Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving (Retrieved from http://www.fg-a.com, November 19, 2022)

Here’s wishing everyone a happy harvest season and Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to be thankful for all you have, all that the Lord has provided (if that is part of your faith), and take nothing for granted.

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Fall Foliage Colors in Gwinnett

I took some time today (October 29, 2022) to enjoy the beautiful Fall foliage colors in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

This weekend has been the perfect time to take in the vibrant colors of Autumn.

There is one particular tree that I am familiar with that turns yellow each year, and this year was no different.

So many maple trees are showing in such a deep red that they are astounding. I was on a schedule this morning and drove past one at a church in Lilburn that was absolutely beautiful. I would have loved to get a picture of it, but don’t plan to pass by there again for a couple of weeks.

Additionally, there was a Halloween witch that made a face plant into a tree and is now an official tree hugger! Check this out!

Enjoy!

Hungry Anyone?: Homemade Lasagna and Salad with Garlic Bread

My homemade lasagna and salad with garlic bread, October 23, 2022

I love to cook and bake, and today, I decided to make some lasagna! I also need just a little bit more to do to keep my mind occupied. Lasagna is definitely a rich-tasting comfort food for me, and with the temperatures getting cooler while going into Fall, it is one of those dishes that tastes delish when it gets a bit chilly outside. Plus, my son likes it too, so that is another good benefit. The thing is, I generally make so much that there is enough left over to freeze and get out at a later date to enjoy – yum!

So, I thought I would do a photo documentary of making my lasagna today, as well as throwing together a cucumber and tomato salad, along with some Texas Toast. Of course, the meal would have been “perfect” if I had made my own garlic bread, sauce, and cheese, but I don’t go quite that far. I could always buy some Italian or French bread, slather it with butter, and shake on some garlic salt, but the Texas Toast is just as good. I could also make my own sauce, but that is an involved process, as well as cheese-making. At any rate, I hope you enjoy my time invested into making some great food this morning. Are you hungry yet? Let’s eat!

First, purchase and gather all of your ingredients and cooking materials. Next, be sure to wash your hands and prepare your cooking area. Following are the next steps I followed in making my dinner:

Ingredients I use for making lasagna

I like to use about two pounds of ground beef, one pound of Barilla lasagna noodles, two jars of Prego Mushroom spaghetti sauce, and two pounds of mozzarella cheese. I don’t use Ricotta cheese because I don’t like it – neither the taste, nor the texture.

Roasting pan coated with some spaghetti sauce

Be sure to coat the bottom of your roasting pan with some spaghetti sauce so the lasagna doesn’t burn it.

Pot and pan on stove

Now, it’s time to fire up the stove to cook your ingredients.

Lasagna noodles and ground beef cooking

You can cook your lasagna noodles and ground beef at the same time. Of course, first, bring your water to a boil before placing the noodles in your pot. Brown your ground beef and drain out the grease before pouring in your spaghetti sauce to cook.

Lasagna noodles and meat sauce cooking

Next, pour in your spaghetti sauce, stir it in, and let it cook.

Sliced mozzarella

While your noodles and sauce are cooking, you have time to slice your mozzarella slabs. Never use grated mozzarella in your lasagna as it will dissolve into one soupy mess. Also, be sure your mozzarella is not cut too thick or it will not melt well. Then, you will have to turn up your oven temperature, and risk burning the bottom of your pan. It’s not worth it.

Layer of noodles placed in roasting pan

When your noodles and meat sauce are ready, you can start layering your lasagna to prepare for baking.

Layer of meat sauce

Next, spoon in a layer of meat sauce over the noodles.

Mozzarella on top of the meat sauce

Next, place a few slices of mozzarella on top of the meat sauce. Then, repeat each step until you have nothing left to layer.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour

I like to start warming my oven as soon as my noodles are finished cooking and while I am layering my lasagna so it provides enough time to come up to temperature by the time I’m ready to bake.

