Friday, September 29, 2023

A Happy Life


water color pumpkins - Internet art

Although this week has not had a lot of wild action like the one before, plenty of pictures have been taken to assemble a report. 

Well, wait; I take that back. MY week has gone calmly enough but Gary has seen some wild action.

My guy occupied the dentist's chair TWICE this week. The first appointment was to diagnose the issue and to schedule the date for repair, which was to be next week.

However to his delight consternation, the dentist's office called to say they could fit him in sooner.... he was not excited about that. After the fact, he described the procedure as "paying a lot of money to get water boarded."  He tells me they had to stop the drilling, yanking, and other horrors because he was gurgling with all the water hosed into his mouth. Yeah, well, so he says.

I have no photos of that since I chose to not accompany him that day. I have no desire to hear my guy screaming like a girl, so I just stayed home. 

shopping at Hobby Lobby

Moving on to more pleasant topics and returning to the highlights of MY week, I got to spend some quality time in Hobby Lobby one afternoon while Gary took the Toyota in for it's well-baby check. Oh. Gary is correcting me (he is my proof-reader); it was to get the car serviced (oil change, tire rotation, etc). 

our front porch

I've been thinking I should add some seasonal color to the front of our house but wanted to keep it simple and not too big (because storage of seasonal decor can take up a lot of closet space). I came home with a wood pumpkin that is heavy enough to not easily blow off the table if a gust of wind comes up.

my breakfast this week

Speaking of pumpkins, 'tis the season, is it not?! Cheerios are my cereal of choice. On a recent grocery trip Gary spotted this box of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, BOGO, no less! Both boxes are now occupying space in our pantry. While I am enjoying this taste sensation, I do wonder if by the end of the second box I may be tired of it. We'll see. (BOGO = buy one, get one)

Sister's homemade pumpkin pie

My Sister absolutely loves pumpkin pie. She made this one yesterday. Gary was so impressed that when we went shopping he chose a ready-made version (no, I don't make pies much these days) and last night we called it Supper. Hey! It's got milk, eggs, squash.... major food groups were fulfilled.

our back yard

In case some of you question my nutritional choices these days (popcorn for supper, as well as ice cream, and now pie), I will explain. My two now-deceased aunts-in-law (translation: Beloved's two never-married aunts) impressed on my newlywed self to be very conscientious about how I fed my family. They were thoroughly successful in convincing me to serve a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, limit the red meat, and cook from scratch when reasonable. My grown children can tell you how I made amazing concoctions out of tofu, I juiced all manner of fresh produce, made the most awful-tasting green smoothies, and scented our home with freshly-baked bread from a machine. 

Well, those people no longer live with me and now have their own families to feed. I, in the meantime, am retired after having lived a long healthy life. I feel I can stray from the rigidity of the organic food stores now. Gary has taught me to eat a simple breakfast, a hearty lunch of good quality food, and a snack-type (or dessert) supper. My weight is where I want it to be and my clothes fit. 

Alas, I have sort of strayed here .... I posted the photo of our back yard with the intent to say that in addition to riding our bikes between 4 and 4 1/2 miles nearly every day, followed by a walk of 1.3 miles and then yard work we do ourselves, we feel the enjoyment of pumpkin pie for supper on occasion is not a bad thing.

We bought 6 new bushes this week and I supervised while Gary dug the holes to plant each one. Four of them are in the above snapshot. 

This picture, below, was taken from the lanai, through the window screen, thus it's not great photo quality. Of course, had I run outside with my camera, I could not have even got a picture this good.

a Great While Egret?

My birdie friends can comment as to what bird this is. You see my guess. They are tall, extremely skinny and very bold as they walk through our yards as if they have a right to trespass. But they do no harm that I'm aware of (and they make good blog fodder).

The last event of this past week that merits my writing is brunch today with Kathlene. She was my partner (or I was her partner?) as we served as greeters at my last mega church. She taught me how to smile, be nice, and direct people to the worship center, the rest rooms, the coffee pots, etc. Although I decided to move to a smaller congregation, our friendship continues and today we got to spend real live "face time" with each other.


