The Year that Was

March 6 was the one year anniversary of the first case of coronavirus in our state. So much has happened to the residents of Planet Earth during this time.

I was clueless when I naively stated last year that “I can just get on with my life while at the same time follow safe practices such as diligently washing my hands more often and for twenty seconds and fist or elbow bump rather than shake hands.” Clearly I did not have my crystal ball handy.

However, I did have the foresight to purchase toilet paper weeks before the TP shortage would become a national crisis. We ate our last meal at a restaurant on March 11 and we made our last trip to a grocery store on St. Paddy’s Day. We began visiting our grandchildren through a window—sometimes at our house as we watched them play in our yard, and other days from the front lawn of their home as they peered at us from above. We began having Zoom calls with my mother, which we later learned that she did not enjoy.

Our groceries were delivered by Instacart, a service which we eventually discontinued when efficient curbside delivery began. Although I know there are those who feel bad for me regarding our decision to obtain our food this way, I am thrilled with this service since I HATE TO SHOP! Is it possible that I can avoid most of my grocery shopping forever?

We are eating better home-cooked meals, and I have spent the past year experimenting with various banana bread recipes. I have decided that I am not a fan of the Greek yogurt-infused bread, but applesauce in place of fats is not a bad taste. I learned to grow basil from a single leaf and scallions from the white stems at the bottom of the plant. I have my favorite wine delivered to my door.

We learned about forming a social bubble, and after developing a list of do’s and don’ts, we were able to see the grandkids again, mindful of the fact that cheating was not an option because the results could be deadly.

In July, Dad and I began the toothpaste challenge (Pandemic Challenge), and I am happy to report that to date the score is Mom-5, Dad-0.

During late summer and early fall, I worked on the election, engaged in sign language classes with our soon-to-be five-year old, attended a Zoom baby shower for grandchild #3, and eventually took a trip to NJ to visit the new baby. Dad mapped out the location of every restroom stop, we found hotels with remote check-ins and virtual keys, and we stocked up on plenty of hand sanitizers and wipes. Now we have a Lily and a Willow in the family. I guess we all like plants.

I was disappointed to discover that many Americans do not trust doctors and scientists nor are they able to perform basic research to discern fact from fiction. I know who is honest and who is selfish among my family and friends.

With a new president and three vaccines available to every American who wants one, I look forward to the day when we can return to a world with less restrictions. But as someone who eases into a pool rather than jumping in feet first, I will continue to wear masks and avoid large gatherings after receiving my vaccines until the scientists and doctors, particularly Dr. Fauci, assure me that it is safe to stop these practices. I don’t want to endanger my unvaccinated loved ones.

I can be patient. I don’t want to experience another year like this. As Dan Rather said, “Can we please not spike footballs before we hit the end zone?”

What a Nice Surprise!

I recently learned that my brother can sing, which turned out was not a surprise to all my siblings. I think that after we moved, I was pushed out of the loop of some family gossip. I don’t think it was intentional. It just happened. Out of sight, out of mind!

This new discovery happened when I saw a notification that Uncle Dave had just performed on a Facebook Group called Quarantine Karaoke, and when I heard him singing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” I was shocked. He was really good, and I was happy to see him enjoying himself since his life has been filled with one punch after the other.  It began with the accident that killed his wife, followed by the death of his nephew, and now with his diagnosis of ALS. But here, in that space, he can enjoy himself for a few minutes.

I called Grandma to relay my news, and like me, she did not know about his singing. Now it is possible that she knew but forgot, but I like to tell myself that I am not the only one in the family who was not told this huge piece of family news.

I explained to her what karaoke is, but I don’t know if she really understood the concept. Then this morning, I had a revelation while in the shower. A lot of my best thoughts happen there. I recalled the sleepovers at my grandmother’s house when we would play with her underarm flab, tweeze the hair off of her upper lip, and watch Sing Along with Mitch.

As I told you in Sleepovers at Grandma’s House, someone would sing a song, and just like in karaoke, the words would appear at the bottom of the television screen so his viewers could all “sing along with Mitch.” Looking back on that show I now realize that Mitch Miller was the creator of karaoke.  Check it out: Sing along with Mitch. 

I can’t wait to discuss this with Grandma today.


I want to add another example of how imaginative children can be.  This time I want to discuss my observations of the creativity of an almost seven-year-old boy.

He was over for his weekly playdate, and rather than playing a rousing game of Uno, Bryce decided he wanted to play mini golf. The fact that we do not have our own personal miniature golf course at home was not a problem. “I am going to make it myself.” I sat back and watched.

He walked around the living room looking at what he could use to construct ramps, barriers, and holes. We didn’t have a lot of time, so I figured perhaps he might be able to do nine. I was wrong. In a short period of time he made a full eighteen hole course, which wound it way from my living room to the kitchen and out to the screened porch. I allowed him a lot of freedom but put my foot down when he tried to put a hole on top of my end table. I could just picture the lamp crashing down on the floor, particularly because we were using real golf balls, not the more gentle practice balls.

When the course was complete, Dad, Bryce, and I grabbed our putters and began the game. We lined up our balls on each holes, took careful aim, and moved throughout the course, keeping careful count of each stroke.

