Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Moooo-ving the masses

Talk about writing about your observations of life….

Let me say straight off that I love mass transit. I was raised near a city, and remember the freedom of being able to hop on a bus or trolley (yes, I am that old), that connected to the subway, to get downtown. At the age of 12, I was able to travel on my own to visit family that still lived in the city. My first paying jobs were on bus and train lines. The travel time gave me a chance to get rid of the job stress without taking it out on the drivers around me. The exercise didn’t hurt either.

Fast forward a few years, and I find myself living near Tokyo. We have all heard stories of how the train system revolutionized Japan. It is so true! You can go anywhere in the country by train, bike or foot. You really don’t need a car there, which is good since drivers are a bit crazy behind the wheel. And as for safety, that system is the safest I’ve ever ridden. I could ride at 11:30 at night and the worst that would happen is a drunk would throw up on the floor near me.

Now I live in that small space on the map between Baltimore and DC. Each city has their own form of mass transit and the two really don’t meet – yet. You can take an Amtrak train between the two, but ready, steady mass transit between the two cities still does not exist. Both systems are easy to use and I prefer to use them, rather than drive. And they both provide me a way to observe people.

Baltimore has a small subway system that runs east-west and doesn’t go all the way through the city, just into the down town areas. The bus network seems to be better in Baltimore city. The light rail system runs north-south and does bisect the city past many tourist stops. You can’t find an easier or simpler way to get the Oriole Park or Ravens’ Stadium.

DC’s Metro system is more extensive. Looking at the map, it looks like a giant spider with legs that go out to all the suburbs. All the lines are color coded and they all intersect in a number of places, but primarily at Metro Center. There’s a stop within a few blocks of almost every tourist attraction in the city. Since the design of the city is similar to London’s, it’s only fitting that the Metro is similar in design too.

Both cities’ transit systems are deemed generally safe. DC’s however, has had a few major accidents in recent years. Track maintenance is a priority in the DC system. Baltimore’s system gets its maintenance at night when the tracks are shut down. The light rail tracks are above ground and easier to access. Not so for DC. Most of the DC Metro system is underground. To access tracks, the crews need to close off tubes and shut down portions of lines for a period of time. These shut downs occur at the times when ridership is statistically the lowest, and on weekends when job commuters are at home.

Either system gives the avid people-watcher lots to see. On a recent trip into Baltimore, I rode with friends to the downtown area. On our way back, we boarded the light rail to see 3 very drugged up men sitting in the car near us. Their personal hygiene was questionable at best. One fellow stood up from his seat and nearly lost his pants in spite of a belt at the waist. One of my friends brought her sister, a French citizen, with us. Times like this, I am embarrassed as an American. I hope our country isn’t judged solely by the pants-on-the-ground druggies. These people don’t paint a positive picture of our land.

I got a chance to do lots of people watching on the DC Metro heading into the Kennedy Center, too. Here I saw people dressed for a variety of activities. Some were dressed to party. Others were heading off the job, or on the job on the night shift. All of us pretty much kept to ourselves on the train. It’s amazing how you can be in such a social situation and not know or say a word to your neighbor. Nor do people want to be socialized with!!!

The trip into DC was routine. We hit track work on the way out of DC. We were going to have to leave the train at one stop, take a bus bridge and pick up the train 3 stops up the line. This led to some adventurous thinking on my part. How was this going to work? Would I feel like a sardine in the can at any time soon? How would the herds of people behave when their lives were a bit inconvenienced?

Turns out that the animal herd analogy got replace by a pinball game analogy in my mind. Descending into any of the stations brings to mind the “Empire Theme” from “Star Wars.” The look of the stations make you feel like you are in another world. The doors opened at our debarkation station and the people moved swiftly up the escalator to the busses. We were funneled through gates, past “traffic cops”, into small areas, then out onto the street to queue up for the bus bridge. A bus would pull up and we would all head to the door. We got on – or not. Sometimes the doors closed and pushed the others out of the way, like pinball flippers. We got to our embarkation station and we repeated the process - filed out of the bus, past more “traffic cops”, into more gates, down the escalators to the train platform. There we waited for the train to allow us to finish our trip.

On the DC Metro, you have to be careful to get the right train. Some lines share tracks and you have to watch the front and sides of the train cars to be sure you are on the correct line. That night, a train pulled into the station with “Orange Line” on it. Many of us waiting there were hopeful. It was announced that it’s an Orange Line train. We get on, then, ooops, our bad. It’s really a Blue Line. Glad they told us in time so we could get off.

