook dinner and was eating SPAM.

…Fooled into thinking the hurricane season was over.

…Bolting everything down again, and again, and again.

…Moving furniture back and forth, inside and outside many times is frustrating and exhausting.

…My plants out on the lanai seemed to get pretty heavy after moving them in and out of the garage
so many times.

…Strong winds blowing.  Chance of flooding.  Tarps flying.  Cabin fever.

…Worried the debris that’s still in huge piles by the curb, will blow around and create more damage.

…Shell-shocked.  Got to get out of here.  Another hurricane is coming.

…Thank God for another angel who let us visit in California to hide from this next storm.

…Teens do not dwell on hurricanes, “Yeah, we had a hurricane, what game are you playing on GameCube?”

…Still finding roof tiles in my landscaping two months after all the storms.

…Will we be decorating the debris this Christmas?  Putting tinsel on the trash?

…I know I won’t be thinking about costly gifts this Christmas, but only of the gift of God’s love and protection for us!  Amen!



My Mom’s Story…



“The Universe is made up of stories not atoms.” By Muriel Rukeyser, American Poet

     Here is my interview with my Mother, Tina Julia, who passed away on July 12, 2011, at the age of 90 years old.   For her 90th Birthday Party, I made a beautiful scrapbook of memories, & included this interview!  She was named after an Italian saint that her mother prayed to (Findera, in Italian).  She has no middle name.   Julia is the confirmation name she chose for herself.

     My Mom was not quite 5 feet tall, and she had osteoporosis.   Two and a half years ago, she fractured her back just from sitting up in bed!  She used a walker, because she had tripped on the carpet at Royal Palm Retirement Center where she lived, and was unsteady.

She learned to use the sewing machine at a young age and worked in a sewing factory.  She was the youngest in her large family, and her Mother had pleurisy, which is the inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest that leads to chest pain when you take a breath or cough, so my Mom had to quit school after the fifth grade to take care of her.  She loved school, and would have benefited from a complete education.

The accomplishments she was most proud of were giving birth to her four children.  My oldest brother was born while my Dad was in the US Army…my brother was 3 years old when my Dad came home.  My brother and my Mom lived with my Dad’s Mother until my Dad came home after World War II.  My brother was six years old when I was born.  My younger brother was born a year and a half later, and my sister was born ten years later, when my Mom was 39 years old.  My Mom raised my brother for three years without my Dad.  Not only did she have to grow up fast, but she, also had to adjust to living with my Grandmother (my Dad’s Mom), who was from Italy and did not speak English very well.

When I asked her what she would have done differently, she asked, “What?  Not get married?”  Obviously, that’s what people did back then!!  She and my Dad met when she was thirteen years old.  She and her Mother started going to the church my Dad and his family started in their house.

She always wanted children, so she was happy with raising the four of us.  However, she would have liked to go to beauty school.  She would have had time to go to beauty school after work, before she married, but her mother didn’t have money for that.  Her family was very poor, but probably everyone else was, also, at that time.  There was never enough money to do anything like go to beauty school.  My Mom and Dad married in 1942, when they were 21, because my Mom’s parents died within days of each other.  Her Mother died, because she was sick and in the hospital, and her Father died because he got hit by a car going to see her in the hospital.

In the early days of her marriage to my Dad, she says learning to cook was a challenge, because her Mother was an excellent cook.  My Mom was a pretty good cook, but she raves about her Mother’s Italian cooking!  Raising four kids was also a challenge!  My older brother was a challenge, because he was three years old already, when my Dad came home from the war, so he was spoiled by my Mom and my Dad’s Mother!  My younger brother and I were only a year and a half apart in age, and my Dad always said, that’s when my Mom went crazy, so basically that’s how I knew her!  Ten years later, she decided she wanted one more child before she was 40.  My sister kept her young.  Basically, I prayed for a little sister, instead of those two brothers, and God heard my prayer!  but, as my mother told me, “Your father never changed a diaper!”  Two infants nearly the same age was a lot for my Mom.

The fun things she loved were:  School, singing, and playing basketball as a teenager.  When she was older, she loved walking everywhere, instead of taking the bus to and from work, and later in life she loved taking all her children on picnics to the park.  In many ways, my Mom was like a fifth grader, because that’s all the formal schooling she was able to get.  I’ve taught fifth grade and love fifth graders, so I know my Mom thinks of things in terms of an exuberant fifth grader at times.  Or a pouty one!  I listened many, many times to what she told me about the ladies who sat at her table at Royal Palm Retirement Center…fifth graders!!  But, she made a great Mom!  She’d do all her cleaning at night when we were in bed, then pack a lunch, and off we’d go to a day at the park!  I believe her “school” was life.

Her biggest challenge was taking care of her family.  My Mom’s life was her family, her job was her house.  She changed curtains every season, she took Venetian blinds down and washed them in the bathtub, she had plastic on our couches!  You could literally eat off her floor.  Ironing was done on Mondays, after the clothes were sprayed with starch, and she was the best iron-er I know!  At this time, our family was living in suburban NJ, and though not affluent, our family was more affluent than hers was as a child.

