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!

Friday, July 31, 2020

#CelebratingOther with James Ford Rhodes High School Class of 1980 Graduate: Jim Kolar!

It has been a wild couple of weeks for me, but I am thrilled to be "back in the saddle" and continue with my "CelebratingOthers" posts on Fridays. I reconnected with "neighbor," James (Jimmy/Jim) Kolar before our trip West and all that that entailed; and very happy to share once again how 40 years melted away while we caught up with each others lives most recently. 

Jim lived about 10 houses down from me (different street), but they were small houses, and therefore, small streets, so in effect, really close. But Jim stated he spent more time with the kids on the street behind his house that one neighbor actually installed a gate for Jim's easier passageway to that group of neighborhood kids (about a dozen or so boys.) How's that for a friendly neighborhood?

Like most kids growing up in Old Brooklyn, Jim was born in in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1962, to Mary (deceased in 2005) and Joseph Kolar (age 94 and still living in the same house Jim and his brother were raised in!) His older brother, Joe, was 10 years older than us and graduated from Rhodes in 1970, marrying his high school sweetheart, Linda. They have three children and reside in North Ridgeville. 
Though he revealed a great childhood, his brother likes to tease Jim that their parents had two "only children," due to the age difference, but, thankfully, there was plenty of love and affection to go around for the both of them! 

Jimmy reported he had a summer garden at Benjamin Franklin like a lot of kids in our neighborhood, and we both attended the same schools all the way through, sharing at least the second grade in the same class, and we suspected, other grades too (couldn't remember the other ones, though,)

By high school, Jimmy was a part of the "FunLovers Club," the Men's Varsity Soccer team and one of my lunch table-mates our junior and senior years. He even "remembered" me eating the two powdered sugar donuts and a red delicious apple every day. 

After our July 18, 1980, graduation, Jimmy went to work for the Cuyahoga County Auto Title Bureau for six years. He applied to Kent State but decided not to go, and didn't care for government work either (he did not like to wear a tie!) By 1986 he moved to Queens, New York, and then Freehold, New Jersey, to work as a Pipefitter (NY) and then as an installer for Fire Protection systems (NJ.) Jim admitted he loves construction and is very handy around any power tool (big or small), and in fact, worked with his uncle in the cement business since we was 16 years old during summer/winter breaks. I also have to interject here that Jimmy became a New York Rangers (NHL) fan when he moved East, and still follows them. Funny thing is that he and I have "battled" it out in fandom with me being a huge Washington Capitals fan, and him...a Rangers fan?! We always kid each other about "our" teams, especially when they play each other.

After several years in NY/NJ, Jimmy moved back to Cleveland to help his parents, especially his ailing Mom who was diagnosed with Lupus. Upon his return he also became fully vested as a cement mason with the Local #404 - Cleveland Cement Finishers, and has been working in cement business every since. Today, he is a concrete foreman who works in large commercial projects (hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital; The Intercontinental Hotel; and several large high schools in Cuyahoga County plus many many more very large projects). He mentioned that he loves his job, and therefore has "never worked a day in his life."

By 1992, Jim was introduced to his wife, Susan, on Good Friday, by one of his cousins. Sue is a retired Cleveland Public School Special Education teacher after 30 years, but couldn't stay away from the kids she loves to teach, and the whole education process, that she has subbed, and teetered between part time and full time positions for Keystone and Cloverleaf High Schools since her retirement. They married on September 23, 1993, and their boy/girl twins were born in May of 1994. 

Their daughter, Emily, now engaged, and a graduate of Ohio University with an Applied Science degree, is working in customer service at Forest City Enterprises. Their son, Jacob, who also graduated from Ohio University in Sports Management, is also working at Forest City Enterprises and coaches youth and high school basketball, something their Dad did while they were growing up as well. 

In addition to the typical youth sports (soccer/baseball); Jim founded their local AAU Basketball club and team when his kids were in third grade. They all love basketball and they made it a family affair for many years; especially traveling to games and tournaments throughout Ohio and the Midwest. 

