Sunday, November 30, 2008

More on Mousie

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled down Horn Harbor and took this. I have no idea what the yellow growth in the field is, but it was incredibly pretty. Speaking of things that are incredible, below is another true story about a Gwynn's Island resident.

The other day I posted a story written by a friend of mine regarding the time the funeral home accidentally picked up the wrong person, someone who had overindulged in spirits.

Below is another chapter in the adventures of Mousie, written by my friend.

Another True Story
by the Gwynn's Islander

Mousie was the only Island resident, perhaps Mathews resident, maybe even United States Citizen, to ever receive a drunk driving ticket while riding a Wheel Horse lawnmower complete with a CB and antenna.

A local deputy, who later became a much-despised sheriff, found it necessary to ticket him on one of his journeys to secure provisions, or beer, for himself or the family. One must wonder, what could possibly have been suspicious about his journey, how could a man in his late sixties driving a lawn mower on a public road at a rate of two miles per hour with a cb antenna and a case of beer possibly attract the attention of the local law enforcement?

Not one to be easily deterred, Mousie crafted paths and shortcuts through wood and field to limit his travels on the public thoroughfares.

On one of his subsequent journeys to Callis Wharf, Mousie consumed a bit too much of the cargo, even by his legendary standards. Taking a path as the crow flies, a shortcut through a field bordering Milford Haven, in a desperate attempt to reach the seclusion of the Gwynn's Island Crab House road, in an area now occupied by waterfront condominiums, Mousie's lawn mower became lodged on a tree stump. Mousie was forced to abandon ship and proceed home on foot.

The next morning, much to his horror, Mousie realized his lawn mower was not where it should be. He wasn't sure what had happened. Had it been stolen? Mousie and Tommy searched the island near and far in search of the Wheel Horse tractor. They finally found it where it rested.

Still perched atop the tree stump.

I love happy endings, don't you?

Chesapeake Bay Woman's Comments:

I wrote a long time ago about the creative skill set of our local population in outwitting the law, even in cases when the individual has lost his driver's license. Bicycles, scooters, wheelchairs, boats, you name the contraption, they've been known to doctor them up into the most unusual--yet functional--vehicles.

When I first returned to the county from living in Northern Virginia, I saw a man driving his lawn mower down the sidewalk at the courthouse....with a six-pack strapped to the mower deck.

I knew, at that moment, that I'd truly arrived home.

In other lawn mower stories, I have a friend whose husband once put grain alcohol in the lawn mower instead of gasoline. The only thing fueled was the ensuing fire.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Here's another shot of the old wharf at New Point. Even though it is but a shell of its former self, it's still beautiful. Speaking of shells, this reminds me of an egg shell which reminds me of a cooking fiasco I once had.

Now that Thanksgiving is safely behind us, I'd like to talk a little about some of my forays into the epicurean world. (Is epicurean a word? Is it a world?)

Below is a short list of some of the many incidents, also known as accidents, in my kitchen.

1. I exploded an egg in the microwave. It was in the shell, and I'd heard someone say it was a fast and easy way to cook it. The only thing fast was the scream which left my lungs upon hearing the blast and seeing the mess when I opened the oven door.

2. One time while cooking something in the oven, I opened the door up to check on the status of whatever I was baking. I closed the hot oven door back up without noticing the cord to the mixer was dangling inside. Bye-bye mixer. And almost die-die Chesapeake Bay Chef-in-Training when sparks of electricity were flying.

3. One of the first Thanksgivings I had to cook, I woke up that Thursday morning feeling less-than-enchanted to have to be up so early. There's the slightest chance that I had gone out the night before, though it's hard to say, since I was in my twenties and it was before children. Anywho, I took the turkey out of its wrapping, dropped it in the pan, opened the oven door and shoved 'er right on in. I went back to bed. Hours later I awoke to the smell of burning...seems I had neglected to adjust the oven rack and had jammed the turkey right up into the top of the oven such that the heating element was branding the turkey.

4. One time I served up something, I have no idea what it was called, but that didn't matter, because one or two bites into the whole thing, the person I was eating with declared it to be Rubber Chicken. I was known as "RC" for a while.

5. One time I made fudge. I should say I made sludge. Itried to make fudge. I must not have been patient enough to let it reach the proper cooking temperature or something, and it came out the consistency of frosting.

In other domestic tragedies, when I was in 7th grade I took Home Economics and was tasked with sewing a wrap-around skirt. Mine was going to be denim. Chesapeake Bay Pre-Teen's skirt became one very ugly apron because Chesapeake Bay Pre-Teen didn't have the patience to (a) thread a needle (b) learn how to operate a sewing machine (c) read the pattern or (d) did I mention I hated Home Ec?

I have also had a number of cooking and domestic successes, but overall I'd categorize my cooking as "Hit or Miss" with several significant misses and only a few memorable hits. Most everything else is so-so.

As in my family is so-so glad when I announce we're eating dinner out.

Friday, November 28, 2008


This is an old house/store down New Point. I'm sure it was gorgeous in its prime, but it still has appeal and potential even in its decay. I like the glimpse of greenery that appears through the half-missing door. Speaking of decay and potential, I turn now to the topic of diet and its impact on personality.

The Chesapeake Bay Family spent Thanksgiving next door at my parents' house, which is a treasure trove of books, cats, geese, papers, geese, cats, pictures, cats and mementos of the past. Geese. And cats.

I found a book that belonged to my grandmother entitled, "Pull Yourself Together, Baby!" by Sylvia of Hollywood. Published in 1939, it is quite a record of female thinking from that era.

For example, one chapter talks about the "personality diet," how what you eat impacts your personality:

"...What you eat, babies, has more to do with your personality than your clothes, your claim to beauty, and the cash in your purse--or the lack of it. ......If you will eat properly and do all you can for your bodies, to keep them healthy and attractive, half the battle for a distinctive, radiant personality is won. And I'm not exaggerating, --rather, I am making an understatement."

This is really a fascinating book, but it got me thinking about what my diet says about my personality, or vice versa.

I wonder what my personality is based on what I ate today:
- homemade cranberry sauce (I made it first thing in the morning and had to sample)
- egg casserole(for breakfast)
- country ham (outstanding)
- cheese (it went with the country ham)
- 2 biscuits (can't eat country ham without biscuits, can you?)
- 2 glasses of wine while watching a marathon edition of Jon and Kate Plus 8 (I was bored waiting around for Thanksgiving dinner)

All of the above was a precursor to Thanksgiving dinner, which included:
- fried oysters
- turkey
- more fried oysters
- mashed potatoes
- stuffing
- cranberry sauce (again)
- cranberry jello salad (some Chesapeake Bay Mother concoction)
- sweet potatoes
-gravy poured over everything
- turnip greens
- more fried oysters
- wine
- more stuffing
- more potatoes
- more gravy
- another round of fried oysters
- more stuffing
- the tiniest spoonful more of potatoes
- more gravy
- a splash more of cranberry sauce to mix together with everything else
- wine
- a taste of Chesapeake Bay Children's dessert (chocolate truffle cake with raspberry sauce)
- a period of collapse on the sofa afterwards
- smelling salts to revive me from my comatose state on the sofa

Based on the above, I'd say my personality was this: Chesapeake Bay Woman? You have the personality of an Ambrose Trash Disposal truck driven by a Billy Goat.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful - Part Two

This adorable house is located on the Woman's Club Road, on the right, if I remember correctly (and there's a good chance I won't). I dream of living in a house like this because I actually think I could keep it clean. And insect-free.
Val over at Monkeys on the Roof asked me to name seven things I’m thankful for. Below are the remaining six (health was discussed on Tuesday).

