Saturday, October 28, 2023

A Creepy Thirty Minutes

from a neighbor's yard

As far as I'm concerned, Halloween could be wiped off the calendar and I would never miss it. Pumpkin pie (with Cool Whip, of course!), cheery pumpkins on the front porch, and all the other seasonal foods along with the changing colors on the trees -- that stuff can remain, I am not one to (as Gary phrased it) "embrace the ghoul" but with today's post I am sharing snapshots taken in our retirement community.

from Sue's yard

Gary doesn't get into the nightmarish themes either, although in his younger days he was into the "trick" of Trick or Treat. I learned the other day over our first cup of morning coffee that he and his teen friends pushed over a couple of outhouses in his semi-rural neighborhood. Hmmmm. 

Arlington neighborhood display

Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised because he is the third-born in a family of four sons (no sisters). He has told me when he and his brothers got into a scuffle, their mother would just tell them to "take it outside," and continued with whatever she was doing at the time. (The woman obviously knew how and when to choose the battles with her sons.)

Flipping for Fairfield

Sister and I (no brothers) were certainly not perfect, but by comparison, the two of us were "goody two-shoes," not prone to serious mischief. I can think of two times Sister was naughty.

As grade schoolers we were fussing at each other about something now long-forgotten. She hauled off and slugged me in the stomach so hard that it knocked the wind out of me and for the first time in my life, I faced possible death. Lucky for her, as she pleaded with me to not tell Mommy and Daddy, I managed to get my second wind and therefore lived to tattle on her now, these six decades later.

Ghosts and Ghouls on Strike

Her other misdeed was when as teens we were just sitting down to lunch with our mother. My freshly-shampooed hair was in curlers all over my head (this was in the 1960's). A boy I had met in youth group just the night before rang our doorbell, wanting to visit me. Since we were ready to eat lunch, my mother invited him to join us. 

It was an uncomfortable time for me, hair all bound up with those pink plastic rollers and metal clippies. To break the awkward silence over sandwiches, Sister asked me how many radio stations I could pick up with all that metal on my head!!

Black Cat blow-up a couple of blocks over

Ah well, fun as these stories are, now I will move into the Creepy Thirty Minutes mentioned in my post title. The other night I accidentally dropped my daily pro-biotic capsule down the bathroom sink. Even with my quick reaction, I was not able to grab it quickly enough before it just rolled out of sight down the drain. There was no retrieving it. 

Sebastian's contest entry

I reasoned that since it was a plastic capsule of powder, I should turn the hot water faucet on all the way so the plastic would dissolve and flush everything on through the system.

from the residents of Buckhead

However, that didn't work as well as I hoped. A sink full of water would drain, but it was a s-l-o-w process. There was nothing left for me to do but to confess my blunder to the master of the house. He was already settled into his recliner for an evening of TV, so I quickly followed up my dilemma with my willingness to wait until the next day to fix the problem. That bathroom has two sinks.


He agreed the matter could wait and so the creepy part of my story began the following afternoon. We removed everything stored underneath the sink and Gary proceeded to loosen the plumbing parts that connect pipes in two locations to removed the trap from the system.

"Go Weston, Young Man" 

He asked for some raggy towels kept in the garage, which I quickly fetched in time for him to catch the drips and the grayish yuck. Handing the trap to me, which was full of slimy water, he instructed me to empty it outside. 

the Greeter to our +55 community

With brave face, quick steps and trying to not spill the nasty brew on the carpet and tile, I followed his instructions with success. At another sink Gary flushed out the trap and wiped it nearly spotless with a paper towel, leaving me to disinfect the sinks, which I was more than eager to do.

another Welcome

With the skill of a homeowner who can do just about any task based on experience and sheer ingenuity, the pipes were fitted back together, the fix was tested, and everything was put back under the sink. 

created by the club for pet owners

You're probably clicking your tongue by now and thinking, "That wasn't sooo bad." Well, read on.