Layered lasagna, ready for baking

My roasting pan of lasagna is now ready for baking. I also like to just rinse out the spaghetti jars with a tiny bit of water and dump the rest of the sauce into the pan so there is no waste. Then, I put the top on the pan and place it in the oven, baking at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

Jars, lids, and box for recycling

I always recycle as much as possible. So, I rinse the jars to take to the Recycling Center sometime, and I toss the cardboard noodle box and metal jar lids into my recycle dumpster. While I also recycle plastic bags, the cheese plastic was too messy to clean, so that became trash.

Texas Toast ready for baking

Next, I get out my Texas Toast on a metal platter, having it ready for baking once the lasagna is done. You can also bake it at the same time as your lasagna if you have a convection oven option on your microwave and you need to have it ready at the same time as the lasagna. However, if you have the time and prefer to save some electricity, just wait until the lasagna is done and use your oven. Your lasagna will need some time to cool before you can eat it anyway.

Ingredients for cucumber and tomato salad

While the lasagna is baking, I get out my veggies for my cucumber and tomato salad. I remove any stickers, rinse them with water, cut them up and place them in a container, and get the Kraft Sun Dried Tomato salad dressing ready to add. I typically add about 1/3 bottle to the mixture.

Sliced cucumber

One cucumber and one tomato are plenty to make salad for two people, but you can add more, as well.

Sliced tomato

Next, slice up your tomato.

Cucumber and tomato salad

Then, place both ingredients into a bowl or container and add the salad dressing, stirring it up. This tastes really good!

One hour has passed already

Now, it’s time to take the lasagna out of the oven – it’s done!

My homemade lasagna!

There is my homemade lasagna – as homemade as it’s going to get! Yum!

Change oven temperature to bake Texas Toast

Next, be sure to lower your oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit to bake your Texas Toast. It takes a bit longer in the oven than in the convection microwave, but turns out better. In the oven, keep the Texas Toast in for eight minutes before taking it out to flip over. Then, return it to the oven for another five minutes. That should be just right.

Baked Texas Toast

There, the Texas Toast is perfect!

In all, this process took about 2.5 hours from start to finish, including eating and cleaning up everything afterwards.

My meal

And, there is my comfort food homemade lasagna and salad with Texas Toast! It was soooo good! That mozzarella is really delicious!

Of course, here is my “manly” meal on my Lady Carlisle fine china, but what are you gonna do? I have it and I’m going to use it.

I hope you enjoyed my virtual baking lesson for today – time for seconds! Gotta watch that cholesterol now, for sure.

GGC Grizzly Fest Fun!

My son and I at GGC Grizzly Fest, Lawrenceville, Georgia, October 22, 2022

Today, my son and I enjoyed the annual Grizzly Fest at his college, Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This was our second Grizzly Fest, and there was much fun and enjoyment to be had.

We spent a bit of time at the Exercise Science Department table, talking with students who were very eager and excited about their major.

At the Exercise Science Table at Grizzly Fest, October 22, 2022

We also visited many other informational tables, including Art Club, Sign Language Club, Information Technology, Education, Crafts, and Pakistani Student Organization.

At Art Club Table at Grizzly Fest, October 22, 2022

We enjoyed watching the Homecoming King and Queen be crowned.

GGC Homecoming King and Queen, October 22, 2022

We applauded those faculty and/or students who were winners in the Chili Cookoff. It was also nice to see an appearance by the college president, Dr. Jann Joseph, when the Chili Cookoff winners were announced.

My son and I with The General at GGC Grizzly Fest, October 22, 2022

My son and I also got to partake in the pulled pork, sausage and sauerkraut, hot apple cider, apple fritters, and other goodies available through the Dining Service. It was an absolutely beautiful day today – wonderful for today’s Grizzly Fest at GGC!

Alaska: Truly the Last Frontier

Aerial view outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

In late May and early June 2022, my son and I visited Alaska!

Tree Growing on Rock Archway, outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

It was the first time either of us had been there, and it was definitely a “bucket list” trip.

Aerial View of Icebergs near a Glacier outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

Alaska was really amazing to see and experience.

Aerial View of Harding Ice Field, outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

From what my son and I saw and enjoyed, I can say that it is truly the “Last Frontier.”