She had good health to take care of her family back then.  She saw things were different as she got older…the cost of living was more expensive, and she couldn’t do as much physically as before, because on some days she just didn’t feel well.

My Mom had a rough childhood, because her Dad was very strict, and her Mom was very sickly.  she was the baby in the family.  During some of her childhood, she had to go an orphanage, until her older brother and sisters were old enough to take care of her.  I believe this is why she never seemed to get really attached to anything or anyone.

Right after we moved down here to FL, from NJ, when she was 81 years old, she was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She had surgery, and as a preventive measure, she started chemotherapy.  After one chemo session, she got very sick, got pneumonia, was put in ICU, and was “Ready to go to her Lord,” she told me.  I had prayed all the way to the hospital, “I trust you, Lord, I trust you, Lord” and saw her, in my mind’s eye, resting in His hands.  When I got to the ICU, I saw angels around her bed, and asked her, “What if the Lord wants to heal you, then you’d want to live, right?”  “Yes,” she assured me.  My son was only in seventh grade at that time, and I’m thankful that God chose to heal her.  She lived well past the five year mark, and the colon cancer never came back.  She was  particularly grateful for church to learn about God, and knowing that God always watched out for her.  Back when she was real young, she knew some people didn’t believe in God.  But, she told me, she would say to them, “Yes, there is a God.  Read the Bible and see!”

My Mom is very feisty, and we call her the “little bull dog,” because she’s opinionated and tenacious.  If she has an idea to do something or go somewhere, we better do it or else!  “Or else” means she’ll keep talking about it, until we comply.

My Dad passed away at 74, and my Mom did not know how to even balance a checkbook, or use a calculator!  This was a tough adjustment time for my Mom.

My Mom answered a lot of my interview questions with, “I don’t remember!”  So, when I asked her what she thought of this interview, she said, “As you get older, you forget things!”

The most significant events for her in her last year were:  Her oldest grandson visiting from Texas with his wife and children; Her trip to the beach at Longboat Key for two nights with me and my son Casey; Turning 90 years old and having a big 90th Birthday Party with my family, my sister, my brother & his wife, my cousin & her husband, & Skyping other family members in NJ.  The photos from that 90th Birthday party are hanging on my wall.  I look at them every time I walk by them, because she’s smiling like a little girl, and that makes me happy!  And I can remember so much love!!

Mom, I Remember…



My Mom passed away a year ago now, on July 12, 2011 at the age of 90 years old…For her big 90th Birthday Party, on April 8th, 2011, I wrote this to honor her & celebrate my memories…


     Mom, I remember…When we were little, you got up early to finish all your chores, & pack us a lunch, so you could walk us to the park, & let us stay there all day!!

Mom, I remember…How upset you got when your kids were hurting!

Mom, I remember…How you called me “Renee-a,”  “Renee Joyce,” or “Miss Primrose,” depending on how much trouble I was in!

Mom, I remember…When you’d get us on the bus to Newark, tell everyone who’d listen, all our business, take me to Grayson’s Clothing Store, buy me clothes we couldn’t afford, & say, “Don’t tell Daddy!!”

Mom, I remember…When you told me, “Wear jeans (or dungarees, as you called them!) all week, if you want, but on Sundays, God wants us to dress nice!!”

Mom, I remember…How you told us that you were never embarrassed to take us to someone’s home…thanks for teaching us not to touch things that don’t belong to us!

Mom, I remember…How you told us to never forget about God, & how you got us ready on Sat. night, to be ready for Sunday School & Church each week…I know it wasn’t always easy waking up 4 kids/teens early in the morning!!  I do remember, though that getting the baloney curls in my hair, hurt…a lot!

Mom, I remember…When you told me, “Keep your house clean, if you don’t do it, who will???”

Mom, I remember… When you told me you were praying for me to have a baby girl, but loved your grandson Casey all the same when he was born!

Mom, I remember…When Casey had bad temper tantrums, you told me, “None of my kids ever had them!!”  …Right!

Mom, I remember…How you & Casey were always on the same “wave-length,” &  you would play all day long together!!

Mom, I remember…When my teachers would tell you how quiet I was in school, & you’d say, “Well, she’s not quiet at home!”  Now, I say that about you!  When people tell me how sweet my little, teeny, tiny Mom is…I tell them, “Are you kidding, she’s a little bulldog!”

Mom, I remember…This little plaque you gave me a long time ago…that still makes me cry,


So many times I looked at you

And saw me standing there.

I kind of smiled to myself…

Which really wasn’t fair.

To keep from you this feeling

How proud I am of you-

May all your dreams become

Fulfilled-as mine once

Did with you.

Thanks for being a great Mom…I love you, Mommy!

All God’s Blessings on your 90th Birthday!!

Love, Renee