Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

The "Water and Wings Room" Story

It was an ordinary day. Expecting our daughter Brynn and our two granddaughters Courtney and Camille for a visit. I just finished putting the final touches on the "Lighthouse Room" and the girls will be able to sleep in there tonight. Brynn will be occupying the "Wings 'n Water" room. Told Carol it sounds like we have a bed and breakfast in the neighborhood. Gonna need another license from the township to have people stay in our two spare rooms. Started in 1999 collecting posters from the "Wings 'n Water" Festival which is held every September in Stone Harbor, New Jersey at the Wetlands Institute. My mom's cousin Roy T. and his wife Susan live on 2nd Street in Stone Harbor and started inviting my mom and dad to visit after Labor Day. Seems Roy appreciated so much that my mom and dad visited and took care of his mother when she was in a nursing home in Lancaster, that after she died they started inviting them to visit with them in Stone Harbor. Since mom and dad didn't care to drive that far, they asked if we could come along with them so we could provide the transportation. Fine with Carol and me! Free time at the shore is always nice. Roy is a year older than me and my 2nd cousin. He was a pilot for Delta for years. Was forced to retire when he reached 60 years old and started to spend more time at his summer home in Stone Harbor. Carol and I became good friends with him and his wife, and after dad died and mom no longer felt like she could go that distance, Carol and I continued to visit in September. We started taking our friends from State College, Jerry and Just Sue with us for a few days. Since Roy and Susan met while students at Penn State, it was a natural match for all. Every year we try to arrange our trip for the "Wings 'n Water" weekend. The Award Winning Wings ‘n Water Festival is one of the premier Wildlife Arts Festivals in the United States. It was named one of the Top 100 Events in North America and Best Event in New Jersey. Quite a weekend! Every year they have a featured poster done by an artist from the area. Some are better than others, but all feature birds of the shore. Two posters feature herons; one a Great Blue heron while the other a Snowy Egret which is also a heron, one features shorebirds, while another has the traditional sea gulls in it. My favorite is a poster from 2001 that features a white heron on the road entering Stone Harbor. Taken near a dilapidated and rotting boat dock. Same place that I took a Polaroid photo years ago and is my best selling beach photo. Actually have it for sale at the Wm. Ris Gallery on 2nd Street in Stone Harbor. The "Wings 'n Water" room is complete with a lifeguard style floor lamp I made, a window pane mirror decorated with sea shells and driftwood, a colorful bench, and white wicker furniture. I think after writing this story, I may have to sleep in the bedroom myself for a night. Sounds like the beach! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos from the top are: view of the bedroom from the door, mirror decorated with shells, posters and bench, and Polaroid photo taken of old dock that matches the poster purchased in 2001. This dock is very near the Wetlands Institute.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The "Homes from the Sea: Part 2" Story

It was an ordinary day. Searching through my "Seashells of the World" Golden Guide to find all the shells that I have not identified as of yet. Some are hard to find, so I try to get as close as I can to the correct name. This is the final part of my story and will feature shells that we have found in different parts of the world or have purchased during our travels. Many countries and islands do not allow you to leave the island with shells or sea creatures, so we always honor that and purchase what we want from local stores on the island. We have made an effort to limit what we accumulate from our trips, because THERE IS NO MORE PLACE TO PUT THEM! But, isn't that pretty much the same with any hobby that people have. Enjoy the shells and creatures that follow. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The Sea Urchin comes from the same family as the Starfish and Sand Dollar. We have found many in a variety of colors,over the years. They have tentacles that protrude from the points on them and can hurt really bad if you get in contact with them. I tramped on one while snorkeling and they are very painful.

The Sea Biscuit is an amazing creature that is gracefully shaped and has a naturally occurring star pattern on its back. We have found many on our travels throughout the Caribbean.

This is a small Chambered Nautilus and is found primarily in the Pacific. Some people cut them in half to display them showing the different chambers inside. We purchased this one.

The Abalone shell is one that we purchased. Never saw one on any of my snorkel trips. The iridescent shell is sometimes used for jewelry. Over 100 species are known.

These are American Cowries that have glossy, china-like shells. Most of the 190 or so species are relatively common in tropical seas. Both were purchased.

These are Florida worm shells of varying sizes and ages. They are actually a snail.

This is a shell that probably came from the tropics. It is a Wing Oyster, or 1/2 of it, and seldom produces a pearl. I looks as if it had been highly polished.

This is an Eastern American Scallop that we purchased. It is about 6" across. I use them for my stained glass window panels, but some people buy them for cooking. They do come in a variety of sizes.

