Category Archives: Life

Hamilton TO Hadestown

May 18, 2019

It is sometime in the early spring of 2018 when daughter Emily calls me up and asks what we might be doing May 18, 2019. I tell her I’m fairly certain our calendar is clear and she says to mark that date as saved.

I wait for the other shoe to drop and it is a heavy lifter. Son-in-law Marty has managed to secure box office price tickets to see Hamilton. In NYC. At Richard Rogers Theatre. They are going to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary family style.

Marty has gotten on an email list that periodically offers up tickets to hot Broadway shows at box office prices. But you have to be quick. He jumps immediately and two minutes in gets some of the last tickets. He asks Emily how many he should buy and she tells him to go the limit. That is eight. So his parents, Donny & myself, plus the four of them (they have already gifted the kids with crazy money tickets the previous Christmas but you can never see Hamilton too many times) are the lucky eight. I am beyond excited & immediately start a count down calendar.

The year goes by as most do, sometimes at lightning speed, sometimes at a crawl. And then it is show weekend. The plan is to for us to drive from the OBX to Springfield on Friday. Then the six of us will pack ourselves into Donny’s Highlander Saturday morning to make the trip to NYC. Marty’s parents live in close by Allendale NJ so they will meet us for dinner and the show. The kids will stay with Marty’s youngest brother, Craig & Cynthia in their amazing midtown Manhattan apartment with a breathtaking panoramic view of The Empire State Building (until a new construction goes up in the wrong spot). We have reservations at a hotel nearby.

The view before intervening architecture

Cynthia & Craig have graciously invited us over for pre-dinner hors d’oeuves. Even with The Empire State Building hidden from view their vista is incredible. The delicious apps are hungrily consumed by our travel weary group. We prepare to leave to get ready for dinner and Craig sits down at his grand piano and begins a lovely jazz number. I compliment his command of the keyboard and ask if jazz has always been a favorite. He nods and springs up declaring that he has something to show us. He brings out a treasure passed to him by his music teacher. It is sheet music with much hand notation by Dave Brubeck. A friend of Craig’s teacher, Brubeck wanted her input on a ballet score he was composing. Possibly worth a lot at auction, it’s worth even more as a piano lesson treasure.

It’s time to freshen up for dinner and the show, we head back to the hotel, then on to negotiate through always active Times Square to the theater district restaurant, Becco, where Marty has made reservations. Bob & Karen met us there. Dinner is so good and filling but I cannot resist a fruit type dessert. Bob has asked for a single scoop of vanilla ice cream and is told there is none. My dessert arrives with a side scoop of ice cream. Bob expresses his disappointment to the waitress. She is nonchalant. I give my scoop to Karen to share with Bob. New York City idiosyncrasies can be so oddly charming.

Cynthia & Craig head home, they’ve seen the show, but she takes our photo first. The theater is packed. We are in three different parts. Emily & Marty, Donny & I are in the very back of the mezzanine, the kids upstairs in the balcony, Bob & Karen on the lower orchestra level. The show is worth all the hype and more. Everyone delivers, not one dial in. The lighting and set simple and innovative. It’s easy to see the influence both have on Lydia’s designs for West Springfield HS productions.

It’s been a great trip even riding in the third seat cramped quarters. Lydia and I declare that next trip will be in another vehicle or barring that we bring along donuts, both kinds.

The theater bug is strong with us and when Emily decides that we need to see Hadestown, Donny & I are immediately on board. In early 2019 she & Marty have taken the kids not once, but twice on back to back weekends (it’s a great story) to see the show. She wants us to see it. We begin our plans. It’s still fresh enough that box office prices are possible and tickets obtainable as long as you can make the openings in the schedule. Emily goes for a date post her figure skating competition in early March.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Emily!

We discuss various means of getting there. Drive into the city and valet park. Do the across the river ferry car park thing, the hotel is close. Park in the designated lot and take a shuttle to the hotel. Take the cheap Chinatown bus. Take the train, I offer this as a bad weather option. At one point our text messages look like this.

As it gets closer to time and my joking becomes reality, we decide on Sunday March 8, to cancel our hotel room but continue to discuss us driving to Springfield on Wednesday and then the three of us continuing to NYC the next day to see the show and drive back to Springfield afterwards. I agree with Emily, even with three drivers, it’s a lot of driving. We try so hard to justify and finally completely surrender. We cannot risk bringing anything back to the Outer Banks, and more specifically Hilarey and baby grand Ball number eleven due in September. We will sacrifice our monies for safety.

