Posted by: bjackmom | November 14, 2019

london

What can you say about London that hasn’t already been said?  The lights, the sights, the history all set out in all its pageantry.  London knows people want to come and see a city over a thousand years old, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Trooping of finely decorated soldiers, palaces maintained in picture book perfection and a river cleaned up to be a showstopper.  We did it all.

First off, I noticed, and continued to notice while over in the UK, it was clean.  The streets were clean.  The buildings were clean, as were the underground and the cabs.  And the people were friendly.  Most were polite but even the one or two who lived there and just wanted to get to work while dealing with the myriad of tourists were polite.

Second, I noticed the museums all had pieces of the collection you could touch.  Obviously not the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.  This was helpful for we were traveling with our grandson who is on the spectrum and “needs” to touch.  Being able to let go of his hands and let him run amuck made the experience an enjoyable one for him, but also for me.  Just standing and looking up at the roof of the British Museum helped fill his sensor needs.

Third, they have the Tower of London.  It was here that we spent the majority of the day celebrating my husband’s birthday.  He was thrilled.  But so were the rest of us.  The Tower does not disappoint in anyway.  Yes, it helps to enjoy learning about history, but you don’t have to be a buff.  The only thing we skipped was the Yeoman’s free tour.   Frankly we had seen enough different YouTube videos of the tour that we decided we didn’t need another live repeat.  We also didn’t think it would have been enjoyable for our grandson.  Instead, I had reached out in advance to meet with the Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster, retired Staff Sargent Chris Skaife.  Chris has indicated that if we didn’t see him to ask one of the other Warders for his whereabouts.  So I asked a very nice gentleman, who turned out to be the Chief Yeoman Warder.  In talking with his about living at the Tower, he joked about buying a dishwasher only to have great difficulties in getting it delivered.  No one really believes you live at the Tower itself nor do they appreciate that the housing is several centuries old with tiny staircases.

The Ravenmaster is just as genuine.  He and my husband spent about a half hour talking about history and book publishing.  When we asked to pose for pictures, George, the youngest of the Ravens flew over and joined us.

Fourth, they have the British Museum.  Yes, yes, they have the Rosetta Stone, parts of the Parthenon and a collection from Egypt but its what they do with it that makes the museum special.  Everything is accessible.  You can walk right up to stones and see them up close and personal.

Fifth, they have more things to do than you could possibly get done.  We could have stayed the entire week in London and would never have done it all.  Tour a few castles?  Tour a few more museums?  Stand on the Median Line?  Cruised along the Thames?  This only means we will need to go back again and again.

Lastly, they have good food.  Of course, it helps if you happen to like pub food, which we do, but they have so much more – and its all great.  And they have tea.   High tea at the Mirror Room, in the Rosewood Terrace was part of our Birthday celebration.  Gourmet tea cakes designed and shaped in the four stages of an apple’s life, delicate finger sandwiches and copious amounts of tea.  As for pub food, it’s perfect after a long day of tramping here and there, with a nice to sit with a pint and enjoy something hot from the kitchen.  One evening was spent gathering an assortment of goodies from Harrod’s and bringing them back to our apartment.  Everyone got to enjoy something they liked, along with biscuits, mini cakes and fruit.  Whatever previous reputation England had regarding it’s food, is wrong and you should enjoy the variety of foods London offers.

Posted by: bjackmom | November 6, 2019

dreams do come true

There is a plaque in our home, purchased years ago after we bought our motor home, that says “Travel is the only thing you buy which makes you rich.”

I could not agree more.  Whether with my children or grandchildren, I have been to every state up and down the eastern coastline of the United States.  As a child, my parents or aunt took me to Bermuda and Canada, as well as up and down the eastern coastline of the US.   Since then I have continued my travels up and down the coastline from one end of the continental United States, to the other dragging children and grandchildren along with me.   National parks, state parks, historical residences, monuments, museums, lectures and simply standing on the edge overlooking wonderment.

What do you do when a dream you’ve had since you were a little girl comes true?  You squeal with delight like a 5 year old and dance a jig.  Months ago, I got an email.  Yet another piece of junk mail that I would routinely delete.  Over and over again.  But for whatever reason, I opened it.  And there it was.  Airline fares to the UK at a rate that I could afford.  Well, maybe.  But I looked around, cross-referenced other sites and sure enough, the prices were something we could afford.  Within 24 hours, we had pulled the trigger.  We, as a family, were going to England, and it would coincide with my husband’s birthday and it would be right before mine.

