Pennies From Heaven…

Of all the things on my mile long ‘to do’ list today, I only accomplished one… rolling pennies. My time management skills seem to be a bit rusty.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’… keep those pennies rollin’.

For the past 10 years or so I remember my mom explaining she saves pennies all throughout the year and in October rolls them up and takes them to the bank. This would become her Christmas shopping budget.

My mom’s bank requires all large amounts of change to be wrapped, with your account number written on the outside. Really??? Did the bank have any idea how many pennies my mom accumulated?

The past 3 years I laughed at her and took her pennies every few months… unwrapped… to my bank and threw them in the counting machine. If you guess the correct amount you win a prize. Once I won an emery board… woo hoo! I am no longer a member of that particular bank and the pennies are considered part of the estate assets… so I rolled pennies. All 14,100 of them!!! Yes… $141.00! 282 rolls!!!!!! Where in the world did she get them all?

I was flabbergasted! Granted I hauled home buckets, baskets, vases, and old purses filled with pennies, but never in 100 years would I have guessed there was THAT many and that it would take me an entire day to roll them. YIKES!

My husband was obsessed with pennies too. Every day as he walked around our town he would return with a handful of pennies. Heads up, heads down, it didn’t matter to him, he picked them up and put them in his pocket. Have you ever heard the saying… “Find a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck”?

One Saturday after his walk he asked me to join him for a quick errand. We hopped in the car. He drove south a few miles, turned left off the highway, pulled over to the side of the road, and stopped. I looked at him quizzically.

“Open the door”, he instructed. I opened it.

“Look down”.  I looked down.

“What do you see?” I leaned down further (almost falling out of the car).

There, embedded under a thick layer of ice in the ditch… was a penny!

He walked pass that penny for days until the ice melted and he could finally pick it up. Crazy man!

My husband also saved his change from purchasing cigarettes. Every evening he would empty his pockets into a jar on top of his dresser. On the last day of school… usually a half-day… he would dump the change out and let the kids count it and wrap it. Divided equally among them it became their spending money for the summer. It amounted as high as $83 a child one year. That could certainly buy a lot of ice cream.

While packing to move to my new house I came across a canvas bag in the bottom of my clothes closet. SCORE! I had completely forgotten about this bag!!! It was filled with Bicentennial Quarters and Kennedy Half Dollars. I hand carried that bag to my new home, clutching it to my chest, thrilled to realize I had an emergency fund.

I was living on a shoestring at that time of my life. Food was considered a luxury I could ill afford. If it wasn’t for a friend feeding me and sending home ‘leftovers’ for my daughter and me I don’t know how we would have survived.

There were a few times I was happier than a pyromaniac with a box of matches that I had that change. It paid for gas, tolls and parking one day when I had an appointment with my lawyers in Philadelphia and didn’t have a penny in my wallet. I looked a little silly driving around with my piggy bank in the front seat next to me… but hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Besides, it’s legal tender… at least that is what I reminded the garage attendant as I paid the $12 parking fee in quarters… with a smile on my face while batting my eyelashes.

It also came in handy when my friend could no longer supply meals for us and my refrigerator and cupboards were filled with cobwebs and dust (as was my wallet), instead of food. I didn’t realize how much I depended on their generosity until it was gone. We lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a few weeks until I was able to ‘re-group’. My stomach clenches in knots as I remember this. It is not one of my fondest memories. I guess if I didn’t have my emergency fund I could have gone to the local food bank… I just never thought about that as an option.

I have family in the area also… and I knew they would never let me starve. All I had to do was ask. That never occurred to me either. I can be an independent cuss sometimes. As long as I had my bag of magic money I could breathe. Thinking I might need a portion of those funds to pay my electric or gas bill, I spent it miserly on food. Smart move on my part, as I had to repair my hot water heater after Hurricane Irene. Thank you magic money!

Today as I was rolling and wrapping mom’s pennies my bored brain reminisced about the position I was in a year and a half ago, and thanked my lucky stars I am in a much better financial situation now. It’s time to say good bye to my canvas bag and roll and wrap my emergency fund to deposit it into my bank account.

Emergency Fund ready to rock and ROLL!

I bet you are wondering why I just didn’t deposit the coins into a savings account and earn interest in the first place… right? You will have to read my book to learn why. There is a method to my madness. Muahahahahah…

Every time I am walking, whether it be around town, or just in a parking lot I look down and spot coins… mostly pennies… and pick them up. For a few weeks I was finding quarters. I look up to the sky and thank my husband and mom for sending down those pennies from heaven… but suggest sending me dollars would be more helpful.

I am reminded of a saying a very wealthy woman repeated to me when I was a young girl… “If you keep an eye on your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves”.


What’s Cookin’…

I was feeling very domestic today!! After taking care of my elderly charges, I spent a few hours at my mom’s house cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. Boy… that lady could have fed herself for another 10 years with what was squirreled away out of her sight. For a diabetic she had more sugar than any family of 10 would need.

When I finally got back to my own home, I went into ‘chef Deb’ mode. My cooking frenzy all started because I was hungry and wanted some of my homemade turkey soup for lunch. My stomach was growling, so I pulled the soup from the fridge. Eh! I made it on Sunday and even though it smelled AWESOME, it was lack luster. It tasted like bland boiled turkey with barley. Not appetizing at all. Like a mad scientist I raided my spice cabinet and began throwing things in the pot, dashed in a few drops of Frank’s Hot Sauce, sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top, took a whiff, crossed my fingers, and EUREKA I had the tastiest turkey soup I have ever made! The bad news is, I will never be able to replicate the recipe.

Yummy, yummy Turkey Soup!!