She introduced me to a place that has been in existence for a long time, but it's definitely new to me, BD Beans Coffee Company. Eclectic is the word to describe it with decorated mannikins throughout, hand-painted designs on the walls, innovative chandeliers, taxidermied animals, and more, much more to fascinate the eyes (some of it, admittedly, kinda racy 😆 🤭 🙄). But we are big girls and we can handle it with tactful grace.

Kathlene had the French Toast which earned her 1st place in the Clean Your Plate Club, and I was runner-up with my choice of the quiche special of the day. Neither of us left the place hungry.

one of many unique tables at BD Beans Coffee Co.

They are known for their coffee and mine was wonderful although I have to admit I forget what kind I got. Three choices were available today, a dark roast, medium roast, and a milder selection (which was mine).
one of the other diners

Interesting people frequent this place, some more intellectual. Others of us just show up for the food.

decor just above my head

Before I complete descriptions of this eatery, you need to see this guy on the wall who watched my every move. I did not let him bother me. 

Oh, speaking of guys hanging close by, I'm going to segue into something Gary said to me recently when he was kissing me good night. He is such a charmer. 

"You're too cute today.
I can't believe I took you out in public.
I took a big chance."

Yeah, he said that. I swooned while most of you may be groaning. But I like that kind of stuff. He makes me laugh every single day. This picture (below) was taken almost a year ago to the day to illustrate the joy we embrace. When you go through the hard stuff of life, laughter is truly a gift from God! When our late spouses passed, neither of us ever dreamed we would find someone new to love and put a smile on our faces.

us at Alex and Alexa's wedding

This picture was taken at the wedding of one of Gary's grandsons. I bring this post to a close with the delightful news that the newlyweds announced this week a baby is due in March. This will be Gary's third great-grandchild! And this again makes me a [step] great-grandmother! Wow.

announcement on their FB page

This is it. I've said it all for this week. I hope my readers have smiled, maybe chuckled, and agreed that we all need to find the good things in the ordinary things of our days.

Bless the Lord,
O my soul,
And all that is within me,
Bless His holy name.
Psalm 103:1

Until next time, grace and peace to you.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Returning to Adventure

water lilies

This weekend we welcome autumn after surviving another Florida summer with its heat and humidity. Having spent years in the high altitude dryness of the Rocky Mountains, the coast of southern California and the coolness of the Pacific Northwest, adjusting to the humidity of the South has been a discipline of my will. But it's been six years since bidding adios to Denver, so I'm okay with this sticky climate (as long as there is air conditioning).

I-70 traveling west into the Rocky Mountains,
a very familiar sight to residents of Denver

This past week we went on an adventure. We've done some exciting things together (and maybe surprising, considering our age) over the nearly two years since Gary and I met -- riding an air boat, zip lines, kayaking, bicycling, bocce, road trips to Illinois, Minnesota, Charleston, and Christmas at Daytona Beach. 

However, this summer the daring activities were put on hold because Gary was recovering from an adventure of another sort: four broken ribs. Now he is recovered and September is here, so the daring activities resume!

Catboat Escapes

In mid-summer the Outdoor Adventure Club of our +55 Active Adult Retirement Community went to Catboat Escapes in Clermont. We could not go but made a note to ourselves to keep it in mind for a later date. 

us in our boat before launching

This place is well over an hour's drive south of us. The freeways to get there are often heavy with the traffic racing to Orlando, so we planned to get up at "o'dark early" to get ready and out the door. As it turned out, we both must have been excited because we woke up an hour sooner than planned, got our coffee, watched the news over breakfast, and still got out the door before the sun was up. 

sign on the Catboat property

We arrived in plenty of time to make a stop for a muffin before meeting up with our guide for instructions. Grace is a beautiful  young woman who grew up on the very lake where we launched and was very knowledgeable about everything we saw and experienced. 

