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American Flag

Today’s the day where many of us will eat turkey and pumpkin pie until we are totally stuffed. For this occasion I made this new ink drawing. It’s the first new ink drawing I made in my small sketchbook since Inktober ended on Halloween.

This drawing was based on my photograph of two turkeys that were on display last year at the Greenbelt Farmers Market. The drawing was relatively easy to do because both turkeys had white feathers. (They were domestic turkeys whose owners had raised as free range birds—meaning they were actually allowed to roam around outside instead of spending their entire lives being cooped up in small cages located on top of each other.)

What am I thankful for this year? My family and friends who continue to stick by me long after I endured that awful drama regarding my divorce and my ex-husband’s antics (such as sending me a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to an email that was sent on Christmas Eve). I’m also grateful to new people whom I continue to meet on a regular basis, many of whom are basically decent people. There are so many people in my life whom I’m grateful for that I literally can’t name them all because I know that there would be a few names whom I would inadvertently leave off my list. I just want to say that I love you all.

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I have a cousin who is married with two sons. Years ago she and her husband obtained four pets—two puppies and two kittens. All four pets were around the same age and they all arrived at my cousin’s home within a few months of each other. The four animals generally got along well together.

The one big disadvantage of getting four pets the same age is that they tend to die around the same time. Cookie the cat was the first of the four pets to die and he passed away in 2015. (I don’t have any pictures of Cookie mainly because he was so shy that he was in hiding most of the time when I was there to visit. I would see him dart from one hiding place to another from time to time but he never stood still long enough for me to get a picture of him.)

Gonzo the dog was the next one to die and he died earlier this year in March. This past Labor Day holiday weekend, my cousin made the sad announcement on Facebook that Lucy the dog has died as well. Here’s a photo of Lucy that I took back in 2013 while I was testing out the camera function of my new smartphone that I purchased the day before.

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Lucy was a sheepdog who was very friendly and she was especially devoted to my cousin’s husband. She would patiently stand by as my cousin’s husband dyed her fur for special occasions (which is why her fur has a purple and pink tinge to it in that photo).

Here’s another photo of her with Gonzo that I took on that same day.

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Of the original four pets, Purdy the cat is the only one who’s left standing (although she can usually be found seated either on a footstool or in a box). She remains healthy as of this writing.

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Thirty years ago yesterday my aunt passed away from breast cancer at the age of 48. I still remember her struggles with that illness like it was yesterday. She was around 42 or 43 when she noticed a lump in her breast. When she went to the doctor she found that not only did she have breast cancer but it had spread to her lymph nodes as well.

She underwent a mastectomy and went through many months of chemotherapy that literally made her sick. At one point she asked her doctor about smoking marijuana to help her deal with the side effects of the chemotherapy. Unfortunately medical marijuana was illegal in the state of Maryland at the time so the only way she could’ve obtained it was if she had been accepted in a clinical trial. I don’t know if her doctor refused to refer her to one of those clinical trials or if she got the referral but was rejected but, in either case, she had to fully endure the side effects of the chemotherapy.

She lost her hair so she started sporting turbans when she went out in public. Her cancer was in remission by the time I was married but she wore a turban at my wedding because her hair hadn’t grown back yet. One of the friends of my husband’s parents told my aunt how much she loved her turban during the reception. That friend thought my aunt was making a hip fashion statement. My aunt was elated by that friend’s praise.

Sadly the remission was short-lived because a couple of years later her cancer not only came back with a vengeance but it had spread to her liver. At the time of her death she became a grandmother for the first time just four months earlier and another daughter was pregnant with her second grandchild. (That child was born four months after her death.) As I’m typing this I realize that the oldest grandchild has just turned 30 while the second grandchild will soon turn 30. Time just seems to go too fast for me. It feels like yesterday when they were just babies.

In the years following her death my cousins would go on to have a combined total of eight other children. On top of it, one of my cousins has a stepson from her current marriage so if you were to count him in the mix, it would be a total of 11 grandchildren who would grow up without ever knowing my aunt as their grandmother because of breast cancer.

In her short life my aunt was a housewife who was very active in the Catholic church she attended. When her youngest child began elementary school she started a child care service where she watched some of the neighborhood kids during the weekday. Among those kids was a boy named Ben, whom my aunt started to watch when he was just a baby and he eventually started calling her “Mom Lipp.” (Lipp was my aunt’s last name.) Ben was the same person who took his own life earlier this year.