We had a lot of fun. I came in last!


What Will We Do?

Climate change has been center stage lately. From marches around our nation to the attention around young climate activist Greta Thunberg and the wildfires in California to Australia. This is an issue that is not going away and deserves our attention.

It is not going unnoticed where I live. When I went outside today, I looked around my yard and saw the evidence of the warming pattern. My encore azaleas are again beginning to bloom as is my loquat tree in front of my porch.


Even my daffodils are beginning to push through the dirt. This should not be occurring during the first week in January. It is happening earlier each year.

Saturday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid to upper seventies, which is what I erroneously expected when I moved here over eleven years ago. I know the children are yearning for enough snow to ride a sled and build a snowman, but that will happen only if they head for the hills.

Not only is this occurring where I currently live, I have read that my state of birth, New Jersey, is warming at an even faster pace than any other state in the union. Since 1988, the Garden State has warmed at an average monthly temperature of 2.19 degrees, compared with 1.6 degrees in every other state.

It is time to act now. I do not ever recall seeing temperatures over sixty degrees during the month of January when I was a resident in New Jersey, which is the forecast for this weekend.

I am worried. We should all be worried. Why doesn’t every person on the planet see the problem?

Forget the Heists

Dad and I need to come up with a better retirement plan because knocking off a bank, along with any similar crime, is now off the table forever.  That is because he and I are now in the system thanks to TSA Precheck.

After careful consideration, we decided to sign up for the service. My days of always being prechecked have ended so going in the “other line” is more sporadic than a constant. When I print out my boarding passes I have been compelled to remove my shoes, clear liquids, computer, and kindle more often than being able to leave them in my suitcase. I am no longer special.

Dad was convinced I had been prechecked because of being vetted by security in London because of my proximity to the former Irish prime minister five years ago, but I thought it was because I was a grandmother. (Who doesn’t trust their grandmas?)

So we filled out the application, had our fingerprints taken, and paid the fee to the TSA. Now we wait for our approval as the FBI checks us out.

What happens if we are rejected? What will we do for extra cash? Maybe we will set up a lemonade or Kool-Aid stand like in the good old days of our youth.

One Small Step

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing: “One small step for man—one giant step for mankind.” I went into my father’s box of old newspapers to see what moon-landing treasures he had saved.

We have the liftoff, which is being recreated by the Air and Space Museum with a projection on the Washington Monument of the rocket which carried the astronauts to the moon. This is a very cool use of technology.


Next is the photo of Buzz Aldrin, taken by Neil Armstrong, as he climbed down the steps of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.


And the most famous—Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon as the reflection of the American flag and Armstrong are seen in his helmet.

I recall staying up late to watch the landing. Thank goodness is was summer vacation so we did not have to get into a battle with my parents about staying up past our bedtime. That first lunar walk was scheduled to occur at 2:00 am, but they pushed it forward three hours earlier to just before 11:00 pm. Thank goodness for that.

When they returned to earth, the astronauts were quarantined for nearly a month to protect them from any “moon germs” they may have been exposed to during that historic event. Even the astronaut who remained aboard the spacecraft remained in isolation with his luckier moonwalkers.

The ship went through a fiery reentry. Check it out.

What I had forgotten about but learned while viewing those old newspapers was that the astronauts shared their big day with the Ted Kennedy scandal. The day before the moon landing, the senator from Massachusetts was involved in an accident, which left a young woman who was a passenger in his car dead and left his political career in jeopardy because he left the scene of the accident. That news put a slight damper on the excitement of the day, but not so much because I bet most of you youngins know little, if anything, about the scandal. History remembers the joy more than the Teddy event, although at the time, it was a huge distraction.

Americans needs something to get excited about again.


Buc-ee’s or Bust

Our recent trip to Texas did not change my mind about the Lone Star State. I still have no interest in moving there (apologies to the few family members residing there), but I know now that it’s not all that bad. Once we got beyond the city limits of Houston, I discovered that there is beauty outside the concrete city limits.

Traveling westward on Interstate 10 are miles and miles of nothing,  until we reached rest stop heaven—otherwise known as Buc-ee’s.

Buc-ee’s is a rest stop with probably 100 gas pumps and “the cleanest restrooms in America.” While I am not disputing the sparkle in the loos, unfortunately, on my 10-point ranking of public bathrooms, Buc-ee’s scored a “9” because if failed to provide a changing table for the diaper-wearing crowd.

Every other item on my checklist received five stars:  Clean, neat, purse hangers, filled soap dispenser, plenty of paper towels, doors that opened out so one did not need to touch a dirty door handle upon exiting (I believed there was a hallway thereby eliminating the need for a door), good locks, plenty of room (although no room for shopping bags like at the Charleston outlets), and tight doors so no one can “peak while you leak.” Although there were no changing tables (a huge no-no for families with young children), there was museum-like artwork adorning the walls of the restroom.

Did I mention the snacks? If your stomach begins growling at you are approaching Buck-ee’s, just know that your appetite can be satiated by an assortment of goodies such as a candy selection which will make your mouth water, sandwiches, pickled quail eggs (I kid you not), cheese, dried fruit,

trail mix, candied jalapeños, an aisle of assorted popcorn, and jerky the likes of which mankind outside the state of Texas has never seen before.


