Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday:
The corner where Flips used to be

"Wordless Wednesday" is a blog tradition with me... I post a picture, and don't write as much. So here is my Wordless Wednesday post for this week. It's rather surprising to see this corner without Flips sitting there, isn't it?
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Don't forget - April 1st is the Egg Hunt!

JFK High School's 9th Annual Egg Hunt will be held on Thursday, April 1, 2010, from 5 PM to 8 PM. The event will be held RAIN OR SHINE, because all activities take place inside JFK High School.  The Egg Hunt is sponsored by the Concert, Chamber, and Show Choirs.

Admission is $5.00 per child, which includes 5 activities AND the egg hunt. Additional Activity tickets are available for 50 cents each or 3/$1.00, and additional Egg Hunt tickets are available for $1.00 each. There will be a kid's DJ, prizes, games, crafts and food available for purchase. There is even a moonbounce for $2.00.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WTEA Meeting held at Woodbridge High School today

 In response to the pressures of the state and school budget issues, the WTEA held a purely informational meeting for the members of their union this afternoon at Woodbridge High School.

To be completely honest, I was there as a member of the union.  I am one of the people who will mostly likely be laid off.  So I am not an unbiased person in this issue.  (Feel free to comment at the bottom of this post, if you want to.  Good or bad.  If you are not flaming me, I won't delete you.)  The statements that I make on this blog represent my own opinions, and no one else. I do not speak for any other side in this battle, only my own perspective.  I do not represent the Union, even though I am a member.  I do not represent the state, even though I am a voting tax payer.  And I do not represent the school, even though I am an employee.  And a parent with a child in the school.

If you listen to the Governor's press releases, it all seems so very simple.  It seems like the state's current financial crisis is completely due to a union who represents people who are unwilling to bend in the current economic storm. All the teachers have to do, according to the Governor, is just bend the contract a LITTLE BIT, and the hundreds of employees in Woodbridge Township who are being laid off will still have jobs.

But in fact, NOTHING IS THAT SIMPLE.   The issue at hand is so complex, it's nearly impossible to wrap your head around it.  In fact, the truth is that even if the teachers concede, my job probably won't be saved.  Unless the Governor is playing with the numbers in order to get his way, and magically finds more money as a reward once he busts the union.  And even then?  The money will probably go to fund sports programs that have been cut.

To me this looks a lot like a chess game, and the Governor is a much better chess player than the Union is.  The Governor has come out attacking early, and the Union is pushing pawns around the board hoping to defend itself.  The Union seems to be losing.

There is no black or white.  Everything is a shade of gray.  No matter which side is telling you something, no matter which side you believe, there are two sides to every story.  (Is that too many cliches for one sentence?)  There is an element of truth to both sides.  I just wish that people would stop believing every press release that the Governor's PR staff sends out.

And I really wish that the union would do a better job of expressing it's side of the story.  But I don't think they HAVE a PR staff.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Merrill Park - View of Suckers Creek

Another few rainy days in the forecast, and the brook is likely to flood again.
I keep referring to "the brook." Do you call it the brook? In my family, we always called it "the brook". I've heard other people call it the creek, and I heard somewhere that it's official name was Sucker's Creek. On the Google map pages, it's referred to as the South Branch of the Rahway River. (Not very exciting name, is it? Sucker's Creek is more interesting.)

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and he said to me, "The brook is still flooding, after all of these years?  Wow, when are they going to fix that?"

 My answer is ...I don't think it's really broken, is it?

I mean think about it.  All of this water has to go somewhere, doesn't it?  And the flood zone allows Iselin to have a nice little green centerpiece right down the middle.  If it stopped flooding, it probably wouldn't take too long before a bunch of people started trying to build more houses there.  I like the little wilderness area that it gives us... even if it's not too wild!

There are a lot of animals that call that little strip (and the rest of Iselin) home.  I've seen plenty of squirrels and rabbits, of course.  Less often, but still making their presence known, are racoons, skunks, and oppossums.  I had a ground hog in my yard once -- I don't know how many we have, but at least a few, I guess.

And it's a nice spot for birds.  I heard a woodpecker as I walked along Chain O'Hills Road yesterday, and I saw a pair of mallard ducks.  I've seen lots of the usual birds, especially robins, and occasionally cardinals.  Once I saw a snowy egret (I think that's what it is!)