And then Broadway goes dark. On Thursday March 12, 2019 the very day we are going to see the performance. Reprieve! I chose to believe that the day will come when we do get to see Patrick Page and his colleagues perform this amazing show. I still have not listened to the soundtrack. I’m playing the Donald card. He managed to avoid all Hamilton music until he saw the show. A good two years worth of tiptoeing.

Wait for me!


Turns out the kids are a year ahead of celebrating their twenty-fifth and no one realizes the slight math error until we are practically on our way to New York City. We all laugh and decide that it simply adds another fun layer to our adventure.

Epilogue Too

The day after I publish this story hail & healthy Rhyson Jett Ball joins the family. He is born at Outer Banks Hospital in a speedy eventless delivery. He checks in at 12:53 September 15 weighing 6 pounds 12 ounces and measuring 20 inches long. Welcome second namesake!

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Filed under ball family, Life

Surprise AWARDs are the BEST

Middle school grandson Benjamin receives a surprise academic excellence award prompting me to recall two surprise school award events of my own.

The first comes about when I am in the 8th grade at the then brand new Whitehall-Yearling High School in Whitehall Ohio (enclave of Columbus). It is near the the end of the school year and several of us are on stage at an assembly receiving some sort of forgotten award. When he is finished acknowledging the awards, Principal Peel whispers to me to remain on stage which of course I do. Later my friends laugh at me saying they thought that I was choosing an odd time to ask our principal a question.

With me standing clueless by his side, Mr Peel gives a speech about a new academic award, the Charles Palmer Davis Award, going to the student who has the highest grades in history in the eighth grade. He then turns to me and presents me with a beautiful bronze medallion. I am flabbergasted. I have good grades but none of us knew we were competing and I am always beat out by my friend Carol Brenning anyway (she gets to go to Girls’ State when we are in high school, I am the alternate. She was third in our graduating class, I was fourth).

But this achievement is mine. And it is a complete surprise. It has always puzzled to me what Charles Palmer Davis had to do with history or current events but I never asked. In doing research for this post I discover that he was a newspaperman from Pennsylvania where he started a publication called Current Events for his middle school age daughter and classmates. Later he joined forces with The American Press in Columbus to publish The Weekly Reader, my go to reading material as a kid!

Before I move on to my next surprise academic achievement story a tiny addendum. The school year is coming to a close. We only have to come to school the last day to pick up report cards. We have a strict dress code. Shorts are on the forbidden list. Several of us decide that Bermuda shorts, the current rage, are okay for such a short time at school. We even talk some of the guys into joining our fashion protest. Our teacher (self contained classes in those days) will have none of it. She refuses to give us our report cards. We need to get them from the principal’s office. Mr Peel in not amused. He gives me the once over muttering, “You of all people,” as he reluctantly hands us our freedom.

Good sport Ron Paxson

My second surprise award comes during an assembly my junior year at WYHS. Still a new school (we are not the first graduating class but close enough being the fourth) we have yet to establish a National Honor Society. I actually do not even know what National Honor Society is. This assembly is poorly timed by my account as I have last minute homework to polish off. Nevertheless I do my best thankful for my homeroom’s seating assignment near the back of the auditorium under the balcony. I am deep into it, ignoring all going on around me. Suddenly I’m tapped on the shoulder. Rude, I think and do not respond. This time the tap is harder. I look up. Standing behind me is some strange teen indicating that I should follow him. I shove my books and papers under my seat, climb over a row full of classmates and proceed to follow this person to the stage where I join a very small gathering of recognizable students. Four seniors, three juniors including me.

We are the newly formed chapter of our high school’s National Honor Society. We have been tapped into service by students from an established chapter at a neighboring high school. In those days you did not apply, you were chosen by faculty members. We look at each other quizzically. The top two academic leaders in our class are missing. As we listen to the requirements of scholarship, leadership, service and character, we understand how lucky we are. First to be tapped as juniors, as a much higher academic standing is mandated, and second, despite heavy schedules, we take the time to join clubs, run for office, volunteer for interesting school projects, and occasionally even study.

Surprises awards really are a lot of FUN. Congratulations Ben!

Prior to the age of easy burst shots, we decide to toss papers into the air for a final yearbook group picture. Surprise, every face is visible!


Not exactly a surprise award but definitely a SURPRISE this post from a few years back fits in here pretty well.


Filed under ball family, Life, Whitehall Yearling High School

This Isn’t About CATS Is It?

big sunflowers

Sunflowers commission created for Katie. Lyrics by her mother Liz.

I recently had the privilege of creating a custom piece of art for a good friend to give to her daughter who was graduating from the Asheville School. For the occasion Liz wrote a song to Katie that is beyond beautiful and so full of love. As I worked through the design process of the commission I determined that phrases from the song needed to be included so that Katie would always have a visual reminder of such a special gift. And while I pondered I recalled the poem I wrote to daughter Emily when she left for college.

