I had the tremendous good fortune this week to spend some time with my best friend, Marsha. Tim was travelling and I assumed I would be doing what I always do when he is away which is mostly miss him and rattle around the house by myself like a marble in a cigar box.
This time however I had company instead. Woohoo! We talked, we ate, we talked, we shopped, we talked, we shopped more, we talked, we walked around town, we talked and we walked on the beach a LOT. Oh and we talked. It was awesome :)
Two absolutely astonishing things happened while she was here that I wanted to share with you though. Truly amazing moments. Not earth shattering or life altering but still holy cats moments!
The first has to do with Shark Teeth, obviously. Apparent from the photos at the top of the page. As you may or may not know, Venice is the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. Why? I have no idea. Maybe eons ago this area was like the Shark Graveyard or something. Perhaps old and ill sharks swam for hundreds of miles just to die here. Honestly I do not know why. I just know that it's true.
And the southest beach access point on the island, Casperson Beach, is like the MotherLode of Sharks Teeth.
I have walked it many many MANY times since I've lived here. And yet...... I have never EVER found a single sharks tooth. Not One! There I will be, walking the beach searching, looking mile after sandy mile and all around me people are plucking them out of the water, off the sand, out of the air I suspect and I have bupkus. Zero. Zilch. Zippitydodah. Nada. What the heck?
But anyway, I will set the scene, Marsha and I walking South down Casperson beach. Her first time there by the way. And as we are walking, I am telling her about how divers find giant sharks teeth there and people seem to just pick smaller sharks teeth up off the beach with great frequency. She asks me what they look like and I tried to describe it. Then a few small steps later, she bends down and picks something up and show it to me. "Like this?" she asks! I got all excited for her. 'Yes! That is a sharks tooth!" Woohoo! So we kept walking for quite a distance. Walking and talking walking and talking.
It's like talking a walk instead of taking a walk :)
Anyway, finally, we turned around and began the walk back. I swear to you, not half way back, she did the exact same thing and found another tooth. Not searching hard. Just leaning over and picking it up off the beach. Now she has two. What the actual heck? I've lived here for three years and not one single sharks tooth. She visits Casperson Beach once and finds two of them? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That's awesome!
It reminds me a little bit of my mom. My mother was the four leaf clover queen! We would be walking along and every now and again, while still chatting away, she would barely even break stride, bend down and pluck a 4-leaf clover and keep going. By the end of the walk she might have a half dozen or more. I could sit in the middle of a clover field and search for hours and NEVER find one! Too funny.
Okay so that was amazing incident number one.
The second one was probably not such a big deal to anyone else but it surely was to me. I was wearing yet another pair of earrings that are big favourites of mine. I wear them often. They are twisted silver hoops, about half dollar sized. As it so happens, Marsha gave them to me. But that is not why was wearing them, that was just a happy accident. I was sporting that particular pair because I wear them quite often. It's kind of a go-to earring. They just sort of look good with everything and I especially like that it's a closed loop. Not just that little plastic piece on the back of a post earring. Hoops, just by virtue of their design, are much harder to accidentally lose, right? Well sort of right. Up until that day, I had never had one come off by accident.
But there we were walking and talking, right there at the waters edge, water never deeper than our knees. It was slightly breezy and of course the waves tickle their way in and out over and over. I tucked an errant strand of my hair behind my right ear and somehow jostled one earrings loose and it fell out. I felt it happen. And in fact, I actually saw it land on the sand, but before I could grab it, another wave came and it was gone. I mean it vanished like a magicians trick.
"Oh no!" I said immediately, "My earring fell out!" Now both of us are feeling through the water, starring down through the waves, combing through the sand and...nothin'. Dang! We spent more than a few minutes searching and Marsha was saying the sorts of supportive things that a good friends says when witnessing something stupid having been done. And then I turned around to face the shore instead of the water. No idea why I turned honestly. Just instinct I suppose. I squatted down and scooped a bit of sand away as another wave washed up and there it was. Half buried in the sand. Holy Cats! Lost Earring Found ! (That's two different sets of earrings lost and then found in one week!)
Colour me Happy!
So it seems that my mother's secret power was finding 4-leaf clovers. Marsha's is finding Sharks Teeth. And, as it turns out, mine is finding earrings that I have lost. Very Cool.
So there you have it. Two moments of amazement in the midst of a whole lot of yakyakyak and a few unusually successful shopping trips!
Today is the last day of May and tomorrow is the weekend. Enjoy Both ;)
Home Grown Tomatoes! Yummmm! I love 'em. In fact, there are few foods I enjoy more (on the savory side of the scale). I love the way they taste, I love the way they smell, I think they are even pretty to view.
These two beauties came to me via one of our lovely neighbors. She has not just a green thumb I suspect but two green thumbs and 8 green fingers! Her yard always looks like a park. Gorgeous. In addition to flowering shrubs, flowers and trees she also had a host of tomato plants in her backyard that absolutely flourish under her care. It isn't automatic, y'know, she puts in the work. And it shows.
The reason I came in possession of these particular tomatoes is not because I stole them. While tempting, that was not the case at all. I didn't have to use a ten-fingered discount. I received these tomatoes in trade.
What's that now?