In a way it’s not fair that someone like her ended up living a short life while you have someone like Keith Richards, who has used and abused nearly every single drug known to mankind yet he is still alive and is currently living life to the fullest in his seventies. Sure his skin looks very leathery from age and all those years of hard living but he’s still alive and kicking nonetheless.

This is why cancer sucks.

Valentine's Day

During one of my recent periodic housecleaning periods I came across something I did as a child. It’s a card where I proclaimed my love for Jesus Christ. I wrote “Jesus I Love You” right on the front.

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The front of the card has two heart-shaped flaps in the middle that one can open to reveal a drawing of Jesus.

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Opening the card the normal way reveals paper lace with the drawing of Jesus directly in the middle.

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Here’s a close-up of the drawing. No, I did not do that one. It was a small printed card that had Jesus’ image on it. I have to admit that the drawing looked like it was a bit on the whimsical side with the cute baby-faced Jesus holding a very cute lamb.

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The card was basically a paper collage that was mostly made from construction paper. This was among the many artifacts from my childhood that I rescued from the house I grew up in when my mother decided to sell it. I’m amazed that it lasted this long because my mother had a tendency to periodically throw out my old art projects so they wouldn’t clutter the house. I have a feeling that she saved it out of deference to my devout Roman Catholic grandmother, who lived with us while I was growing up, because I know that my grandmother would’ve raised a stink had my mother thrown out anything with Jesus’ image on it.

I don’t have any memories of actually creating it. I have a feeling that it was probably one of the many arts and crafts projects I did during Sunday morning CCD class when I was being raised Catholic. Given the hearts and the message of my love for Jesus on the front, I have a feeling that I did this one either on Valentine’s Day itself or during the CCD class that was held on the Sunday before Valentine’s. I normally didn’t do religious themed arts and crafts at home so it’s logical that I probably did this at CCD. The teacher probably provided the materials and told us to make a love card for Jesus and I did this card as a result.

Even though I basically did what I was told when I made this card, I have no regrets making it. Yet I don’t have any kind of sentimental attachment to it either. It’s basically an artifact from my childhood that I forgot about for many years until I came across it again recently.

Have you ever had the experience of learning that someone whom you first met when that person was a baby is now dead? That is happening to me right now.

My late aunt, who was also my mom’s older sister, was a stay at home mother of four girls. When her youngest daughter started elementary school, her home was pretty quiet during the school week. She decided to earn extra money by taking care of other people’s young children in her home during the week. Most of the kids she babysat were between the ages of 2-5 and they only stayed with her anywhere from a few months to about a year or two until they either started elementary school or their parents moved elsewhere. So she had frequent turnover of kids.

Then she started to take care of three young brothers. The oldest had just started elementary school while the youngest, Ben, was just a baby (he might have been at least six months old) at the time. I think the boys’ mother wanted to go back to work after being a stay at home mom for the last several years so that was why my aunt started to care for them.

I think there may have been marital tensions between the parents as well but I don’t have all the details. (I was a kid myself when all this was going on.) I remember that Ben’s father shot himself to death soon after my aunt started to care for the brothers. I still remember when my aunt called my mom telling her about the distressing news. Ben’s mother ended up becoming a single parent and she frequently leaned on my aunt to help out with the childcare, especially if the mother had to go on some errand without having any of the kids in tow. I heard that the two older brothers were deeply affected by their father’s death. Ben was the least affected because he was so young when his father died so he grew up without ever knowing him.

Eventually my aunt stopped caring for Ben’s older brothers when they started middle school so it was just her and Ben at home during the weekday afternoon (when Ben’s school closed for the day) for a few years. Occasionally there were periods when they would be joined by another preschool child whom my aunt happened to babysit at the time. But the rest of the time it was just my aunt and Ben.

I used to sometimes see Ben when I visited my aunt and uncle with my parents. Sometimes his brothers would be there as well but there were times when Ben was the only one there because his brothers and their mother were elsewhere. I remember Ben being this really cute little kid with the big impish grin. He always had this mischievous look about him. As he learned to talk he started to call my uncle “Dad” (he saw my uncle as a father figure since his own father was gone) while he called my aunt “Mom Lipp” to distinguish her from his own mother (Lipp was my aunt’s last name). My cousins used to dote over Ben as the baby brother they never had.