This was before the internet. Computers were for offices or maybe games if you were lucky. But there was no word processing, no casual typing with the ease of back space editing. There certainly was no web, or quick browsing. That would come a year or so later and son Donald would elatedly report via the hall payphone from his world at North Carolina School of Science and Math that there was this new thing called the web and you could search for something and get an answer a mere day later or even twelve hours if you were really lucky.

But I digress be it ever so slightly because Donald does figure into this in his own way. His part is that he too left home the same year that Emily did. But he was always 100% focused on NCSSM, since the 7th grade. He would get in. He would go to this amazing state funded educational paradise for his last two years of high school. There was no other recourse. And he did get in, the second youngest student to ever attend. And he did leave home when he was only thirteen and I was not ready, but he was. Completely.

Emily not quite as much. She wanted to go to UNC-CH. She had applied to no other college. “What if I don’t get in?” she suddenly long into the process realized. I assured her that she would get in. And of course she did. But she was still hesitant about it all. So much change. It was overwhelming and scary.

We were having family dinner one night after all the logistics worked out for both when Emily starts ragging me about our cats. They were getting into her stuff or something like that. I don’t recall exactly what. But I do know that we never fought. We disagreed a lot but we respected each other’s point of view and never ever fought. She even said to me one time, “Mom, we never fight. Almost all of my friends fight with their moms. Why don’t we fight?” I looked at her then and said that if she wanted to fight we could but why when we had nothing to fight about. That’s the way we rolled. But this night she was livid. She stormed off. I looked at Donny. He hadn’t a clue to offer. And then it dawned on me.

emily 2

To Emily

I went to her room and sat down on the bed next to her. “This isn’t about cats is it?”

She sniffled, “No.”

“You’ll be fine,” I hugged her. “Just fine.”

And then they left, the two of them almost simultaneously. Donald still gloats that he left a week earlier than Em. The house was so empty, even with three lively boys remaining. The first thing I did was take the leaf out of the dining room table. It looked so big for just the five of us. The second thing I did was write a poem to Emily. I missed her so much!

I had no reason other than a longing to do something. There would be no blog to post it on. No Facebook to share it with friends. I just needed to write and the poem flowed out.

Several years later when we were deep into home schooling the three boys (we gave it a try that fall since they were going to need to change schools anyway) Cricket Magazine opened up their International Cricket League, a monthly competition for readers worldwide, to all ages. Previously the cut off had been age sixteen. I always had the boys enter as an outlet for their creativity. There was a cycle. One month was prose, one photography, one art, one poetry. They all won many times, not always but a good amount of the time. It validated their work and the prizes were fun.  But sometimes the struggle was real. And so Andrew suggested to me that if they had to enter, then I should too since now I could. I couldn’t argue with that. And on the poetry month I entered, “To Emily”.

It won second prize. And made the judges cry.


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Filed under college, daughter love, family, Life

Two Girls TRAVELING Life

lighter us

Mom, me & Dad 1952 near Hickam AFB in Honolulu

We live in paradise, Dad, Mom & me. No, we really do. Dad is assigned to an eighteen month air rescue tour of duty on the remote island of Guam in the Mariana Islands. Family is allowed on this tour and so off we go, the three of us.

Well, to back up a step, Dad goes ahead. Mom & I follow after getting all of our belongings shipped from Texas and safely tucked away in the far reaches of the partially above ground immense basement at 6416 in Richmond. Our boxes and barrels and my beloved bicycle are stored next to the dirt garage section, out of the way from the simple all wood rooms designed for doing the family laundry, holding the coal furnace, and housing the gardener.

It is 1952, I am eight, when we land on Guam, after a stop in Honolulu where Dad meets our ship, and where we get a preview of what life in the amazing tropics is like. This Guam that we find ourselves on is so new to all but natives and a few hardy government employees that Mom gets to pick all of the trappings for our just completed house down to the fabric for our living room furniture. This Guam is not the one that my best friend’s Dad declares he is never so glad to leave. His, no families allowed, tour just a few years prior to ours is on a rough uncut diamond Guam.

We are dropped eyes wide open into a paradise so pristine and beautiful that it defies description. It is the first bloom on a hibiscus that will bear many blooms but never again a first one. There are no poisonous animals. There are no snakes. Tumon Bay is a no more than a beautiful beach reached through the jungle. There is always sunshine. When it rains, it’s a short shower of warm drops that barely get you wet. But that’s more than enough to maintain a lush growth of everything tropical because the humidity always hovers near 90 percent. And the temperature stays in the 70’s day and night year around. We have no glass windows in our house. Louvers for adjusting light and occasion breezes is all that is needed.

