Sunday, September 5, 2021


Have you noticed that I have a Tinkerbell license plate on the front of my car?  After hearing that I admire her, Steve found this license plate at the New York State Fair several years ago and had it personalized for me.  It seems out-of-place on my dark blue Nissan Maxima, which looks like a banker's car (for many years now, I have been driving fairly non-descript cars, like the asphalt gray Toyota Camry that you now own Alex).  In so many ways, I'm boring and predictable - am introverted, prefer minimal drama, live in a Victorian-era house in a suburban town, and work in financial services (in fact I am still involved in banking, after starting my career as a management trainee at First Eastern Bank in Wilkes-Barre).  

Do you day dream?  I remember time in my childhood day dreaming about life in Philadelphia when it was a colonial city.  And what it would be like to be a bird or a dolphin.  Sometimes I still do as I've grown older.  I also appreciate things that help you to forget about reality for a while, like a great book or a movie, also spending time in Disney World which is truly magical for me.  I was so excited the first time Dad and I took you to Magic Kingdom, Alex - when you were 5 years old.  The music, parades and park buildings/landscaping made me think about the special time when kids believe that fairies exist, Santa delivers presents to everyone around the world on Christmas Eve and for both of you that Thomas the Tank Engine really lives on the island of Sodor.  When my family was in the Dominican Republic, I did believe that the three kings were coming on Epiphany (in Latin America children got presents on Three Kings Day, rather than at Christmas which was a religious holiday).

I'm not sure if you watched Disney's Peter Pan movie growing up.  The bedroom scene where Peter teaches Wendy and her brothers John & Michael to fly is one of my favorites - complete with pixie dust.  Later, after flying to Neverland they and the lost boys get into trouble with the pesky pirates.  Tinkerbell gets mad at Peter, who is paying too much attention to Wendy, and betrays all the kids to Captain Hook.  She then realizes her mistake and does everything she can to save them.

Tinkerbell is one of my heroines because she is loyal, but not perfect.  When she makes a mistake, she does her best to fix it.  And like me, she has a large derriere - though unlike me, hers is attractive.  I thought about this quite a bit going through separation & divorce (which is really painful, I highly recommend that you be thoughtful and be sure if you marry that it's to the right person the first time).  I hope you do day dream, have your own hero's and keep some favorite "magical" things in your lives even as you are handling all the serious responsibilities of adults.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Class of 2021 - Graduation

Robert Buchanan Carroll, you graduated on Friday June 11.  Alex, Taylor and Aunt Pam arrived as you finished getting dressed, gowned and capped - and went upstairs to meet our new "baby", kitten Oren.  Although the chance of rain was minimal, guess what...  a light drizzle started about 6:15, just as you got ready and then Steve dropped you off.  

It was a damp start, with alternating sprinkles and light showers.  Of course, the bleachers and chairs on the field were wet (your gown gave you one more layer of protection).  I will say it was a bit startling to be in the bleachers sitting close to so many with masks being optional - after getting used to many social distancing precautions due to COVID 19.  Over a week later, thankfully we all remain healthy.  

It was emotional for me as pomp and circumstance started and on-off during the ceremony.  This is a huge milestone after caring for you as a newborn and infant, on through toddler & preschool years mostly at Cookie Corner, to Tenth St Elementary in Wyoming and on the the Secondary Center in Exeter.  Your classmates spoke, I especially appreciated listening to Adam Wisnewski, the Class President and one of your close friends in elementary school.  The rain slowed down, then an amazing thing happened.....  a gorgeous, bright rainbow came out above the stadium.  Shortly after that, a second much fainter rainbow appeared above it.  A double rainbow!!!!!   Through all the kids' diplomas and on until after the ceremony was over.  I will always remember it.  It feels like it was a blessing upon you personally and the Class of  2021 after the disruption of your junior and senior years.  And I agree with a comment by your valedictorian Grace Washney, that the challenges of this time has made you all resilient.  Having the capacity to meet adversity head on and adapt to change is essential.