This blue-loving and super handy guy is so talented and loves "figuring stuff out," that he was giddy about designing and building his beautiful home from scratch! Not only that, but he's also built a cabin in Cooks Forest, PA (generational property), that he loves taking the family there at least once a month. Some of his favorite things to do there are fishing and hunting and hanging with his family. During hunting season, he spends most weekends there. But...one of his favorite places on Earth is his family's island (Kolar 446) on Lake Temagami (it's an Algonquin name meaning "deep water by the shore") in Canada. It's desolate, it's primitive, but it's "home" for Jimmy and anyone that ventures up there with him.

Interestingly, Jimmy has collected Marvel Comic books since the mid 1960's and has a wonderful collection of football cards dating back to 1968! That's collecting 350 cards each year for over 50 years!!! Wow! 

Lastly, Jimmy is super jazzed about his wonderful family and living in his personally designed and built home in Wellington, Ohio; loves to watch old movies, and his favorite song; aptly for Jim - "Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty. 

BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with Jim Kolar; along with his superpower - always looking for the best in everything! That is something we call all aspire to, right? 


Photo selection below provided by Jim:

Jim at the "reel."

Susan and Jim

Jim, Sue and family

The "Cement" Man

Coach Jim


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Where Are All the Butterflies?

I love butterflies! Who doesn't? But, unfortunately, here in the Mid-Atlantic, I have not seen many yet this summer. A few moths have flitted by, but not the "standard" butterflies I'm used to seeing on a daily basis. I even have "butterfly" friendly plants, but still have not seen the usual suspects I enjoy see fluttering by. 

But, just down the road a couple of hours, in Charlottesville, VA, I did see more butterflies! I suppose they haven't made their trek further North yet. Who really knows? 

I'm glad to capture one pictured below; and very happy to have my butterfly fix for the summer (but truthfully, not enough.)



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

We Made the Local News in Charlottesville, Virginia!

It did not take long for six strong and intelligent woman make our mark on the town of Charlottesville, VA. While sitting and enjoying last evening at the Charlottesville Mall in downtown, a local news reporter, Carly, stopped by our table to ask our thoughts of the newly instituted Covid 19 "restrictions."

Robin, our fearless "leader" did not hesitate to answer Carly's line of questions on the local Charlottesville news, but only a very little sound bite was shown. 

We are enjoying our last night in the beautiful house we rented, and back to our real lives tomorrow. So thankful for us to share the last few days together!



Debbie, Kata, Robin, me, Sue and Sarah at Pippin Winery

Sarah Marriott striking a pose

Pippin Hill Winery

Wine Tasting Sommelier Sarah! 

Monday, July 27, 2020

20+20=40 Year Reunion

I couldn't be happier than sharing a few days celebrating our friendships and high school graduation with my "childhood" friends in Charlottesville, VA! From taking hikes in the Virginia countryside, to hanging out in our Airbnb and reminiscing about the "good ole' days at James Ford Rhodes High School in Cleveland, Ohio, to a couple of wine tastings in the area, and walking through the Charlottesville Walking Mall, it's been a great getaway time for all of us. 

There is something to be said about bonds of friendship that date back to the second or third grade, and have gratefully, continued to today. They are mom's, career girls, a teacher, a doctor and pharmacist amongst us. We loved where we grew up to learn the "ways of the world," and parlayed our educations to the wider world no matter where we lived and worked in the last 40 years!

So cheers to the ladies and I'll have your backs for the next 40!



Below: Kata Pagon, me, Sarah Marriott, Debbie Martinko, Sue Doerle (and Robin Chandler though not in this photo)

Robin being interviewed on the local news about COVID-19 in downtown Charlottesville, VA

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Zucchini on the Grill

Have you ever tried zucchini on the grill? It's been awhile for me, but two awesome gardeners, Mark Misencik and Tom Franek, gave me some "fruits," er, vegetables of their labors. The big Z's tend to be delicious anytime of year; and in the wintertime, roast mine in the oven. But with summer, and not wanting to use the oven on these hotter days, there is nothing like putting them on the grill to "roast." 

All they need are some spices (salt, pepper, paprika and a dash of olive oil, or any oil, really) and they will melt in your mouth once cooked. My one super big Z yielded what is in the bowl (second photo). I'll eat to that!



Friday, July 24, 2020

A CelebratingOthers "Light" Story With Officer Tripper Warrior - Iowa State Highway Patrol!

