Sunday, December 29, 2019

Colonial Ball Through the Years

Nearly each day during the week between Christmas and New Year's Facebook's memory of the day was of the three of us attending the Colonial Ball during Patriot's Week in Trenton. I was actually surprised by how long this has been a tradition for our family.

Patriot's Week started about a decade ago now. That hardly seems possible. I think it took until the second year of the ball for me to bring it up to Don. He surprised me by enthusiastically saying he wanted to go. At that point none of us had Colonial attire, but he wore a tux he bought in 2000 when we had several events in a year where black tie was encouraged. 

The ball is designed as a chance for the reenactors gathering to wear their finery and hang out with each other. The public is invited for a nominal fee (this year it was $17.76 in advance, or $20 at the door). In exchange we were fed sandwiches and salads, and were given dance lessons so we had a shot of understanding what we are doing. The same caller also leads barn dances at Howell Living History farm. The steps are often similar. The barn dances, held three times a year, ask for $3 donation and are extremely kid-friendly.

In 2008 I wore a black dress and pearls. Ashley dressed up, too, as did Elizabeth, her American Girl Doll. Look how tiny Ashley is! 

In 2009, a year later two of us dressed in Colonial attire. Don dusted off his tux. Elizabeth also wore Colonial attire, but she does that most of the time. I cannot find the picture from 2010 or 2011, but I did blog about the 2011 ball.
 In 2012 we decided to go modern again.
In 2013 we wizened up and brought Maia for Ashley. This is around the time Cousin Hayden started to join us, too. My parents have been attending the ball since 2009. For each dance you need a partner. Everyone is friendly, and it is very easy to find a dance partner (especially if you are willing to learn the man's part), but both of us prefer dancing with Don. Fortunately he prefers dancing most of the dances. Note, Ashley is wearing the same dress she wore in 2009 (which she received the day after the ball in 2008), but with a skirt under it to lengthen the dress.

Patti and Neil also often join us at these dances. Patti loves dressing up.

In 2014 the ball was held at the Marriott hotel instead of at the Masonic Temple. It didn't feel the same. Again, Maia, my parents, and Hayden joined us. I also visited with Doreen, a classmate from high school, and saw other people interested in Trenton's history. 

In 2015 the ball returned to the Masonic Temple. For the first time my sister Melissa and her daughter, Aimee, joined us. This is the first year we have to place ourselves so Ashley is not blocking our faces. This was also the first year Ashley wore heels to the event.

In 2017 we did not purchase our ball tickets in time. In previous years we showed up at the door and paid $20 each (could have paid $17.76 plus fees had we purchased them in advance) and partied. That year they instituted a cap. 


In 2018 I made sure to purchase our tickets the day they went on sale. Good thing as it did sell out. The ticket price was raised to $25 each. Still a bargain for a night of dancing and light food while wearing period attire. Patti, Neil, my parents, Melissa, Hayden, and Aimee skipped it this year. It was odd just going as the four of us (three of us, plus Ashley's friend, Maia). The biggest challenge was keeping the camera safe and still dancing. Heidi (Maia's mom) has a friend (Jean) who loaned the girls their period attire. Heidi used her seamstress skills to adjust them to their tiny frames. They felt wearing the Colonial dresses would make their evening more fun. As they danced every dance (we sat out one to take pictures), alternating the man and the woman's sides, they looked like they were having fun. I brought my Colonial gown out of retirement for the event. It felt a little big on me. I remember the sleeves and bodice feeling tighter. The waist is a drawstring, and I had to bring that in further, too. The best part was we remembered many of the steps. Maybe this will be the year we go more often than the ball (there are monthly gatherings in Princeton of English Country Dancers).

My drawstring waist kept slipping
In 2019 we bought our tickets ($25 each) the day they went on sale. They sold out the morning of the ball. Maia came with us again, which is always a treat. Maia and Ashley danced every dance. Don and I had to take a couple of breathers. Our caller, Sue Dupre, threw in a new-to-us dance that required three dancers. Poor Maia was left out, but she made some other friends for the dance. We didn't recognize as many people, but that was okay. We had a lot of fun and danced the night away. One note: they pushed the tables to the outer edges and opened the library to give us more space to dance. The band only took a brief 10-minute break, barely long enough for us to take pictures.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Santa Visits through the Years

Organizing my external hard drive filled with 7 years worth of photographs has encouraged me to create another "through the years" blog. This one is of visits with Santa. In most cases, the visit was with the true Santa, as agreed upon by my friend, Heidi.


