About Nancy

Storm Sail (Part 3 of 3)

The answer my friend, is... Blowing in the Wind

Torrential rain and hail blurred. Despite the obstructed view, it was clear, the mainsail had to be secured. Loosely tied, it pulled free, raising itself during the first gust. One tie held, creating an improvised storm sail, but even that proved enough to bury our rail. It was beyond heeling. The wind won every attempt to come about – and worse, the precariously close bridge, was getting closer. 

Crawling on deck, drenched to the bone, I centered the traveler, secured the boom, and held on for dear life – all while wrestling canvas. The wind resistance would not allow the sail to come down. As well, Joey had unknowingly cleated the mainsheet partially raised. He clung to the mast, quickly un-cleating, releasing the line… letting the end out of his grip. Another slow motion movie – that of watching the line blow off the boat. Frank yelled, “Noooo!” But it was too late. 

Seventy feet of rope, was now blowing parallel to the water, from the tip of the mast, no matter what angle. I had to consciously ignore it. “Pull down here… hold that… don’t let go of the boom…. tie this, remember how to secure the strap!” Joining forces, Joey and I struggled, as Frank made another attempt to come about. Strong gusts continued to fill untied portions, making it impossible for Avalon to turn. We were running out of runway. Determined, Joey leaped on the boom, hugging the sail down with his body, while I secured straps. Success!

He hurried below. I remained holding onto the boom, turning my attention to the next potential problem. Between the 53 foot mast, and the 70 foot expanse, the risk of snagging approaching pylons was real. Now that the sail is secured, I thought, ‘we should be able to turn… but the line. Was the line going to get caught?’

Not willing to risk it, I clung to stanchions and lifelines, making my way to the tippy-tip bow. Hugging the jib – while Frank screamed at me to, “Get below!” – I watched the pattern of the wind upon the rope. Don’t ask me how, but when the wind hiccuped, the line dropped. I jumped, and grabbed it. Rapid fire lightning struck the water. Frank ordered me off the deck. I quickly cleated the line, gladly heeding his words. His second order, however, to close the galley, was denied. No way in hell, was anyone putting the door slats in! Especially after he just told me, “If I can’t make this turn, I’m gonna try to hit the bridge on the starboard side, maybe we can heel sideways under the bridge. We’ll lose the mast, but should come out the other side okay. Be ready to get off the boat!” I understood the logic – the boat will naturally tilt, as sailboats do, and drag the mast along… But, “be ready to get off the boat?” Are you freaking kidding me?! Then order the door sealed? I’m opting not to write my reply... Electronics getting wet, and heaven forbid, malfunctioning, was a valid concern. It was also met by Grandma – my claustrophobic, not about to be closed in, mother – now armed with rolls of paper towels. She kept that electronic board bone dry. 

With a facial expression far from carefree norm, in a now or never spirit, Frank yelled his last order, “Everybody, hold on!” Heaving the steering wheel, we heeled, and – FINALLY – rounded into the wind! 

The change of direction, gave Avalon all she needed to keep us safe. No longer thrashing, we were steady. The bow cut through gusts. We now had the power and control to steer. Given circumstances, the ocean was a much safer option, Frank plotted a mental course. I peeked up from the entrance to see a more typical demeanor, though I can’t say anyone was thrilled about heading out into the ocean. “We have a much better chance. We can’t stay in here.” No one disagreed. 

A few, sans chaos, moments passed. We gathered our wits, readying, both them and the boat, for the next possible need. Through the engine and wind, I heard a whistle. Frank was so focused on getting out in the ocean, he did not hear. A second whistle sounded – that of one of the other sailboat Captains. The horns of the drawbridge quickly followed, announcing the bridge could finally be opened. 

Avalon filled with audible sighs of relief. More than a bridge opening… this signaled that the storm had passed. Without issue, Frank brought us about. Cheers greeted us as we passed under, along with the waves of a very relieved drawbridge operator, who helplessly watched Mother Nature toss us around like a tub toy. Once safely on the other side, Frank began to hoot-n-holler. “That was GREAT! Let’s do it again.”

From the cabin, a second holler, “Are you kidding me!” My mother threatened, “FRANK!! I’m going to CASTRATE you!”

Laughter offered much relief. 

To think of all that could have gone wrong. Of course, we had plenty to contend with, but in truth we were incredibly lucky. The channel was narrow. Thankfully, Avalon turned within her own length. We didn’t beach ourselves, intentionally or otherwise, nor run into pylons, nor the two other sailboats having their own serious issues. Drawbridges can’t risk opening during extreme wind. Given that, we were thankful it opened at all, and that the other Captain took the time to whistle. (He had his radio on, and hence, spoke to the drawbridge operator.) We didn’t run into the bridge – surely we would have been de-masted, or worse. (Although, had the ‘sideway’ plan materialized, we, in theory, could have sailed the entire channel.) The engine ran great! Not one hitch. We didn’t get hit by lightning, no one fell off the boat, none of the lines got snagged, I was even able to grab the airborne line, we didn’t take on water… (My mother even figured out where the water was coming from… the bucket left in the sink.)

Ronnie, clearly cut from the same mold as Frank, remained ridiculously calm throughout. Joey totally stepped up. This was no easy situation for the most seasoned of sailors, much less a first timer. Once he knew what to do, he did not shy away. Further proof of which showed up the next day. He was bruised on the underside of his arm, as well as, up and down his ribs. The guy took a beating. Mom and Alex stuck together, literally, through thick and thin. My little man did not cry once… and, yes, I think we all deserve credit for the same. Frank, a.k.a. Captain Gallego, stood dead center amongst lightening bolts and thunder claps, enduring a fury of golfball sized hail upon his flesh, yet never left the helm. As for me… Well, I can’t say this experience did anything to help my neurosis issues… that said, my intuitions could not be denied. And yes, Joey hugging me, took back his doubting words.  

Avalon. Avalon, our gallant lady, proved her worth! Amidst pure chaos, she endured the most violent of thrashings… and still kept us safe!

We pulled into our slip. Ever present, Steve was tending to Wind Song, as well as the other boats and dock lines. There was no need to wonder what we went through… he laughed as soon as he saw us… then went back to the needs of the marina.