I’m assuming you all know the book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie… well… I wanted a cracker with my soup. Not just any old cracker, oh no, that would never do… no, no, no. Pinterest had a drool worthy recipe post of crackers that packed a punch! Since my son is staying with me for a while I am looking for any recipe that will help feed him and stay within my budget. These crackers seemed PERFECT! I immediately pulled out the ingredients and got to work. Oh my! They really packed a wallop! Next time I will cut back on the red pepper just a little. I like my food to ‘zing’, not set my mouth on fire. I quickly became addicted to them. I think I’ll name them Fire Crackers.

Burn baby burn! They are some ‘speesy, spicy, crackers’.

Next up… I decided it was time to bake some of my famous banana bread. I had 4 bananas sitting on the counter just begging me to use them. There were enough for two loaves! Having broken one of my most favorite loaf pans, I can only bake one at a time now. I absolutely REFUSE to use one of those thin aluminum pans. Only heavy pottery gives me the dark crust I love so much. I just haven’t gotten to the store to buy one… or more accurately, I should say I have been to the store, many times, I have FORGOTTEN that I need one.

And yes… I am a beater licker. I admit it. I know I shouldn’t because of the raw egg, but at my age I have racked up many years of licking the beaters and I haven’t died yet. If that is how I am meant to leave this earth… then so be it. At least I will have a smile on my face 🙂

One thing just led to another… or maybe it was my annoying habit of easily being distracted (Adult onset of ADD?). Baking banana bread wasn’t enough. I then decided to make homemade marinara sauce. Friday is homemade pizza night, so I was getting a jump on the sauce. The house smelled wonderful. A combination of the banana bread baking and the marinara simmering on the stove made the place seem so homey. Hey… I wonder if Yankee Candle has that scent?

Once the sauce was bubbling I started getting hungry for dinner. Hmmmm… I have plenty of sauce, and I just bought chicken… and there is mozzarella for the pizza… Ta-Dah! Chicken Parmesan for dinner! I need to work my magic on the sauce to bump up the flavor a bit, but other than that our dinner was quite tasty. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day to doctor up the marinara. I think my taste buds are still in shock from the hot, spicy crackers.

Homemade Chicken Parm… cheaper than eating out and tastes just as good!

All of this on only four hours of sleep (don’t ask)! Amazing!

It has been AGES since I have cooked like that. It felt wonderful! It reminded me what my life used to be like many years ago. Working during the day, cooking yummy dinners, feeding my family, and knowing that someone would notice if I did anything at all that day. Feeling needed really soothes my soul.

Buzz… gotta go. My second banana bread is done. Stop by and grab a slice if you are in my area.

Power Ball Lottery…

I don’t play the lottery as a rule… however with a potential winning of $425,000,000 (with a cash payout of $278,000,000) I think I’ll take a chance. WOW! That’s a lot of zeros!!!

My husband played the lottery religiously every week of our married life. Once the Pick Six began he would use a combination of our birthdays and anniversary date. I will wave my magic wand and have the lottery spirits help me select a combination… hopefully a winning combination… to play today.

“Oh magic 8 ball… tell me, Will I win the Lottery tomorrow?”

“Highly unlikely”

Oh well. But what if I DID win??? What if…?

Let’s see… the first thing I would do is pay off my mortgage. Then I would pay off the mortgages of everyone in my family… and purchase a home (either condo or house) for those still renting. Next… I would set up trust accounts for the same family members to help pay their yearly taxes.

Thank heaven’s I have a small family!

OK… now that everyone has a roof securely over their heads, I would concentrate on educating the next generation by setting up an Educational Fund to be used by any blood relative of mine wanting to attend college and beyond. Of course there would be stipulations as to grades and attendance (kill joy). Oh… I almost forgot there are still some family members with school loans to be paid off… I’d clear those bills for them too.

As I re-read this post I get a clear picture of where I place my priorities. Home first, education second.

When my husband was ill and in a sub-acute care facility his medical bills skyrocketed out of the stratosphere. No matter how hard I worked, or how much money I brought in, I just couldn’t keep up with the costs. The facility was insisting I sell our family home to pay their bill. I freaked!!! Selling the house would leave the kids and me on the street with no roof.

It wasn’t the idea I had to sell the house that caused my panic attacks; it was the fact I couldn’t afford to put any kind of a roof over our heads… at all. Not only did the facility order me to sell my home, as an additional slap in the face they had all monies coming into the house via Disability and Social Security… the money I used to actually live… reassigned to them. So I was being stripped of the bulk of my income AND my house. Speak about a depressing situation!!!

At least I paid for my car in full, and in cash… no matter what happened I knew no one could take my car from me. Heck… I was most likely going to have to live in it. Little did I know when I purchased it I should have checked out the leg room when the seats were down to make sure I could stretch out. Just kidding.

How I got out of this mess will all be covered in my book… however that experience rattled me to my very core. So it is no surprise to me I want to provide a secure roof for everyone in my family. I can’t prevent anyone from ordering them to sell their house if they too get into some kind of bind, but it will certainly allow them to have something to barter with.

By the time I finished with all of the above, I have no clue how I would spend the rest.  I definitely would add a bunch to my investment portfolio… which currently allows me to do all the fun things I want. Imagine how much more fun I could have???

So… how would you spend $278,000,000 (less tax)… if YOU won the lottery???

Politics, Religion, and S-E-X…


OK folks… let’s step it up a notch. Three things everyone knows NOT to bring up, as points of discussion in mixed company are Politics, Religion and Sex right? Well… I’m going to do it any way.

I am reminded of a time way back in the early 80’s when I attended a 50th Anniversary Party in Florida for some elderly relatives on my husband’s side of the family. For lively conversation purposes the formal dinner seating was mixed up so each table consisted of a pair of family members, a pair selected from the hosts’ church group, a pair selected from their activities group, rounded out with a couple who lived in their neighborhood.

The table I was seated at was pretty tame. We all got along fairly well. Playing the politeness game we stayed away from the above-mentioned taboo subjects. My husband and I were the young couple at the table and the elderly folks were more interested in us than we were of them. I glanced over at the table next to us and noticed things were not going as well over there.

