Friday, November 24, 2023

Fish Friday


purchased at Belk in 2021

Today's post will be just you and me, sipping [virtual] hot tea and talking about wherever conversation takes us (well, I'll do the talking, since this is written and you are not actually right here). 

I always ask the Lord as I begin a blog post to lead me where He wants this to go. Some of you may be shaking your head and thinking, "No, surely not," given the topics I wander into at times. That's okay. God knows my heart and sees that I mean well even if my scribbles writings go into odd places at times.

It's cool and rainy outside this afternoon. We're sitting in the lanai (also referred to by some as our "Florida room"). Gary has rolled out the space heater. It's making a very low hum; the gentle heat feels cozy. (Most of us in Florida don't have a fireplace.)

Pecan pie from Publix adorned 
generously with Cool Whip

Forgive me for not offering you something to eat with our tea. But again, since this is a virtual dialog, you can get your own nibbles. 

Macy's parade on Thanksgiving morning

I ventured into the topic of food, so I may as well pursue that line of thought. Our Thanksgiving feast was just the two of us here at home during the last half hour or so of the Macy's parade. We enjoyed the usual holiday menu with the exception that our plates were plastic trays from Hungry Man and there was no opportunity to go back for seconds. 🤔

our Thanksgiving dinner 2023

Now before I lose some of you who embrace tradition tightly, let's look at this: easy prep, easy clean-up, only 380 calories per "plate," and that left plenty of room for pecan pie. While the saying, "Gobble till you wobble" is cute, that did not apply to us and we enjoyed the fare guilt-free. 

I did add a can of cranberry sauce to the grocery cart the day Gary chose the TV dinners. We had no dinner rolls. I simply forgot to buy any. You see in the picture that we had Thanksgiving napkins...

purchased at Hobby Lobby in 2021,
back when my grief was very fresh

Anyway, on the subject of tradition, that has been rearranged for me a lot over the past three years out of necessity, practicality, and plain ol' lack of other options. That's okay. A fresh start is sometimes a really good idea.

the feet of  my family
(including 2 Siberian Huskies)

We did gather with extended family this week, on Wednesday, for a hearty meal and a very good visit. None of us live close together geographically, so a mutually-agreed-upon location was chosen, reservations were made, and we had a great time with each other over burgers, chicken wings, salads, and a view of the St. Johns River just a few yards away. My family got to meet Gary and he met with their cheerful approval. I enjoyed watching him interact with them.

us, Gary and me

To respect everybody's privacy, I am not sharing a photo of our crowd here on the blog or FaceBook. You've seen Gary and me plenty of times. Gary found out early on in our relationship that I consider him good "blog fodder," so here we are. The dampness and wind of the day did my hair no favors in this picture, but I don't get as bothered about that stuff as I used to.

fading Zinnias in my neighborhood

The traffic that day, Wednesday, was unpleasant at times but we saw no collisions. A British acquaintance of mine, Mr. Victor S E Moubarak,  put the following on his blog regarding thankfulness from dangers:

"... all the saving miracles He has performed for us throughout our lives; whether we know of them or not. Saving graces from so many dangers and evils that we know little or nothing about."
My response to that is a hearty, "Amen!!" As we list those things for which we are grateful during this holiday of Thanksgiving, we should remember we have been spared much that we know nothing about. 

An especially good (and accurate) photo of him

This is my segue into a big part of my week that I cannot overlook. On Wednesday my family and I made note of my late husband's birthday, and tomorrow (November 25th) will mark three years since an angel whisked him out of an ambulance en route to hospice to Heaven. Our wedding anniversary will pop up in a few weeks, followed by Christmas. The holiday season is not what it used to be.

another Hobby Lobby purchase from 2021

Does it get any easier? In my case, yes, it has, but the scars of loss remain. When someone makes as positive of an imprint on lives as Tom did, it's impossible to just shrug that off and go on. So I honor him and the memories he left behind.

jigsaw puzzle currently on our dining room table

The first year was very hard as none of us anticipated his passing. I struggled a lot to get my footing, even with my life-long Christian faith. Some people (including myself) question choices I made but when a person is in the depths of grief, EVERYTHING looks very different and pretty much not in a good way. The pain is severe and desperation sets in with the intention of erasing the hurt. 

