Snapdragon, Lighthouses and Windy Beaches

Lauren Deal’s Classroom First Flight High School

Jerry and I flew to Norfolk, Virginia and then drove to the Outer Banks last week.  When the kids were young, we drove down every summer for a week (sometimes two weeks when we were feeling rich) to ride those huge waves that weren’t freezing like the ones on the Cape, to kayak in the marshes,to walk the endless beaches and see the sunrises over the ocean in the morning and the sunsets over the sound in the evening.  We loved it there.  Jerry and I even thought about retiring there (so glad we didn’t!) And when we decided to move to Florida and I told Erin, there was silence and then a pained, “Does that mean we’ll never go to the Outer Banks again?”

And we haven’t been back until last week.

We drove over the bridge and onto the island seeing familiar landmarks and changes.  We checked in and did what we always did when we arrived on the Banks…headed to the beach. The waves were just as huge as I remembered them.  The dunes were just as wild and free.  But we had always been there in the summer and oh my, it was cold. And the wind was fierce, blowing stinging sand against my legs.  Our walk was a tad shorter than I thought it would be.  There was a gazebo up near the hotel that was a bit more sheltered.  I went there to sit and stare.  The beach was just too brutal for me.

We were on the Banks for visit a classroom at First Flight High School.  Each year,  Anne and Clark Knickerbocker, my sister and her husband, fund several grants designed to get books in the hands of kids who might not otherwise have them though Snapdragon Foundation.  Lauren Deal, a Freshman English teacher, wrote a marvelous grant proposal requesting books for her classroom, books her kids would want to read.  She explained that she had an extensive classroom collection, that she had bought a lot of the books herself and done her fair share of hitting tag sales, writing grants, finding every way possible to get the books she knew her kids would love.

Bodie Island Light

I had read her grant proposal and had done my fair share of getting books for my own classroom but nothing prepared me for the incredible collection in her room.  Ceiling to floor bookshelves on two walls, lamps and comfortable chairs as well as the typical desk and chair arrangements in tables that looked like my fifth grade classroom.  Even as I talked with Lauren, my eyes kept roaming the room. I just wanted to browse her shelves and take down the titles of books to read!

We arrived during her prep.  A few kids were “hanging out” and others dropped in to return books or borrow one, to tell her they loved the last book she recommended.  Her class arrived and it was so obvious that these kids were in good hands.  Lucky kids to have a teacher like Lauren.  Lucky Lauren to have a principal who “let” her find her own way to educate the kids in her class.

I just saw a tweet Lauren posted on Twitter:

Kid:  I need a book to read.

Me: (Lauren) What are you in the mood for?

Kid:  Something murdery.

It made me smile.

Modelof Wright Brothers’ Plane

Jerry and I were on the Outer Banks for less than 48 hours but we certainly filled “the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.”  We visit two lighthouses– I climbed one of them (240 steps) and we visited two wildlife sanctuaries (couldn’t go hiking…would have been blown away) We went to the Wright Brothers Memorial and the park ranger’s talk was fabulous.  They certainly picked the right woman for that job.  We went to some old favorite restaurants and discovered some new favorites. And we decided we need to bring the Texans next time

Sculpture of photographer at first flight

for an Outer Banks vacation just like their mom and uncle had years ago.  They would love those waves.

And now we’re home and so glad to be here.  Honestly, I know I’ve said this before but I really do wish I could be two people.  One would never leave Venice and one would travel…to family, to friends, to new adventures and old favorites.

Sean and Carly’s baby is due in 22 days!  I sent her a package addressed to “Lemon Ginley (still don’t know that child’s name) the other day.  Snowbirds are in the process of heading north.  Damn, I hate saying goodbye to them every year.   When are they going to decide to stay???

Two books…Monticello by Sally Gunning.  Fascinating.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.  And We Were Liars, a young adult book that won the “best book of the year” in Lauren’s classroom a few weeks ago.

And much as I love retirement, I do miss teaching a bit.  Erin is subbing this week and texted me to ask me if I could do a quick write up on Egg Drop Day. (when you package a raw egg so you can drop it from a high place and it would survive.)  I wrote her a parent letter, a lesson plan, a “lab report” template along with some caveats based on my own experience (tell the kids it’s an EXPERIMENT and they should try not to cry if their eggs smash, clear out eggs before letting others drop because some make it down just fine only to be smashed by the next one coming down, put eggs in zip lock bags before you package them, make kids write the lab report and analyze why certain things work and others don’t)  Egg Drop at Center School had turned into a major event with five second grade classes, parents, kindergarten and first grade cheering…I always did one myself.  My favorite was when I just tied it between two teddy bears (who unfortunately looked like they were having sex) Egg survived just fine but as far as I know it was unfertilized!