It's a well established fact that I love to bake. In fact, I love to bake far more than we could possibly eat. So I try to spread that love (and calories) around. This neighbor and her husband were the very first people we met here on the island and they were very helpful and nice to us right off the bat. So once I had a functional kitchen, I couldn't wait to bake something to share with them as repayment for the many kindnesses they showed us when we were Venice Island Newbies.
They graciously accepted my offered baked goods (I believe it was banana nut muffins the first time 'round) and when they returned the container a few days later, inside she had put two large chocolate bars from Trader Joes'. Oh me oh my! The way to my heart is directly through a sea of chocolate, I swear.
The next time I baked, again, I walked over with (maybe cookies that time?) and again, within a few days, the container was returned with something inside. I thanked her and told her that while I appreciated the gesture, it was unnecessary. I enjoyed sharing my baked goodies as long as they enjoyed receiving them. She insisted on the Quid Pro Quo. And the tradition was born.
In return for any crazy number of times that I have shown up on their doorstep with baked goods in my hand, she has given me in return: tea towels, Easter chocolates, a pair of eyeglass readers that are intended also as sunglasses (!!), the recipe and ingredients for an amazing lemon cake (which I made and was delicious), fancy sprinkles from her Daughter-in-Law's adorable company, Sprinkle Pop (seriously check it out, it is the bees knees) ......the list goes on and on. And now these luscious tomatoes!
Nobody ever said the words," I will give you this in trade for that" but that seems to be what has happened. Everything she has ever given me, I have loved and eaten or used (some things I am still using) and well, our system works. Not only do we have great and generous neighbors, we also seem to have rediscovered the barter system. I feel like I come out on top of every single one of our exchanges so I'm not certain that it is entirely fair. But since she is not complaining, I will just feel a little guilty and keep baking. She always has the right to refuse. My feelings won't be hurt. I try to keep the number of times I bring baked goods to them down to a manageable amount as a courtesy. But you can bank that the next time I bake, I will take her some of whatever I made and within days she will return the container with something in exchange. Dang! I do not know how I got so lucky :)
Yes folks, the Barter System is alive and well on Venice Island.
I don't know how it popped into Tim's head but very recently, he checked the dates on our passports and found out that they need to be renewed before the middle of next month. Wow those ten years flew by!
So he went online and learned that we could, indeed, renew our existing passports quickly and easily right there on the computer, yay. Done and done. But apparently, we still needed to have new photos taken. Sigh. Cannot be done online. Ratz.
The next mission was to find a place to get new passport photos taken. It was trickier than it should have been. Naturally, I checked online. The first thing that popped up was a local UPS store. Ok that should be easy. I knew of two UPS stores very short drives from our home, and only just barely off island. The website said that I should call to make an appointment and provided the phone number, Handy-dandy, right there. I called the number and told the lady on the other end of the phone that I was calling to make appointments for passport photos. She said, "Oh hun, we don't do that here". I said, 'Hmm, interesting, it says that you do right on the website." "It does?" she marvelled. "Yes indeedy," says I, "Right here it gives your address (I read her the address) and your phone number (I read her the phone number which is clearly correct because I reached her after all)." I went on to explain that the website further says I should make an appointment for pass passphotos. "Ohhhh,' she says, " Passport photos. (as if I never said it at the beginning of the phone call) That's a different UPS store." "Which one is that?" I asked since this is brand new information completely different from what the website clearly says. "The one by the roundabout" she tells me, thanks me for calling and hangs up before I can ask for the phone number.
No worries, I have the mighty google and I am not afraid to use it! I called that number and a nice young man answered the phone. Yes they do passport photos. Yes they are open today until 4. And Yes we can come in anytime we like today, no appointment necessary. Rarely have I seen a website so mis-informed. But since it worked in our favour this time, off we went to get our mugshots taken.
I say mugshots because even my drivers license photo is better looking than my passport pictures and my drivers license picture is not good. The nice young man took two shots and then let me choose the one I liked best. I ended up choosing the least awful picture. Then Tim had his photo done and in very short order we left with that little strip of two identical photos of each of us, looking like criminals. Well the photos are just full face and not profile and we aren't holding those little boards with arrest information on it, but otherwise, yes, mugshots.
I am tempted to say that no country would allow us in once seeing our passport photos, except that our previous photos were no better and we actually have already done a very small amount of international travel already. So a precedent has been set.
I do not remember the year that we first got passports but maybe twenty years ago? The first time we traveled out of the United States was to Canada and we were disappointed to learn that we did not require passports (at least at that time, I have no idea if that is the case now). We enjoyed our visit to our neighbors to the north and actually it was very nice that they didn't care that we were foreigners from the US. Trust I guess was the overriding thought. No fuss, no muss, just over the bridge and taadaa there we were. It looked a great deal like the US even though I know it was a different country because the flag was different eh?
We didn't get to use our passports until we went on a trip to Cancun. That was exciting! Our first passport stamps! Our first time going through Customs. Our first time dealing with a language barrier and purportedly disease ridden water. A little scary but also very exciting. And it went just a smoothly as glass. We even got very brave one day and instead of just sticking to the tourist spots (which was HIGHLY recommended) we hopped aboard the locals bus and went to the real downtown, the one where the locals live and shop and eat and play! It was lovely! Everyone was very kind to us, we found our way around and even manged to get picked up by the right bus to return to our hotel at the end of the day. A great first introduction to passport life!
