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...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Rule #14 – Observe everything

     By the way, what’s up with these rules, anyway?

     Let me explain. No, let me sum up… my daughter started it. Yes, it’s true. Before Christmas, neither my husband nor I even considered watching NCIS. We are History Channel buffs. When in season, though, it’s always baseball or football games. So really, we only use 5 or 6 channels regularly out of the thousand offered by Comcast.

      Just before Christmas, we got DVR service with our cable. Now we can “tape” and watch shows at our convenience. Just what two under-exercised people need….not!

      Enter my husband’s visit to our daughter. He spent a few days at her house where he was introduced to NCIS, both new ones and repeats. Let’s just say, he was addicted immediately and shared his addiction with me when he got home. I am so hooked! As of now, we still have 18 episodes to watch off the DVR. We are only now getting to a point where they are familiar.

     What could possibly trigger this effect? Try decent dramatic writing. The show has characters that the audience can relate to as everyday people. I can see people I know in each person on the show. I know strong women like Kate and Ziva, who are not afraid to show their strength and smarts. I know several extremely smart McGee’s and Abby’s who just seem to know how to get the information they need. I taught DiNozzo’s for 18 years in high school and middle school, who were so busy trying to be funny and be liked they forgot, occasionally, to be human and considerate. I know several “Ducky”s, who have a historical anecdote for every occasion, like it or not. And there’s the leader of this pack, Gibbs (Mark Harmon’s character). I know several people like Gibbs – strong, leery of authority figures, not fond of political processes, flawed occasionally, the gentle foot in the tush of his co-workers. I always wished to have the guts to head slap my students when needed, like Gibbs head slaps the team members. (I worked in a school, and with the current school climate, I would have been arrested for assault, even if the kid had it coming to them) I see a lot of myself in the Gibbs character. And, it’s not just the grey hair, either.

     Now, I do not like wasting time. Sitting and vegging in front of a TV screen are not things I consider appropriate for all hours of the day and night. It’s great when you need a break, or are really sick. But generally speaking, there are better things to do with your time than to just watch TV all day. But like I said, we are addicted to the show. We’re sitting….. and sitting….and sitting….catching up on nine years worth of shows….

     Ok, Self. Turn this into a positive…  Gibbs has rules. Write your own rules like Gibbs does.

     So that’s where the “rule” thing came from. I wrote Gibbs-style Rules for Writing Right. I’m using those rules to drive the blog here. I am actively using Rule #20 – Draw inspiration from anything and everything! I’m only up to 39 rules while Gibbs has over 50. Whatever works here!

     Sounds like a bunch of excuses? Not really… it did make for a cool topic for a guest blog I did for B. Swangin Webster. I went to a conference where I met B. We discussed how we get started on writing projects. She wanted to know how I find stuff to blog about. We decided to guest on each other’s blog. Here’s the link to my posting on her blog:
Check it out! Here I focused on a different style of writing – Rule #24. Practice, practice practice. She has a totally different style of writing. I learned a lot from her.

     Now, what might be next for future posts? More baseball? Most definitely. Gardening events? Of course! Adventures into kitchen remodeling? You betcha! Travel reviews? Naturally! Restaurant reviews? Sure, if I can pry myself away from the restaurant. Daily life? Injected as necessary. My angst while trying to write children’s books? Did you think you wonderful readers would get out of that one? It will be here, I promise, especially if I have trouble getting back into the rabbit’s head.

     Ok, now to go to Rule #33 – Eventually, good enough is good enough. Time to get to other writing assignments.

     And that – as the late, great Paul Harvey would say – is the rest of the story….

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In Search of...

Rule #38 – Seek balance

     Ok, World. How does everything get done?

     I am facing a major dilemma right around now. I am a writer and know I have to work at my manuscripts and research. I am also a gardener and Ma Nature has been gracious to give us an early spring/summer to get clean up done. I am an active community member and we have some spring events that need planning and my participation. Last time I checked there are only 24 hours in a day. And in that time frame, I do need to sleep when I can, in spite of the fact that I have a dog at the other end of the life spectrum and he needs to go out in the middle of the night.

     When I worked as a public school teacher, the same thing happened. I’d always have piles of papers to grade. Well, my school system saw to it that I saw 360 kids every 3 days in a course that is an active, practical, and hands on course to teach. With 360 projects, usually coming in around the same time – and most of them at the last minute of the grading period (accepted only because I was ordered to by Central Command), there were certain things that ended up sliding. Housework for one – I refused to get a maid to clean my house. There are a number of reasons for that. One, I’m healthy and really can do it myself. Two, my husband’s former employment makes having illegal entrants into our country working for you a major issue (housecleaning seem to be the industry that draws such workers in our state). Three, my husband retired, is healthy enough for housework, and finally found some items he was willing to do, despite the fact he was taught that women actually enjoy cleaning, cooking and shopping. (Bite my tongue on the last one) So, there’s no real reason for a maid service. I did learn two things, however: I am stubborn, and my husband and I have diametrically opposing views of dirt. I was also chronically sleep deprived. (Ok, three things)

     Since I stopped teaching, not much has changed, including the views on dirt and how to remove it. I’m not a real control freak – meaning I don’t have to be in charge all the time. I’ve worked with enough middle school kids to be grateful for a small crumb of true effort toward a task. But I know, if you want to keep allergens and tiny livestock at bay, you have to clean more and below the seen-surface. We are still working on this one. (Retirement makes life interesting, doesn’t it?)