We are safely home after covering almost 5,000 miles of the USA! Whew! Our trip consisted of being away for 16 days beginning with my Mom's funeral in Ohio, then driving further out West (previously planned) to Colorado; Wyoming and South Dakota (and the in between states back and forth!) I must admit, it was a great trip with the hubby, who at 61 years of age, was the longest streak of travel he's ever taken in his life! I'm so thankful he entered the "travel sphere" with me no matter how many days we'd be gone. 

Noting Bill's meticulousness and the fact we own a Ryobi tire pressure compressor (and packed - minus the battery charger though...ahem...and a huge shout out to Paul Godleski) came in handy in more ways than one. But let's start with how proud he was prior to us bugging out from the Misencik's in Berthoud, Colorado, when he checked and pumped up the tire pressure in all four tires before starting the trek back. Everything was going to plan and our car (2012 Honda Accord) hummed along like it's supposed to. 

Then we entered the state of Iowa...farmland all around us, and truthfully, in the middle of nowhere. We were approximately 35 miles into the state when the tire pressure light came on, then seconds later, the rear passenger tire went flat. Bill was driving and safely stopped the car and I opened the passenger door and glanced back to confirm a very flat tire indeed. We quickly grabbed our wallets, phones, and also got our belongings out of the trunk and into the back seat and moved as far as we could safely stand away from our vehicle. Mind you, hundreds of trucks were passing us traveling at speeds over 75 MPH. 

Bill suggested I call AAA right away, so I tried to get into the grassy area (AKA ditch) to make the call. While on hold, of course, an Iowa State Trooper rolled up to us less than 10 minutes later. Could it have been my mom "sending" this trooper to us? (We learned later that many folks get stranded near there and wait for hours for help - AAA or otherwise). When he got out of his vehicle, Officer Tripper Warrior asked me who I was on with. When I said AAA, he gently urged me to hang up stating that it would take 3-4 hours for someone to come out to help us, and he was there willing to help us get back on the road safely.

When Bill honestly stated that we can use the help with getting the damaged tire off, and replacing it with the "donut" or spare, Officer Warrior obliged with a smile and said it would be no problem at all. He's was right; he quickly took off the tire (had a screw in the tread), and gently replaced it with the donut spare. He then mentioned that if we would like, he would follow us to the nearest Walmart (22 miles away) to possibly buy a tire repair kit and plug the tire where we found the screw. 

But Bill, always thinking, determined that our "donut" has never been used in the 8 years we've had the car, so it could very well need some air. Well, he was definitely correct, as that spare had only 20 PSI with a needed 60 PSI to drive safely. However, that second use of the Ryobi only had enough to get it to 55 PSI (I guess, good enough?), so on a wing and a prayer...we got back into the car and took Officer Warrior's offer by driving "slowly" enough with the spare and a state trooper behind us for "support."

Bill and I were ecstatic on how accommodating the folks of Iowa are, and most importantly, Officer Warrior (love the name; he helps road warriors!), and couldn't believe our "luck." Once we got to the Walmart, Officer Warrior went into the store with Bill (in masks), and helped him select a tire repair kit (first time Bill ever saw one of these too...I know I know...you are wondering where is Bill's man-card, right?). Six dollars spent and a few minutes later they were back at the car with the kit to hopefully "repair" the tire. Again, Officer Warrior asked if it would be OKAY to help, and of course the answer was a resounding "YES" from both of us!

Once the tire was actually looked at and the "repair" started, we saw very quickly that the tire was damaged in more than that one spot and could never be repaired. Ugh! We were 75 miles from the hotel and a storm was brewing from the West...

This is where "Angel" Officer Evan Tripper Warrior, a three year member as an Iowa State Trooper, and us parted ways. Not only did he spend almost three hours with us, he gave us instructions on where the best air pump was located on our way to the hotel to get that spare up to snuff at 60 PSI for our 75 mile drive ahead of us, along with his calling card should we encounter any more difficulties with our vehicle and the their tires. We thanked him profusely and "floated" out of the Walmart parking lot with gratitude, even on a bum tire. 

Once we found the tire pressure thingy, filled up to the PSI needed on the spare, we headed out back to the interstate when the torrential rains began. Bill was determined to keep driving, albeit white knuckling all the way to the hotel outside of Des Moines. We finally made it...safely...and lived to see another day!

Footnote: The next morning, I called a few tire places near the hotel and thankfully got a brand spanking new tire without incident (even called my expert mechanic, Joe, in Crofton for tire advice). We counted all our blessings and began the drive back to the East Coast in great spirits and safely arrived home two days later (yesterday)!

BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with Officer Warrior and his help and expertise in flat tire "repairs!"


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Boys Will be Boys!

Many photos are taken and many memories are shared while on a vacation, but this photo screams "The Boys of Summer." The "next" time we visit the Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota, in the Black Hills National Forest with all its wonderful amenities, "the boys" will, perhaps, take a spin on the Slingshot throughout the canyon trails instead of taking a quick moment sitting in one for the photo op! 

I am truly thankful for the wonderful visits to Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota (and our fabulous hosts: Linda and Mark Misencik). Each state we visited, of course, is unique with their topography, culture and things to see and do (and loads of hiking!), and, most importantly, helping me heal my hurt heart. As the days and weeks and months unfold, I feel I will always have my Mom as my guardian angel in keeping me and my family safe going forward without her.



Sunday, July 19, 2020

The 11th Hour Gulch Hike - Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

An off the beaten path hike, mostly used by the locals, was too intriguing for four people who love to hike to not pass it up (no markings whatsoever/no signage for trailhead.) However, as the daylight started to fade, and the treacherous rock scrambles ensued due to cascading water right from the start, it certainly seemed like a very ambitious endeavor at that moment in time. However, despite all the above, we carried on with the adventure with elation.

Please note: this hike was named due to the one hour of sunlight in this narrow canyon of rock, but there is "plenty" of light to get a hike in nonetheless.

While "fearless leader" Mark Misencik scrambled quite effortlessly across the rock and up a rickety old ladder that helped get up to the next big boulder, husband Bill was not so nimble for his turn up the ladder and fell quite hard, twisting his body landing flat on his back (and a few scrapes to his arm.) Being a few yards away, I couldn't help his fall, but said, "I should have been the second one up the ladder." Linda then quipped, "it's time to end this hike we just started." Mark was called down from his perch above, but could barely hear us from the loud sound of the running water in various places on the rocks.

Thankfully, we all reconvened at the bottom safely; and maybe, just maybe, we will try that hike again...someday. http://www.blackhillsthehike.com/eleventh-hour/

BSoleille! The bright side of knowing when to say when...


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Rushmore? No, Rush less in South Dakota

A huge thank you goes out to Sue Peterson, one of my #CelebratingOthers posts recently who suggested some of the highlights of South Dakota once we got on the subject of travel and US National Parks during our interview (my husband I and were throwing around the idea of visiting Colorado and South Dakota.) 

The suprisinging highlight of the trip, recommended by Sue, is staying at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Spearfish, SD. No one in our travel group has ever been to this Honeybee state, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here (and what's not to like about 80 mph driving all over the western part of this state).

From Mt. Rushmore to the Crazy Horse Monument to the Badlands and the Black Hills, and let's not forget Wall, SD, rushing less to enjoy the sites is what we found most appealing. The topography changes every 10 miles (and it goes by fast...ahem), or so it seems. Looking forward to our last night here (evening hike) before we head south back to Colorado.



First photo of Lusk, Wyoming Population 1500 (other places with populations of 45!)

Spearfish Canyon Lodge

At the top of 76 Trail - Climbed 1000 ft in .6 miles

Badlands, SD

Dinner in the Canyon

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Curt Gowdy State Park - Wyoming Hike

Our hostess (Linda Misencik) in Colorado had an early morning appointment with a client in Cheyenne, Wyoming, so Bill and I went with her this morning on an adventure! We dropped her off at the client, then made quick work of heading to the Curt Gowdy State Park about 30 miles away. It is a lovely state park, and, thankfully, were able to get in a "quick" hike on the Granite Ridge Trail which has outstanding granite formations before picking Linda up in Cheyenne a couple of hours later.



Did not see any bears, but how about this mule deer?

Two Mountain Mamas, a Dad and a Dog

There is nothing like breathing in that fresh mountain air while on a 7 mile hike in Estes Park (Lion Gulch Trail), part of the Rocky Mountain National Park system. The elevation gain was about 1700 ft., which is not that bad, though, I will admit, we did have some heavy breathing while we climbed up a bit from the three of us and dog Gunner - a German Shorthaired Pointer. 