Turning the engine off, Frank called out, “Who wants a hamburger?” I suppose he earned a meal.

“Hamburger?” Pffft, “I want a drink!” I’m quite sure we earned several!

Ronnie, Joey, Frank and Alex


Side Note: 1955 Wind Song #903, J Aldens, dropped her six ton keel in her slip and was written off as a total lost, either that or a refit costing over $500,000. She was donated to Wounded Warriors sometime in 2011. The vista overlooking the marsh will never be the same. It’s not often you get to see the glory of an authentic 50’ wooden schooner. (http://www.amschooner.org/node/607   /   http://www.aldendesigns.com/99years/detail.php?ID=1632)

Side Note 2: The date was September 7, 1998 (Alex was 2 years, 2 months old)

The storm was Named: The New York State Labor Day Derechos

Two storms – one from the northwest, the other from Ontario – converged, causing a violent collision between a late-summer heat wave and the leading edge of a cold front.

This pattern is called Derechos (Derecho is Spanish for ‘straight,’ whereas Tornado means ‘twisted.’)

Derechos are widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storms, associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.  They cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, flash floods. Winds, at least 50 knots, span the entirety of the front. This storm traveled faster than expected, taking even the weatherman by surprise.

We entered the Atlantic Beach channel early afternoon – between 2-4 p.m. News reports confirm how we were greeted – thunderstorm cells, a quickly traveling squall line, rapid fire lightning, as many as 10-20 times per second, balls of hail, wind gusts of 60, 77, 89, 115 mph. (actual documentation)

Four small tornadoes spawned from the storm – an F2 tornado touched down in Lynbrook, 6 miles from us. It caused $1 million in damages and injured six.

Ours was not the only harrowing tale. One man was trapped in the winds while parasailing – he suffered a fracture skull. Another man was adrift in the Atlantic Ocean for 2-1/2 hours, after his 36’ sailboat sank – he was hit with a line squall/60 mph winds.

Three people were killed in Syracuse. Four were killed in New York – 62 were injured.

100 boats overturned. The New York Coast Guard conducted water and air rescues.

Trees were downed. Homes destroyed – people had to seek refuge in temporary shelters. 300,000 lost power for five days. There was one distress call after another.

This storm was no joke. Each one of us was happy to be alive – and alive we were!


New York State Labor Day derechos –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_Labor_Day_derechos

4 Are Killed As Storms Lash The Northeast – http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/08/nyregion/4-are-killed-as-storms-lash-the-northeast.html

Channel 9 News Labor Day Storm Special – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBjos2xKfrM

Several videos of the storm, thanks to ProudAmericanArmyMom:

Part 1 – Tornados, water spouts, a guy trying to dock, canopy ripped off, lightning, golf ball sized hail – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNCM9ecpFik

Part 2 – Hail  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70K4Xo3VuPw

Weather Report – (start @ :39) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMpkzeMDdHw

West Indian American Day Parade – Labor Day 1998 – Emergency Weather Report – (Start at 37:13) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VELXN7tRLrY

This video is titled ‘Labor Day Storm 2013’ – however I would not be surprised if the year actually 1998. This dark monstrous mass is eerily similar to what we encountered – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMbpaGyFtqw


Storm Sail:

Part 1 of 3 – First Mate Disorderly

Part 2 of 3 – Caught in a Vortex

Part 3 of 3 – The answer my friend, is... Blowing in the Wind

{I think it’s safe to say, there was a fair amount of Triple L involved!}


Storm Sail (Part 2 of 3)

Caught in a Vortex

Lo and behold, we reached the Atlantic Beach buoy… motoring the entire way. The main and jib remained up during the trip, however, given the absence of wind, they served no purpose. Frank reeled in the luffing jib. Joey lowered the main. Ahead, we could see the first actual company of our trip, two sailboats, also making their way towards the bridge. Each Captain knew, as customary, we’d have to gather before the drawbridge operator would open the bridge. Relieved, I turned to Frank, acknowledging that maybe I was being too nervous… when over his shoulder, I saw charcoal black. The sky sharply divided. Before us and overhead was normal, but behind us, a swirling, monstrous, darkness. As he rotated his body to look, a Skimmer darted by, not one bit interested in fishing. “Frank!,” I tried to get his attention. The second speedboat of the day, appeared out of nowhere, hammering past us, completely ignoring channel speed limits. Frank turned back towards the bow, just as a flock of Skimmers torpedoed by. No words were needed, energy was palpable. That lurking sensation was no longer coming – it was here. 

“Okay,” showing the first signs of concern. “Make sure the hatches are locked.” Reaching towards a seat cushion, “put everything below deck.” But before his sentence finished, an incredible gust sent cushions flapping. Managing to grab the first airborne with one hand, he kept the other on the steering wheel. All of us were scrambling. My mother had Alex awake and below deck. I was stuffing cushions and supplies through the galley doorway to Ronnie. Joey was checking hatches. 

Atmosphere – instantly charged. You could touch it. It was surely touching us! Every single hair follicle. Stilly waters, now angry whitecaps. The squalls leading edge was upon us with a harsh slap. Avalon heeled in submission. That loosely lowered main, was now our main issue. I had to figure out how to navigate the deck… my mother interrupted, “There’s water in the boat!” 

Water in the boat, trumped the sail, Frank ordered, “Go! Find out where the water is coming from!” I ran below, pulling up the floor board. Nothing – the bilge was dry. “Is it from the bathroom? Check the seacocks.” We had to yell over the engine and wind. Joey checked the bathroom seacocks, reporting loudly, “They’re closed.” 

I froze. What to do? This can’t be happening! Like an old time movie, everything slowed. I saw my mother, sitting with Alex, who was wide awake, legs dangling over the edge of the seat, his hands, palm-faced down, placed gently upon his knees. Completely, statuesque, in the midst of chaos. Grandma donning a life jacket, sat by his side. It was the briefest of moments, but a vision, to this day, burnt in my brain. 

