Tuesday, November 22, 2011

People who make a difference part deux

So I'm a slacker when it comes to writing regularly. I have such good intentions when I start and then it all goes to hell, much like my resolution to stop swearing (which my kids remind me of daily).

Truth is, I did write a page last weekend but then the cable went out and my post sat on my computer for a while. Sigh.....I'm trying......

So let me catch up. The more I look around, the more I realize there are lots of people doing good in this world. They've also been there. They just work quietly and sometimes I don't notice their work until I go looking for it. I'm glad I'm looking for it.

I left off at 11 so we'll start with 12.

12. Unicef - when I was little, we would collect coins for them when we were trick-or-treating. I guess kids don't do that anymore. I thought it was a good idea.

13. and 14. The Trevor Project and It Gets Better Project. - saving and trying to improve the lives of kids who get teased/bullied because of their sexual orientation. How sad is it that an organization was needed to address this need and how awesome is it that they do it.

15. Toys for Tots - this organization is near and dear to my heart. This is how my family and I (my mom and brother) celebrate the holidays with each other. We buy each other a few gifts but mostly what we do is buy gifts for kids who might otherwise not get gifts. People buy for babies and little cute kids but what about the older ones? We try to buy sports equipment and other things those kids might like. The best part is going to the fire station to deliver them. The firemen love us when we go.

16. The Angel Tree - I found out about programs like this through my brother. I'm not usually too supportive of religious programs but this one makes sense. They bring Christmas gifts to kids who have a parent in jail. The gifts come from the incarcerated parent so all the kids knows is that his mom or dad sent a gift. I never thought about those children not getting gifts because they have a parent in jail. What a great idea!

17. Santa for Seniors - My sister-in-law is the head elf for this group. She works tirelessly for a few months to make sure the senior citizens in her area (southern California) get something for Christmas. My mom used to do it when we lived in Lansdale. I'm inspired by both of them.

18. Food and Friends - These folks make sure that people with life threatening illnesses get food. Many people associate them only with patients who have HIV/AIDS but they do more than that. The serve people with all sorts of illnesses.

More to come.....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saying thank you

I can't quite imagine what it's like to be a member of our military. I have several friends who joined and know others whose spouses are in active duty. I don't think I'm courageous enough to do it. But I'm certainly grateful to those who are and who keep me and my family safe. Living near the Walter Reed Army Medical Center allows me to see the wounded service men and women who live in my community. They're pretty amazing people. Saying thank you doesn't seem like quite enough.

So in continuing with my thread of recognizing groups that help others, here's a few groups that do things for veterans. Check them out. Also, if you know of a group, person or organization that does good for the world, let me know.

8.Amvets - I didn't know all things this group did. I thought they just showed up at my door to get the things I wanted to donate. Turns out they have lots of programs.

9. The Hugs Project - I didn't know that the post office charges non-profit organizations to send items to the troops. That doesn't seem quite right. Here's a group that sends items to the troops to give them warmth and some comforts of home.

10. Soldiers' Angels - This group takes on a zillion tasks to help soldiers and their families. Wow - they write letters to soldiers, send blankets, send birthday cakes, makes pictures - many different things to help deployed soldiers know they are not forgotten.

11. Operation Write Home - This is a great idea to help kids get involved! This satisfies my crafty side and my desire to help others. I'm going to do this! Folks make cards - no store bought cards allowed! - to send to the troops so they can send them to their friends and families. What a great idea!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


You couldn't pay me enough to be a teacher. Well, that's not entirely true. I already teach. I teach families, kids and businesses sign language. But that's different. That's just a few weeks at a time. I couldn't do the full time teaching thing. But I'm thankful to folks who do.

I wrote before about one teacher who forever touched my life. Mr. Aiken was kind of a lousy teacher but he was an important figure in my life. Mr. Righter was a teacher of mine in 7th and 8th grade and then saved my sorry butt later when I got kicked out of a class in 12th grade and had too many study halls for my schedule. He let me come to his class and co-teach with him. I worked with the 8th and 9th grade kids on their writing, English and life skills. The oh so cool thing about that was the kids who remembered me. I'm facebook friends with two of them - and they sought me out. Very cool.

I had two teachers in my interpreting classes that made a difference in my life. Nancy DeKorte Sullivan and Eve West taught me things I didn't realize I needed to know. I hear their voices in my head sometimes during challenging interpreting situations.

I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to be influenced by a teacher again. Oh, was I wrong. One of my daughters, M, has had struggles with her teachers year after year. Last year, in fourth grade, I was fully prepared for the yearly lecture I heard during parent-teacher conferences: M is smart but here's everything that's wrong with her (insert very long list here). But this teacher didn't do that. It started like this: "M is my favorite student". I have no idea what she said after that because I started to cry. Really.

She helped both girls through the changes in our family. She made M feel special when no one else could. She made me feel like I wasn't fucking my family up when I was sure I was. And she did it all with a smile. I love her. It's an interesting feeling to be influenced by this awesome teacher who I'm pretty sure is younger than me. Humbling might be a better word. Grateful is probably most accurate.

Monday, November 7, 2011

People who make a difference

I'm trying to keep the idea of being thankful in mind. It's tough when I have crying kids, a mom who needs things, clients who need me and a business that can't run itself. However, staying mindful of such a positive feeling will benefit me. That's what I'm telling myself.

My first goal was to post every day. That's not going to happen. So every few days will have to do.

More people who make a difference and organizations that do good.

4. Manna on Main Street - this is a food pantry in Lansdale, PA (my home town). I've served holiday dinners there several times - as have my children. If you're in the area, Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to volunteer there. Tons of fun and it makes your heart grow bigger.

5. St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church
Phone: (301) 588-4363
Address: 9100 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910
These folks run a food bank that serves local folks in need. When I was a girl scout leader, we did a lot of work collecting food for this group. I've delivered food and home made holiday cards from our troop on days when people were picking up food. So many of the patrons were elderly - and several told me they wouldn't get any other holiday cards except the ones our troop made.