What’s left of Exit Glacier, outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

We did so much, and while I won’t go into a lot of detail, I will say that I hope Alaska remains as it is for as long into the future as possible.

Partial View of Boat Harbor, Seward, Alaska, June 2022

The nature and environment that we saw in Alaska were absolutely amazing and breath-taking.

Sunbathing Sea Lions outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

Everywhere we went, we were literally surrounded by snow-covered mountains.

Extended Family of 7 Killer Whales, outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

Pictures do not do Alaska justice; one must really go there to take in everything it has to offer.

Baby Humpback Whale Breaching the Water, outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

One thing that I saw that I will likely never see again was a mother Humpback whale breaching, followed by her baby also breaching. It was amazing. I think my jaw hit the deck of the boat when that happened! The crew of the tour boat let us know that we all viewed the first breach of the season.

Waterfall outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

We went on two boat tours, and on one, we went as far as the Gulf of Alaska.

Spouting Humpback Whale just inside the Bay of Alaska, June 2022

We had the privilege of seeing many Humpback Whales.

Us with our Group’s Catch of Salmon, Seward, Alaska, June 2022

We also did a half-day fishing trip, catching Sockeye Salmon. The fish in the picture are those caught by our group of six, including less than the maximum catch per person, per day. We had several of our salmon prepared, and took them home with us to dine on. They were the best salmon I have ever tasted!

Locomotive from the Alaska Railroad Corporation, Seward, Alaska, June 2022

I like trains, and while we didn’t go on a train ride because the routes and schedules did not work out for us, we did visit the train depot in Seward.

Huskies at Seavey’s Dogsledding Tourist Rides, Seward, Alaska, June 2022

I have included a few pictures, here, of our Alaska trip, mostly in Seward and the surrounding area.

Glacier outside of Seward, Alaska, June 2022

It is definitely a wilderness heaven!

Memories of Traveling in Europe and the British Isles

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, Retrieved October 17, 2022, https://www.hotels.com/go/italy/trevi-fountarome

Europe and the British Isles are beautiful places to visit if one ever has the opportunity. As a young adult, I traveled to Europe and/or the British Isles twice. On the first occasion, I studied in Poland for the summer prior to my last semester in college. When I returned two or three years later, I spent six weeks traveling to as many countries as I could to drink in the people, places, and cultures of each nation. Overall, I had a wonderful experience on both occasions, and I am so thankful that I was able to travel at the time that I did because I have not had the opportunity to return since then – that was more than 25 years ago.

I have included a prior post about Poland, studying in Poland, and visiting with my Polish relatives on this blog site, but will provide some additional information here. Traveling out of JFK Airport in New York City to Warsaw, Poland, and then, by van to Krakow, I spent a summer studying abroad in Poland. I had a wonderful time learning intensive Polish language at Jagiellonian University in Krakow with several of my classmates from the University at Buffalo, as well as a few other students from around the world. We had two instructors – one lady who was fluent in Polish and English, and another lady who was fluent in Polish and German. Luckily, when the latter lady taught the class, one student from California was fluent in English and German, and she was kind enough to translate for the class. It definitely made for an even more interesting experience learning a language that I had only previously known a few words from that my mother, aunt, and grandmother had spoken.

By the third week or so of learning Polish, I wrote a postcard in Polish to my relatives in Kielce, and the following weekend, much to my joy, several of them arrived – unannounced – at my dormitory building and we spent the day together, sight-seeing at the beautiful Wieliczka Salt Mines. I also visited them and met even more of my relatives in Kielce when I traveled to my great aunt’s home by train a couple of weeks later. I had been tasked with items to gift to them by my family, and so, it was a must that I visited with them. I stayed for that weekend with my great aunt, Marianna, ate a family-reunion style dinner with my relatives, and attended church with Great Aunt Marianna before traveling back to Krakow.

