A Guide to Taking Your Dream Mediterranean Cruise – A Fun & Exciting Travel

You know you’re destined to be a fashion designer if you: a) spent most of your childhood making clothes for your Barbie dolls instead of playing with your friends; b) read fashion magazines instead of your school books; c) ran a boutique out of your basement at age 10. In other words: if you want to be the next Yves Saint Laurent, it helps to be completely and utterly obsessed with fashion.

However, there are many aspects of the profession.

Working as a fashion designer can just as well mean supervising a design team at a sportswear company as producing a label under your own name. Although the former career may not seem as glamorous as the latter,


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Eat Grapes and Slow Down in Life

Eat Grapes and Slow Down in Life

grapes how do you pick
Pick a bunch of grapes, or just one at a time?

While eating breakfast this morning I started to pull off a bunch of grapes from the stem.  It seemed easier to eat that way.  However, as I was eating them… I noticed that I went quickly and didn’t think about what I was doing, quickly popping more than one in my mouth as I was focused on doing other computer work.  Fortunately, I had not pulled all of them from the stems because, for me, I learned this morning… I need to pull one grape at a time and enjoy it. It’s the experience of selecting that grape.  Even though you will probably eat everyone of them… which one is next?

In my own experience having them pulled from the stem ahead of time caused me to feel as though the work was done for me.  It took me a moment to realize… that by pulling each individual grape off, one at a time.  I appreciated and enjoyed “that” particular grape that much more. Even though I had pulled a good little pile off initially, it was mindless, a quick repetitive action vs. direct and thoughtful.

How do you eat your grapes?  Do you first wash them? Drying carefully so as to not knock any off?  Do you just reach in and grab them plucking directly from the stem?  Is it boredom, hunger or need for nourishment? Is it purposeful.  LOL. Or are you thinking … “frankly Carol, I’ve never considered how I eat my grapes and you are weird.”

A lot can be said from eating grapes.  One at a time. And that in itself can be applied to our daily lives.  One grape at a time, plucked from the stem, as we are ready for it – and enjoying and being in the moment with it and reaping every benefit it dares to give and provide.

We are all so busy multi-tasking.  It’s what society expects us to do.  It’s time to slow down. Be good at doing one thing at a time, for then you will finish your task at hand vs. having a lot of things started, and not completed.

My lessons for me this morning.  Slow down.  Enjoy what is in front of you vs. steamrolling through it to “just get it done.”  Savor the moment. Be good at one thing at a time, for then it will develop into several good things completed.

#BeWhoUr  #chooseYou #LiveLife #learning


Death has no mercy and grief no timetable.

Death has no mercy and grief no timetable.

Two years ago I was on the cusp of what I felt was “soaring.”

I was loosing weight.  I felt healthy. I was eating right.  I was transitioning a business my husband and I built from the ground up over to our son, which in turn was giving me more time to myself to pursue my own life’s passion, photography.  Every day that I woke, I felt like a spring bud just ready to burst.  After all, great things were happening.  Every morning, I began my day with Alicia Keys, “This girl is on fire.”  It was my motivational.  My attitude adjustment.  My way to begin.

Saturday morning, April 13, 2013, the windows were open, the birds were literally screaming with delight, the sun bore down with what promised to be an awesome spring day and a day of “getting things done.”  I had been to a yard sale early that morning and bought a chair for mom to sit in for our upcoming family portrait on May 5.  All of mom’s children were going to be in town at the same time and we wanted to get a really nice family portrait.

Cherry Blossoms, April 2013
Cherry Blossoms, April 2013

I hung up the phone from a lawnmower parts supplier after confirming they had the part we needed and prepared to get ready to leave.  The first phone call came from my cousins phone and I missed it.  The second came from my sister, Gail’s in the Outer Banks.  Knowing that my parents were visiting, this gave cause for concern.  As I stood there looking out my kitchen window at the cherry blossoms in full reveille, the words that came through my phone from my niece were incomprehensible to me.  I had to ask her to repeat, and even then they were indistinguishable, yet I knew exactly what she had said.  “Grandma has had a stroke, they are flying her to Norfolk General, we are driving there.”

Timehop so elegantly replayed parts of the day for me yesterday. April 13, 2013

Just writing those words causes me to stop and have to find my own breath.  We weren’t certain of the severity – after
all, she had been talking to the rescue personnel as they were helping her.  Within a half hour, Tom, my husband, and I had packed a bag and began what would take us four hours to drive to Norfolk.

