Is There a Qualified Doctor in the House?

What characteristics are important in choosing a doctor? For me, the choice may not be mine to make such as in the case of a referral. If I trust the doctor who is making the referral, I need go no further.

Otherwise, two important factors to me in selecting a physician are the recommendations of friends and the education of the doctor. I would prefer a doctor educated at a nice prestigious university rather than at an online medical school. Is that really too much to ask?

But the most significant factor in retaining a doctor, which is never discovered until the day of the first appointment, is the assortment and variety of waiting room magazines. Now let’s be honest. Do we really want to spend hours in a waiting room filled with nothing to read but Field and Stream and Popular Mechanics? What does that reveal about the compassion and thoughtfulness of the doctor and his staff? I need a selection including magazines such as People, Newsweek and/or Time, and perhaps Reader’s Digest. I give bonus points if the magazines are fairly current—at least two years young.

I am never happy to be seated in a physician’s waiting room, so a pleasant diversion makes my experience less stressful. Since I always have the option to surf the Internet on my phone, a considerate physician will have the Wi-Fi password available for my use displayed in the waiting room. This shows my doctor is thinking of not only his data plan but that of his patients.

So there you go. Recommendations, education, great magazines, and free wi-fi. That’s how I find and keep a doctor.


Memories on a Tree

Each year when we decorate the house for Christmas, I can’t help but recall the trees of my past Christmases. While my current tree is lit by tiny white lights with red and gold beads strung carefully from branch to branch, our childhood tree was lit with large colored bulbs and covered with individual strands of silver tinsel.

Done properly, the tinsel was carefully applied strand-by-strand, but eventually, we just threw bunches on the branches. Did we save it for the next year? I am guessing it was not worth the trouble to do so, and it ended up still hanging on the tree when it was put out with the garbage.

When Dad and I got married, we abandoned the tinsel for the silver garlands, which was draped from branch to branch. Some people draped it vertically—tying them together at the top and letting them cascade to the bottom, but we weaved the garlands around and around from branch to branch.

Our First Tree- Christmas 1978

One year, I think before any of you were born, I decided I wanted an old-fashioned tree, so we strung popcorn and cranberries together on long strands of thread and then wrapped them around the tree garland style.

I may have done it twice, because it turned out to be an easier task in the movies, but in real life, the popcorn would break apart as I stuck the threaded needle into each piece of popcorn. Because of the difficulty in creating this magical Christmas from days of yore, I remember attempting to save the strands for the following year. It never worked, so from then on, it was back to the garlands.

Eventually, we tired of that look and bought strands of red and gold beads which, to this day, still adorn our tree. Those beads, tiny white lights, and many, many ornaments tell the story of my past: the forty-one ornaments which I purchased every year since my college days (some a remembrance of a special vacation), several crafted by me in the ceramics classes in New York and New Jersey, many done by the three of you in school and at home, two done by Bryce, and one crafted by my sweet Aunt Lorraine.

Our tree always looks the same now, but I would not consider changing the look. I don’t want to erase those memories.

Is it Just a Job?

It is not unusual for people who research their family trees to secretly wish to find a connection to someone famous—Lincoln, Washington, a member of the British monarchy, or a celebrity. So for the celebrity meet-and-greeter of the family, I will report my findings based upon the categories they represent. More will come as I continue my search.


Cousin Louis Brennan:  Inventor of the first guided torpedo, which was used by the British military to defend their ports. He also worked on the helicopter and monorail. (He is the man who got me the meet and greet with the Irish Prime Minister.)

Cousin Gherman Titov: Russian cosmonaut, who was the second man to orbit the earth, the first to spend an entire day in space, and the first to experience motion sickness while in space.  (space barf!) Grandpa’s grandmother was a Titov, but because the Russian archives are not very friendly to genealogists, I have been unable to confirm this story.

Show Business:

Uncle Jack Blue: Dance and acting instructor to Broadway and Hollywood stars. He also was a pall bearer for President McKinley’s funeral, chosen for some reason after serving in the Spanish-American War.

Cousin Leonard Blue: Chauffeur for Harry Warner, co-founder of Warner Brother’s Studio.


Cousin Henry (Dusty) Briarton: On a mission over Germany during World War II, Dusty jumped onto a live bomb when the door of the plane would not open. He saved the plane from exploding, but he somehow remained onboard.