The second time was when we took a cruise. The ship stopped at Roatan, Belize, Honduras and a few different stops in Mexico. It was our first cruise, second passport use. I believe the ONLY time we used our passport was to get our boarding documentation and ID to get on (and off and back on, etc) the ship. Otherwise those passports were locked up tight in the safe of our room. We had a marvelous time on our cruise. We did a few cruise sanctioned excursions but did the others on our own and everything was fine. Despite all of the terrifying tourist as a target stories that one hears, we never once felt anything but welcomed and safe. It was a great time!
Our passports got another stamp when we went to Curacao. Curacao was the first place we ever visited where we truly felt as if we were in a foreign country and not just in a new section of a Disney Park. Clearly we did not do quite enough research because neither Tim nor I knew ahead of time that the language of Curacao is Dutch. Which neither of us speak. Or write. Or read. The read part is particularly key because all of the streets signage is in Dutch. Oh my. The good people of Curacao apparently speak Dutch first, then Spanish, then English. Multi lingual! I am very impressed. Except for the part that the vast majority of the people there refused to speak English with us. Oh dear. We managed. It was interesting. It was a very good lesson actually in how insulated we are as Americans. Humbling.
That's the sum total of our foreign travel. And we have, at this moment, no future trips out of the country on our docket. But it's still a good idea to keep the passports current. I have used mine as a second form of ID at banks more than once so for that reason alone it's a grand plan.
And then, well, one just never knows. I don't know if a passport is required to travel to other planets? Or just other countries. But life moves pretty fast and you gotta be ready. Anything can happen!
Like good little boyscouts (which neither of us ever were) we are prepared!
I thought I lost this over the weekend and I was Very Upset!
It was one of a pair of earrings that Tim bought for me on my 50th birthday. For whatever strange reason, the only birthday that every bothered me at all was that one. The year I turned 50 for the first time I realized that I was getting older. It was sobering. And a little depressing. I walked around for weeks thinking to myself, "Oh My God, I'm half a century!" In an effort to cheer me up I suspect, Tim bought these lovely delicate diamond earrings for me. So they were especially significant. Important. Sentimentally invaluable.
I actually misplaced both of them earlier in the week and after an exhaustive search through the house assumed that perhaps they had vanished outside somewhere. Which meant that they were gone for good. I'm all over the place outside. Not just in our own yard but all over the island; on the beach, at the neighbors, at Pilates Class, in the Library, the museum, the grocery store. Just the fact that I walk nearly everywhere I go meant limitless possibilities. I was angry with myself for being so careless with something I cared for so much and just so sad.
I found the first one by accident. We were on the sofa in the family room watching TV Saturday night. I dropped something on the floor, a pretzel maybe, and reached down to pick it up. I couldn't see where it went. So I got down on hands in knees peering under the ottoman and the sofa. I even got out the flashlight to see into the dark recesses. Aha! A glint of light, a tiny flash. There it was! Huzzah! I lay down flat on the carpet, snaked my arm under the sofa, retrieved it and stood up, one tiny earring held forth triumphantly! Taadaa!
Meanwhile poor Tim was trying to watch his show. But he put it on pause because he is a very nice man. I explained what happened and dropped back to the floor with the flashlight to resume my search. If one was on the floor doesn't it logically follow that the other one would be too? Nothin'. Ratz.
So like a crazy person, I tore apart the furniture moving pillows, feeling down inside places that couldn't be taken apart with no results. Dang. So we started moving furniture. One large ottoman, two heavy side tables, both parts of the sectional sofa got shifted to the other side of the room while I searched. I found an old petrified potato chip, a few stray pieces of popcorn, several dustbunnies and other flotsam but no earrings.
So that the energy spent moving furniture wasn't wasted I hauled out the vacuum cleaner and went to work. As we moved the furniture back in place it dawned on me that I had vacuumed at least twice (obviously without moving furniture) since I lost the earrings in the first place. Oh my! I wondered if I accidentally vacuumed them up? I eyed my vacuum cleaner suspiciously.
The vacuum and I went to the utility room. Armed with a garbage bag, scissors and a double layer of newspapers on the floor for protection, I cut open the vacuum cleaner bag. Ooof! Nasty work there. I thought I was going to choke to death on the dust and dirt and sand and masses of MY hair in that bag. Gauging by the amount of my hair in the vaccum bag, I should be bald. I'm not but I looked as if I could have woven myself a nice wig.
Meanwhile, all of the coughing and choking and sifting through dirt was to no avail. No earring found. Crappola. The only thing worse than having lost both earrings is having found just one. What do you do with One Lone Earring? It goes without nothing else. They come in pairs for a reason!
So I decided to keep the one lone earring for sentimental reasons. And as I set about to put it in my earring case, I dropped the darned thing. Bumble fingers! Back to the floor I went, this time looking under the bed and bedside table where I found, not one earrings but two! Hurrah hurrah! It was an earrings miracle!~
How on earth I lost one in the family room and the other in the bedroom I will never know. But there they both were. And now they are safe in their little case.
I am now left wondering if I will ever be brave enough to wear them again.
You see before you the cereal department of our pantry. Four boxes holding four different kinds of relatively not horrible for you cereal. Which is quite a statement. "Relatively Not Horrible For You". Wow. I have tried the supposedly "good for you" cereals. I do not like them. There is no point in buying them if nobody is going to eat them. So I have settled for relatively not horrible as an acceptable standard.