Two hours into our trip, I began texting my sister for updates.  Surely they had heard something by then.  When the caller ID showed Gail’s number I answered immediately.  The words “it’s not good” and “she’s on life support” to this day, echo in my head.

We were about an hour away at this point in our travel.  As I put my phone down, Tom asked for the update.  As I could feel the cars speed increase even more, it would be another 20 minutes before any words could be formed.

Arriving at the hospital we began the descent from the upper level of the parking garage.  The warmth of the day and the newness of the season had not had the opportunity to spill into the concrete structure which held darkness, wet and cold as hidden speakers belted out “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive by Travis Tritt.  Soaking it all in I paused at the bottom of the stairs listening, only to look up with aggravation and say “Seriously God?”

Like walking through the Soul Train dance along (I’m telling my age), I passed through the sea of on lookers to get into Mom’s room.  From care givers to family members who had already arrived, the numbers were growing.  And there she was, sleeping.  Sleeping as I have seen her sleep my entire life.  Only this time, she would never wake up.  My dad sat holding her hand not saying a word.  A position he would hold for the next 17 hours.

As family began arriving during these next 17 hours we began to see and feel the impact of the inevitable. Our mother was dying.  The glue that had so feverishly held our unit together was chipping, cracking and ultimately fading away.  Upon giving mom her last rights, the local priest simply said, “the vigil is the hardest.”  Sleeping on floors, chairs, gurneys; against walls, in hallways, upright in a chair holding her hand, night began to give way to morning and the last family member to arrive, did. Bittersweet knowing now the moment had come.  All that could be done — had — and now it was time.

As the birds outside began to wake and start a new day, as they had just the day before, my mother of 48 years, quietly slipped away.  And in the gentleness of that I could hear the metallic squeak and squeal – like that of a train breaking – the sound of the world coming to a stop.

In the days, weeks, months that followed,change was the keyword.  Life events and holidays, although on the outside were reflected, within – were no comparison.  The dynamics of family and friendships changed like the ebb and tide of a body of water.  What was there one minute was gone the next and new relationships were formed.  Rocks that had been a solid foundation of the shoreline were now gone and other anchors had taken their place.  Previous sources of comfort resurfacing. Old friends now new again.

Christmas 2013
Christmas 2013, our first without Mom.










Death has no mercy and grief no timetable.

When one mourns the death of a loved one there are no rules, and there is no timeframe in which you need to “get it done and over with.”  You never “get over” having loved someone “SO much.”

When my mother died – the very first few hours I simply looked at Tom and said the best thing you can give me is patience.  Please be patient with me.

When one looses someone who has had such a huge impact on their life, it’s not only the person you grieve.  It’s your lifestyle. Your way of thinking.  It’s your wake up.  It’s your go to bed.  It’s how you fold laundry.  It’s the meals you cook.  It’s their habits that have been passed to you.  It’s new traditions, and honoring old.  It’s in how other’s treat you now that someone else is not watching them.  You grieve not only the loss of their life – you grieve the loss of the life you had with them in it.

Some of the worst things said when one has lost a loved one is “give it time,” “time heals all,” “in time you will feel better.”

All of these statements are in fact true.  The wounds of my mother’s death and the storm of emotion that followed it are healing and the wind is subsiding.  It’s taken TWO years and there are still times, moments when.. when… well, you just want your mom and no matter what – that is pretty much the only thing that will make it better.  The friendships that disintegrated, or merely faded away have made way for new.  Old friendships, once thought forgotten, renewed, and “family” has taken on a new meaning with my own rules of commitment.

Death changes us all.

Death has lessons that when you pause and listen, can give you a multitude of answers and open a whole host of

This life we are all living, none of us will get out of it alive.  While here, we need to focus on the good.  BE the love and light you wish to receive.  Reflect outward what you hope to gain.

As I sit here watching the sway of the newly budding branches I eagerly await their explosion.

Life !  Beauty !

Cherry Blossoms, April 2013
Cherry Blossoms, April 2013

Just like April 12th, 2013.  The last time I heard my mom’s voice.  The day I simply sat in my backyard photographing cherry blossoms exploding and bee’s humming with delight.  Just like that day, hearing the birds sing and feeling the warmth of the sun.

It’s time to get this train back on the tracks.  It’s suffered the effects of derailment for far too long.  I love my mom.  I miss her profusely.  I remind myself – I am a mother, and my children did not loose theirs, no more than I lost my own mother when my Grandmother passed away.  I have reminded myself for the past two years that being “present” is of the utmost importance.  And, Tom, that rock that never left the shoreline, no matter how high the tide, …. I am the luckiest woman I know to have the support and love he has shared and showed.

