Monthly Archives: October 2010

Age 7 – Nixon and Spain

Side Note:  In some of my stories, you will notice that my mom was a little, let’s just say, quirky.  I mean, didn’t YOU have a mom who sang with the R&B group, The Shangri-Las in the 1960’s?  I actually believed that little tale, even though she couldn’t carry a single note.  It was fun growing up in my household and it may have been a little unconventional, but please rest assured that although mom may have had a different child rearing style, she loved us unconditionally and deeply.

Does anyone remember what they were doing on the day President Nixon resigned from office?  I know what I was doing – I was living in Germany and getting ready to leave for our family vacation to Spain.  Actually, I didn’t realize then that Nixon resigned from office because I was only 7, I probably didn’t even know who the president was.  But, the first day of our vacation was on August 8, 1974, the day he did indeed resign.

I was so excited because I couldn’t remember the last vacation we had…ever.  We would take day trips to the beach when we lived in New Jersey, but that was about it.  So, off we went, car packed to the gills with our luggage to spend a glorious week in Spain and we were thrilled beyond words.

Unfortunately, that thrill was very quickly crushed.  When we reached the highway, we were immediately met with nothing but dead stop, bumper-to-bumper traffic that went as far as the eye could see.  My dad, the ever clever man, tried to find ways around it.  He took some back roads hoping that would put us back onto the parkway ahead of the “accident.”  Back in the day before GPS, that was probably a time-consuming task.  Needless to say, his back roads didn’t work.  We were forced to return to the highway only to be in the same conundrum as before.

As we were sitting there, my mom suddenly realized something odd.  People were picnicking on the side of the road, men were walking up and down selling newspapers and drinks, and women were lying on the roofs of their cars sunbathing without a care in the world.  A quick inquiry to our new neighbor told us that the entire country closes down during the month of August and everyone goes on “holiday.”  The trip to cross the border should have taken an hour, but took 12.

Actual pictures of our traffic jam ahead of us

...and behind us

Once we finally arrived, I remember it being dark out.  Because it was so late (or early, depending on how you look at it), the hotel manager had given our room away.  The only rooms that were available were the kind that accommodated 2 people each.  My mom was afraid of staying in a room by herself, so she stayed with my dad in one, while Eddie and I stayed in the other (my youngest brother was left behind in Germany with a sitter).  Don’t say I didn’t warn you about my mom!  I very vividly remember being a bit frightened because the room doors were made of that frosty glass and every time someone walked by, all we saw were shadows.

I know you’re all horrified, but don’t fret.  We didn’t stay in that room for the remainder of the week.  I recently asked my mom why and here’s the story I got:  In the morning, the manager found out that an unmarried couple was staying in a larger room.  He didn’t like the fact that they were “shacking up” in his hotel, so he made them exchange rooms with us.  Can you imagine?  I wonder if otherwise we would have been on our own.  I suppose we would have survived.  As my mom always says, this type of thing “builds character.”

Ed & Me hiding from the sun (I wore that suit until I was 10)

Our over-crowded beach

Spain was nothing but hot, hot and hotter.  I remember the sand burning my feet to a crisp and desperately trying to stay under an umbrella to avoid my skin suffering the same fate.  The beaches were so crowded you could barely move.  Along with water, sand poured out of the shower head in our hotel room.  The “clean” complimentary towels were filled with sea salt.  As if things weren’t bad enough, the beds were horribly saggy.  Picture a window screen with a thin mattress on top.  My dad had figured out a way to tighten them so they weren’t so slack, so at the very least we were able to get a good night’s sleep.   During our stay, news got out quickly that dad was an expert “bed tightener” and was requested by the other guests to tighten their beds.  You can’t make this stuff up.  To add insult to injury, the hotel restaurant didn’t have chocolate milk!

On a good note, I do remember the cobblestone streets and sweet little villages.  My parents still possess many of the relics of that trip and those relics always bring back the memories of one of the only vacations we ever took.  Going to a wonderfully exotic place like Spain gets lost on a seven year old.   Maybe one day, my husband and I will take our daughter there.  Don’t worry; I won’t make her stay in her own room.  A lot of apples may not have fallen too far from the tree, but fortunately for my daughter, that was one apple that did!