Two hours later we finally made it to our stop. In the process, many riders took the inconvenience in stride. Some even made jokes of it. No one got bad attitudes about the trip. Now, we weren’t holding hands singing Kumbaya or anything like that, but the trip was not unpleasant, just eventful. It was great to observe adult behavior for a change. The circumstances could have brought out the worst in all of us.

Lucky for us, both Baltimore mass transit and DC Metro have websites that give you updates on track repairs, bus bridging of stations, and other problems on the systems.  All you have to do is Google the city and the line. The sites give you a list of the stations closed or any other track issue that might exist. Always check before you travel.

And always enjoy the trip. People are really fun to watch. Put them in uncomfortable situations and see what happens. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. But most times people behave appropriately. It’s just that those activities sadly don’t make the 11 o’clock news…

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another one bites the dust...

   Now before you think I’m going all Freddy Mercury on you… let me explain. No, let me sum up… another item is crossed off my bucket list. I saw a play at the Kennedy Center.

   Actually, I would have gone to anything as long as it was at the Ken Cen – a play, an opera, a concert, or on a pizza delivery run. It didn’t matter. But I was treated to a fantastic evening, courtesy of Holland Taylor’s portrayal of Governor Ann Richards. The venue and the performance – both were just awe inspiring.

   My cousin and I took the most logical route to the Kennedy Center – Metro. The trains have never failed me in any of my trips to DC. This time, heading into town was fine, but heading out was… let’s just say I’ll need another post to cover that trip. But as far as the Kennedy Center goes, I never realized how accessible this entertainment venue really is. Take the train to Foggy Bottom and you are greeted with a shuttle bus that takes you to the front door, which is a major blessing to those of us who would rather not drive in downtown DC or any other large city. We boarded the bus, arrived within 10 minutes at the door, picked up our tickets from Will-Call, and were in our seats in plenty of time for the curtain. We sat in the balcony of the Eisenhower Theater and were able to see and hear everything; there was not a bad seat in the entire house.

   At intermission, I was able to enjoy the full experience of the Kennedy Center’s majestic appearance. The Hall of Nations was where we first entered the center. We went through the Hall to the Foyer that overlooks the Potomac River. The foyer boasted the most beautiful chandeliers I’ve ever seen. (These lights must be at least 3 stories high and am I thankful I don’t have to clean them.) In the very center of the Foyer, we saw the bust of John F. Kennedy, a rather imposing sculpture. It showed a rugged depiction of a man who wanted to appear rugged in spite of some of his physical difficulties. The rugged quality seemed almost out of place in an arts emporium such as the Center, until you realize the dichotomy of the man. The late President was someone who could appreciate both the arts and the outdoors.

   We saw “Ann”, a one-woman play written by and starring Holland Taylor (Mom from “Two and a Half Men). Ms. Taylor brought Governor Richards to life in a way no one but her closest friends knew. But, folks, that is the stuff for another review! I could go on and on about how great the play was, but this is one you have to see for yourself. The show just closed in the DC-Metro area. I’m not sure where it’s headed next, but I’m sure it will land on the boards of Broadway to stellar reviews and, hopefully, many awards.

   In checking further on the Kennedy Center website, www.kennedy-center.org, I found that the center is a very popular tourist destination and educational center. Since its conception by President Eisenhower, to the ground breaking in 1965, to its opening in 1971, to the present day, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts draws performers in all aspects of the arts. It’s the home of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and the KC Jazz Club. International arts festivals have a home here. Lecturers have a home here. Pops performers like Wayne Brady and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have a home here. To top that, each day the Millennium Theater offers a performance at 6 pm that is free to all. So we all have a home here at the Kennedy Center.