To begin, you have to know this was a group of people strong in their church. The minister was sitting at this particular table talking to everyone… who were MESMERIZED. As my sister-in-law and her husband approached the table the minster noticed, stood up, and bid farewell to his captive audience. Apparently he was not to be seated at this table, but another. The guests were NOT thrilled to find this out, and sneered quietly at the newcomers.

You also have to know that my sister-in-law along with her husband is well versed in the art of conversation. Meaning, she can talk to a brick wall and get answers.  To break the strain at the table they struck up a conversation about the church asking about their faith. Hmmm… it seems their own beliefs didn’t quite match up to the rest of the group. Moving on… they decided it was prudent to change the subject and thought introductions were in order. It ends up that one gentleman is a local politician… uh oh… affiliated with an opposing party. The table goes silent. It is clear these particular family members do not fit in here.

With that, my brother-in-law leans towards the elderly gentleman seated to his right and asks quite clearly, “So… how’s your sex life?” HA! THAT really got them. My brother-in-law reasoned that they already covered Politics and Religion, which didn’t go over so well, all that was left was Sex. TOO FUNNY!

Since I consider readers of my blog ‘mixed company’ I will keep my views on the subjects short.

Politics… I am not as well educated as I wish to be in this area. During this election I did my best to pay attention and learn what I could about the candidates so I could make an informed choice, however it was difficult. In school the subject of History would go in one ear and right out the other… just before my eyes glazed over. I am more of a visual learner. Visiting Williamsburg with someone to re-enact the scenes was AWESOME and appears to be the only I can remember things. I guess I need to head to Washington, DC for my next lessons.

I concentrated on the Presidency because of the election. I learned about the candidates’ positions, the voting process, why certain states were more important than others, and how an Electoral College works.

Overall I don’t give politics much thought. I know I don’t like BIG government… but on a day-to-day basis no matter who is in office I don’t see much impact on my life.  Or maybe I should say I am not aware of it.

Religion… Hmmm, I am not a huge fan of organized religion— for ME. I would never, ever chastises anyone for his or her beliefs. Whatever floats your boat and sets your sails in the direction you want to pursue is all right by me. I don’t judge and hope I am not judged by what I believe. Just don’t knock on my door and waste my time trying to get me on your team. That is not the way to win me over.

Growing up my mom thought we should have a well-rounded education about religion. She, being an excommunicated Catholic and my Dad a Methodist thought I should attend a variety of churches. I spent a lot of summers at Methodist Vacation Bible Schools, hit up a Presbyterian Church now and then, attended CCD with friends, celebrated numerous Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s, and last but certainly not least joined with the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints for a few years. What a learning experience THAT was!

What I learned after that diverse education was… Be kind to others. We are all walking a fine line and have troubles of our own. It doesn’t matter which God you believe in, or how you celebrate your faith… we are all from the same human race.

I do not believe there is an old man with a long white flowing beard dressed in white robes directing us all like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. I believe God resides in each of us, in our spirits. Although I do not believe in organized religion for myself, I do think Priests, Ministers, Rabbis and other officiates serve a purpose. They remind everyone to look inside themselves and be the best they can be, to reach out and help others in need. They remind us we are all on this Earth together and no one man is an island.

Sex… Yes please.

I am saving the meat and potatoes of this subject for my book. You will just have to purchase a copy of it when it’s available… not that there is much to tell.

Seriously though… while driving along the highways in the south I had to laugh at the billboards dotted along the roads. I got the message that Sex is next to Godliness. The first gigantic billboard touted the virtues of following Jesus and the very next one advertising an Adult Store. I always wanted to go into one of those stores. I will have to put that on my bucket list.

I dated a guy once who asked if I would go to an Adult Store with him. I was so excited to go I screamed, “Yes” while I ran for the door… like a puppy excitedly going for a walk. Sadly it was too late in the evening and the store would be closed. Drat! Cooler heads prevailed and it was decided we would go to an Adult Store outside of our area when we vacationed in Hilton Head. We never went… oh, went to Hilton Head, but not to the store. It wasn’t that kind of trip apparently. My mistake.

I am a little bummed. I really, really, really wanted to go to an Adult Store and see what all the hoopla is about. I don’t have the nerve to go by myself, and I would be totally embarrassed to go with any other guy except the one who originally asked. My curiosity is killing me though… what could possibly be in there that requires all the windows to be boarded up? How sleazy could it possibly be? I bet I saw worse in store window displays in Belgium and Germany. We Americans are so prudish.

There is a local Adult Store I pass all the time on the highway. The same single vehicle, a silver Cadillac CTS (no, NOT yours) is parked in the lot… most likely the owner’s. One day I would love to muster up the courage to walk in there. With my luck of course as soon as I entered a busload of guys would file in and I would be totally embarrassed. Hey… do any of you females reading this want to take a field trip? Wouldn’t it be a hoot if a group of us stepped through that door?

Sign up for an Adult Store tour in the comments section J

And just in case you were wondering… throwing Politics, Religion, and Sex together in one big ball… I believe in same sex marriage. I don’t think it needs to be called marriage; maybe a civil union better describes it. I would love to see the day any two people who want to be together legally be able to do so and be happy.

THAT’s an example of being kind to others!

What are YOUR thoughts?

On The Road…

Have you ever heard of Cassadaga, Florida? Yeah… me neither, until a few weeks ago.

The day after Hurricane Sandy hit I left on a driving vacation… headed south. This trip had been planned a few months ago. My oldest daughter is getting married at Disney in June and we were to meet with the Wedding coordinator. As soon as I realized my house was not in need of immediate repair… I packed my bags and headed out a day earlier than originally planned. “Why sit in a house with no power or heat while the water slowly rose up the basement steps?”  I reasoned.