This past week I asked you what your favorite part of graduation was - your answer was, "when it stopped raining".  LOL !!  It took a while to find you out on the field after the cap-throwing finale.  You then got introduced to our "Robby Face Fans" that Aunt Pam suggested getting.  Most of our pics included them.  😄  One thing is definite, you are a very handsome boy!!  As we walked back to Montgomery Ave, some drivers on Wyoming Avenue honked their congratulations along the way.  We had pizza and desert, including brownies.  The brownies were quite intentional as I had also made them for your Cookie Corner graduation.....  after which, I got a phone call that you had eaten a number of them and were sitting down looking slightly green.  Your teachers asked me to come pick you up early, for fear you would be ill soon (I did come get you, and luckily you did Not get sick).

It seemed like you also enjoyed our graduation dinner at Shogun Japanese Restaurant, with Alex, Aunt Pam, Steve and me as well as Laura Lewis and her husband Ron.  We had a lovely time, complete with Robby Fans, and followed by an interesting and delicious chocolate cake that Aunt Pam got.  It was inspired by your 2019 trip to Europe, with a map theme.  It was lovely, and you received generous gifts - especially a new laptop for your college studies, from Steve.  You are a lucky kid.  

Here is what I wrote in your graduation card, dated June 12:   

Dear Rob,

I'm sitting on the back porch while Oren (with us 5 days now) runs around.  Rambo is sitting on his perch, looking out over the back yard.

You are one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I'm so grateful you are my son, and lucky to have two healthy, hard-working young men.

Your childhood hasn't been easy, due to circumstances beyond our control.  But you are intelligent, curious, competitive and a deep thinker.  You've forged ahead and grown up to be considerate of others.  Besides being a top student, you have given back to students and our community.  [As an aside, as I write this on June 19 you are helping at a Key Club event at the Exeter Little League field.]  These same qualities will take you forward to many wonderful opportunities.  I believe you will make important contributions to the world.

As your classmates said at graduation, the class of 2021 faced unique challenges with a global epidemic starting in 11th grade then a year+ of virtual school.  You persevered through a difficult senior year.  Rob, you should be extremely proud of what you accomplished !!

Congratulations on your graduation!  You got your diploma under a double rainbow.  Wow !!  ...the most beautiful symbol of hope and promise for the future. 

With Love [This would have been "With All My Love", but I was running out of room.]


A stunning picture taken from the Eighth Street Bridge, Wyoming - posted on Facebook:

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Your Aunt Pam

Rob, today you and I joined the Temple B'nai Brith 2021 annual meeting via Zoom.  We participated because Aunt Pam told me a few weeks ago that the Temple was planning to honor her, recognizing the 24 years that she has been music director at the synagogue.  It easily sticks in my mind because I was home on maternity leave with you, Alex, when she was considering this opportunity.  It had been a somewhat difficult decision for Aunt Pam to make since it was professionally intimidating and also involved commitment to Friday services, Saturday bar/bat mitzvahs and additional services with practice time (and she was already committed to Sunday morning services, choir practices etc. at Central United Methodist Church).  It also includes a gauntlet of services at the Jewish high holy days starting with Rosh Hashana eve and morning, followed not long after by Yom Kippur evening and the entire following day.  These are somber, devout and emotional services.  I remember that Rabbi Joseph helped to convince her to take the position and worked with her closely over the first year or so regarding specific service music, holiday music, Hebrew pronunciations etc.  I was in Aunt Pam's 4-person choir at Temple for a year or two, which I enjoyed.  

Today was quite interesting.  We learned how successful Temple B'nai Brith, led by Rabbi Mollow, has been at transitioning and in fact growing since COVID shut-downs began over a year ago.  It has posed significant challenges for congregations of many faiths, and required flexibility and willingness to re-think how to worship and engage meaningfully on-line.  The highlight for us was a tribute by Elly Miller and the lovely video below, produced by Becky Stitzer (aka Becky Kramer, one of Aunt Pam's first piano students).  Alex, you are one of the stars !  I quickly recognized the view behind you, as you were filmed on Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre with St. Stephen's Church and its former rectory (where your GrandNana and Great Grandad Phyllis and Rev. Burke Rivers lived when I was a very young child).  The location is immediately in front of WBRE-TV, where Becky works.  You were very articulate and thoughtful.  Thank you for your willingness to be part of this special tribute to Aunt Pam, such an important person in your young lives.