entry by the Theater Club

I had just finished disinfecting the sinks when I saw Gary on the lanai with the pink fly swatter, over by a window he had opened. That meant only one thing: he was dealing with a Gecko inside the house. Clever little monsters that they are, they find the smallest openings in the window screens to enter the house.

from the Wine Club

Once again donning my Assistant's Apron (we've been through this before), I grabbed a paper towel and ran it over to my Protector. He will not abide with a Gecko inside the house, but there is a merciful gene in him that will pick up the creature as best he can with the paper towel and carry it outside to the grass to live or die (whichever the case may be).

the Volley Ball League

We have played out that scenario many times and although it's not a heart-stopping activity, it's not pleasant. By then I thought we were done with distasteful things. Nope, not yet.

a delicious display by the Kitchen Club

Back at the window where the Gecko had been apprehended, Gary spied a snake outside (yes, at least it was OUTSIDE) very near the back door entrance. 

Garden Club members

Admittedly, the snake was very tiny, possibly just a little older than newly-hatched, but a snake is a snake. Had it not been for Gary's keen eye sight, I might have not even noticed it. But the body language of a snake cannot be mistaken for anything else. And it was, as I said, kinda near the door from the patio to the enclosed lanai.

a zip line demonstration by the 
Outdoor Adventure Club

A metal pole was nearby, so once again my Hero carried out the brave and most decisive actions to  protect me and the homestead from evil.  A merciful response was not on his mind for this intruder. Beating the [really tiny] head to death, he carried out the deed and then disposed of the [really tiny] body behind our yard, beyond our property line. Should the [really tiny] victim be 'mostly dead' (quoting from The Princes Bride here) and attempt to crawl its way back to our house, well, that just seems highly unlikely.

a beautiful welcome inside our activity center

As the title of this post says, the sink, Gecko, and snake activities all took place within about 30 minutes that afternoon. It was truly a creepy time but after that calm was restored.
I am reminded of another really scary time nearly three years ago when I was recently widowed. It didn't take much at all during that first year to spook me with fear, misgivings, doubt, worry and so forth. Although I had been a Believer in the Lord since early childhood, my faith was put to the test like no other time before. 

Then one day I was in Hobby Lobby when I saw this piece of home decor:

a purchase from Hobby Lobby

The term, "shopping therapy," took on greater significance that day. I knew God was speaking, encountering me at my greatest point of need. 

And He has been faithful to take care of me. The experiences have not been easy at times, but in looking back I can see His faithfulness to get me through the tough times. He has used people, circumstances, sermons, podcasts, and just a gradual personal maturing about life to bring me through. I'm so grateful.

I am wiser for the experiences, too. 

Until next time, grace and peace.

autumn decor outside our ball room

Sunday, October 22, 2023

A Little Dry Humor

(Google Water Color Lilies)

Recent weeks have bombarded us with news of political unrest, both here and abroad. In my personal journal, the past seven days have recorded thoughts about politics, medicine, finances, the law, behavioral science -- all ponderous matters that can bully peace. 

On this blog I continue to make few comments on politics because my calling is more toward cheer, encouragement, and reminders to seek God in all things. 

With that said, I am sharing just a little of the law enforcement experiences my Gary has told me from his first eleven years serving in military police, when he was a much younger man. After those assignments, he moved on to investigative work for the next thirty years. 

You need not recoil with this introduction to what I'm addressing. In keeping with my desire to cheer my readers, I'll share nothing gory or distasteful but rather my husband’s dry humor as a traffic cop.

Belgium, 1971

Case One

Gary: Good morning, ma'am. I stopped you because you were going 45 in a 25 mile per hour zone. 

Woman: Are you going to write me a ticket?

Gary: Yes, ma’am. 

Woman: Don’t you know who I am? 

Gary: No, but after you give me your driver’s license and ID I will.

Woman: My husband’s going to kill me!

Gary: We cover that, too. 

Case Two

Gary: Good afternoon, ma’am. I am citing you for parking in front of a No Parking sign.

Woman: But it’s Christmas Eve!