We all play at our own speed. I roam the entire base with no fear. It is my playground. My friends and I constantly make up games that require only the outdoor space around us. In summer and on weekends we go to nightly outdoor movies on the base. We sit in real seats under the stars and visit with our neighbors when the reels are being changed. There is no charge unless you want popcorn or a drink, and a nickel or two covers that.

Every chance he gets Dad goes on short leave to Japan and always brings me back dolls, wind chimes, tea sets and other wonders from that intriguing culture. Mom exchanges recipes and new ideas for adult parties which are never ending.

Whenever the occasion ship comes in with cargo from around the world it’s a mad dash to buy everything. Things are so inexpensive but not at all cheaply made that, as Mom says, “You can’t afford not to buy it all.”

Mom and I have dresses sewn for next to nothing by Hong Kong ladies trained in the art of exquisite tailoring. They custom cut and style to our specifications exactly what we want. We have our own private house of couture.

And then my grandmother, Mom’s mother, gets very sick. I am sure that the message from the states is concise and most likely in the form of a telegram or perhaps a Red Cross phone call because all but the most serious communication is by letter. And in Ashland, Virginia where Mom grows up the phone is still a luxury, especially a private line. Party lines where anyone can listen to your conversation are more the norm.

This is the grandmother who elopes to Charlottesville one January weekend just because she and Granddaddy want to get married and so they do, neither being much for fuss. This is the grandmother that I know as a stickler for rules and no frills living. And this is the same grandmother that lets me sleep with her and together we listen to The FBI in Peace and War and Dragnet on the radio in the pitch dark of the bedroom even though I am only six. And now she is very sick and we must go, Mom and I. But no one, not even dependents, leaves their tour of duty for any reason.

Dad plots and finagles and finally stealthily gets us on a military transport headed to Hickam AFB in Honolulu. Being a transport plane it has no real seats only jump seats along the inside walls of the plane. We are required to wear our Mae West vests the entire time since we are flying over water. Of course, there are no child sizes so I am engulfed in this massive life vest that presents a greater chance of suffocating rather than saving me it is so big. There is no heat. Mom and I do not have the advantage of airmen flight suits so we are agonizingly cold. Still we are against all odds on our way to Virginia.

In Honolulu we wait for a lift to the states trying to be as invisible as possible lest some by the rule book duty officer spies us and decides to ship us back to Guam. We are in luck. A hospital flight is headed to Travis AFB and there is room for us. If you by chance have ever been on a military hospital air ship you will know that it is designed for maximum capacity. There are no seats, it’s a hospital transport. Horizontal cots line both sides of the plane and are so tightly stacked that once you are in your cot, you can barely lift yourself up on your elbows. It’s for the severely sick or wounded why would you need to sit up anyway. But we are not sick, we are hitchhikers. And thankfully the only ones on board save the crew. Mom is immediately physically unsettled. My smirk at silly Mom quickly turns sour. There is something about being forced to lie completely flat on a moving airplane that just does not work. My barf bag and I become much too close. Finally, finally we land in California.

Mom and I roll out of our prisons and stagger off the plane. We breath in the fresh air. We have made it! Virginia is but a cross country train ride away. No more stolen space available for us. It is early evening but daylight is waning. Mom is a firm believer in a set bed time. No fudging, no gray area, no exceptions. She looks at me. “Are you hungry?” she asks. For way too many hours we have only snacked here and there. And then there is the matter of our last ride still churning in our stomaches, but suddenly I am really ravenous. I nod, yes. I wait for a practical let’s grab a quick bite and get you ready for bed announcement. She inhales and one girl to another says, “Let’s clean up, put on something fresh and pretty and go to dinner.” Bedtime flies out the window.

And for that moment, for that entire evening,  we are not mother-daughter, we are not parent-child. We are two equals. We are two girls traveling the road of life together.




Filed under family, Life, Life on Guam

Wanna Go For a RUN?

with lydia

Suzanne, Lydia (future figure skating star already in training) and me.

“We’re going to have a marathon!” my friend Lynda Wood grins at me, “but you can’t tell anyone yet.” The year is 2006, Lynda is the force behind the newly formed Outer Banks Education Foundation. DCEF’s then director, Amy Montgomery, has pitched this money making idea to the board. They love it even knowing how much work it will involve to get it in place. “We are still dialoguing with town officials and all the other players,” Lynda wraps up her secret. I have absolutely no hesitation that she will convince everyone to get on board and of course that is exactly what happens.