Not related to today's recognition, Alex you were also wonderful in helping Aunt Pam through gall bladder surgery about a month ago.  We got her to the hospital, kept her company before & after the procedure and brought her home.  Luckily, she has recuperated quickly, feels much better and in fact was able to handle Sabatini's pizza less that a week after the procedure 😄.

Friday, April 23, 2021

"It's What's on the Inside that Counts"

That's what you said, Rob, on the way home from Pediatric Associates today.  And I agree !!  We really like their new Pittston Twp office, on the way to Walmart.  Unfortunately, we've been there too much recently to see Dr. Cross, and to see Dr. Garg (neurology) in Kingston, and to see Dr. Blaze (optometry) in West Pittston.  And you've independently seen Dr. Palmero  (chiropractic) in Pittston Twp.  Plus we have still to visit Dr. Whiting (neuro-opthalmology) in Danville in 3 weeks or so.  You are in the process of being assessed by Dr. Timchak in Kingston.  An important additional team member is your therapist Rob Tryzenski, a close friend of several years.  You've had blood work in Wilkes-Barre, an MRI back in Kingston, and numerous medications from CVS in Exeter.  Perhaps there will be a visit to the Thomas Jefferson Headache Center in Philly, assuming the office returns my call.

On the school front, we've had consultation and meetings with Jennifer Ciampi, your guidance counselor, and Dr. Pollard, your principal.  We've called SUNY and it's possible we'll be starting calls with an LCCC contact soon.  So many professionals are involved and providing reassurance.

Maybe some day it we'll remember it with a little bit of humor.  But mostly, since January this year it has been painful (physically), tiring, stressful and sprinkled with various disappointments.  We still don't really know what's going on.  Wyoming Area went to remote, virtual school in April, 2020 due to COVID 19 and stayed that way until April, 2021.  Your routine was turned upside down, school activities stopped, you've been isolated from seeing friends, classmates & teachers and had significant screen time.  You were taking 5 AP classes during senior year.  You began getting periodic headaches in December, and then it developed into one massive, chronic daily headache with light sensitivity, general fatigue and poor sleep quality in January.  Truly, you looked and I know you felt awful for a few weeks in January.  To make things harder, Dad passed away early in the month.  Although you have improved with a particular anti-depressant/nerve pain medication, not much else helps in spite of trying additional medications.  Very little schoolwork has been done since then.  We've had so many conversations together about what we can do & changes to make things better.  It was been draining for you above all, and certainly difficult for me (and Steve) as we try to navigate these medical issues, home routines, academic expectations and college decisions.  Aunt Pam and Alex are worried about you.  Honestly, we desperately want you to feel healthy and normal again, but it's not clear if & when there will be a diagnosis that makes sense, an understanding of how to address the symptoms and ability to focus without discomfort from head pain, lights and feeling tired.  

All we can do is continue to see specialists, appreciate that it has gotten better (though more slowly that we would like) and be relieved that tests to date show no underlying, significant health issues.  You have listened to many audio books and we know you're thinking your usual interesting thoughts because you are coming up with quirky stuff (like tonight you mentioned donkey brains, I still don't know why but Steve says it has something to do with the series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia).  You are threatening to name a kitten (should we get one) Doyle or Royal McPoyle.  You are going to in-person Key Club meetings again.  Also, graduation is coming up.  You are certainly still interested in engineering, which I expect you will study successfully.  