Great-Great Grandpa James W. Downey: Irish immigrant who came to America during the early 1860’s and settled in Indiana, where he joined the Union Army in Company F. of the 58th Infantry. Why he came to Indiana, and how he ended up in Morristown, NJ by 1870 is a mystery.


Cousin Michael George Brennan (brother of Louis): Artist whose art may be viewed at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

Now judge for yourselves regarding our more renowned family members. No kings, presidents, or Academy-Award winners yet. The rest of us are just attorneys, accountants, teachers, photographers, marketing managers, engineers, nurses, salespeople, policemen, firefighters, auto-body repairmen, office workers, business owners, and moms and dads.

I think we should be proud of our hard-working family, no matter what they do.

What’s in a Name?

I enjoy giving names to things, and this became particularly apparent today as we continued our search for a replacement of my car—the one which was part of the big betrayal by Volkswagen. It finally dawned on us that many of the gadgets in the new cars have already been given names by us. So as we search for the perfect car, we have a checklist of required options.

When we sit in the back seat, I look to see if there are cup holders, aka “The Bryce,” which we named because three-year-old Bryce’s favorite must-have is a backseat cup holder.

Next Dad asks if the car comes with pre-collision breaking—“The Bill.” This feature will slow the car down if a driver in front of you unexpectedly applies the brakes. This was named after he rode in a car driven by one of his Bill friends (there are several Bills in his life), who was driving a car at a high rate of speed in the rain while Dad sat nervously in the back. As another car passed them at an even higher rate of speed, that car sent copious amounts of water onto the windshield, temporarily blinding Bill to a third car positioned in front of them, which had slowed down quite unexpectedly. Fortunately, Dad lived to tell the tale, because the car was equipped with the very cool brakes, which slowed the car down, thereby avoiding Dad’s untimely demise.

Today we went for a test drive. As the car swerved a bit to the right, we heard a sound. Dad asked what that was and I answered “The Wendy.” Having ridden with my friend Wendy many times, I was acquainted with “lane departure and sway warning,” which sounds a pleasant chime when your car drifts outside your lane.

On the highway, Dad was accelerating over a ridge in the road caused by recent partial paving. I referred to it as “The Geoff,” in honor of the accident Geoff had while accelerating onto Route 80 while riding his motorcycle. The sign which warned of “rough pavement ahead” came too late, and as we know, Geoff ended up at the hospital where he thankfully made a full recovery.

The rear doors on SUVs now open and closes automatically—“The Dad” or “The Grandpa—in memory of the time I knocked Grandpa to the ground when I hit him on the head closing the back door. I will think of him every single time I press the button to automatically close the door.

I will say that not all my names are car-related. I will close my ramblings with a description of “The Jim,” which is our name for the closed-captions on the television. This name was born when our friend Jim was visiting us, and we were watching a show where we had turned on the closed captions because the characters were speaking in garbled whispers. Jim asked us to turn off the closed captions, which is when “The Jim” became our official name for those little helpers at the bottom of the screen.

Do any of you have any cute little names for non-animate objects?



Grandma and Grandpa: The Early Days

I write these stories so you all have the opportunity to get to know your family before you were born and to reminisce about your past. It is my hope that you learn something new, maybe laugh a little, or even shed a tear or two.

Today I began to flip through one of Grandma’s photo albums containing pictures taken in 1950 before she and Grandpa were married and continuing through their first year of marriage. It’s difficult to imagine her at a time when she was younger than any of you, particularly as I see her now at the age of eighty-seven, having trouble accepting that she is an old woman living in a nursing home. Trust me, in our minds, we are always young at heart.

They were engaged in August of 1950, about six weeks after the beginning of the Korean War. That summer, the two of them made several trips to the Jersey Shore, some with Grandma’s sister and twin brothers, and other times with friends. Just look at them. Grandma was 21 and Grandpa was 31.


Here they look so happy, yet in a short time, Grandpa would be headed to Fort Hood, Texas, where he was recalled to serve in the Army during the Korean War. I wonder if they knew then that their time together would be ending so soon.

grandma-fall-1950 grandpa-fall-1950









By November, the two of them were separated by the war, but luckily, Grandpa never left the states. I found several photos taken their first winter apart, labeled “Glamor Shots for Martin.” I believe that fur coat is around somewhere. I tried it on a few years ago before Grandma moved from her house. She truly does look so glamorous!