I am actually not a big fan of cereal. And I do not ever remember really being wowed by it. Let's start with the fact that most cereals are intended to be eaten with milk on it. Milk and I do not get along very well. As a kid of course, nobody knew that it was possible for anyone to have a problem with milk. Hey! It's milk! What could be healthier and better for a person than Milk! But I A) never liked the taste. I would never in a zillion years say to myself, "Wow, I'm thirsty, I think I will have a glas of milk". No. Yuck. No. and B) I have always always always had tummy troubles after having any dairy product it's just now that I am an adult, I know why and usually just avoid the culprit. So if I have cereal, odds are good that I am eating it dry.
Some cereals are ok dry as long as I have some water to drink because man are they drydrydry. Mini-wheats and Quaker Oat Squares in particular I have come to appreciate dry. But when breakfast time rolls around, I rarely opt for cereal. There are so many other options that I like better. Like, oh say, cold left over pizza. I adore pizza for breakfast! Cold and leftover are key to my full appreciation. Toast is fine. A bagel would be even better if I could get a decent bagel here (which I cannot). Fruit works fine too. On a weekend day eggs perhaps. An egg sandwich with sliced pickles on it! YUMMMMM! Yes that is one of my absolute favourite things in the world. Crazy perhaps but so good.
I think the other reason I'm not too crazy about cereal is that I ate so doggone much of it as a kid. It was an easy meal. And it says right on the box that it's fortified with vitamins and therefore it must be healthy. It became an "any meal" option. In fact, on one of our many moves during my childhood, we ended up in the fine state of Missouri. At the time there was a severe housing shortage. But my Dad had to be there for work. Since there was no other place for us to be, we lived in a hotel for awhile. Yes 4 people and a couple of dogs in one room in a Ramada Inn. It was not lovely.
Because it's hard to prepare meals in a hotel room and eating out for every meal was prohibitively expensive, my mom bought those giant variety packages of Kelloggs cereal. It was easy to store, easy to prepare (open the box, eat) and, honestly, if you read the side of the boxes you would think you were giving your children a perfectly healthy meal. Once we finally got into a real house months later, I think by then I had sworn off cereal entirely.
I vaguely remember sharing a box of Captain Crunch with some fellow college students around 3 am while we were all cramming for finals. At that moment it was the best tasting thing I had ever had. But I have always maintained the the hungrier you are, the better food tastes and it was definitely applicable in that case. But otherwise, it is usually a very long time between serving of cereal for me.
Until recently that is. Cereal showed up on my shopping list because while there were several boxes in the house, there was not enough for a single bowl in any one box. Tim doesn't mind mixing and matching different cereals but if you put all three boxes together there was maybe enough for one bowl. So there I was, standing in the cereal aisle, totally uninspired.
The cereal aisle is enormous! How is it possible that there are THAT many different types of what is essentially the same thing? After eliminating anything that is multi-coloured, has marshmallows in it, or a cartoon character on the front and then eliminating anything that smacks too much of healthy food, it was a much smaller batch of choices.
My eyes fell on the Cheerios section out of habit. When the boys were toddlers, I would often give them a paper cup of cheerios when they asked for a cookie. My assumption was that it was marginally better for them than a cookie. It certainly lasted longer. It would take them hours to eat. They would share their cheerios with the dog and with their brothers. I would find crushed cheerios all over the house and by the end of the day find damp cheerios in their clothes, their ears and their hair. But they loved it. Cheerios, just plain ordinary cheerios, were a staple in our house back then.
There must be a half dozen differerent types of cheerios now. Perhaps more. I didn't count them. But there was a brand new one that I never heard of before:
I debated for a few minutes and then said "what the heck" and threw it in the cart. If I don't like it, maybe Tim will. He is far more willing to eat unusual things than I am.
I have to tell you. I love this stuff! It's probably terrible for me. I haven't bothered to read the side of the package because I do not want to find out because then maybe I'll have to stop eating it. I think I had cereal twice for breakfast this week! THAT NEVER HAPPENS!
After so many years of being Meh about cereal, I have found one that I like. I honestly believed that if I never ate cereal again in my life, I would be fine with that. Never say never I guess. Illustrating once again, that it's important to stay open-minded. But not so open that your brains fall out.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend folks! Be safe and have fun!
Hugs all 'round
I only recently discovered something about myself. I am not nearly as clean and tidy a person as I'd always believed. This was more than a little surprising to me. I have always been a little house-proud y'know? Pleased that I provided a clean and tidy environment for my family. Well that'll show me. Pride goeth and all that.
The way I found this out was whe I recently needed a particular casserole dish that was in the cabinet above the fridge. I only put things in there that I rarely use because it's not an easy cabinet to access. Anytime I need something up there I have to either ask a tall person to fetch it down for me, or haul out my trusty step stool, climb up, get out what I need, step down while still holding said object (which can be tricky for me), set object down, fold up the step stool and return it to when it came. When I no longer need the object, it's the same thing in reverse. Not all that difficult I suppose, but often more steps than I generally care to employ.
Anyway, since no tall person was currently available to me and there was no way around needing that casserole dish (dang it) I used the step stool method. While I was atop the step stool I realized, to my horror, how totally gross the top of my fridge is. Yuck! And I asked myself, "When was the last time I cleaned this?". And here is the even grosser part, I couldn't remember when! Ewwwwww!
