A daily record of gratitude; from quilting to photography to a mix of technology, books, movies and the musings of life!

Welcome to my Blog of my daily gratitude and photo of the day!

Since January 1, 2012, my goal is to write a daily sentence or two (or paragraph or two) about gratitude of the day and to include one photo (at least) that I took that day (but will add others from time to time). It has definitely been a challenge most days throughout the past eight years, and welcomed the challenge again this year - 2020 - Covid and all. I hope you will continue the ride with me!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

In the Arms of the Angels - Sandy Waskiewicz

Sandy Waskiewicz, friend to many, mom to Lauren and Aaron, wife of Michael, dog lover to Lucy and Harper, and business owner (Curtain Call), and one of the kindest and most compassionate humans I know, passed away yesterday from Leukemia. She fought valiantly for 19 months and sadly, the world lost a beautiful soul to an ugly and relentless disease. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this post, because it has hit me quite hard, as well as an army of family and friends that loved her fiercely.

Thankfully, Sandy had a wonderful support system throughout her cancer journey starting with her husband Michael who was constantly by her side; their daughter, Lauren, doing everything she could for her Mama, including being the donor when Sandy needed a Bone-Marrow Transplant a year ago; and their son, Aaron, who got home to Leesburg, Virginia, when he could while still in his collegiate senior year. Her extended family, friends and neighbors also helped out as much as she/they needed during the throes of her journey.

I met Sandy (and Diane Lombardo) in September of 1996 when all three of our daughters attended a local preschool in Crofton, Maryland. The three of us hit it off well, and both Sandy and Diane were expecting that fall for springtime births. I already also had two year old Ryan, who was then diagnosed with Leukemia in October of 1996. It did not take long for these two ladies to step up and help our family take care of Olivia when I was always at the hospital, and Bill away at work and desperately trying to get to the hospital as much as he could, and see Olivia at home.  We can never repay the kindness bestowed on us during those dire times, but we will live the rest of our lives trying...every day.

Then in 2000, as the toll of the cancer treatments on Ryan left our family quite frazzled, including Ryan relapsing in September of that year, Sandy and her "elves", came up with a brilliant idea of having kids design Christmas Cards with all proceeds of the card sales going to the Ryan Tomoff Fund. It was totally unexpected, and several kids and their parents sold these wonderful cards throughout the local community and beyond. It was a very sweet gesture, and just the kind of thing Sandy would do to help someone in need. She was that kind of person and made the entire process seamless and efficient (that's what the "elves" eventually told me). Quite lovely, don't you think?

Sandy will be terribly missed by so many kind and loving folks just like her. Many hearts are broken as heaven gains a beautiful woman, er, angel, inside and out!

Rest in Peace my friend.

Sandy Waskiewicz, Photo from her FB page

Sandy and me at Panera Bread on April 5, 2018; Tyson's Corner, VA
Two of the three cards in the pack; by artists Lauren Waskiewicz and Alyson Lombardo, Age 8


Monday, July 30, 2018

Treatment for Clothing and Gearing Up for Ethiopia Trip

As I am preparing for my trip to Ethiopia (leaving on Saturday), it was recommended to me to spray insect repellent on most of my clothing to be on the safe side...of mosquitoes and ticks and other creepy crawlers. Maybe it's a "placebo" for the clothing, but I'll take it and hope for the best. My shots have been updated, and I also got a few more (Hep A, Cholera (it's taken as a drink), Typhoid (pills) and a polio booster). I begin my Malaria pills in a couple days. Whew!

However, I believe all this planning will be worth it once 30 quilts will be placed, and grace the beds of the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa; of course with love and affection from the Southern Comforters Quilt Guild stitched into everyone of them. I am honored and thrilled to be going on this adventure; and the children's wing in the hospital is awaiting patiently for the quilts to brighten up the rooms. I plan on taking many photos and will share once I have working wifi in the area.