Holy crap on a cracker!  We were going to England!  The land shaped by the Roman’s with roads and baths.  The land of Alfred the Great who stood ground in the last kingdom of Wessex.  The land of William the Conqueror who crossed the channel and took the crown from Harold.  The land of tea and scones, Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and horseradish sauce!  The land of my mother’s ancestors.

We dithered on a schedule and a list of places to visit during our travels, but slowly our plans evolved with a start in London, west to Windsor, Oxford and Bath, then east to Dover.  Three major castles, a Palace, a university, a bath and a few chapels/abbeys.  All the major touristy bucket items that even an eleven-year-old would enjoy.  We ignored all the advertisements to do “Harry Potter” themed tours and stuck to things that were close to our hearts.  Not surprisingly, our grand-kids enjoyed themselves as well.

Each city was unique.  Each city had its own personality.  Each city came with its own problems.  But each city was worth the visit and I would gladly go back to each.    Having visited each city, everyone of us returned home richer from the experience.  And yearning for more.

Over the next several days, I will take the time to provide you with a mini tour of the highlights we enjoyed.  Hopefully, you will enjoy them as well.  Meanwhile, I will continue to float around on cloud nine having achieved one of my goals in life:  England!

Posted by: bjackmom | August 30, 2019

learning

I made a decision to take my writing one step further. I challenged myself to write a book. So I sat down every morning after Andy got on the bus and wrote. Saturday’s and Sunday’s Mornings were also spent writing. In five months, I had a fairly solid novel. A mystery.

I then did the unthinkable. I went to NYC to a conference just for authors and writers. Met incredibly talented people with awe inspiring stories. I was humbled by the talent of the hundreds of folks, all there with the same hopes as myself. Writing because we loves words.

One advantage of going to the conference is a Pitch Slam. 45 agents looking for the next great book, in every genre, made themselves available to hear our “pitch”. In a room with a hundred other people, I sat before 6 literary agents and pitched my book. One said he didn’t do dogs. Mainly because he’s afraid the dog will die. And I can’t blame the guy because the rule is: there are no rules. But he gave me a referral – which is gold. As for the other five? They all want to see some part or all of the manuscript!

My fingers are crossed because the hard part is at hand. It is one thing to “sell” your book idea based on a 60 second pitch, it’s another to have them read it and like it! I will second guess every word written once I send it out into the world. And pray that they love my book as much as others have enjoyed it. That they think they can “sell” it to a publisher and that it will sell!

But I will keep at it because even if it doesn’t sell, I can say I wrote a book. And someday, it just might be the next great hit.

Posted by: bjackmom | August 12, 2019

assateague

Assateague State Park, on the shores of Maryland, is on the top of our list of favorite places to camp. Wild ponies meander around nibbling the grass, their bellies perpetually swollen from consuming salt water. We love watching amble from one patch of grass to another, through our campsite and up over the beach. Unlike others, we respect them, letting them enjoy their home without imposing selfies. Our human neighbors wave to each other as they too meander the roads around the campsites. It is peaceful, and quiet, with the exception of the sound of the waves splashing playfully onto the shore.

We love that we are such a short walk up to the beach. Even better – our dogs can go with us!!! Mickey loves to stretch out on the sand to warm his belly. We don’t have to worry leaving our dogs in the camper nor worry about the AC turning off unexpectedly. Both enjoy lounging around with us. The kids splashing in the sea while Isabella enjoys the shade of her own beach umbrella. She is, after all, the princess.

The campground is surrounded by flat paved roads, as well as a carefully maintained bicycle path. Last time we were there, we pushed our granddaughter into learning to ride a bike. With little to no traffic and only sand to fall onto, it was the perfect place for her to learn. Within a day, she was off and peddling. And as I had promised, she gained a new type of freedom. She could peddle off to the nature center or the visitor center’s grill for an ice cream.

We dream of going back. And when the time comes, we will ungrudgingly stay up at midnight to make reservations for the following year. But we haven’t. We still have no camper to camp with. It has been almost two years waiting for repairs to be done.

But I have my dreams. Dreams of family fun together. Dreams of simple days and cool, relaxing evenings. Dreams filled with the sound of waves carrying my troubles away. Dreams of each of us enjoying our days in our own ways. I will not stop dreaming, for if I do, I will be lost. And I refuse to be lost.