When travelling I carry 2 debit cards and about $100 in cash. I don’t use credit cards… at all. One debit card is loaded with all the money I will need for gas, food, and lodging… plus a small cushion. A second debit card is used for emergencies and/or extras. On this trip I planned on charging my Disney Park Hopper Pass on it. Things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Due to the hurricane, the bank servicing the second debit card was knocked out of commission. So was my cell phone. Luckily a different provider services my iPad, so at least I had some kind of communication device.

Driving down to Disney was smooth sailing. I used my first debit card as planned. Trouble developed while purchasing my Park Hopper Pass. The bank red flagged the charge since it was out of the ordinary. I tried to contact them, but all their systems were down. So… I used the first debit card to charge the pass. It cost more than the buffer I built in, so I would have to be creative on the drive home, and cross my fingers the bank wouldn’t be out of service for too long.

Disney was exactly as you would expect… the place where dreams come true. When my daughter first mentioned she wanted a destination wedding in Disney, I was less than thrilled. Expecting guests to spend so much money to attend a wedding totally rubs me the wrong way. At least Disney has a lot of other attractions for the quests, in addition to becoming a family vacation.

The first day in Disney was spent meeting the wedding coordinator, florist, and chef. The coordinator asked which alcoholic beverage should be stocked at the bar for me. As luck would have it their house champagne is my favorite. YIPPIE! Cake testing came first; then menu tasting. They just kept rolling out the tasty food… plate after plate. We started with three hor’dorves … coconut shrimp, crab cakes, and spring rolls with dipping sauces. Continuing on to the mash potato bar, a salad garnished with grated parsnips, and the tastiest pork tenderloin you have ever placed in your mouth served with risotto and Gouda. Oh my!!!! We were stuffed!

By the end of the day I was convinced having a destination wedding at Disney wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. I know a lot of people might not attend because it is too far away and/or out of their budget… and that is sad, but overall this venue is the perfect place for my daughter. She glowed!

My other daughter and I decided to hit the outlet mall that evening on the hunt for a perfect fitting pair of jeans for her. It took all evening, but finally… Success! Since we were still stuffed from the tasting, frozen yogurt with toppings from Munchies seemed like a fabulous dinner idea.

Our second day was free until 3:30pm. We hit the parks. Roller Coasters, Haunted House and more kept us busy until we met with the photographers… and watched the engagement photo shoot. I witnessed first hand what a terrific sport my future son-in-law is. You could tell he thought some of the positions the photographers wanted to take were silly, but he did what was asked with a smile on his face. He explained that his fiancé was wearing her ‘ring of power’ (her engagement ring) and therefore had to obey her every command. Too funny!

That evening daughter number two and I hit up Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival. We set ourselves a limit of $20 each and were off and running. Yummy! I would definitely suggest if you are looking for the perfect time to go to Disney, plan to attend during this Festival. You basically eat and drink your way around Epcot.

The third day I was left alone to explore by myself. I knew this in advance, so I checked out places in my book ‘1,000 Places To See Before You Die’… and came up with Cassadaga. It is historically known as a place where spirits converge. Yes, you read that correctly… spirits… as in energy left behind on this planet when someone passes away.

Not only do I believe we are all made of energy and when we pass away our earthly remains are shed and our energy lives on… but I also believe I have been visited by some of these energies. Yes, really. Maybe I’m looney, but some crazy things have happened to me over the years, a few of them quite recently. I thought I might find some answers in Cassadaga. It is located only about 40 minutes outside of Orlando.

I seem to gravitate towards crystals and gems. In particular, I am searching for a piece of Moldavite. It is found in the Czech Republic among other places and is believed to have been formed when a meteorite hit the Earth a very long time ago. I figured if ever there would be a chance to see a piece of this, it would be in Cassadaga.

My original plan was to see the town and take the historic tour. My money situation prevented me from spending the $15 on the tour… Darn. I was in a severe cash- hoarding mode.

The town is so small, just a crossroad in the middle of nowhere.  It consisted of a hotel, extremely small post office, three ‘new age’ stores, a church, and some old Victorian houses. Almost every house brandished a shingle hawking the ability of the owner. Tarot Reading, Aura Reading, Mediums to connect with your passed loved ones and more were all available to anyone who wished. I wasn’t interested in any of that. I drove down tiny dusty alleys amazed the houses were still standing. One two story Victorian that caught my attention had a hand lettered sign tacked to a tree reading: House For Sale – 2 Bedroom – $40,000. Really, only $40,000? I estimated it would take another $100,000 sunk into it before I would even consider stepping foot inside.

I meandered in and out of the stores, taking my time absorbing everything. Nothing jumped out at me. I was hoping I would get some kind of answers to what I felt at times, but no revelations came. The last store was the largest. Safely tucked away under glass was a piece of Moldavite! It was mossy green, shiny, and bumpy… looking much like a solid piece of seaweed. So… THAT’S what it looks like.

I didn’t ask to see it out of the case. I had no intention (or funds) to purchase it. Just seeing it with my very own eyes was all I needed. OK… my visit here is finished. Time to go back to Disney and sit at the pool.

I was a little disappointed I couldn’t take the historic tour… and I was no closer to finding the answers to my questions about what I feel sometimes… but I felt my time here was complete. As I jammed the car key into the ignition a strange feeling went shooting through me.  The only way to put it into words is… it felt like a spirit entered my body for a split second… kind of like a ‘hitchhiker’. I involuntarily screamed a name of someone I know (still living), my heart clutched, and tears ran down my cheeks.

That was it. Nothing more. It was over before I even knew what happened. I have absolutely no clue what that was all about. It didn’t frighten me. It wasn’t scary. I simply shook my head, started the car and drove away.

The next morning I headed to Atlanta to stay with my brother for the week. My sister-in-law holds a gift sale in her home twice a year and I am part of the sales staff. I arrived with $72 on my first debit card, who knows what on my back up card and $20 in cash. Speak about sliding into home on a wing and a prayer. It was now Sunday, six days after the storm and my bank still has no power or computers. I am crossing my fingers this all gets fixed before I head home.

