Saturday, January 8, 2011

Farewell to a Four-Legged Friend

It's been exactly a month since I posted. No excuses. I've been "uninspired" for lack of a better word.

We lost a four-legged family member today. I can barely bring myself to type that our daughter Jackie's cocker spaniel, Bella, had to be helped to go to doggie heaven this morning. She brought so much joy to their life (and ours) and will be sorely missed. We were her dog-sitters whenever Jackie and Neal went on vacation and we just returned her to them after a five-day visit with us last week. She wasn't her usual "self" and wasn't eating very well. This photo was taken a week ago today on our couch.Searching for consoling words for Jackie and Neal and the children, I came across a Rudyard Kipling poem that is also a prayer:
A Dog for Jesus
(Where dogs go when they die)

I wish someone had given Jesus a dog.
As loyal and loving as mine.
To sleep by His manger and gaze in His eyes
And adore Him for being divine.

As our Lord grew to manhood His faithful dog,
Would have followed Him all through the day.
While He preached to the crowds and made the sick well
And knelt in the garden to pray.

It is sad to remember that Christ went away.
To face death alone and apart.
With no tender dog following close behind,
To comfort its Master's Heart.

And when Jesus rose on that Easter morn,
How happy He would have been,
As His dog kissed His hand and barked it's delight,
For The One who died for all men.

Well, the Lord has a dog now, I just sent Him mine,
The old pal so dear to me.
And I smile through my tears on this first day alone,
Knowing they're in eternity.

Day after day, the whole day through,
Wherever my road inclined,
Four feet said, "Wait, I'm coming with you!"
And trotted along behind.

Rudyard Kipling

I'll get back to "surviving retirement" with my next post. We, both of us, are embarking on a new eating plan for this new year. Perhaps sharing our successes (or failures) will keep us on track. Too many cruises and too many pounds since retirement. Being home all day every day with that large appliance in the kitchen with the light that goes on when you open the door has taken its toll, especially on me. I have a magnet that reads: "Thou Shalt Not Weigh More Than Thy Refrigerator". I laughed when I bought it,'s not so funny! I've ordered a book called "Cinch: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches." Promises include: lose up to 8 lbs. in 5 days with the quick detox portion of this 30-day program that REQUIRES you to eat dark chocolate every day. (OK, yes, that's the part that got me when I saw it on Raechel Ray.)

Happy 2011 Everyone....and please keep Jackie and her family in your prayers as they face the days ahead without the "tap tap" of doggie paws following them down the hallways.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Panama Canal Cruise Do's and Don't's...

It's been a long silence since I last posted. Reason is we've been through the Panama Canal again. It was worth doing the second time. We decided to sail again and part of the reason was that the first time many of my photos look as though they were taken when the Canal was built in 1914...Joe had been "playing" with my camera and set it on sepia and forgot to put it back to normal! Another was that there is always a new vantage point and new things to see. It was pouring rain the day we traversed the canal this time, but a well-kept secret on the Norwegian Star is a little restaurant on the 8th deck called "The Blue Lagoon" that very few passengers seemed to know about and that had several window seats which gave a wonderful view of the locks. We settled into a table at 6:15 am and stayed until after 9! Wonderful! We watched the Celebrity Infinity next to us going through just ahead of us and got some wonderful photos (in natural color this time).

On to the Do's list:
1) DO check out the casino on NCL ships...they are heads above any other line we've sailed;
2) DO take advantage of the "all you can fit in the laundry bag for $19.95 special" to save packing laundry at the end of the cruise;
3) DO ask to share a table at dinner in the main dining'll meet an assortment of interesting people (you'll find this under the "DON'T" list too);
4) DO buy a Christmas ornament at every port (this eliminates the tendency to buy "souvenirs" that will gather dust the other 11 months of the year and when you put up the tree you'll remember all the faces and places you've experienced);
5) DO offer to take pictures for couples who are shooting pics of their spouse in front of landmarks (they'll usually offer to return the favor);
6) DO take the City Tour in Key West, FL and if you're lucky you'll get Michael as your tour guide...the one hour "hop on/hop off" was so good, we did it once from the left side and again from the right!