Gary: Merry Christmas.

Case Three

Gary: You did not stop at that stop sign.

Woman: This will probably help you make your quota for today.

Gary: You know, you’re right!

One More

Some women have been known to adjust their blouse as the officer approaches her car, revealing more ….

Gary tells me that gave them no mercy. None. Ever.

Gary in his retirement

This concludes my brief excursion into law enforcement humor. As we all know, first responders often see an aspect of life that some of us only observe on crime shows, things entailing dreadful darkness.  God instituted government to establish ordered and peaceful social space where not only is judgment carried out, but good is recognized and encouraged. (see I Peter 2:13-17)

Our part, in addition to obeying the law, is to support them with our prayers and respect.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Much Ado About Somebody


water color birthday cake

Continuing my habit of finding water color images on the Internet to begin new blog posts, there were so many from which to choose that I finally had to just pick one and go with it. 

I made "much ado" about Gary's birthday this week and it was such fun! Since we both are advanced in our years 🤭 and are not lacking for anything, we decided early in our relationship that experiences would be given in the place of gift-wrapped presents. 

our rented canoe

With the help of Rainbow River Canoes and Kayaks, the two of us boarded a canoe to spend four hours on a very peaceful river. Last November we spent a morning with our local Adventure Club on this same river, paddling a shared kayak. This time it was just the two of us.
me modeling "canoe fashion"

In addition to the canoe, we were given two oars and life jackets, which they said we did not have to wear. Since I am not a strong swimmer, I opted to wear mine. I'll just say what you're probably thinking: the fashion lines of the thing do me no favors. It was the life-saving benefits that outweighed all else in this case. 

the shuttle bus hauling our canoe

As was required with our catamaran boat adventure a couple of weeks ago, we wore our water shoes and clothing that would serve us well should we end up in the drink (which we did not).

sun glasses

At the boat ramp this extensive collection of sun glasses embellished the trunk of a tall palm tree. We did not ask but our guess is these have been lost over the years by other guests, perhaps dropped into the water. With swimmers and shallow depths, people have probably retrieved them and this is the result.

the Captain of the Canoe

The young man who launched us from the shore told us whoever sits in back is the Captain, presumably meaning the one in charge, the one who determines which direction we will go, and so forth (however, according to my guy, he knows how not to push it). The Birthday Boy got that honor, which elicited no argument from me. He had been on a canoe before while this was yet another entirely new experience for me. 

good help is hard to find these days

It became clearly evident from the start that Gary's shipmate was nearly useless for moving the canoe in the right direction, which was upstream. Near the end of our four hours afloat, I finally got the hang of it: paddle on the left to go right and paddle on the right to go left. That makes no sense to me, but then, I don't have to be an expert on everything, now do I? 

Rainbow River

Scenes like this are common in Florida. There is so much water where the trees have stood upright for centuries. These are probably Cypress trees. Look at those thick roots anchoring trees that are several stories high. You see the Spanish Moss draped from the branches blowing gently in the wind. It is absolutely idyllic. After having lived in the high altitude, semi-desert climate and landscapes of the Rocky Mountain west, scenes such as this look to me like something out of a movie. 

turtles stacked on a log

We were told to expect to see turtles, birds, otters, and possibly a reclusive gator. The turtles "got the memo" and showed up often along the way. Usually where there was one, there were two, or even four. They must enjoy company while sun bathing.

bird on a branch

There were plenty of birds, although I can't seem to photograph them very well. See the big black thing with the beige head perched on a branch (pretty much center of the picture). A lot of them will sit there with their wings fully extended to allow their feathers to dry out. They look like they are airing out their armpits! 🤭 They need to dry off because they dive into the water, staying submerged for some time in their hunt for lunch. 

This scruffy-looking guy didn't have time to smooth his ruffled feathers before I took his picture. We watched one with a small fish in his mouth but I didn't catch that on my phone's camera.

otter art from Rainbow River Canoes and Kayaks

We saw some otters, too, but they were kind of behind us and out of sight by the time I got myself turned to look at them. We were told some people try to pet them but you don't want to feed or pet them because they will bite! 