Indeed, I will be even more excited once I have my updated passport in my hands (Wednesday!). It's cutting it close, I realize, but as long as I get it, then all is good and all go!



Sunday, July 29, 2018

Build a Turf Field and They Will Come

The county I live in, Anne Arundel, has many updated playing fields as well as beautiful turf fields at all of the12 high schools. The Parks and Rec Departments are also installing "state of the art" turf athletic fields for all to enjoy (though you cannot use a snow shovel on them when the weather is bad!). You can use a broom, however. 

So a complex near my home (Bell Branch) is installing at least one field, maybe two, but I couldn’t tell), and I think it will be great when it’s all said and done. It’s fantastic for all the kids in the county to have year round fields to practice and play official games on, and now there will be one for the Crofton - Gambrills area residents too! Let the games begin!



Friday, July 27, 2018

#CelebrateOthers with Crofton Middle School Teacher - Sue Casler

I recently ran into Crofton Middle School Teacher (English AKA Language Arts..or is the other way around?), Sue Casler, in the grocery store, and once we got talking and catching up with each other, I knew she was someone I had to talk to further. And although she is enjoying her summer, her passion is teaching, and she loves being in the classroom. What? Teaching Middle School? It's one of the most difficult age groups to teach! What about all that classroom management jazz? I had to dig a little deeper with Ms. Casler...a very well respected and much loved teacher in our community, including "The Best Daughter" who had Ms. Casler as an 8th grader.

Interestingly enough, when I was a substitute teacher for the county back in the day, I subbed quite a bit for Sue; and she always had the greatest lesson plans for me to follow. Her students were good and respectful despite a sub they could "mess" with. In fact, Sue was voted Anne Arundel County Public School Teacher of the Year in 2006; and that honor was well deserved for this dynamo! I asked further about the award, and Sue commented that she was shocked to win it, but it was an overall wonderful experience.

Before teaching, Sue spent 20 years in the corporate world but was always interested in teaching. So why the change when her career in industry was going so well for her? She stated that she saw smart, college educated employees that had a lack of good writing skills. In fact, Sue helped a young man finesse a letter to sales customer when the proverbial lightbulb went off for her. Not too long after that, she saw a tiny blurb in her church bulletin about being a "career changer", albeit she would have to teach for five years in a Catholic school. She took this as a "sign" to go for it!  She methodically sought out and won a scholarship for a Masters Degree in Education and left the business world to teach in the classroom.

She never looked back and has never regretted a moment! Now, that is truly amazing, don't you think?

For the past 26 years in teaching, she has had a plethora of unbelievable experiences, and most of them, any teacher could apply for she said. But because Sue is one to take advantage of these "golden" opportunities, she applied for and won a Fulbright (teaching) scholarship where she was able to go to China for five weeks during the summer of 2007, and not only enjoy what China had to offer at the time, but brought back and implemented her experiences into the classroom. She commented that the experience was "lovely", as China was preparing for the Beijing Summer Olympics for 2008, it was a very busy place. One thing that Sue mentioned, and it makes total sense, is that while she was in China, and trying to read "simple" street signs, she could not. It was the first time that she felt "illiterate." That would be difficult for anyone, I believe, unless you can read Mandarin Chinese, but it was that odd feeling of not understanding that is difficult. Let's face it many folks can't read, in Chinese or English, a sad fact worldwide.

Astonishingly, China was just introducing Special Education into their schools at that time too, so they were eager to learn from the 30 teachers from all over the USA that ventured on the trip along with Sue. Following the trip, Sue started a Chinese Club where they tried their hand at calligraphy and also made shadow puppets. Sue even wrote a play called: "Dragon Wings", where her students performed the play at the school. Sue continued to develop programs for other Fulbright teachers and presented her ideas at the county level as well.