   My first visit will definitely not be my last. One day soon, I’ll venture down as a pure tourist and take one of the guided tours offered every 10 minutes. I’ll take pictures of the place this time and I’ll probably stop at the Gift Shop, too. (hey, wouldn’t be a tourist if I didn’t!) I’ll try to be there at sunset, to see the sun shine over the Potomac and cast late rays on those fabulous Foyer chandeliers. I’ll be the one sitting in the Foyer just taking in the creative energy and inspiration. See you there!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Done Too Soon

   Before I begin, you need to know a few things about me. I participate in my parish’s Sick and Bereavement Ministry as group secretary and part of the funeral repast catering group. One part of the ministry is visiting funeral homes and visiting the families. I am not comfortable doing that at this point in time for people I don’t know. My involvement is not 100% altruistic either. While I am giving community service, and doing my Christian duty (I hope) towards others helping bury the dead and console the living, I have to admit to all that I am working through the grief of losing my in-laws and my own parents through this ministry service. It does help me to help others. When all the old grief feelings get triggered by unexpected events, I know what is happening to my emotions and I have an outlet for my grief. I’m not just sitting around in my own personal pity party.

    Lately our church ministry has been very busy. There’s something about the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that makes me wonder if the Lord doesn’t start a recall process right around that time. Losing someone during the holidays puts a pall on the whole holiday season for years to come. It’s always in the back of your mind. I know this first hand, since my mother passed just before Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law passed 4 days before Christmas and my dad passed on New Year’s Eve. This didn’t happen all in the same year… but at this point it doesn’t matter. Holiday seasons are rough sometime and this can be one of the reasons.

    Last week, I worked another funeral reception at church. I don’t think I was through the door of the house and ambulances pulled up across the street. My neighbor’s daughter was ill again. This was becoming a too familiar sight. She would go out in an ambulance and in a day or so, we would see her putting her kids on the school bus. This time, she didn’t come home to her kids.

     Now this is a girl who spent time at my house with my kids when they were growing up. How many times did she have lunch or snack at our table? How many times did she play in our yard? Or climb our trees? How many children’s choir practices did I take her to, along with my daughter? She lived with her kids at her mother’s house. Her mom was helping her raise them, since she was a solo parent. She did make some, let’s just say, unwise lifestyle choices in her teens and early adulthood. Her body couldn’t take it anymore. This time, I did go to the funeral home. I attended, rather than worked, the reception afterward. My daughter came with us.

     This whole event has me thinking about the natural order of operations. Children bury parents, not the other way around. Yet, sometimes the child has done all that was possible on this earth. This process is not my idea of “normal” but it’s what is.

    Many recent funerals from my parish were for older parishioners, those whose lives were long, productive, accomplished, and who suffered toward the end. But more and more, we are ministering to families who’ve lost young people, members of our human family who seem not to have finished living, who still have more to accomplish. This is so confusing – at least to me - since it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The big question of “Why?” comes to mind over and over. I wish I had some answers. It was all done too soon.

    Neil Diamond penned the song “Done Too Soon” way back in the 70’s – actually 1970 to be exact for the young readers. The lyrics come to mind at times like this, and I find them strangely comforting. It helps me to think that my neighbor’s daughter, my kids’ playmate is in some really good company having passed away so young. Not everyone on Diamond's “litany of saints” is a positive model for life. But it seems to me that all had more to give to this world; seems to me like they all weren’t finished even though their time was up. Would some of these people made more of a difference if they lived longer? Would the world be a different place if they did live longer? How would the world be different? Who’s to know?

    I’ve placed a copy of the lyrics in the body of this posting. You can judge for yourself. I’m sure you can add names to the list. Use the song to help you through any grief situation. Me? I’m going to do my best to help her mom and her kids with the new – and extremely sucky – reality that we are all now a part.

    The daughter died at age 33. Jesus died at 33, too. No comparison of lives in the least… just sayin’…. just done too soon…

http://youtu.be/XSmJH1kxiHQ - Youtube link to the song performance and video by gettysburgguy

Done Too Soon

Written by Neil Diamond

Jesus Christ, Fanny Brice,
Wolfie Mozart and Humphrey Bogart and
Genghis Khan and
On to H. G. Wells.

Ho Chi Minh, Gunga Din
Henry Luce and John Wilkes Booth
And Alexanders
King and Graham Bell.

Krishna, Mama Whistler,
Patrice Lumumba and Russ Colombo,
Karl and
Chico Marx,
Albert Camus.

E. A. Poe, Henri Rousseau,
Sholom Aleichem and Caryl Chessman,
Alan Freed and
Buster Keaton too

And each one there
Has one thing shared:
They have sweated beneath the same sun,
Looked up in wonder at the same moon,
And wept when it was all done

For bein' done too soon,
For bein' done too soon.
For bein' done.
     1970 Pilgrim Music

Monday, January 2, 2012


    Another holiday season… another new year! It’s time to pack away Christmas and look at where we are going from here.