1. My children
I have two great ones. They make me laugh, I make them laugh; we have a good time and a good life. They are grounded, good natured, helpful, thoughtful, and very sloppy (but they can’t help that last one because they inherited my domestic disability gene).

2. Friends and Family
I have undying support from a small network of very good friends. Any one of my immediate--albeit nutty--family would lay on the railroad tracks for me if I asked. (I wouldn’t ask now, but when I was younger I may have asked Middle Sister to do this. I was an ornery older sister.)

In spite of my mistakes and the occasional lapse in judgement (in this instance, occasional means multiple, many, as in “When is this Chesapeake Bay Woman ever going to learn her lesson?), they support me through all of life’s twists and turns.

3. Living in a small town
I think I talk about how much I love it here just about every day. I love that there are still people here who remember the simpler times; I love the beauty all around us. I love that we’re not The Norm and are not covered with pavement and shopping malls. Just fiddler crabs.

I love going into the grocery store and having complete strangers say hello. There’s usually a good chance I’ll run into someone I do know, and it is a nice feeling not to be drowning in a sea of anonymity. I’m drowning in clutter, but definitely not anonymity.

4. The house I live in
First of all, I am grateful to have shelter and a roof of any description over my head. But I also have a view out the back door that never ceases to amaze me.

If my parents and I pooled our money there is no way in the world we could ever afford to purchase the property we have now. We’re extremely fortunate that my grandfather left it to my parents, who kept it in the family. On the flip side it would have been nice not to have built the house on top of the world’s largest ant hill, where killer ants numbering in the billions plot and scheme each and every day of their lives how to make me crazy. Crazier.

5. An income, a job, a means to support myself
If I had my way, I would not work a paying job at all, but alas like most people I must. I wish that this blogging thing paid money, but it doesn’t. So, to pay the bills I have to commute over 50 miles one way to a job that I really do not care for, but which I am thankful for because I don’t know what I’d do without it. Oh yes, I do know what I’d do without it: I’d be living out of my camper and driving a lawn mower to the courthouse to stand on Hyco Corner and beg for a Hardee’s biscuit.

6. This New Hobby of Mine
This hobby came about because I was going through a period of unexpected upheaval. Instead of tying a cinder block to my ankle and jumping off Gwynn’s Island bridge, I dove headfirst into De Nile and created a nice little world here on the internet where everything is good (well, most everything, family bickering notwithstanding).

I am thankful for all of the folks who comment here every day; I’m thankful for anyone who reads my hot air, and I’m thankful that I do not have internet access at my work because otherwise they’d need to stage an intervention and send me to Blogaholics Anonymous.

I wish each of you a safe, warm and peaceful Thanksgiving—and don’t forget to laugh.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Of Mousie and Funeral Home Men

This picture is from Bethel Beach, although you obviously cannot see the beach from here. There are acres and acres of what I'd call swamp before you get to the beach. Now the green marsh grasses are turning brown, and the dead, gray wood sticks up starkly to remind us that winter is just around the corner. Speaking of winter, which symbolizes death, here's a story about death that is anything but stark.

As promised, today I am posting a guest contribution from a Gwynn's Island resident who has more stories than Uncle Remus, and all of them are hilarious and, surprisingly, true.

True Story
by The Gwynn's Islander

Once upon a time, on an island named Gwynn, there lived a lady. Miss Pearl was her name. She had at least two sons....we shall call them Tommy and Mousie. I think she had a third, but that is beside the point. They lived in a white farm house in close proximity to the Gwynn's Island Fire House.

Mousie and Tommy had a penchant for alcohol. They liked their drink. Mousie had no driver's license. His mode of transportation was a Wheel Horse lawn mower, decked out with a CB radio and antenna. His daily attire was a khaki work shirt and pants, khaki fisherman's hat with the fish and the net embroidered, white socks and black work shoes.

According to the local Wheel Horse dealer, Mousie was the only person to ever wear out a set of tires on one of his tractors. Mousie went through FOUR SETS. Most of Mousie's travels were to Callis Wharf or Scrooch's Market for beer.

My first job was working at Scrooch's Market for the princely sum of one dollar per hour. I remember, fondly, receiving calls from Miss Pearl, stating in her gravely voice....I want two pounds of lard, one carton of Raleigh plain ends, four six packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc.

One morning, Mousie didn't wake up. He had expired during the night. Miss Pearl called Foster Faulkner, the local funeral home.

Tommy, meanwhile, the sun not yet high in the sky, had already begun the daily ritual. He had found a comfortable place under the shade of a tree in the yard.

The funeral home folks pulled up, saw Tommy passed out under the tree, and started loading him onto the gurney. Miss Pearl came to the door and hollered: NO! NOT HIM! HE'S IN THE HOUSE!

Tommy drove Mousie's lawn mower to the early nineties.


Chesapeake Bay Woman's Comments:

Is there anything left to say? There are stories like this all over this county, and if I don't write them down how is the world gonna hear them?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful-Part One

This is a picture of the old New Point Wharf. I went down here last week in search of a house that a reader--who used to summer in Mathews many moons ago--asked me about. I was lucky enough to find the house for her and sent her pictures of it as it stands now. She was grateful for my efforts, but I was more grateful for the chance to reconnect someone with this place called Mathews, which harbors such fond memories for those of us fortunate enough to have grown up here.

Val from Monkeys on the Roof tagged me to participate in a Thanksgiving meme (or moo moo as Grandma J. would say).

I highly recommend you click on the link and check out Val’s website--especially my one or two readers from Mathews. 'Cause if you think we live in a different world, you ain’t seen nothin’ ‘til you read about her way of life. Plus, if you’d like to see what a real writer with real talent produces, you’ll want to read her stuff. It’s amazing.

I’m supposed to list seven things I’m thankful for.

I’m sure most people could conquer this challenge in one post. “I’ll take 7 Things I’m Thankful For for $200, Chuck, but please don’t let Chesapeake Bay Woman into this category, because we’ll be here all night listening to her answers and I really can’t wade through all that stuff she spews forth.”

Yes, I am a bit verbose, and it will be an effort to limit Things I’m Thankful For to only seven, so I will attempt to tackle each thing I’m thankful for one post at the time. Or by tomorrow it may be two or three at the time. Because by Thanksgiving Thursday if I only focused on one thing per day, I would not have enough days left to reach seven things to be thankful for. For which to be thankful. For.

Perhaps I ought to be thankful that I didn’t major in English or math. (7 things in 3 days....if a train leaving a station going 50 miles per hour had 7 things to be grateful for and only 3 days left to post it, how fast would it be going?)

First Thing I’m Thankful For: Health

When I say health, I mean my health, my family’s health, and my friends’ health. Plus anyone remotely connected to family or friends…their health. I feel so fortunate that everyone I’m close to—especially my children—are in good health.

Now when I say good health I am talking about physical health, because mental health would be a topic for another blog and we best not push our luck with this whole health thing. My point is that we all enjoy decent, if not pretty darn good, physical health which we sometimes—OK always--take for granted.

When I worked in Corporate America, which was definitely detrimental to my health, we had a Pep Talk Guru come in and analyze us to death to figure out what mattered to us most. When all was said and done, after I answered a gazillion questions and left a DNA sample for them to test, my most fundamental need boiled down to health-–thankfully not wealth.

There are many people out there battling any number of diseases or who are supporting friends/family members with ailments, some life-threatening. Even in those less-than-desirable-situations there are things to be thankful for: health insurance (if you’re fortunate enough to have it); good health care (if you’re fortunate enough to have access to it); amazing technology (ditto); and most of all this:

The intangible gift of hope, faith and miracles.