My standstill sharply shifted… as a violent gust, slapped Avalon down. Joey was thrown, airborne, from the bathroom. His back hit the opposing wall with a resonating bang, arms and legs trailing straight out, like tails on a windblown kite. It seemed he levitated, immovable, with the exception of his head, which spun towards me. With dagger precision, and saucer-eyes appearing cartoonishly large, he screamed, “This is serious SHIT!” No one disagreed. Ronnie was behind me, holding overhead handrails. My mother and I locked eyes. My sweet son’s life was flashing before me. Joey scrambled off the floor, and headed my direction. Before I could speak, he grabbed my shoulders, shaking me, “Call in a mayday!” Yelling even closer, “Call in a MAYDAY!” Demanding of my attention, while my mind was caught in assessing. Where was the water coming from? What is most urgent?? My son….

Another gust buried the starboard rail. Avalon’s Portside windows saw only black sky, her starboard, was under water. Standing on the wall beneath the galley seat, I caught a glimpse out the galley door, Frank was struggling. When Avalon momentarily righted, he kept one hand on the wheel, and forcibly, full body, yanked lines with the other, wrapping as many times as he could about the jib, and as much as he could of the remainder about the winch, “We need to get the sails down.”

Hearing the concern in his voice set my direction. Wherever the water came from, it wasn’t actively coming in the boat. Avalon was doing everything she was supposed to do. Grabbing Joey’s shoulders, I yelled back, “No one can help us. There’s no mayday! Help is not coming!” At arms distance, brandishing each word, “There. Is. No. Mayday!” It was semi-registering, “There’s no mayday! Think about it. No one is gonna get to us in time.” To say I took the wind out of his proverbial sails, was an understatement. “We need to get the sail down. I’m not strong enough! Frank can’t control the boat. The wind gusts are too strong.  I need your muscle!” Our grip released, “I need your strength. It’s us.” Deflated, though his whole body nodded in agreement. A clap of thunder and lightning sparked so close it startled us. Rain turned to giant hail. Avalon was literally caught between the clouds, like that of two giant cymbals crashing about us. Grabbing a life jacket, I heaved them to Ronnie. “Everyone in a life jacket. Now. Get a yellow slicker on your brother. Help him so he doesn’t have to take his hands off the wheel. Get every moveable object, stuff it in the forward berth.” Off went a woman-on-a-mission. Turning to my Mom, who had one makeshift, seatbelt arm locked across Alex’s chest, the other clenched to a handrail, “You have Alex.” Her right leg braced halfway up the bathroom door-jam, the left pushed off the opposing seat. Alex, remained statuesque, his back so straight he appeared proper, had his hands, still, upon his lap. I knew he and Grandma would remain together – I had to believe. Turning to Joey, who now had a life vest on, “We need to address the sail.” Ready to do whatever needed, he followed up the stairs… Avalon was on her side again. Between the stair rails, and doorway jam, we hung on till she righted. I warned the obvious, “Whatever you do. Don’t. Fall. Off!” Every lesson from the day must have been replaying in this poor guy’s head. 


Storm Sail:

Part 1 of 3 – First Mate Disorderly

Part 2 of 3 – Caught in a Vortex

Part 3 of 3 – The answer my friend, is... Blowing in the Wind

{I think it’s safe to say, there was a fair amount of Triple L involved!}


Storm Sail (Part 1 of 3)

First Mate Disorderly

It continues to ring in my ears, “Are you always this neurotic?”

When the question was originally posed, I attempted to respond, as though a legitimate inquiry, but the reality was, it wasn’t intended to be answered. 

The weekend surrounding this question evolved rather quickly. My mother, visiting from Florida, Frank, Alex and I scheduled an overnight sail into Manhattan. An impromptu stop over by Frank’s sister, Ronnie, and her traveling friend, Joey, added two additional bodies to our adventure. We were happy, especially Alex, who was a very active, agile two-year-old, for the extra hands on deck. Agile as he was, we had a non-negotiable rule. Around water, he had to be tethered to a fixable object, along with his life vest. This, after, months prior, he managed to fall off the dock. A big FYI, kids don’t float. They sink – fast… make that immediately. Frank’s knees bled, after skidding along the dock, scrambling to reach the last visible bit… Alex’s ankle. Hoisted like a fish, Frank whooshed him into the air. There dangled our toddler, upside down, dripping wet and mad. The upset wasn’t over the fact that he fell in, nor that he was being hung by one leg, only that his new shoes were wet. Concern over nightmares, unbridled fear of water, or any other traumatic fallout, was thankfully, unnecessary. All we had to contend with, was a momentarily pissed off little kid – – because his new, just-like-Daddy’s ‘choos’ (shoes) got squishy.

* A little side note: We had the luxury of docking our boat in Island Park. It was one of several sailboats Image may contain: sky, ocean, boat, outdoor, water and naturenosed-up to a lengthy bulkhead, adding to a glorious view overlooking the marsh. Berthed beside us, was Wind Song, a 1955 double masted, wooden schooner. It dwarfed Avalon, our tall rig, 30’ Catalina, in length and height – no small feat against a 53’ mast. Steve, the very capable, very talented Captain of this historical vessel, tended his labor-of-love for 25+ years. As with most days, he was working on her the day Alex fell in the water. No sooner did I yell, “Frank! The baby!,” he appeared from below deck. We never felt alone living by the boat. With the moment of concern behind us, relieved laughter and a spark of memories replaced. As a young boy, Steve, while ‘helping’ his father, landed head first in this very same water. As for Alex’s fall… He was ‘helping’ Daddy work on the dingy, stepped around a tool, when the tether strap/leash snagged his leg.

Avalon, not only offered headroom for my 5’10” frame to stand tall, it had a 10’ 10” beam, giving ample room for everyone, especially Alex, to move about – a.k.a. his own personal romper-room. The tether rule was lifted while in the cabin. To counter the tall rigging, was a 5’7” fin keel, making her particularly stable, sturdy and seaworthy.

We left the dock early, with Frank at the helm, Ronnie and Joey on the bow taking in the sights, and Grandma and Alex coloring at the galley table. I readied to set sail. Once beyond the Long Beach bridge and train trestle, Joey joined me to hoist the main. Frank manually released the bulk of the jib, Joey further winched it into to position. We sailed a pleasant, but relatively uneventful, tack through Reynolds Channel, towards the Atlantic Beach Bridge. Before nightfall, we safely  docked at the Newport Marina, on the Jersey side of the Hudson. Ronnie used her cooking expertise in the galley, and in no time filled our bellies. 