This is an Atlantic Bay Scallop shell that we also purchased. As you can see it is about 5 1/2" across and has beautiful colors.

A few varieties of star fish. We have nine varieties that vary in size from 1/2" to one that is 8" across. All are different and beautiful. We only found one that we kept for our collection. Most that we see are alive, hence the reason that we buy them for our collection.

This is a sea horse, or the remnants of one. We found it along the edge of a beach in St. Croix. They are really small as you can see by the measurements on the scale below it.

This 12" by 6" shell was purchased in St. Martin as we exited the ferry from Pinel Island a few years ago. It is perhaps the most beautiful shell I have. The girl we purchased it from said her father had found it in the waters off of St. Martin. It is a Caribbean Triton Trumpet. By breaking off the bottom tip, you came actually blow into it and it allegedly sounds like a trumpet. Paid $20 for the shell.

This is my fish coffee table that is covered with some of our conch shells. The Pink or Queen conch at the rear of the table is about 12" long and 8" high and came from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. Carol and our friend Just Sue went searching for them in the water behind a beach restaurant and found about 100 of them. The restaurant owner, who had extracted the conch from the shell and thrown them in the water, told them to take all they wanted, but at about 4 to 5 pounds each, one was enough.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The "Homes from the Sea: Part 1" Story

It was an ordinary day. Carol and I just got home from a vacation to Sanibel Island in Florida and are unpacking our suitcase of shells we brought back with us. Our next job will be to put the shells in our antique cabinet we have in our family room. Found the cabinet on one of our trips to State College, PA to visit with our friends Sue and Jerry. The cabinet has 11drawers, in three different sizes. And, they are stuffed with sea shells. Some shells are too
large to fit in the drawers and occupy other spots in our house. OK, some info about where we vacationed. Sanibel and Captiva Islands are off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. Sanibel Island is world renowned for its shelling beaches and the "Sanibel Stoop".More on the "Stoop" later. With over 400 species of shells, Sanibel beaches are considered the best shelling beaches in North America. These shells wash up on Sanibel beaches because unlike other barrier islands which run North to South, Sanibel runs East to West. That's why we decided to vacation there. When tropical storms hit the Gulf of Mexico, the hard-core shellers quickly make their to Sanibel to roam the shell covered beaches. I make stained glass window panels for sale and incorporate shells into them whenever possible. And, now it will be more possible, since we have an entire suitcase of shells. Took bubble wrap with us and a small empty suitcase to bring the shells back. Wow, what a collection of shells. We didn't find all 400 varieties, but certainly quite a few. Probably our favorite is the Angel Wing. The Angel Wing is a type of Piddock shell. Despite the delicate beauty of this thin, brittle shell, the clam is able to bore into wood, clay, and even shale and gneiss rocks. This boring or abrasion is accomplished by the anterior end of the shell which is rocked back and forth by the suction like foot. The elongated shell may reach a length of an impressive seven inches. Angel Wings are usually white, though occasionally a pink-tinged one is found. The surface of this bivalve shell has approximately 26 radiating ribs; the ribs near the front end of the shell (the boring end) are taller and have sharper fluted scales than those which cover the rest of the ribs. Growth lines (slight furrows) run horizontally over the surface of the shell. Most of the Angel Wing shells we found were 2-3 inches in length, until we searched the areas that had been reached by an extremely high tide. There we found a beautiful 6" Angel Wing. We also found some very large Vanhyning's Heart Cockles known as Florida's Souvernir Ashtray as well as American Augers, Channeled Whelks, Florida Prickly Cockle, Crown Conch, Florida Fighting Conch, Florida Spring Jewel Box, Cabrit's Murex, Kitten's Paws, and Tiger Lucine. Sanibel is truly a sheller's paradise. The "Sanibel Stoop" refers to being constantly bent over with your eyes on the sand, looking for your favorite shells. Following are photos of the shells listed with a scale next to them so you can judge the size of the shells for yourself. I'm sure you probably have some of the same shells we have, but the fun of shelling is in finding a new variety and displaying them for others to share with you. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

One of my favorites and also one of my biggest finds is the Angel Wing shell. The one on the top is almost 7" long, a true find for this type of shell.

These shells are called the Turkey Wing and look similar to the Angel Wing, except for the color. It can be found on beaches from North Carolina to the West Indies, and also on Bermuda's shores, as well as in the Mediterranean area. In Bermuda, the Turkey Wing clam is used to make seafood pies.