The one thing I can tell you though.  If you have the opportunity to take those family photos.  Take them.  Everytime I photograph a family it brings me great JOY to know that I have been able to preserve this moment for this family.  That they will have this precious heirloom.

With great anticipation, I watch the trees, waiting for rebirth and renewal.  For the sounds of moving train wheels.  I think I can, I know I can —  Afterall.  It’s a great day to be alive.

Mom's Chair
Mom’s Chair



Still Waters Run Deep

Still Waters Run Deep

The ebb and flow of the tide within wears at the consciousness of the soul.  Like the ever changing sand scape, our inner core is caught up in the influence of the tides around us.

What we choose… how we choose is entirely up to us.

We are the average of the five people we spend our most time with.  Spend that time wisely.  Who makes up who we are?  How does that influence have such an impact on our own lives.  As I once learned in computer class, “garbage in, garbage out.”  And as a universal expression, you get back what you put out, three times over, put out good stuff.  With all of these expressions, and certainly more, it’s easy to get caught up in quotes and not really paying attention to what it could actually mean to you.

We are the average of the five people we spend our most time with… I look around myself, and I have a pretty small but broad circle.  I don’t feel that 5 is an accurate number really.

With every tide comes new treasures.


The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

We all have an internal GPS that guides and directs us on the path of right vs wrong.  Which is “right” for us sometimes remains to be seen.  To be seen after the fact or after a success or failure. Failure is relative really.  If you fail at least you have had enough gumption to get up and try and “do.”  

Society has set standards.  Our circles we travel in have set standards.  What are our own? What is our barometer? Our guidance?   How often do we simply follow the crowd without really deciding for ourselves where or what we want to be? 

Robert Frost wrote in 1916, appropriately 100 years ago a poem titled “The Road Not Taken.” There are many different opinions on the internet about the meaning of this poem.  How it was written. What message it is suppose to send.  

Are you a crowd follower or do you search out your own path?  Your own journey.  Do you walk it alone or in the company of others?  Do you find yourself walking the same path expecting to see different scenery or do you just enjoy the familiarity and comfort of knowing what to expect – whether that outcome is good or bad?

I challenge you to take a road less traveled.  Walk a path you have not yet experienced.  Look around you.  Yes, look left and look right as an observation of where you have been and then look forward to where you are going.  Nowhere in this statement was a reference to looking back.  The sun shines above and around you, the horizon ahead is bright and beautiful to behold.  You are the one in charge of the direction. Be your own navigation system…. do what works for you. Be in charge of your own input. Change direction if you need and when traveling off that beaten path enjoy the ride. 

#BeWhoUr #chooseyou #

The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 

And sorry I could not travel both 

And be one traveler, long I stood 

And looked down one as far as I could 

To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair, 

And having perhaps the better claim, 

Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

Though as for that the passing there 

Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 

In leaves no step had trodden black. 

Oh, I kept the first for another day! 

Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 

I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 

Somewhere ages and ages hence: 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference.


The Love Cushion…

Learning about the “Love Cushion” and learning to fluff our own.

I coined this phrase over the summer of 2014 during some moment in time while I was in deep thought. The Love Cushion is a concept really…

love cushion

With this concept of the Love Cushion comes this explanation….
We can get through ANYTHING in life as long as we have a fluffy love cushion. Our love cushion is made up of our friends, family, animals and basically what makes us happy.

During our life – our love cushion is ever changing by what and who we surround ourselves with.average of five

Sometimes in life, through no control of our own – we loose parts of our cushioning and we find ourselves vulnerable to heartache and despair. It’s then when it is so important to reach around you to the cushioning that you DO have left. Your support system. It’s also important not to wear out that support system with needless cries for help. As we grow – we grow in and out of relationships. It’s important to find a happy medium with the fluffy.

When my mom died – I realized she and the family she held glued together was a huge part of my fluffy. I spent a huge amount of time not only grieving her, but grieving all that she held together. The gatherings, the news, the communication, the community – the LOVE. I realized that, although I had so much of this in my own immediate family, she held a huge part of it in the palm of her hand . And the day she died, it did too.

I cannot imagine being an orphan, yet this is how I felt. I know my experience is no where near that of an orphan. I just don’t know how else to explain it. What I learned was that even though I had my own family, there was such a void where mom’s extended communications had dried up – and so I started to make my own.