I was surprised yesterday as I walked along the brook to see a school of about 4" striped fish.  Now, I have no idea what kind of fish they were, because I don't know one fish from another.  But they were bigger than I've ever seen, in our own little brook!  Of course with all the rain, maybe today they've washed away.

Well, take a walk along the brook one day, and see what there is to see.  It's a great part of Iselin!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day Trip: Asbury Park

Iselin is in a great spot - close to some great cities, near some lovely beaches and forests. There is plenty of things going on within a short distance. So, if you want to take a day trip, where would you like to go?

I know it isn't summer yet, but why not hit the boardwalk in the off season? We went to Asbury Park yesterday and had a GREAT time.

When was the last time you went to Asbury Park? It's probably been ages, if you've been there at all, right? Well, there is a lot going on down there now.
Click here for the Asbury Park Boardwalk website,

or here for the official City of Asbury Park website.

There are some very decent restaurants and clubs, and artsy and antique stores right next to picturesque ruins. Half the people that you see wandering around down on the boardwalk have a camera because the place is just so darn photogenic!

ON a cold, damp day like today, if I were you, I'd concentrate on the shops. My favorites include a place selling pottery, a place to rent bikes, a museum where you can play old school pinball from the '50's, '60's and '70's (Hey - I'll tell you more about that one pretty soon!), and a hands-on craft place where YOU can blow your own glass!

Did you ever watch someone blowing glass and wish that you could try it? Well, at the Hot Sand Glassblowing Studio on the boardwalk at Asbury Park, you can! It's a hot activity for a cold spring day. I tried it out and blew a beautiful bubble to hang in my dining room window. The artist works with you step by step so that you don't mess up - and the glass is so hot, I must admit that I was a little nervous! But the artist's guidance was excellent, and I am really proud of my finished product.

(I even made a video of the bubble I blew last year... wanna see?)

If you plan on visiting the Hot Sand Glassblowing Studio, you might want to check out their website first, which you can find by clicking here.


Hot Sand is located next to "Madame Marie's" ... you know, the fortune teller from the Springsteen song?... I know, the real Madame Marie passed away, but this is the place, anyway. Just one more cool thing about Asbury Park.

Have fun!

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Book Review: Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

I'm a big Harlan Coben fan, ever since my friend Helen introduced me to his books. I just read "Hold Tight" and I really enjoyed it.

Coben is a writer who knows how to keep you gripping the book on the edge of your seat. I'm not usually "into" that kind of story, but his stories are really great. An added bonus is that he's a Jersey guy - so his stories take place in locations that you feel familiar with.

If you have some r&r time today, and don't want to venture too far from home, pick up a book by Harlan Coben.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lights Out Tonight!

Tonight, you can be one of the millions of people around the world who demonstrate their commitment to cleaning up our Earth. From 8:30 to 9:30 PM local time, everyone is asked to turn out their lights.

According to the website My Earth,

Earth Hour was conceived by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a way to raise awareness among the general public about climate change and to convey that, by working together, each of us can have a positive impact.

Earth Hour’s non-partisan approach has captured the world’s imagination and the annual event has become a global phenomenon. Last year during Earth Hour 2009, nearly one billion people in more than 4,000 cities around the world turned off their lights to demonstrate their commitment and encourage the world to take action.
By working together, in cooperation with nations around the world, we can find solutions. We must turn the lights off on pollution and climate change and create a cleaner, safer, more secure future.

We know that the amount of energy saved during one hour won’t be enough to save our planet from the potentially devastating impacts of climate change, but that misses the true purpose of Earth Hour. Earth Hour seeks to provide a forum in which people can engage on climate issues and find ways in their own lives to become part of the solution to this global threat.

Scientists say that they are certain that climate change is a potentially devastating issue for the world today. I personally believe that the scientists know what they are talking about. But even if you don't believe them, everyone knows that turning off the lights will save electricity. And most of the electricity we are using in our area is NOT generated by wind or solar, or other forms of renewable energy. So... whether you believe in global warming or climate change or not, you can certainly see the value in supporting this effort.

So please join us in turning off the lights for one hour. Thanks!

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Judy Verrilli Prepares for the Egg Hunt

JFK High School's 9th Annual Egg Hunt will be held on Thursday, April 1, 2010, from 5 PM to 8 PM. The event will be held RAIN OR SHINE, because all activities take place inside JFK High School.