Joey and Ronnie

Ronnie and Joey, heading under the Train Trestle. We always had to request a full opening, to accommodate our tall rig.

Nancy (me), Alex and Frank

Nancy, Alex and Frank

Nancy, Alex and Frank

The remainder of the evening, we sat on the end of the dock, overlooking the most bedazzled Manhattan skyline – The Twin Towers, The Intrepid, The Statue of Liberty, the sunset, witnessed as rhythmic wavelets lapped pylons and salted the air. I took it in, as much as any Mommy of a two-year-old could. Alex (tethered to me) scampered busily, exhausting everyone but himself. Night passed quickly, as fun experiences often do. 

Avalon is the sailboat to the left/center

Dreamland can be blissful, especially when lulled by a rocking boat. Before you know it, morning arrives – even earlier when the up-at-the-crack-of-dawn kid tries to single handedly exit the boat. Dressing him, with promises of food, I hoped the rest of the crew could get back to sleep. Frank, also awake, joined us on our quest. The three of us ate breakfast on a bench overlooking Manhattan. Peaceful as this sounds, there was an uneasy feeling in the air, so much so, I mentioned it to Frank. “What do you think it is?” Unable to place my finger on it… still, something was lurking. We sat a few minutes, but I felt so uneasy, we headed back to the boat. Running from one end of the dock to the other, Alex tested the confines of the tether.  

Rounding the corner, the marina exit was bogged. “Frank, look how many boats are leaving.” 

“People are getting a head-start on the day,” he dispelled my concern.

“Yeah, but look at the others.” Every boater was actively battening down hatches, packing up, and casting off. The slips were half vacant. 

Too obvious to deny, we hurried back to check if there were weather reports or warnings. Sure enough, a late evening storm was due. Frank assured me, “they’re beating the storm home.” Then suggested we do the same. Joining the boating conga line, we exited the marina with no wind. The hum of Avalon’s engine accompanied us. The sails were raised for naught. Alex, wandered about the boat, his tousled moppy head of hair, his big red life vest… safely tethered… he was so cute. Mommy-hood certainly has sweet moments. I wished I could shake the feeling of unrest and just enjoy this. I suppose the repeating weather reports, as boater updates notoriously do, was adding to my angst. Frank insisted I was listening ad nauseam, nothing was changing, “Turn the radio off.” In my mind, a more current update could not post fast enough. My request to put life jackets on deck was deemed as escalating tensions, and assertively overruled. From behind the wheel, he scanned the horizon. “Yeah,” agreeing with my observation, “this is pretty calm.” 

I wanted to scream, “Ya think?!” How this man stays so laid-back all the time, is beyond me. 

We motored into the New York harbor, on approach to the Verrazano Bridge, when Alex reached for me, insisting to be picked up. For a moment I thought he wanted a snuggle, rather he proceeded to throw-up down my shirt. Mommy-hood has these moments too. Sailboats bob when not actively propelled forward. The tall rig was not working in our favor, not without wind, nor in the favor of Alex’s stomach. I suppose having breakfast, then racing to leave, didn’t help. Whatever the case, we used a bucket to wash not only me, but the seat cushions. Not sure who was more happy when Alex fell asleep. The bucket was left in the galley sink, in case there was another issue. 

A calm set in with the adults, though not nearly as calm as the water. The positives – with no wake or ripple to slow the hull, we motored at a good pace. No wind, also meant we didn’t have to tack. A straight course was plotted for home. Once in the ocean, there was a haunting lack of vessels, sans the lone speedboat that zoomed into the horizon. Outside of that, the entire expanse was ours. Frank requested a ‘hove to’ lesson, a technique I learned while living aboard Womanship – a woman only, sailing school. ‘Hove to’ slows forward progress, reduces the need to steer, and can basically ‘park’ your vessel in the midst of a storm. Not only did we hove to, I gave Joey his very own private sailing lessons. It was as much to keep my mind busy, as it was to prepare. For what, I didn’t know… but it felt like I needed to. 

“One hand for you, one hand for the boat. Always. This is the main sheet. This is where the winch handles are, always put them back in the same place. Release this line to… Cleat that here… Clamp that there… Don’t leave unraveled lines…..” 

Somewhere between listing how-to’s, he outwardly spoke the words. “Are you always this neurotic?” Resisting a feisty response, ignoring the thinly veiled snicker, I managed to cover bow to stern. It was too much information for the first time on a sailboat, but he was a captive audience and seemed to enjoy. 

My thoughts went back to the weather report. I went below to flip the radio switch on. The same warnings were repeated. As quick as it did, a threat of mutiny rang out, “Turn the radio off!” Laughing half-heartedly, I told myself to stop thinking about it. We were well on our way. Soon enough, the buoy to the Atlantic Beach inlet would be in sight. 


Storm Sail:

Part 1 of 3 – First Mate Disorderly

Part 2 of 3 – Caught in a Vortex

Part 3 of 3 – The answer my friend, is... Blowing in the Wind

{I think it’s safe to say, there was a fair amount of Triple L involved!}


Happy Birthday to Me!

In case you were wondering where I acquired my writing bug, let me introduce you to my Mother. Attached below are her recollections surrounding the events/hours leading up to my untimely delivery.

I can’t think of a more perfect birthday gift.


November 23, 1963, the birth of our first child. Nancy, arrived the day after the historic death of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy.

Since the birth was not due for another two weeks, my grandmother and I decided to go to Hempstead and tour the shops, as we often did. Woolworths was a favorite with all their 5 & 10 cent items, household, clothes, material and a luncheon counter. We would look (sometimes purchase – Grandma was frugal) until we got hungry, then soda and a sandwich. A BLT was my favorite, Grandma liked her strawberry soda.

Grandma and I spent a lot of time together. We could talk about many things, and found true comfort and humor in each other. So, when she found out I was pregnant, she became this wonderful, hovering, caring spirit, somehow protecting me and my unborn child.

We decided on Friday, November 22nd, to go into The Town of Hempstead early. In the 60’s, this was the mecca of shopping. It was about 11:00 a.m., we were window shopping down Fulton and Hempstead Avenues. The sun was out, and although it was November, I do not remember it being especially cold.

