Trip to New York City–Tourist or Terrorist????

Suddenly, the big white van was surrounded by New York City cops with their hands cautiously hovering over their big black guns.  Inside the vehicle, nine men and women, each one, bug-eyed and anxious, tried to explain the unbelievable behavior that resulted in this terrifying incident.  “What the hell were you thinking???” the policeman yelled, as he shook his head in disgust after seeing the occupants of the van.  Clearly, he had been expecting something or someone else- a suicide bomber with C-4 strapped to his body?  Or, a rolling crack house driven erratically by a wild-eyed addict?  He was not expecting middle-aged Yankee fans practically peeing their pants from fright and trying to explain why we were  blocking the Queens tunnel in a rented white van.  (Unfortunately, the situation was not helped by the fact that President Obama was in town for a luncheon not more than a mile or two away.)

What happened was we couldn’t find a place to park the van we rented so that we could all ride together from Pennsylvania  to NYC for a Yankees baseball game.  Additionally, we wanted to do the tourist thing at the Empire State Building so parking was a huge issue.  Entrances to underground parking garages looked tiny from the perspective of a van when you are accustomed to driving sedans.

Our driver was an attorney and, generally, reasonable and not prone to rash decision-making.  But, when he missed the turn on the congested NYC street and found himself without a way out of the entrance to the tunnel to Queens, the cacophony of advice must have been deafening from his well-meaning loved ones.

“Stop!”  “We will get SOOO lost!”  “The tunnel is expensive”  “We’ll be late” “Where the hell are we?”  And, finally, the critical bit of advice that, apparently, under duress, sounded like good advice……”Quick!  Quick!  Do a U-turn!!!”

That is exactly what he did—or tried to do.  The space was not wide enough, he was turning into one way traffic (going the other way,) and, suddenly, we found ourselves wedged into a “compromising” position.  Suddenly, our driver was undoubtedly worried about his law license and my sisters-in-law were worried about being shot as terrorists.  I was wondering if it was an appropriate time to dig out my camera but decided they might think I was pulling out an automatic weapon.  I decided to pass on the photo opportunity.  Too bad… it would have been a heirloom video!

It didn’t take long for the policeman to shake his head in disgust at the stupidity of tourists (humanity?), point toward the entrance of the tunnel and mutter “Proceed….”  We each breathed a sigh of relief and someone quickly grabbed the GPS to direct us back to Manhattan,  the underground garage and the Empire State Building.

After that, New York Yankees—here we come!  We shouldn’t get in any trouble there, right?  Unless there’s a Red Sox fan sitting nearby….well, that could be a problem….

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Florence, again


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Florence, Italy

I loved the unique DIY bench!

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Italy was Amazing

20180716_125257Ponte Vecchio



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new LIKES In my LIFE

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Ashley (Ashlea?)

I had, until a very short time ago, a lovely young niece.  Her name was Ashlea.  Ashlea had gorgeous features, was fun-loving, loved dogs, missed her Daddy, loved her Mama, loved her brothers,  enjoyed her friends, worked hard, tried hard…..there are so many ways to describe her.  I don’t know if I can put into words my thoughts about Ashlea, but, as her Aunt Debby who loved her,  I feel like I want to try.

Ashlea was my sister’s only daughter.  She was born a year after my son was born.  Actually, all of my siblings had children during those years, and so, naturally, our children grew up going to family get-togethers and holiday dinners.  I have so many memories of those years–good ones and not-so-good ones.  And, being the family picture-taker, I have hundreds of pictures of all of those young ones playing together, having fun, and getting into all kinds of innocent albeit sometimes irritating trouble!   My sister and I pulled out all of my old photos of those years recently to remind ourselves of those years and to gather a few pictures for Jacki to keep in her “Memory Box” of Ashlea.  I guess looking at those images is what inspired me to write this in order to help myself wrap my mind around the fact that one of those precious children is now gone.

Like a lot of our kids, Ashlea was spoiled-loved-rotten!  She was the only girl in her family so you can imagine that when she twitched her little finger, her Daddy was eager and willing to make her wishes come true.  She loved little things–her room was full of tiny Barbie purses and shoes, and baby dolls.  She loved to read and had all kinds of books—several of them are in my storage room right now.  I recently “recycled” a few of them by giving them to my sweet step-grandchildren who also love to read.  I think Ashlea would have liked that….. In addition to innumerable other fun things she did,  Ashlea took dance lessons and had her picture taken in many cute little tutus that made her look like a little angel–precious and precocious!  That was Ashlea Brooke.