So what inspires this orange loving gal? If you guessed teaching, you get an A+ for comprehension! Yes, Sue is inspired by ALL of her students (I believe her!). She declared that since she arrived at CMS in 2000, the Patriots Pen essay contest sponsored by the VFW, really makes her heart sing. She explained that this contest brings out the best in each student as they strive to write and become stewards of handling civic responsibility. The kids bring her great joy, and that most of her students even surprise themselves at how well they could write or "compete" in any other academic discipline.

Thankfully, Sue loves the idea that learning is lifelong and that everyday there is something to be positive about. I believe Sue instills these nuggets in all her students, and they all are better for it for sure!

Sue continues to serve her community by writing curriculum, conducts seminars on teaching strategies and holds various leadership positions. She is chair of the Language Art Department at CMS and is a National Board Certified Teacher!

Lastly, Sue and her husband Doug will be celebrating 46 years of marriage this September. She has two children. Her daughter Heather, who incidentally, is a career changer like her Mama, is a middle school science teacher in Anne Arundel County. Her son Marc is a government employee. She has three grandchildren 10, 8 and 2.

In addition to all the above, Sue revealed that she is sustained by her faith, and service is all a part of being a good Christian along with helping others. And teaching, as they say, is a large part of that motto.

BSoleille! The bright side of CelebratingOthers with Sue Casler!


Sue today!

Sue winning the 2006 Anne Arundel County Teacher of the Year

Thursday, July 26, 2018

NeedleOnFull in Full Swing

While working on T-Shirt Quilts, I continue to be amazed on how many millions of T-shirts there are in T-Shirt Land. Currently I am working on a 3-pack for a client's three adult children, and I seem to be "transported" to the various locations on the T-shirts, or for the quilts I am working on now, the colleges they attended. I really love to consider all the combinations the shirts will end up being placed in the quilt (an art I must say), plus adding the "extras" (which can be patches or anything I can get my needle through). For the three quilts I am working on, I am also incorporating a plethora of men's dress shirts (shirting); and they are shaping up beautifully with this "design element."

Today, while working on the University of North Carolina T-shirts, I was "transported" to Chapel Hill, North Carolina; a fine area of the country, and a great University; so "Carolina On My Mind" was sung in my head the rest of the day. For some reason, "Sweet Caroline" was not the tune this time...


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Southern Comforters Sew-In

My awesome quilt guild was at in again tonight: sewing, making kits, turning "orphan" blocks into families of blocks to eventually turn into a beautiful quilt. I could not attend the last one they held earlier this summer, but was happy to attend tonight's "event". Quilter Extraordinaire, Flo Marion, organized both "sew-ins", and our "small", but mighty, guild responded kindly and got straight to work at several work stations (mine being my sewing machine). I believe three or four quilts were sewn (blocks were already kitted for ease) and were finished right then and there!

The quilt tops from today, and from the last sew-in (an on-going project) will be quilted and donated to our community quilts mission of providing quilts to local pediatric wards in two hospitals, plus our annual quilt Bingo, and now our guild is going international, with 30 quilts traveling to the Black Lion's Children's Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! I will be traveling to Ethiopia soon with my son Ryan's Pediatric Oncologist, Dr. Aziza Shad, and her Aslan Project Team. It's a dream to be able to make this happen, and I am so thankful to every guild member who worked on, quilted, or made the colorful quilts to brighten up the children's area of their dire hospital there.


PS Stay tuned for more details on the upcoming trip!

Photos from today's sew-in, and one suitcase (so far) filled with 21 quilts!

Quilts for Ethiopia

Quilters at work; Flo in blue checkered dress

Pat Scully holding up an example of a "Dinosaur" Quilt!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Banner Day: Ryan's Good Appointment with Dr. Ord and CamPowerForAll Swim Meet

The day started out with an "all clear and all good" exclaimed by Dr. Ord on Ryan's mouth/tongue! Those were fabulous words to our ears and such a sigh of relief... Whew! We are very thankful and hope and pray this continues with each follow-up appointment.