To be continued the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow's when a "Guest Contributor" will post one of the two funniest stories I've ever heard. So on Thanksgiving Thursday, I'll be listing out the remaining 6 things I'm thankful for.

Nice math skills, Chesapeake Bay Woman.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ware Church

This is a picture of Ware Church, which is in neighboring Gloucester County. A very historic church, it was also the scene of some childish behavior from an adult. An adult who shall remain nameless for the time being.

Ware Episcopal Church is one of the few colonial buildings still standing in Gloucester. Dating back to 1690, it served as an encampment for Federal and Confederate soldiers. For over 300 years, services have been--and still are--conducted there.

Recently, Chesapeake Bay Daughter sang at a concert here. Did I mention that Chesapeake Bay Daughter doesn’t really sing? Did I mention this was on a Thursday night, 15 miles from home, at 7:00, which is about 30 minutes before Chesapeake Bay Woman’s eyelids start to droop for the evening?

In any case, Daughter’s class and some of the lower classes gave a little concert, and Chesapeake Bay Son and I were, shall we say, less than excited to be there. The kindergartners sang Itsy Bitsy Spider and a few other standards. Then Chesapeake Bay Daughter’s class sang a song which I’m sure would be familiar to people who are more cultured than we are, but which was entirely lost on me. The song consisted of incessant “la las” and “ma mas” and “mo mos” and “ho hos. It was supposed to be a serious song, but all I could hear was gibberish.

Here, sitting in this historic church, where many solemn ceremonies have been held for over 300 years, where soldiers once encamped—-yes, here, in this serious, austere environment listening to a concert, Chesapeake Bay Woman started to laugh. She quickly caught herself and tried to straighten up, since all the teachers and the school’s headmaster were standing directly behind her.

But Chesapeake Bay Woman’s snicker spurred Chesapeake Bay Son to snort. Which made Chesapeake Bay Woman laugh even more. Trying to get her brain to focus on anything, such as the theory of relativity or the laws of economics, did not distract Chesapeake Bay Woman from wanting to laugh. Her face became red and tears started flowing down her cheeks. And poor Chesapeake Bay Son! The next thing you know I spontaneously pinched him, not to be mean, but to be playful.

This only made us laugh more.

Thankfully the end was in sight and before we could say, “Chesapeake Bay Woman is really not a very good role model for proper behavior in a historic church environment,” it was over and done.

I’m pleased to report that Chesapeake Bay Son did not get in trouble due to his mother’s antics. But that’s only because they didn’t see what I did in the parking lot when some imbecile blocked me in. I had no idea my car was capable of driving over barricades, and to the poor souls whose graves I may have driven on—I mean near, yes, that’s it I drove NEAR some graves—please accept my sincerest apologies.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Silent Sunday

Silent except for this poem from a book called Gwynn’s Island Times.

October 5, 1950

By Mrs. Fenton Kimball

There’s no black factory smoke in Mathews, Va.
No tall building, or no great White Way.
No theater on every corner
To go to at the end of the day.

You won’t find a million people
No night clubs for you to attend;
But who wants a million people
If not one of them is your friend?

In Mathews we have sunshine,
Green grass and flowers in bloom,
A million birds to listen to,
Singing a happy tune.

We have pear and peach trees in blooming,
And air that is fragrant and sweet,
When you look at the sky—oh don’t ask me why,
But heaven and earth seem to meet.

And every place there’s a friendly face,
A hand clasp, a cheery “hello”—
Mathews, Va., is small—no denying it at all,
But it’s the most wonderful place that I know!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wedding Receptions

All together now: another Gwynn's Island sunset. I could snap a million and they'd each be different.

Isn’t it amazing how a taste or a word or a song or a smell can instantly catapult you backwards in time?

The other day I had lunch with a lifelong friend, and afterwards they gave us a mint. This was not your typical after-dinner chocolate mint, or the standard-issue, spiral-striped peppermint or spearmint hard candy. No, this was one of those mints that crumbles in your mouth, the mints that are pastel yellow, pink, blue or green. Remember those?

These mints used to be a mandatory offering at wedding receptions around here. Once upon a time, wedding receptions didn’t require professional planners; they weren’t held in fancy hotels; they did not inspire shows called Bridezillas; they did not cost $10,000 and there most certainly was no sit-down dinner.

Rather, the earliest wedding receptions I attended were held in the church social hall. Everyone gathered to talk and mingle--and, of course, eat. There was a punch bowl full of a red concoction that may have included sherbet or an ice ring. The buffet table consisted of a bowl of mints, a bowl of peanuts, platters of deviled eggs and mountains of ham biscuits. Cake and cookies. The End.

The reception did not last long, perhaps an hour, and then everyone went home. No dancing, no music, no live band, no horse-drawn carriage, no slide show of the newlyweds, just a very simple service followed by a very simple reception.

Speaking of simple, so were the presents. There were no fancy department stores to register with, we had one or two tiny shops that took care of all our gift-giving needs. A wooden napkin holder, some tea towels (anyone still call them tea towels?), or some other practical item might find their way in the gift pile. I do not recall anyone ever giving money, which seems commonplace today.

I truly miss those simpler, less complicated times, where the emphasis was on the ceremony or the event and not on the “stuff.”

I am reminded of this sentiment just as we head into the Christmas season, which is coming our way whether we want it to or not next week. Shopping becomes a contact sport that requires shoulder pads, cleats and a helmet. I'm considering installing a cow catcher on the front of my car so I can plow my way through the pedestrians clogging the parking lots. Not really. I don't think.

Bring back the days where mints and peanuts in a bowl on a buffet table defined a special occasion and a good, salty, country-ham biscuit was the main course.

I guarantee I'll be the first one in line, and the last to leave.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ordinary Day

Here's yet another picture from my little trip down Bethel Beach. Forgive the fact that it is slightly off balance. You know how I love things that are off balance. I have to. It's a way of life around here.

Yesterday was going to be an ordinary day. Drop off kids, pick up kids, think about cleaning the house, clean the house (or not and just continue thinking about it), supervise homework, pack lunches, make dinner and go to bed. The End.

I did all those ordinary things, but a couple of unexpected things occurred that made my day very extraordinary.

1. When Chesapeake Bay Son got home from school, he looked out the window and said, "The bald eagle is in our yard." Sure enough, the bald eagle that lives on our creek but who never, ever visits was sitting in our tree. I'll tell you why. That morning I had tossed out two chicken carcasses from the previous night's dinner. (Around here, it is better to go on the offensive and feed the raccoons and opossums right up front and ring the dinner bell when you do, because if you put anything resembling food in the trash, they rip it open and have themselves a party. They will not invite you either, they just make a mess and laugh as they head back to sleep, because they know Chesapeake Bay Yard Fairy will come along and clean up after them. They're so rude.)

Anyway, the eagle was eyeballing the two chicken carcasses that had been tossed around the shoreline. I managed to get several pictures of him, and I'll post those as soon as I get around to loading them up. Or down. Or whatever.

2. Next, I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business (which is Chesapeake Bay Woman-speak for "I was wasting the entire day on the internet, just like I do most days that I am not at the paying job; when I am at the paying job, minding my own business means staring at the ceiling tiles and sweating bullets because I can't access the internet), when all of a sudden the entire house shook and there was a noise that sounded like a bomb went off. Chesapeake Bay Son can vouch for the fact that the house shook. He can also die laughing as he relays the story of how his mother reacted when she thought we were being bombed by enemy forces, or how she actually went down into the garage to be sure the gasoline cans hadn't accidentally exploded. As of this moment, I still have no idea what it was, but they heard the blast as far away as Gwynn's Island.