Worse case scenario is I cash in something from my investment account being held here in Atlanta, or I borrow enough to get home from my brother and pay him back when I return. Thankfully my sister-in-law paid my wages in cash AND the bank came back online before I headed home. All was right with the world.

While in Atlanta I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend from high school. We weren’t friends way back then… as a matter of fact I hardly knew him at all. Thanks to Facebook we reconnected. I visit him every time I get down that way. We grabbed a cup of soup at La Paz… and talked for hours!

A week later, with my car loaded down with firewood and food courtesy of my brother and his wife, I headed towards home. Leaving Atlanta on a Saturday, I spent the night in a MicroTel in North Carolina. It was the first time I stayed at this chain. Not bad. It was more than I expected for the cheap price, but as I tried to settle down I realized it wasn’t the deal of the century I thought it was. The walls were so paper-thin you could actually hear the guy snoring two rooms away. The jumping bean kids above me were having fun… AND my room was on the side of the building facing the highway. I heard every tractor-trailer, police, and fire truck race by. I decided to drown it all out with the TV… and fell soundly asleep.

The local news woke me up. I couldn’t believe I heard correctly… but the anchorman for CBS news was announcing that a little girl caught her first fish on Saturday… using a Barbie fishing rod. Seriously… this is news?? Back home I am used to hearing how many people died in a fire… not how someone caught a fish. I’m not in Kansas any more Toto.

Homeward bound, finally. It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday morning as I zoom north on Rt. 81 driving through the Appalachian Mountains. Listening to oldies but goodies on the radio, singing at the top of my lungs. I felt so free!

The view was spectacular. I wanted to pull over and snap photos, but with traffic flying by at 85mph I didn’t think that was a prudent move. Keeping my eyes on the road was difficult to say the least. It’s times like these I wish someone else were driving so I could at least take some photos out the window.

My whole life I have been the driver… always. My husband never drove… it was always me. I didn’t mind actually… it’s a control thing. A few years ago I dated a guy who took over the wheel. I will never forget our first ‘Sunday Drive’. It was fall… I was uncomfortable in the passenger seat. What do you do with your hands? I had too much space between the dash and me. I felt clumsy not knowing how to sit. I began giving him directions and got caught up looking at the scenery forgetting to tell him to turn. I got a little upset with myself for not paying closer attention. He replied I was working too hard at this and suggested I relax. Once I ‘let go’ I really enjoyed the ride. Being able to look out the window like a little kid and see all the beauty around me was awesome. It’s a gift he gave me I will never forget.

Eventually I became so comfortable being a passenger I eagerly sat ‘shot gun’ on every chance I got. Once I even fell asleep for the entire 8-hour ride home from a trip. Those days are gone, and I am back in the driver’s seat, reluctantly. So today, driving north towards home, I decide to go ‘rouge’ and take short jogs off the main highway onto some backcountry roads… trying to recreate the ‘Sunday Drive’ feel. I was a little disappointed since I had to concentrate on the twists and turn and didn’t have the luxury of staring at the scenery before me. A few times I was able to pull over to the side of the road and get out to look… but it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. That didn’t stop me however… I still took as many side trips as I could.

Stopping at rest areas I met the most fascinating people. One elderly woman was seated at the picnic table next to mine. Traveling by herself and eating a homemade sandwich drinking water from a neoprene bottle she told me she was on her way to a baby shower for a grand daughter. Normally her husband would drive, but he was busy. She lived an hour away and liked to stop at the rest area to take a break.

Another couple I met were riding a motorcycle. We were at a rest area in Virginia… and they were headed home to Canada!! Whew! And I thought I had a long way still to go. I loved their free spirit. I always wanted to travel by motorcycle, the wind on your face and bugs in your teeth. Unless I meet someone with a bike I doubt that item on my bucket list will ever get crossed off.

I finally pulled into my driveway at 7pm glad to be home. No one was here. My daughter was working and I guess my son went to visit friends. I was gone for 2 weeks and only the dogs were here to welcome me back. Sigh.

Gobble! Gobble!

Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday of the entire year! It’s all about getting together and being thankful for what you have. Not the material things… but the family and friends surrounding you. There is no reason NOT to celebrate Thanksgiving. No religious belief or ethnic background can separate you from this holiday. If you live in the good ol’ US of A (or even just visiting) you should gather around a food laden table and share the day.

I have shared my Thanksgiving table with so many different people. No one should be left out as far as I am concerned. I open my house and dinner table to all who care to come. Last year I was a guest at someone else’s feast… and was entertained by Perry the Platypus and Phineas (from Phineas and Ferb). If you have no idea what I’m talking about… then you need to get some kids in your life. Trust me, they would be so totally impressed.

Over the years our tradition has changed, but three things have remained constant… Turkey, Friends, and Movies… as in ‘going to the theater’ type of movie.

In 1990 our little family was corralled around the properly set dinner table for our yearly feast of turkey. This was one of the rare days we actually ATE in the dining room… at the BIG table. It took a whole day to clear off that table and clean up the room just so we could sit there… but it was worth it. The place looked like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting.

The turkey was the centerpiece, fluffy homemade stuffing mounding out of both ends, skin golden brown. All the silver was polished, snowy white tablecloth starched and pressed, and not one spot on the crystal glasses… PING!  There was even a chocolate turkey at each place setting just waiting for someone to bite their head off.

Dinner went smoothly. The usual discussions of what we are thankful for, and how many vegetables had to be consumed to get dessert ensued. Traditionally when dinner was over the focus was placed on TV and washing the dishes. Not this year.

As soon as the last person laid down their fork signaling the end of the meal, my husband jumped out of his chair, knocking it over and excitedly began running to the kitchen yelling, “Hurry, hurry! If we leave now we can make it on time.”