6. Mike Prien. This one is going to sound weird because I don't think most folks write kudos for their ex-husbands. But he is worthy of such a post because of what he's doing for kids going through cancer treatment. The dude can sew. And sew he does. He makes awesome hats for kids going through chemo who have lost their hair. He makes them for little kids, big kids, any kid at the National Children's Medical Center who is in need.

7. Any and all hospice organizations. I have a special place in my heart for them and have worked with PG County hospice to help train interpreters to work with hospice patients. The folks who work for them day in and day out are clearly angels on earth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Being thankful for the work of others

I've been thinking about what I wanted to do to acknowledge the season of being thankful. My friend Alissa at Have Stroller Will Travel ( is doing a Pay It Forward series. The things she does make me more aware of the kindness I can provide to others - simple things that make a difference. Today I met people from various organizations that provide help and services to my local community. I decided to showcase some organizations that are making a difference between now and Thanksgiving. Maybe it will help them get some much needed support.

Since today is November 3, I'll list three.

1. Deaf Reach - - In 1972, the National Health Care Foundation for the Deaf--doing business as Deaf-REACH-- was founded as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization within the District of Columbia. Our mission is to maximize the self-sufficiency of deaf adults needing special services by providing Referral, Education, Advocacy, Counseling, and Housing.

2. The Children's Inn at NIH-

As a parent, my heart breaks a little every time I see children in the Clinical Center at NIH. I'm very aware how lucky I am as the parent of healthy children.

3. Parkinson's Foundation - They work tirelessly to end this horrible disease.

Do you have a charity or know someone making a difference in the world? Let me know - I'd love to give them a voice here.

Learning to Date

While having a discussion recently with a male friend of mine, it dawned on me to ask him "How do boys learn to date?" I don't know what answer I expected but his answer sort of surprised me.

What was it?

"Um, I don't know." That was the answer. I started thinking about it. How do children (or teens or adults) learn to date? That's a tough one.

If you look at my background, I certainly didn't learn it at home. My mother thought it was terrible if I so much as called a guy. There was no guidance. And I had a brother nearly 10 years older than me who was long gone by the time I started dating. I guess I learned it from Judy Blume books and my friends. But I don't really know.

I worked with a male interpreter the other day, a few years older than me and someone I trust. "How did you learn to date?", I asked. The answer was the same! "Um.....I don't know. I just did it." My first thought was is this normal? Then I started thinking about it and realized this explains a lot.

I guess most kids grow up with parents as models. I didn't. My mom was single and never dated while I was around. I think lots of parents are bad role models. Yes, many are good. But what do kids do when they don't have those positive role models?

I've long held on to the belief that the one of the main reasons men are not nice to women is because they were jerked around/abused by women or they never learned how to be nice to them. And one of the main reasons women take it is because they were taught to. So who teaches children to love? To have strong, healthy relationships? Maybe it's innate in us all - until someone screws it up.

I think I'm doing a good job raising girls who think for themselves, who feel for others and who will understand what a relationship is supposed to be like. Or at least I hope I am. I dated a lot when I was younger - good role models would've helped me there. I'm old enough now to make good decisions. I hope my kids watch what I'm doing and both learn from my mistakes and my successes. The successes are much more fun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Words are funny things. You can't touch them. Some people can't see them; others can't hear them. But they're important.

Once you say a word - it comes out of your mouth or off your hands - you can't take it back. I wish more people realized that.

Some words are awesome. Everyone knows my three favorite phrases:

1. I love you (add either mommy or sweetie at the end of that, depending on who's saying it)
2. Cancelled, BILLABLE!!

3. You're right, Judi

Those are all good words. They make me happy. Lots of other words make me happy as well. My co-worker who told me my hair smells good when she hugs me - those were good words. The client yesterday who told me she was grateful to have me there - again, good words. The comment "You're beautiful when you smile" made me do just that. However, the "I'm smarter than you" pre-teen crap I occasionally get from my kids isn't so good. Some other things I've heard lately are harder for me to get out of my head. I hate that. I envy those folks who can just let things slide. That doesn't work for me.

I like to have fun with words. I have one friend who is skilled with puns. Those words make me laugh. Listening to my children try to figure out new vocabulary in English and French makes me smile (and feel quite proud when it's not curse words). Language is an important part of my life. It's part of my job - I'm constantly analyzing how people use vocabulary. The words you choose tell a lot about you. The way one uses language either draws me in or turns me away. People forget about that. I think folks just take words for granted - I know I do. I forget that words hurt. I've had to apologize to my children on more than one occasion. The phrase "I'm sorry" goes a long way but it can't erase what's been said. Life would be much easier if it did.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life is Easy

Life shouldn't be this tough.

Love should come easily.

Laughter should be part of every day.

The good should always outweigh the bad.

Tears should only come with laughter.

So let it be written, so let it be done. So says Queen Judi.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Have you seen my voice? Or my ovaries?

Somewhere along the line I have lost my voice. Really, I still have a voice but I have an inability - a paralyzing fear sometimes - to use it. I feel like a wuss. I feel like I have no balls or, more accurately, no ovaries. After all, I never had balls (thankfully).

It's kind of funny. My job often includes being the voice of someone. I can do that. Those words aren't mine. I have no responsibility for that.

I have a lot to say, really. I want to tell some people in my life that they're very important to me. I can't. I want to tell others that I'm not happy with the relationship I have with them. I can't do that either. I just kind of go through my life not saying much of anything. It doesn't do me any good.

I grew up feeling I didn't have a right to think certain things. I wasn't supposed to call boys. I wasn't supposed to go out - even to the grocery store - without lipstick. There were a bunch of rules I was supposed to follow but most of the time I didn't. When my mother would find out I called a boy, went out without lipstick - whatever stupid rule it was, I would get a lecture. I spoke up then but somewhere along the line I think I realized that people didn't really listen to what I said. Then I just shut up.