3. Has anyone out there ever heard the old expression (read: wive's tale) that you shouldn't put a cat near a baby because it will suck its breath away? Don't worry, you're not alone. BUT how is this for weird and not-so-ordinary....I was talking with a friend and for some reason we both, simultaneously, and using almost the exact same words, spewed out that old saying. It was eerie. I haven't used--or heard--that expression in years.

So, how many of you saw a bald eagle in your back yard, experienced an earthquake and spontaneously broke into a foreign language based on wives' tales all in the same day?

It's just another day in paradise around here.

It's anything but ordinary.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Last Sunday I took Chesapeake Bay Son and Daughter to Bethel Beach, and I didn't get lost once. Another treat? The weather is now so cold, the fiddler crabs have all migrated south, or gone into hibernation, or gone on hiatus or a European cruise or whatever it is fiddler crabs do in the winter. Plus, there was not one horsefly in sight.

I did take a blajillion pictures, so get ready because you're going to be seeing a lot of white sand, blue water, gray wood and brownish-green grasses. Speaking of blajillion, or words you don't hear everyday, let's talk about unusual names

Reading through the various books I have on Mathews and Gwynn’s Island, I have come upon many names that are unique and some are just plain odd. (By the way, when I say "reading" I mean quickly scanning and flipping pages, stopping to look at a picture or two along the way. It is the ADD thing that I swear I have.)

Besides their given names, many people around here have nicknames. We have a Cougar, Pookie, Mumps, Cotton, Mooch, Meat, Poochie, Bubby and many, many, many others. The list of nicknames would wrap around this planet several times. I'm reasonably sure that Gwynn's Island alone has more folks with nicknames than the states of Virginia and North Carolina combined.

Below is a list of some of the names—these were all first names-- that jumped out at me from the books I’m reading (aka skimming through). Most are from the early 1900's.

Genius (Yes, Genius.)

The unusual names below were from slaves who lived on Gwynn’s Island in the mid- 1800’s:


Personally, I like the name Larken. Larken Cassana has a nice ring to it. In fact, I'm in love with it. That would be a great pen name. I love Risen too. Genius and Rufus? Not so much.

Any Mathews readers (or rather, reader) know of any other local names or nicknames that stand out? How about non-Mathews folks, what's the most unusual name or nickname you've heard?

Larken Cassana
The Blogger Formerly Known as Chesapeake Bay Woman

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This old house is located below the courthouse off what I call the Woman's Club Road (Mathews people will know what I'm talking about). It's on the left hand side and is being slowly taken over by nature. I always wonder what's's like a treasure chest waiting to be opened up, loaded with memories.

The other day I was rooting around my basement and came upon a box chock full of old pictures and letters. One of them was from Chesapeake Bay Mother to me when I was in college. Middle Sister and Baby Sister were still living at home.

Baby Sister claims I never write about her.

Here we go, Baby Sister.

From CB Mother:

P.O. Box xx
Hudgins, Virginia

Sunday, 10:07 AM
February the something-or-other, 1983

Dear Chesapeake Bay Daughter,

Daddy is getting something done for Ben's car at the shop, Baby Sis is doing nothing and drinking a coke, (in that order), Middle Sis is resting up from all the boys and fun, and I am writing you this letter.

(There are several paragraphs that I'm me, you don't want to read it. Or rather, I'd prefer you didn't read it.)

...Baby Sister just told me this letter sucks. She's now outside in the snow wearing Polaroid No Glares shooting baskets off the run (a term used to describe the act of shooting baskets while skateboarding). We got a new goal up, and it looks rather decent. It is important to preserve appearances.

That child Baby Sister is totally out of my hands, and fortunately for her. She actually told me the other day that no man would ever want me.* I ask you, what do you do with such a person? Is it legal and permissible to fit your child for a muzzle? Or is a little exorcism in order?"

(There is more to the letter that I'll include in another post.)

Love you madly, even though at this point motherhood kind of sucks.

-CB Mother
Chesapeake Bay Woman's Comments

* Don't read anything into this remark...CB Mother was not seeking out other men. Rather, Baby Sis was trying to not-so-diplomatically convey a point relating to CB Mother's attitude towards men, which can be, shall we say, harsh at times.

For example, one time when my daughter was about 4, CB Mother told her a story about something my father did, and she concluded by saying that men are pigs. CB Daughter, not entirely familiar with the expression, relayed the story to me later on and said, "Yeah, pigs are men."

Well, she was close.

By the way, my daughter and Baby Sister could pass for twins and are alike in many ways.

Looks like I need to go shopping. For a muzzle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nine Lives

One day as I was driving through the courthouse, I glanced over and saw the sun hitting this outbuilding just right. I quickly pulled over, rolled the window down and snapped a picture or two. It looks a little off kilter, but that's not unusual for my pictures. Or me.

Once upon a time there was a Chesapeake Bay Cat named Bianca. Bianca was a very loving outdoor cat.

Also, once upon a time there was a woman called Chesapeake Bay Mother, who was the female equivalent of Dr. DooLittle. She loved animals. She talked to the animals. She saved baby birds. She pulled on the side of the road to rescue turtles from being hit by cars. She teetered atop a ladder to return a baby raccoon to its mother on top of the pump house at the barn.

Chesapeake Bay Woman, who does like animals, always thought her mother was a little over the top when it came to how much she cared about the animals. Sometimes it seemed as though she cared more for the animals than she did for people.

One day Chesapeake Bay Woman noticed that Bianca the cat wasn’t coming with the rest of the outdoor cats to eat every morning. Two days went by. Three days.

On the fourth day, Chesapeake Bay Woman asked her mother, who lived next door, if she had seen Bianca. No, she had not. Chesapeake Bay Mother became visibly upset. She knew something bad had happened if Bianca had been missing for four days.

Chesapeake Bay Woman had already decided that either a hawk or a dog had killed Bianca. After being gone for four days she surely was dead.

Chesapeake Bay Mother, however, began a search in earnest. She scoured the yard. She looked in the barn. She looked around the shoreline. She looked in every possible place.

But she would not give up.

On the sixth day, Chesapeake Bay Mother went to the neighbor’s house and asked if she could look around their yard along their shoreline. Off in the distance she heard something. She followed the sound to the next house over, which is abandoned but used by a waterman who sets gill nets and crab pots for a living. There are piles and piles of empty crab pots in the yard.

There, in a CRAB POT*, was Bianca. She’d been trapped there for six straight days. No water, nothing to eat, trapped in a crab pot. CB Mother reached in and retrieved her.

After that, Bianca and Chesapeake Bay Mother lived happily ever after.

Chesapeake Bay Woman learned a few lessons from all this. One, miracles do happen, and you shouldn't give up hope when all seems lost. Two, I probably ought not to make fun of my mother’s obsession with animals. So I promise not to call her Dr. DooLittle anymore.

Well, at least not this week.

The End.

*A crab pot is a maze of wire that usually contains a piece of bait (which may also be attractive to a cat if the pot is in the yard). The crab is lured inside by the bait and is too confused by the wiring to figure a way out. (It seems simple, but it isn't if you're a crab. I empathize, as this "It oughtta be easy, but it isn't" theme is the story of my life.)

Evidently a crab pot may also be used as a cat pot. Who knew?

Monday, November 17, 2008


I took this picture down the public landing a few weeks ago. The grass around the shore is starting to turn from green to brown; you could say it's going through a transition.

I found a book I gave my mother a long time ago when I thought she was going through a mid-life crisis. Since I’m 43 now, I thought it might be worth perusing.