Happy Spring, everyone. I hear it’s warming up in Massachusetts.  Yay. It’s about time!

Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla

On my way up!

From the top of the steps




Sea Turtles and Toddlers

Just a quick update on Story Hour at the library.  I did my best.  Honest, I did. But I think the only time I had the two year olds in the group was when we were pretending to be turtle eggs that then hatched, crawled to the surface and made a run for the sea.  They swam around, ate sea grass and finally crawled back on the beach to dig a hole and lay their eggs.

The rest of the time, the little ones played with the ping pong balls (eggs) and tiny little turtle figurines I had bought to show them the size of the hatchlings.  Didn’t matter what I was doing.  They did their own thing.

The “big kids” were easy.  They were with me every minute.  And, let’s face it, it was still fun.  And Wilma, one of our Coastal Wildlife Club leaders, says the little ones were actually taking in a lot.  I’ll choose to believe her.

And they loved the craft…paper plate turtles.  And yes, I’d do it again next year.  And try again to figure out how to hold those kids for more than ten seconds!

It’s all good, isn’t it?  Kids are so absolutely beautiful.  Look at this little one.  She’s “reading” the book and telling everything she now knows about sea turtles…which is a LOT!




April Already?

Orchid at Selby Gardens

Okay, so my idea of a cold winter and what many of you think of as cold are light years apart but honest, it was a cold winter.  At least parts of it were.  When I have to wear long underwear and several layers of jackets and hats and socks and gloves to yoga, it’s cold. When I look at the temperature outside early in the morning and the wind speed and roll over and go back to sleep it’s REALLY, REALLY cold (like 40!) Well, spring (summer!) is here.  Cool gorgeous mornings (well sometimes it’s so foggy you can’t see the horizon) and hot afternoons (back to exercising in the pool reading People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly.  I only read them when I exercise in the pool so there’s a big pile of them on the bottom shelf of my coffee table.  I can sail through at least three or four in thirty minutes. I know so few of the newest celebrities and TV stars that it’s easy to get through the magazines. I only read the articles about people I recognize. Which is why I can get through four magazines in thirty minutes.

Listening to speeches with Paula

Since we got back from Texasg, we’ve been busy.  (when are we NOT busy?)  Friends from Massachusetts, Nina and Billie, were here (not at our place, at their own) and we got together with them for assorted stuff.  We went to the theater to see The Things They Carried, a one man show that blew us away.  Did you read the book?  It’s about Vietnam and so good. The show itself was moving but looking around at the audience and seeing them as they left was equally haunting.  Most of the audience were people our age and it was clear many of them had been to Vietnam.  All you had to do was stand quietly and listen to bits of talk as people left…the pain is still there.

Nice crowd in Sarasota

A group of us went to Sarasota on March 24 for the March for Life.  Honestly, I can’t remember feeling so much hope since the Women’s March in January, 2017. I usually don’t like to stand around and listen to one speech after another but these kids were incredible.  People left to start marching but I needed to hear every one of them. They were passionate; they were brave; they were strong and not one of them was over twenty years old.  These kids are going to save us all.

Good friends and fellow marchers

Jerry and I are going to California in May.  We’re starting out in San Francisco, visiting some of Jerry’s family in the area and doing the typical tourist stuff (we’ve never been there)  We’ll make our way down the Pacific Coast Highway slowly ( I hear it’s gorgeous) UNLESS a little girl shows up early.  Sean and Carly’s sweet daughter is due May 18.  If she comes early we’ll hop on the freeway and get to Los Angeles fast to welcome the newest Ginley to the family.  Can’t wait.  Several good friends who knit have made sweaters for this child. I hold them and can’t believe we’ll have someone to wear them in less than two months.

I’m doing a preschool story hour at the library on Friday….About sea turtles, of course.  I really do need to find a new area of expertise.  It’s the only thing I know much about, I guess. I did a program last year. It was fun but honestly it was like herding kittens. The older ones (three and four year olds) stayed with me but the younger ones (2 and under) just wandered away if I was too boring. (Mighty humbling)  I’ve planned better this time (I think)  I have a story but I’ve also got a lot of movement (yoga poses, crawling, swimming, hatching out of eggs) and a call and response kind of song I made up.  And a craft.  An easy craft.  My challenge is to keep those tiny tots with me for the whole time. Ha!  We’ll see how that goes.