Posted by: bjackmom | August 11, 2019

beach day

Sundays are fun days. The only day my husband is guaranteed to have off. Because retail sucks. And because I work 8-5 during the week, the kids are home twiddling their thumbs.

During the summer, from May through mid-September, we enjoy a day at the beach. A little jewel of a beach located 30 mins south where the majority of beach goers are families. A beach which is flat, with a long gentle slope from the high tide line to the water. Lifeguard stands dot the waterfront where all swimmers congregate. In between the stands, surfers bobble up and down in the surf enjoying the lull of the waves. The sky is the perfect blue with long, soft clouds floating above.

The kids are in the water, always. My husband and I enjoy lounging in our chairs under the shadows of our umbrellas. Occasionally, we spy something offshore with binoculars. We read. I write. Or play bocce – the flat packed sand of the ocean front making for a perfect gaming spot. But mostly we people watch.

Mothers lounge in their chairs just at the water’s edge to watch their children while the cold water soothes their feet. A pair of girls run to the water dragging their boogie boards behind them. A father and daughter toss a frisbee back and forth while another father and son play handball. Family and friends gather in groups to talk, others sit and read. Rarely someone plays music. And although the signs request no alcohol, a beer or two appears. Since everyone behaves, no one complains.

I pack sandwiches, water, diet peach Snapple’s and watermelon. A bag of chips, along with a apple or two.

We lounge, play, swim or nap until about 4pm. Then we pack up to head home. A quiet dinner of leftovers and then an evening of PBS television. Sunday’s are our fun days.

Posted by: bjackmom | August 10, 2019

dreaming

  • Now that I have quit my job, suddenly life is much more freeing. I have been sleeping in whenever possible. I’ve even let the kids stay home from school because let’s face it, when you have geniuses for kids what good is forcing them to sit in school day after day? But more importantly, above all else, is the fact that I can focus all of my waking hours on our dogs. When I pitched this idea to my very loving husband, he completely agreed: the dogs, he noted, were of supreme importance. And while the kids have complained a bit about eating nothing but scrambled eggs and Mac’n Cheese day in and day out, we all acknowledge that being with the dogs should be our prime goal in life.
  • It is usually at this point in my dream where I wake up.   Part of me is in a panic, the other part is still longing thinking of the “not working” bit.

    Posted by: bjackmom | July 29, 2019

    baby girl older

    In August 2012, I wrote a blog about Isabellarina. Our sweet lovable black lab mix named Isabelle. Or in reality, Bella.

    Bella and her fan

    My blog at the time was how Bella had trained us. Trained us when thunderstorms were heading in. Trained us regarding food. And especially trained us on air conditioning. It is seven years later, and I can heartily admit, nothing has changed. She is still training us.

    She is older now, about the equivalent of an 80 year old woman. Blind, mostly deaf, but belligerent in her belief in her independence. If she takes her time going up the steps, it’s not her fault you don’t have enough patience to wait. And don’t try “helping” her walk through the house! If you don’t like listening to her curse every time she hits her head on a wall, well then, just plug your ears. She is still sweet and loving, but she will be honest with you – leave her alone.

    Her silky black fur is still radiant. Just ignore the fact that it is in constant need of a good brushing. It doesn’t bother her so why let it bother you? At least that’s what she says. And don’t even think about slyly holding onto that large tuff of fur dangling by a hair so it will come off in your hand as she wanders by, she’ll know and she won’t be happy. She’s also not big on getting her nails trimmed. In fact, she never has. The groomers see her coming and grab the muzzle. Poor girl. She just wants to be left alone. The Gloria Swanson of the dog world.

    Her training regarding thunderstorms has changed only slightly. While she still attempts to get under my desk or up on the bed, she now endures my rubbing lavender oil behind her ears to help calm her. It seems to help. That, and the fact that she can’t really hear the thunder anymore anyway.

    Her food training continues. If there is one thing that still works with high efficiency, it’s her nose. She can’t hear the crunch of chips, but she can smell the essence of chicken simmering on the stove. During the winter, I especially enjoy a warm lunch. Of which I am now well trained to only consume 7/8ths so that Bella, and Mickey, can enjoy the remainder. I’m careful, however to only give her protein for nibbles. She is now diabetic and follows a more rigorous diet of Rx kibble and homemade food. She has slimmed down and no longer can be considered a chunky monkey.