There were plenty of ducks, of course, and then this odd looking sight: 

This is one of the [human] swimmers/divers sharing the water with us. The smart ones have this red-and-white flag on a small buoy following them so boaters can avoid them. 

homes along the shore

There were many houses, cabins, and rentals along the water's edge, some quite large and grand, and others much smaller and humble. Nearly all of them had their own dock.

One particular large property had this wonderful tree house:

tree house

To get back to the river itself, from the headwaters to where it ends is 5.7 miles. Underground springs bubble up to create the river at the north end. The water eventually meets up with another, bigger river, the Withlacoochee. Until they meet up, the Rainbow River's water is clear enough that one can easily see the bottom, ten to 25 feet below.

Where we boarded our canoe, we were about a mile and a half from the headwaters. We, uh, correction, GARY paddled us upstream, making it look effortless and especially when he had to correct my misguided attempts to help steer straight. While that was a gentle ride (boats are not allowed to cause a big wake), for that distance the Birthday Boy used a lot of muscle and he said "it wore me out!!"

At the headwaters we turned 180 degrees and headed downstream the 5+ miles to the Withlacoochee River. At day's end Gary figured our distance on the water came to just over 7 miles. 

As we traveled with the current, there was no need to paddle vigorously. We felt like we were moving very slowly, but when we watched the landscape on the riverbank go past, it was clear we were making significant progress. 

gourds on a swing set

I took this picture of the gourds for my Arizona friend, Loraine. We were in conversation recently about the creative uses for gourds grown in the garden. These are probably bird houses, with a hole cut on the side (which we can't see in this picture).

Our plan was to have lunch at Swampy's, a very casual grilled burger restaurant on the water's edge. I've mentioned this place before because it's scenic, the food is good enough, and most of the tables are outdoors.

the big rubber ducky

It took a long time to get there as we mostly floated with the current, only occasionally correcting our drift with the oars but eventually the big yellow rubber ducky came into sight. That meant we were getting close to Swampy's. 


We did not stop to eat at that time because we had brought minimal gear with us on the boat, choosing to leave our lunch money locked up back where we began.

Swampy's outdoor dining

But in another hour or so we went back with our car and sat underneath one of these blue umbrellas to order a late lunch. It was a thrill to see the place from the perspective of the water after having been on the shore all the previous times.

under Highway 484

We went under only one bridge. The man who gave us our map said that if we went under more than one bridge, we were in the wrong place and would need to turn around and go back. 

Gary with his burger and fries

Finding our way to the place to return the canoe was a little baffling (some shoreline signage would have been helpful), but by 2:30pm we were at Swampy's sitting underneath a blue umbrella with that yellow rubber ducky in view.

a blurry selfie

The night before, on "birthday eve," we began the party (just the two of us) with a small ice cream cake purchased at Publix. As you can see, the cake is very small and to add the appropriate number of candles would have been, well, you know (too much!!), so I sang "Happy Birthday" to Gary and he blew out his one candle.

I don't mind telling you that this small cake was the perfect size for just the two of us, providing 4 servings that were not too large, not too small but just right! We enjoyed half of the cake that evening. The cake was just under $17, which for the specialness of an ice cream cake seemed priced right to me. 

Weeks before this time, I ordered 2 photo paper weights of us that were just the right size to decorate the top of the cake. He loved that!

On birthday morning, Gary opened the cards that had come to our mailbox and a gift. He received many greetings via social media (emails, FaceBook, and texts).

It blows my mind to realize this is the second year I've been able to celebrate with Gary on his birthday. Where does the time go?!!! As they say, time flies when you're having fun!

This is the day the Lord has made,
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Until next time, grace and peace.

Anniversary Celebration on Jekyll Island

Our two-year anniversary celebration took us to Jekyll Island this week. Here is my album of memories. cover of free visitor guide If you do...