Below is a quiz (along with my answers) from the book that supposedly tells if you’re in the midst of a crisis.

1. Do you find yourself spending hours at your desk in the office just staring off into space, or daydreaming about where you’d rather be?

CBW: Every single waking moment of every single day.

2. Do you find yourself resenting the twentysomethings at work for their ideas and enthusiasm?

CBW: Sometimes I think if I hear another twentysomething say the word “like,” as in, “Like, I woke up this morning and, like, ran four miles, and, like, then I came home and ate an egg-white omelet, because I’m, like, really watching what I eat. I have so much energy, it’s like I’m the Energizer Bunny. Like.”

So I really only resent their use of the word “like.”

3. Are you starting to utter clichés with absolute conviction to people younger than you like, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? Do you ever think, “Wow, a stitch in time really does save nine!”?

CBW: What is cliché about speaking the truth? Money does not, in fact, grow on trees. When did the truth become cliché?. And, by the way, I don’t sew, so I’d never say that one about the stitch in time saving nine.

4. Have you noticed a renewed interest in playing high-impact sports like basketball? Do you insist on playing with people younger than you are and get depressed if you can’t perform at their level? Do you get angry with yourself for waking up with a bad back the next morning?

CBW: What, exactly, is your point?

5. Do you search the mirror every night, looking closely for signs of new wrinkles in your face and panic if you see one?

CBW: What man came up with these questions? The same one who invented high heels? And by the way, I’m looking for unwanted hairs when I look in the mirror.

I’ve cast this book aside. I don’t think it really pertains to me. Not at all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Silent Sunday

Silent except for this: La luna was full this week, and I was fortunate enough, while shooting a sunset, to glance behind me and catch this glimpse of it. With the sun's rays behind me, the grasses around the shoreline lit right up.

I always have a tough time sleeping when the moon is full. I wonder why that is.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I took this in my parents' yard last weekend. The colors were brilliant that day. Just to the right of what you see here is where we used to keep our trash barrel, where we burned our trash. Oh yes we did.

I remember a time when we burned trash in a rusted out barrel. In the back yard.

Chesapeake Bay Children? 30 or so years ago, products didn't come in plastic containers nor did you need an act of Congress, the strength of Hercules and the patience of Job to open things up. (Have you tried opening stuff up lately? Something as simple as a package of batteries requires heavy equipment and TNT to get into.)

There was no such thing as plastic grocery bags. Drinks came in glass bottles or aluminum cans. Milk was in a cardboard carton or a glass container. Nobody had printer cartridges, plastic trays from microwave dinners, an infinite number of plastic McDonald's Happy Meal figurines that make you want to beat your brains out especially when you step on them in the middle of the night trying to make your way to the bathroom EVEN THOUGH YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOW 10 AND 13 AND HAVEN'T LOOKED AT THOSE THINGS IN 5 YEARS.

Pardon me. I got distracted. The stuff I'm stepping on is a topic for another day. Yes, it's a post entitled: Chesapeake Bay Woman Drowns in Clutter.

Drinking water came out of the hose, the spigot or a water fountain. My grandmother would have busted a gut laughing if she knew the day would arrive when people paid money for drinking water poured into a plastic bottle and sold at prices rivaling a gallon of gasoline.

No, back then, my mother came home from the store with one or possibly two paper bags filled with some fruit, some vegetables and some meat. Milk, bread and eggs. Flour. Sugar. Most refuse could be burned or disposed of locally (where disposed of locally = my grandmother used to take the glass bottles down to the shoreline and smash them and anything that happened to be left over went to the dump).

Those same paper grocery bags were used as garbage bags, and they performed their job admirably. You didn't need hefty-sized plastic bags that gripped the garbage can, cinched up easily or smelled like a rose bush.

I'm not saying we here in Mathews were the only ones who burned trash. It's simply not true. I'm also not saying that people still don't burn trash. But it's definitely a rarity, whereas just a couple decades ago it was the norm.

Do you remember people burning trash? Did you used to drink from a hose? Do you have so much clutter in your house that you want to blow it up and start all over?

Sorry. That last question belongs in the yet-to-be-written Drowning in Clutter post.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lunch Bucket

Surprise! Guess what this is? Did you say another sunset from Gwynn's Island? How did you know?

Continuing on the topic of old expressions that are soon fading away, I'd like to focus on lunch, dinner and lunch boxes, or as my grandmother called it, a lunch bucket. (Some people would call it a lunch pail.)

First, did you know that at one time lunch was dinner and dinner was supper? Don't ask me when they used the term lunch, I have no idea. But whenever my grandmother, and often my mother, told us to come eat dinner, it was lunchtime. And when they called us to supper, it was dinner.

Make sense? Clear as mud? Let's look at it another way:

Breakfast: Presumably was called Breakfast
Lunch: Was called Dinner.
Dinner: Was and still is called supper by many.


Now on to the topic of lunch boxes, which were called dinner buckets and later lunch buckets. Why? Because way back when people took their lunches (aka dinner) to school, and they toted it in a pail or a bucket.

I know some of you are saying, "This Chesapeake Bay Woman character really has her facts all wrong. She is confused and incorrect as usual."

Ordinarily I'd agree wholeheartedly.

But I offer the following excerpt from a book called Island History and Progress, News Items About Gwynn's Island, Virginia, from the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette Journal:

"September 15, 1955:
....Mr. Foster....reminisced, mentioning many old friends and neighbors who were classmates.

"...He described the two-room school building of 1898. Here they used 10-cent slates and wrote with pencils which were two to a penny. The children carried a round tin dinner bucket containing a can of black molasses, two cold biscuits and a sweet potato. He compared this with what the children of today have."

Indeed! If I sent Chesapeake Bay Children to school with black strap molasses and a sweet potato in a bucket, they'd be on the phone, post haste, to the nice people with the padded van and the straight jacket.

So, while I won't actually use a bucket to pack their lunch in, I will--just to keep them on their toes--often tell them to put their lunch buckets in the kitchen when they get home from school. It always gets a response or a reaction, but so far they haven't picked up that phone.

So far.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I shot this from Gwynn's Island earlier this week.

Warning: This photo may be hazardous to your eyesight. Wear protective eye gear prior to glancing at it. It's very, very orange.

As I keep saying, I just push the button that is always set to "auto" and hope for the best. Sometimes The Best ends up causing damage to the retinas. And the corneas. And the pupils. And if I could remember any other parts of the eye, I'd list them here.

Growing up, I became accustomed to hearing words and phrases that were not part of mainstream language. For example, my favorite grandmother from Gloucester always called the refrigerator an icebox. My mother always called it an icebox. I always called it an icebox. At least until I went away to college, and people looked at me like I was crazy. Then I went back to calling it a refrigerator. Peer pressure.

Now that I'm back here in Mathews again, where most everyone is quirky and a tad eccentric, I've reverted to calling it the icebox. My children sometimes reach for the freezer when I tell them to get something out of the icebox, but I'll have them trained before too long.

Probably right around the time they go away to college.

Whenever I'd go to my grandmother's house after school, she'd ask, "Have you studied your lessons?" This was asking if I'd done my homework. Before bed, she'd ask if I'd "cleaned" my teeth, instead of "brushed" them.

Many is the night I've hollered upstairs to my own children and, laughing under my breath, told them to hurry up and clean their teeth before bed.

Oh, how I love to hear their reaction.

I'll continue tomorrow with a few more expressions from days gone by.

Right now I have to make sure Chesapeake Bay Children have studied their lessons and cleaned their teeth. Then I'm going to the icebox to get a steak to put on these eyeballs of mine.