My aunt stopped taking care of Ben when he entered middle school. She would continue to see him at church (his family attended the same Roman Catholic parish that my aunt, uncle, and cousins attended) and he would come by the house to visit every now and then (whenever he wasn’t busy with homework and after-school activities) so he still kept in touch with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I think my aunt may have cared for a few more kids after Ben (I don’t remember) but she had to stop offering her child care services when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her cancer was in remission when my oldest cousin got married. Ben served as the altar boy at my cousin’s wedding. My aunt’s cancer returned not long after the wedding and she died at the age of 48. I saw Ben at my aunt’s funeral. I think he was in high school by then. It was the last time I saw Ben in person.

Today I learned on Facebook that Ben is dead. One of my cousins had posted a picture on Facebook of her, her three sisters, Ben’s mother, and Ben’s brothers after they returned from Ben’s funeral. I also learned on Facebook that Ben took his own life just like his father did. I don’t know why Ben felt the need to do what he did nor do I know if he actually sought any kind of professional help before he killed himself.

I just feel so weirded out that someone whom I met as a baby and saw from time to time as he grew up is now dead. I’m older than Ben and I’m still alive. Given the natural order of things, I should be the one who dies before Ben but, instead, it’s the opposite. Ben is dead and I’m alive. I just feel so numb about all this (and the fact that it’s cold and rainy outside today isn’t helping).

Last year I wrote about an impromptu memorial that sprang up in my area at the site where a man who committed suicide. At the time I wrote this:

The only lesson I can provide is this: Is there anyone in your life whom you haven’t communicated with in a while? Please take the time to either call, e-mail, or text that person. It doesn’t have to be something that’s too complex or involved. You could just say something like, “I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you doing?” This could give that person a chance to admit that he/she is overwhelmed and start talking to you instead of concluding that suicide is the only option.

I also provided a link to the National Suicide Prevention Line (which can also be reached by phone at 1-800-273-8255). I can’t say whether Ben would still be alive had someone reached out to him asking if he was okay or if he had contacted the National Suicide Prevention Line. Yes, I know that it’s too late to help Ben but I would urge everyone reading this to just reach out to someone whom they haven’t spoken with in a while just to see how he or she is doing.

Now I have to deal with the sad fact that someone whom I met as a baby is now dead and I’m outliving him.

Santa Claus

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Here is the 12th and final part of my series on how I celebrated a Tabletop Christmas this holiday season. I timed it so it would run concurrent with the traditional 12 days of Christmas, which begins on December 25. As I kept on writing new posts each day, I noticed that the 12th day falls on January 5 despite the fact that the traditional end of Christmas falls on January 6. In the past I would hear January 6 being referred to as “Twelfth Night.” I did some research and, thanks to this webpage, I now know that I didn’t make any mistakes when I began these posts on December 25 and reached the 12th post on January 5. That’s because January 5 have long been observed as the Twelfth Night, not January 6. The Twelfth Night is traditionally observed as “Epiphany Eve,” and it used to be a grand occasion for feasting since it was the final night of Christmas before the Feast of the Epiphany on the following day and it marks the official end of Christmas.

Besides, January 6 is also the anniversary of the day I wrote my first post in this blog so I’m not too upset or worried about ending this series on January 5.

This final post in this series focuses on other Christmas decorations besides tree ornaments.

These two cute decorations were originally Avon cologne bottles. I used to frequently get Avon products for birthday and Christmas presents because my mother had a co-worker at her job who sold Avon products on the side and this co-worker made plenty of extra money whenever she brought those Avon catalogues to her day job. Avon used to sell their colognes in various containers shaped like animals and people. I tried looking online to see if Avon still sells their colognes in special containers only to find that nowadays Avon uses the typical cologne bottles that other cologne and perfume manufacturers use. The newer bottles may be pretty but they lack the distinction and novelty of the older Avon cologne bottles.

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Both containers once held Sweet Honesty cologne. This brought back memories of when I used to frequently dab Sweet Honesty on myself. I found that Avon still sells Sweet Honesty cologne even if it no longer sells them in the novelty containers.

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This next item is a vintage angel doll that I’ve owned since I was a child. I used to call her “Bernie Angel” because she reminded me of my cousin Bernie. This angel has long black hair, just like my cousin used to wear her hair. (These days she wears her hair very short.) Bernie Angel has survived all kinds of things over the years, especially the time when my parents’ dog, Napoleon, swiped her and attempted to use her as a chew toy but we managed to get her away from the dog before he did any major damage. I brought her with me to college when I attended the University of Maryland as my one token Christmas decoration. Naturally she came with me when I got married and she’s still with me.