Now the fridge itself, as you can see from the photo, is clean. The cabinets are clean. And even what you can see of the glasses in the cabinet are clean. But the top of the fridge is like no-man's land. Really rough.
I suspect that this is the issue:
This is as high as I can reach from the floor. This is me standing very straight and really stretching my hand. I certainly cannot SEE the top of my fridge. So apparently, without me realizing it, my policy is, "If I cannot see it, I do not clean it". Oh dear.
I was on a dusting/polishing kick yesterday. I removed everything from the surface of every wooden piece of furniture in the house, one piece at a time, dusted and polished the top, replaced everything and then moved down dusting and polishing the sides, the front and the legs. Every single wooden piece of furniture in the house EXCEPT (and I just now realized this) the top of the display cabinet in the living room.
Of all the furniture that Tim and I have ever purchased, this is one of our favourites. We found it back in Colorado about fifteen years ago and after much debate, decided to bring it with us here even though it is probably too large for the house. It is probably 5 feet long and taller than I am which means I never see the top of it either. So yesterday when I cleaned and polished everything, that means I also did the display cabinet EXCEPT for the top! What the heck? How could I have missed that?
It wasn't an intentional snub. It isn't as if I chuckled evilly to myself, "I'll clean everything except the top of the cabinet. That'll show 'em" (who "they" are I have no idea) It just actually never crossed my mind. Please note that everything inside is sparkling clean as are the glass shelves and the glass fronts. But the top is probably laden with dust. I don't know for certain by the way, I just know that I haven't cleaned it lately. And in fact, I can't remember the last time I cleaned that either. Yikes!
When I think about it, I haven't cleaned the top shelves of any closets, bookshelves or cabinets, the tops of any mirrors of artwork or the tops of doorframes. And, holy cats, I just realized, that even when I wash the cars, I never wash the roof of the cars! This is ridiculous! Clearly I have a problem.
Apparently I am not only height challenged, I am also height biased! Once again it appears that if I can't see it, I don't clean it! This. Is. So. Weird!
I wonder if this is something specifically "Sam" or if other shorties do this too? And conversely, I wonder if tall people don't clean the stuff that's down low very often? Hmmmm
That's a thinker for sure.
Let me know. Is it just me? Or does this happen to other people too? I won't be offended if it's just me, by the way. I am honestly just curious.
The house across the street from us is beautiful. I mean really, it's a gorgeous house. Architecturally interesting and visually pleasing. It's also purple. And if that is shocking to you, it's because you don't live in Florida. Here, colour-wise, pretty much anything goes.
I cannot really describe the colour of purple. It's none of the ones on the chart above. Maybe it's sort of like a Jacaranda blossom?
Ok it's not exactly that either. The lady of the house is an artist and I'm quite certain that it was her fine eye for colour that made it happen. There is not one single solitary other house on the island that is the same colour. Which makes it a great landmark. "Where do you live on Bayshore?" "Oh we are across the street from the purple house" "Oh sure, I know where that is." See everyone knows that house. Nobody is shocked or appalled by it's colour, but everyone knows it.
This shade of purple might not fly just anywhere, but it is glorious here.
It's like a rainbow here. Our house, for example is green. Not the dark green you might find in New England or the olive green that we saw in Colorado, but a very light green. Kind of the colour of one of those puffy pastel coloured after dinner mints.
But not exactly. Sort of like that. We didn't choose the colour of our house. It was already this colour when we got here. But now I couldn't imagine it any other way. By the same token, our friends down the street live in a pink house. Pink house? Not a bright screaming fuchsia pink but a very pale pink, more like the colour of the inside of a seashell.
We have friends here who live in homes that are yellow, white, tan, grey, peach and just about every shade of blue you can imagine. Blue and greens are fairly popular house colours here abouts, probably it's the ocean-theme. Or maybe because it's so hot in the summer that a blue or green house is a cooling, soothing shade, visually? I honestly have no idea. Maybe people just like those colours!
It's not enough to say the house is yellow or blue or green actually because there are so many variations. It's impossible for me to describe the differences. It's sort of like this but not exactly like that. A touch bluer or a bit greener with a little more yellow in it. It's paler. It's darker. It's...it's... well few of them are the same. And that is a very good thing!
I've lived in a LOT of houses in my life of all sorts of colours. In Connecticut Tim and I bought an old Colonial house that was white with blue shutters and a blue door. It was an unappealing blue and we always meant to repaint the shutters but somehow we never did. We did replace the front door though with a red one. That was awesome. The house looked so patriotic! Red, white and blue! It was unintentional. We really did mean to paint those shutters. Although once we got the red door, I'm not certain what colour we would have chosen for the shutters. Hmmm.
The house in Colorado was kind of a butter yellow with olive green trim, door and shutters. We weren't wild about the olive green but loved the yellow. It was such a happy looking house. Friendly and welcoming with a big porch across the front.
I've lived in farm houses, tract houses, big houses, small houses. Houses that were two stories, houses that were one level. Single family homes and apartments. And each of them was a different colour. I have seen a few neighborhoods where every single house not only looks like every other house on the street, right down to the trees and shrubs in the yard, but they are also the exact same colour. For that neighborhood, it's all about uniformity. I wouldn't care for that. If it suits you, that's just fine and dandy, but it absolutely doesn't work for me.