During the time that I studied in Poland, I spent a day with my study abroad group in Czestochowa, Poland, visiting the Jasna Gora Monastery and viewing the icon of the Black Madonna. I also took time on several weekends to do my own traveling. On one weekend, I went to Berlin, Germany, and took in as much culture there as I could. I remember at the hostel where I stayed, a fellow traveler let me know that many Europeans did not particularly like Americans since we were viewed as “partiers,” and that they preferred Canadians. So, for the rest of my travels in Europe, if I did not have to show my passport, I became an “honorary Canadian.” On my weekend in Berlin, I enjoyed experiencing its history, particularly different historical monuments such as the Brandenburg Gate. I also walked from the old West Berlin to the old East Berlin, noticing the obvious differences in the “life” or lack thereof of the two sections of the city. I actually asked a passerby on my walk, in German while using my translator book, why there was such a stark contrast in the appearance of the city, and he told me that I had entered the former Communist side of Berlin. That explained everything. It was a very eye-opening experience simply to walk from one side of the city to the other.

I also traveled with a friend, Jen, to both Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, as well as Vienna, Austria. She and I were both interested in traveling while we studied in Poland, and so we were a good match to travel together and watch each other’s backs. I will always remember the greedy train conductor who got more money out of Jen and I on our train ride to Vienna. He obviously thought we were “Rich Americans,” and had the power to tell us that we had not paid enough for our tickets and that we needed to fork over some more cash. Neither Jen, nor I understood what he was saying, however the Italian man sitting across from us told us in English what he wanted. He said that if we didn’t give him some money, he could throw us off the train. It was a good thing we both had some money on us because we gave him some and he was satisfied and left. What a crook! We had paid in full for our tickets and were sitting in the correct seats, and there was nothing else we could do about it. When you don’t know the language and you are a young American woman traveling in a foreign country, there are these kinds of vulnerabilities that you must deal with. I’m glad it wasn’t any worse than that. At any rate, both Prague and Vienna were absolutely stunning, though Vienna was crazy expensive. Prague was even prettier than Vienna due to the historic architecture that had not been destroyed by World War II.

I wish I could have visited more places while I studied in Poland during that summer, but there is only so much time to do everything on one’s agenda. So, I promised myself that I would return and visit more of Europe in the future, and I did that a couple of years later. I was intent on returning, and not receiving any handouts from my parents, I cashed in some investments that I had and spent a summer traveling in Europe and the British Isles. Really, I had convinced my mom to travel with me to the British Isles, and we visited London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Dublin, Ireland over the course of two weeks before I spent the next five weeks on my own. Mom and I visited castles, museums, parks, and pubs, and saw many a crown jewel that was out of this world! Pictures don’t do those jewels justice – you have to see them in person; they are absolutely incredible. The people were all very friendly, especially those in the pubs who were happy to encourage us to try ginger beer, which was actually very tasty. I have to say that it is probably my favorite beer! Dublin was very nice and had that bubbly, happy feel that the Irish gave it. Mom and I also saw the Aurora Borealis while we were in Dublin – it was really beautiful!

After two weeks touring the British Isles, I saw my mom off at Heathrow Airport to head back home through Toronto, Canada, and then, to Buffalo, New York. It was nice to have her company, most of the time, but I wanted to do things, independently, as well. So, for the next four weeks, I had my opportunity. I traveled throughout Europe on my own with two small luggage bags. I traveled very lightly, washing my clothes as I went along, and did not buy but only a few small mementos to take back home with me during my trip. Thankfully, my parents had told me they did not need or want anything, so the pressure was off for having to buy them anything. I did find a few small things to take back home for them, however.

I started out my five weeks by taking a ferry from England to Brussels, Belgium. I stayed in a youth hostel there – as I did in many of the places that I visited – for several days while I toured the city. Brussels is full of culture, as well as some cuteness, particularly with the statue of the little boy urinating. In short, the story about it is that there was a young boy who got lost and separated from his mother, and when he was located, he was seen urinating in the street. There is a statue of him in Brussels to commemorate this momentous occasion, and it is quite the tourist attraction!