Later in the afternoon, Ryan went to help set up and work the 9th Annual CamPowerForAll swim meet at the Crofton Swim and Tennis Club with Carol and BJ Diamond and the crew. It's one of Ryan's favorite events to help and volunteer at the "souvenir" stand each year.  This is a great community event with novice swimmers from five local pools that helps support the Child Life Services at the Johns Hopkins University Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Department (where Cam Diamond was treated for Cancer). There was high level energy and excitement all meet long, and I was happy to witness the swimmers and their parents (many who have never met Cam and who would have been 18 years old this year), enjoying their swim events, but more importantly, writing cards to the sick kids on the unit(s) and buying CamPowerForAll gear! A sincere collaborative event for all!

BSoleille! The bright side of raising funds through:


Photos from all of today's events!
Dr. Ord and Ryan

Ryan, Bill, Karen Ewing and Don Tomoff

The meet in full swing at Crofton Swim and Tennis Club

Terri, BJ Diamond, Ryan and Bill

Carol and Julia Diamond with me in the middle.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Soccer Notes from World Cup FIFA and USA Referee Mark Geiger

A week ago, the Maryland Soccer Referee Association threw out an invitation to attend a training session (six hours) with US Soccer Referee Mark Geiger, a New Jersey native. He is fresh off the World Cup pitches in Russia and had lots to share in this informal gathering of Maryland Referees at the Johns Hopkins APL in Columbia, Maryland. This MLS Ref of the Year in 2011 and 2014 gave the crowd of 75 eager soccer referees (or AKA serious fans of the beautiful game at the highest level...World Cup), the "ins and outs" and "ups and downs" of the 2018 Tournament. He started out his World Cup introduction with a quiz, typical of a former school teacher that drew the crowd into his discussion the rest of the day.

I was tickled beyond words in gaining Mark's insight of the game, especially the three games he refereed during World Cup play; 6/20 - Portugal vs. Morocco; 6/27 -  Korea vs. Germany and 7/3 -Columbia vs. England (R16); plus five VAR and three AVAR3's. 

Some may wonder about the "new" VAR system and if if affected the tournament. Here are the answer(s): 99.3% accuracy in decisions through the group stage; without VAR, the same 16 teams out of the group stage would have advanced...in only 1 group would 1st and 2nd been reversed; and Referees who initially made incorrect decisions were still "eligible" for later matches.

When the VAR worked, it worked!

I was honored to attend this session and totally impressed with Mark and the entire session. We all learned a lot; and it's not easy to become a World Cup Referee or Assistant Referee, believe me. They are fit and have keen insight into the game at every level. Other "interesting" stats: in the 64 matches played there were 219 yellow cards awarded and only 4 red cards for the entire tournament. Now that is some mighty fine 'controls' on the game one could say.

Lastly, Mark Geiger has been a PRO Referee since 2013, largely giving up his teaching career, and has gone further in World Cup than any US Men's Referee before him. He's blazing a path for others to follow in his footsteps from this neck of the world to succeed at the highest level! And I had to ask him in the Q&A what his favorite color jersey to wear for a match; his answer was black!

BSoleille! The bright side of a World Cup Soccer Recap with none other than Mark Geiger!


Friday, July 20, 2018

Celebrating Others - Loo-C-Loo; Aren't Dogs "People" Too?

It's been 18 days since we lost our beloved Loo-C-Loo; and as many can attest, it's a weird feeling of not having them around any longer. I believe anyone losing a great pet has the same exact feeling(s) the world over.

The whole family misses her terribly, especially the click-clack of her long nails down the hallway, the greetings at the door, the snuggles on the sofa, her shedding...especially in the summer..., OK, well, maybe not the shedding, but it's a feeling that cannot be quantified. She was a steady presence for many years, and her blue-eyed gaze at me while I quilted will be one of the things I miss the most.