This is not something that is done overnight. Mom was 78 when she died. At her service we estimated over 1200-1400 were in attendence. You don’t touch that many people over night. She had spent a lifetime of fluffing her own “Love Cushion.” Her glass overflowed. I realized in order to fill my own void, I had to come out of my own shell… I’ve often thought I was a introvert. The more I think about it, I am not sure. Maybe a introvert with tendencies of extravertedness. I love being around and with people – but I need the time to be alone and recharge. I love the quiet time. I do very well with the quiet time.

So back to this theory of mine and the Love Cushion.love bunny
Overall — we need to build around us those whom we love, those who love US and do it in multiples. We need to be selfish to a degree – and do this in a manner that is good for us. If we are in an environment which is constantly requiring us to remove our own fluff – we need to acknowledge that it may not be a good “fluff” for us – and move away from it. If we are constantly being drained or saddened by our environment – We need to change it. We need to look for new horizons. We need to look for the good in everyday.

As our love cushion starts to get flat – noncomforting. It needs to be fluffed. We fluff it by phone calls, letters, visits, cards. Smiles. Time. Time – something that we all seem to have so little of is probably one of the most important things that can be given… Don’t give up your core self. In giving – and the good feeling it gives – we sometimes get caught in that and want to give it all. Find balance in the gift. Be True to the things that make you happy. If it’s not fun – and you are not happy doing it – then why are you in that space? It’s up to you to carve out your own happiness and decide exactly what you want out of your life.  Being happy is a choice.  

#payitforward  #lovecushion #bewhoUare #chooseyou #lovewins #itssofluffy #freewill


Five things you didn’t know about Breast Cancer, Stage 0

Five things you didn't know about breast cancer, stage 0

Five things you didn’t know about Breast Cancer, Stage 0

1. That it exists.

2. That the treatment is the same as if it were a Stage 1, which means radiation, and  sometimes chemotherapy.

3. Sometimes a mastectomy needs to be performed.

4. A routine mammogram can detect it.

5. It’s called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ of the Breast)

Read about my personal journey here in the Fall of 2014 to discover more.

Five things you didn't know about breast cancer, stage 0

The medical side of DCIS can be read about here.


My Winter Assignment

My Winter Assignment … January.2015
This is the second year I have been given a winter assignment, in the hopes of me “liking winter.”  It’s not a secret that I am NOT a fan of winter. To ease the pains of winter, my friend Missy challenged me to snow angels last year.

carol snow angel
Snow Angel Challenge 2014

I saw her challenge, and topped it with snow angels in a bikini… So this year, was photos of snowflakes… after a limited snow season, I was able to capture a few and so I begged for spring since the challenge was done. This morning brought another round of snow… Me being one for extra credit, … took the plunge, out to what some consider winter beauty, and captured a few more of these pesky little devils.

I must admit, I did loose track of time as I got excited each time a new one dropped and I could see it’s shape, different than the last one, the back of my camera. I noticed they melt very quickly, even though it is cold as the dickens (whatever that means, but I know it means COLD), they melt and loose their perfect Godlike shape VERY quickly. So you have to move fast… Here are but a few of the ones that I was able to capture before they turned to mush.
So it’s here that I have decided, that it is not the “snowflake” that I dislike so much, it is the ice and mush that it turns to upon falling to the earth. So – in other words, as long as they stay “heavenly” they are “OK” with me. Which brings me to a thought… “Snowflakes are angel kisses, sent from heaven but for a brief moment to share, and enjoy their silent beauty.”
 With that being said… for now… not for long – perhaps for as long as the snowflake retains it’s purity, grace and beauty, I will temporarily lay down my sword and succumb and admit that I enjoyed being out in the beauty of the snow this morning while capturing these. My hands frozen, I refused to go inside until I had taken “just one more.” Because indeed, each one is completely different from the last.
I close with a grateful heart and a loud begging cry, …. “can we please have warm weather now?!!?!?!” Afterall, I got the shot, again.
Snowflake Snowflake Snowflake

The Lessons that Jack Bottorf taught

The Lessons that Jack Bottorf taught…

Chopticon High School Field Day
Chopticon High School Field Day – Spring 83

I can remember the simplicity of those days. When the only worry was getting to class on time, a poem that needed written, (and was often already done because I just loved to do it) and trying to stay awake in class. In my senior year of english, my seat sat against the wall, closest row to the door, 4th back, safe from being in the front row. Easy in, easy out. My friend, David sat in the next row over. I don’t remember much about the lesson plans as much as I remember just knowing it was a good class.