Other places in Europe that I visited during my second trip there included Geneva, Switzerland; Lucerne, Switzerland; Engelberg, Switzerland; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; Rome, Italy; Florence, Italy; Vatican City; Nice, France; and Paris, France. I took the train with a Eurail pass when traveling to different cities, and when I was within a city, I took subways where I could or went on foot. In Switzerland, American money did not go very far as everything was very expensive. However, Switzerland was beautiful to visit because of the mountains and amazing landscapes. One place I visited was Mount Titlis and the glacier on that mountain, near Engelberg. I remember traveling there on a bus along a very windy, narrow road that the bus could’ve gone off of and over the side of the mountain at any moment. Thankfully, the bus driver was an expert at handling those winding curves because I actually wondered if I would make it back down the mountain alive!

Luxembourg City did not have much to offer, but I did buy some music from there. Rome, Florence, and the Vatican were lovely and very cultural. I enjoyed the many sites, statues, and fountains in Rome, particularly the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. I also achieved a life goal of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and was in awe of this beautiful, holy church. I was disappointed, however, at being unable to see the Sistine Chapel. I asked a nun in the basilica, in Italian, if the chapel was open to visitors, and she told me it was closed in her sad, miserable way – I felt sorry for her and prayed for her, wondering why she was so ugly. Perhaps just being a nun was enough.

Prior to heading to France toward the end of my trip, I went back and spent some more time in Brussels. I enjoyed Brussels and it was relatively inexpensive on my budget, so I took in some more of the castles, museums, and parks there. Eventually, I did have to go to France, and I stopped in Nice first to enjoy the beach. Following that, I traveled to Paris where I toured around and saw some major sites. Of course, I went up the Eiffel Tower, saw the Arc de Triomphe, and toured the Louvre, which was absolutely huge and astounding. I remember seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and thinking about how much smaller it was than I expected it to be. Paris was extremely expensive, and I had little money left by that time, so I spent and ate frugally. When it was time to return home, I nearly missed my flight out of Paris because I had not allowed quite enough time. I had not expected the Charles de Gaulle Airport to be so huge, and I thought I knew my French better than I did. Thankfully, a woman who spoke fluent English helped me while I was on a shuttle bus traveling between different gates, and she put me in the right direction. Had she told me incorrectly and had I listened, I really would have missed my flight home! Sometimes, God has a way of placing good people in our lives who help us when we most need it!

So, that pretty much sums up my travels in Europe and the British Isles. I think that summarizes all of the places I visited. I no longer have my “prized possession” passport from that time that reflected all of the country stamps since it was trashed by my former spouse, however I hold onto many wonderful memories of my travels. Also, as a young adult, I traveled on my own several times in the United States, along the East Coast and South, and in Canada, including Niagara Falls, Toronto, Algonquin Park, and Montreal. Canada has that down-to-earth feel with good family values, and I always enjoy traveling in and visiting Canada, though many years have passed since I was last there. While I was traveling in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Canada, I generally felt safer than whenever I traveled alone in the United States. Hopefully, someday, I will be able to return to Europe or the British Isles. It would be great to take my son to visit and tour some of the beautiful sites with him!

Living in the Big Apple after College

This is the view one would see from the Statue of Liberty in New York City when the Twin Towers were standing. This is the view I remember while living in New York in 1993. Retrieved October 4, 2022 from https://www.wallpaperscape.com

I was reminiscing with some nostalgia last weekend about the year that I lived in New York City after graduating from the University at Buffalo three decades ago. I really don’t know why I was thinking about it, but I allowed my mind to wander and recollect many of the different things I did while I lived there. I thought I would share about them here.

First of all, the Big City, for someone who had never even been to the Big Apple before, was overwhelming and overpowering, in a good way. I had been to “large” cities such as Buffalo, Cleveland, Toronto, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Orlando, etc., but nothing compared to New York City. I moved to Washington Heights on an invitation from friends at school who were Jewish; I stayed with them for five weeks. (In this post, I will identify people according to their heritage and/or ancestry, as that is what New Yorkers tend to associate with over nationality.) Washington Heights is a neighborhood composed of mostly Jews and Puerto Ricans. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but it was all good. It truly was culture shock when I first moved to New York, and for sometime afterwards. The biggest thing that I could not get accustomed to were the lack of trees and greenery. It was all just one big concrete jungle.