Some areas are very particular about what colours they will allow you to paint your house. When we lived in Colorado, ours was a very strict HOA where the home owner was required to ask permission to paint their house. Even if it was the original colour, they still had to apply for permission and if the HOA didn't like the choice, the answer was no. I guess they have their reasons. But one of the things I love about living here is that nobody gives a hoot what colour your house is. And therefore, houses are all sorts of colours, all sorts of styles, all sorts of sizes and shapes. Infinite variety in an infinite universe. I love it!
And you know what, when you get right down to it, the colour of your house doesn't matter at all. It's not about the outside of the house, it's about the people inside the house. Good people, Good house. And as far as I'm concerned, that's all that counts.
I'm back! Did you miss me?
Tim and I had this long weekend getaway planned for a couple of months. The original plan involved us going to Universal Friday, staying overnight and then meeting our friends, the Minocks, in St Pete's on the way back on Saturday. But life has a way of changing our plans and we ended up not going to Universal at all.
Tim came home from one of his multi-day trips feeling sick. And it lingered and lingered and was bad enough that he voluntarily ended up going to the doctor. That's how you know he really felt crappy. So he got some medication and strict instructions to rest. Even once he was no longer contagious, he still needed to rest. And if there is one thing for sure about a trip to Universal, it's not restful. But meeting up with friends in St Pete's, now THAT is restful, relaxing and even healing.
It's a funny thing. Tim and I live on Venice Island. We are just a few blocks from the beach. We can (and often do) walk there in minutes any day we like. But the oddest thing is that we don't ever just go spend the day at the beach. Maybe a half hour to watch the sunset at the end of the day or I'll trek over to get some photos but then I go right back home. So spending the day at the beach is a treat for us too!
We specifically chose St. Pete's because it is roughly the half way point between both of our towns. No other reason. It just seems reasonable. Meet half way. I chose the place we met, but the criteria we all four agreed upon, it had to be on the beach. Having only driven around the general St. Pete's area a couple of times, Tim and I really don't know it well and we had never eaten there so we were all flying blind. I did some online research seeking casual, beach front dining and we ended up meeting at the Paradise Grill.
I had to laugh when we arrived. It doesn't get much more casual than this place! And then here is a photo of the dining area:
As you can see clearly, it was indeed, right on the beach! Awesome! Criteria met! Casual dining on the beach in St Pete's. Perfect.
Tim and I arrived first. We claimed a table, got something to drink and just relaxed and chatted while watching some very talented volleyball games going on. Super relaxing! Once our friends arrived, we set about our usual talking and laughing and eating, as we always do! The food was ok. I mean it was rather typical beach hut food. Not exactly fine dining but not something that makes you worry about salmonella poisoning either. It'll do. Because it wasn't about the food. Not at all.
It was about relaxing, resting and spending time with dear friends.
Eventually, Marsha and I set out to walk along water. We solved at least half of the problems of the universe as we walked through the water, carefully staying only ankle to calf deep although at least one wave surprised us with about hip high water. Hah! Who cares! We were at the beach. Almost all rules are suspended at the beach.
As we chatted and giggled, I was also taking notice of the differences between Venice beach and St Pete's beach. For one thing there were more people in St. Pete's. A LOT more people! Scads of people! And umbrellas for miles! Seriously they must have cornered the market on beach umbrellas. Oh and those beachy lounge chairs. They were everywhere. And for only $25 bucks you can rent them. No thanks. I'll just walk and wear a hat. I wasn't there to sleep in the sun after all.
On Venice beach, if you want a beachy lounge chair or an umbrella you better have brought it yourself. It's strictly a carry in/carry out beach. And I am absolutely fine with that. Venice Beach also has free parking. St. Pete's beach totally does not.
St. Pete's looks to me to be an amazing vacation place. It's all hotels and beach and restaurants and vacationy things to do and probably there are some people who call it home. Venice Island on the other hand, is a town where people live and work full time that also has some vacationers. Do you see the difference?
So we enjoyed an entire afternoon of each other's company and then left promising to get together again next month and doing our baked good exchange. I don't know how we have fallen into this tradition but we do it every single time. Both of us! This time I brought a container of peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies for them. She brought brownies for us. And let me tell you, these brownies were amazing. Gooey, chocolately, rich and, bonus points, with salt on top! The salt was a stroke of genuis. It balances the sweetness of the brownie perfectly AND somehow magically makes the chocolate taste even more chocolatey. I promise you they didn't last long.
We were tired when we got home, but it was the good kind of tired for a change, not the sick kind. It was the fatigue that comes after enjoying a really wonderful day in the sun, at the beach, laughing ourselves sick, talking so much you don't even remember what you talked about anymore. Just worn out from spending a great day with great people.
The R&R day at the beach must have worked too because Tim is feeling really fine now. So the next time you aren't feeling at all well Dr. Sam will write you a prescription for a day at the beach. It's good for what ails ya!
There are so many things in this universe that I do not understand. One of them is online shopping for clothes. It is baffling to me. I know that people do it. All the time. It's a perfectly normal thing to do nowadays.
I've looked at clothes online before. Of course I have. And in those little catalogs that come in the mail. There are even companies that will send you clothing that THEY choose for you? What? Apparently the customer fills out a very detailed questionnaire and then the company chooses outfits and ships them! I'm happy for the people for whom this works. But I am way too picky.