     Enter the scene now, my passions. I really enjoy the writing process. I’ve got several manuscripts in various stages of completion. One of them, “Esther Bunny”, requires me to get into a rabbit’s head. I haven’t had time to allow myself to do that lately. The same with another planned blog “Dear Boss”. There I have to work from the view of a much beloved office coffee mug. This takes psyche time, which I don’t seem to be able to snatch right now. I also need to pitch my “Hi, Doggie” picture book to publishers. I find myself writing in snatched moments, and wondering if I’m doing the work the justice it deserves. Most days it doesn’t feel like it.

     My other passion is gardening. I love the physical activity of working in the yard. I love the feel of the dirt on my hands. I love the muscle ache of a job well done. It’s an activity that helped me keep my sanity as a teacher, and now keeps me in touch with reality. There is a time to every purpose in the season, and my gardens do force me to follow the seasonal time tables. There are some things I can let go of, like some pruning and trimming. But others…not so much. Ma Nature is a demanding boss and she’s the type of boss who requires you to read her mind and guess what the weather will be. Not much different from my life as a teacher, come to think. (You’d think I’d be used to this by now)

      Plus, there’s my precious pooch. He’s now 18 years old and in the running for longest living patient at our vet’s. He is truly a geriatric hound needing round the clock supervision. My husband and I are able to sneak out now and then. But we don’t stay out long, in case his “tank” overflows before we can get him outside. He gets care and comfort right now, like hospice. And he seems to be thriving on all the attention.

     Add to the mix my church activities, my garden club activities, getting ready for our annual plant sale, trying to get 3 workouts a week in at the gym (something that suffered when I was teaching), keeping in touch with friends…

     Oh, and then there’s sleep.

      I remember an exercise I had my 8th grade kids do as a job training lesson. They had to take a graph, figure out what they had to do in a week, assign a time budget to it, and graph the results. This included how many hours a week at work, and the commute time too. Most kids forgot to graph in sleep time. Many American workers do the same.

      I am still my students – overscheduled and sleep deprived!

      I guess the way to find some balance – or homeostasis (the kids loved that word when I used it in the classroom) – is to reorganize my priorities. Here comes those lists again – the gotta dos, shoulda dones, and would dos if there is times. Wait, organizing the life takes time. And it relies on no sudden interruptions or changes in the cosmic convergence of the planets. Around here? At this time of year? And not to lose the lists?

     Guess I’ll still have to be the Rubber Band Woman – flexible to what ever happens.

     Is balance such an unattainable goal? Probably not, but its achievement is fleeting. There’s always going to be someone who wants something yesterday, and I, the flexible caretaker, will stretch to oblige.

     And trying not to get sick while holding on tight and riding the swift pendulum of life…

     Can I get an “Oy, Vey”?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


#19 – Use contemporary references

     It is the dawning of April 5, 2012. The moon is waxing full. The High Holy Days are upon us.

     It sure seemed like Jupiter was aligned with Mars. Maybe it was. But in my world, all the holidays fell within a few days of each other. What holidays, you might say? Well….. (deep subject)

     Passover began at sundown on April 6. My Jewish friends – and some of my Christian ones too – were describing the fun they had at Seder on Friday evening. I’ve been to Seder before and enjoyed the food and the festivities. Envy set in when I heard my friends eating Charoset – a mixture of wine, apple, sugar and cinnamon. The mixture represented the mortar used by the Jews to build up Egypt in slavery. It’s about the only way you can get matzo down your throat after about 5 or 6 days of Passover.

     By the way, I sure hope I spelled “Charoset” correctly. When I googled the word, about 6 different spellings pulled up. Oy!!! Vey!!!

     Christians celebrated the Pascal mystery this past weekend, all at the same time. April 5 was Holy Thursday, when Christians honor the last Passover that Jesus Christ celebrated on earth. On April 6, Christians honor the day Jesus was crucified. On April 8, Christians celebrated Jesus’ Resurrection. Along with the secular Easter Bunny, and spring symbols, the Christians celebrate with traditional foods. Eating is not as ceremonial as a Seder. But the food is usually consumed with family and friends.

     Christians and Jews – looks like we have a lot of shared history.

     April 5 brought another High Holy Day, of sorts. Many major league baseball teams had their opening day games. The Phillies – one of several teams I follow – played in Pittsburgh that day. The Orioles – my hometown team now – played on Good Friday. There was a great deal of ceremony that accompanied all baseball games over the weekend. Traditional foods too… lots of hot dogs, crab cakes, brats, etc.

     Now, it may seem sacrilegious to compare Passover, Easter and baseball. But they all came together for a reason. Not a hand-holding Kumbaya moment. But think about it.