During the time that I lived with my friends, I searched for work and my own apartment. My friends set me up with contacts from temporary agencies to locate work, which I did within three weeks. Within five weeks, I secured a studio apartment on the ritzy and expensive Upper East Side. I had not had enough credit history established at that time, so my dad co-signed on the apartment lease with me. It was a very nice, pleasant, and comfortable place to live for the time that I was there. The apartment was close to many different ethnic restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and the subway. I did not keep a vehicle in New York while I lived there. I either traveled by foot, subway, Amtrak, or taxi cab. My apartment was also close to St. Monica’s Catholic Church, just five blocks away. It was very convenient to have a church of my faith so close by. I actually took an evening acting class at the church; it was given by a priest with a background in acting. It was pretty interesting.

My first official job, fresh out of college, was working as a temp at the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York. I began as the secretary of the Investment Accounting Department. I loved working at this job. Everyone was so nice, friendly, professional, and welcoming. My supervisor, Ms. Georgina, a very Italian lady, was kindly and motherly, always being concerned about all of her subordinates. Everyone worked hard in the Department. I was the youngest person, and they looked out for me. They readily and willingly answered my questions about accounting and investment that I could not answer on my own. I had some experience in keeping my own investments by that time, but certainly no accounting experience. I learned very quickly how to read spreadsheets with lots of data. I was a person who paid attention to detail, so this was great for me. I remember actually catching some errors in my review of documents, and had enough courage to question them so that they got corrected.

After a few weeks working in the Investment Accounting Department, I was told that my new position was to work as the Secretary to the CEO, Mr. Greene, a very Irish gentleman. Apparently, he had taken notice of me, though I really had not paid much attention. So, I began working in his office, and he was always very kind and professional toward me. At one point, I approached my prior supervisor, Ms. Georgina, and asked her why he was always so nice to me, even to a fault. She let me know that she believed I reminded him of his daughter.

I remember one particular occasion that Mr. Greene was on a very upsetting conference call and I could see from two rooms away that his face was scarlet. After he finished the call, I approached him and asked if he needed anything – water, coffee, etc. He said he didn’t need anything, but appreciated my concern. The next day, Mr. Greene entered the office in the morning and greeted me by saying that I was “The Sunshine.” I guess he appreciated my kind, happy, and pleasant demeanor and professional work ethic. At that time, however, I was still searching for permanent work, and obtained it since the pay rate at Teachers’ was low and did not provide any benefits. I could not afford to stay there in those circumstances, though I wish I could’ve taken all of my colleagues with me to my new job. They were all wonderful!

I must also include that while I was working at Teachers’, the parking deck bombing at the World Trade Center occurred. I still remember that day, February 26, 1993. As I recall, it was a rainy and cold day. There were all kinds of emergency sirens going off all afternoon long, and Lower Manhattan was lit up like a Christmas tree due to all of the flashing lights of emergency vehicles rushing to the scene. My colleagues and I at Teachers’ had a good vantage point from being up high at about 10 stories off the ground. We could see smoke coming from the area of the World Trade Center, and of course, we had wondered what was happening. Soon, the radio news was reporting the bombing, and several of my colleagues got in touch with family members who worked at World Trade. Thankfully, they were all okay, but my colleagues were very shaken up, worried, afraid, and angry. It was a day, a scene, and an event that I will never forget. Sadly, that terrorism led to even more in the future, as we know and remember on September 11, 2001.

My next place of employment was First Investors’ Corporation on Wall Street. I worked on Wall Street as a legal assistant! I still think of it to this day and am amazed to hear myself say it, however it was not all as great as it seemed. First Investors’ was definitely a corporation, and by that, I mean it had a cold, insensitive feel to it. It was very different from working at Teachers’. The pay was much better and I had benefits to begin after a three month probationary period, but truly, it was not worth working there because I ended up being very unhappy. I worked for a very professional attorney, a Jewish lady, in the Legal Department; she was kind, but she was focused on supporting the company rather than helping clients of the company, which I thought should’ve been more important. I guess she wanted to make sure she kept her job. The Legal Department was the bastion of protection for the company, and there were many issues that came up that required the work of the attorneys.