She and her mom lived with me for a short time when my son and Ashlea were teenagers.  That was a hard time for my sister and I.  But, when you later asked those same grown-up rebellious young adults about those days, well, they loved it.  They used to sneak out late at night and drive my car (they were 13 and 14) to Norris Lake and take the boat down to the dam and swim and play and whatever else they wanted to do.  Despite the fact that they never would completely confess to the things they did,  I am sure it was fun.  Not so much for the grownups…..but they lived through it and the boat survived and I am glad they made good memories.   So, no worries.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of Ashlea for the past few years–she grew up and was fiercely independent as far as I know.  I know some things about her—she worked and played,  She told me once, a year or so ago, that she was happy.  I hold fast to that memory. I know I didn’t do enough for my extraordinary niece and I regret that but I guess it’s too late for that kind of introspection.   Like a lot of people, I followed her on Facebook and occasionally left her messages to let her know that I was thinking of her and cared about how she was doing.  She always said she was fine.

She wasn’t fine.

This happened to Ashlea because of the decisions she made and because some things, once they get started, are almost impossible to stop.  It is devastating that she was caught up in a situation that ended her life abruptly and took her loveliness from this world.  She  will be missed by so many people.  As one of her (and my) favorite artists sang…I want to say this to Ashlea

You belong among the wildflowers

You belong somewhere close to me

Far away from your troubles and worries

You belong somewhere you feel free.

If there is a next life, I sincerely hope that Ashlea is there with her Dad and he is making sure she has every little tiny thing that she wanted here in this life.  She will be sorely missed…  Especially by her Mama.ashley-2-72dpi

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Catching Up—It’s Been a Long Time

WIN_20180112_12_56_40_Pro I haven’t written on my blog for almost 5 years.  Lately, though, I have been thinking a lot about writing and have been figuring out if I wanted to journal or blog.  I still haven’t decided definitively but will start with this blog since I already had it set up.  So, here we go ….

I asked Santa Claus (i.e. my husband) for a new tablet that had a keyboard so that I could start writing again.  I could have used the desktop, I guess, but that just seemed like a lot of trouble and for this to work for me, it has to be easy.  I have a wonderful husband and all I had to do was ask and he got me a great Surface Pro that is so perfect for this task that the only excuse left to NOT do it is I have to figure out how to “work” this workhorse and remember how to find my way through WordPress. And, when I say workhorse, I mean  the computer not ME because, since retiring last February, I am definitely NOT a workhorse-type person any longer.  Yay! for me….

Another reason I wanted to start writing again is because I have a huge bucket list item coming to fruition in the near future.  I am going back to Europe for a 5 week adventure as a follow-up to my earlier trip there when I was much younger (see earlier blog.)  That same friend and I are “deserting” our still–working husbands and going off on a trip of a lifetime (at least for me.)  My friend is a seasoned world traveler and knows all the ropes so I will be in good hands.  I can hardly wait and I hope to post some blogs and pictures of our trip while I am there…hence the blog/journal decision.

Finally, just to let you know what I have been doing the past few years,  I will say that I have started studying and trying to become an amateur artist.  I did the picture that I posted at the beginning of this blog.  It is a barely recognizable rendition of the picture that I included on my European Adventure blog.  I drew this one.  It isn’t very good–the shadows are wrong.  Even so, it IS the same picture so I thought it was  a good choice to go along with this post.   I still am in the beginning stages of learning this new “passion,” but   with time and lots and lots of practice, I have read that anyone can learn to draw.  I am determined to prove that person correct.  Besides,  I have to say that it is very rewarding.  I will post other drawings as I go along.

We have moved since my last go round with blogging.  We are in our forever home and feel very lucky to live in a wonderful community with lake access, great neighbors and a location that is closer to my family.

Life is good…..that’s one of my “Likes in Life”

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A European Adventure–Another Time and Place

I took this picture a long time ago in Belgium.

I took this picture a long time ago in Belgium.