Sometimes the quiet is because I have no tact and I know it. I worry so much about what I'm going to say that it's just easier to say nothing. Sometimes it's to avoid a fight. Sometimes it's to avoid hurting someone's feelings. Sometimes it's because I know I have so much stuff pent up in me that if I start to talk, it won't end. Rarely is it because I have nothing to say.

I think people who grew up with me would not describe me as quiet. I was a chatty kid. I'm still a chatty person with those I'm comfortable around. Then something happens and I'm quiet. I think my ex, my current, my friends would be surprised at all the thoughts that go around in my head. I tell my kids every day that I love them. I listen to what they say, their fears, their dreams or whatever it is they want to tell me. I don't ever want them to think their voice is unimportant. It is important. Always.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's the Season of Death

Today is the first day of fall. It was all over the news. It's not something I want to hear when I first wake up. Really, it's not something I want to hear at all.

Autumn has never been a favorite time of mine. It meant going back to school, which always caused anxiety. It means the end of long days, pretty flowers and staying up late (yeah, I know that last one doesn't make sense but go with it for a minute). Fall means all the leaves change colors (granted, that's pretty) and then they fall off and everything looks dead. Besides, we all know what's coming next. Snow. I hate being cold.

People start wearing sad colors. Browns, oranges, yellows - they look pretty on leaves but not on clothes. I like bright purple, turquoise and pink - spring colors. Sweaters are good. They not only keep me warm but hide me. I like that.

The worst part of fall - without exception - is the time change. Fall back. Blech. Spring ahead - that even sounds happy. The days are long, the warmth stays. Fall back sounds dangerous. The days are shorter. I need MORE hours in my day, not less.

My mother had winter foods. Chili. I loved her chili (though I make it even better now). But she wouldn't cook it in the summer. And, though I think that's a silly rule, I don't cook it in the summer either. I don't eat hot dogs in the winter. There's just something not quite right about that. Does that make sense? Probably not. It's in me though. I can't change it.

My New Years Resolution last year (and the year before, I think) was to be PFP. Pretty Fucking Perky. I've mostly hit that target but lately have been missing it. So to end this somber post, I'll add something PFP about fall: there are more deer to watch on Sligo Creek Parkway (a good thing) and the sunsets lately have been pretty. That's as perky as I'm going to get.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A sad day, indeed.

I started writing this a few days ago but decided to change my mind. Then I changed it again. This is the last time.

I started by writing a memory of my 9/11 day. I’ll leave that below. After thinking for a while, I realized what I really want my kids to know (assuming they read this one day) is how my life changed after 9/11. It changed permanently.

I was scared after 9/11. Living near DC, I knew we were a target. Who was going to get us next? I had to carry ID with me all the time – no more sweet talking my way into a federal building on the days I forgot my driver’s license at home (which happened frequently at that time). No more driving around the NIH campus to show my mom all the cool places over there. Now there are very big fences surrounding their locked-down facilities. There are big fences everywhere now.

Travel by air is a pain in the ass. We wear flip flops and sweats now because removing shoes for not just me but my two kids takes a little while. And I can’t wear a belt so sweats make more sense. Lines for security are long. But I don’t complain – let the security do what they must to keep me safe.

Entering federal buildings changed, which I understand. Now we need ID to get into the Old Postal Pavilion and the Reagan Building. That was new. We get checked walking into some Smithsonian buildings. That feels weird, too.

Riding metro and driving has changed. There are signs above the road that say “Report suspicious activity.” That makes me nervous. Some days metro is just like it always was. Some days there are lots of police. I always wonder why. Is it for show or is there a threat?

We lived under different color threat markers for years. Code yellow, orange, red – I don’t remember what they all mean but every time the news would talk about it my blood pressure would go up.

Life went on but it’s different. We as a nation are no longer quite so na├»ve. I’m a different person.


Ten years ago……

I lost my innocence. It’s never quite come back.

There are a few days in my life that I will never forget: my wedding day, the day I found out I was having twins and the day my babies were born, the day I had bad medical things happen – important days in my life. I remember those days clearly though the specific dates are a little fuzzy. September 11, 2001 is one day I’ll never forget. And I remember the date clearly. I’m pretty sure most other Americans do, too.

My girls were little – a little less than 4 months old. I had them sitting in the car seats on the floor in front me while I ate my breakfast and watched the Today show. I would rock their seats with my feet – like I was bike riding. Everything was normal until they said a plane had crashed into one of the towers. I knew something wasn’t right. I called my husband, who was working close to BWI airport. His office didn’t know what was happening so they found a news station online and were watching when the second plane hit. Fear set it. Planes were being grounded. At some point there was concern about a missing plane near DC. Mike told me to get the girls and go to the basement until he got home. I was scared. I listened.

But I kept coming upstairs to look at the news. It didn’t comfort me. Nothing did.

When I learned of the crash at the Pentagon, all I could think about was the interpreters. There are interpreters there nearly every day. Who was there that day? Were they okay?

I don’t remember how we found out there were no injured interpreters. I know someone at SLA let me know but I don’t remember the specifics. I just remember being relieved and surprised.

The hours that followed involved phone calls to family to let them know we were okay. Emails from friends increased. My family thought I should move. But where would I go? No place seemed safe.

I hope I never live through anything like it again. I know I probably will experience some sort of bad event. I hope my children don’t have to.

Monday, August 29, 2011

10 vs. 44

Today was the first day of school. Traditionally it's a day of mixed emotion - the end of summer, the start of homework, seeing friends, an earlier bedtime. It's all part of the deal of learning.

For one of my kids, it's a high anxiety time. I don't want to be in fifth grade, she told me. I don't want to be a big kid. I want to stay small. Oh, I understand that feeling quite well. I often feel that way. I don't want responsibility, demands on my time, expectations of me. I want to feel free. I didn't have the heart to tell her that her life as she knows it will disappear. She knows it's happening.