My job at First Investors’ ended up becoming a chore for me since the people, overall, were not really very friendly; they were concerned about themselves. I ended up disliking having to come to work each day. I became very stressed and looked forward to lunch each day when I could get outside and walk. At any rate, it was a good experience to have worked there because I then recognized that not every place of employment was the same. I had wished I could’ve stayed at Teachers’; I was very happy there, but also poor. Had I remained at Teachers’, I would not have been able to pay my rent and put food on my table.

Due to the stress I experienced at First Investors’, I sought other enjoyable outlets for my talents and energy. I would often go jogging along the East River, along the walkway between the river and the highway. It was not a pretty or attractive walkway, but it fit the purpose and helped relieve some stress. I also called about 30 different organizations, seeking volunteer opportunities. I really wanted to get into television and media, but got no bites with that. I ended up calling and following up on my inquiry with the Childrens’ Museum of Manhattan and was invited for an interview. The lady liked me, and gave me some time during one day per week to come and volunteer. After a couple of weeks, I approached her and asked for the opportunity to come more often, and ended up volunteering three times per week for a few hours. I loved working with the children who came through the Museum, and really enjoyed my time volunteering there. I was given a lot of trust and autonomy in working with the children, and was eventually given my own “room” to supervise while I was there. It was awesome!

With all of this, it goes without saying that I took in as much culture as possible. I went to musicals, plays, and concerts. I went out to eat at all different types of ethnic restaurants. I remember having Indian food one time, and it was so spicy that I was coughing before I could get a drink of water! It was the first time I had ever had Indian food – the curry did me in. I visited and toured every possible museum that I could, taking it all in as much as possible. I loved all of the culture New York had to offer!

During my time in New York, I also met a lady who invited me to volunteer for Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral campaign, and I did. At the time, I thought him to be a better candidate than the democratic incumbent. And, I am a person who will go either way – Democrat or Republican – depending on the quality of the person and his/her ideals. I sent mailers out to voters, made copies of fliers, and called wealthy donors, requesting campaign donations. Apparently, they liked the manner in which I spoke with people – very kind, considerate, professional, and appreciative. I would like to think that helped Mr. Giuliani secure some more funding, but I never saw the actual figures. And, at that time, I enjoyed volunteering on the campaign since Mr. Giuliani’s character was much better than I would say it is today. As you likely know, he was elected.

So, that was my year in New York in a nutshell. It was quite an experience, especially for a young adult, fresh out of college, who had never been to the Big Apple ever before (other than to Kennedy Airport on a trip out of the country). I’m happy that I had the opportunity and experience of being able to live there for the time that I did. Knowing my personality, however, I could never live there permanently – too much concrete and not enough trees. Nature fills my spirit, and without that, I was suffocating under the pressure of the City. It is, however, good to have these life experiences in order to make determinations about the future course of one’s life.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc.

Ever since my son was a Cub Scout, the only way I have been able to have access to many of his scouting photos (all the way through scouting for more than a decade) is to be a Facebook member. Even typing that term, “Facebook member” makes me cringe, and there are reasons for that. Way back when my son was a little tyke, I was the scout mom who put up the fuss about privacy and security on Facebook for our children. Too many people wanted to just make packs or troops public groups so just anyone could see what was happening. To me, this invited the possibility of people who had no business being involved in pack or troop activities using the information for other than reputable purposes. In those “early” days of all parents except me being overly permissive of allowing anyone to access and/or follow pack or troop events on Facebook, I always ended up being the “bad guy” because I was the one who spoke out against it. In those times, therefore, I did not give permission for my son’s image to be used on any of those pack events that were posted on Facebook, simply for privacy and security. I still wonder to this day why everyone else was just so willing to go along. I felt it was just wrong and opened up the potential for issues. That other parents were not concerned was very discouraging.