A marathon event intrigues me ever since seeing Frank Shorter win in 1972. I happen to have our newly acquired first ever color television turned on, actually it is such a novelty that we have it turned on more times than not. And there he is all alone turning into olympic stadium running passed cheering crowds that line the street. I am hooked. That looks like such a thrilling moment. But of course marathon running is for Olympians and their like, never mere mortals such as myself.

Until my dental hygienist can not contain her excitement as she cleans my teeth. “Right here in our own back yard,” she is so excited. I ponder. I consider. She is a runner. Me not so much. But wait I do run with Stephanie and the girls on Saturday morning. In her intense Beach Pump class, think bootcamp, we are put through our paces including running on the beach.

I can do this, I reason. But I need a training partner. I buttonhole Suzanne Deiss, fellow Beach Pump attendee as well as every other class the girls at the rec center offer. I’ve known Suzanne a long time. Jackie Sue was in my swimming classes. But I don’t know her that well. Still I catch her in a private moment and throw out my idea. She doesn’t take long to answer. We’re a team.

keep out me runhill run hill marker castle We are confident but have absolutely no clue about what we’re doing, and so we tell no one for weeks. Just in case we decide to quit, or worse fail. And then one day in class Denise DePedro point blank asks me if we’re training for the marathon. We fess up and now realize that we’ve got to make good on our intent. There’s no turning back.

We are so green in the beginning that we don’t even know about the sweeper. We think that if worse comes to worse we can walk the entire way. But we learn that the sweeper will pick you up if you’re too slow. Great. Now we have to really train seriously. We read books, I cruise the internet. We make a plan. And along the way some pretty hilarious things happen. As Jackie Sue, Suzanne’s daughter, tells her mom, “Mom when you go running with Sandy I never know when you’ll be back.” She may as well have added, “Or what mischief you’ll get into.”

She’s right. Most any adventure with me is a SandyBeachGirl experience. One time during our training we’re at the Youth Center having a water break when a guy drives up and puts down his window. “You’re SandyBeachGirl, right?” I look at him. How does he know that I ask. “Your pony tails.” Oh those, well I do aim to entertain. More on this particular SBG adventure soon.

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Filed under Beach Life, Life, Running


“You couldn’t believe anything John T told you. He was a great fibber.” My new friend, Buster Moore, is explaining his grandfather and, as history happened, the youngest eye witness to the first flight. But Buster is not referring to that day, Johnny really was there, just his rascally character in general.

Friend Ed Beckley is writing an article on the history of Colington Island and asks me for information about the multi-use path project and anything else of interest that I might know. I tell him about the little yellow house that John T Moore, or Johnny Moore to historians, used to live in and describe it. Ed sends me a photo of what he thinks is the right house, but my description is off base as Ed has the wrong house. I tell him that I will get some photos for him.

I have taken several a few months back when I got the information about the house from Tanya Hill. John T Moore was her great grandfather. She is caretaker of the Hilltop Cemetery near the little house. I could not find my photos so I decide to not only take more but also take a photo of John T’s grave site.

moore grave

John T and Cloey Moore. John witnessed the first flight in 1903 when he was sixteen. He is famous for running up the beach, before there were dunes, shouting “They done it. They done it. Damn’d if they ain’t flew.”

It’s not a big cemetery, still I have to walk the entire thing, which is extremely interesting before I find John T and his wife Cloey smack dab in the middle. As I am straightening the silk flower cross to get a nice photo a gentleman walks up. Now if you do not know this cemetery, it is about a quarter of an acre on a hill but pretty much flat. You can throw a football from one end to the other or side to side. I was easy to spot wandering around.

He doesn’t say a word and I stand up explaining what I am doing and ask if he is Stanley. Stanley is the last living child of John T’s double digit brood and Tanya has told me that he lives nearby. This gent laughs and says words to the effect of not on your life.

He then begins to tell me about his father, Dallas, one of John T’s children, whose grave site is a few over. And his mother May, who as it turns out is Tanya’s grandmother, and still living. He tells me lots more family history, citing the names of all the children of John T. I listen so enthralled that I do not even think to take notes. I ask if he will let me take his picture, but he declines. He also is not interested in letting me take photos of his many clippings about the Wright flight and his grandfather. My new friend is part Indian and believes that photos take part of your soul. Later in our chat I ask his name. Buster he tells me, named after an uncle who was killed in WWII. One of my favorite uncles on my mother’s side was named Buster too. Buster Moore and I are instant kindred spirits.