No one had a clue what was going on… not even me. We all thought the house was on fire! Why else would he be running around the house yelling orders? “Leave the dishes on the table! Help me put the food away!” “Come on, move it!”

The rest of us also jumped from the table and began scurrying around doing as he asked. “Now, get in the car… hurry! The movie starts in fifteen minutes!” he demanded.

Huh? Movie? What movie???

As it turned out, we saw HOME ALONE, and laughed our heads off. THAT is how our tradition of going to the movies began. This year, although we are celebrating Thanksgiving with friends in Delaware, we are still going to the movies. Our hosts want to see BREAKING DAWN… and we will be joining them. Ah… tradition!

YOU can join us in our Thanksgiving tradition. My son has produced and filmed a short 3-minute movie for your entertainment today. When you are finished eating and are too stuffed to move… please check it out on youtube:

If the link doesn’t work… go to and search for… Stay Together: Thanksgiving.

This movie is the very first KWIK SKETCH made under his company’s banner… MISSPELLED PRODUCKSHUNS… not to mention my acting debut J Don’t worry; I won’t quit my day job. Click LIKE and feel free to share if you care to. You also might consider subscribing to his youtube account so you won’t miss future KWIK SKETCH movies. I know what is in the pipeline to be filmed and think you will be totally entertained.

So… what are YOUR Thanksgiving traditions? Please share.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving… and be blessed for all you have.


PTSD part 2…

I got side tracked with the hurricane and felt it more important to post on that and keep my PTSD posting for a later date. The time has now come to continue my story.

So far… I told you about my diagnosis. Let me skip ahead a few weeks. I think the doctor is absolutely off his rocker. I know my body and still believe I am only depressed. PTSD… seriously? Nah!

One evening I decided to go to the local bookstore… yeah, yeah… one of the BIG NAMED stores. I was bored and wanted to see what new books came out. Cutting through the self-improvement section my eye caught a book that seemed taller than the rest. The spine read The PTSD Workbook. “What? There’s a workbook for that?”, I asked myself. “Huh! Who knew?”

Every lover of books knows you NEVER flick a book off a shelf by using your index finger on the top of the spine. NEVER, ever… but I did any way. I flicked that book off the shelf in an instant. The pages automatically fell open to the list of PTSD symptoms. My mouth dropped open. I was in shock. I fit the profile to a tee. I started to cry, right there in the self-improvement aisle. In a daze I slowly moved over to a table in the café to read further.

I guess the doctor was right after all… I do have PTSD! Wow! Its time to start taking this seriously and deal with it. And so begins my long road to recovery… of which I am still travelling and by most standards will continue to travel until the day I die.

Prescription medicine was the first order of business. Trying to find one best suited for me was a nightmare. Zoloft was the first line of defense. It left me so weak I could barely lift my head off the pillow. Oh, and hungry!!! I was constantly hungry.  Back to the doctor’s I go where it is decided to try Welbutrin. It took a few weeks to settle in my system. I felt spacey most of the time, and a little nauseous, but for the most part I was happier and beginning to sleep more.

After a month or so I began to get dizzy. “No big deal”, I thought to myself. “I’m sure this is just a phase that will pass soon as I adjust”. A friend of mine did not agree with my nonchalant attitude and made me promise to see the doctor TODAY! He sounded so concerned that I decided to call for an appointment, just to humor him.

Whoa… my doctor read me the riot act for waiting so long to come in. He immediately switched my prescription to Cymbalta. Changing medicines is not as easy as stopping one and the next day start the other. Nope… it requires a gentle decrease of the first one and a slow increase of the new one… at the same time. For a few weeks my system was crazy as it adjusted. Xanax was prescribed ‘as needed’. I was very careful to not use it unless absolutely necessary.  In hindsight I should have stayed home in bed while the change over took place… but delusional me continued to feel I was fine and so continued to go to work each day. I am sure I wasn’t productive.

Finally… everything evened out and I was under control… although in a fog most of the time. My daughter caught me on the lower level of our bookstore one day staring at glittery Christmas ornaments as if watching a psychedelic movie.

Therapy was progressing now that I was medicated. Thoughts, feelings, emotions and more came flooding out. Before being medicated I would sit in the chair across from the therapist with a smile on my face and say that everything was ‘fine’ not owning up to reality that everything was NOT fine. Actually it was far from it. I held my feelings and emotions in so tight I had no idea how to release them. A large boulder had more emotion than me. Which in turn led to panic attacks, feelings of low self worth, and so much more. The drugs gave me the ability to finally push that stone, known as my heart aside and explore what was behind it.

Different techniques were used to help me come to terms with what I went through and how to deal with it. ‘Tapping’ was the most effective. I believe the more scientific term is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). It’s a combination of saying an affirmation while tapping gently on pressure points. You start at the top of your head then continue in a pattern over your eyebrows, the sides of your eyes, under your eyes, above your mouth, under your mouth, your chest, and finally your rib cage. Continuing this circuit while repeating affirmations sends your inner energy in a spin. Your mind resets itself and you feel totally different about things when finished. One of the last things said is, “I accept myself and all my feelings”.

Ah! What a statement!!!! I ACCEPT MYSELF AND ALL MY FEELINGS. Just typing it now I feel the tension in my body release. I would leave my therapy session all happy, relaxed, and ready to conquer the world. My feelings were laid bare, discussed, acknowledged, and dealt with. Everyone should be so fortunate to learn this.

In this phase of my life therapy is working, issues are being dealt with, and I am getting stronger. I guess it also helps that I met a guy who makes me feel beautiful and  giddy. For the first time in my life I feel great! Things are looking up for me… I see a rainbow in my future for the very first time. So… what’s the first thing I do??? Yup… cease taking my medication. What a mistake. Why in the world do people like me think they know better than the professionals? My medical doctor made it crystal clear I would be on medication for at least a year before he would consider the possibility of taking me off.