Books:  One for the Murphys. Okay, it’s a kids’ book but, oh my, I just loved it.  It’s about a foster kid and it rings so true.  And of course, it made me cry.

The Rules Do Not Apply is a memoir.  Ariel Levy writes for the New Yorker. This is a powerful piece of writing









A few more pictures…

Selby Gardens

Declan…cool catcher

My two favorite travelers

Calli…Spring in Texas

Sandhill Crane family outside of the library

Texas Tales

Warming up


Erin and Lana are in Europe on a school trip.  Brent is home but leaves for work at 7:00 and gets home around 7:00.  So Jerry and I are in Flower Mound to make sure Declan and Calli are fed and dressed and in school on time and make it to swim team practice, baseball, art lessons.  And make sure laundry is done, food is on the table every evening and people remember to brush their teeth, do their homework and take a shower. Oh, and they need formal dress uniforms (shirt and tie) on a particular day, gym shirts on another, regular uniforms on another.

When we’ve done this before, it hasn’t been particularly easy.  It’s not that we didn’t love it but toddlers and preschoolers are not easy and besides, they tend to be home a lot.  Elementary kids get dropped off at school around 8:00 and don’t need to be picked up until 3:30.  For the first time in my life, I’m seeing what it might have been like to be  suburban mom with no job to run to after I got rid of the kids every morning.  Trust me, it’s great.  I need lots of reminding (Nana, did you make our sandwiches?  Nana, I can’t find my tie.  Nana, would you do my hair in a high pony tail?) but this is a piece of cake compared to life with preschoolers.

Calli’s class

Today was a busy one.  I did sea turtle lessons in second and fourth grade.  Declan’s teacher let me stay as long as I wanted.  I called it quits after 2 1/2 hours.  The kids were still going strong but I needed a break.  We had a video (Cara, of course) and craft, and games and a book and assorted activities to keep the kids busy and learning.  Lots of fun.  Fourth grade was shorter…only an hour and a half. They did need to get to math on time. Still, I had a wonderful time.  There is something magical about sea turtles and something magical about introducing kids to them.  I just love it.

Declan checking out his turtle book

Declan’s second grade

Loved being back in the classroom but oh my, by the end of the day my voice was gone and I was so glad I didn’t have to do anything besides nag kids to do their homework and get dinner on the table.   I doubt I could have done much more.  It may be my age but my guess it’s that I’m just not used to it.  I remember feeling this way for the first few weeks of school every single year.  Once I got back into the rhythm of school days, I wasn’t quite so trashed.

Before we came to Flower Mound, we spent a couple days in Houston at MD Anderson.  Even though I’m feeling fine, I hold my breath until the doctor comes in and says, “Scans were clear. Blood work looks good.  You’re doing fine.”  I honestly don’t hear much after that but I did hear them tell me that NEXT year will be my fifth year cancer free and they don’t need to see me any more after next year’s check up.

M(Monroe) D (Dunaway) Anderson

Funny, when I hear that, part of me (a big part of me) is cheering. The other part is a bit scared.  I mean, for four years I’ve figured that if there was cancer it would be caught early because of my checkups. And we all know that the earlier you catch it the better off you are. So sending me on my way next year with no more CT scans or tests …well, what if it comes back and grows before I know it? Then what?  Funny how these trips to MD Anderson have been given me an incredible sense of safety in spite of my fears each year that they’d find something.

And I suppose we’ll miss our good excuse to go to Houston. This time around we stayed with my niece, Jill and her husband, Mike. I loved having time to gab with Jill.  She’s Erin’s age and so easy to be with.  Loved her house, too.  They built it last year and it’s just amazing. My favorite thing was Jill’s closet with this really high bar for hangers that had a handle that you pulled on and it made the entire bar come down so you could easily reach your clothes.  Talk about using space well!  As you can see, I am easily dazzled.

We went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science after my CT scan.  Fabulous place.  We were there for four hours and need to go back.  There was a butterfly sanctuary where we just sat and watched them for ages.  They landed on Jerry constantly but evidently he is way sweeter than I am.  One butterfly…just one on me…and about 50 on Jerry.  What am I…chopped liver?

Jerry and Friend..Houston Museum of Natural Science

The building was immense.  One of my favorite sections was devoted to the Antarctic.  Took Jerry’s picture there.