The first thing we did was to meet with other customers for instructions and to pose for the first of several photos taken of us. The boats are small catamarans that hold only two people. One person does the driving and the other holds the walkie talkie that Grace used to give us instructions while on the water.

For those who may not know, here is Wikipedia's definition of a catamaran: "a watercraft with two parallel hulls of equal size. The distance between a catamaran's hulls imparts resistance to rolling and overturning. Catamarans typically have less hull volume, smaller displacement, and shallower draft than monohulls of comparable length."
Internet photo of a much larger catamaran;
note the two hulls
Our guide told us we could wear hats if we wanted but warned it would be very windy and we most definitely would get wet. With that revelation, we tucked Gary's hat in one of the two water-proof compartments on the boat. My visor is very snug with velcro straps at the back, so I was okay.

Gary wearing his hat

me with my snug-fitting visor

We had been told when we made our reservations on-line to expect to get wet, so in this picture (below) you see Gary's red water shoes. That indentation below his feet got filled with fast-rushing water once we got moving, so yes, we got wet but the water temperature was perfect and it felt very good.

Gary's water shoes, expecting to get wet!

It had been years since I last wore my water shoes. When I unpacked them in preparation for this trip, they were cracked badly (very badly) so I threw them out and wore the Keens sandals that I wear for bicycling (and used to wear for mountain hiking). They are constructed for wet and dry and held up perfectly for boating.

my shoes

While I'm on the subject of wardrobe, Gary wore shorts and a T-shirt, and I wore my black spandex biker shorts with a yellow-green T-shirt -- wanting to ensure I could be easily seen if I ended up in the water. Catboat Escapes provided a simple float vest that we could inflate easily if necessary. It was not bulky at all and although I am not a good swimmer, I felt safe with it. We both wore sun screen and due to the warning we would get wet, I left my hearing aids at home.

The boats have two water-proof compartments for snacks, water, and wallets, etc. We brought our wallets in locking zipper bags. I would have taken more snapshots but my fear of dropping my phone into the water was strong enough for me to restrict much picture-taking.

our guide's boat

We were told Grace would lead us in her boat through a canal leading to a large lake. We progressed through that with Grace pointing out flora and fauna of interest, and sharing an occasional memory from her childhood of growing up on that very lake.

one of the lakes we toured

We learned alligators were certainly out there but unless they are in the illegal habit of being fed by humans, they usually are hiding along the water's edge. Gators are not normally attracted to humans unless they are being threatened, or have come to expect food from them. I did not know that, so my fear of them was eased [slightly] with that information.

Cypress tree -- one of many

The Cypress trees were not only thick along the water's edge, but some stood out in the middle all alone. This fascinates me. These trees are very old, some 800 to a thousand years!! We learned that although the water may look dirty, that is actually a red tannin that the Cypress trees give off, like a "tea." We could see it easily behind our boat, where the motor was churning the water.

red tannin from the Cypress trees 
colors the water

We saw birds, water lilies, lily pads, Spanish Moss draped from towering Oak branches gently swaying in the breeze -- it was absolutely beautiful and such a far cry from the dry arid climate of my past. I found it to be entrancing.

This picture (above) was taken by our guide while Gary was driving. But shortly after that, we [very carefully!!] traded places so I could drive. 

There was no steering wheel, but the driver has a stick on their right side to move forward and backward to regulate the speed. Then between the two of us was another stick that steered us to the right or left. Gary was able to manage both of these easily but when my turn came, just dealing with the speed was enough for me to handle, so he did the steering. 

We were in the biggest lake when this picture was taken. At the last we were given about 20 minutes to ourselves, free to putz around slowly or to cut loose and FOR ME to go "full throttle" at high speed with the wind and water in our faces. At times we hit the wake so hard that I couldn't see a thing through my water-splashed glasses. But we were out in the middle with other boats so far away that it was not a danger. The prediction of getting wet was thoroughly fulfilled but we didn't care at all. In the meantime, Gary was screaming like a girl!! (not!)

our hair blew all over

We were told at Christmastime the homes along the canals and lakes do a fine job of decorating with lights (although the thrill of getting wet may lose it's appeal if the weather is not summer-like). Most (if not all) of the houses have their own boat docks and some are large enough to have furniture, barbecue grills, and other water toys. All the houses looked large, which would be necessary because you would need to expect guests in such a fun place.