I will just say this: those who have not experienced this cannot possibly understand to the full extent what this feels like. We must not judge the hurting. The struggle is real. Loving compassion, patience, and sometimes just a silent companionship are about the best we can do for them as they weather the worst of times.

Jesus goes after His own
(Internet photo)

While time, in itself, does not heal, I am learning God uses the passage of time as a balm to soothe and gradually distance the hurt so we can once again see clearly and find equilibrium again.

Our Lord also brings new people, places, and circumstances that serve to transform the grieving into someone new. 

Gary and me at
Catboat Escapes

Those who knew me before and continue to follow me now have seen the transformation from a rather sedate needle-working woman often sequestered in her sewing room or on the computer into a sportswoman of sorts who bicycles, kayaks, canoes, zip-lines, plays bocce and has an occasional [small] glass of wine, seldom cooks (except to bake and make salads), and has loosened up on some very strict thinking. (I have given up Tofu and never make my famous green smoothies for breakfast. I continue to be blessed with wonderful health.)

I have seen the faithfulness of God to an extent perhaps not so necessary before grief landed in my lap. While my life before had its ups and downs like everyone else, I now see I was actually sheltered from a lot. 

One of the most enduring legacies my late husband left with us is his love and appreciation for Proverbs 3, verses 5-6. I had this reference put on his grave headstone:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; 
lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will direct your paths.

Recently I saw this verse in a different translation that shed fresh light on its meaning. "Trust in the Lord" means, "Expect God to act."

In progressing through the valley of grief, I have looked for God to act on my behalf and He has done exactly that. During this season of thanksgiving, I am grateful He has, for sure, acted on my behalf. Many times. Oh so many times.

To close on a lighter note, you may wonder why I titled this post, "Fish Friday." 🤭 We are not Catholics here (both Gary and I were raised as Baptists), but we do often have fish (sea food) in some form on this day. Gary knows I especially enjoy shrimp, so because he likes to please me, our lunch today was shrimp with cocktail sauce and a vegetable salad. It was great!

We both have grief over our late spouses, but the Lord has given us to each other and we are sooo blessed! Laughter rings out often in our house.

Gary 'n me at an Elephant Preserve

Until next time, grace and peace.  And let's do tea sometime again, in person! 😋

Sunday, November 19, 2023

A Collection of Blessings

a snowy November 2016

As we think about the topic of thanks and gratitude, FaceBook popped up this snapshot I took at my home in Castle Rock, Colorado several years ago. You see the deep snow building up on the deck furniture. 

Ahhh, Colorado. So beautiful and yet SOMEBODY has to shovel that beautiful white stuff. While the lack of snow at my current home in Florida is not at the very top of my list of thanks, it's not far down the column. The season of my life where I enjoyed snow is over.

a dark rainy afternoon spent on the lanai

It's been rainy and cool here this past week. We were scheduled to get a new roof on Wednesday, but the weather forecasts turned out to be abundantly true, so Gary postponed the project. Hopefully the re-scheduled date for next month will be sunny and dry.

a country rustic-style table runner
from my needlework years

We've had a lot of wind this week, too, which has been a challenge with our bike riding. I came home two days in a row with my shoulders feeling like they were pulled up to my ears -- the muscle strain from riding against the wind was strong.

easy Sudoku

Since I no longer cross stitch, quilt, or embroider these days, I wanted something to do in my recliner besides read, watch TV and eat -- something to challenge to my brain and keep my hands busy. Crossword puzzles bug me when the descriptions are so cryptic.

I watched a Youtube video that explains how to do Sudoku. To my surprise, I find this puzzle a lot of fun. If you are interested, click on this link:


Another project that's kept me busy of late is assembling an album of pictures from our first year together. A good friend gave us an album as a wedding gift but I'm only now getting it together. I've done albums before with the stickers, colored papers, fancy pens and related froo-froo, but that was years ago and I was burned out by the time the last one was completed.