I was a new mom to a 7-month old baby. I thought the only place to see Santa was at the mall. Fortunately the line was not very long.


When Ashley was a year old we stumbled upon Santa while touring Kuser Mansion in Hamilton, NJ. It took us a couple of years to discover the pattern and to make it a habit to see him.


Looking back I must have been crazy, but at the time it seemed sane. Ashley and I went into NYC with Debbi and Christopher to see the Christmas decorations, and take a picture with Santa at Macy's Santaland. It was an ambitious day with two small kids and mass transit.


We had a nice visit with Santa at Hershey Park the year Ashley was 3.


When Ashley was 4 we returned to to Kuser Mansion to visit Santa. Over the years we've been able to have long chats with Santa.


When Ashley was 5 we took her to Kale's Nursery, a local florist, to see "the best Santa," according to an acquaintance. He was closer to home, and was available more hours, but he was not the true Santa.


Back to Kuser Mansion to see the true Santa. Ashley and Baby, her doll, dressed like Santa for the picture.

My mom's other grandchildren could not make it to Kuser to meet Santa, so we met up at Marketfair Mall instead. Ashley was in first grade, but I was homeschooling her that year, so our schedule was flexible. We were the first ones at the mall. While waiting, a photographer from the US 1 Newspaper asked if Ashley was afraid of Santa. I said no. He asked Ashley and Santa to do a small photo shoot together. It was on the cover of the US 1 newspaper the following week.


When Ashley was 7 years old, she asked Santa for a pair of spats. From here on out, Santa calls Ashley "Spats." 


8-year old Ashley showing Santa the spats he brought her the year before. She then asked him for a sewing machine.


At 9 Ashley asked Santa for a bearded dragon. Yeah, right, like that stands a chance of happening! There is no way I was going to allow a reptile to live in our house. 


This year 10-year old Ashley brought Sandy Claws to meet Santa Claus.


Visiting Santa a Desiree Daniels annual open house. They asked about Sandy.


Back at Desiree Daniel's Open House. They asked again about Sandy. He has been pooping too much to take him out in public. This year our 12 year old asked for a trip to Europe. Amazing how the ante keeps getting upped.


Back to Desiree Daniel's house again for a quick sneak visit before dashing to school to be aged 60 years from 13 to mid-70s to turn into Scrooge. Santa noted she has grown again. Ashley has been too busy to think about what she wants for Christmas this year. Does this mean Santa gets off easy this year?


For the first time I did not take a picture of just Ashley with Santa. A sign the times are changing and that I was more excited to see Santa than she was? Heidi also started a new tradition -- she invited Santa to her holiday party. We also saw him at Desiree Daniels' house (timed well so we arrived at a lull). For the second year in a row, Ashley didn't tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas. 


It is so nice having Santa living back in New Jersey again! This year Santa had a regular gig at Kale's Nursery in Lawrenceville. We also saw him at the Heidi's caroling party.


Two trips to see Santa at Kale's because the first time I forgot to take a picture of Ashley alone with Santa. So out of habit. So glad he is close. Ashley knitted the cap she is wearing. We caught him quickly at Heidi's caroling party. Santa was very busy this year, but always makes time for those on his "Good List." 

Merry Christmas!


We are entering a new stage. with Ashley working retail, seeing Santa was a bit of a challenge. Kale's was out because they had similar hours. We did find one evening at Kuser Mansion, but nearly missed it because we thought he was there until 9 (it was really 8) and we stopped for dinner after WiNK church service. We did it, and the tradition continued. With Ashley going to college next year, we'll see what happens.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Still Struggling with Finding a Bestie

With the passing of Charlie Cat, I'm once again thinking about how much I miss Carin, and how hard it is to make friends. I don't know if the challenge is my age, my stage, or life in general.

When Ariel Cat and Sandy Dragon died, I reached out to Carin, who expressed just the right amount of sympathy and compassion. With her death over a year ago, there is still that hole.

A couple of days later I told our cat sitter, who was sympathetic. I told a couple of other people (one who still has not gotten back to me), but there is no ONE person I wanted to reach out to talk about my feelings. Don and Ashley were also mourning, and we talked about Charlie. I long for someone fresh to talk to.