I actually did buy a bathing suit online once. It was supposedly a custom sized swimsuit. They asked the questions, I measured what they asked me to measure, typed in the numbers and they made the suit for me. Wow..great idea right? Nope. The size was fine, it was the style was that not great. It turned out, as a matter of fact, to be a very bad idea. Which I would have known if I had tried it on before I bought it. I have not purchased a single article of clothing for myself online since.
Maybe I should give it a second chance. I don't know. By this age, I suppose I ought to know what does and does not look good on me style-wise. And mostly I do. I think the trickiest part is figuring out the proper size.
It isn't that my actual size changes. It hasn't. At least not in the past three years. BUT there are no standardized sizing on women's clothes. And I find that the strangest thing. How on earth can anyone know what size they wear with enough confidence to purchase clothing on line??
For example, I have pants, long and short, in three different sizes. They all fit. How strange is that? So if I bought a pair of pants online, would I have to buy a pair in all three sizes, keep the one that fits and send the others back? What? That seems like a lot of unnecessary work.
Oh I know, I hear all the time that it's so easy to return things purchase online. I'm told that most companies send your purchase with a return label. So they fully expect things to be returned. Then I have to repack the returns and take the package.....somewhere... post office? Fed Ex? UPS? I have no idea. But the point is, I have to out of my way to send the returns back. People are terrible are returning library books and Redbox DVD's. But they are good about returning clothing purchases?
My thought is that if I have to go out of my way regarding clothing, I may as well go out of my way to a store where I can try it on and walk out with something that fits. But that's me. Honestly, while I am lazy, no argument there, my biggest issue is the size thing. Here's me wearing shorts or pants all various sizes from 6 to 10. It's crazy:
I'ts just crazy. Everything I'm wearing in these photos fits. But the sizes are so different. Supposedly there is about a ten pound difference from one size to another. So from a size 6 to a size 10, theoretically would be a twenty pound difference right? I guarantee you that my weight is not going up and down twenty pounds from one day to the next, or one week or one month or even one year! Nope, my weight, sadly, remains pretty much the same.
Perhaps it's just me. I have always felt that my body was kind of constructed out of spare parts. I can never predict how something is going to look on me. I have to try it on. I buy tops in the petite section but pants in the regular ladies department because petites are too short. Long legs, short body. With one pair of pants a size 8 fits me perfectly, another pair of pants, an 8 is much too large and I have to move down to a 6. But with yet a different pair I couldn't squeeze into an 8 on a bet and I have to move on to a 10. That is simply insane. I just cannot see me shopping online for clothes without having to buy at least 3 of everything and sending back 2. I think I am opting out of the online clothing shopping thing.
So here we go, a tip of the hat to anyone who has tremendous success with online clothing shopping! I am amazed. I am impressed. And I am totally baffled by it all.
PS. I'm taking a few days off so have a wonderful weekend and I'll be back sometime next week. Hope you lots of fun adventures in the meantime and I hope to hear about them all!
Food is love. Yeah, that's right. I said it.
And I fully expect fitness wizards and diet mavens and health aficionados to now lay in wait, prepared to flail me with kale chips in retaliation but I stand by that statement. Food is love.
Well it is one of the ways that we show the important people in our lives how much we love them. So I suppose, more accurately it should be Food can be one of many different sorts of expressions of love. But that's too long and a trifle awkward.
Anybody can say, "I love you". And if you truly do love the person who are talking to, you absolutely should say it. Not every other sentence, that would be tedious, but often enough that they are reminded of how you feel. Sadly, too many people say it who don't mean it. The liars. Insincere "I love you's" cheapen the emotion. So in that case, how do you know if it's real? Through action. We show the people we love how we really feel about them by what we do more than by what we say.
One of the many ways that Tim shows me that he loves me is that he drives me places. He knows how I feel about being behind the the wheel of any vehicle. And what's more, he never complains. No recriminations. He never says, "For heaven's sake's Sam, it's five miles away. You are a grown adult woman. Drive yourself!!" which by rights he probably should. Instead, without a seconds hesitation, he grabs his keys and says, "Let's go".
One of the ways I show how I feel about people is through food. It's not enough to just fill the belly. A fastfood drive through will fill the hole. Nope this is bigger.
It's taking the time to find new recipes instead of slapping together the same old thing. Buying the perfect ingredients, not just making do. Tantalizing the taste buds. Making a meal not just a pitstop, but a pleasure. Paying attention so that nothing is over or under done and planning properly so that everything is timed to be finished together. It's making the food appeal to all of the senses.
This past Mother's Day Tim wasn't feeling very well. But he still insisted that I shouldn't have to cook. So when it came time for dinner, I decided that I was in the mood for Pizza. That way, he didn't have to cook either and we wouldn't be out in public spreading germs around. Bonus points, I get veggie pizza which I dearly love! When the order arrived, I was delighted to find not just my favourite kind of pizza but Tim ordered it to be made into a heart shape. Awwwwww! Now that's love. He went the extra step. It's that little bit of extra effort.
On the weekends, he always offers to make breakfast. No matter that he has been working crazy hours all week and is exhausted, on either Saturday or Sunday morning, I get to be queen of the castle, and Tim fixes breakfast. That's love. No complaints, no cranky fussing, just a beautiful breakfast :)
For my part, to be fair, most of the time I truly enjoy cooking. I like experimenting and trying new recipes. My mission most of the time is to present something at least reasonably healthy and pretty and tasty that is made of fresh ingredients. I want to bring to the table something that smells good and tastes great. And on those days when I am not in the mood to cook, I'm too tired or too grouchy or too everything, guess what? I cook anyway. Because that's how I express love.