Books:  Jerry and I listened to some Donna Leon books on the way to Texas (we drove)  She writes a good mystery series that is set in Venice, Italy.  Love the characters.  Thoroughly enjoyable. And Barry, Erin and Brent’s neighbor across the street (who reads everything!) loaned me The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah’s newest one.  It was beautifully written and made me want to go to Alaska (but not in the winter).  It wasn’t a comfortable read.  Domestic violence was a major theme and it is always so hard to understand why women stay in impossible situations. Books like this help me get a deeper understanding of why they do.  Thanks, Barry.  I’ll pop over before we leave to return the book.

I loved The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe.  It’s the story of about twenty teenage refugees who ended up in Denver, Colorado in the newcomer class with a marvelous teacher who taught these young people how to speak English and to survive in today’s American city.  Probably should be required reading for legislators and policy makers, along with Evicted.

And I liked Isabel Allende’s new one, In the Midst of Winter.  It ended a tad too neat and tidy (you would have hated it, Deirdre) but I liked it better than her last one.   I’ve read several of Kelly Corrigan’s books…reflections on her life.  Tell Me More is her latest and yes, in spite of her life being damn near perfect, I love the way she writes.  She’s incredibly honest and makes me laugh.  And she’s wise.

Oh, and I skimmed Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury..way too depressing to spend significant chunks of time on it.

Erin and Lana will be home on Sunday night.  Jerry and I are heading home on Tuesday and will be home on Wednesday night.  I hope it’s shorts and tee shirt weather there. I am getting tired of jeans and sweatshirts and socks and sneakers.

Below is one picture of the other grandchild…the one I’m not seeing this week.  Tough life she’s living!

Love to all

Lana and Angela in Barcelona






Barking to the Choir

There’s lots to write about but I’m going to write just a short post today about Greg Boyle whose two books, Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir have just blown me away.  Greg Boyle has been working with gangs in East Los Angeles for about thirty years.  I can’t even begin to imagine the people whose lives have been changed by his work…not just the gang members and former gang members but anyone who has met him, read his books, listened to him speak.

I just love this guy.  His books made me laugh, made me cry, made me think. And as I’ve said before a book that does even one of these is a good book. If it does all three, it’s a great book.

Someone once asked Whoopi Goldberg who was the living person she most admired.

Pope Francis, she says.  He’s going  with the original program.

Greg Boyle goes with the original program too. He truly honors the light in everyone, even the scariest guy who walks through his doors. I need to buy his books so I can highlight everything.  (I listened to them on my iPod)  I did write down a few things he said.

The ultimate measure of health in any community might well reside in our ability to stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgement of how they carry it.

Or how about his quote from Anne Lamott:  You know you’ve created God in your own image and likeness when He hates everyone you hate.

When he goes out to speak he often brings former gang members with him to tell their stories.  One guy was particularly successful and started going out on speaking engagements of his own.  And then, one day, came into Greg’s office to give him “tips” on how to do public speaking.

“What you need to do, G” he said, is “sprinkle your talk with self-defecating humor.”

“No shit,” Greg answered.

I would love it if everybody read these book but especially teachers, social worker and cops.  I wish I had read them when I was a teacher.  I would have been so much kinder, so much more compassionate, so much more patient.

Oh, and if you don’t want to read, check out You Tube. There are lots of videos from speaking engagements he’s done.

End of commercial.

Love to all. Have a good day.


Three Books

Today I had breakfast with my sister, Eileen, at Panera in North Port.  I had told Jerry that I thought I’d go to a presentation at the new library at the other end of the city after breakfast.  Each year, the county picks a “Sarasota Reads” book.  This year it’s Sing for Your Life by Daniel Bergner.

I almost didn’t go.  It was so gorgeous when I left Panera and I had a “to do” list at home. I didn’t know if I wanted to go listen to the author of a book I hadn’t read yet.  Not when the sun was out and it was finally warm outside.  But it was just down the road and I figured I could sit in the back and sneak out if it wasn’t positively riveting.  Some authors are good writers but not so great speakers…

But I am SO glad I went.  And I can’t wait to read the book, the story of a young, very angry black kid who had so much NOT going for him.  After one more beating from his mom, when he was just a sixth grader, Ryan pulled a knife on his mother. She subdued him and noticed a drawing on the floor titled “my killing plan,” depicting her with a severed head. She called the police and had Ryan committed to  a juvenile detention facility where he spent two horrific months, often in solitary confinement.  This book is the story about how very scary kid grew up to sing opera at the Met in New York City.