But my story with Gary is akin to a Hallmark movie, so I want to record the highlights. A mountain of snapshots have been reduced to the first twelve months. Now I'm writing descriptions journal-style (not unlike blogging, actually) to slip between the pages of photos. Gary is my editor and proofreader, just as he is for my blog posts.

Hibiscus behind the lanai

This is my seventh holiday season in Florida since leaving Colorado. Every year I comment on my blog about my fascination with flowering bushes and trees at a time of year when much of the country is shoveling snow.

one of the three Mexican Petunia bushes in our yard

The flowers (for me, anyway) make up for the lack of white glittering frost, creating a new definition for holiday decor.

we have white and salmon-colored Azalea bushes

The milky white Azaleas are so pure, tropical-looking. 

red Camelia

I've lost count how many red Camelia bushes Gary has in the front and back yards. They look like roses.

Wood Storks and a pink Spoonbill
beside one of our many lakes

In addition to the many flowers growing here in Florida in November, more birds have arrived, presumably en route to warmer climates, or maybe this is their destination. 

I took this snapshot (above) today during our after-lunch bike ride. Sadly, if you look close you will see a large bird laying on its side, presumably near death. I read that birds have sympathy for their fallen members, so this may be a wake of sorts. 

our tropical back yard

And more on the subject of birds, the "snowbirds" (or "winter visitors" as some call them), are coming back to occupy their homes in our neighborhood. (I'm referring to humans) It's something like college kids coming back to town in time for the traditional school year. I like it better when our neighbors are here, more smiling faces and people to visit. This is the ebb and flow of living in a retirement community in a sub tropical climate.

sidewalk chalk gratitude

One of our neighbors has a method of showing her thanks with sidewalk chalk. This composition of gratitude on the apron of her driveway was one of many cheery messages that put a smile on my face until the rain scrubbed it all off.

autumn decor in our amenities center

In addition to these blessings I've shared, we've got family, church, a pantry full of groceries, closets of clothes, transportation, and a wonderful love for each other. 

chocolate chip cookie dough

I thank the Lord for not only a wonderful husband who came into my life to minister to my broken heart but that I've been able to fill his empty places as well. (smile) Among other things, he likes the cookies, corn bread, biscuits and coffee cakes I bake for him since that is one kitchen skill he does not have.

thankful to be able to ride our bikes 
several miles nearly every day

At our age, we don't take for granted the ability to fend for ourselves. Living in a retirement community is a frequent reminder of how quickly our coping skills can be taken away with accidents, illness, and even death.

In the years since my first husband passed, I thank the Lord for teaching me new skills, giving me confidence in matters that were suddenly thrust upon me with his death. Family and friends were of immeasurable help and with time, I have been able to take on many things once unfamiliar to me. I have been very surprised that this 'old dog could learn new tricks,' so to speak.

art by Mary Engelbreit

One blessing I don't think I've shared yet is that Gary's great-grandchild #3 is "on her way." Yes, a girl this time, to play with her twin boy cousins born a year ago.

from FaceBook

We have plans this week to be with dear people and to do something special (just the two of us). 

I wish for all of my readers a most enjoyable Thanksgiving Day with those you love dearly and the foods that delight you the most!

Until next time, grace and peace.


Friday, November 10, 2023

A Veterans Day Editorial


On this Veterans Day weekend, less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, we sincerely thank those men and women who have served in the military to secure and protect our freedoms. 

To clarify a question I had regarding this and Memorial Day, Veterans Day is intended to thank and honor all those who have served in our military. 

Memorial Day, which used to be more commonly referred to as "Decoration Day," is to honor with the decoration of graves all those who have died, military or not. In recent years, Memorial Day has tended to have a strong military emphasis but it is really an opportunity to honor all those who have passed on before us. 

Either way, Memorial Day is a more solemn observance because it focuses on those no longer living. Veterans Day is for the living and the dead.

There are several in my family who have been in our country's services (Navy and Air Force, specifically). Each branch of service has its own personality and has specific purposes in the defense and maintenance of order for our country. 

I cringe when I hear of cuts in defense spending. At no time should we be so foolhardy as to take the protection of our people, property, and land for granted. Ever since the days of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament book of Genesis, it has been necessary to responsibly watch for threats to our safety and freedoms and to take action when needed.