Many of her anxieties at 10 are the same I feel at 44. It amazes me how much I understand this kid - the one who isn't quite like me. But she's becoming more like me daily, which is a scary thing.

M: I want to look good on the first day which means I must wear this outfit.

Me: I want my kids to look good on the first day of school which means their outfits must be CLEAN.

M: I want my hair to be straightened when I go to school.

Me: I want my kids to look like their brushed their hair.

M: Mom, I must wear those shoes today!

Me: Your shoes must match each other.

M: I’m afraid of who will sit next to me in school.

Me: I really hope this teacher lets her BFF sit next to her this year.

M: I hope my friends play with me at recess.

Me: God, I hope the nice kids play with her at recess.

It never ends and it never really changes. I had the same anxieties when I was little. I have them now. I knew exactly what was happening to her yesterday when, out with her grandmother and some friends, she announced “mommy, I don’t feel so well. There are butterflies in my tummy.” Butterfly villages live in my tummy. I get it.

“Do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind here. Do not be like me. Relax. Learn to enjoy the good things that happened to you today. Breathe. Don’t be like me.

Enjoy your today. That is my new mantra. ENJOY YOUR TODAY. I will enjoy my today….or try to.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's in a name?

My given name is Judith Ann Rockhill. Yet, I’m called by many different names.

Judi, by most folks.

Judi Ann by my 8th grade science teacher and grandmother, both deceased now so no one calls me this any more.

Judith Ann by my former bosses in OCNJ and my mom but only when I’m in trouble.

Mom, Mommy, Maman, MOTHER!, Ima by my children, depending on their mood.

That interpreter by some of my clients.

AnjaandMikaela’smom by the kids at the playground.

Mom of the twins by the parents at the playground who can’t remember my name.

Miss Judi by the kids in the mental hospital where I worked (and some of my kids’ friends).

Bitch by my best friend from high school (and that’s totally fine).

Rockhill by some of my friends.

Hey or You by strangers.

Ma’am by young people who want me to smack them.

Miss by smart folks at the store.

Mrs. Rockhill by people who don’t know what name to use (this is the correct one).

Ms. Prien by the unknowing folks in my kids’ school.

The ex by my ex.

They’ve all been correct at some point in my life.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Trust does not come easy for me. It never has. I don't mistrust people, exactly. I just don't trust them 100 percent to start. Folks have to earn my trust. And even then, it's doled out in small amounts.

I am practicing this right now. I am trusting my children to go on the boardwalk unattended. I am trusting they will not lose their money, go off the boards, talk to strangers (except to say hello or order something), and they will come back in the two hour time frame I gave them. This is hard.

My mom trusted me when I was their age - and I was alone. But things were different then. I didn't get into as much trouble and I had good common sense. Truth be told, I think they have good common sense (most of the time).

Here's my bet:
1. they will taste every sample of junk food they can find.
2. they will waste money in the arcade but have fun doing it.
3. they will come home with another hermit crab.
4. they will eat/drink things I would never let them have. Then they confess this to me later.
5. they will have fun.

M dolled herself up before going out, which surprised me. "I don't want to look like an 8 1/2 year old with a purse. I want to look like an 11 year old. I'm short. I don't want people to mistake me for a little kid." Uh huh.

This is a test for me. And for them. I hope we both pass.

UPDATE: I was right and wrong. They came back a few minutes early. They did not eat junk food or buy soda. They did not go to the arcade. They did buy a hermit crab. They did have fun. We all passed the test.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where is home?



a : a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also :the focus of one's domestic attention <home is where the heart is>

at home

1 : relaxed and comfortable : at ease at home on the stage>

2 : in harmony with the surroundings

3 : on familiar ground : knowledgeable at homein their subject fields>

I don’t often feel at home. I’m okay in my house – it’s full of my stuff and sometimes my family, which is comforting. But it’s not me. That will change soon, though.

When I say I’m going home, I usually mean Lansdale, PA. That’s where I grew up, though I wasn’t born there. I was born in Boston and spent the first five years of my life in Chelmsford. A nice place, sure, but it’s not home.

I couldn’t wait to get out of Lansdale. Now sometimes I can’t wait to go home, even though my “home” there is now the Marriott Courtyard hotel.

Ocean City, NJ is probably the place where I feel the most at home. Now, after not being here regularly for so many years, it’s a little less like home, a little less familiar. I still love it. It still brings me peace. I walk into Marty’s or Henry’s or the Old Salt and I recognize the people who work there. Many of them were working here when I started working.

I got my first job when I was 14. It was in an odd store that sold all sorts of stuff – jewelry, doll house furniture, kites, stuffed animals – everything. I told the owner I was 16. He told me I was magically 17 (the legal age for me to work then) and poof, I had a job. On Sundays, because of blue laws, the store would open for a few hours at midnight. There I was, a 14 year old pretending to be 16, told I was now 17 but still scared inside walking by myself on the boardwalk at 2am.

I learned all I know about gems and jewelry (and it’s a lot) from Henry’s. Ask enough questions over a number of years and you start to learn things. They eventually hired me and taught me more. I loved that job.

OC is an odd place. It’s a dry town so there are no bars, no liquor stores. It’s billed as “America’s Greatest Family Resort”. I’ll buy that. Every year we walk and drive around the island looking for what stayed the same for another year and what changed. Sometimes the changes are good. Sometimes they make me sad. But I always notice them.

I don’t get lost here. I’m here once a year at most and can still get around perfectly. I know which streets have traffic lights, where stores are, how to get around traffic without thinking about it. It’s IN me.

I live in Silver Spring, MD now. I’ve been there 18 years. I was supposed to stay 3 months (for an internship). I didn’t call it home until I’d been living there for nearly 10 years. While I’m comfortable there, am raising my children there, and have more friends there than I do in PA, I’m only now starting to realize that it really might be my home.