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Bernie Angel is a doll with no joints and she’s in a permanent kneeling position with her hands folded together in prayer.

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I pulled back her hair to show her sweet face. Her eyes are permanently closed. She has rouge on her cheeks, blue eye shadow, and pink lips.

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Here’s another side of Bernie Angel.

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Here’s the back.

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She has a tag attached but it’s stuck together in a permanent folded position and I have a hard time trying to separate the sides, which is why I have two photographs of this tag. The tag actually reads: “© 1996 KAMAR ® MADE IN JAPAN.” I tried doing a Google search only to turn up nothing. I have a feeling that Kamar went out of business a long time ago. This doll was made at a time when “Made in Japan” meant cheap imported goods that tended to fall apart. The fact that this cheaply made doll has survived all those years is pretty miraculous.

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The next photo shows three Ginger Cottages that I currently own. I first got into them when I purchased the incense burner that’s shown on the far right of the next photograph a few years ago. I’ve since added the other two buildings. I generally prefer Ginger Cottages over the more popular Department 56 villages because they are about half the size of the Department 56 and they fit both my small home and my budget much better. On top of it, Ginger Cottages are made in the U.S. (in fact they are made in central Virginia), which is a definite plus in my book since most consumer items seem to be made overseas in China and other Third World countries.

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The one thing I love most about Ginger Cottages is that if you shine a light through a hole in the bottom of each cottage, it’ll reveal a surprise, such as the giant nutcracker peering out the second story window.

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Yesterday I wrote about how my support group for people who are separated or divorce throws a post-Christmas party each year where people bring a wrapped present for the White Elephant Gift Exchange. In previous years I received two items that I now keep among my Christmas ornaments. The next photo shows a small candy jar that’s decorated with peppermint treats.

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Here’s another White Elephant gift I received. This one is a set of snowmen salt and pepper shakers, which I’ve only used as decorations. (I’ve never actually filled them with salt and pepper.)

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The next few photographs show various noise-producing Christmas decorations, all of which were given to me as presents. The first picture shows a jack in a box Santa Claus that my parents gave me when I was around seven years old. This toy was made in Japan and I still have him after all these years. It’s among the few toys I have from my childhood and he’s still in pretty good condition. The white paint is slightly faded in spots but that’s noticeable only if you take a very close look at his face. There is silver duct tape holding the box top to the rest of the box because the red cloth-like tape that held the two together had frayed with age. Otherwise, he still works just as well as he did the day I got him. Basically Santa squeaks when he pops out of the box.

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The next photograph features a small plastic Santa Claus puppet that I also have from my childhood. Whenever you press a button at the bottom of his yellow base, Santa moves around and his little bell makes a ringing sound. This puppet is still in very good condition and it still works after all these years.

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The next photographs show a ceramic music box featuring a pair of doves wearing Santa hats. When the music box is wound up it rotates as it plays “Deck the Halls.” This music box was among the last Christmas presents I ever received from my Aunt Linda before she died of breast cancer when she was only 48 years old.

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The next few photos feature a Hallmark music box ornament that my late mother-in-law gave to me as a birthday present. (My birthday and Christmas are only 10 days apart.) While there is a loop at the top to hang it from a tree, I have always chosen to put it flat on the table instead. When this ornament winds up, Mickey rocks right and left as the music box plays “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

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I made a short video demonstrating the four noise making decorations that you can see and hear for yourself.

I’m going to end this series with a decoration that is actually the first Christmas decoration I put up each year. It’s an Advent calendar and I usually put it up soon after Thanksgiving so I can be ready to start the countdown to Christmas on December 1. I originally purchased this calendar many years ago at the now-defunct Frank’s Nursery and Crafts.

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The entire calendar is mostly made from felt. The ornaments for this calendar are kept in this attached plaid bag marked “SMALL ACCESSORIES” when the calendar is in storage the rest of the year.

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When it’s time to take out the calendar, I remove the ornaments from the SMALL ACCESSORIES bag and place them in numbered slots.

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Starting on December 1 I remove one ornament from a numbered slot and place it on the tree. (The ornament attaches to the tree with velcro.) I keep it up until December 24 when the entire tree is filled and the numbered slots are empty. I leave this Advent tree up until January 6 when I take it down and put it in storage with the rest of the Christmas decorations.