As my son got older and joined a scout troop, the same issue cropped up again. Well, I thought, at least my son was older now and maybe I would not have to be as concerned about his privacy and security on Facebook. As a committee member of my son’s troop who, at one point, held two board positions simultaneously, I again presented my case for privacy and security on Facebook by insisting that the troop’s group be closed, or I would not vote for the troop to use a Facebook account. Ultimately, the troop created a closed group as opposed to a public group, and I drafted the waivers for parents to sign for their sons’ photos to be posted in the account. This was something very important to me and I fought for it, creating the waiver just like a legal document. Some may have thought it over the top, however protecting our kids is of utmost importance to me. Someone has to step up and do it, especially when others do not see the significance of it. Unfortunately, too many kids get hurt in situations that could have been prevented with better planning and foresight.

Therefore, way back when, I caved and joined Facebook, but with a twist. I disagree with the CEO’s norms and values used in Facebook, as well as the potential for using and exploiting certain information. Therefore, I do not use my real name, image, or birthdate on Facebook. This is just another way of resisting against the CEO’s intellectual theft employed in creating and establishing Facebook. Are you familiar with the process with which Facebook came about? Basically, it was to be used as a type of dating website among college students, specifically focused on only including women’s photos. And, then, all of the hacking into college databases and stealing others’ ideas to create Facebook should be enough to turn anyone’s stomach. If I was being “forced” to join Facebook simply to obtain access to photos of my son in scouting events, then I would do it on my own terms. To this day, I still do not use my real name, image, or birthdate on Facebook, again as a way of resisting what Facebook stands for.

Many years ago, I also joined Twitter, though over time, my participation in that venue has subsided to nothing. Recently, I actually cancelled my account because I no longer use it and after assessing my use of it, realized that it has been of little to no benefit to me. I remember years ago when Twitter was all the craze and I was very active on it, but then again, I had the time to be active on it. I actually wasted so much time on it – I wish I could get it back now!

Recently, another of my son’s scouting groups required an Instagram account in order to keep up with news, events, and photos. I signed up for Instagram, found it to be a waste, and promptly deactivated my account. I get the same information, though much more minimally, from Facebook. Again, if I am “forced” to already be a member of Facebook, then I was stay with it, but on my own terms.

That brings me to LinkedIn. I was so active on LinkedIn many years ago, acquiring 100s of contacts and following still 100s more influencers. Yes, I would occasionally reach out to other professionals for conversation, seeking advice, sharing information and knowledge, etc. However, over time, I have decreased my activity on LinkedIn since I am so busy with so many other things. I did establish and still maintain four groups on LinkedIn, though I do not keep up with them nearly as well as I should. Really, the only reason I am still active at all on LinkedIn is for those groups. As professionals, it is good to show career and other experience on LinkedIn, but I have to ask, how valuable is it, really, for others to know this information? Maybe in some venues or areas it is helpful, but not in all of them.

Lastly, I do keep two blogs and have maintained them for many years. One includes a lot of family ancestry and baking posts, and the other includes posts about lepidoptera. I have deleted dozens of posts from the more personal-related one over the years because I no longer believe it is helpful to have such information out there. I know others who maintain blogs, including various information in them, and I also know people who are involved very little on the Internet. While many long-lost relatives have contacted me about my blog about family ancestry, expressing their appreciation for the images and information, I have to wonder how good it is to put all of that out there. I have a lot of information that I would like to share, but there is no better venue in which to do that other than a personal blog or website. Then, I see just anybody copying my images and re-posting them on Pinterest or other sites, and that is what I have to accept – others using my photos and/or information without my permission. At any rate, I’m sure that one day, I will take it all down and will lose interest in keeping and maintaining all of it. But, for now, I will keep it going and make yet another post to my blog about some of the many media venues that capture people’s attention.

That reminds me, years ago, I set up a YouTube account to share videos of my son’s school events and performances with family out-of-state. I’m going to search for and delete that if it still exists because I haven’t used it for years. There are just too many accounts and too much to keep up with. It’s time to start downsizing; enough is enough.

Delicious Vietnamese Bread

Vietnamese Bread

Have you ever had Vietnamese bread? I never had any before today, and it is delicious! It tastes sweet and buttery, but is also very light. Thank you very much to my hair stylists, Chris and Kim in Snellville, for pampering me today, and for the Vietnamese bread!