To be honest… I didn’t have any medical insurance and the $400 a month pharmacy bills were sending me into a tailspin. I had more anxiety over how I could afford to continue the medication than my original reason for taking it. The side effects were beginning to take their toll on me too. Constipation, thick salvia, dry mouth, constant thirst, foggy head, and instant tiredness with no warning was making it difficult to function. I dreaded changing medicines so much that I decided to cease taking it altogether rather than consulting my medical doctor for an alternative.

I began to spiral back down to the bottom of the pity pit. No amount of ‘tapping’ could pull me back up. When asked by the therapist what I was feeling at the moment, I had no answers. I felt nothing… A big fat zero. There is no way to fix a problem if you can’t articulate what the problem actually is. Where once I was eager to go to therapy, I now dreaded it. In my mind it became not only a waste of my time, but I was beginning to dislike my therapist intensely. She was asking me personal questions I didn’t want to answer. I simply didn’t want to explore myself and all my feelings’.

It was strongly suggested I go back on pills. In as much as I didn’t want to, I saw the benefit and sheepishly refilled my prescription. A cheer erupted all around me. Apparently, unbeknownst to me I had become difficult to live with. I assume there was a silent pact made to tip toe around me and not say a word… as I did when my husband decided to quit smoking cold turkey and became an ogre. My family and friends were so happy I was back on regular meds.

I would love to say my story ends here… that I continued therapy and stayed on my medicine… but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In my next installment I will tell the tale of how my world came crashing down, I had a breakdown, I read a book, and got off medicine permanently.

Until then… keep smiling… and remember to put one foot in front of the other.

Have a safe and happy Turkey Day!! Gobble! Gobble!

Time to get quilting!

A sample selection of my fabric stash. I just love Polka Dots!

As the old saying goes… The person with the most fabric when they die WINS! In as much as I am as competitive as the next person, I can now say with certainty… I will lose this contest… and am perfectly fine with it.

For YEARS (more than I am willing to admit) I have been collecting fabric. It’s a sickness. All quilters suffer the same illness, I am no exception. We run a quick errand to the fabric store to purchase that last yard of something we absolutely HAVE to have to finish a UFO (UnFinished Objects) or a WIP (Work In Progress). While at the quilt shop we are like kids in a candy shop. Surrounded by all the colors of the rainbow and designs so cute we swoon. All the luscious fabrics are jumping off their bolts right into our arms. Honestly, we are in a daze and have no idea what we are doing.

The best kept secret in any quilt shop is the special ‘bargain closet’ where discontinued bolts sit on shelves like cute puppies at a shelter waiting to go home with a loving family. That’s where all quilters lose their resolve. Fabrics you couldn’t justify purchasing at full price just because you liked it, now become a ‘must have’ at 40% off. Oh look! If you purchase the whole bolt you save 50%!!!! Woo! Hoo! What a bargain! You may not have a project in mind for this fabric… but who cares. Certainly a design will pop up somewhere that will be perfect for this… you reason.

Once home, you are so proud of yourself. You saved so much money (yeah right… most likely you spent more than your weekly food budget). You take the fabric out of the bag, stroke it (or should I say ‘pet’ it), and think of all the fabulous things you can make with this 5 yards of goodness. Then you neatly fold the yardage and place it among the other ‘strays’ you brought home… and forgot about.

Hmmm…. Maybe ‘forgot about’ is too strong a statement. It’s just that newer fabric has caught our attention. Also… sometimes a particular fabric is so special you simply don’t want to cut into it. Whatever the reason, you now find every nook and cranny overflowing with fabric. Your laundry room, the trunk of your car, under your bed, every closet, the attic, the basement… all the places you can think of to hide it from your husband. Wouldn’t he FREAK if he knew how much fabric you REALY had??? Shhhh… I’ll never tell.

Hide no more my fabulous fabric stash. It’s time to come out of hiding and be proud! It’s GAME TIME! My stash has waited patiently for this very moment… to be sewn into quilts spreading warmth to families devastated by Storm Sandy.

The first family to receive quilts is a retired couple from Seabright, NJ. They lost absolutely everything! The man is a fishing fanatic and the woman takes care of stray cats. I have the absolute perfect quilts in mind for them. I am so excited… I can’t wait to get started. I will post pictures as I go.

All quilts are made with top quality 100% quilter’s cotton, layered with 100% cotton batting for comfort and warmth, and are large enough to wrap up in or cover a twin size bed. Each quilt is custom made for the recipient. Favorite colors, likes and dislikes are considered before the first square is cut. My stash is HUGE and includes florals, geometrics, fireman, Dr. Seuss, batiks, and so much more.  I am ready to sew for children of all ages and adults. I prefer a more modern approach to quilting using fresh, clean designs… but have a few traditional ideas up my sleeve to pull out when needed. If you know of a deserving family please do not hesitate to contact me at

Let’s keep New Jersey WARM this winter!



For those of you who aren’t familiar… this is TILLIE. He is the famous Asbury Park icon. Sandy couldn’t slap the silly grin off his face!!! He is still smiling and will pull through this mess.

I drove home from the south today and noticed a ‘changing of the guard’ of the power trucks. For every truck of weary workers, I saw the same amount coming our way. Fresh workers mean faster workers. The trucks I followed around the Asbury Park Circle had Florida tags. Direct TV also had trucks coming north.

I came home to a mold infested basement, icky refrigerator, tree limbs in my yard, and near dead house plants. All in all not too bad. I am sooooooo fortunate!

Sewing quilts will be my passion for displaced families over the next few months. Feel free to volunteer in the comments section below. I could use helpers with scissor skills to cut strips, hand sewers to bind, and machine sewers to piece. Also… donations of batting is greatly appreciated… or a gift certificate to Jo-Ann’s to purchase batting. I only use top quality fabric from quilt stores in my quilts. These families deserve only the best!