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So that’s it for my 12-part Tabletop Christmas series. I’ll leave everything up through tomorrow (January 6) then I’ll start dismantling everything on January 7 until everything is packed away in boxes and stored in the attic.

Ramadan

Nearly three years ago I wrote about the birth of Eli, who’s a grandnephew on my ex-husband’s side of the family. In the years since Eli’s birth I’ve kept up with the boy mainly through his mother’s posts on Facebook. I haven’t been able to visit his family’s current home in Charleston, South Carolina due to tight finances and I don’t know when I’ll ever get the opportunity to meet that kid.

Today I found out from my sister-in-law’s Facebook post about how she has just become a grandmother for the second time. Eli’s new brother has just been born a few hours ago. His name is Tobias. That baby will be joining an already full house with his big brother, his mother, his father, two dogs, and a cat.

In that last post about Eli from nearly three years ago I included a vintage early 1970’s video clip of Three Dog Night doing a live performance of their hit song “Eli’s Coming.” Unfortunately I can’t think of any songs that have the name Tobias in it so I won’t be embedding any music videos in this post.

Instead I’m going to repost my photos of a 60 cm (2 foot) tall Asian ball-jointed doll I currently own that was manufactured by a Chinese company known as Fantasy Doll. His default name is Tobias, which I’ve kept. Here are some photos of Tobias.

Fantasy Doll Tobias

Fantasy Doll Tobias

Pooh Kimono

Chiton for 1/3 Scale Dolls

Red Prince Doll Outfit

If you want to see more photos of this doll, check out the Fantasy Doll Tobias category. As for Tobias the human baby, so far he looks healthy (and I’m basing that judgement on the photos that my sister-in-law posted on Facebook). The only other thing I’ll write in this blog is that I hope he grows up to live a happy and healthy life. That is all I’m going to write about Tobias for the time being. 🙂

American Flag

Another Thanksgiving Day is here. I may not be fully recovered from that unexpected separation and divorce I went through and money is tight with me these days but I still have a lot of things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my health. I’m thankful for having a circle of supportive family and friends whom I can lean on whenever I go through an anxiety attack (which I’ve been suffering from ever since my husband abruptly walked our on me with zero notice that he was unhappy just three days after Christmas in 2011). I’m trying to dig myself out of this hole that I got thrown into courtesy of my so-called “dear husband” but I’m feeling far better than back in 2012. I’m hoping that I’ll feel even better by this time next year but who knows what the future will bring?

Since Thanksgiving is devoted to eating turkey, I’ll end this post with some pictures of turkeys that I took at the weekly Greenbelt Farmers Market in Greenbelt, Maryland earlier this month.

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This year is the fifth anniversary of this blog. For the first year I was unsure about how many photos I could actually upload because of the free WordPress.com blogging account has a space limit. So I kept photo uploads limited to just my arts and crafts along with any photographs that I actually exhibited in a show. Over time I learned such things as graphic optimization so I was able to upload more photos that way than I thought I could. So for the rest of the year I’m going to devote Throwback Thursday to photos from previous blog entries (along with links to the original posts) that I should’ve uploaded five years earlier but I didn’t.

In mid-July my then-husband and I travelled to Connecticut for the wedding of his oldest nephew. Before the trip I purchased a pair of plain looking shoes, which I then embellished with sequins and I wrote all about in this post I wrote on July 13, 2010 titled Turning a New Pair of Shoes From “Blah!” to “Fab!”

Shoes-Before and After

After I posted this announcement regarding my imminent departure to Connecticut, my husband and I boarded an Amtrak from Maryland to New London, Connecticut then we rented a car for the duration of our time there. We spent part of both the first and second days at Mystic Seaport, where I took these pictures.

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During our time in Connecticut, I remembered that an earthquake actually hit Washington, DC but it was a relatively minor one. I also remember that there was talk about me photographing the wedding rehearsal the afternoon before. My husband spoke with his nephew on the phone and the nephew said that my photography services wouldn’t be needed because they had plenty of people with cameras who would be there at the rehearsal. So we had originally planned to spend the entire first day at Mystic Seaport then eat dinner on our own. While we were at Mystic Seaport, my husband’s sister (and his nephew’s mother) called us on his cell phone wondering where we were. When my husband told her about her son saying that they didn’t need us there, his sister overruled what her son said and basically told us to be there and I was to photograph the rehearsal. So I did it. After the rehearsal we were invited to this picnic dinner at a nearby park where I took some pretty decent sunset photos.