I stopped in last year to take a look, and I was amazed! It is a really fun spring activity for the little ones, and all are welcome. They have plenty of room and plenty of things to do. I wish my own kids were little, because they would have had so much fun. I'm sure this year the activities will be just as wonderful -- as wonderful as Ms. Verrilli, the Kennedy teacher who organizes the event. The Egg Hunt is sponsored by the Concert, Chamber, and Show Choirs.

Admission is $5.00 per child, which includes 5 activities AND the egg hunt. Additional Activity tickets are available for 50 cents each or 3/$1.00, and additional Egg Hunt tickets are available for $1.00 each. There will be a kid's DJ, prizes, games, crafts and food available for purchase. There is even a moonbounce for $2.00.

The Iselin Library

Today is a bit rainy and getting colder... for me, it would be a perfect day to settle down with a good book.
The Iselin Library was an important place to me when I was a kid, and when my own kids were little I stopped in with them a lot too... we did the "library school" classes, where the librarian read a story and then sang a song and they did a craft together. It's still a nice place to visit. If you want to check their hours, click

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Sports

The Iselin Athletic Association put out a flier about some sports teams for Middle School and High School students.  They have 3 on 3 Basketball, and Volleyball.  Registrations are being held during March on Wednesdays 7-9 PM and Saturdays 11 - 2 PM at the Iselin Field House on Cooper Avenue.  League play will start in April.

Fees are:  3 on 3 Basketball - $75.00 - Single Player
      or $65 each player for a team of 5.
Volleyball - $60.00

For more information, call 908-344-2570, or click on The Iselin Athletic Association Web Site

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Map of Iselin

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Thanks for playing!

Bird on a Wire

Bird on a Wire
Originally uploaded by Love, Iselin NJ

That's what my Gram used to say.  I'd say, "But Gram, how did you KNOW that?"  And her response, of course, was, "A Little Birdie told me." 

This blog isn't for that kind of information.  It isn't about rumors.  I only intend to write very upfront information.  It also isn't really about news.  The idea of this being the "Times" is rather tongue-in-cheek.  There is no way I'm going to beat a real reporter to the scoop.  It's more like feature stories.  If you want news stories, there are better websites -- I've linked to in the right column - check them out.

This blog is for positive, up-beat kinds of things.  It's to meet your neighbors.  It's to show you some of the things in town you might not know about.  It's to brag about how smart our kids are, and how great our shopping and restaurants are, and how many great things you can visit nearby. 

If you have an idea for a story, post a comment or give me a call.  I can't make any promises, but I'll see what I can do. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stress in Iselin Schools

What a day we had today!

I don't know what it was like by you, but everyone I spoke with had one thing on their minds - how are the school budget cuts going to affect you?

Are you losing your job?  Is your daughter or your friend?  Are you horrified at the thought of how bad our taxes are going to go up?  Is your son upset because he wanted to be a part of the freshman sports program next year?

Are you thrilled, because you can't believe that the school has been spending so much money for so long, and you figure it's about time?  Or are you horrified, because you can't imagine that anyone would want to cut kindergarten?

Who is the bad guy in this scenario?
Is it the school system, for living in an Ivory Tower and not being part of the hard choices of the real world?
Is it the Union, for not being willing to compromise their member's livelihood, in return for no guarantees?
Is it the Governor, for making such a harsh budget to fight wasteful spending?
Which side are you on?

There are so many facets to this discussion, it can give you a headache to think of them all.

We've had bubbles bursting before.  It looks like the school's bubble has burst as well.
I hope it all works out OK for you.

Less state aid for Woodbridge schools means fewer programs but higher taxes | Woodbridge

Less state aid for Woodbridge schools means fewer programs but higher taxes | Woodbridge

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Tickets are on sale now!

The JFK High School Gift Auction is held every year to support Project Graduation. It is a huge event, with hundreds of prizes. Tickets are usually not available at the door, because it sells out almost every year. If you are interested in purchasing tickets for the Gift Auction, call the High School at 732-602-8650.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring in Iselin's "Garden for the Blind"

Yesterday afternoon was marked the "Vernal Equinox." So that makes today the first full day of Spring... and everyone is excited!