All of a sudden, a block or more away, we heard screams and saw a flurry of people racing toward the TV Electronics store. I wanted to head that way, but Grandma did not want me to go. She thought I might get hurt in the commotion. But my curiosity got the best of me, and pulling Grandma behind, I waddled toward the storefront. Being tall, I could see through and over the masses, the newsreels of JFK and his wife, Jackie, in the racing motorcade. There was shock and hysteria in the crowd.

As intent as I was on the TV screen, and absorbing the sorrow of the other viewers, Grandma became intent on me. I could now feel a tugging on my arm, along with her voice, “Janice, Janice!” “Janice, listen to me.” “Janice, do you hear me?”

We all died a bit that day.

I was not feeling well, and I guess I did not realize it. Grandma was pulling me away from the window and the crowd, and took me to an area not so busy. “Janice, pull yourself together.” “Everything is going to be ok. The nation will get through this. You are pregnant and you need to stay calm for your baby. Let’s go home and I’ll make your favorite dinner.” And that is what we did. All the way home, Grandma was her hovering, protective, loving self. She cooked my favorite Granny pot roast, smothered in her perfect dark gravy. Neither she nor my mother, or I, could figure out how I ate so much. But I ate and ate… no leftovers.

After that nice, yummy meal, and Grandma’s soothing demeanor, I headed home and waddled to bed. Oh, thank goodness, sleep came quickly… a few hours later came nagging back pains. I laid there awhile, holding my rounded stomach, and then came another pain, which I decided needed to be shared with the man next to me, “What?” came an abrupt response. After all this was in the middle of the night.

“I think I am starting labor!”

“No, you can’t be. Dr. A {a racing buddy/groupie} told us, you are not due for another few weeks.”

Hmmm, well maybe I was wrong, I thought to myself. So I laid there awhile longer, counting little back pains. Until one pain grabbed more attention than the others,”CALL the doctor!” I screamed.

Reluctantly, and with much reserve, about 1 a.m., your father called Dr. A and left a message. Dr. A returned the call with a resounding, “Charlie, it’s her first child, she is just nervous and doesn’t know.”

Okay, I don’t know. We were instructed to go back to sleep. That did not happen… half of us went back to sleep, the other two were busy. The baby pushing, me moaning.

About an hour later, 2 a.m., I ran to the bathroom and my water broke. Perched upon the throne, I, of course, announced this occurrence loud and clear. Your father appeared in the doorway, looking haggard, “Are you kidding?” Another call to the doctor. Again the doctor reassured us that the baby was not due for two weeks. However, I no longer wanted to listen to any men, and insisted, “I WANT to GO to the HOSPITAL!”

Believing there was ‘no rush,’ Daddy took time to wash his face, brush his teeth, hair too… go to the bathroom… while I, and the baby, stood in the hallway with the suitcase, and my own are-you-kidding-me attitude.

The ride to the hospital began somewhat leisurely. On the way, your father asked, if we had a girl, could we name her Nancy, after the Frank Sinatra song, “Nancy With the Smiling Face.” (In 1963 there was no way to tell the sex before birth.)

I tried to tough it out, and remember seeing the night lights of the street – one light pole, two light poles, then the railroad lights… All of a sudden, you made an ambitious move, which brought high-pitched screams from deep within my lungs. Daddy’s entire demeanor changed to that of complete fear. He was now a wide-eyed man with a driving purpose. A quick glance toward me, and his race-car, pedal to the metal foot, hit the floor, the tires of that 1960 silver corvette dug asphalt. Somehow I ended up under the dashboard. (No seat-belts in 1963.) This seemed a secondary factor to our no longer leisurely ride. We were now passing every vehicle, traffic lights were ignored, one telephone pole could no longer be distinguished from another… just a blur of streaking lights. The screeching brakes signaled our grand style arrival at the emergency entrance. Your father dashed from the driver’s side, looking for his passenger, who was beneath the dash. With the doors flung wide, a held out ‘what-are-you-waiting-for?’ hand, beckoning, “Come on! Let’s go.”

At this point, do I laugh, or pummel? “Charlie, you have to help me out of the car. I’m wedged under the dashboard, plus the corvette is too low to the ground.”

I looked up, beyond your father, to see two ER attendants with a wheelchair. One, a smiling woman – Thank God! The other, a young man. They sort of maneuvered the wheelchair to the side of the car, politely, but steadily, pushing your father out of the way. He looked relieved, as they helped me from under the dash, into the chair. A quick look at his half smile, mixed with sheer exhaustion and pride – “Well I got her here in time.”

It was not the most graceful moment in my life.

Your father waited and waited in the lobby. At 2:55 p.m., at Franklin General Hospital, Nancy with the smiling face appeared.

Because of the assassination, the nursing staff was glued to the TV, patients became secondary – but we survived. I brought you home, in my arms, (no car seats back then) seated gingerly upon a round tire, wondering, “How will I be able to do this?” With the help of my Grandmother, Aunt Pat, neighbors, a great Pediatrician, a loving husband, and a hefty amount of prayer… you lived.


My mother and her Grandmother, my Great Grandmother, aka Granny, spent copious amounts of time with each other. I love that my birth story includes their togetherness.

Although only 10 when Granny died, she’s vivid in my mind. Strolls in her yard, under great mammoth Oaks, with her aptly named dog, Rusty, by our side. We’d have tea, and Stella D’oro Anisette Toast cookies – Rusty was not left out, he got one too. There were homemade meals, and sewing lessons, and sleep overs… Did the coincidence that Granny was born July 11, 1896, and Alex, my first, was born, July 11, 1996 surprise. Nope. Somehow, we know she had a hand in the timing of this wonderful gift – a message, that she is still with us and thinks of us all the time.