Scrapbook Layouts for Halloween

It’s that time of year to get your Halloween layouts ready for your scrapbook!  You can be prepared without breaking the bank.  Go through all of your supplies and pull out any paper, stickers, die cuts, etc. that will go well with a Halloween theme.

Here are some layouts I came up with without having to leave the house:

Happy Halloween

I used a piece of black cardstock for the background and a piece of 8″x8″ orange polka-dot paper.  The Happy Halloween title is a sticker I took from Me & My Big Ideas Soft Spoken Halloween embellishment set.  The pumpkins were some die cuts I had.  Use yellow paper and cut to size for photo mats.  So easy and took no time at all!











Happy Haunting

I used my Silhouette Digital Cutting Tool and cut out the letters using the Mister Earl font.  The ghost, house and moon are all cut from paper I had on hand using my Silhouette.  This is great for those Halloween shots that are far away so that you can fit their faces in the windows.  You can also cut the windows larger for bigger pictures.  If you don’t own a die cutting machine, find a haunted house template online, use stickers for your title and other embellishments.














It’s all about scraps for this one.  All the paper is scraps I had laying around, the letter stickers and sticker embellishments are also items from my left-over stock.  Suggestion:  Use the open space in the lower left for journaling!













Pumpkin Patch

This layout is a double layout and is perfect for your day at the pumpkin patch.  Use some old paper and cut down to use as a border.  I used yellow paper for matting.  Die cuts were used for the title and pumpkins.









All these layouts were a snap to make.  Have fun!

Using Scraps Part III: Borders

You have a million letter stickers missing all the essential letters of the alphabet (a, e, I, o, u and sometimes y, not to mention r, s and t).  How about those scraps of paper or leftover stickers from your last layout project?  Another way to unload the scraps is to make borders.  Borders are a fantastic way to get some scrapbooking done quickly and easily, not to mention dress up your pages!  So, get out those old scraps and make some borders ‘till the cows come home.  Next time you want to catch up on some scrapbooking, you’ll be able to do it in no time at all.

Easy directions:

  1. Go through your supplies and get out all those leftover stickers, letters, die cuts and paper scraps.
  2. Take your leftover paper and cut some down to about 2-3” x 12” (or 8” depending on your scrapbook page dimensions).
  3. Now this part is easy – pick some themes and just use your imagination.  Here are some examples of what I’ve done:

Leftover letter stickers, gravestone cut out of scrap paper, ghost and grass die cut from Silhouette using scraps








Age 6 – Junking In Germany

My mom spent a lot of time making sure my hair was perfect and I was told not to touch it until after pictures were taken. A lot of good that did -- my bow is off kilter and I don’t look too happy

Being an Army Brat means having to put up with much change.  We were on the move again in September 1972.  This time we were leaving the States to live in Germany and would remain there for 2 years.  I remember the plane ride over because I threw up all over the fur coat of the woman sitting next to me.   I recall the stewardess cleaning up my mess with coffee grinds.  Those smells take me back every time.

I should be embarrassed to share this next story, but it is too good a memory to leave behind.  While living abroad, we soon came to learn about “Junking.”  Junking is a pleasant term for garbage picking, although in actuality it wasn’t garbage at all.  In those days, German’s did not give their items away.  They did not hand down to family or friends who may have needed them, and they did not believe in consignment or thrift shops.  For some reason, they thought it was embarrassing, so they threw these no longer wanted items to the curb instead.  It didn’t matter what the condition.  My mom had a pregnant friend who acquired an entire baby’s room this way, practically brand new!  What was one person’s junk, was another’s treasure, literally.  My family, along with our friends, would choose the ritzy parts of town and go “shopping.”

Not actual bus, but very similar

Our Junking friends were another family that we had known for a long time. This Army family moved around with us.  I recently asked my dad why that was and he said that he and “Uncle Rick” were in a specialized field with so few others, that they were able to pretty much determine where they did and did not want to be transferred.