I think I've blinded myself with my own photograph.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This is one of the many sunset pictures I took earlier this week off Gwynn's Island. Although this wasn't one I took from a lying down position, I did have to squat. Trying to take a picture while balancing in sand is really quite a sight. Hilarious even.

I turn again to some of Chesapeake Bay Mother's writings, this time on the topic of laughter.

The Best Medicine
by Chesapeake Bay Mother

Our family has Teutonic/Celtic roots extending back to Pangaea, where our first ancestor belly-flopped ashore in pursuit of something different. Perhaps he had fried chicken in mind, though he was being premature in his longings. We all tend to eat heartily and laugh loudly. The first time I heard Chesapeake Bay Woman laugh, I knew we had brought the right baby home from the hospital.*

Whenever our family gathered for wakes, the funeral director was so conflicted by the laughter and loud conversations, he always threatened to ring a gong to bring down the hysteria to more grief-appropriate levels. That embarrassment didn't deter us a bit. It was like trying to stifle a sneeze.

Our family had its eminent members when it came to earsplitting socializing: Great Aunt Maggie, her son Cousin Harry, and Aunt Viola, whose greetings would register on the Richter scale.

Once, in the grocery store, Aunt Viola, with her arm around me, was delighting in the fine array of seafood specialties and announced, loud enough to be heard many aisles over, "Oh look! Cock Shrimptail!" **

Chesapeake Bay Woman Interrupts Her Mother to Add Commentary:

* No matter where I've ever worked, people often come running down the halls or even come from other floors to find out what on Earth can be so funny that they can hear my laughter from so far away. The fact is, it doesn't take a whole lot to make me laugh. I laugh every single solitary day, 9 times out of 10 at myself. However, my laugh is loud, very loud. Boisterous. I say obnoxious but others say it's just hearty. I think they're being polite.

** OK, this was my Great Aunt Viola, whom we called Vollie, my favorite grandmother's sister. She was HILARIOUS. All she did was laugh and make other people laugh. Many times she wasn't even trying to be funny. One time she went to see the movie Porky's when it was in the theater. She bought her ticket and her popcorn and settled in for what she thought was going to be a movie about Porky Pig.

It wasn't.

There is more to Chesapeake Bay Mother's essay, and I'll continue it another time. Right now, I'm hungry and for some reason I have a craving for seafood. Wonder if I have any shrimp...maybe I could make some cock shrimptail.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


This gorgeous tree is in my yard right next to the driveway. The leafless tree next to it is a wild cherry. If I wanted to act like I knew what I was doing, I'd tell you this spectacular tree with yellow leaves was a ________________ (fill in the blank with any tree, ranging from maple to sycamore to broccoli).

However, this is Chesapeake Bay Woman, and while she may know a little about a lot of things, that's still a little--and not a lot.

OK. Tonight (Monday night), in the freezing-cold fall evening, I braved the elements--after a day at The Paying Job--to take some pictures, where elements is equivalent to this:

- bitter cold

- freezing fingers

- fingers that do not move nearly as fast as the synapses (??) in my brain tell them to move. (Go ahead and laugh, those of you who know what a synapse really is, because I am confident they have something to do with something related to telling my fingers what to do. Can you guess whether I'm smarter than a fifth grader even though I have a college degree?)

- sand in my camera

- sand all over my clothes

- all this sand and the sheep burs referenced below due to CBW lying down in the sand to capture the perfect shot

- sheep burs (Yes. This is truly a Chesapeake Bay Woman Grasping-at-Straws Use of Words. If not a sheep bur, let's just say a bur. We don't have a whole lot of sheep around these parts, but we sure have some burs.) on my hind parts as I layed* down (is that even close to the proper past tense of lie? Actually, I believe it is "lay" or is it "laid" or is it, "Please don't call the grammar police") in the sand to snap just the perfect shot of the sun's last light casting out towards the crispy brown reeds, with the moon hovering ever so nicely in the background.

In short, I braved the elements just to get more shots of a sunset. And I did.

I'll be happy to share these pictures with you, right after I finish picking out the sheep burs from when I was around the shoreline and the splinters from that maple-leaf-oak-pecan-whatever tree in the yard with the beautiful yellow leaves.

Chesapeake Bay Woman
aka CBW
aka Can't Be Worried
as in Can't Be Worried with Details

*I realize this is the incorrect use of the verb, whatever the verb may be, lay or lie. Details.

Monday, November 10, 2008


This is a picture I shot while standing on the dock admiring the beautiful red leaves on the trees. This is the dock that has two or three major, as in critical, boards missing due to the last storm we had where the tide went over the dock and played those boards like piano keys.

This is an SOS, a call for help, a throwing in of the flag, if you will, and an admission of defeat.

I realized today that the list of maintenance and repair projects for the house I live in far exceeds my physical, financial and mental capacity. If I were a pinball machine, you'd see the word TILT burned into my retinas.

Here is but a short list of what I realized is facing me with this house and yard:

1. On the front of the house, all shutters except one are down due to Tropical Storm This or Nor'Easter That. And when I say down I mean ripped off and torn to shreds. I'd be happy to put these back up (shreds notwithstanding), except the last time I checked they don't make a ladder long enough to reach the stratosphere, aka the location of the top windows of my house.

2. Most of the gutters and downspouts have pulled away from the house. When the next Tropical Storm This or Nor'Easter That blows through here, the surge of water coming directly off the roof will create a moat surrounding the entire house. I guess I could take the canoe from the back door to dry land whenever I needed to go to the store or take the children to the bus stop. Perhaps I could simply throw the mountain of dirty laundry that never ends into the water and hope it one day forms a land bridge. I already step on it regularly, it can't hurt to toss it outside and make better use of it.

3. The brush around the shoreline has grown to jungle-like proportions due to my inability to take out a push mower this summer. If anyone would like to see the jaguar in its natural habitat, just take a trip to Mathews, specifically my back yard. I give guided tours Monday through Friday. Today we discovered a small family of lemurs that recently took up residence in the canopy of the brush.

4. The boat is sinking. Still. Yes. It is. I have a sinking boat (with a not-so-sinking loan amount still due) that is pumped every 3-4 days by a homemade apparatus resembling this: You take your life into your hands plugging some Homemade Thing A into Slot B which is an extension cord from circa 1962 that then sparks up because you are only seconds from electrocuting yourself, and then if you survive that, you'll hear the thing start to work. Then you take your life in your hands dancing and high-stepping off the dock because, as referenced above, many of the boards are either (a) rotten or (b) non-existent or (c) how is it possible that nobody's fallen through the doggone dock yet and (d) is my life insurance policy up to date?

For anyone still awake at this point, I will now press Pause and refrain from going on any further about my Absolutely Endless List of Maintenance and Home Repair Projects.

The reason I'm doing this is really very simple.

I have to run and tell the ANTS having a fiesta in my foyer that it's past the kids' bedtime and they really have to keep it down.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Silent Sunday

Well, silent except for this: I took a picture of this old structure just below the court house, near the nursing home. If I remember correctly, it's on the right as you turn down Tabernacle Road. Or not.

While it appears to be a barn, I can tell you that in person it looks more like a store with barn-like qualities. (How's that for descriptive?) If anyone has any ideas what it was, let me know.

And now, the silence I promised.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oyster Festival

I took this picture from the public landing about a week or so ago. It was so cold my hands were numb. I wanted to heat them up over a fire, a fire on which oysters are roasting....

This weekend is the Urbanna Oyster Festival. Urbanna is a quaint little town about 20 minutes from Mathews, and once a year people descend on it by the thousands to pay homage to a Chesapeake Bay delicacy otherwise known as The Oyster.