The cost for this adventure was about $100 for each person for two full hours of action, education, and pure fun -- money well spent.

Our fun started at 9am, so shortly after 11am we were back in our car and heading home with a stop at Burger King for lunch and also the cemetery to visit the graves of our dear ones, since it was on the way.

We both are so happy together and thankful for our relationship but at the same time we remember with gratitude the many blessings of our late spouses. 

People told us the sting of grief would lessen over time. That is true, but there will always be a tenderness as we think about them. 

Until next time, grace and peace.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Nehemiah 8:10

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

From One Topic to Another


water color American flag

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

During my walk earlier this week, an Eagle was sitting at the highest point of a neighbor's roof, overlooking the lake. Almost as quickly as I saw him, he took off but flew only two houses over, again perching at the highest point, facing the lake.

We see birds of all kinds here in Florida, year around, taking their station on top of the houses where they can see far and wide. Although the Eagle is quite a sight to see, what amazes me the most is when a long-legged Sand Hill Crane will stand atop a roof point, looking somewhat like a TV antennae.

a Sand Hill Crane,
Internet photo

A thought from the Old Testament often comes to mind when I see birds up there: 

For the eyes of the LORD

run to and fro throughout the whole earth,

to shew himself strong in the behalf

of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

II Chronicles 16:9 (KJV)

That verse makes me want to jump up and down waving my hands in the air, "See me! See me!" But that's not necessary. God is looking and He sees me. I am so glad.

9/11 Remembrance

our flag on 9/11 this week

The week began with somber memories of 9/11. On that day I had just turned off my TV when the phone rang. One of my daughters in law didn't even say "hello" but went straight to the matter at hand:

"Is your TV turned on?"

I reached over to switch it on in time to see a replay of what had apparently just happened, an airliner flying smack into the side of a sky scraper in New York City.

When the second plane hit the next tower, it was looking like this was more of an attack than the error of a misguided pilot. The words to an old hymn came to mind:

O God, our help in ages past

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.

(words by Isaac Watts)

I really thought 9/11 was the beginning of the end, with a rapid decline in the quality and safety of life here in America and the Rapture and the advent of the seven years of tribulation to quickly follow. 

While we've had innumerable changes imposed on all of us since that day in an effort to protect us all and to preserve and rebuild what is left, I now marvel that here we are, 22 years later, still very much alive and functioning much the same as before that terrible day. It is a testament of God's mercies on those of us who remain. 

An Example of Personal Mercy

Tough stuff happens to everybody. I am amazed at how the Lord has taken care of me and mine in the nearing 3 years since Beloved died. A striking example of God's goodness to me took place recently.

Literally weeks before Beloved's unexpected passing, I got my first pair of hearing aids. They are top-of-the-line and have wonderful benefits, few of which I cared about except to just hear better. A follow-up appointment was scheduled to see if I had any problems or questions.

Then the bottom fell out of my life with COVID, Beloved's passing, et al. I cancelled the follow-up appointment for obvious reasons. Later I re-scheduled and although things went well, the stresses of this huge loss in my life overpowered my ability to handle anything new, and I stopped wearing the hearing aids. They were safely tucked away.

Marcie from Charles Schultz's Peanuts cartoons
-- she and I share some similarities

Those who know me are well aware that after the initial year without Beloved, my life took a marvelous turn for the better when Gary came into my life. 

The hearing aids were still packed away but I knew I really should be using them, and especially because they are of really good quality. I tried to charge them up, but they were dead. I was afraid to take them into the dealer where they were issued, assuming it would be at great cost to me, even with my insurance. This summer I've had a lot of snail mail and automated phone calls regarding hearing aids -- all of which fueled my worries about what I should do.