This family owned a two-toned blue & white VW bus and once a month we would all crowd into it to see what commodities we could obtain.  My parents practically furnished their apartment in this fashion.  Some of the gems we picked up were a dresser, child’s desk, kitchen table and an entire set of China, among many other things.  The locals thought we were nuts.  It was the best time ever; I can still remember the feeling of giddiness and that pure unadulterated thrill I got before every trip.  We didn’t have much money, so it was entertainment in the purest sense of the word.

There were also these rummage sales that the Army would conduct periodically.  My mother was a classically trained pianist, but didn’t own a piano because we couldn’t afford one.  An Army NCO club had closed down and they were selling all of the contents.  My father had attended and purchased an upright piano for my mother.  The problem was that someone was stabbed to death on that piano and it was covered from top to bottom, inside and out, with dried up blood and alcohol.  The keys were stuck together and everything; you can just imagine what horrific shape it was in.  My dad took it apart and painstakingly cleaned every piece of that upright.  It was a time-consuming project, but he got it to work.  It was worth it, because up until that time, I had never heard my mother play.  She played beautifully; I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this about her.  Unfortunately, after we moved again, I didn’t have the pleasure of hearing my mom play for another 7 years.  By the way, Dad bought that piano for $25.  Before we moved back to the States, he sold it for $500.  Talk about a good investment!

Using Scraps Part II – Paper Pumpkins

I found this paper pumpkin idea by accident (www.   Don’t you have more scraps than you know what to do with?  Especially those long strips of paper left over from doing titles, borders, etc.  When I saw this craft, I thought it was a great idea to use some of them up.  I thought you might enjoy making them, so I wanted to share the love.

I changed it around a little.  I widened some of the strips and shortened some, so my pumpkins are different sizes.  I made some for all my friends and they are starting to pile up around my house.  Once you make one and you get it figured out, they are easy, not to mention addicting.

After pumpkin season, try some Christmas paper and make ornaments.  You can make them and use as place cards when you are hosting a holiday lunch or dinner, just add your guests’ names to tags and hang them from the pumpkin and/or ornament.

1.       Cut up some paper into about 8” by 1” strips (about 6 of them).





2.      Make a hole in each end of each strip with a hole punch and then one in the middle.





3.       Connect the strips together by the center hole with a brad.





4.       Bring up the ends of the strips and connect them all with one brad at the top.





5.       Pull out the strips to make a pumpkin.

6.       Add a stem with a glue gun and tie on a tag.




Play around with the sizes.  Some of mine are shorter and narrower and vice-versa.  You can even put pumpkins inside of pumpkins.  They are so much fun!

The First Angel I Ever Met


Our Passport Picture - Me, 4 years old with Eddie, 2 and Mark, 2 months


After I was born, my father served in the Vietnam War for one year.  During that period of time, my mom and I moved to my parents’ hometown of Middletown, New York to be close to family during this difficult time.  Upon my father’s safe return, he relocated the three of us back to New Jersey to the army base where we lived for the next 4 years.  This is also the birthplace of my two brothers.

During my fourth year, I had the tremendous honor of meeting my very first angel.  It was on a beautiful late summer day and my incredibly pregnant mother had sent my 2 year old brother and me out to play.  We were supposed to stay in the yard, but just couldn’t resist the big fence down the street with the hole in the bottom.  The fence was there to keep people, especially young children, out of the sewer drainage ditch.  Luckily for us, the hole was just the right size for a 4 year old and her baby brother.

Down on our bellies we went, scooting to see what goodies lay on the other side.  It was an awesome sight — flowing water, rocks in all shapes and sizes, tall grass and frogs — just to name a few.  We started out by throwing sticks and rocks into the stream.  I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but we were in heaven, away from adult supervision.  We felt like fugitives, and it was dangerously fun.  Eddie, my brother, stood at the edge and threw a large pebble into the muck with his pudgy little hand.  Next thing I know he is floating face down and headed toward the pipe…fast.  He was too small to right himself and I was too small to save him.