I guess it's getting used to a new normal once again, and the family decided on taking a break from having a four-legged pooch for awhile. We can't replace her and don't even want to try at this point. So the house will be eerily quiet and we will miss those loud dog yawns, hums, harrumphs and a woof every now again. She, like so many cats and dogs all over the world, are our pet...or can they be our "people" too? I say emphatically, "they are!"

Olivia&Ryan and Loo-C

Lucky and Loo-C

One of her favorite spots in the house

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Passport Plight - Check Your Passport Dates

First let me say this, I am honored to hold an American Passport and the countries around the world it affords us to visit; pretty much any time we would like to. However, in a blink of an eye, 10 years can fly right by when your passport is about to "expire" in less than six months from a planned trip. This means a new one needs to be issued, and quickly, before traveling to your desired destination.

This all came into the forefront while planning an upcoming international trip and I noticed in the "fine print" on my itinerary about the six month "window" the travel agent printed at the bottom of the ticket. Sure enough, when I looked at my perfectly "good" passport; the travel window expires by a mere 10 days, and therefore, a new passport has to be expedited.

So, if this post can be a sort of "PSA"; and you take a close look at your passport, hopefully you won't be in the predicament as me in getting a new one in a hurry.

In addition to making an appointment at the State Department; filling out very easy forms on-line, and getting a new passport photo; it's really quite a seamless process I have come to find out. But...the photo thing...is another story (can be easy if you find a place that takes them when the equipment is working!).

Thankfully, I called around the local places that, in the past, took the passport photos. Costco being one of them. Apparently, they closed the photo department at our "local" Arundel Mills, Maryland, location. When I called to inquire, the CSR said they only have a handful of photo departments left in the state, as they do everything online now.  So then I called my local CVS; and their equipment was down. Hmm, so I googled passport photos near me, and Target with a Kodak Kiosk popped up. I needed to go over there anyway to return an item, so I wandered over to the Kiosk to see what I can do about a photo.

Sure enough, I loaded a photo of me off my phone and out popped two - 2"x2" photos (passport required size) in less than a minute...for $12.99. Kind of pricey, but everything worked and was seamless and I did not have to drive or worry about faulty equipment anywhere else. Whew!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"Karma is Practical"

My husband Bill loves the above quote, and when you actually think about it, it’s so true. So while browsing on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, last week this sign was a sign and I could not wait to show it to Bill. Don’t you think it’s a polite way of "scaring" off potential shoplifters? I certainly hope the shopkeeper thinks so...and the merchandise stays intact until it’s purchased!



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Observations from the Road 2018/Home Sweet Home

Thankfully, after driving nearly 3800 miles in the last two weeks, Ryan (in-coming travel companion) and I made it safely home late this afternoon. Wow, what a trip back and forth to "The Colorful State of Colorado." A huge shout of thanks to my first overnight send off in Cleveland, The Kocan's, where a good night sleep helped launch the first leg of the trip with my outgoing travel companions, Beth Tomoff and Linda Misencik.

The last leg of the trip and overnight stay was with my sister-in-law, Jan Williams, in Columbus, Ohio, and a shout of thanks to her for hosting Ryan and me as well!

If you love road travel, maybe you can attest to some of these observations from the road this past July from Maryland to Colorado and back:

*The trucking industry is alive and well, as we saw more trucks over all the highways and byways more than last summer. Plus, this commerce industry was well "documented" with their hauls of logs, pigs, horses, propane tanks, huge wheels, rocket ship parts (threw that in to see if you are paying attention...!), windmill propellers and a whole bunch more. Seems like more trucks that cars this year.

*Corn, yep, the USA certainly has thousands and thousands of acres of corn growing at all rates: knee high, to waist high to head high and beyond. Rows and rows and rows of the stuff in every state!