And as for the Don't's:
1) DON'T think that the casino will give you a big jackpot and not figure a way to get it back before the end of the cruise;
2) DON'T play bingo if you don't want to be ripped off (on NCL). They have gone back to the old wooden cards with "shutters" to close the number when called. They are cumbersome so you can't play more than 2 sets of 3 easily and they charged up to $89 to play 4 games, $59 to play only 2 games and then paid out $100 or $150 per game;
3) DON'T sit at a table for six where two of the men talk about motor homes, engines, broken plumbing, and gear shifts ad nauseum for two hours....find an excuse, any excuse, to leave and go back later if you can (not only did we have to endure this boring evening once, but out of 2200 passengers, we got one of them again three days later - I dubbed him "Mr. Personality");
4) DON'T always buy into the onboard offers for excursions...the same offerings can be 1/3 the cost if you wait 'til you get to the dock;
5) DON'T take just any taxicab in port; be sure they are approved or you could end up somewhere you didn't intend to be and the ship won't wait if you're not back in time;
6) DON'T expect all passengers to have an IQ above every port there were a minimum of 6 people who didn't return on time (they probably didn't know about DON'T #5).

All told, we had a wonderful time. As with all of our trips, one of the nicest moments is turning the key and walking back into our home and saying a "thank you God" for keeping it (and us) safe from harm. (I don't count the cold I got on the fourth day. I came armed with a virtual pharmacy this time so got over it before we docked. Why am I so prey to the petri dish aspect of cruising? Michelle says it's from hitting the "PLAY" button on the slots! I "borrowed" a glove from the cleaning cart this time, but it was too late.)

So now that we're back I have to figure out how to do the following in the next ten days: update and print labels for our Christmas cards; write and print our Christmas letter; stuff, stamp, and mail them (probably won't be any "personal notes" this year); get the tree out and decorate the house (minimally I think); wrap the gifts I bought before we left; buy the gifts I didn't; and lest I ignore "me" some real bingo!

My next blog will include some appropriate reflections on this busy, hectic, SPIRITUAL season. Hope you're all finding time to remember "the reason for the season".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Stop and Read the Pizza!"

No, I'm not losing my mind...I said "read the pizza". That's what I didn't do on October 3rd when we were visiting our daughter Michelle and her husband. Michelle arranged with her local pizza parlor to spell out "Oh Baby" in pepperoni on top of a pizza. She then made cute little stickers to go on top of those little plastic "tables" that keep the box from touching the pizza. On the sticker was written "We're expecting!" along with the due date (it read June 3, but actual due date is June 1, 2011), and in a circle around the perimeter was written Boy? Girl? in blue and pink. (The reason I'm blogging about it six weeks later is that we promised to keep it secret until Mike and Michelle were ready to "share" with the world. They did that on Wednesday, their fourth wedding anniversary. My tongue is sore from having to bite it so often over the past six weeks!)

Son-in-law Mike went to get the pizza and when he returned Michelle asked Mike's mother and I to "help" in the kitchen. Mike's Mom, Linda, picked up the lid of the pizza box and then closed it again and moved on to the next box, examining it and closing its lid as well. I went up to the table next and mimicked Linda's actions: I opened and closed all three pizza boxes. At that point, Michelle was noticeably irked and announced "Would somebody who can see without glasses, please come in here and get some pizza!" Linda and I looked at each other and then went back to box #1 and realized what we were looking at! Needless-to-say, there were hugs, tears, and laughter in abundance!

This long-prayed-for little one will be the first grandchild in the Sherack family and I must admit I'm a little envious of Linda. As a grandmother, you can only experience that "first child of your first child" once in a lifetime. It is a joy that knows no bounds. Each grandchild after is a unique blessing and inflates your heart to make more room, but even as you hold grandchild #2 and grandchild #3, the memory of that first little hand wrapped around your finger comes back. I know that when I hold "Baby S" for the first time, I will remember his or her cousin Jackson and I will know exactly what Linda is feeling.