There are parades, food, bands, food, crafts, food and also this: an incredible amount of food.

I haven't been to the festival in about, oh, 15 years? Highlights from past Oyster Festivals include the following:

* A friend of mine, after the Friday night dance at the firehouse, got "lost" trying to make her way back to her car. (You have to park a million miles away and walk to the festival because they block off the streets. It's pretty hard to get lost in Urbanna, though, particularly if you've been there a hundred times. I have a feeling Friend sidled up to the beer keg one time too many. Just a hunch.)

* Another time, I ran into a guy I grew up with - he was my neighbor. I hadn't seen him in a long time so I gave him a hug, thought nothing of it and continued walking. The next thing I know a crazed woman was coming at me wide open and with fist raised. Instinctively I blocked her shot and she fell down on the ground. Evidently she had also sidled up to the beer keg one time too many and for some reason she thought I was after her husband, my former neighbor. I wasn't. I just hugged him, asked how he was doing and went along my merry way. They had to pull her away kicking and screaming. Those two are now divorced, and he's married to a nice girl who doesn't attack perfect strangers.

* Then there was the time in college that my roommate Icey and I decided we wanted to attend this huge outdoor party near the festival, but for some reason (where reason equals stupidity) we did not want to pay the cover charge. Now I know I was in college and everything, but there's no way that cover charge could possibly have been more than a few bucks; I'm sure we had the money. Never mind all that. We decided the best way to sneak in was by water, via the shoreline. I have to confess, I do not remember if we made it in or not, but I do recall a whole lot of stumbling and fumbling around in marsh grass, swamp and mud. I believe I also remember some man coming out and asking us what we were doing in his marsh. I have conveniently blocked any other facts or details out.

So you can see why I am eager to go back to the festival, with all these fond memories.

Actually, I do want to go back, and I probably will this weekend. There are three primary reasons why:

1. Oysters
2. Food
3. More Food.

Did I mention the food?

Friday, November 7, 2008


This is a picture of the sidewalk on which people would wait for the grandest seafood buffet that ever existed.

Taylor’s Restaurant, over in nearby Deltaville, used to be The Place to eat when I was coming along, or at least the Chesapeake Bay Family deemed it so. Of course, when you come from a family where serving up partially-cooked pork sausage and D-con rat poison is known to occur, just about anything that isn’t deadly sounds good.

Anyway, Taylor’s had a seafood buffet that was out of this world. Shrimp, fish, crab legs, clams, oysters—you name it, they had it. On weekends there would be a line coming out the door. People couldn’t wait to sink their chops into steamed shrimp, fried shrimp, fried fish, fried clams or fried chicken. Nobody was particularly concerned about their triglycerides or their cholesterol count or their HDL or LDL numbers or their Weight Watchers points. Such concerns were for another day. And quite possibly another decade.

The crowning glory of the seafood buffet, the piece de resistance, the crème de la crème, the cherry on the sundae of that buffet was a very small, often overlooked and widely misunderstood fried ball of cornmeal known as the hush puppy.

If there were such a thing as a hush puppy connoisseur, I’d be one. (By the way, use of the word “connoisseur” marks the third time I’ve mentioned something that is derived from French, and I have no idea why or where it’s coming from. Maybe I'm channeling Brigitt Bardot. Or Jacques Cousteau.)

Taylor's had the perfect hush puppy: corn meal, a delicate hint of onion, and a splash of sugar all deep fried a golden brown. I’ve had bad hush puppies before (no onion, no sugar, white flour instead of corn meal), and there is no comparison. Taylor's had the best.

Taylor's has been an institution around these parts for decades. Alas, the restaurant has changed hands a few times and the seafood buffet died a quick and sudden death. People still mourn the loss, where people equals me.

To this day, there remains a huge seafood buffet void. If anyone out there wants to come here and start a new business, the seafood buffet is the ticket. You’ll have every one over the age of 40 drooling at your doorstep. (Because we all know the older crowd loves a buffet. Just ask Chesapeake Bay Mother and Father. They know the location, operating hours and senior citizen discount rate of every buffet establishment on the Eastern Seaboard.)

If someone out there does come here and opens another seafood buffet, I’ll be the first in line. Don’t forget the onions in the hush puppies. Thank you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I took this picture a week or so ago just below the courthouse near the nursing home. I was mesmerized by this red building and then fell in love with the trees and then noticed how soft and green the grass was even though it is fall, and then I saw a No Trespassing sign. The End.

Is the moon full tonight (I'm writing this Wednesday night)? Did I walk underneath a stepladder? Did I forget to toss salt over my shoulder after I knocked the shaker over? Did a black cat cross my path?

How would you explain the following, then?

1. It's been raining for four weeks straight. Or so it seems. Surely at least three.

2. Work, aka The Paying Job, is trying to put me in an early grave.

3. On the way home from The Paying Job, driving in Day 450 of cold wind and rain, I come upon traffic that's at a standstill. Normally, my 50-mile-one-way commute is smooth sailing.

4. Where does Chesapeake Bay Woman stop, at a dead standstill, unable to move and trapped? At the very top, the pinnacle, the apex of the Coleman Bridge, which is only the highest bridge this side of the Golden Gate. I have nightmares about this bridge where one minute I'm driving on it, the next I'm sailing down into the water. So here I am stopped for the longest 10 minutes that ever felt like 3 weeks right smack dab on top of the darn thing and RIGHT ON TOP OF THE GRATING. Naturally the wind was blowing and HELLO? Can someone please explain to me how and why a concrete and steel structure can be blown back and forth by wind? Can this really be safe? So, between wondering if the bridge keeper was going to sprout a wild hair and press a button so that the grating would open up and I'd plummet to my death; or that someone was getting ready to blow the bridge up (because that's what they do around here, you know, they try and trap you on a bridge and then blow you to smithereens); or that the wind was going to jolt me just hard enough to send me careening over the edge; but mostly that I was going to fall through that grating that looks about as sturdy as chicken wire, well let's just say that I had a bit of a self-inflicted situation that only worsened the longer I was trapped there.

5. After I survived my near-death experience on top of the Coleman Bridge, I received a call from Chesapeake Bay Daughter announcing she isn't feeling well and may be suffering a relapse. Of strep throat.

6. I have nothing on hand for dinner.

7. I open the cupboard up and just stand there, staring aimlessly at the 14 bags of year-old pasta; the 24 cans of tuna (expiration date circa 2007); and the 16 boxes of .99-cent Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix that I will never use but could not afford to pass up when on sale, yes, as I'm staring at these treasures out flies a moth.




Surely the Earth has not one, but two moons and they're both full tonight.

How was your day?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Last week I was driving around looking for things to photograph and I decided to pull up into the tabernacle. Although I've taken a picture of it from the road, I'd never actually been inside it, and there was no time like the present. Of course, I was a Nervous Nellie the whole time because I was worried someone would see me wandering around the property and they'd claim I was trespassing. As you can see from this picture, I am a good, safe distance away from it. At least in this photograph. As far as you know.

We continue the week with another Chesapeake Bay Mother contribution, a slightly more serious one.

On Gratitude
By Chesapeake Bay Mother

When I first meet the day, it summons me onto our deck, where quiet shadows are visible floating beside glassy reflections of sunrise on Queens Creek just a few feet away, and my subjects arrive one by one.

A bluebird flashes up from the grass as a gull calls while gliding just above his watery mirror image. At my feet a golden toad* hops into the flower bed, avoiding me and searching for his breakfast. There, morning glories trumpet their blues in unison, putting my hard-fighting zinnias to shame. In the wildflower twine, a majestic black and yellow spider writes his testament of soft-spun delicacy. As if informed I am there, a winged squadron of wild geese prepare to land in their usual spot, the honey locust, where their water is provided. How lucky am I to receive such a welcome to the new day!