When I leave here, I’m going home (to Silver Spring). Then I’ll want to go home (to Lansdale). Then I’ll be being here (at home in OC).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A day at the fair

I love the Montgomery County fair. It brings out the freaks and families, all to one place. The pig made out of butter has been replaced by a cheese wheel (now that’s disappointing). But there were baby ducks and ponies. And we were blessed by some guy at the pig races who declared #14 the Pig Queen and then said God Bless You All! That was odd.

My kids were asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance for a prize. They could only do it in French but they still got the prize. They answered questions about rain-scaping and won sponges. Where else does this happen but at the fair?

I love the sights and sounds of the fair. The lights are magical. People are happy. People eat fried butter and oreos. I guess it’s a good thing all the EMTs, fire and police personnel are there. I wonder how many heart attacks occur there.

People are happy at the fair. The vendors want to sell you something. The exhibitors bring candy and gizmos for you to bring home. People give stuff away. The Methodists (apparently famous for their pot-luck dinners) feed thousands at the food booths. The politicians are there, too, putting elephant or donkey stickers on kids. (NO elephants on my kids, thank you very much) Inside the buildings are crafts that county folks have made and monstrous veggies they’ve grown. You don’t see this side of people every day.

I don’t think about the rides but my kids do. I like the way they light up but I can’t help but think of all the urban legends regarding deaths of celebrities at fairs and small amusement parks. I grew up near West Point Park in Lansdale and clearly remember hearing that the boy from the tv show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” died while standing on the roller coaster (he’s still alive and well, thank you very much). I know they aren’t real stories but when some ride is flinging my kids up in the air, that’s what I think of. He also was said to have died from eating poprocks and soda together. Poor guy.

I have many happy memories at this fair. I remember going before I was married. In fact, I think I’ve been to nearly every fair since I moved to MD. It’s THAT big of a deal in my world. One that stands out above others is of my then-father-in-law, unable to communicate from Alzheimer’s, walking hand in hand with my girls around the animals. They all loved seeing the animals and didn’t need words to express it.

In addition to pig races, there are demolition derbies, concerts by little know singers, animal barns and my favorites: the baby animals. I would like a duck, please.

Friday, August 12, 2011

He wasn't my dad

In 8th grade, I had a strange man as a science teacher. His name was Mr. Aiken. He left mid-year to go on sabbatical so he could go to the Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. One day while sitting in class (I can't remember who his substitute was), the teacher handed me a card. It was a post card. From Mr. Aiken to me. I was the only one who got one. I still remember sitting there, the teacher handing it to me and all the kids looking at me. I felt special.

I wasn't a good student in his class. I was grateful for the C he gave me. I didn't really deserve it.

He wasn't a very good teacher. He didn't care much about teaching at that point and thankfully he retired a few years later. For whatever reason, we connected. I can remember visiting him after I went to high school and talking to him about my frustrations with my home situation. He always supported my mother but he also let me talk.

I graduated. He came to my graduation party.

Somewhere in there, he got engaged. I went to his engagement party and wedding.

I continued to visit him. He continued to challenge and push me, though I didn't listen to him. He still loved me.

He wasn't my dad but he was the closest thing I had to one. I thought he'd walk me down the aisle but my brother wanted the job and we were getting along by then.

When he retired he moved to Arizona. He drove across the county to come to my wedding. He stood in the middle of the aisle as I walked up to get married and down after the ceremony - just to get pictures of me.

He was a difficult man in the best of circumstances. But I loved him.

Today, I saw a post on facebook by someone whose name is familiar to me. It was his estranged son. I sent him a message only to find out that the man who wasn't my dad died a few years ago. I haven't seen him in about 6 years, which I regret. I thought he forgot about me. It never occurred to me he might have died.

It's been many, many years since 8th grade. I can still remember sitting in his class, sitting talking with him after class, him being in my home. I never thought there would be a day when he wouldn't be here.

Today is a sad day, indeed.

Now no one will call me Judi Ann. That was reserved for him.

Goodbye, Mr. Aiken. You were very much loved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

If I had a million dollars......

Oh, I could spend a million dollars. Or at least I think I could. But that's a lot of money so it's probably harder than I think. But I'd like to try.

So what would I do with it? Here are my thoughts:

I'd make sure my mom was set for the remainder of her life.

I'd make sure my kids had a good start on saving for college.

I'd buy a house that's all mine. And I'd get a housekeeper because I suck at it. And my kids would have their own rooms (on a different floor than me).

I would have a kitchen that makes me happy to cook in.

I would have appliances that work (AC, laundry - just the necessities).

I'd go to Prague, Croatia and Yugoslavia. And maybe visit Poland and Hungary because I love both and I'll be in the area - it makes sense. And, of course, Paris. Twice. Once with my kids and once with the guy I want to romance me in that beautiful city.

I want to have a car that doesn't look like I'm a mom.

I want a purse that makes me happy. And a pair of those red-bottomed shoes.

I don't really think that adds up to a million dollars.

So I'd be able to open a house for deaf children in need. I sort of think of it as an orphanage but there's got to be a better name for it. I found a place on the internet a while ago that listed deaf children in need of adoption. I want them all. And a staff with teachers and people who will love them and can communicate with them to take care of everything.

Or maybe I'd continue the work my brother and sister-in-law do in making sure seniors with limited incomes and no families get Christmas gifts and things they need.

There are so many choices. So many wishes. So, how what would you do if you won the lottery or a huge bag of money landed in your yard?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello. My name is Judi and I'm an addict.....

I admit it. I'm an addict. That's the first step, right? I need to confess that when I walk through the office supply aisle in a store, that I-want-to-be-organized-and-color-coded part of my brain starts tingling. Back to school time is the best time of the year - but not because my kids are going back to school. All the gadgets and doodads are on sale. I'M MEANT TO BUY IT ALL.

Every year they come up with new stuff. Sometimes it's something simple like different shapes of post-it notes. I mean, who wants square when you can get different shapes! Who wants a yellow highlighter when you could get purple, pink, blue or green?? There are clips, pens, and notebooks - oh my! There are so many things that I might need one day. And they're on sale now! It's a sign. I'm meant to have them.