As we go through the struggles of the college search, I keep thinking about how Carin and I should be going through this together. Reminding each other about deadlines. Encouraging each other to look in new directions or at different schools. I don't necessarily need a friend whose child is at the same stage (though that would be nice), I'm really looking for a friend who always replies to my messages and who opens herself up to share bits and pieces of her life with me. Husbands, daughters, and parents can't always be my emotional support. There is nothing like having a best friend.

Writing this helps. I've been bottling up my feelings for too long. I continue to pray for a new best friend. 

Reach out if you are seeking one, too.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

RIP Charlie Cat

This summer
A week ago Charlie Cat passed away. It still seems a bit unbelievable. As much as I enjoy writing, I've been struggling with what to say. 

About 13 years ago we adopted Charles II (Charles I had a bad habit of sleeping in the street and did not last a year). We guess he was about a year old at the time. 

From the start, he was Don's cat. He had no interest in me, except towards the end of his life when he was always hungry and begging me for lunchtime food. Not long before he died he snuggled. It is a trait I notice our pets do not long before they die -- they suddenly become my best friend and my heart melts.

The night before he died he was on the step where we found Ariel Cat a few years ago. His claw was stuck in the carpet and he couldn't free himself. Don untangled him and put him on the carpet in the bathroom under the heating vent with some food. Poor dude could not even support his back legs and ate the tiniest amount of food. Before going to bed I petted him and told him he was a good cat. I didn't think he would make it to the morning. 

By 2 AM he was dead.

The "Mighty, Mighty Moosa" had faded into skin and bones. It was a conscious decision to not take him to the vet and let him die gracefully. He hung in longer than I thought he would. When I left for Israel in June, I thought he would be gone before I came home. Thankfully I was wrong.

He was doing great until last winter when the neighbor insisted he stay inside because he was always in her yard and always pooping in her garden. While I sympathize with her, she first said the black and white cat was the one causing trouble (so we kept her in the house), then a few months later called animal control saying it was the orange cat. Nice neighbor. Ugh. Charlie enjoyed roaming our yard. We never once saw him come from her direction, let alone sit on her front porch. I suspect there was a different orange cat, but to keep the peace we kept him inside and put up with his complaints. The neighbor "thanked" us by ignoring us anytime we waved hello. 

This is the first time I'm publicly expressing my annoyance, which brings me to the deeper part of this post: I miss having a close friend. The friend you can always kvetch to without fear of it turning into gossip, or having your feelings belittled. More importantly, being that friend who always listens and supports (at least I hope I was that friend).

Meanwhile, Lucy, our 7-year old kitty, has become affectionate, spends more time with us as a family, snuggles, and eats more. So I guess one good thing has come out of Charlie's passing.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Alpha Phil Omega's 5K Race for Suicide Prevention

Last year a friend's son committed suicide. He was a student at The College of New Jersey (our alma mater) and seemed to have his entire life ahead of him. Last week would have been his birthday. His parents wanted to organize a 5K in his memory, but it just didn't happen. Last weekend they went on a walk for Suicide Prevention about two hours north of us. Today Don and I walked in Ewing in his memory.

Turns out there were three suicides at TCNJ in the past year (or so the person from the co-ed fraternity I spoke with could remember). No matter the number, it is too many.

The 5K started 20 minutes late (readers of the PillsPress know this is an annoyance of mine, hence the reason for mentioning). It was a perfect fall day with temperatures around 50 degrees and no breeze. A super flat course with two loops of about 1.55 miles (it measured very short -- my GPS said 2.83 miles, giving everyone a PR). 

The fraternity provided fabulous support and encouragement. The event reminded us just how picture perfect and friendly the campus is. If only they offered a Tech Theater major (they are talking about having one) then Ashley would apply.

Really glad the track team did not participate,

or we would have been crushed.

Love the Class of 2019's gift of a swing.

 Totally off-topic, but the new "Trenton State College Park" next to the old TSC Roscoe L. West Library highlights how frequently the alma mater has changed names since 1855. The "new name" is 23-years old, which is turning into one of the longer times the college has had the same name. Perhaps it is time for me to adjust to the new name before someone decides to change it again?