This is similar to the drainage ditch we were playing in, but the bottom of our pipe was well below water level and the water was much deeper, not so clear and moving rapidly


Let me take a second and explain that to say I was a shy child is an understatement.  The only people who I would even contemplate interacting with were my immediate family members and very close friends, which makes the next occurrence so remarkable to me.  There was always a lot of activity going on in our neighborhood.  For some reason on this particular afternoon, the street was unusually quiet.  Suddenly I saw a lone teenage girl walking down the street.  My brother’s life was at stake, so I either worked up the courage or simply went into survival mode, and flagged her down by screaming and flailing my arms like mad.  I remember hoping beyond all hope that she would notice me.  Luckily, I caught her attention and she came to our rescue.  She was too big to fit under the pint-size hole so she had to climb the fence.  When I think back to that moment, it strikes me at how calm she was.

The only thing I remember from this point on is us standing on the front stoop of our apartment.  Whenever I recall this part of the story, it’s as if I am suddenly inside the foyer looking at the scene through my mother’s eyes.  She opened the door to her 4 year old daughter and a complete stranger who was holding her son (who happened to be completely covered in green muck).  I remember her becoming panicked over what could have happened to her precious boy who was supposed to be playing in the front yard and ripped him out of my hero’s arms.  Seconds later when my mom looked up to thank her, our angel was gone.  Just like that, she seemed to have vanished into thin air.  We never saw her again.

I think about that angel every once in a while and whisper a quiet “thank you.”  I can’t even begin to imagine how different my life and my family’s life would be had she not come along at that exact moment.  I strongly believe that God has a master plan and my brother was meant to be here, on this Earth, to fulfill his purpose.


My baby brother and me 39 years later


My Comedic Birth


Mom & Dad circa 1967


Let me begin by saying I am a firm believer in fate and I know that God has a plan for every living thing.  I was neither planned nor expected by my mom or dad. I was what you call an “accident”, although they still refer to me as their “love child.”  My parents were extremely young, just barely adults, and got married 3 months into my being conceived.  In those days and living in a small town, you can imagine that my creation was a bit of a scandal.

My birth story is really quite ridiculous.  My mom had a best friend, Gail, who lived with her husband in the upstairs apartment from my parents of an Army base.  The two of them would concoct pranks to play on my poor defenseless dad.  Toward the end of her pregnancy, mom would feign labor pains to the point where dad had her in the car on the way to the hospital before she broke the news that it was all just a joke.  Needless to say, when she really DID go into labor, dad didn’t believe her.  She went into labor at 5am and he continued on to work, leaving his young wife to fend for herself, thinking as he went out the door, “ha, she didn’t get me this time.”

The next comedy of events cannot be made up.  At this point Gail had moved across town and mom had to walk to the neighborhood market to call her from the pay phone (dad’s Army salary didn’t permit them a phone).  Gail sped to my parent’s house, wearing her bedroom slippers, and drove my mom to the Fort Monmouth Army Hospital where she parked her car out front.  Gail commandeered a poor young soldier standing by to carry up mom’s luggage (in 1967 you needed “luggage” because your stay was a week long and you had to bring your own diapers and formula).

In the meantime, Gail made a call to my dad at work, only to find out that his supervisor wouldn’t let him go.  She called back imitating the head nurse on duty and demanded that he be released immediately.  With Gail’s’ track record, it was not a surprise that it worked.  Dad came rushing to the hospital, but was only allowed to stay for 20 minutes and couldn’t enter mom’s room.  He had to speak to her from the doorway facing away because he wasn’t allowed to look at her either.  In the meantime, Gail had to get home so her husband could use the car to get to work (do you recall the one-car family?), when she suddenly remembered that it had been left running out in front of the hospital.  Naturally, when she reached it, the vehicle had run out of gas.

Me with my Great Grandma Peacock. Don’t you just love the cloth diapers? So glad someone came up with disposables before my own child-bearing years!

Yet, out of all that chaos, I entered the world at 1:23pm on Thursday, April 6, 1967.  I seemed to turn out just fine, even after years of pranks from mom which included, but not limited to, her jumping out of my closet after I watched “The Exorcist” for the first time.  But that’s a story for another, well… story.

Recording My Youth

Remember back in August, I blogged about starting a scrapbook about yourself? Well, starting tomorrow I will be blogging about my youth once a week, starting at birth. Stay tuned for some fun stories! In between, I will still submit scrapbook ideas, so keep checking back.