Knowing that I had never experienced this extraordinary delicacy, Dad insisted we try some. When Dad asked the man behind the jerky deli counter for a recommendation for a jerky newbie, without skipping a beat, the jerky dispensing worker quickly ripped off a piece and handed it to me.

While I could see the appeal for some, it did nothing for me. Dad, on the other hand, purchased two different varieties—turkey jerky and teriyaki beef jerky. He spent the next hundred miles happily chomping away on his jerky.

So the next time you find yourself in the state of Texas, do not leave without experiencing the wonders of Buc-ee’s. Trust me. You will not be disappointed. And if the Christmas season is on the horizon, I suggest that you consider doing your holiday shopping at Buc-ee’s.

Back to my Roots

After Galway we hopped onto a bus and headed toward Castlebar, which was the home of one of my 3x great grandmothers (A fun fact is that we have 16 sets of great-great-great grandparents). I must say, for anyone considering travel to Ireland, we were quite satisfied with Ireland’s buses. They were clean, on time, and all that we used were equipped with Wi-Fi.

During our stay in Castlebar, we were lucky to have a friend from our trip to London five years ago drive us around, and our hotel was located close enough to the town that my two-year-old hip was able to walk to dinner and the library with little effort.

While at the library, I was introduced to a woman who allowed me to view the contents of a large box containing inventor Louis Brennan’s stuff: photographs, letters, a ruler (I learned at that moment that Ireland did not go metric until 1965), his will, and a small notebook with Louis’ notes on his inventions. Dad was able to show the librarian and me how those drawings became the prototype of his gyroscope. I had a grand old time photographing the contents of that box to later add to my family tree.

We walked past Louis’ childhood home, which leaves no doubt that Castlebar’s famous inventor had once resided there.

After a lovely Chinese dinner (You probably know we are not traditionalists when dining out), we headed to the cemetery, where we noted that the Brennan grave site truly was the biggest monument in the Old Castlebar Cemetery. Sadly, so many of those buried there were children.

Louis’ wife’s family’s final resting place was sadly overgrown with tall grass and weeds. Dad was happy for the fence, because he feared I would be attacked by a critter or two if I ventured inside. There were stairs leading down to the vault at the side of our grave. Our guide told us that children used to go down there and play. (Creepy!)

The following day after a lovely breakfast at McDonald’s (I am not kidding. It was quite impressive, but more on that another time), we met our friends at the Peace Park and then were taken on a lovely tour of the Mayo Heritage Centre before heading into town for the presentation of the Bible.

More on Castlebar another time.

The Teeth-Brushing Challenge

Thanks to a blog I have been reading for the past few years—The 80-Something Blog—I was directed to the 30-Day Well Challenge in the NY Times. If the 80-plus author of the blog, Judy Kugel, was up to the task, how could I not accept the challenge? I would hang my head in shame if I can’t compete with her.

Each day I am emailed a video with four 30-second exercises to perform, separated by 15 seconds of rest. At the conclusion of the fourth exercise, the routine is repeated. It is not too difficult, although I am discovering which parts of my body clearly cannot do what I could have done during my youth.

I have only found one particular exercise to be difficult, and this is one which I have been instructed to repeat at least twice a day for the duration of the month. I am challenging all of you to attempt to do this and report back to me.

While brushing your teeth, you must close your eyes and stand on one foot. The next time you brush your teeth, switch to the other foot. This is to increase one’s balance, and since my mother has a poor track record of falling as you all know, I want to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening to me someday.

I admit that on the first day, I found it almost impossible to do, and even now on Day 3, I cannot do this with my eyes closed. However, each time I see improvements, although spitting is not something I can do on one foot and am not even certain that it is a good idea. (I see the potential for a mess.) Dad just rolls his eye but won’t participate.

So the next time you all brush your teeth, close your eyes, stand on one foot, and clean those pearly whites. Then let me know how it goes.

Nobody Noticed?

I assume that a lot of people have taken a break from Facebook and texting and emailing and making phone calls for a while. That is the only explanation I can surmise after the silence we experienced today.

Looking back on my Facebook posts in September, I admit that I have only myself to blame. Prior to Hurricane Florence hitting our state last month, I posted a series of photos, beginning with “the calm before the storm,” and ending with a photo after she had left town.

Today, I was awoken at 4 am by the wind of a much more powerful storm—Hurricane Michael. I slept through the tornado warnings so I did not have to stress about where to hide.

By no means did we experience the path of destruction which Florida and Georgia saw when Michael invaded our southern neighbors. However, I thought I would get inquiries from more than just two friends.  Just two!!! FYI, we experienced more rain and wind today than during Florence. We will have some cleanup to do.

I saw the weather maps on the national news, and it was quite clear that the path of the storm went right through Columbia, SC. But I was too busy moving my furniture indoors and watching the water being driven up the hill to think about posting on Facebook.

I assumed someone would ask about our welfare.

Now I know the names of the two people to add to my will.