So I fully believe we will figure this out, and move forward in whatever amount of time this will take.  That doesn't make it much easier right now, but that's the way it is.  We are truly grateful for all the people who are helping along the way.  I've been playing this song by your favorite Beatle recently on YouTube a lot (you have heard) - it's the perfect thing to keep us optimistic.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Our Jean-Luc, Friend to All

After Easter Jean-Luc seemed to be not feeling well for a couple days and was spending a lot of time on the game room couch, then perked up a bit last weekend.  We all paid him some extra attention and he purred for us, but then suddenly on Tuesday night his back legs weren't supporting him and he was out of breath.  It was lucky we were all home and took him to the Plains Animal Hospital where they checked him quickly after we arrived.  The news, though, was terrible since it turns out he had a blood clot.  The staff were wonderful and helped us to have time for a last visit with our boy.  Jean-Luc was 10 years old.  Such an important member of our family, who brought joy & companionship especially for Steve shortly after he moved to Cherry St, Scranton in 2010.  Jean-Luc was "chill", a portly, comfortable and calm kitty (except when being taken to Grooming Cottage for baths).  He was quite a ball of energy as a kitten, thrilled to watch birds out the window since was not allowed out into the great big world.  Steve told him many times that it's not safe out there for little kitties, and of course he listened like cats always do.  

A re-telling of the salad story is quite necessary.  JLA (Jean-Luc Albert) was half grown in the winter of 2011, when Steve had me over for dinner.  Dinner was eaten at a small round table in the "dining" room (which was a semi-storage room, including the bicycle along the outside wall).  When dinner was almost ready, Steve put a table cloth and place settings on the table.  The table cloth was draped over the edge of the table, as is traditional.  After the salad was tossed, it went on the table too.  But not for long!  Jean-Luc thought the dangly table cloth must be there for him to play with, so he reached up, snagged it and pulled everything onto the floor.  Well, as you know Steve rarely gets mad - but he was definitely mad.  Little Jean-Luc was marched upstairs where he was banished in the bathroom.  The remnants of the salad were collected & tossed out in the front yard.  For the rest of the year, when we stopped over Robby would ask where the salad was - and kept looking in the front yard for bits of lettuce.

During the move between Cherry Street and Montgomery Ave, JLA temporarily stayed at a pet hotel near Moscow.  Upon arrival here, I remember him hiding on the shelf under the kitchen sink.  Some of his favorite spots here were lying on a comfortable couch preferably next to Robby (or spending a few hours next to Rob in his bed), on other beds upstairs, on the dining room rug with his legs up in the air, on the back porch in a sun spot and most recently in a kitty bed in the office next to Steve.  For many years, Jean-Luc had lovely naps in Steve's lap, however only when Steve was in the office sitting at his computer.  He would also enjoy close by when Steve laid down on our bed for a rest.  As to annoying habits, the one I can think of is Jean-Luc licking plastic bags - which could be loud enough to wake you up.  

Jean-Luc was a water cat - he truly enjoyed playing in the water bowl.  His habit of meowing for slow drips from the bathtub faucet turned into a problem when he started scratching on our bedroom door every morning at 5 am.  So that had to stop, after which he thoroughly enjoyed lying next to the bubbler in the boys' bathroom, sticking his head under the fountain.

Jean-Luc was accepting of Tiger, and then of Rambo - he liked his kitty pals.  For a few years, we had 3 cats!  There were a number of wrestling interludes (known as a "tussle") and grooming sessions that started civilized and usually ended with a squabble.  There was no particular ownership of assigned kibble bowls.  The wonderful announcement of "Treats!!" was usually enough to produce a thunk when Jean-Luc jumped down from a bed then bunny-hopped down the stairs - in case he was not already waiting nearby for after-dinner munching.  He and his colleagues have done their duty with pest control, cornering and dispatching the occasional mouse who visited from the basement.  In the past couple years, it seems likely that Rambo did most of this dirty work.

Here are some wonderful pictures of our Jean-Luc.  

Tiger's education on the art of drippies:

Licking a bag while Christmas presents were being wrapped:
Helping Rob with his school work:

Stretched out, probably at dinner time:

One morning bright & early, resting (anywhere is fine!) after a busy night:
A peaceful grooming session:

Waking up from a snooze with Rambo:
In this favorite spot, next to Steve in the office (we recently noticed that Jean-Luc was more comfortable when his fur was shaved down):

He was truly a friend to all, sweet and charming.  We will miss Jean-Luc, our longest-tenured kitty at Montgomery Ave, Steve's best buddy and loving companion, as well as Becca's "favorite fat cat".