The Paper Fig Shell is a very fragile, shapely beauty. The Paper Fig Shell is the delicate home for a gastropod and the thin, pear-shaped shell may reach a height of 4-5 inches.

The sampling seen here are Florida Spiny Jewel Box shells. Shell specimens will have more distinct erect tubular spines on the 7-9 rows (ribs) across the shell.

The American Stiff Pen Shell can grow as long as two feet, and occasionally contain black pearls.

This colorful shell is called the Sunray Venus. The shell may reach a length of 6 inches, and the clam inside can be used to create an excellent clam chowder.

These shells are extremely small and are called the Cayenne Keyhole Limpet. The Cayenne is found on beaches from Maryland, south to the Gulf coast, in the West Indies, and down to Brazil.

This shell is called the Olive Shell. In 1984, the shell was designated the official state shell of South Carolina. It may be found from there to Florida coasts.

The Kitten's Paw looks like it's name. The color often is more pronounced on the shell's six or seven folds, which look like the toe joints of a paw.

The Banded Tulip Shell is one of my favorites. I have quite a few and they come in all colors. Tulip shells are home to black snails.

These are examples of Florida Fighting Conch. This active gastropod lives in shallow water from North Carolina to Texas and northeast Mexico.

This is the Channeled Whelk which is found along the East coast of the US.

These shells are called augers. They are elongated and narrow to a point They come in a varitey of sizes.

This shell is referred to as Vanhyning's Heart Cockle or Florida's Souvenir Ashtray! We found many of these is all sizes. The one on the left is approximnately 4" long. These shells used to be sold as an ashtray with the name of the town painted on it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The "Things That Really Bug Me!" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just finished putting all the outdoor lights on the trees and plugged them in. Half of them wouldn't work! Now I have to take them off and try to find out which one is burnt out. Don't you just hate when that happens? It's about the only thing I hate about the Christmas holidays. Then I started thinking about other things that I hate when they happen. Such things as:

When you push on your BBQ igniter button and the grill won't light.
When your garage door doesn't open the entire way and you haven't checked.
When a bird sh*#s on your car right after you just paid to have it washed.
When your cell phone signals that the battery is low and you just left the house.
When "The Price Is Right" is interupted by a new flash.
When your nose starts to run and you don't have a tissue.
When you leave your house, are a few blocks away, and can't remember if you put the garage door down.
When you go to take a photo and your battery is low and you forgot to bring another along with you.
When you have to wait and wait for the days to go by before you leave on vacation, and when you finally are on vacation, they seem to fly by at double speed.
When you spit out your car window and it hits the side of the car.
When you lay on the beach and the person next to you lights up a cigarette.
When your ice cream cone melts all over your hand.
When someone parks in a handicap spot, puts their placard on their rear-view mirror, and runs into the store.
When people butcher the English language such as: Youse people....., Me and Clyde went ......., I seen it in the ......., I hung the pitcher on the wall, The archeteck designed the house with indirect lighting, and on and on.
When your pencil point breaks or your pen runs out of ink and you're almost finished writing.
When you find a piece of hair in your food.
When you plug your MP3 player into your ear and find the battery is dead.
When your drain gets clogged when you are having a holiday dinner.
When you break the tab off a soda can before you have it opened.
When you .........

The list goes on and on and I'm sure you can add many of your own to the list. And ... it will never change! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an oridnary guy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The "Easter at the Bay" Story