But, for me, I was thrilled that I finally quieted the Mountain "gods" that have been screaming my name for the past few months to come and play in the mountain ranges. The bonus: a chance to hike and climb and heal my hurt heart surrounded by beautiful mountain wildflowers, tall pine trees and big meadows once we reached a certain area on the out and back hike/trail.

BSoleille! The bright side of Colorado mountain air!


Photo below: Two mama bears

Linda, Gunner and Bill

Me, Bill and Linda Misencik

Gunner and me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Westbound Road to Healing - I80!

The Bob Seger’s song: “Roll Me Away,” started off our playlist on our trip driving to Boulder, Colorado, from Cleveland, Ohio (1200+ miles), with the “need” to drink in the landscape through the states, and soothe the soul from the recent sad days. I don’t think I could have “planned” it any better to head West, to the open road heading across the USA to the Rocky Mountains (they are screaming my name.) This trip was planned before we learned my Mom took a turn for the worse, and stopping in Ohio before heading out to Colorado after the funeral was what was truly meant to be.

I must also add that driving across the USA for almost 1300 miles (and the gas quite cheap by the way!) was the balm to a broken heart. And as the miles piled up, I felt the healing process start to begin, and my heart has been filled with immense gratitude. While driving or sitting in the passenger seat, my eyes tended to focus on the “little things” along the road: the sunsets, the big blue skies with huge fluffy clouds to admire; the good book we were listening to for several hours; the horses, bovine and cattle in every color of the rainbow, and the “ever growing” corn stalks in each state we covered.

Once we reached our destination, a collected sigh (two people, is it collective?) was uttered in the car, along with a deep breath in and, hopefully, the beginning of a “refreshed” soul by deeply breathing in the fresh mountain air!



Monday, July 13, 2020

RIP Mom!

Today is the day we lay my Mom to her final resting place with a Mass of Christian burial in the next couple of hours. So my post will be short and poignant on this glorious day in Cleveland, Ohio.

It’s the finality and gravity of the one person who knows me the longest, and perhaps, the best, from the day I was born, plus the nine month “incubation” period, or, now, at 58 years old. My mission is to keep the good memories locked into my heart and share with those closest to me and her as we move on without her.

These particular days are never easy for anyone experiencing burying their Mother, across the globe or in any culture. I believe the feelings are really quite the same no matter where one lives, or how many resources are spent or not spent, or the traditions surrounding the death, we are the “same.” It’s the humanity in all of us to our final moment.

We grieve and will move on as best as we can. Love you Mom!

RIP, Sophie (Zosia) Nolan!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Is it a Sign from a Loved One That's Passed On?

When my dad died in 2001, a "strange" thing happened in the house that I told this story in an impromptu eulogy at the funeral home. He was a very good bowler with an average of 200 or better, and in one of the biggest bowling tournaments of his life (that he could/would have won "big" money), rolled a 299 (300 is a perfect game). Of course it's combined with at least two other games, and perhaps even more games from the weekend. But what that tournament director did was give my dad that last pin that stood tall, like a wooden soldier, that never teetered one bit - as my dad told the story. That pin was prominently displayed near his basement bar, and when gathering items for the funeral, we decided that bowling pin would "sum" up his life on the lanes. 

So, when we gathered some photos and other paraphernalia from that time, we also packed the bowling pin. For a day or so, that bowling pin sat in between the kitchen and living room and never moved (they are quite heavy in fact.) Unless someone is throwing a 16 lb. bowling ball down at it, it shouldn't move, right? Well, that day, as my mom and sister sat in the living room, and me getting ready in the hall bathroom, that bowling pin fell over. Silence. No one moved. It was unexplainable, and I heard it topple over while in the other room(kind of a loud thud). When I walked out of the bathroom, with an awestruck mom and sister, I said; "well, dad just rolled a perfect game." 

I'm convinced, it was his sign to us that he is okay...

Fast forward to this weekend, when my mom died a few days ago, I casually mentioned to my sisters that we should "look" for a sign from mom (and I typically ask those I'm close to if they ever see a sign from their loved one that has passed on letting them know they "made" it to the other side.) For a couple of days, nothing. Then yesterday, I noticed a social security card on the floor of my sister's desk and chair.  Sure enough, that card was my mom's. It sent chills down our spines, and we really can't figure out how it "fell" out of her desk without notice. Once again, I said; "it's a sign from mom, it even has her name on it."