To think I was born amidst such chaos… though, I guess every birth is chaotic in its own way. I am thankful my Mother was able to endure as well as she did. Childbirth is a beautiful but scary prospect, especially for first time mothers. Today, doctors are more accountable and liable, husbands are not so quick to simply follow blindly, medical advice is no longer deemed God-has-spoken… None of this drug the mother-to-be unconscious for deliveries. Father-to-be’s aren’t separated, they now assist throughout the entire birth. As it should be – heck, it was started together, now would be a good time to see it through. There’s certainly something to be said for first hand knowledge of the process. Witnessing surely lends to sympathy – or at least that cup of tea…

My father was always far less descriptive – A-man-of-few-words, far less than my mother for sure – though thankfully enough was said to resonate. Although that time was surrounded by horrid historic events, for him, “It was the happiest day of his life.”

Mom, in one of her self-made maternity outfits


Mommy and Me


Granny and Me


Grandma, Granny and Me


Grandma, Becky, Granny and Me


(Standing) Charlie, Becky, Granny holding me, Grandma Black, Grandma Hagenmayer (kneeling) Ruth, Uncle Billy, Pop Pop, Mom

Dad and Me

Uncle Billy and Me

Dad and Me


What the Flock?

Standing at the water’s edge, where ledges have formed, and various seaweeds adorn the shoreline in colorful masses, skimmers overwhelm the beach. No longer hoarding together in nesting sanctuaries, most of the babies are grown – though, a few still need tending. 

The moments before dusk are my favorite at Nickerson Beach. Everyone has gone home, everyone, except the setting sun. She still hangs around… for meseemingly, for she knows this is our time.

Walking towards the ocean, a cluster of skimmers part a path. I’ve no staff in my hand, but feel mighty amongst feathers. Cresting a cliff, an oasis of birds greet me. Hundreds, thousands, flying in painstaking unison. The group that parted joined them. It was as if they were dancing to a melody, toying with the winds, the salty mist, me… They didn’t appear to be feeding, just soaring in linear droves, truly one with the ocean pulse, like shadows, they mirrored each surge. More often, they’re broken into groups, some huddling together to block harsh winds, some feeding, some tending to young. I’ve never seen them all banding in one humongous focused group such as this. 

As their direction shifted, so, too, did this living kaleidoscope. The grandeur took my breath awaySplatters of red bills flashed amidst crisp brown and white feathers, creating whirling mosaics against a deep blue sky. Their rhythmic flight was so vibrant, no longer giving thought to why they were all together, I just soaked it in. With such close formation, it is a wonder they didn’t collide. Just above breaking crests, with effortless grace, they rode invisible roller coasters, up, down, around, spinning, turning, gliding, soaring – matching, quite literally, the misty fringe of every spray or curl.

The scent of salt and seaweed permeated my nostrils. Sand, caught in gusts, fluttered about my ankles. I refocused to continue my walk towards Point Lookout. After all, I was here to get exercise, not birdwatch. 

A commotion stopped me again. Skimmers were screaming warnings – but why? I looked to where my feet stood – nothing. I looked to the seaweed piles, thinking I might have gotten too close to hidden offspring – nothing. Yet, they continued to warn with resounding kaw-kaw-KAW’s. No longer flying in unison, a section of the flock was completely frantic. 

Then I saw, in the midst of that chaos – a hawk. It makes sense now, he must have been lurking nearby. Their flight behavior was a diversion to draw him away, from those not yet able to outsmart sharp wit or talons.

Ominous cries filled the air, as those directly threatened nosedived into the ocean. Entire bodies submerged under rolling waves. Between the seaweed and the birds, it looked like a strange ocean soup. The risk of breaking wings, or being fatally battered by churning water was there, but, for now, this was their safest haven. Once the coast was clear, those immersed, drudged their sodden limbs from the ocean’s waterlogged grip, to fly free and midair-shake the incident off. They were the lucky ones, but not far away, another section of the flock sounded kaw-kaw-KAW alarms. It was their turn to take the plunge. 

As the hawk charged, skimmer upon skimmer screamed objections and dove headfirst into churning waters. Lying flat, thrashing to and fro – any and everything to avoid becoming a meal. One poor soul, an unfortunate loner, tussled on the water’s surface. Wings and feathers flew, cries of premature success and defeat sounded loudlyMy breath and heart raced until the hawk lifted – empty handed. On this day, the skimmer had a second chance – if he was able to free himself from the grip of the wave. 

It took a few moments, but he did. Phew! Witnessing Mother Nature in action is amazing. Although, I didn’t know who to feel for more, the skimmers for surviving, or the hawk, who lost his meal? Skimmer diving tactics deterred the hawk’s pursuit this time, but they won’t forever.He continued along the shoreline, searching for fresh opportunities

Once the hawk was no longer a threat, the massive swarm broke into customary groups. They landed all around me, and, as I turned towards Point Lookout, once again, they parted a path. Hidden in a huge mat of seaweed was many, many babies still not ready for life on their own. My, my, my... the magnitude of parental sacrifice became immediately apparent. That cohesive flock was drawing the hawk as far away from their young as they could, hoping, against all odds, to send him off unsuccessful… and they did!

A skimmer, concerned about my presence, dropped before me feigning a broken wing. Yes, though the flock landed around me, I was now viewed as the threat. Such a theatrical performance to witness. Looking truly wounded, flailing about, it is amazing their self-scuffle doesn’t inflict damage. As soon as they have deflected attention, and sense their offspring are safe, they fly off, shaking their feathers back into position.

I quickly moved to the water’s edge, far away from any potential hiding places. There’s been enough excitement for this evening.

Note from Nancy:  This story is a sample reading from My Issues – The Creature Feature.  Yes… my official first book! 🙂   It’s now available through CreateSpace and Amazon. Click here for more info.   


Frank – One Year Later

A little over a year ago, life could have drastically changed.  A little over a year ago – life did drastically change.

It was a day in which Frank became a little less Peter Pan, and a little more pan – as in pancake – flat on his back – after landing on his head!  (In case you missed the ‘fun,’ you can read about it here – Life Almost Got Real Short)

For the most part, Frank has stayed off ladders.  Alex has become the go-to person for any balance or height related tasks.  (All that skateboarding has paid off – he has impeccable balance and leg strength.)  However, Alex was in Germany for the summer – and Frank insisted on getting back upon the ladder to clean a clogged gutter…  

Watching him climb, my heart raced.  I fired off every ‘be-safe’ plea I could muster – then had no choice, but to resolve myself to the fact that, Frank is going to do what he is going to do.  “You know, Frank, the problem is, you think you can fly!”  Pacing, I was clearly annoying him with my ‘unnecessary nervousness’ and chattering. Without missing a beat, he responded, “I CAN fly!  It’s the landing that’s become the problem.”