The author hooked me immediately.  He was honest. He was engaging,  He made us laugh.  He made me cry when he described the teachers who had made a difference in this kid’s life.  And as soon as I finish the book I’m reading, I’ll be picking up Sing for Your Life. He talked about whether a white Jewish guy whose childhood  was just fine could accurately write the story of a black kid whose childhood had been as far from fine as it could be. His discussion of race and privilege and bridging the gap and empathy was spot on.

I’m almost finished with The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. He wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which broke my heart and A History of Loneliness, another good one.  The guy is versatile. None of them are the same style.  Anyway, this latest one is long but so good.  I liked it immediately.  It made me laugh even as it made me horrified and sad.  But this book gets better and better as you keep going.  I only have ninety pages to go and I’ll be so sad to see it end.  I love this book and these characters.

And I’m rereading LaRose by Louise Erdrich….and loving it even more the second time.

Okay, three books…treasures all of them.

Have a great weekend!

March in Sarasota

Ringling Bridge, Sarasota

It wasn’t the most beautiful day in the world but honestly, that was fine with me.  You can’t wear a knit pink pussy hat when it’s sunny and  80º.  It gets HOT crossing the bridge when the sun is beating down.  So I don’t think I was the only one happy to see a gray, somewhat chilly day for the march this year.

Last year Martha and I were in Washington.  And we loved every minute of it from the plane trip up full of fellow marchers to the packed streets in Washington to the dinner at Kathleen’s  house later in the evening.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I felt like I was part of something historical.

This march was easier, that’s for sure. We headed up 41 to Sarasota midmorning, met up with lots of friends at the statue at waterfront park and had a great walk across the bridge and back.  My friend, Shirley, took the picture above. She says I’m somewhere in that crowd…not sure where.

I think the loveliest thing about this year’s march for me was Martha’s granddaughter, Brenna, a seventh grader, who joined us.  Brave girl, spending the day with her grandmother and friends.  She made a wonderful

Brenna and Martha

Check out the hats…Martha made most of them

sign and was so gracious to everyone who stopped and asked to take her picture.  We teased her that she was going to make the front page of the Trib…Much to her relief she did not.  Still there was something special about having her with us.  We really were marching for the Brennas of this world who one day are going to have to deal with the mess we have created in our lifetime. And if there are enough Brennas out there, we will be leaving our planet in good hands.

We finished off the day at Walt’s Fishmarket Restaurant on 41…Never been there before but we’ll be back.  Delicious! Popular place…got the last parking spot at 2:45 PM, had to wait for a table.  Snowbird season!  And a dark day.  What else is there to do besides march and go to lunch?

It’s beginning to warm up again.  Honestly, it’s been COLD here.  One morning it was 31º.  Ask me if I showed up at yoga…NOT!  But 30 brave people did show up for the 8:00 class.  And got their picture in the local paper.  Doesn’t the sand look like snow?

Yoga when it was 31. Picture in the local paper.

Me? I didn’t even set the alarm that day.  I woke up, read a bit and finally rolled out of bed around 8:00.  It’s happened a bit too often lately.  Too cold…I stay in bed. Or today it was raining…didn’t jump out of bed this morning either.  I could get used to this very easily.  Good thing I love yoga and my yoga friends so much and the cold weather doesn’t last.  I’d turn into a slug!



A group of us went to see The Post last week.  What a movie. I loved it.  It might be my favorite movie in the last six months (and I’ve seen a lot!)  It brought back so many memories of that time in our lives, of Vietnam and protests and vigils.  What a terrible time that was.  It reminded me that we’ve been through some tough times before and we and our country came out the other end.  The thing that struck me the hardest was how brave they were, putting everything on the line to protect freedom of the press.  What incredible courage it must have taken.

I’m rereading LaRose by Louise Erdrich.  Beautifully written but I’ll never get my head wrapped around the idea that they had to give their five year old away to make up for a terrible accident.  I’m Actually I’m listening to LaRose. I’m reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne.  (Don’t you love that title)  It makes me laugh and horrifies me.  The opening pages are horrifying enough…damn those Irish priests.  Thanks, Barry, for the loan of the book. I’ll return it soon.

Stay warm, everyone.  I’ve enjoyed wearing socks and sweaters but I’m ready for tee shirts and shorts…hopefully it’s coming back soon.

At the march