     Passover is the story of hope and freedom. Easter is the story of hope and freedom. Both are stories of letting go and moving on to something better. Both are religion for some and history for all.

     Where does baseball fit in here? In baseball, last year and the Cardinals winning the Series was….so last year. Everything is new now. Some players had to let go and move on to new teams. All old records are history. It all starts over again new with opening day. Some teams even play to resurrect their fan bases and put more butts in the stadium seats. It’s a time for players to make some history.

     And for fans, it can be a religious experience.

     All of these holidays happen in Spring, at time when things renew and life begins again. Last year is last year – history.

     And in my world, this year my Easter celebration was quiet, with family. We did not indulge in too much chocolate. It only took me 8 hours before I started finding that blasted Eastroturf sticking to all my clothes, the dog, and even inside the washer. My Orioles started the season with 3 wins, so there is hope this year. They were in first place longer than from Game 1 to Game 2. And I wondered how long it would take my Jewish friends to get sick of matzo. I remembered when I taught in a high school located in a predominantly Jewish community. Most kids made it through the Seder and 2 or 3 days after. Then the complaints about lotsa matzo started. Can I get another Oy Vey?

     Holidays are over and we are now back to life in the spring moments. And now I check my hiding places for more hidden Vitamin M (m&m’s). Ok, EB, where did you hide them? This chocoholic needs a hit.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flower Power

Rule 37 – Everything’s better with friends and family

     Every year we go through the same thing…

     It’s February, closing in on March. Weather is cold, damp and/or snowy. We have cabin fever. And then the light glimmers on the horizon in the form of the Philadelphia Flower Show. Then we scramble to get tickets!

     By “we”, I mean my sisters, my aunt and myself. This has become an annual event for members of my family. It’s a ritualistic necessity, almost as necessary as the family baseball game. We start the spring, during the first week in March, literally drooling over floral displays at Philly’s Convention Center. The weather outside might be frightful but inside the Center, it is delightfully floral, and spring!

     Each year, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society chooses a different theme. Many statewide landscape contractors, landscape designers, and professional nurseries present displays illustrating the theme of the year. This year, we had a floral trip to Hawaii in their theme of “Islands of Aloha”.

     You entered in the main concourse “under the sea”. A wave display, accented with orchids, greeted you with flowing holographic images of sea creatures and flowers. Hawaiian music filled the air. You moved from the waves to the shore, where you found a large hut with a steep sloped grass roof. There you were able to view slide show images of the Islands. At times, a light show display accompanied the music. That location also served as stage for Hawaiian dancers.

     The artistic exhibits and the Designer’s Studio were moved to the back of the hall, this year. Designer Studio workshops have been extremely popular in the past and tended to clog traffic flow. Now they occupy a larger space and the demonstrators are visible to more people. The placement also allowed for the artistic designs to be showcased closer together.

     This year the number of showcase exhibitors was down but the number of landscape exhibitors and competitors was up. Tropical plants took over some of the displays. Others seemed to go for xeroscaping with little or no soil. Lava rocks became focal points in some garden displays. Water falls and water features were tucked surprisingly into a number of small displays. Many designers tried to use plants native to Pennsylvania to give an island look to the landscape. This design trend gave hope to gardeners like me, who live in a temperate climate. We saw how we could use familiar plants to achieve a tropical effect.

     The show allowed us to spend the whole day wandering around in garden-Zen euphoria. You don’t even have to leave the show for food. Many food vendors served patrons along the periphery of the building. My party and I took an afternoon tea in the Garden Tea Room. After all the walking, it was a welcome break.

     Recharged from tea and sandwiches, we made our way to the Marketplace inside the fair. Once there, we spread out and shopped for those one-of-a-kind garden additions you can only find from unique craftsmen. Everything from plants to landscape equipment to kitsch was for sale at the Marketplace. We learned to make that our last stop, since we have to carry our purchases back to wherever we left the car.

     The Philadelphia Flower Show runs each year during the first week of March. There is plenty of time to make a day (or 2-day) trip just up I-95 to the Convention Center. For those who avoid city driving, take the Amtrak to Philly’s 30th St. Station and the Market Street Subway to 12th and Market. The Convention Center is 2 blocks north of the station. Many of our larger local garden clubs offer bus trips to the show. I’ve even found bus trips offered by a few of my local garden centers! The Flower Show is the Mecca for gardeners.

     The show is now an annual family field trip for me. My sisters and I schedule days off from work just to get together to share our flower power. My aunt makes sure she is up to joining us each year. We are actively recruiting more and more cousins to join us. We just may be able to rent our own family bus soon.

     Next year, the theme is “Brilliant”. It promises to take me to England. Cottage gardens, manor house landscaping, roses, hedge mazes…. I can’t wait!!!

      For more information of the Philadelphia Flower Show, check out the show’s website at http://www.theflowershow.com/showinfo/index.html.

     The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s website has links to their projects in and around Philadelphia, as well as links to the Flower Show site. Check out http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org/phlgreen/index.html for more information.

     And next year look for me and mine! We will be the ones with ice cream cones for lunch and cameras taking pictures of everything!