Jack Bottorf as seen in my Senior yearbook, 1983.
Jack Bottorf as seen in my Senior yearbook, 1983.

I have nothing but fond memories of Mr. Bottorf’s class. A gentle man always dressed in English teacher style, pressed pants, shirt, thick glasses, tie, a stern look, with or without pursed lips or a thin crooked smile, and poised pen – red. The man who insisted you be on time, not waste time and somedays, seemed to come from another time as he recited words from Shakespeare. These moments typically came when the temperature was the hottest and there was no a/c in the school. The afternoon sun would come in those tall windows where the venetian blinds wouldn’t close nor did all of the windows open.We were reminded our school sat in the middle of working farms fully stocked with cattle and pigs. Cowpie High didn’t get it’s nickname without reason. Those warm spring days, when it was time to clean out stalls, were “ripe” to say the very least.

A note about Jack, Jack Bottorf. And I say it that way because after all characteristically, he was kin to James, James Bond. Often during my high school english class, he would be referred to as simply Jack B. or Jack. or Bottorf. One thing is for certain. He was always referred to with respect. The lessons learned here were just as much about life as it was literature.

Don’t be late, or suffer the consequences.

There were no do-overs in Jack’s class.

You received the grade you earned.

Referral Slip Torn - Lessons taught by Jack Bottorf
Yes ! I actually still had the torn referral slip. This never happened, so I saved it. 🙂

You were expected to show up for class. If you didn’t, you were still expected to know the material and you better have a good reason why you weren’t there. Class began with the announcement of referral slips for those who had not been in class the day before and weren’t on the master absentee list from the school. Remember those days? So if you had planned on skipping class, you had better have a backup plan. David was mine. If you had reason to be absent, you were excused and the referral slip was torn in half and thrown away. All I had to do was raise my camera and the slip was gone from memory. After a time, there were no more slips, just a glance from above his glasses and a Ms. McWilliams, where were you?

Press Pass Chopticon High School - Lessons taught by Jack Bottorf
Press Pass Chopticon High School
Jack Bottorf as seen in my Senior yearbook, 1983.
Jack Bottorf as seen in my Senior yearbook, 1983.
Carol and Tom Graduation
Carol and Tom Graduation Night – 1983








Above all, Mr. Bottorf was fair. In my senior year, my class was not required to do a research paper. Our final exams were coming up and as we had thoughts of graduation, spring and an endless summer at age 17, we were given the option to either take the final exam or do a research paper. The grade we received – would be our final grade. I opted for the research paper. I felt the odds for a good grade were better with the paper; do it well and receive a good grade. When that final paper came back with a grade one point away from an A, I went straight to his desk to argue my case. What seemed like hours later, he still wouldn’t budge. I graduated from high school english class with a final grade of a B.

Thirty one years later…

Last summer as I was visiting my son, Mike, at his business in Hollywood, MD. I was pleased to see Mr. Pence come through the door. Another previous high school english teacher; actually, the teacher that introduced Tom and I when we were freshmen. As I caught up with him, he mentioned that Jack, Jack Bottorf, was sitting in the car waiting and he needed to go. Literary buddies from my high school days and before that I am sure, they often went out together as old friends do. I was excited to know ole’ Jack Bottorf was there and followed Pence out to the car. He was just as I remembered him, thick glasses, neatly dressed and a crooked smile. Standing there in that warm summer day, sun bearing down, talking and hearing his voice, the only thing missing was the fragrance from a neighboring cow pasture. I could have been 17 again, with forgotten memories of high school flooding back. Before leaving him we argued again about that one point he refused to give up 30 years prior, and how it cost me an A. I was reminded that I hadn’t earned it. And it made me smile to know I was pushed, and wasn’t given something that I hadn’t earned. One point. One point…

The two of them drove away that day with a smile and a wave. As I walked back into my own adult world, I was reminded of so many little things forgotten. And for so long in my youth, and now adulthood, my memory of Jack, Jack Bottorf, was in relation to the point he wouldn’t give me. I now realize that the point he didn’t give – has been THE point well made for the last thirty years of my life. Working hard for what you are given. You are only given, that for which you have earned.

If only the world had more teachers like Jack, Jack Bottorf. God speed Mr. Bottorf, may your hall pass take you straight through Heaven’s Gate.

Jack Bottorf Obituary Photo - Lessons taught by Jack Bottorf
Jack Bottorf Obituary Photo







Mr. Bottorf’s full obituary can be seen by going to the link below.