Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “#blogeverydayinmay”

Missing My Mom


Blog Every Day in May, Prompt 12.

What (or who) do you miss? (a person, a thing, a place, a time in your life)

May 12 was Mother’s Day, so a tribute to my mom is in order.

My mom, Ella Mason Carlton Kroelinger, was born in Saluda, Virginia on March 21, 1909. She passed away at the age of almost 92 in February, 2000, in Vineland, NJ. (Mom later changed her name to Ellen.)001 (4)

Mom grew up on a plantation in Virginia, but because of family health issues, the family moved to Southern New Jersey (Vineland) where the weather was supposedly not as hot and humid as in Virginia. (Wrong!) She had a eight siblings: Richard, Bob, Louise, Pearl, Annie, Inez, Virginia, and Minnie.

Carlton family in 1916

Carlton family in 1916

Grandmother Minnie E. Carlton feeding the chickens at Brewster Road and Vine Road.

Grandmother Minnie E. Carlton feeding the chickens at Brewster Road and Vine Road.

Mom's father, Richard Alvin Carlton, Sr. checking on the chickens at Brewster Road and Vine Road.

Grandfather, Richard Alvin Carlton, Sr., and his chickens.

Mom married Adam Emil Kroelinger, on November 7, 1928, and over the years, nine children joined the family (six girls, three boys): Joyce, Joan, Adam, Shirley, Beverley, Bill, Judith, Janice, and Robert. And since nine children made for an odd number, they added a foster child, Charles, making a round dozen in the family.

Times were tough economically in 1929, so the family lived with Daddy’s family on my grandfather’s farm for a while. In August of 1938, reportedly without telling my mother, my father bought a big, two-story, needs-a-lot-of-work house on Brewster Road, along with three acres of good farm land, for the whopping deposit of one dollar. The owner of the house, a widow named Martha Pennock, sold the property to my father for a total purchase price of $2301.00, a fortune in those days.

Over the years, the house grew to be a beautiful home, graced with forest-green shutters, a screened porch, and wide green-and-white striped awnings. Towering oaks and maple trees surrounded the house. Mom planted red and pink azaleas, lavender rhododendrons, cherry trees, and dogwood trees all around the yard. She loved her beautiful flowering yard and happily worked many hours in it, planting petunias, pansies, asters, and marigolds to keep the yard colorful. The kids, however, complained about how much grass had to be cut (a least an acre) and how hard it was to pull all those hoses and sprinklers out to water the lawn during the hot summer days.

The Kroelinger house on North Brewster Road, Vineland, NJ

The Kroelinger house on North Brewster Road, Vineland, NJ Photo: Joyce Kroelinger Ellis, 2000

Our huge vegetable garden out back supplied us with many a meal. I remember running out to the garden before dinner many times to gather lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and scallions for our really “Jersey-Fresh” evening salad. We all raved about Mom’s famous Italian dressing, but none of us can make it like she made it.

Mom kept busy during the summer canning and freezing crop after crop of tomatoes, green beans, lima beans, rhubarb, eggplant, corn, and peas. We all loved Mom’s southern fried zucchini, and we had this family favorite a lot during the summer. You know how prolific zucchini is!

Our neighbor, Mr. Cervini, had a peach orchard adjacent to our property, and out of self-defense and to keep us kids out of the orchard, he gave Mom a weekly basket of peaches in season. Summer desserts featured these delectable peaches sliced and sweetened with a dash of sugar, and on our lucky days, with a little vanilla ice cream. The strawberries in our own patch were excellent, too. We picked cherries off of Aunt Annie’s trees and plums off our own tree.

Our lives seemed to center around the long maple twelve-seater dining room table. With two pull-out leaf extensions, the table was always stretched to capacity. When company came, and they often did, the aunts and uncles commandeered the adult table, and the kids sat at a special kids’ table on one side of our huge dining room. These family get-togethers were the best. Aunts and uncles and cousins came from miles around. Mom cooked for days, and we always had a feast with food supplied from our garden and grandfather’s farm, as well as chicken or turkey from Uncle Bob’s farm.

The aunts and uncles gathered frequenly in the evening for coffee and news.

The aunts and uncles gathered frequently in the evening for coffee and news. (L to R: Virginia, Ellen, Inez, Minnie, Annie, Louise, Daddy, Uncle Bob-Uncle Ham to the kids) Here they are in the kitchen of the Carlton homestead on Brewster and Vine Roads in Vineland, NJ. Uncle Ham was always making us kids laugh.

I never saw my mother angry. When the kids acted up, she simply said, “Your father will be home soon.” And that was enough to straighten us out in a hurry.

Mom always called me “Nan,” and I never found out the story behind that nickname. I asked her once, and she couldn’t remember how that name came to be. Of course, my brothers had great fun with my nickname. “Nannygoat, Nannygoat” became the familiar taunt. But, haha, I got back at my brother Bill: “Billygoat, Billygoat.” We traded barbs until Mom made us stop with “Your father will be home soon” reminder.