One of my favorite places to feed this addiction was at a computer trade show event aimed at feds that I interpreted for several years. It was awesome!! I got a year's supply of pens, post-it notes, pencils, mints and a ton of things I didn't even know I needed! Ah.....good times.....

I've had other addictions in the past. My kids would say I have a shoe addiction but that's not really true. They'd also say I have a purse addiction but I think the actual number is somewhere around 10, which does not qualify as an addiction. My sister in law would say I have an addiction to pillow covers (the things that go over a pillow but under the case). I'd say I like them but I'm not addicted to them. I do, however, have plenty right now - I'm just prepared. You never know when you're going to need them.

So, it's time to confess, people. What's you addiction?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

when I grow up....

I just read Alissa Ender's post over at Have Stroller Will Travel about what her son will be when he grows up and it got me thinking. What do I want for my children? I want them to be happy most of all. But I want more than that. I want them to enjoy their life. I don't want them to have a job but rather something they enjoy doing. When I ask them what they want to do when they grow up, the answers vary. So far on the list:

interpreter (french or sign)

The list goes on.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a waitress. I really wanted to be a waitress. The idea has stayed with me all these years - so much so that every time I eat at the Woodside Deli, I want to get up and take orders (no, I don't do it). I also wanted to be a make up artist. I thought I'd be good at that (and still maintain that I would have been good at it). I wasn't allowed to go to vo-tech school, though, so that ended that.

I had a neighbor when I was around 9 who was deaf. My mom bought me a book (Handtalk by Mary Beth Miller) so I could learn a few signs and communicate with him. Apparently at some point I told a friend of my mom's that I wanted to do that when I grew up. And I did.

But I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“I’m looking for my next Great Love….”

I have to stop watching Sex and the City. I watched it long ago but now it’s back in reruns and serves as a (mostly) amusing background distraction while I’m (supposed to be) working.

Charlotte says to her gay, afternoon-movie friend, “I’m not looking for sex! I’m looking for my next Great Love!” Isn’t this what every single female is looking for? Face it, sex is easy to get. You can either take care of things yourself or peruse the online sites which are full of guys who want to show you all their (self described) fancy tricks. While they are tricky waters to maneuver, they are mostly manageable. The problem is when you’re looking for something more.

Dating, especially after not having done so for a very long time, is daunting. The make-a-good-first-impression behavior is good but it’s not real. And it’s when you start finding the less than great stuff that the challenges appear. When does one decide to show their real self? There’s a time limit to the good behavior.

I thought I’d found my Great Love a few times. And maybe I had. Or maybe I just wanted it but it wasn’t real. So, as Carrie asked, how many Great Loves does one get in a lifetime? One? Two? What happens when we hit our quota?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Modern Conveniences

Mommy, is it true that if you wanted to change the channel on the tv, you had to get up to do it?

Yes, that’s true.

Mommy, did you really only have 3 channels on tv?

No, we had 7. Channel 3, 6, 10, 12 (pbs), 17, 29 and 48. Sometimes if you held the rabbit ear antenna just right, we could get another channel from Allentown, but that was rare. And none of the channels were on 24 hours a day. The star spangled banner would play and then it would go off the air.


Is it true that you didn’t have to pump your own gas?

Yes, that’s true. The man at the gas station would check the oil, too. He’d do that for free. And if I needed windshield wiper fluid, he’d add that, too.

Were cell phones invented when you were little?

Nope. I remember getting my first one shortly out of high school. It was a bag phone and it was big and heavy – couldn’t fit in a purse or a pocket. I was the first of my friends to have one. I’ve been addicted ever since.

I also grew up with rotary phones – the kind you had to dial. Technology is amazing.

I remember buying my first microwave, computer (it was a gift) and life before ipods. I grew up with vinyl and tapes and encyclopedias.

When my mother was growing up, they had funerals (dead people!) in the parlors of their homes. I never had a dead person in my home. She can remember seeing her first car. I wonder what inventions will impress my kids. Personal flights into space? The regeneration of limbs? What’s next?

Modern technology is awesome and so….modern…..

Friday, July 8, 2011

Time flies....

Seven years ago today I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A week later, I was also diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Both sucked and both were supposed to do terrible things to me. Let's see what's happened in the last seven years.

It might have been six years. I don't remember. That's the first thing that happened. My brain is a little fuzzy. My memory works but does so on its own schedule. That's frustrating.

I lost my ability to speak properly. Then I got it back. I still mix up words (tell my kids to put on their socks when I meant shoes) but people can understand me.

I lost all sense of direction. I got lost coming home from my kids' daycare and going to the grocery store. I had to keep a map with me at all times. I still have maps but I don't use them any more. I can get around just fine - without a gps.

I couldn't use my hands properly. I couldn't open a jar of peanut butter or fasten a seat belt. My hands work just fine now.

I dyed my hair blonde. I needed to do something while I was unable to work. I'm back to natural - brunette - which I like better. It's me.

I went through the worst pain of my life with the doxycycline (for lyme). I thought I would die. I didn't. I lived and proved everyone wrong. I have very few symptoms of lyme left and my last test, about a year ago, showed no signs of it in my body.

I developed bells palsy so half my face was paralyzed. This was fascinating once I knew it was temporary. The muscles started to work again after about a month. I could smile again. And sneezing was the scariest thing I've ever experienced. My whole face would feel like electric currents were running through it. That lasted over a year.

In this time my children have grown to become nice young women, smart and funny. I am now single. My life is being rewritten. This is a major chapter but no longer the sole one that defines me. I no longer look at people and think they know, that they can see there's "a little something extra" in my head.

I avoid camping and places where I think ticks might be hanging around, ready to pounce on me.