This baby couldn't have a better world to be born into. As the "California grandparents", it is comforting to know there is no shortage of people who will be there daily to support Mike and Michelle as they journey into the wonderful world of parenthood. Along with grandparents-to-be Linda and Mike, there is Uncle Steve and Aunt Valerie and a host of extended family and friends standing by to welcome "Baby S"!

This is a good place to put Joe's three rules for grandparenting:
  1. Never say "no".
  2. Money's no object.
  3. Always give them back!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Day After...

This blog will be short. No gloating. No whining either. I'm just sooo glad not to hear any more character-maligning TV and radio ads. No matter where you stand on the issues, the process itself seems flawed when a candidate spends $146,000,000 to try to win an election. How much good could those millions have done?

It's time now to see what is accomplished by the next Congress. It's not enough to promise, they have to deliver. My hope is that when we are asked to vote again, the role of government in our every-day lives will have diminished considerably. If we keep accepting "bail-out" money from foreign countries to be "redistributed" because of promises made without  fiscal responsibility, we won't recognize the America our forefathers envisioned. If you want a refresher course on the Constitution and those who fashioned it, go to It's a great tutorial.

In a perfect world, we would help the helpless at the local level; provide training to put the unemployed back to work; we would reward entrepreneurship with fewer regulations and taxes; we would welcome immigrants who ask permission to become part of this country just as our grandparents or great-grandparents did; and we would hold our representatives responsible for their actions. We have allowed our government to "buy" votes by creating an "entitlement generation".

There's an old adage: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." It's time we stopped giving and started teaching.

Blog/rant over! Happy Day After Election Day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is your "Titanic" story?

Okay, I admit the title was designed to make you "read on". But, it was prompted by remembering moments in my life that might never have taken place had it not been for some other unforeseen event I had no control over.

And, yes, there is a "Titanic" story to my that I was unaware of until just a few years ago when I was told by my sister, Avril, that our grandfather...our father's father...was a pianist and was commissioned to play on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in April of 1912. But, he missed the boat train. When researching the web for a photo of that infamous ship, I was taken with the story of the photographer of this photo. It is a great story and I'll link you to it here. His story is another example of "what if"...

That was the first of several "what ifs" that thread through the pattern of my life's story. The next "what if" would be: "What if my mother's father hadn't been late to pick her up at the dock when she sailed from America to England in 1943?" She wouldn't have met the young RAF airman who asked if she needed help. And later, when she had left the airman and decided it was too difficult to be a single mother, "What if her father hadn't been 'on time' in the lawyer's office while she was signing adoption papers for a childless English couple to get a 2-year-old daughter?"

I've often wondered "What if my mother hadn't moved from New Jersey when I was 15 and was just finishing high school?" I would have remained eligible for the scholarship I'd been given to attend what was then Ryder State Teachers College.

"What if my best friend Marcia in Florida hadn't become a Delta flight attendant in 1964?" I would never have been encouraged to try it myself. And "What if my foot hadn't fallen asleep and I practically fell over when my interviewer asked me to walk across the room?" Did my humor at my own awkwardness help? (I guess it did.)

I think I may have already written about how Joe and I met, but that certainly is another: "What if Vicki D's roommate hadn't stayed so long at the San Diego Zoo on February 3, 1967?" (She would have gone on the blind date instead of me.)

That leads to another "what if" moment that our daughter Michelle experienced. As a Delta flight attendant, she occasionally meets former Naval aviators who knew her Dad. On one occasion the Captain called Michelle into the cockpit and asked, "Are you related to Joe Sarnecky?" When she said she was his daughter, he said, "Well you probably want to come over here and shake my hand. I was the helicopter pilot that picked him up out of the water off the coast of North Vietnam in 1968." If he hadn't been there, Joe might have ended up in Hanoi. She gave him a hug!