They didn’t know when they would be married. It all depended on when Grandpa would be given a leave. In the meantime, her girlfriends, Weezie and Geri, gave her a shower in February 1951. The table decoration was labeled “A soldier and bride.”


soldier-and-the-bride shower-with-bffs



They stopped in many states along the way, beginning first at a Civil War museum in Virginia, then on to the rolling hills of Tennessee, across the Mississippi River to West Memphis Arkansas (just like we all did back in 1995), and finally arriving in Texas where they lived for just five hellish months–according to Grandma. She really hated the Lone Star State. (As you may notice, Grandma completely ignored Delaware and Maryland.)

She and Grandpa played army, as shown in the next two photos.
korean-soldier grandma-and-tank-copy







They had time for fun when Grandpa was not doing army work. Just look at that rather risque outfit on your grandmother.  Wow!


The return trip took them through Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia, and our nation’s capital. The trip was slow, because that car they drove did not travel the same speeds we are accustomed to today, and the road system with all those multi-lane interstates did not exist at that time.

Soon they were back in Boonton–the home of Grandma’s people.





A Peek Back in Time- Part 2

What did you think about and worry about when you were ten? You all had the same fifth grade teacher who you all liked. Did you worry about school, did you think about current events, did you think about your future careers, or did you and your friends talk about love, marriage, and children?

In 1940 and 1941, Grandma and her friends wrote primarily about their future as wives and mothers. Are you all horrified that this topic consumed more pages than any other subject?

July 1: Jean now/Jean forever/Carey now/But not forever-Your chum Phyllis (Phyl)-                     Don’t you just love the use of the word chum? Does anyone ever use that term in reference to a friend anymore? Maybe we should try to resurrect that word in the same way Aunt Ellen and I are trying to bring back “feeling groovy.”

Eleanor Crane


June 26: May you live long and be happily blessed/With twenty children/Ten on each knee.-Eleanor Crane

I need to do Eleanor Crane’s family tree and see just how many children she ended up having. Fortunately, Grandma ignored that advice.


Arlene- 2


Undated: Aunt Ar just can’t keep her paws from Grandma’s book. Lucky for her, she grew up to be the best daughter of us all.

2 in a car / 2 little kisses

2 weeks later/ Mr. and Mrs.



Barbara Merchak


March 10, 1941: First comes love/Then comes marriage/Then comes Jean/Then a baby carriage.—Barbara Merchak  

This is a classic. I believe I used to jump rope to this cute little rhyme.





Carlyle Breiding (1)


July 1, 1940: When you get married/And your husband gets drunk/ Come over to my house and sleep in a trunk—Your pal, Carlyle Breiding

This is a shocking statement, based upon their ages! Oh, Mom! Did you know what a poor example you are setting for your future grandchildren?




May Anne Avallone


June 9, 1941: When you get married to your husband/Do not work too much/ And don’t get sick or drink too much.–Goodbye sweetheart see you next September—Your friend May Anne Avallone

There they go again! These fifth graders are certainly interested in drinking! Little did these innocent children know that just 6 months lafter these words were written, many of their older brothers would be going off to war.


June Ratley


June 26, 1940 (Morristown, NJ): Hair was made to comb and curl/Cheeks were made to flush/Eyes were made to flirt with boys/and lips were made to “Oh hush.”–June Ratley

I will discuss at a later date, all the boyfriends Grandma had as a high school student just four years later. Based on this book, it is not at all surprising.




Barbara Morrison


June 26, 1940: To have enough room in this book for you and your lover/  Poor little me has to write on the cover.—Barbara Morrison

Notice the telephone number: “0437W”- 5 characters — That’s it! Now we need to dial ten in so many places. (Not at my house yet!)





June 20, 1941: May God and His Blessed Mother protect and bless you now and always.

I will have to ask Grandma if she has any stories about sister Caritas. Some of the nuns she was quite fond of. One sent her off to deliver a note to another nun, and I believe that Grandma peaked out it. Uh oh!


When these words were written in this book, no one knew how much their world would be changing in a very short time—rationing, war, death. I am glad they had this time of innocence.