I enjoy talking to people, asking them for "their story." When we ask thoughtful questions (with respect, not in a threatening manner) and then just listen, we can learn so much that we might never experience for ourselves. 

It has been my privilege to know personally several retired and/or former military people who will (if I persist enough) share the good and the bad aspects of their careers. They are often reluctant to share the gore. For some of them, they've seen true ugliness and would prefer to not dig it up for my inspection. Understood.

Some who have done time in the service of our country have been fortunate to not have seen the darker side of life but their service has been nonetheless essential to maintain equilibrium with world order. They are among the hidden heroes who have diverted danger through technology about which man on the street knows nothing.

What can the rest of us, those who are not called into the outright defense of our country -- what can we do to maintain law and order, and to demonstrate gratitude to those who are called?

It actually could not be simpler: behave ourselves and treat each other with respect. 

While the brave ones are out there on the front lines, we can obey the laws of our country, and relate to each other as we want to be treated. 

Don't steal.

Don't lie.

Don't cheat.

Don't speed.

Don't be greedy.


Give others the benefit of the doubt when at all reasonable.

Live unselfishly to maintain the proper balance of life.

The above is just to name a few. 

It's an insult to our veterans when we disregard civility here at home when they've been sent into harm's way to protect us. We need to behave in a way that makes our veterans glad they served us.

I thank the veterans I know, those in my family, in my circle of friends, acquaintances, and community and beyond. They have done us a tremendous service with bravery and unselfish expenditure of time to preserve a wonderful nation. 

God bless America and help us to live honorably.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Hodgepodge for November 7, 2023

flowers on my kitchen table in 2015

Hodgepodge is a pleasant blogging meme that's been around since 2009, sponsored by Joyce Daly and published most Wednesdays throughout the year. 

It is said a good writer can compose something about just any subject given to them, so I try to stick with that challenge most of the time. But every once in a while, it's fun to respond to Joyce's writing prompts on her Hodgepodge. 

1. Are you too hard on yourself or not hard enough? Elaborate.

.Yes, sometimes I am, and no, sometimes I am not. I am learning in this season of my life that people are more hard on each other than even God. He knows we will mess up. He forgives, and helps us make the best of the consequences. People -- not so much. 

2. What's the role of gratitude in your life?

. Pastor Rick Warren has been talking about gratitude for the past few weeks on his daily radio broadcasts and email devotions. He says gratitude is the healthiest human emotion and those who exercise it are the happiest. I take that seriously and when I'm sincere about it, this is true.

3. Where do you get your news these days? How much attention are you giving it currently?

.We watch the FOX network and catch local news on any of several TV stations in both Orlando and Gainesville.

4. Do you like potatoes? How was the last time you prepared potatoes in some way? Which of the following is your favorite ... baked potato, mashed potato, french fried potato, sweet potato, hash brown potatoes, roasted potatoes, or potato salad?

.My husband grew up in Idaho. He has helped to harvest them and they are definitely a favorite with him. I, too, enjoy spuds in just about any form they are served. I can't narrow down the list to my favorite. Of course French Fries (due to their convenience) are the form in which I enjoy them most often, cooked in the air fryer. 

5. Are you a veteran? Are there any veterans in your family? Will you do anything special to honor them on Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day this year?

.No, I'm not a veteran, but both my late husband and my Gary are veterans. Beloved is even buried in a veteran's cemetery. To take it a step further, Gary and I met on Veteran's Day at a flag-raising ceremony here in our retirement community. I also have a son and a nephew who are veterans, and my father served briefly in the Navy just before WWII ended and he was sent back home.

6. Insert  your own random thought here:

a honey pot for Winnie the Pooh

.Earlier this year the ladies in my neighborhood had a get-acquainted luncheon at an Italian restaurant. We each stood up briefly to introduce ourselves and it came out that my husband and I, who were both widowed, had been introduced by a mutual friend. Some of the ladies at the luncheon remembered Gary's first wife and as a result of meeting me, they realized what a sweet story we have. As everybody was leaving, one especially thoughtful neighbor approached me with tears in her eyes to tell me she was touched by our story and so happy for both of us. 