I do think to ask if he had a relationship with his grandfather. He tells me he did and that he remembers sitting on the porch of the original house. It was a much bigger house than the abandoned current house built in 1954 that sits on about the same site.  He tells me that the crepe myrtles were as close to the road, then a dirt path, as they are today.

He tells me that Stanley would talk to me about John T but to not bank on anything that he says because he fibs as much as his dad did. He tells me a story about John T and the Colington game warden. Geese were out of season and the warden asks John T if he’d seen any. John T who always wore an overcoat smiles and tells the warden that he has not as he squeezes the dead geese tucked under each arm a bit tighter.

I do not know how to get up with Buster but I plan on going back to the cemetery in hopes that he’ll show up. He does live close by. I want to ask him if his grandfather talked about the Wright brothers, not as much about the day they flew, but just about them in general. John T did name one of his sons Orville Lindbergh Moore, so he must have some good memories. Trouble is can we believe anything he told Buster.

many greats grandfather

Starke Jett my great great grandfather

Seven year old grandson Edward was at fall camp recently getting some down time, as he told his mom, before his new baby sister arrives. While we were sewing a bed for shy cat Huey’s newly designed and created by Edward outdoor home, Edward notices a portrait hanging on the wall and asks who it is. I fumble through a few greats and give up, I need to review the time line. And yes, Edward did a lot of the sewing. He and Sebastian have now had a camp sewing machine lesson and both did really well.

Back to the portrait. I have an awesome book on the entire Jett lineage my cousin Jeter put together decades ago. It starts with Peter Jett & his wife Mary who settled in Peppertocks Creek near Bray’s Wharf (now Leedstown) in or around in 1663 and goes forward until publication in 1977 so fact checking is easy. Still the details of the painting escape me until today when I am wandering through my old blog posts on LiveJournal and find this. This first part is about a big birthday party we threw for Mom at the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum. She got to invite anyone she wanted to include and we provided all the rest.

The birthday party for mom was a lot of fun. She was in her element. The weather was perfect. A nice group of family and friends. The Melinda cake was awesome as always, and it survived the eighty flaming candles. 

While I was in Reedville I stopped by cousin Miriam’s house and found out some information on the mystery painting. Seems that the painter, Sidney E King, was Miriam’s art teacher. He went on to become rather well known in the area. He was even hired by Jamestown to paint a series of landscapes. Well, anyway, Miriam commissioned him to paint portraits of Starke I, her great grandfather, and Theodore Augusta, her grandfather. They now hang in the courthouse in Heathsville. The one I ended up with Mr King painted specifically for Miriam. She likes it more than the official portrait. My dad got it because he asked her for it years ago and so she gave it to him. 

And so for this generation of grands the portrait is of their great great great great grandfather, Starke Jett, a well respected minister with the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South. He was also a Democratic delegate to the Virginia Legislature.

Family matters are fun to matter.

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Filed under family, flight history, Life

Paris is ALWAYS a Celebration


Le quatorze juillet 2010 giphy

Le quatorze Julliet from 58 Tour Eiffel

One of my favorite stories to tell on Donny is how he took me to the City of Lights for my birthday. This is the man who does not like to travel. “But you do,” he says. He gets a great deal offer from Air France and we are off. It is amazing. I have been before on a Wooster Group working trip for Marty where Emily & I get to tag along and play. I know just how amazing it is. Donny is a newbie. He falls completely in love. Our suitcases have not hit the floor back home before he is online looking for the next opportunity to go back.

Over the following years we go again and again. Donny always finds us a pied a terre, often on Île Saint-Louis in the middle of the Seine. This little island is in the heart of the city. Notre Dame is its backdrop.

paris artillustrating parisIn the summer of 2010 I get a last minute unsolicited opportunity to illustrate Donna Deekens children’s book Santaland A Miller & Rhoads Christmas for The History Press. I have three weeks to produce 26-30 full page color illustrations. I am pretty confident that I can do this but never having done so I am not at the 100% level of certainty. Donny offers to take me to Paris to do the work. No distractions. Surrounded by centuries of good karma art.

It’s mid-July. Through no deliberate planning Donny has secured the perfect artist’s flat. A true north light. Huge windows that swing open right beside the coffee table which also raises up to be a dining or, for me, work table. It could not be more perfect. I begin. It’s a huge assignment and I put myself to task everyday before we break for relaxation.