    As for air conditioning, the house is set to “cold”. I tried adjusting the thermostat to a warmer temperature as I was wearing my Ugg boots in July, but alas, Bella over ruled my pleadings. She also has her own fan. A small portable fan which she lays in front, blowing air up her face like a C-Pap machine. The only thing I need to do, other than making sure it’s on, is to make sure she hasn’t sat on it. It has happened. But only because she can’t see it and frankly she can sit whenever she wants.

    She’s 13 1/2 which is older for a lab. But she’s beaten cancer, doing well with her insulin and diet, and does enough walking around to be considered “exercise”. She’s got more in her. Especially love.

    And I will endure any and all training she wants to try on me. She will always be my Isabella-baby girl.

    Posted by: bjackmom | April 7, 2019

    sunday mornings

    Sunday mornings are now my favorite time of the week. My husband is home and enjoying the luxury of lounging in bed, thanks to a retail company that believes in being closed on Sunday. With my husband in bed, Mickey is in bed as well, also lounging snuggled up against my husband’s legs. Our grandson will be up and about making mischief wherever he can, while our granddaughter sleeps on and on in a teenage coma. The house is quiet (except for our grandson) with the soft chirpings of the birds seeping through our windows as they look for love.

    Actually, one of us has already been up and about. Bella usually nudges one of our hands around 7:30, not so gently reminding us that she has to pee and her belly is empty. Since she is diabetic we keep her on a fairly close pattern of food every twelve hours. And 7:30am is about the latest she will wait. One of us stumbles downstairs and takes care of the doggies. Then it’s back to bed with coffee in hand.

    There is usually only one other reason why one of us gets up off the bed and that’s to find food for us. Just like with Bella, hunger is a fierce motivator. I’m no longer a big fan of a large family breakfast. I now save that chore for when we go camping. For it is a chore in every since of the word. There is a variety of eggs to be pouched, scrambled or fried, toast to be juggled in and out of the toaster, pancakes or waffles to be battered up, and, of course the required bacon and pork roll to grease up the stove. Coffee, milk or juice also needs to be poured. And it’s not like they are all waiting with baited breath for breakfast- alas, I must now wake the dead hoping they will stumble their way to the table before their eggs turn ice cold. Once their hearty breakfast has been enjoyed, there is the inevitable disappearance of everyone except the dogs. Clean up is now all mine. Needless to say we have taken to bagels with a smear or maybe even avocado toast. And coffee. We both need more coffee.

    By 10:30am, I am up and dressed, happy to begin the day. Hope yours starts as nicely as ours.

    Posted by: bjackmom | April 1, 2019

    because garbage trucks are fun

    What is the fascination with garbage trucks?  It is because they are big?  Usually green?  Make lots of noise?  Make the garbage of the world go away?  I”m not sure.  I just know that on Monday mornings, between 7:45 and 8 am, there are at least two faces pressed against the glass, up in my bedroom windows looking out.  The first is my grandson’s.   The other my husband’s.  Sometimes, the truck is late and he arrives around the time we are outside waiting for my grandson’s bus.   But they watch and anxiously await as the truck grabs our can, then our neighbors for the big event – the emptying of the hopper.   All the cans are emptied into the hopper but once the last can on the block is filled, the hopper is emptied into the truck.   Up and up it goes over the front of the truck until it is over the top of the truck where gravity dumps the contents into the truck.   Then the hopper slowly returns to it’s position at the front of the truck.   This is a magical sight.   The boys are delighted.

    We are very lucky.  Our garbage collector is a very nice young man.  He makes sure our cans are upright against the curb.  He takes everything we put out there.  If by chance something escapes the collection bin, he cleans it up.  But more importantly, he talks to our grandson.  We leave him a box of candy at Christmas time, along with a card thanking him for all his good work.

    Young and old alike, there is not a boy on this planet that doesn’t enjoy watching the garbage truck.

    Posted by: bjackmom | May 22, 2018

    neighborhood kids

    Why is it that the neighborhood kids like your backyard best? Because you foolishly provide the best snacks.

    I have to stop feeding these kids. They are getting fat!

    Yes, yes I know sharing is caring but I don’t want the wild life wholly dependent on my feeders! I put them there to attract the birds of which I have now seen 7 different types of backyard birds not known to me. But those little buggers have eaten the contents of two feeders in less than two days. Piggies!!

    I only take some slight comfort in knowing that the only place Mickey prefers to poop – is right there under the feeders.

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