I marked the beginning of Spring by taking a walk through Iselin's "Garden for the Blind."

The sun was nice and warm, and the birds were singing.  The flowers of spring were there if you looked for them... but the evidence of winter remained.  It will be a while before spring is in full swing.

 The Garden is located next to the parking lot of the Iselin Library on Green Street. It's been there for years and years. You may know how much work it takes to maintain your home garden, so it's nice that the Woodbridge Garden Club volunteers to make the extra effort to keep a garden going for the whole town to enjoy.

According to the web site infoplease, March 20 (March 21 in some years) is significant for astronomical reasons. On March 20, 2010, at precisely 1:32 P.M. EDT (March 20, 17:32 Universal Time), the Sun crossed directly over the Earth's equator. This moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

Translated literally, equinox means "equal night." Because the Sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes. A second equinox occurs each year on September 22 or 23; in 2010, it will be on September 22 at 11:09 P.M. EDT. This date will mark the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the vernal equinox in the Southern (vernal denotes "spring").
"Vernal (Spring) Equinox." Infoplease.
© 2000–2007 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease.
21 Mar. 2010 .

Enjoy this beautiful spring day!

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day Trip: Tour the Memorial

Saturdays are a great day to take a trip. Today's trip, only a few exits down the Garden State Parkway,
brought us to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial and Vietnam Era Educational Center.  If you'd like to check out their website, for information and directions, please click HERE.

It was a gorgeous day outside, and we had planned this trip because they offer a scholarship opportunity for High School Seniors. We made it to the memorial for one of the free guided tours, which are offered every Saturday at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, February 6th through April 10th, 2010.

The memorial is more than just a wall of names and a statue of soldiers. All of the elements were planned to include many symbols, full of meaning for those who take the time to contemplate them. The symbols were explained during the tour.

The tour was way more emotional than I expected, especially considering that I have very limited ties to the war itself. I never lost anyone in Vietnam. My uncle fought in the Vietnam War, but it was not something that we ever talked much about when he came back.

The tour guides were the key. The gentlemen who ran the tour were Vietnam Vets themselves, with strong emotional ties that you could still feel when they spoke. They loved and lost people to the war. On more than one occasion, when the symbology of the place was being explained during the tour, they brought me to tears. It was a very reverent, moving occasion.

I highly recommend anyone take a little time to tour the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation and Vietnam Era Educational Center.
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The News So Far: the WEATHER

Today is all about blue skies and warm sun. It's a great day to get out and about. I'm going to take my own advice, and come back to the computer later. Have a great day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Board of Ed Meeting

Woodbridge Board of Ed members wait for tonight's meeting to begin.

The Board of Ed is caught between a rock and a hard place - the new Governor of New Jersey, and the powerful Teachers Union.

It seemed to me that the meeting itself was very carefully worded to point this fact out to the people of our town. Hey, folks, it isn't us. We didn't know that the state was going to cut our budget so severely. We, too, are horrified. We are madder than we can even express. Don't blame us.

The meeting, while well attended, was no where near the sell out crowd that was expected. Rumors were afloat that the Fire Marshal would be in attendance to keep count of the room occupancy, to shut the meeting down in case the crowd grew too large. He wasn't needed. Also surprising, to me, was the lack of speakers. I expected many impassioned speeches by audience members who wanted to make sure that the cuts did not extend to either their favorite school program or their job. There were a few very calm speeches. Nothing overly dramatic, in my opinion.

Woodbridge Township's Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Crowe, made a speech that was very slow, considered, and deliberate. It was paced so slowly that I almost thought it was funny. (I tend to be irreverent, unfortunately.) He spoke about how fundamentally horrified and upset he was. The example that he used, that hit home with the audience, was that when he asked the state representatives where else we could possibly cut, a suggestion was raised that we cut Kindergarten. "But we don't HAVE a full day kindergarten," Dr. Crowe objected; and the response he got was, do we really need kindergarten at all?

On a few occasions, the idea of opening up the teacher's contracts for negotiations was raised.