What a wondrous place, full of life and beauty, is this world—even those places no more exotic and remote than our own backyards. Contemplation of it all leads to the numbing realization that I am undeserving of such grand amusement. I didn’t earn it; though in a sense, I did inherit it just as we all did.

My only resort is to marvel at it and offer thanks.

I do.

Chesapeake Bay Woman's Comment:
*A golden toad? Golden? A golden toad? OK. That's all I have to contribute.

Except this: I've never, ever seen a golden toad. I wonder what's in the drinking water over there next door. I ought to be worried since my well is very close to theirs

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


This crooked tree and crooked sign are in the court house near the nursing home. As you probably can tell, I enjoy highlighting everyday imperfection, which leads me to the following story about Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister.

Today I continue with more of Chesapeake Bay Mother’s musings. In case you ever get the impression that life here in Mathews was/is all peachy and perfect, I offer the following glimpse into our crazy little world.

Chesapeake Bay Mother wrote me a letter back in April of 1987. Middle Sister would have been 20 years old then. Here is an excerpt:

Dear CBW,

How are you?

We are OK. Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister’s charges were dropped*and her lawyer didn’t even charge her a dime! She was SO relieved. Husband never knew any of it.**

The weather here is beautiful after all that rain. (Incidentally, the sail boat*** washed away to a neighbor’s place and hung up under their dock breaking the chrome off.)

-CB Mother


Chesapeake Bay Woman’s Comments:

*Middle Sister had, shall we say, a “car incident,” involving our Grandfather the General’s car, Route 17 in Yorktown, and a whole lot of good fortune considering all the possible outcomes. I believe a 180-degree turn into a ditch was a prominent part of the story. Heaven knows what else was involved.

** Deception, plain and simple. This happens a lot in our family. We assume that what people don’t know won’t hurt them. It’s how we’ve survived all these years. For example, what good would it do to tell your mother that you were going to New York City via Greyhound bus for a weekend shopping spree? She'd only worry that her daughter was crossing state lines by herself and would be spending the weekend buying cheap pocketbooks from shady characters. What Mumma doesn’t know can’t possibly hurt her. BTW – I would never go to NYC to shop. Chesapeake Bay Baby Sister, the one who wants me to write more stories about her, would though.

***The “sail boat” was the sunfish, from which I did a back flip when the mast swirled around and hit me when me and CB Middle Sister were teaching ourselves to sail.

Welcome to a typical, dysfunctional day in the life of the Chesapeake Bay Family. There is drama, intrigue, lies and drama. Did I mention the drama?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Report Card

I took this picture last week down at the public landing. It was freezing outside and my fingers were numb. Speaking of numb, here is another mind-numbing excerpt from The Misadventures of the Chesapeake Bay Family.

Chesapeake Bay Baby Sister complained recently that I never write stories about her, only about Middle Sister. There are many reasons for this, namely that Middle Sister and I spent more time together and were closer in age. Also, by the time Baby Sister was old enough to create any memorable stories, I was off to college creating my own life stories.

Our mother wrote the following which involves Baby Sister. Enjoy, Baby Sister! Remember, you asked for it.

From CB Mother:

Entry from diary circa mid-1980’s

Petrified remains of Noah’s ark are easier to locate than Chesapeake Bay Little Sister’s report card. Somewhere in Turkey, isn’t it? The ark, I mean.

This young person is very adept when it comes to introducing a parent gradually to the adverse report by giving probable locations and exiting stage right.

When I finally remember three weeks later that I still haven’t seen the report card, it has had another misadventure: It was spattered with cafeteria-made vegetable soup and suffered some disintegration and is drying in her locker at school. Gospel truth.

Meanwhile Little Sis entertains with a musing about the effect of term papers on final grades; how if you failed to turn one in, your otherwise “A” average might possibly sag to a “D.”

MIT, here she comes.


Additional Commentary from Chesapeake Bay Woman:

Baby Sister could really weave a story and twist the truth so hard it screamed in agony.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Interpret This Photograph

This is an old house that sits behind the store I showed yesterday. It may be hard to believe, but I promise you that is the actual, true color of the shutters. I did nothing to enhance or change the original photo, namely because I have no idea how to, nor do I particularly have any interest to, especially since I don't know how to. And so on. And so on.

Let's keep it brief today and play another one of Chesapeake Bay Woman's favorite games: Interpret That Photograph. Or Interpret This Photograph. Or Interpret Something..

I'll start:

The brilliantly colored shutters frame the windows of a tired, old house. If we apply this to people, it could mean that even though someone is old and decrepit, they still have life, they still have spunk, and if you look close enough they just might surprise you with something completely unexpected.

Or, the shutters don't match the house; they don't really belong. You could say someone was trying to make it something it is not.

Or, don't judge a book by its cover. Just because this house looks old doesn't mean there isn't any spunk, personality or life left in it. Do you see how I repeat myself? Didn't I just say this two paragraphs up? I even used the same word,"spunk." I'm nothing if not redundant.

Or, the shutters are beckoning you to look inside those windows. The exterior appears dead, but the color surrounding the windows represents life on the inside. We don't know what's there, but we are being asked to look.

The End.

What do you see (besides a picture that seems to be crooked and off center thanks to my self-taught photography skills and an impatient mother waiting in the car while her daughter kept pulling off on the side of the road to take pictures)?

Saturday, November 1, 2008


This is a picture I took about a week or so ago on my way to a soccer tournament in a neighboring county. It's an old gas station, and there's a beautiful old house and another storage building in back of it. The day I took this was the same day I met Big Hair Envy, who doesn't live too terribly far away.

I am writing this on Halloween Friday to be posted on Saturday. Let me make a few predictions and statements about the next 24 hours:

1. If Chesapeake Bay Woman survives trick or treating with her children, she will then proceed to a costume party at Sandpiper Reef Restaurant. By the way, the effort, logistics and stamina required to accomplish these tasks alone are staggering. Sounds easy, but it's about as easy as quantum physics.

2. If Chesapeake Bay Woman survives the party, she might get four hours of sleep.

3. By the way, Chesapeake Bay Woman really needs about 9 hours of sleep per night to function properly. (Where properly = just well enough to avoid being committed to Eastern State Hospital. Also, 4 hours of sleep after a party at Sandpiper Reef equates to only 45 minutes of regular sleep. And Chesapeake Bay Woman on 45 minutes of sleep? Well, at that juncture I am required to slap a warning label on my forehead which says, "Out of Order. Please do not establish eye contact or make any sudden moves. Turn and run-do not walk-to the nearest exit.)

4. If Chesapeake Bay Woman drinks enough coffee (approximately 2 carafes), she might be able to get her daughter ready for a Marathon Soccer Tournament starting at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Naturally this soccer marathon has to be an away tournament, so driving will be required. (Hello. Have you met Chesapeake Bay Woman operating heavy machinery and/or driving after trick or treating, a costume party with high school friends and way too little sleep? Nice to meet you. Please do not drive on any highways in Mathews, Gloucester or Middlesex for the next 24-48 hours. This is for your own safety. Thank you.)

5. If Chesapeake Bay Woman survives the 5 games of soccer without being mistaken for dead and hauled to Foster-Faulkner Funeral Home, she will then have to fix supper for her starving children.

Hi. My name is Chesapeake Bay Woman and I am very interested in a break from my normal life and lots and lots of uninterrupted sleep.

Just preferably not in Eastern State Hospital.