I started a business, take care of my family, and proved that my life goes on. I probably needed this to make me appreciative of the things I have. I am grateful.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Raising Girls

I have two beautiful daughters who are now 10. Ten is clearly different from nine. There’s a budding maturity yet a need to stay young. I go from Mommy to Mother! in record time, depending on their moods. I think daily about how I’m going to get my girls from this stage to being independent, thoughtful, productive women.

I want my girls to grow up and have healthy relationships. But how will they learn that? I didn’t do such a great job modeling that in my marriage, which I owe largely to the fact that I didn’t have that model. A general mistrust of humanity doesn’t help that, either. Yet here I am faced with the daunting task of making sure my children grow up happy and healthy. Daunting doesn’t begin to cover it.

I read an article recently by Lisa Bloom ( which addressed the issue of how we talk to girls when their young can influence how they see themselves as they grow up. As someone with about a zillion self esteem issues, I don’t want my children experiencing that. Too late, I know. It’s already started. Mommy, I want to look pretty for [insert boy’s name here]. I want him to notice me. Mommy, I don’t like my thighs. Seriously, it’s started already.

I raised my girls from the beginning telling them it’s not enough to be beautiful on the outside (which they are, as they know from the strangers who would stop us when they were young to tell me how beautiful they were). They needed to be beautiful on the inside. But that’s not enough, I’ve learned. I reinforce their academic achievements but there’s more. I grew up with statements like “you hit the ball well, for a girl” and “girls don’t need to understand math”. I can’t tell you how negatively that affected me. I still feel stupid when dealing with math problems and I hear that voice in my head telling me I’m too dumb to do it. Luckily, both my kids are seriously smart. I can’t help M with her math anymore – she explains it to me. Both are voracious readers, for which I am grateful and proud. They know they’re brilliant yet still can’t get past the awkwardness they see in the mirror. I wish I could take this part of their lives away from them for a while, just to give them a break. Both are independent thinkers and are realizing how lonely that can be. They are mini-me’s and sometimes, while fiercely proud, it also breaks my heart. I know what they’re in for.

So how do I raise two strong girls who don’t rely on their beauty and boobs or popularity? How do I convince them that playing dumb to get a boy is just that? Geez, all of this and they haven’t hit middle school yet. My prediction is after several years, they will be fine. I will be gray.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cheater Pants

There are rules to all games. Some rules come in the box with the game. Some rules are found online. Some rules are found in my head.

I'm playing words with friends, aka scrabble, with several friends. I started out okay, beating several of them. Since then, I've had my ass handed to me in the middle of words I don't know several times.

Okay, folks, here are the rules. Dictionaries are for cheater pants. Yes, there, it's in writing. You don't need a dictionary. You either know the word or you don't. You can guess. You can swear. You can try words that you would think it won't accept (it took sext but not jiz - yeah I know it's spelled wrong but I was hoping it wouldn't notice). But you can't look up words that start with an O hoping to find something that will work with the tiles you have. That's cheating.

So there you go.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What is art?

A visit to the Hirshhorn Museum this weekend has me thinking about this. And thinking about an argument I had with someone years ago about what constitutes art.

In my world, art is something that someone creates for a specific purpose. That purpose may never be known but it's there. It should cause a reaction in you. You like it, you love it, you hate, you don't understand it - something.

Before I continue on, two things should be known: 1) I'm an art school drop out and 2) I'm the family archivist. I document everything. Both of these facts probably cloud my judgement a bit.

The Hirshhorn is full of weird things. There was a 60 minute video of Niagara Falls. It consisted of nothing more than the water falling over the falls. Yawn. What makes that art? There was another video of something that I'm not sure how to describe. It sort of looked like a city view with weird lights, sounds and other graphic images moving around on it. I thought it was cool but not necessarily art. I might be changing my mind, though, as I've thought about it several times since seeing it.

The yarn hanging display annoyed me. It looked like vertical pick up sticks. And it did absolutely nothing for me except cause me to wonder why the museum spends its money on things like that.

The argument I had with someone was about my photos, few of which I'd call art. I document my life because I'm a doom and gloom kind of person. I think if I die today, what will my kids know and remember about me. They will certainly know the importance of a camera in my life. No question there. But will they remember the rest? Will they remember how I see things in a way that is often different from the mainstream? That's what I want to document. I have pictures of everyone who is important to me - regardless of the reason. I take pictures of almost every place I go because I want my kids to know what I enjoyed doing. Sometimes the pictures are artsy. Sometimes they're not. I never take a picture with the idea that I want it hanging on someone's wall. I do want to make sure a memory is created forever when I click the shutter. There's a difference in intention.

Some pictures I take can be called art, though they weren't taken for that purpose. I have some of those posted at Red Bubble. You can see the ones I like at

I will continue to take pictures all the time. I might even let one or two go up on my wall.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Father's day for someone who grew up without a dad is a weird day. I had a friend (acquaintance, really) in high school who was horrified that I had no idea when father's day was. I knew it was in June - I did have a grandfather at that time. But I couldn't then and still can't tell you if it's the first, third or whatever Sunday in June.

I always thought my mother should get both Mother's Day and Father's Day - she was both to me. But I had a brother that grew up with both parents, so that would've been weird.

I, for one - and yes, I'm a mom, would be very happy to get rid of mother's day (which is usually a less than stellar day for me) and father's day. Maybe just one day of recognizing the person(s) who influenced your life. For me, that would be my 8th grade science teacher (who was probably the most paternal figure in my life), my mom and a few family friends who tried to steer me away from the trouble I was drawn to.

So happy day to the people who influenced my life and taught me right from wrong. The list is long but includes some odd people who would never guess they had an influence on me:

Mr. Righter, who taught me in 7th and 8th grade and saved me in my senior year by letting me teach his class,

The man who owned The Smuggler Shop in Ocean City, who took the time to listen to me and always supported what my mom said,

Mr. Aiken, who was the closest thing to a dad I had.

Mr. Miller, who tried his best to teach me how to garden (and now I wish I had paid more attention).

and the others I won't mention today.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


There's a lot going on in my head today but I can't get my head together enough to write about any of it. Welcome to my life.