That is a Pandora's Box, isn't it? Of course, it is exactly what the Governor wants. And it's probably one of the best ways to save some significant money. Unions protect their workers, though, and once the contracts are opened, what happens next?
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Big Board of Ed Meeting tonight -- UPDATE

This was sent to the parents of the Woodbridge Township School District:

Tonight's meeting is a regular monthly meeting of the Board of Education. Although the Board will vote on authorizing the Superintendent to forward a tentative proposed budget to the Executive County Superintendent, the proposed 2010-2011 budget will not be presented. The Superintendent will present the proposed budget Tuesday, March 23, 2010, at the Presidents' Council meeting to be held at 7:00 PM at Colonia Middle School. The Board of Education will hold a budget workshop on Thursday, March 25, 2010, 6:00 PM at Woodbridge Middle School and will have the final budget adoption on Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 7:00 PM at Avenel Middle School.

I think that the "powers that be" have heard about how many people are attending this meeting tonight, and they have released this announcement to try to keep a few of them at home. I'll post again tomorrow.

Big Board of Ed meeting TONIGHT

Tonight, the Woodbridge Board of Education will be meeting at Avenel Middle School The agenda can be found HERE.

It promises to be a crowded, heated, stressful meeting. They are expecting the room to be filled beyond capacity with employees and community members. In fact, although the meeting starts at 7:00 PM, I've heard that if you want to get in, you might have to get there at 6:30.

I plan on getting over there tonight. I'll let you know what I find out.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Iselin's John F. Kennedy Memorial High School

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Iselin is a neighborhood of Woodbridge Township, and JFK High School is a part of the Woodbridge Township School District. There are also two other high schools in our district, Woodbridge High and Colonia High.

I went to JFK back in the old days, and it was OK, not spectacular. Over the years, however, the school has really improved. My own kids went there more recently, and I found it to be a good place for them to get a decent education. It isn't perfect, but the faculty work hard to make it a place where you can find opportunity if you are willing to try.

One reason I believe that the school has become better since I graduated is because the school is much more multi-cultural now. It is not insulated from the rest of the world; students socialize with other students who come from a large variety of backgrounds. There are many different value systems to compare with. In my opinion, too many families in America don't value education enough. Often, it seems that the students coming in from other countries place a different, higher, level of importance on getting good grades. The competition for achieving is much stronger now, and I believe that this is raising the bar for everyone.

A cloud is looming on the horizon, however. The state of New Jersey is going through some serious financial issues. Everyone complains about our taxes. Taxes fund our schools, among other things. The new Governor has pledged to cut taxes, and there has been a lot of discussion about whether the schools should cost the tax payers as much as they do. So Governor Christy is going to make deep cuts to the school systems - ours included. It's hard to say right now what these cuts will mean to the education of our children.

A School Board meeting - open to the general public - will be held on Friday night, and the Avenel Middle School. I will certainly be there to learn more about our fate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Tiny spring flowers popped up almost over night!
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Monday, March 15, 2010

After the storm


We took a ride around and saw some of the trees that blew down after this weekend's storm. Walking outside this afternoon, I could hear chain saws hard at work.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Flooding the Brook

I posted a picture of the brook yesterday, one that I took only a few weeks ago. Not long at all. But it was a very misleading picture - because you'd think there was still snow on the ground. Not at all. March has begun.

Today, the rain is pouring down in buckets. Torrents. More that usual. More than you'd expect. More than we are used to.

The temperature? My partner's estimate is about 42 degrees Fahrenheit. He's a pretty reliable guesser, so I'll go with it.

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This isn't going to be a blog about the weather, but it's a pretty good place to start, especially today, when flooding is news.

Bridge over the Brook


It was a snowy winter this year. I'm glad it's warming up and the snow is gone.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

What is this blog about, anyway?

A week or two ago, someone I really respect said to me, "ya know, no one is taking care of Iselin. There are people who look out for the best interests of Woodbridge, or of Colonia, even Avenel, but who's lookin' out for Iselin?"

And I thought about it for a while, and I kinda agreed.

I grew up here. I love my home town.

I grew up in Iselin when almost everyone here was either Italian, or Irish, or Polish, or some combination... When almost everyone went to St. Cecelia's... When it was a working class town.

Iselin's changed a lot over the years. And change is hard. It isn't the sleepy little town we grew up in. But it's got a lot going for it, even so. I want to speak for those of us who live here now, and still love it. And since it's MY blog, I can pretty much say whatever I want.

And what I want to say is this: Haters are NOT WELCOME. This is a place to be positive. Like my mother always said - and yours probably did too - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

C'mon, people. It's time to be PROUD.