If you know of any families that could benefit from a warm handmade quilt  please let me know in the comments sections.

Thank you for your support!

Aftermath… I am so lucky!

I was one of the lucky ones. Although my house was not damaged… I have no phones, no power, no heat, and the water is quickly creeping up my basement steps. I am certainly not complaining… Again… I am one of the lucky ones.

Emerging from my home on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 7:30AM to assess the damage from Hurricane Sandy, I was met by my neighbors doing the same thing. Everyone was walking around like zombies not believing their eyes. The upheaval of trees, docks, canoes, and power lines made our street look like a war zone.


My street sign, blocked off

First on my personal inventory list were my kids and dogs. Everyone is fine. OK… move on down the list I told myself… check the house.

I began to relax as I quickly made my assessment. No tree branches crashed through my front window as I feared. My roof was still in place. Other than a lawn littered with leaves and debris… nothing was amiss.

Swaying Power Lines… very scary. I had to move my car ‘Just In Case’.

Looking across the street…the swaying telephone/electric pole stopped at a 45 degree angle… and did not fall as I just knew it would. The canoes didn’t fair as well. Docks were tossed around like King Kong was playing with toys and got bored. The canoes were hanging on with all their might trying not to sink.

Canoes hanging on!

Further down the street a huge, old, majestic tree gave up and let the strong wind gusts knock it over, taking the street light pole and wires with it. Now it lay tired and dead across the road blocking traffic.

One of the many reasons we didn’t have power.


I widened my circle of comfort, checking each layer like peeling an onion as I go. Each layer getting worse and worse as I move down the road… and me having to process what I am seeing before moving on.



Downed trees are becoming a common sight, no longer eliciting a gasp from my lips. They are just a normal part of the surrounding scenery. They lie across roads, on roofs, over electric wires, in yards. They are everywhere! Huge dead trees, roots exposed and most times pulling the sidewalk up with them. Some hit houses and left gaping holes in rooftops, or tore off a corner of the house as it fell; others did not.

My eyes refocus as I near the beach. My mouth drops open, not a sound escapes. I am stunned into silence as I notice the damage. Allenhurst Beach Club no longer exists. The beautiful seaside bar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Mr. C’s  Bar and Grill is gone. No longer will I be able to soothe my soul sitting at that bar watching the waves roll in… or delight in the sight of a fully lit Christmas Tree in the sand. Oh no! My bench!!! I turn and frantically search for the bench… my heart racing. Celeste Vacarro’s bench where I sit and write every chance I get… where is it??? The boardwalk has been tossed up and out of the way. Cement and wooden benches broken apart from the force of the waves… but there sits my bench… in one piece, at the end of Spier Ave… just where I left it.

‘MY” bench was the first to be unharmed in the storm. It is at the very bottom of this photo. Ahhhh….

As a person suffering from PTSD I don’t know how to explain to you how important having a ‘safe place’ is. There are so many variables that go into making a space the PERFECT spot that they are very difficult to find. I have already had one space ‘disappear’ on me and it took MONTHS to settle in to this one. This bench is so important you can find me sitting on it even in the dead of winter, on the coldest day of the year. I have been there in sleet, rain, snow, and broiling sun. I go there whenever I feel I need to… and trust me when I tell you how well it works it’s magic. I feel like a totally new person when I leave.

Would the world stop spinning if this bench were broken or swept out to sea during the storm? No. I would just be ‘out of sorts’ and totally at odds until I found another place just as comforting. Maybe next time I should look for one that is heated and air-conditioned.

I continued my walk towards Asbury Park. Plywood that had been purchased for the

What is left of the boardwalk, vinyl siding, and picket fences.

sole purpose of protecting windows was now floating in a puddle, with the glass shattered around it. I was one block in from the ocean and yet there was so much sand I thought I lost my way and was on the beach… I wasn’t. Splintered boards from the boardwalk, pickets from fences, and pieces of vinyl siding floated pass me in the streets towards the lake.

A jeering and laughing crowd was just up ahead. “What in the world are they doing?” I wondered. From the distance all I could see were people, mostly guys, swinging sticks at a pool of water in the street. Some were squatting down and picking something up. They were ‘fishing’ with their bare hands!!!! The turbulent ocean waves threw saltwater fish… THOUSANDS of them… over the road. They were left behind in large flooded puddles in the street. Speak about shooting fish in a barrel! People were smacking them with a stick to stun them long enough to be scooped up. Fish for dinner tonight!

Walking home I watched as homeowners, dressed in warm clothes and boots began the clean up of their property; sweeping sand out of their house, washing mud off the siding, pumping out basements to the sound of a humming generator. The smell of gas mixing with fireplace smoke filled my nostrils as I turned down my street.

Months ago I had made plans to go to Disney World this week. My daughter is getting married there in June and we were to meet with the coordinator, florist, chef, and photographer. Since my home was secure, however without the normal ‘comforts’ I am used to… I made the decision to leave a day earlier than planned. Thank heavens I was driving and NOT flying!

So here I sit, in the Wonderful World of Disney where every dream really does come true. I have plenty of electricity, gas, and food… as I watch the horror unfold on TV. Knowing my family and friends are still in NJ and NY making the best of a bad situation.

I will be home in a few days, and begin my clean up now that power is restored. Smelly refrigerator needs to be emptied and disinfected. The basement needs to be dried, as do the items that had been floating around in it. I am certain my hot water heater will need repair… or better yet, I will call a plumber and finally have that tankless hot water heater installed!

My daughter emptied my mom’s closets of all coats, gloves, socks, bathrobes and such to donate to the shelters. I will follow suit from my own closets when I return. Do I really need 4 pair of gloves while others are freezing??? No! I believe I have an extra coat or two… and a few sweaters… and blankets… and….

As I mentioned in the beginning…. I am one of the lucky ones. So very lucky!