I know you've all read the stories about the people who would have been at "ground zero" if it hadn't been for something that caused them to change their routine that morning. We have one of those stories in our family too. Michelle was in California with her boyfriend, Mike, to attend a Chargers/Redskins game. Because our son-in-law, Neal, and Mike were both Redskins fans, Joe had purchased tickets for the six of us to attend the game on September 9, 2001. Had Mike not come out for that California vacation, he would have been arriving at the subway station at the Twin Towers to go to work at the building across the street. Happily, he was here instead and is now our son-in-law.

I had some other topics in mind for today, but I have been thinking about this topic since our cruise to Halifax where many victims of the Titanic are buried. The alternative might have been a "rant" on television ads that precede election day (I didn't want to put you through that).

I hope this post has sparked that part of your memory where you keep the "what ifs" of your life. If it did, consider doing what I have done this morning...I said a heartfelt "thank you, God" for all those moments and all those people who were His instruments and brought me to this wonderful place in my life.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Updates and corrections...

Like every endeavor in life, every now and then you need a "do over". I'm using this blog to correct and/or clarify some things I've written in the past couple of weeks.

First - I am not a "true reality TV junkie"...I have to qualify that statement. I DO watch Survivor, Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and, yes even Big Brother. On cable, I enjoy Top Chef and many of the Food Network reality shows...they are more like travelogues.

I DO NOT watch: [fill in the blank with name of city] Housewives. I do not watch any show exploiting people who have an inordinate number of children or young people living together and letting TV cameras follow their every boring move. I absolutely NEVER watch a show with a very strange-looking man wearing a giant watch around his neck (I accidentally caught a glimpse of that one and it made me think of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland). If I offended any "15-minutes-of-fame" cable reality show, I apologize, but given their content I doubt they'll ever read this blog (the operative word being "read").

Next, I realized after my last post that I did have some photos from our Canadian cruise. Before Joe bought a new chip for his camera when we reached Halifax, he used my camera and got quite a few photos. This is a favorite and will probably appear on this year's Christmas card.

Real time update now...on Friday evening our daughter and her family arrived to spend the weekend. Saturday was an all day adventure to Julian for apple-picking. The lovely town of Julian is about a 90-minute drive on winding mountain roads and during September and October their peaceful community is "invaded" by all the city-dwellers seeking mountain air and home-made pies. As a result, we were shoulder-to-shoulder with a few thousand other "apple-seekers". When we finally got seated at a restaurant, the waitress said we had picked the busiest Saturday of the year. After lunch we decided not to wait in line at Pie Shop" for a famous Julian apple pie since the line waiting to get inside the shop was about an hour long. Off we went to the Raven Hill Orchard where we picked three bags full of apples and Jackie got many photos to choose from for their annual Christmas card. On the way home, we discovered another "Mom's" and stopped and got pies. It was a wonderful day that ended with three happy children enjoying cherry-apple-crumb pie with vanilla ice cream (yum!).

It's now Monday morning and the house is very, very quiet. I always forget in between visits how much energy exists in the bodies of three children! The giggles, shrieks (Ava is best but she's been doing it longer), shouting, laughing, and occasional crying (not very often) echoes in this empty house today. Joe is off fishing so it is accentuated. We usually go up to visit them rather than them packing up for five people plus the cocker spaniel so it was a real treat to have everyone here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another cruise...another story...but first a 50th Reunion

We returned yesterday from a two-week vacation that began with Joe's 50th high school reunion in Pennsylvania. If you are the spouse at a 50th (or any other "th") reunion, it's kind of like being a third one needs one. was great watching him interact with all the people who had been such a big part of his "youth". He had a terrific time and everyone was very nice to me. I found a couple of other spouses to talk to and thanks to the annual convention of Volunteer Firefighters for the entire state of Pennsylvania, we had some additional entertainment (their first and second-place winners of the marching band competition played for us). A local trio played and sang a lot of the "oldies-and-goodies" we both danced to in high school. It brought back lots of memories. Of course, I remembered my classmates I danced with...Joe remembered his...but his were all there!