Monday, February 15, 2021

In My Mind I'm Goin' to Carolina

For quite a few years, I have periodically grieved for and missed your Dad, specifically as the younger man I married. Another time I will write about the early years of our relationship.  

For now as the finality of his passing settles in, I'm going to write briefly about one of his favorite things to do - going to the Outer Banks. I do have fond memories of staying especially in Hatteras in a house along a canal. Alex, you loved it there since you could walk out the door to fish. And we were close to the beach and the fishing pier that brought hours of joy for you Alex. Rob, you were quite little and enjoyed it a lot although we know you are not generally a beach aficionado. I got to rest, and Dad spent a lot of time driving us about and maintaining fishing gear, getting bait and taking fish off lines. We usually took a day trip to Ocracoke Island, involving trips on the ferry which were an adventure every time. On our journeys across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, we would stop at the visitor center, walk out to pier to see what fish were being caught and sometimes watch a container ship go over the tunnel. Maybe you remember a blueberry fight in the back seat of the car, which happened on our way home one year. It's nice to remember summer vacation (especially during mid-winter), and important for me to believe that when we meet again in heaven we will be the best versions of ourselves. Below are pictures from a trip to the Wright Brother's Memorial in Kitty Hawk in 2003, and cute pictures you both from 2006.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Welcome to Number #46

I last wrote about politics after the general election, and as it happened just before the election was called for Joe Biden.  So much has happened since then!  I learned when Dad was involved in Wyoming Boro politics for a number of years that sometimes you are in the majority, other times in the minority.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Well unfortunately, Donald Trump could not bring himself to lose gracefully.  He never conceded the election, in fact he fought in the courts on trying to challenge what all credible sources determined was a fair election and did not facilitate transition to the new administration.  And in the end, the biggest catastrophe of all, on the day of Dad's funeral (so we didn't learn of it until later in the day) while the electoral college vote was being counted in Congress he spoke to a large, angry group of his supporters who were fully prepared for violence.  These people then rioted and stormed the capitol building. After endangering our country's legislators and Vice President Pence, doing damage and a couple deaths, we acknowledge that it was extremely bad but could have been worse.  What type of people bring the makings of a gallows and then build it in any public place, let alone in our nation's capital?  Many will face criminal charges, and President Trump was impeached in the House (second time) for inciting an insurrection.

After 4 tumultuous years, I am truly grateful and relieved that the Trump presidency is over.  Here is an email that I drafted in October 2020, but never sent:  

Dear Vice President Joe Biden

This is such an anxious time for our country.  You and your wife Dr. Biden give us hope.  Every day we put our Joe Biden flag out, every night we "bring in Joe" for safekeeping here in Luzerne County.  We look forward to election day and then your inauguration, when you'll take over as President of our wonderful and struggling country.  We can't wait for a child of Scranton, my husband's home-town, and Wilmington, a short drive from where I grew up in South Philadelphia, to bring us competence, a platform to distribute more resources to those who don't have privilege and be accountable for leadership on so many issues around the world, basic common decency and genuine concern for all Americans.  Thank you for everything you have done for our country and will continue to do as you face the challenges of your presidency.  

Tonight we contributed to your campaign.  We will always be rooting for you and Jill.

Christine Rivers & Stephen Albert
West Pittston, PA

PS.  In addition to her many qualifications, Kamala Harris has a wonderful smile - like a ray of sunshine through the clouds !

The inauguration was last Wednesday.  I'm sorry we didn't go this time, but it wasn't feasible due to COVID 19 and other circumstances including Washington D.C. being an armed camp.  I already made a date with you Rob to go to the next inauguration in four years.  I truly enjoyed watching the inauguration, and my favorite part was Lady Gaga's rendition of the national anthem.  She is beautiful, her dress and pin are fabulous and what an unbelievable performer !!  I will share more about her in a future post.  Watching the video below, you will see over her left shoulder a man who looks a lot like Uncle Jason!  Regrettably, it's not - I texted Jay about it later in the day.  LOL!