Since that time, I have come to realize that I pass by this neighbor's home on my walks. She has hung this yellow honey pot on one of her trees. I love it! She clearly has a whimsical way about her but I think of her sweetness as she approached me at that luncheon. 

Until next time, grace and peace.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Motoring Into November

Pink Muhly Grass in my community

 It's only Wednesday as I begin the composition of this post. While my habit is to blog closer to the weekend, I am eager to welcome November and close the pages of my October calendar. It isn't that the last month was bad for us, but I quickly tire of Halloween's influence. Welcome November -- a time to embrace gratitude!

from our early days together

Those who have been following my blogs for the past few years have seen this picture. Terri D of the blog, Your Friend From Florida, came up to see us and snapped this picture of us with Gary's 2002 Ford Thunderbird. He acquired the car the same week as our first date and often said "had to get the car to get the girl!" While that wasn't exactly true, it certainly didn't hurt as he was winning my heart. 

We thoroughly enjoyed this sporty little number. One of my earliest memories was when we loaded the CD player with Rock 'n Roll oldies and sang together at the top of our lungs as we sailed down the highway in the 'Bird to have lunch at Cedar Key. 

us with the 'Bird at the dealership;
our last photo with it

But as time passed we realized we could really use a truck, a small one, but a truck nonetheless, for hauling bark mulch, sod, and other messy cargo from time to time. 

me with 'my' truck

We traded in the sport car for a 2023 Ford Maverick in "alto blue." A couple of months ago we ordered a 2024 Maverick in "Hot Pepper Red," but with the UAW strike and how long it takes for a truck on order to process (maybe by Christmas or later), we opted to get this one instead. 

ringing the sale bell at the Ford dealership

I love it. It doesn't feel like a truck because it's smaller and driving it feels like the three Ford Escapes I've owned in the past. Although it was a shared expense, Gary claims I've taken it over as mine. Well, whatever, it's a dream to drive and I intend to enjoy it as much as possible. 

our garage

Fitting it into the garage with the Toyota is not hard, maybe even easier than it was with the T-Bird. There is a certain amount of rearranging that has to be done to accommodate our bicycles.

the dash of the Maverick

The single biggest adjustment we are having to make is that the gear shift is not on a stick at all but is that black round button on the left side of the console. We twist that button from Park, to Reverse, to Drive, to Neutral. Isn't that wild?!

lunch on the Withlacoochee River

We took the truck over to Dunnellon for lunch. Gary drove it to The Blue Gator, and I drove it home. The drive was beautiful on a weekday when traffic was light. Our burgers were great, and as I've said many times, I love dining on the water. There is lots of opportunity for that around here.

Gary's bicycle

I have to tell you about the "trick" we experienced on Halloween... as we rolled off our driveway for our usual morning bike ride, Gary's rear tire was immediately punctured with a rusty screw in the street. At first we both thought he had crushed an acorn from the many Live Oak trees that are dropping them right now. But the curious sound was very rhythmic and persistent. Finally just a couple of blocks from home we stopped to examine the tire. 

the culprit

Blessedly, we were not far from home and the tire held its air long enough to peddle back without having to walk the bike. I assumed we would be loading the bike into the back of the new truck and heading to a repair shop. But I learned something I had not known before.

tire in a box

Did you know you can buy a tire in a box, bring it home, unfold the thing and install it yourself? And did you know you can do the same thing with the inner tube?

both tire and tube from Walmart

We thought we'd find tires hanging on a rack, arranged according to size. No, they didn't have them, but when Gary saw them in boxes on the shelf, he did not hesitate to grab what we needed and said he could fix it himself.

installing the tire from a box

I have run out of fingers and toes as I try to tally all the handy-man things Gary has done for me/us in the couple of years I've known him. He not only fixed it in short order, but saved us significant money from what a bike shop would have charged us.

a reflective morning on the lanai

This concludes my post for today. Since I'm writing earlier in the week than I usually do, I haven't as many adventures to report. Tomorrow morning we expect to wake up to a low temperature in the mid forties, so that will take us into sweaters and socks, even long pants. I'm ready for that adventure after our long hot summer.

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens...

Ecclesiastes 3:1

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...