There's another blog I like by a friend of mine, Alissa. Her blog, Have Stroller, Will Travel, makes me think. Sometimes it makes me feel normal - that I'm not the only one dealing with weird parenting issues. Plus I get to win fun things sometimes. She wrote the other day about accidents she had while growing up. That got me thinking.

I have scars. Right now, when I think of my scars they're mostly the kind on the inside. But I have plenty on the outside.

I'm pretty sure CPS watched my family for a while. I broke both wrists within three months of each other. The first was in gym class in 6th grade. I tripped and fell and surprise, it was broken. Then at tennis lessons in NJ, I tripped again and broke the other arm. mother was not happy with me. At all.

There are the weird ones. I have had stitches in the same place (my chin) twice, about 7 years apart. I put a safety pin in my eye (hence, no contacts for me) and a knitting needle through my leg. Neither of those was fun at all! Apparently I'm above the age when most people get their appendixes out yet that happened last summer - and those scars are on top of part of my c-section and previous laparoscopy surgeries from long ago.

I was a fire bug for a while when I was young. I have plenty of scars on my legs from when I would melt things and forget that I was wearing shorts. Yeah, I was a pyro but not too bright. I still have claw marks on my hand from where a jealous girl got pissy with me when the cute boy on the neighborhood walked me home and not her.

These scars are easy to deal with. It's the ones you can't see that are harder. But those are fading, too.

I have kids who are doomed to be accident prone. The local ER knows me well already. The cycle continues.....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Magical Thinking

I've been giving the topic of magical thinking a lot of thought. It keeps coming up in my world.

I've always been a believer of signs. I think people come into my life for a reason. I think things happen to me for a reason. I don't always know the reason but I believe there is one. Or I used to.

I grew up Christian (and have Jewish blood in me, a thing of curiosity most of my life) and being told that things happen for a reason - that my prayers are answered even if sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I'm not meant to know the reason but there is something behind everything. Okay.....

Then I started to doubt things. The doubt started a while ago but I pushed it to the side. I didn't want to doubt what was ingrained in me as truth. But as much as I wanted to push it aside, the doubt remained.

I took a class in Judaism. That was interesting. I re-evaluated what I grew up with. I thought a lot about things. It didn't make sense. I'm supposed to be learning things in these weird situations I'm in. Everything happens for a reason, right?

Then someone explain to me why the most important and influential men in my life all tell me I'm practicing magical thinking? I have several people telling me the same thing (one leaves a small margin of possibility to there being something else out there open). For someone who believes in signs, this is very confusing. Are they telling me the truth? Are they a test sent to challenge my faith? What is my faith? None of it works for me.

I'll accept that it might be magical thinking. But that thinking gets me through things like facing the hell my kids' grandmother is about to face in yet another battle with cancer. That thinking makes me say thank you and appreciate the good things and people in my life. That thinking has gotten me through the hardest year of my life by knowing I am not given what I can't handle. Then again, I realize I was not "given" the situation I'm in now. I don't think there's a god up there saying "Judi, it's your time to get divorced" or face mortality or anything else. I don't think it happens like that.

What is the result of this magical thinking? I'm no more sure or doubtful of an existence of something greater than us than I was before. I am very appreciative of the people in my life. I think about what I have to learn from them. I'm more confident because I'm SURE I can handle it all. Is that bad? Is that magical? I don't think so.

If this is a test, I'm failing. Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, the point of it all is to make me think instead of going through my life in the mindless, all-accepting way I was before. I found a song that makes me laugh. It's two songs, really. The first, the monkey song, is about the "ridiculous" theory of evolution. The second (keep listening past the monkey song) is "the ecumenical movement". I had to ask what that meant and it turns out it means me. I'm good with it. A guy I knew once called me a "cafeteria Christian". I'll take that. The truth is I have no clue. I don't know the answer. And really, neither does anyone else. Except maybe John Edward but that's a discussion for a different day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Land of Misfit Toys

I finally figured something out this weekend. I'm excited by this.

I have always felt different. I'm not the other moms who pick up their kids at school. Yes, I stopped wearing skull and crossbones on my shirts. Yes, I make sure I look normal. But I know inside I'm not like the other moms. I don't wear flowered pants. Or capris with cute little shoes. Or have perfectly coiffed hair. I listen to different music, tend to wear black or purple and use words I probably shouldn't in front of other people.

I'm not like a lot of my co-workers either but I won't elaborate on why that is.

I couldn't do the whole June Cleaver wife thing. Yeah, I'm not sad about that.

I feel like a misfit sometimes. I realized this weekend that this feeling probably started around the time I discovered the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I wanted to be Columbia or Magenta. I wanted to have the balls to dress like that. I wanted to feel like that. I was that - at the age of 14.

Since entering the world of adulthood, I haven't looked back on that time much, though I know it's still in me. Every once in a while someone will appear in my life who I think either appreciates this part of me or is like me in some unspoken way. I found a whole bunch of folks who get this - and make me seem very normal. Who knew these people were out there??

I went to the Baltimore version of Comicon. It's Balticon. When I was first invited, I said yes mostly out of curiosity and because I wanted to hang out with my friend and see his world. I wasn't sure I'd have much fun but was willing to try something new. Within an hour of being there, I knew all would be fine. I didn't think I'd have so much fun!

I learned about a whole new genre of music, met people who feel passionately about things, who are creative in ways I'd never thought of (who knew you could make art from dryer lint??), listened to lectures about autism, religion and more, went to a liar's panel and a fashion show - tons of new experiences! I went to parties and was SOCIABLE!! Yes, I talked to people without prompting or hand-holding. I even met another interpreter - someone I would never have met if not for a discussion about the Klingon language (which, no, I don't know). How cool is all of that??

I certainly didn't fit in perfectly in that world. One lecture made that very clear. But it was cool to take a chance on doing something new and find that I'm not the only different toy in the land. I'm definitely one of many.