I found myself wishing more than once that I had lost the 30+ pounds that is my goal. It seems most of his male friends from high school had either passed away or decided not to attend. But...every girl he dated in high school was there...and none of them brought male companions. I took several pictures for him with all the former girlfriends, but none will be posted here. This vacation will be remembered as "The Vacation of Everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong" with regard to Joe's camera.

First, while taking the aforementioned pictures, I got a message stating "Internal Memory Full". When Joe investigated, he found he had left the chip in his computer back in California! Since I knew I'd be taking pictures for him since I didn't need to be in any of them, I left my camera back at the hotel. So, we got just a few shots at the reunion.

But the saga doesn't end there. We left on our 7-night cruise to Canada with stops down the New England coast the day after the reunion. Got some great shots of The Intrepid aircraft carrier and Lady Liberty as we sailed out of Manhattan. We were at sea for a day and when we docked at Halifax, Canada it was easy to see how the Titanic ran into an iceberg...the fog was so thick we couldn't see the shore until the boat docked. It rained the whole day so there weren't any picture-taking opportunities. Joe went ashore because by then I was in the throes of a terrible cold. He found a drugstore and came back with enough remedies to last the week.

The next day St. John didn't offer much better weather but by early afternoon I was feeling well enough to go ashore. We spotted a restaurant that boasted steamed clams and lobster and ordered a bucket of clams apiece. I can't describe how disappointed we were when the first clam offered enough sand to fill half a teaspoon! The others were the same so after a brief souvenir shopping for a Christmas ornament (that's all I ever buy on need for trinkets...and this way we relive our travels as we trim the tree), we returned to the ship to find something "sand-less" to eat.

At Bar Harbor, Maine it was raining hard and I was coughing harder so I stayed on board and slept while Joe saw the sights and returned with an ornament to make me smile. (I have to add that later that night I felt better and went to the casino and won almost $900...that's a great "tonic".)

In Boston the weather still didn't cooperate so once again I slept and Joe went ashore. The next day the sun finally found us and I was almost feeling human so we went ashore in search of a restaurant recommended by a friend. It turned out to be over a mile from the dock and when we got there we were greeted by a "Closed" sign on the door. Turns out they only open for dinner after summer season. :-( We found another restaurant recommended for their clam chowder and this time it was as advertised. The day couldn't have been prettier and Joe got some great photos.

Not to make the cruise sound like our worst ever...I have to say that if you're going to feel sick on board, the Norwegian Dawn is one of the nicest places to do it. First, they have "Freestyle Dining" so you don't have to eat at a certain time with the same 4 to 6 other people at every evening meal. If we had been assigned dining room seating, I probably wouldn't have gone to the dining room at all with my cough, which persists still. (Doctor assured me yesterday that I am not and was not contagious after the first three days; cold triggered bronchial asthma which I've had twice this year.) So, we didn't meet a lot of new people this time, but the food at our table for two was delicious. In addition, the entertainment on board was so good there were times we had to miss the main showroom to see one of the acts in the lounges. We're booked on another NCL in the near future and I can't wait (I'm going to get well and get a flu shot before then).

The morning after Newport, we docked in New York and Michelle and Mike picked us up. We went to their house to spend the rest of the day watching football with all the Sheracks. It was great to see Mike's parents along with his brother, sister, and cousin. We wanted to get a picture with everyone there so Joe went to his bag to get his camera. This is where the saga gets sad: the camera wasn't in his luggage! We've sent e-mails, posted on the Cruise Director's facebook page, Joe made numerous phone calls, and I've been wearing out St. Anthony with pleas to find the camera.

I probably don't have to put it in writing, but here's my rule for travelers: ALWAYS go back one last time to check the room/stateroom before leaving!