Honestly, I don’t know how she managed to take care of all of us. It must have been like herding cats, each of us going full speed in a thousand different directions, all at the speed of light and at the highest decibel levels.

Family. Feasts. Fun. That’s how I remember Mom. She was a special lady, and we all miss her very much.

May 3- A Few Uncomfortable Things

Post number 3 in the Story of My Life: Blog Every Day in May challenge posted by Jenni at Story of My Life.

See list of prompts for the month of May here and here.


May 3. Prompt 3. Things that make you uncomfortable.

I’d rather sing, “These are a few of my favorite things…” than answer this prompt. Cute little kittens would be first on my list. But listing things that make me feel uncomfortable…ummm, well, it makes me feel uncomfortable, and it requires a bit more soul-searching. Do I really want to reveal my innermost self?

Being uncomfortable in situations is not the worst thing in the world, in fact, it can open opportunities for us. It reminds me of the story of the Chinese character for danger. Supposedly, the Chinese character for crisis (supreme discomfort!) represents both danger and opportunity at the same time. (This nice story has been debunked here in “A Crisis Is Not an Opportunity.”) Even so, think about it, haven’t you been in situations that were difficult and uncomfortable, but you made it through anyway. And didn’t you learn something in the process?


For me, being uncomfortable in a situation presents a challenge. What do I have to do to feel comfortable in this situation?

But to answer the prompt directly instead of beating around the mulberry bush, here are a few things that make me uncomfortable.

1. Being criticized or challenged in front of other people

I took an adult education class once in Mandarin Chinese. But being a visual learner and not an auditory learner, I had difficulty distinguishing the four tones of Mandarin. I was embarrassed mortified when the teacher of the class had me repeat over and over something he had just said in Mandarin. My feeble attempts did not merit his favor. His fast response each time was, “bu-dwei” (wrong). As much as I dislike not finishing something I started, I knew I would never please this teacher with my pronunciation and dropped out of the class.

Many years later, when I worked as a principal in the Lower Primary School at Hong Kong International School (an American school), I visited a second grade Mandarin class, and the teacher asked me in Mandarin how I came to school that day. Feeling very proud that I understood her question, I answered, “fei-ji”. The students in the class, who knew more Mandarin than I knew, laughed. The teacher told me I had said airplane instead of car. Oh well. Bu-dwei again. But I laughed, too.  After all,  I could have said (accidentally), “Your teacher is a rat.” The students would have laughed at that, too.

2. Giving a talk for which I am underprepared. Shudder. I have nightmares about that.

3. Being the center of attention. I have never liked this, not even when it was a celebration for a birthday or a major achievement.

4. Walking in late to a meeting.

5. Being around angry, complaining people.

6. Being around someone in obvious pain and not knowing what to do to help.

7. Walking out on the glass platform at the Grand Canyon. Just thinking about that makes my stomach flip!


8. Going to the top of the new World Trade Center (when it opens).

Here are two bloggers who talk about going outside their comfort zones. Read or view their thoughts and you will find encouragement for stepping out of your comfort zone.

How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone without Freaking Out by Laura Drake on Writers in the Storm Blog.

Video Challenge: Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone by Jan Morrill on The Red Kimono.

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

Every Day in May Post 2: I Am Good At . . .

This is post number 2 in the Story of My Life: Blog Every Day in May challenge posted by Jenni at Story of My Life.

See list of prompts for the month of May here and here.

Prompt for May 2. Educate us on something you know a lot about or are good at. Take any approach you’d like (serious and education or funny and sarcastic).


Hmmm.  You’ve heard that expression, “jack of all trades and master of none”?

Sometimes I think that describes me. I like to dabble in a lot of things, then after a while I move on to other things. I travel, cook, read, write, take photos, do Sudoku puzzles and crossword puzzles, sing in a church choir, blog, walk, swim, teach . . .

What I am professionally good at: I have been in the education field for my entire working life, either as a teacher or an administrator.

My first dozen or so years of employment, I was a special education teacher, working with educationally handicapped children. When I first began in special education, the children in my classes were labeled mentally retarded. Thankfully that language has changed. Later I worked with children with learning disabilities. In two segments of time, I worked with teenagers in special situations: a court school setting and a drug and alcohol rehab setting. In the first case, I was the only teacher in a twelve student school. In the second case, I was a teacher in a thirty (+/-) student school where the behavioral and emotional problems were severe enough that class size was limited to three to five students. I have worked in several settings and in many places: public and private, in NJ, MA, CA, Alaska, and internationally in Hong Kong. Each of these places has stories to tell.

Looking over this brief summary, I realize that I am good at adapting to change, both in employment and living circumstances; that I am good at reaching children who hurt; and that I am an educational leader.

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