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As I recounted in this post that I uploaded after I returned from that trip, the wedding took place the following afternoon. It was held at Mohegan Sun, a casino resort that’s operated by a Native American tribe. The wedding and reception were both held at a golf club facility that was located far from the buildings where the gambling usually takes place. The wedding took place outside on this large deck overlooking a lake. It provided plenty of nature photography opportunities.

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Here is what the deck looked like on the actual wedding day itself. The bride wore white while the groom, who’s currently serving in the U.S. Navy, wore his formal dress uniform.

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The reception was held in this lodge located just a few feet away from the wedding deck.

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Inside the lodge was really lovely. I’ll end this post with a couple of shots of the wedding cake itself. This one was among the more unique wedding cakes I’ve seen because it was decorated with ladybugs made from cake frosting. (The bride likes ladybugs, which is why they were there on the cake.)

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Since that time the couple has moved to Charleston, South Carolina (when the groom was transferred by the Navy) and they are now the parents of a two-year-old son. I still keep up with them via Facebook despite the fact that I’m now divorced from the groom’s uncle.

Dancing Skeleton

I have a story from my past that’s especially appropriate for this time of the year. After all, today marks the second and final day of the holiday that’s celebrated in Mexico as El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) while Halloween happened two days ago. Both holidays traditionally focused on honoring the dead while those who traditionally observed the Gaelic festival known as Samhain (from which Halloween was derived from) believed that the veil that traditionally separates the living from the dead is at its thinnest so all kinds of cross-communication between the two can occur.

My late grandparents had lived in various places around the U.S. because of my grandfather’s occupation (I believe he was an electrical engineer but I’m not exactly 100% sure about that). They lived in places like Roanoke, Virginia (where my father was born); Kansas City, Kansas; and Kalamazoo, Michigan. They moved to Maryland when my grandfather got a civilian job with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak, where he spent the rest of his career before he retired. They settled in Ellicott City, where they purchased this house sometime in the 1950’s. Even though he was already an adult, my father lived there for a few years until he married my mother (at the time grown adult children were expected to live with their parents until marriage) while his younger brother (my uncle) spent the rest of his childhood and teen years living there.

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The house was mostly one level with three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a large kitchen, a den, a two-car garage, and two bathrooms (one was in the hallway and the other could be accessed only by walking through the master bedroom). There was a subterranean basement, which was very prone to flooding. (I remember my grandparents owned a sump pump for such occasions.) At the time they owned this house, they had to rely on well water and the toilets were connected to a septic tank so they had to periodically call someone to pump that tank out.

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When my grandparents owned this house the driveway was covered with gravel. My father used to complain about having to drive the car over all these tiny stones when we used to visit when I was a child. As the next photo shows, it looks like one of the subsequent owners had the driveway paved with blacktop so the surface is now pretty smooth.

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I remember this part of Ellicott City was very rural when I used to visit there as a child.  All of the houses at the time had at least one acre of land. (As I drove through that area recently I noticed a bunch of new housing developments that weren’t even there in my grandparents’ time. The newer homes had less lawn than the older homes like the one my grandparents lived in. The area also has a lot more traffic than I remembered as a child.)

My grandparents had neighbors on both sides of their home. One one side of my grandparents’ home was another home whose occupants did some small-scale farming on the side. (I don’t think they were full-time farmers because the land they were on wasn’t big enough for any kind of large-scale farming operation.) I never met the people who lived there and I don’t even know if my grandparents ever bothered with them all that much. I remember they kept a couple of Hereford cows in their yard and they used to frequently walk over to the fence separating the property lines whenever I was close to that fence and they would just look at me. I still remember their brown bodies and white faces and I also remember my father telling me what kind of cows they were when I mentioned their white faces. I think the neighbor might have had a horse at one point because I remember a few times when a horse would come over to that fence as well whenever I was there.

As for the neighbors on the other side of my grandparents’ home, well they were there but one would be hard-pressed to say that they “lived” there.

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My grandparents lived next to the Good Shepherd Cemetery. I don’t know why they would purchase a house in such an odd location unless they got it relatively cheap. I remember my mother felt uneasy at the idea that they lived next to a graveyard. But they lived there for many years. After my grandfather died when I was 12, my grandmother continued to live in that house by herself. For a few years after my grandfather’s death she worked at Hutzler’s, which had a store in a shopping center just a few miles from the home (and which I also mentioned in a previous post). She worked there for a few years until she was laid off in a cost-cutting measure where the managers were instructed to get rid of all employees who worked there for longer than five years simply because they earned more money than newer employees. (I remember when my grandmother called my parents’ home the day she was laid off because she was very upset. She basically liked her job and had made new friends. Hutzler’s went out of business a few years after my grandmother lost her job.)