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  The man is a comedian. {Not!} That said, you will all be happy to know that Frank was/is fine.  He went up and down the ladder without issue – the gutters were cleaned – no longer a mosquito breeding area – he is back to being his old functional self.

(I guess the ‘trick’ is not attempting to use a chainsaw while on a ladder.)  {Go figure.}  (Regardless, next year I’m scheduling the lawn guys to address those gutters before there’s another issue.  Already marked the calendar.)

Once the backyard work was completed, we began addressing the front.  Our neighbor – the same long time friend/neighbor that was here on that fateful day – was passing by.  (Funny, if I were him I would never drive past our house again… and I would especially steer clear on yard work days.) 

I often think back to the choice this poor man had – help the guy laying on the ground that insisted he was ‘fine!’ or the girl that was frantic, oscillating between anger and outright panic.  {I could not understand HOW Frank was still alive?!  Beyond thankful that he was conscious, part of me wanted to pummel him for being so damn pigheaded.}

Rather than drive by, my neighbor pulled in our driveway.  Stepping out of the van, he waved to us and said, “I got something I think you’ll appreciate.”  Walking towards the back of his van, signaling for us to follow, “You’re welcome to borrow it anytime.”  Opening the hatch, he began pulling out a long pole – – attached on the end – a mini-chainsaw.  Frank laughed, as he continued explaining, “No seriously, {attempting to dissuade Frank’s laugher} THIS is what you use when cutting high branches!”  {Emphasizing each word, as he pointed alternately between the long extension, and the blunted remainder of offending tree limbs…}

Frank nodded mischievously, “I can borrow that??”   

“Yes!”  My neighbor, momentarily thrilled, thinking he struck upon an agreeable solution, “As long as you stay off ladders.”

Frank looked at the tool, then began surveying the tree, “Wow, that’s great.  I bet I can get way up there!”  {Pointing to a limb about 20 feet overhead.}  “Between that {pointing to the chainsaw} and a ladder, I could even get…” {Searching the out-of reach limbs…}

My neighbor didn’t allow him to finish – throwing his hands up, he let out a desperate groan.  Frank continued looking for high branches in ‘need’ of trimming, “…and if I put the ladder IN the bed of the truck, I could even get…” {Pointing to a limb about 30 feet overhead.}

At this point, my long time friend/neighbor began chastising – no prompting from the peanut gallery (a.k.a. me) needed.  “Frank, if you go up there again, {shaking his head in frustrated exacerbation} I’ll come back here and kill you myself!”

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  We all had a good laugh.  Peter Pan has not lost his sense of humor.  (Blessing counted!! :))

So here we are, a year later.  (Hard to believe.)  Frank still busts his ass at work.  (I don’t think they even remember what he went through.)  At home, he is still Dennis-the-Menace.  I am back to yelling at him for – still – leaving his dishes and shoes lying around.  

Of course, reality bit.  We know he is not invincible – though you’d be hard pressed to convince him otherwise(And it does appear that he has a stash of fairy dust someplace…) 

Much to his chagrin, more watchful eyes have descended upon him.  

(A cute example:  He and Charlee take turns choosing musical venues to attend.  Near and FAR.  {They traveled to Massachusetts to see Varsity Vocals, an Acappella sing off.  Twice.} The most recent, was a rock concert in Central Park.  Charlee gave Frank strict orders to stay out of any Mosh Pits!  LOL  And, yes, he was watched over by teenagers…)

I feel time.  The pages of life are turning.  One by one, new chapters are unfolding… and I am SO THANKFUL that Frank is back to FRANK!  (Good for him!  I would have it no other way!)

{I think…. lol}


Puppy Love

In honor of National Doggie Day 🙂

Early riser that I am – I’m up and about even before the dog.  Poor thing is used to me traipsing down the stairs, eager to push that button on my trusty coffee pot.  If she could talk, she would surely offer a beseeching ‘not again.’ (Actually I think I heard her try.)

I’ve learned in these wee hours that there are many faces to my Toots.  She makes a perfect groggy, one-eyed you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me frown.  That is, if I’ve managed to have woken her softly.  However, if I have startled her – like by turning on the living room lights – and forgetting to dim them first – she gives me a perfect evil-eyed scowl, once she has gotten past the painful squinting phase.  She sometimes rolls her eyes (I swear) and then, unsteadily, changes her sleepy curled up body to a better position – one that better averts the glare of kitchen lights. 

Many times (thankfully) she’s quite un-phased by my early morning entrance.  She barely opens an eye, only enough to check if it’s me – which she knows it is – cause no other sane human being in this household is up this ridiculously early.  (Seriously, I wish I could sleep!)  I start the coffee pot and she does not move from her slumber.  

Some mornings, when I am feeling particularly limber, I make my way to the floor and join her in her bean bag.  Wagging her tail, she moves just enough to give me snuggle room, and unknowingly her warmed spot.  She does a quick sniff of my morning breath – which somehow does not kill her – and we snuggle until my coffee is done.  

This mornings greeting was sweet.  I sat on the couch as my coffee brewed.  Upon seeing me, Toots forced her body out of the bean bag.  Normally there is a moment of rousing puppy yoga – that flawless downward dog, immediately followed by upward dog – but not this morning.  Struggling against still sleeping limbs she greeted me.  Her stiffness painfully visible, and yet she was determined to be with me.

I knew why…  Yesterday she spent a great part of the day on her own.  We were gone most of the morning – came home for a short time to let her out – then left again for a few more hours.  (She was SO good – no mess in the house – nothing broken – and then so happy to see us.  She is truly the perfect pooch.)  

I wish at this moment, that I could turn back time – just a little – so I could greet her with a snuggle in her bean bag, but she was already on her way.  I did what I could to ease her – massaged her warm furry head, around her downy soft ears, under her collar – where her favorite scratch-me zone was.  