It was an ordinary day. And ... a belated Happy Easter to everyone. Carol and I celebrated Easter early with our family. Our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters were traveling during Easter Sunday, so we celebrated Easter with a meal and egg hunt three weeks ago. For the first time in as long as we can remember, we had nothing to do on Easter Sunday, so after our 8:00 AM church service at St. James Episcopal Church, we changed and headed to the Chesapeake Bay for dinner. We had made these arrangements about a month ago and had planned to take ouryoungest son, Tad, with us as well as our friends Pat and Dale K. I called one of our favorites in Chesapeake City, Maryland, the Bayard House Restaurant, and made reservations for 1:00 PM. All was set! Well, middle of the week Tad called and said he was going to have lunch with a friend that was moving out of the area and had forgotten to tell us. On the phone to the Bayard House to change the reservation to 4 people. Then Saturday evening Pat called and said that Dale was in the hospital. He was helping others get a tree off a truck and somehow he fell on his chest and the balled tree fell on top of him. Ruptured his adrenal gland that sits on top of your kidney and it was hemorrhaging. Quick trip to the emergency room and they had to keep him overnight to make sure that the bleeding didn't start again. An evening call to the Bayard House to change it to 2 people. Beautiful Easter service with fantastic weather in the 80s. The meal was fabulous. The Filet and Crab Cake Combo topped with caviar for Carol and the Stuffed Anaheim Peppers for me. Semi-spicy long narrow peppers stuffed with shrimp, scallops and crab in a lobster sauce. Both had scalloped potatoes and asparagus as veggies. Chesapeake City was founded in 1839. It had been called "The Village of Bohemia" which dates back to 1764. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal passes through the middle of Chesapeake City. The Bayard House is considered to be the oldest building in Chesapeake City, having been founded in the 1780s. Over the years it had been a hotel, inn, tavern, general store and restaurant. In 1985 the Bayard House was restored as well as the basement Hole-in-the-Wall Lounge. Called the Hole-in-the-Wall because the original building had a basement hole in the wall where drinks were passed through. Today we ate in the lower level, right next to the Hole-in the-Wall Lounge and it's historic bar. Neat place! This was not our traditional Eater, but none the less, an enjoyable day. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: Bayard House as it appeared as a general store, photo as it appears today with the Hole-in-the-Wall Lounge under the flag of Maryland, lower level eating area where we dined on Easter, and the overall view of the Bayard House with the C & D Canal and bridge in the background. PPS - Dale is doing much better!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The "Family I Never Got To Know" Story

It was an ordinary day. Looking at all the the photos on our antique jelly cupboard. Photos of the kid's high school graduation photos, photos of our grandkids, photo of my mom and dad, and a photo of my wife Carol with her mom and dad. Charlie and Grace were Carol's parents who both passed away while they were very young. Grace, my mother-in-law, worked with my dad at Meiskey's Jewelry Store at the corner of North Mulberry and West King Street. Neat modern three story building with a side porch. The first floor was a wholesale jewelry story where they also did watch repairs. Many a day I would visit my dad while he was working at the store. When I was younger I enjoyed going with dad in the evening to the store and organize the shipping boxes in the back room were Paul "Red" Y. did the packaging and mailing of orders. Any guesses why they called him Red? Howard R. was another employee of the storeas well as my mom's cousin, Jim S. who later purchased a jewelry store and hired to to work part-time after his retirement from Meiskey's. Back to the story; my dad would work an hour or two in the evening and then we would head home to 929 N. Queen St. I enjoyed the evening rides with dad with the windows down in the car and the warm summer air hitting me in the face as I stuck my head out the window. No seatbelts, airbags or protection of any kind was used in the cars back then. All through high school and college I would visit and say Hi! to everyone in the place. A few change of faces occurred, but the same old guys still worked there. Dad ran the place for many years. Then when I was a junior at Millersville University, dad hired Grace B. as a sales clerk. She was such a nice person. Always talked to me about school and what I was doing with my life. Little did I know she had a daughter at that time. Well, as a senior in college, I broke up with my girlfriend of a few years. Kind of upset me at the time. Seems that Grace's daughter had just gone through the same situation with her boyfriend. One day my dad suggested I date Carol B., who was the daughter of Grace who worked with him at Meiskey's. Sure why not. At the same time, Grace was trying to convince Carol to date me. She didn't want anything to do with me, but eventually, with her mom's prodding and to get her mom off her back, she agreed to go out with me. And the rest is, as they say, history. At the time Carol lived only a block from me on Skyline Drive at an apartment unit with her mom and dad. The year before, she and her parents had moved from Martic Forge in southern Lancaster County to the apartments. I arrived for our date on my Honda cycle and knocked on the door of the apartment. Was met by her day Charlie. We hit it off pretty good from the start. I got to know both of them during the next year as Carol and I dated. Every Sunday I would go to her house for supper and Grace would make something great for supper. Loved her cooking! One evening she had some kind of meat that I thought was beef, but after eating it she told me it was venison. Got a kick out of watching me eat something that I had never tasted before. Carol and I often would borrow Charlie's Harley and take it for rides around the county. Biggest thing in the world, it was. Fell over one time and took both Carol and me to pick it up again. Time passed and it wasn't long before I asked Charlie if I could ask Carol to marry me. He got a big smile on his face and shook my hand. "Proud to have you as part of the family," he told me. Wow, was that easy, I thought. I was so nervous the entire week before I asked him. He made it easy! Four years later, while Carol was pregnant with our first child, her mom, Grace died of smoking related cancer. We were heartbroken. She would have loved having a grandchild. Carol's father eventually remarried, but he also died of smoking related cancer shortly after he retired from Slaymaker Lock. Our youngest son, who was born in 1976 was very young when that occurred. I never got to know either one of them as well as I should have because of their untimely deaths. I'm sure our children would have loved to have memories of their Grandparents as well. Life isn't always fair. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are Charlie and Grace, Carol as a child with her parents, and my In-laws at our house at manor House Apartments in 1967.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The "Longest Church Day of the Year" Story