    Ok, so you do have to look back a bit. 2011 was an all right year, I guess. But let’s look ahead at 2012. Many say that this is it for the world. The Mayans have this year as the end of time (add deep voice echo as this is read). But really, who knows?

   Let’s take a quick look at what will happen in 2012:

  • The ship RMS Titanic will be gone for 100 years on April 15. In honor of this occasion, James Cameron is planning on a re-release of his blockbuster movie in 3D around the same date. Titanic in 3D? Does this theater have barf bags with the glasses?

  • There will still be 3 seasons in my life – football, baseball, and that no-man’s land between the Super Bowl and Spring Training.

  • I will plant flowers and veggies in my gardens this year. What will actually grow is anyone’s guess, since successful gardening in my neighborhood is both weather and deer dependent. I also predict that my friendly local Bambi will eat very well.

  • The Baltimore Orioles will take the field at Camden Yards and I will still be a fan. No, I am not a champion of lost causes. I like baseball – live, local, and constantly changing. I will also follow the Phillies, the team of my birth city. I will attend the Phillies-Orioles game on June 10 at Camden Yards, again, as Schizo-fan – not sure who to support but knowing I will be happy no matter the outcome.

  • When not at the Yard, I will be glued to the TV, desperately missing Mike Flannagan’s commentary on the games.

  • I will resist the temptation to put my copy of Titanic on the computer, Orioles on the TV, start both at the same time, and see who goes down first. This is a family joke, as is my watching Titanic ad nauseum. My husband keeps waiting for a different outcome of the movie. The O’s, unfortunately, still have a similar record.

  • There will be a Super Bowl game played in Indianapolis. Raymond Berry, a BALTIMORE Colt legend, will present the Lombardi Trophy to the winner of the game.

  • I will more than likely lose my best buddy, Rusty. He’s my 18-year old dog that has defied all odds and 2 vets to get to this length of life.

  • We will find out if the Mayan calendar is correct, or if the little mathlete who figured it all out just ran out of space on the wheel.

  • Baltimore will have a difficult time finding a new “Voice of Reason”. I know I’m going to miss Ron Smith more and more as the election gets closer.

  • We will have a Presidential election. And we will all be ticked off at all the candidates of all parties by the end of January, 2012. This is thanks to press over saturation.

  • The Maryland General Assembly will start a 90-day session around January 11. I will be fed up with them by January 12.

    What I would really like to see happen in 2012:

  • I’d love to see a book of mine in print. For real, for sale and for everyone.

  • I’d love to see Buck’s Baltimore Boys go from worst to first and stay there the whole season, not just from game 1 to game 2. Hey, not so far out! Weirder things have happened in this town.

  • I’d love to see a sea of orange and black in the stands when the Red Sox and Yankees are in town – just for spite. Boston and New York fans get cheaper deals at Camden Yards than in their own home parks. We Birdlanders must stop that!!!

  • I’d love to see BALTIMORE Colt great Raymond Berry present the Lombardi Trophy to the BALTIMORE RAVENS in Indianapolis, home of the current 2-14 Colts. Take that, Messrs. Irsay and Tagliabue.

  • I’d love to see those elected to the White House and Congress realize they have a temp job, a service job, and it’s something they need to actually do on a daily basis. I’d also like to see them all stop kissing press butt and going only for face time.

  • I’d love to see the voters of this country actually think for themselves. Pundits are great and can shed light on specific issues. Talking heads serve their purpose putting candidates on the spot. Jon Stewart can always put a humorous spin on events in the news. We the People, however, need to watch, look, learn, and then ignore 9/10’s of the soundbites. We need to make our own decisions and not follow the crowd.

  • I’d love to see more public gardens, arboretums and conservatories – as a tourist, that is.

  • I’d love to see the Harry Potter Exposition come back to the US, close to DC if possible.

  • I’d love the see the face on the Mayan mathlete who did the calendar when the dawn of December 22, 2012 arrives. Will he be saying “Ooopss” or “Told you! I just ran out of room”?

    Wow! Who knew there was so much to look forward to in 2012? And this is just the big stuff. That doesn’t count the daily aches, pains and other activities we all go through.
So here’s to 2012! Let’s raise a glass of your favorite adult beverage (let’s go Natty Boh) and toast the New Year. To the O’s! To the Ravens! To our dreams!

    To making it count!