Even with the grief and huge life changes I had experienced, it was irresponsible of me to ignore this wonderful benefit of the hearing aids.

But then the Lord's mercies came into play. I saw somewhere that the hearing aids I have are under warranty and it would expire in late October. I mustered up my courage and made an appointment to humbly address the issue with the people in the office where I had got  them.

Hearing Aids and Cookies

Apricot Hammantschen

The visit to the hearing aid place went very well. Because they were under warranty (and because the staff are really, really great people), my hearing aids were replaced with brand new ones, a new warranty, and a review of how it all works.

In all this talk about ears, I was reminded of a Bible study years ago of Queen Esther. If you are familiar with the story, then you know Haman was the "bad guy." Jewish people recount the story when they celebrate Purim and often the celebration includes these Apricot Hammantschen, a special cookie. 

This Sephardic pastry looks like a three-cornered hat but the goodies are also reminiscent of the human ear, Haman's ears, in particular. As the story is told to the children, these cookies are served. 

my effort at Haman's ears
cooling on the kitchen table

To add to the appeal of these cookies for the sake of the children, the recipe calls for Apricot jam as the filling. Do you know why? (smile)

Over our morning coffee I was telling Gary of my plans to bake these cookies. He wanted me to use the blackberry jam we had in the pantry but I insisted on apricot preserves. Since he pressed me on this, I told him the reason apricot is required: it represents the wax in Haman's ears.


That's what Gary said, but it's true. Look it up. But to appease my man, I made half the recipe with my apricot preserves and half with Gary's blackberry jam.  As you can see, my cookies are decidedly not pretty, but the taste is the same. 

Gary proofreads all my blog posts

In Closing

This sums up our last few days. I'm hoping my Editor approves of today's content. He not only checks my writing for typos and grammar, but he is a ready source of "blog fodder," with today being no exception. My dear man has to be on his guard at all times -- he never knows when his picture is being taken or his activities will be reported in an exaggerated form. 

a selfie

I thank you all for your comments, observations, and encouragement. Journaling via a blog has been incredibly helpful as I navigate through all that "hits the fan" in my life, so to speak. 

It was good for me to be afflicted

so that I might learn Your decrees.

The law from Your mouth is more precious to me

than thousands of pieces of gold.

Psalm 119:71-72

Until next time, grace and peace.

P.S. Returning to the subject of Sand Hill Cranes, this snapshot was taken of me on Christmas Day 2017 when I had a "following" of 2 of these birds in my daughter's neighborhood. These birds are very tame.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Comfortable Routines

Google Bicycle Water Color

It is late on Friday afternoon as I begin this post but I don't expect to complete and publish it until Saturday or Sunday. There's about half an hour to fill here before we begin our usual "Friday Night Date Night," and getting a start on a blog post seems the perfect "filler."

I really like water color art and have recently discovered how easy it is to find free examples of this on the Internet to supplement my blog posts. Water color has such a gentleness to it, not harsh or sharp. 

Regarding this week's water color, my readers know Gary and I ride our bicycles nearly every morning of the week...

a selfie of our shadows

I took this snapshot during the first of our two water breaks. Creatures of habit, we usually take the same route and stop at the same two places for a few sips of water during the 45-minute ride. Gary carries the water bottle in a clasp-thing on his bike.

You can't see them in this picture, but if you look at the grassy distance to the left of the STOP sign, there are cows grazing for breakfast. Some homes in our 55+ community back up to pasture lands, some homes have a lake behind them, some trees and the homes of fellow residents, and then there are those like us back up to tree-lined street. It's all quite beautiful.

Gary's friend sent us this cartoon the other day. Can you, like us, relate?

from a friend

I don't even need to ask. I KNOW Gary and I are not alone in our agreement that this is a statement illustrating life for many of us in the senior crowd. In spite of what AI (artificial intelligence) may say, life is not as simple as it used to be. 

Moving from Friday afternoon to Saturday...