She decided to retire after being laid off and she continued to live in that house for a few years until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1980’s. Her cancer was detected early enough so she could undergo a lumpectomy followed by radiation. Soon after she was given a clean bill of health, my grandmother decided that she could no longer handle being in the house she had lived in all those years and she wanted to move to a smaller place. I remember when she put the house on the market and my mother was skeptical that my grandmother would even find a buyer because of its location next to the cemetery. My grandmother found a willing buyer so she used the proceeds from that sale to move into a small rental apartment located just a few miles from her old place. She lived there for a few years until her doctor discovered that the cancer had returned with a vengeance. She moved into a hospice and lived there until she died about a year later. (I was around 28 or 29 at the time.)

I have many memories of when I used to frequently wander in that cemetery while the adults were busy socializing. That was the only thing that was within walking distance from my grandparents’ home since everything else of interest (such as a store) were located so far away that one needed a car to get there. I would look at the graves while I walked around. All I can say is that I never encountered a ghost or a zombie or some other supernatural undead creature during my wanderings. At the time the border between my grandparents’ property and the cemetery were marked by a row of trees and small bushes. I used to cut through the shrubbery from the backyard in order to get into that cemetery. That property border is now fenced off and it was probably erected by either one of the subsequent owners of that house or the cemetery itself.

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The next photo shows a fence that now blocks off the backyard entirely from the front yard.

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The front yard still has the border of trees and shrubbery still in place along the dividing line.

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Good Shepherd Cemetery is a small cemetery compared to others that I’ve been to in my lifetime. One can easily spend no more than two hours there and feel that one has seen everything there.

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Some of the headstones date as far back as the 1870’s. There were headstones so old that the writing on them are now illegible because the lettering have faded.

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But there were plenty of old headstones that were still in pretty decent shape, such as this one where Robert Sylvanis Davis has been resting in peace since his death in 1909.

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This headstone looks like it has been slowly sinking into the ground for many years. Unless someone rescues it, there will come a time when the headstone of Alice V. will be completely buried along with her original coffin.

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I saw this one headstone that had recently toppled over and broke in a few pieces.

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And it looks like these headstones were previously broken then glued back together.

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The only notable person whose grave I found was one for Bernarr Graham Busbice, a musician who performed professionally under the name Buzz Busby and he became known as the Father of Washington, DC Bluegrass Music. He was someone who was buried long after both of my grandparents passed away.

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Here’s are a few recordings of Buzz Busby in his prime.

I remember whenever I wandered the cemetery as a child, I used to feel sad when I encountered the grave of a baby or a child who was younger than me because I was alive and walking around while they were already dead and buried. I would especially feel sad whenever someone left a toy or some other personal memento at the gravesite. Many of the headstones of these children include statues of angels or lambs.

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Even though this unnamed baby boy died soon after he was born in 1959, someone still left a recent bouquet of artificial flowers at his grave. Which indicates that this baby still means a lot to his family 56 years after his death.

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There were quite a few headstones with photographs on them so people would know what the deceased looked like in life. The older graves had black and white photographs.

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The newer graves had photographs in living color.

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People mostly left flowers at the graves. When I visited this cemetery just a few weeks before Halloween, I noticed a lot of Halloween decorations that were left at the graves as well.

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This grave of a man who died a year ago had a black and white photograph and an engraved picture on the headstone, a Baltimore Ravens sticker, flowers, a couple of tiny pumpkins, a carved jack o’lantern, and even a personal note written on an erasable board with dry markers.

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There were all kinds of headstones at this cemetery, some of which looked like works of art. This headstone had a nice nature scene etched on the side.

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This headstone looked relatively plain on one side until you looked at the back and saw this intricate etching.

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Then there was this headstone shaped like a park bench. It looked pretty inviting to sit on.

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Some of you reading this are probably wondering if my grandparents are buried at Good Shepherd Cemetery. It would’ve been appropriate considering all those years that they lived in the house next to it. But, no, they weren’t buried there at all. Instead they were buried just a few miles away at the cemetery located on the grounds of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

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