It was an ordinary day. Almost! It's Easter!! Always one of my favorite holidays, espsecially when I was a child singing in the church choir at St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, PA. On Easter we always had an Easter Sunrise Service that started at 7:00 AM. I always hoped that the weather would be nice so I could just wear my suit and didn't need to wear an overcoat with it. That was a big thing to not have to wear a winter coat on Easter. The church smelled soooooo good with all the lilies, geraniums and begonias spread all around the church and on all the window sills of the stained glass windows. By the altar were really big lilies that were beautiful. Loved the purple colors of the altar and the neat thing that Rev. Batchelder, our minister, would wear around his neck. The service would begin and the boys choir would lead the way down the aisle following the crucifer who carried a large cross with lilies attached to it. Always sang "He is Risen" as we walked down the aisle to choir stalls by the altar. Church was always packed with the women wearing big hats and carrying colorful pocketbooks. Communion on Easter always drew a big crowd. Saw people that I hadn't seen since Christmas Eve. And everyone had to walk past the choir on their way to communion at the altar rail so I got to see all the young girls as they passed by. After the service the choir went to the church Parish House for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and my favorite, long johns (pastries). Mom was always one of the cooks and they made the best scrambled eggs on Easter. Kind of gooey and moist. Just loved them. After gobbling down the food, my parents would take me to my Nannan's house on Pine Street to find my Easter baskets. Then ...... back to church again at 11:00 AM for another service. Same songs, same wine at communion, and even the same sermon. How boring. Easter dinner would follow with again ..... a 4:00 PM service. Now, I didn't mind this one, since the girl's choir joined us for the service. We did have to sit across from them and not next to them. This service was where they handed out the flowers that were placed around the church for the morning services and had the contest results from those that entered flowers from past years. You could bring back the flowers you got on Easter's past to show how much they had grown. Some were huge and some of my friends in the choir agreed that the people probably just went out and bought them so they could come to the front of the church and get a prize. The prizes were always the lilies that they had. Well, Easter at LDubs was always a spiritual event and one you never forgot. How could you with three services to help remind you!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The "Treasures of Our Lifetime: Part 2" Story

It was an ordinary day. Sitting by the computer added the second addition to my story from yesterday about the many treasures we have collected throughout our marriage. We have been blessed with many things in our marriage, and the treasures we get to see everyday throughout our home are some of our blessings. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Carol knows how much I love hand blown glass so she bought this for me as a Christmas gift about 10 years ago. Came from Alexandria, Virginia and was blown by JSWG in 2000. It is a Wahoo. Much to my dismay, when I went to take a photo of it recently, I noticed someone broke the bottom fin off of it.

This is a hand-made bird's nest that we purchased at the Volcano's National Park on the island of Hawaii. It's titled "Peles' Nest" and was made by Casda. Hand-dyed reed, Monsterra, Banyan root, sennit cord, ceramic beads and feathers comprise the basket. It is about 10" round.

We bought this small metal sculpture in Hawaii on the island of Maui about 10 years ago.

This is a hand-carved coconut shell that we bought from Donovan in Jamaica a few years ago. He was taking us on a river raft ride down the Martha Brae river and putting finishing touches on it as we traveled down the river.

A small hand-painted wooden bowl from St. Martin. Bought this on our very first journey to the island. We knew the place was something special and would return many more times.

Really unique wooden bowl about 10" round. We bought it at Franklin and Marshall College at the Pennsylvania Guild of Artists show many years ago. It is signed and numbered; J. Crawford, 8/200.

This is a small box about 8" by 4" and sits on my chest of drawers in the bedroom. Carol bought this for me years ago. It is a fish which is done in punched metal. Houses loose change, nail clippers, combs that are not needed anymore, and various other items.

My favorite picture frame which I also traded a Polaroid print for from friend Barry at the Tag Shop in Lancaster. It is 7 1/2" square and will hold a 4"x4" photo. The shells that have been meticulous glued in place are all real. The frame is even more special now that Barry has died and his beloved Tag Shop has closed.