Le quatorze juilletIt is a trip full of wonderful happenstance events at every turn. We have planned nothing and so many amazing things falls into our laps. Two days in I wake to a plethora of planes flying overhead in formation. I snap photos and post them online. Donny’s best friend since grammar school days, Dale Newcomb Ballowe, advises us that we are witnessing Bastille Day. Where can we view the evening fireworks we ponder. The Eiffel Tower of course. Donny decides to try for seating at one of the restaurants. He succeeds. We will have a great meal and a spectacular view. Our cab driver takes us as close as he can get. The tower is blocked off and closed to the public. We get our passes and a ride to the restaurant in the service elevator.

locks newtour de franceWe build incredible memory upon memory every trip and this one is no exception. We see those love locks on Pont de l’Archevêché when the controversy is in its infancy (the tradition migrated to Paris in 2008). Donny realizes that the Tour de France will end a few days after our trip is scheduled to be over. He rebooks our flight and extends our flat dates. We will get to see the final laps! The support vehicles are more entertaining than the cyclists. Miles and miles of endless cars, trucks, buses loaded with equipment. We see the final laps but blink and you miss them, they are so fast.

angelina'sdinner on the seineweddingWe witness a wedding procession down the central street on our tiny mid-Paris island. We take a river dinner cruise and see Paris fade from day into night as we dine on delicacies. The boat takes us farther up river than we have ever walked and we are intrigued by the glimpse of a modern Paris we never see. We have Chocolat L’Africain at Angelina’s a must for us every trip.

paris church 2010We happen upon a rehearsal for a concert which we decide to attend and do. It is Paris awesome. We find a copy shop to make duplicates of all my pen and ink illustrations so that I’ll have backup for coloring. Later back in the states when I need to make a few copies of last minute requested illustrations I realize how lucky we’ve been. The Paris copies are far superior and at that they cost next to nothing.

I finish the last illustrations and lower the table back to coffee sipping level as the sounds of rock band after rock band at Paris Plage drift through the open terrace windows. We wander through this summer fun time where truck loads of sand are brought in and endless outdoor events scheduled to give Parisians the feel of a petite vacation. Yes, Paris always is a celebration.

table back summer paris sand sculpture plage paris


as tall as the pyramid

Impossible to top Paris but I can top the Louvre pyramid!


art finished

And this did happen, 28 total including four double page spreads



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If We Could TURN Back Time

time turner

Lydia demonstrating Hermione’s Time-Turner at Harry Potter World Universal Orlando 2013

The arc of this story is two decades long. Seriously. Actually two decades plus. It’s a l-o-n-g arc. And a fun story. In the end.

Donny & I are at Duke Park for one of our grand grandsons birthday. The park is a nice size, not big, not small, Goldilocks just right.

At the picnic table beside ours I see another birthday party in progress. There’s yet another party down the hill alongside a smaller playground. There may have been even more because it’s a perfect party place and a perfect party day. I notice the party next to us because the tables, while not close enough to impose, are pretty close. They’re having fun too.

Our party comes to a close, we make plans to meet SSE&M for ice cream in downtown Durham. We are in the car preparing to leave. We have parked down the hill near the smaller playground in the pull in spaces. These parking places are not as close to our party table but not that far away. Most folks do the same but many park up the hill along the quiet roadway which is closer to the big play area and most tables. There are parking options. I’ve buckled up. Donny is adjusting things. I notice a dad holding his child waiting for us to leave so he can more easily get into his vehicle parked next to ours on Donny’s side. I suggest that we pull out a bit so the dad can have more room.

Donny has not noticed the dad but agrees and starts to back out. I look up and just beyond the dad is a friend I recognize. “Stop!” Donny stops, a puzzled look on his face. “There’s Lucille. I need to say hi to her.” She’s a casual friend from the Outer Banks. We are such that running into each other at an event or party and having a hey, how are you conversation is the extent of our relationship. But this relationship has longevity. And more.

I leap out of the car. “Lucille!” She looks up in surprise. We hug. She asks what we’re doing here. I do the same. We both laugh over the fact that two of our sons (we both have five children) have birthday parties for their sons on the same day. At the same time. In the same park. Right next to each other (that other party right beside ours). Lucille lives on the Outer Banks too and has been there with her husband and family almost as long as we have. Decades. They migrated from Louisiana because of off shore oil drilling. But that’s another story for another time.

Years ago when our kids, who now have kids of their own, were in public school together and Lucille and family were new to the Outer Banks a common friend suggested to me that Lucille and I had a lot in common. We should meet she urges. We both have five bright over achiever well-mannered children. We both like things slightly off the grid. We both advocate for minimal impact on Mother Earth.

To this day I don’t actually remember calling Lucille and arranging a meeting but I don’t not remember it either. At any rate it didn’t happen and here is where the story gets interesting.