Putty in my hands, her eyes radiated Puppy Love – so pure and clear.  I truly felt her heart, just from her gaze. (It was palpable.)  She loves her family.  She is family.  She is loved right back!

It is moments like this that revoke my threats of puppy probation… even if she pokes those holes in my screens and won’t stop shredding my window shades… I decided right now, right this second, she is perfect.  

Note from Nancy:  This story is a sample reading from My Issues – The Creature Feature.  Yes… my official first book! 🙂   It’s now available through CreateSpace and Amazon. Click here for more info.   


Toot Toot Toots!

(Written 12/15/2010 – Shared today in honor of National Doggie Day)

Guess what?  

Alex figured out that if you grab Toots’s snout – and angle her nostrils just right – you can blow a tune.  Yup, just like blowing into an empty bottle, her nostrils toot.  (Her name has never been more fitting.)  

Our cute puppy looked into the eyes of the human gripping her most important body part, and wondered what the heck had gotten into him?!  As her nose was tooted again, the crossed-eyed glare was replaced with perked ears.  Had she not been in such a puppy-concerning grip – she would have entertained us with the stereotypical curious-puppy head tilts.  She did try – though the strange puffs of air assaulting her nostrils were more cause for concern than displaying head tilting curiosity.  For some reason Toots still loves this child.

Alex was not the only one to toy with her this week.  

I will tell you first, that our puppy has not one bit of interest being outdoors – unless someone is with her.  She does not like to be alone, and she especially does not like being out in the cold.  This week, Mother Nature furthered that notion.

Toots’ morning routine is: walk out the back door – take a little potty break – then a little water bowl break – then sit starring at the sliding doors – until someone feels the intensity of her glare – and lets her back in.

Well… the 22 degree weather put a new twist on that water bowl break.  She went to take a drink and – lo and behold – ice replaced the water!  Thankfully her tongue did not stick to the frozen block. (Although that could have made one heck of a story… lol)  Tilting her head in confusion, she inspected again, as if she could see beyond the illusion. (She was too cute!  Totally could not wrap her head around it.)  A few sniffs – a moment of powerful puppy ‘infrared beams’ focused directly on the bowl – and when that proved futile, she nudged the frozen block with a concerned paw.  It rocked and spun, making all sorts of clamor.  She tilted her head – actually her whole body, and then reeled up, to better pounce down on the edge of the bowl.  The ice whirled around  and around, as Toots pounced and pounced.  She tried every angle, looking for any clue as to what happened to her water – a clue that was never going to come

Note from Nancy:  This story is a sample reading from My Issues – The Creature Feature.  Yes… my official first book! 🙂   It’s now available through CreateSpace and Amazon. Click here for more info.   


The Guy With The Jack

We have all had moments lost to frustration.  I was in that place… though I do not remember the exact details, I do remember being stopped mid-rant by my father’s comment.

He simply said, “Don’t do the guy with the jack.”  I wanted to bark at him, “What the heck are you talking about?!”  However, I said nothing – I just looked at him…

Convinced he got my attention, he said, “Let me tell you about the guy with the jack.” 

(I retell it to you – with some Nancy flare – cause hey, it’s now my story to tell.)

Along a winding country road, a driver hears a loud POW.  The wobble of his car a sure sign he just got a flat.  There he stood in the dusk wondering how he was going to change his tire.  He had no jack, nor any other tools, though he was quite capable if he had.  

Pacing back and forth he waited for someone to pass by and offer assistance.  No one came.  When it was clear that he had a better chance walking to the nearest town, he set off on foot. 

There was plenty of time to think along the way.  Worries about getting to the town before dark were warranted.  Night was quickly falling.  Little towns tend to roll up the sidewalks come dinnertime.  Another worry – even if someone had the tools he needed, would they be kind or trusting enough to lend them to a complete stranger?  

He wondered out loud, “I can’t imagine a mechanic lending me his tools.  What am I going to do?”

Up the hill. “This is never going to work.”    

Around a slight bend. “My car is going to sit there the whole night.”

Lights could be seen. “Even if I do find an open shop, no one is going to lend a stranger anything!”  

Still trudging the incline. “This sucks.  I’m going to be stuck here… all because I can’t get a stupid jack.”  

The lights grew brighter the closer he got. “I just walked all this way for nothing!”

He was now in the town.  “Freaking mechanics, why can’t they just lend their tools?!”

The light in local auto shop was still on.  Tired and frustrated, he reached the door.  It was locked, though there was still someone inside.  He knocked, and waited.  “This guy is never going to lend me a thing!  My car is going to be #$%*&? stranded here all night!!”  A face appeared in the window.  As the door opened, the smell of the mechanic’s greasy uniform told of a long days work.  

Face to face…. this was the moment…. The man opened his mouth to speak, and all that came out was, “Take your F’n jack and shove it up your ass!!!” 

It has been 13 Father’s Days without Dad here.  Hard to believe…. I share this today in his honor.  His entertaining words of wisdom are sorely missed.  

….and… to add a quacky side note…. As I started to write this a few days ago, I had to wonder if he is still floating around?  Does he actually visit from his lofty abode?  {I know he would if he could.}  Does he know how much he is still thought of and missed by so many?  I thought of how we spent a few past Father’s Days – at the Zoo, or BBQing, even a hippy fair on the water – I wish he was here for another …and then out of the blue, I get contacted…. Dad is being inducted into the Long Island Drag Racing Hall of Fame.  (https://www.facebook.com/events/757489877614871/ (www.CharlieDodge.com) The award was to be presented on of all days – Father’s Day.  How COOL is that!!  (Unfortunately, it has been rescheduled due to the rain. ;))

Yeah he’s here…. 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Dad and me…. So long ago.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

One of my favorite photos.

A few more Dad stories:   Dad Whittled Away     Messages From Above and Beyond     The Living Pom-Pom     Kissing Fish and Hunting Accidents… {A man has to do, what a man has to do.}

Wishing all the Daddy’s out there a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!! 


Happy Mother’s Day to me!!

(Written  May 10, 2009 ~ Mothers Day) Re-sharing.  Each word still holds true.  I – aka ‘Mom’ – would not exist, if not for my children.  Yes, ‘I’ would still be Nancy… a girl, a daughter, a friend, a sister, an Aunt, a