Friday night supper

My typing hit a pause late yesterday afternoon so we could begin our usual habit of "Friday Date Night." Unless we have tickets for a music concert at the neighboring retirement community, we seldom leave the house after dark (or when it would be dark on our arrival at home). We just like it that way. We're seniors. We can give ourselves a sunset curfew if we want.

Anyway, the menu for Friday night supper is "Gary's World Famous Popcorn." He's been making popcorn on the stove since he was a kid living at home with his parents in Idaho. The stained, warped metal pot he uses is nearly as old as I am. Afterwards we pick our teeth with those little plastic disposable brushes (oh yeah! This is date night!) while watching the news and then decide on a movie to watch.

what's left of my family's movie collection

Before Gary and I got together, I had two full bookcases between 4 and 5 feet tall of DVD movies that my family of five had collected over the years. As I reduced the volume of my stuff to move into Gary's house, what you see in the above picture is what managed to survive the transition. Now, well over a year later, we've seen probably all the ones Gary is interested in from these shelves, and the rest are my favs (or ones I'm not ready to abandon).

It's been a curious study of men to note what interests one but not the other. Formerly my shelves had a lot of science fiction (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc) and the Rocky Balboa flicks. Gary's preference is more for police stories, and historical war themes, as well as westerns. And classic cars. He definitely appreciates old cars.

Oddly enough for the romantic that he is, the Hallmark Channel just about makes him upchuck 🤮, but he does choose older musicals with Natalie Wood, Debbie Reynolds, Connie Francis, and such. Watching a movie at home is what we do most Friday nights.

blogging from the lanai

Our weather has begun the turn toward the reason many people move to Florida-- our nighttime low temps are now dipping into the upper 60's, which means our daytime highs are more tolerable. Today we had lunch on the lanai, and since then I've taken over that same table to write this blog post. We've got the big windows wide open, fans are whirring, and I can see the red Hibiscus bush just a few feet from where I'm sitting. It's delightful!!

Stacy's Vincas

The cooler air is re-vitalizing neighborhood flowers. We've been waiting to add more blooms and bushes to our back yard, not wanting them to cook in the worst of summer's heat. 

one of our neighbors has decorated for autumn

Returning to the subject of routines, we get our yard work, house chores, appointments and errands done in the mornings, as much as is practically possible. After lunch (and often a nap), we sit on the lanai with books -- mostly biographies. Of late we have learned the details and opinions of Lauren Bacall, Robert Wagner, Haylie Mills, Paul Anka, Billy Crystal, George W. Bush, and Alec Baldwin. I'm about half-way through Mike Lindell's bio (of My Pillow fame). 

The lives of these personalities span many years with adventures from sedate to shocking, and much in-between. While their choices often veer off from what I would deem wise, there are still helpful lessons to be learned and conclusions we can take away from the consequences of their decisions.

a Gecko on our front patio--
one of MANY

In addition to the current biography on my table, I'm adding to my private journal some quotes worthy of further thought or meditation. These are from author Lysa TerKeurst in her study book, Finding I Am:

~ Unrealistic expectations often lead to our greatest frustrations.
~ Don't expect a tidy life.
~ We learn obedience by the things we suffer.

These thoughts basically repeat a theme I've been focused on for months; our Lord warns us to not expect a trouble-free life. 

But with that said, all is not lost. With Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives, He gives meaning, purpose, and significance to all we experience. He tells us this in John 10:10,

The thief comes only to steal 
and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.

Until next time, grace and peace.

P.S. I nearly forgot --- several of my readers did not catch in my last post that I have, indeed found a new church. I ended that discussion with what is apparently subtle confirmation that my search was successful. 

As my friend Loraine phrased it, I have found a church with more of a feel for "shepherding," which is harder to achieve in a mega-church.  I do not mean to criticize the very large congregations. People need to find the church that best fits with their needs and personalities -- all within the framework of an accurate teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not all methods of worship and structuring of organization reach all people. 

Thanks to those who communicated some concern to me about this. All is good.

Proceeding to Father's Day

  junk vehicles in New Mexico (source: FaceBook) This past week has been a reminder of how un-common common sense is and how forethought is ...