Back at Duke Park, Lucille grabs me by the shoulders and beams, “I’m so glad to see you!” She rushes on. Here in the parking area of Duke Park. “I spent a lot of time in New Mexico this winter on a job and had lots of spare time to hang out with Janice.” Janice is a common friend who recently by choice relocated to New Mexico. Lucille is well into her story by now but she suddenly pauses, “Do you have time?” I nod. She tells me about admiring a painting in Janice’s house. Janice tells her that it is one of my pieces and how she came to get it.

Tulips & Bleu Bowl

Tulips & Bleu Bowl

(It with others was on loan from me to decorate Janice’s Outer Banks office. When she decided to move to Santa Fe I told her that she could have any or all of the art but if she did not feel like adding to the moving pile just say. She returned a couple of pieces the painting being one of them. She loved it. But it was big. I donated it to the Festival of Trees. Janice sees it online and sighs. She really did love it and says so in a thread. Gail Hutchison, another common friend, asks me to proxy bid on it for her as she will be out of town auction night. She wants to win it as a gift for Janice. So I end up bidding on my own piece and win. Donny & I offer to do the mailing part because we are mailing gurus. It surprises Janice to the point of tears and makes an even better story than if she had just taken it along on the move).

Okay back to the story at hand. After the painting story emerges, Lucille tells Janice that she has a confession. Confessions and life regrets have been a thread in their many conversations. As Lucille at Duke Park is telling me this I know exactly where she is going with the story. I start to protest. She squeezes my shoulders, “Let me finish.” I do have a bad habit of interrupting.

“Years ago you called me out of the blue, explained our common interests and invited me to dinner. I thought it was a wonderful idea and accepted. Then the day arrived and what with five kids doing five different things I completely forgot. You called and asked me if I was coming. By that time in the day it was too late and I apologized all over myself feeling so rotten but also so exhausted.”

I am listening to this revelation trying not to speak but having a hard time holding my tongue. Lucille goes on. “I have so regretted that day and when I tell this to Janice and ask her what should I do she says to call you up when I get back to Dare County and invite you to coffee and confess. I ask her what you will say. She says that I will probably say that too much time has been wasted on nothing.”

I laugh. Janice is right and I tell Lucille as much. But here’s where the story gets even more interesting. It’s finally my turn to talk. I tell Lucille that I too have regretted that day but for very different reasons. And when that regret popped into my head I always justified it with that was the way things were supposed to turn out and her kids probably never would have been accepted into Choate on full scholarships if we had met that day. (I have yet to tell her that part but I will).

Because I remember it this way. I remember her calling me and asking about home schooling. I remember spending a lot of time preparing to show her how our home school worked. (And maybe I did plan for dinner too but I do not recall this). When she doesn’t show up or call I am extremely disappointed. So disappointed that when she calls later I refuse to answer the phone. I finally let Andrew answer the phone but will not talk to her. She calls more than once. For days I make Andrew answer the phone (he’s usually the kid available). I don’t want to hang up on her but I don’t want to talk to her either. She writes me a beautiful letter apologizing. I never answer it. And so that is the regret that I have carried around. My awful rudeness and unwillingness to give her any room for an apology. Later when we cross paths socially I simply can not bring myself to confess how bad I felt about that day. I actually hope that she has forgotten. The best I can do is chat in a friendly manner because she really is the loveliest of people. (And she’s a midwife too, but that came later)!

The point is of course to let go of regrets. The situation happened as it did for a reason. And to realize anyway that your memory and the memory of anyone else about a particular moment is going to drastically be so different more times than not. You may be regretting something they barely remember. Or remember entirely differently. Sure many times you are more or less on the same memory path as folks around you. But you cannot count on it. What you are regretting, or conversely fondly remembering, might not even be on anyone else’s radar.

Because of that day and how horrified I was at my actions I vowed to put aside anger as a tremendous waste of time and energy. And to give second chances. Few things qualify for just one shot. Of course there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. But not as many as we try to wiggle into that category.

Janice is going to love that the universe put Lucille and I together at Duke Park. At our grandsons’ birthday parties. In the parking lot. As we are both leaving. Universe you are so sly.






Filed under Life

Suicide, The Deepest Hole

It’s been four years

When my brother was ten he fell in a hole. Mom had told him not to play near it. But all his friends were so of course he went along. It wasn’t a deep hole and was close to home. It was deep enough that he could not get himself out.  I was living and working in Richmond so I don’t know any details like where the friends were, or if with time he would have been able to get himself out. I do know that he was not in any danger and someone would have eventually found him. And that when he was late for dinner Mom went looking and found him shivering in the hole. After she helped him out, she gave him a stern tongue lashing reminding him that she had told him not to go near the hole. His rely was, “I guess some people have to learn things the hard way.”

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