Take a trip with me to another world and another time.  Not another world in the sense of aliens (although the gobbledygook of foreign languages and the lifestyles of the locals made it seem like it could be!)   Not even another century unless you define the twentieth century as another “time.”  It was, however, alien to me though not in a bad way.  I was a young woman.  I had recently completed my education and was embarking on a new career and life.  But, first, my friend and I were going on an European adventure.

We flew to England where we stayed with my sister and her husband, who was stationed at an air force base in Ipswich, England.  We did the usual sightseeing in London, but the real adventure began when my friend and I bravely rented a Ford with the steering wheel on the wrong side and headed out to “see” Europe in 4 days!

We took a ferry to Belgium and drove to Bruges.  Bruges was breathtakingly beautiful.  It was a foggy morning and the canals were encased in saturated colors and a white mist wafted around the bridges and centuries-old buildings.  Bruges is where my lifelong passion to return to Europe began.  We didn’t call it a Bucket List then, but, nevertheless, that was the beginning of mine.

After Bruges came Amsterdam.  We did a whirlwind tour of the Rijksmuseum.  We took a photo of the Heineken Brewery, saw a dike (the water kind,) and took a boat tour through canals lined with lovely old homes.

From Amsterdam, we went briefly to Koln, Germany.  Then, on to Paris.

Ahhhh, Paris, the City of Lights.  What a wonderfully historic, romantic place!   We saw the Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triomphe, the outside of Notre Dame and the factory where they make Shalimar perfume (very important site!)   Oh, and  we met a cute French guy who took us to a discotheque.  It was all fun and lovely.

But, we didn’t see  Montmartre, or the inside of Notre Dame where my husband’s uncle was the first American priest to celebrate Mass during World War II  after the liberation of Paris from the Nazis.  We didn’t visit the Louvre.  Or, countless other wonderful places I would  love to visit.

But, I was young then and although we had a great adventure, I will definitely do it differently the next time.  I would see with better eyes—eyes that have experienced life and know what is important to me, know what I want and need to see, know what I missed then and don’t want to miss now before my time is up.  That’s what my bucket list is all about—to see before I can’t see, write while I remember how to write and experience the world now that I’m old enough to appreciate all of its splendor, excesses and opportunities. I want to tell everyone about it and know that, if they want to, they can see, hear and feel my adventures through my words and pictures.  What could be better than that?

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Biggest Baddest Bucket List Contest–Talk About Dreaming BIG!

Unbelievably, I recently posted an entry to the Biggest Baddest Bucket List Contest.  This is absolutely, beyond a doubt, far beyond anything I have ever even thought about considering to do!  I love blogging and photography and have been spending lots of time doing these things lately, and, when I saw the blog about this competition, I thought, “Why not?”  I know how to do the things they expect of the winner and I was pretty sure I could come up with a presentable video which they required, so I spent a couple of weeks doing a video and writing a blog and going through photos and came up with an entry.  I will post all of these endeavors after the contest is over–I certainly don’t expect to win….but, once again, I spent a lot of time with my father doing my blog on Cades Cove, so the whole thing was worth all of the work.  And, it is something that I can eventually post here so what’s to lose?  I enjoyed the whole thing and, if by some complete miracle, I have some success with this, well, WOW, what a treat!  I would be happy with the preliminary choices which require a trip to London.  Wouldn’t that be a treat?  Anyway, I wanted to post this to encourage other bloggers to get out there and get involved with the activities that make you happy.  It is unlikely that I will win this, but, despite that, it is fun to dream, isn’t it?

It’s a lot like buying a lottery ticket.  Somebody has got to win and anticipation is good for your soul…. Life is good.

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Cades Cove Photo Shoot–Team-Building at Work (couples counseling at its best)

Deer in Cades Cove

Deer in Cades Cove

Never in the past did I ever consider that I would enjoy blogging. I enjoy writing lots, but, in all honesty, my passion leans more toward digital imaging and photography. And, face it, most of the people in my age group don’t even know what blogging is. And,  younger people I know don’t believe that someone as old as I am could have all that much to say that would interest them. It’s all true. Regardless, I jumped into this with a surprising eagerness and am enjoying how it makes me feel. That being said, I don’t have the time available for writing and reading my blog every day. So, I have decided to go off in a different direction. For a while at least, I am going to write and post a blog every weekend (probably on Sunday.) I will concentrate on my chosen topic and come up with something to post that I hope will be interesting or entertaining or instructional or whatever… Continue reading

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