*Cloud formations and storms...you just can't miss the big sky while driving for miles and miles; and the good thing is, the changes from big puffy white clouds, to streaks of white and grey to dark forming clouds...and finally, the storms. Not a fan, but the automobile kept moving forward despite the lightning and rain (we drove through one storm that was five miles long....).

*RV Travel: Is it a baby boomer thing? Especially the Class A RV's with the little car being towed behind the big trailer; so many more on the roads this year it seemed, but it is the height of the travel/vacation season.

*Last but not least, the driving, and particularly, the drivers out there in any four, two or eighteen wheelers. We love polite drivers, those that use blinkers, give plenty of space when passing, and then stay in the right lane until passing. 99% of the trip, I must admit, polite drivers and driving. And that 1%...well, they could use some brushing up on their skills.

Until the next time...

BSoleille! The bright side of safe travels and being home sweet home!


Monday, July 16, 2018

Soccer Connections and World Cup!

Earlier in the week, the family met up with one of the "The Best Daughter's" youth soccer coach from Crofton, Maryland, Mark Pfundstein, in Boulder, CO, for lunch (and to watch a World Cup semi-final game: France vs. Belgium). It was great catching up with him, especially since he is newly remarried and also a spanking new grandfather (his soccer playing daughter, Sarah, who "The Best Daughter" played soccer with back in the day recently had a baby girl). The Boulder lifestyle certainly appeals to Mark, and I'm thankful he is so happy!

Fast forward a few days, and the France vs. Croatia game came full circle this morning with the excitement of the game watched at the Boulder Theater on 14th and Pearl Streets with a couple hundred soccer loving fans! It was a great venue with the huge screen streaming the game from Russia. The drama, fast and furious play and fanatics of "the beautiful game" was a terrific experience for Ryan and I (plus Linda Misencik and Bill) before strapping it in to drive back home (1700 miles!).

BSoleille! The bright side of "Viva La France" in World Cup Champions in 2018!


Bill, Mark, Olivia, me, Ryan and Brian Phillips
Great Venue for World Cup Soccer
In the Theater!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mountains to Brew Tour

The iconic Flatirons in Boulder stood tall before us while heading up the trail and realizing the surrounding beauty in every direction. The "leg burn" is well worth the toil once at the "top", or very near the top on the second and third Flatirons, I must admit. That fresh mountain air early in the morning can’t be beat (as well as the wildflowers too!). 

After the hike, a cold brew was in the future by heading to Golden, Colorado, and the Milller-Coors Brewery Tour, a staple when visiting this state. The line took close to an hour (typical on a Friday afternoon), but the tour and brews afterwards were the ticket to a successful vacation day all around. 

BSoleille! The bright side of "mountains and ales!"


Don, Beth, me and Bill with Flatirons in background. An hour and a half later, near the top!The family crossing the street "Beatles style."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Walker Ranch Hike

On this glorious hike, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a cultural landscape, included seeing one fisherman, ten mountain bikers with the fat tires, and only a few other hikers beside our gang of four. The topography change was remarkable, with my favorite part hiking along the fast water of the Boulder River. Brilliant sunshine and slightly cooler temperature at the start made this hike a crowd favorite. 

Lunch at the Dushanbe Tea House with their electic menu and a tour of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art was also a welcome respite after the 9 miles on the Walker Ranch Trail. 



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wildflowers Galore

The hikes, family, and the Rocky Mountain National Park cannot be beat, but the wildflowers growing out of every nook and cranny of rocks and boulders are spectacular! 

I hope I can post a few photos here, but the WiFi and internet is quite spotty amongst the Flatirons that we are very near. 

BSoleille! The bright side of sore legs from daily mountain hikes!


Rocky Mountain National Park!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Rockin’ It - No Pun Intended

I’m thankful for a very busy day involving hikes, tours, and eating at one our favorite restaurants in Boulder. 

*Note: I had a great blogpost that went "poof" and disappeared while writing it... spotty WiFi etc, so instead post photos from the day. Hopefully, the second time is the charm!

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