When the boys were babies, I made my own baby food. I made my own breads and jams. I canned food from early spring peas through autumn broccoli. I made endless pots of soups and stews and casseroles. I made cakes and pies and batches of cookies that would reach to the moon and back. I encouraged them to try new things while presenting them with their favourites in equal measure. One dinner might be Oldest son's favourite, the next night, Middle sons and of course Youngest sons first choice would the following dinner. Day after day and night after night, I practically lived in the kitchen.
When we talk on the phone now, I find that we often still discuss food. It's something that we all share in common. A love of each other and a love of food. We exchange recipes. We post pictures of foods and we talk about various restaurants we've visited.
In a recent conversation with youngest son, he mentioned that while walking down a street recently he suddenly and unexpectedly detected the fragrance of what smelled exactly like the oatbread and vegetable soup that I used to make. It was such a strong memory trigger that it took him unaware. It was a good memory, cozy and warm and dare I say it? Loving. And why? Because, despite everything that all the articles I'm see recently saying that food is merely fuel for our bodies and should be treated as such, in truth, Food is Love.
At least in my house.
This past Friday evening, Tim closed up shop early so that we could make the perilous 90 minutes drive through pouring rain (not an exaggeration!) to see a high school play. On purpose!
My sister's oldest daughter, Carrie is a teacher. She has taught all sorts of music and theatre in schools for what...18 years now? Something like that. (Forgive me Carrie if that number is wrong please. I'm terrible at math). This year she moved to teaching at a different school. We were both looking forward to seeing the play but also checking out her new working environment.
Oasis High School in Cape Coral Florida is a relatively new school, less than 20 years old (not even old enough to drink yet!) and it is snazzy looking. Very modern and clean and nestled snugly into a pretty residential area, it is situated perfectly. Everyone we met was very nice, supportive of the kids and enthusiastic about Carrie and what she has brought to the school. And what she brought it as stellar music program! This was the school's first musical performance! Wow!
The kids were great. They were excited, they were engaged. They both acted and reacted incredibly well as their characters. They knew their lines, they clearly had practiced both the music and the choreography and the behind the scenes kiddos who changed out the stage decorations were quick and quiet. It was a great show. The audience sat rapt with attention watching the story unfold and we all sang along (quietly) to the music and maybe chair danced a little bit when the music called for it. Carrie is why this happened and why it was so darned good.
We had SUCH a good time. It's a wonderful story of course. "Emma", by Jane Austen, updated and set to music. What a great adaptation! The story still holds. There are some themes that are eternal. "Emma" is one of them. Kids are kids are kids no matter what the calendar year. It was a Fabulous choice for a maiden voyage.
The one thing that surprised Tim and I was that there was no stage. No auditorium. Why on earth would anyone build a school without an auditorium? Where do they hold assemblies? Or have awards presentations? Or performances (such as this one)? We were more than a little agog.
Nevertheless, they made do. And rather well. One does what one must! They created a make-shift stage on the basketball court. The audience sat in the bleachers - which, if nothing else, meant that everyone had a great view! The kids projected their voices very well considering that there was no sound system, we still heard most of what they said. Enough to get the jist of the story and they sang nice and loud so all of the musical numbers were great! I did worry a tiny bit whenever they had dance numbers that someone was going to tumble off the edge of the platform, but nobody did. Whew!
After the performance, the applause rang out loud and long. The kids were tickled with themselves, as well they should be, the families and friends were wild with delight and Carrie beamed with pride at the result of everyone's hard work. I need to mention here that as proud as Tim and I were of Carrie nobody was more taken with her than her fella, Russ. He was right there, pitching in wherever he was needed and bragging about her to everyone in earshot. I love how much he loves her.
Anyway, we are hopeful that the obvious success of this first performance, will move the school, the community or whoever makes those sorts of things happen, help to make whatever modifications necessary so that future performances have better sounds systems and maybe even a real stage. That is the only thing that could have made it better.
Nice job everyone! Can't wait for the next one :) Be sure to invite us!
So yesterday was Mother's Day. And it's natural that I would have been thinking about my own Mother a lot. She's been gone for about 8 years and I still miss her. Just some days it's a bigger hole than other days y'know?
She was a complicated woman, my mother. But then who isn't? Complicated I mean. I wish you could have known her. She was worth knowing. Let's see, what can I tell you about her?
I actually do not have a lot of pictures of her. She was all kinds of shy. Camera shy being one of the kinds. If a camera came out, 9 times out of 10 she would either step behind someone (or something) or turn her back, or step out of the camera frame. There are a few photos out there where she is trying very hard to be a "good sport" and allow the photo to be taken but her jaw is set so hard she is grimacing more than smiling and her entire body is so stiff that she looks as if she would snap in two if you touched her. Not good photos. In a few other pictures she is making silly faces. So actual good photos of her are rare. But I am so happy that there are a few of them around. When she relaxed and smiled, she was beautiful.
She was very tiny. I'm not sure she ever hit 5 feet. By the end of her life she was only 4'8". Even though I'm not very tall, I always felt as if I towered over her. She very small boned as well. Teeny tiny little bird bones. And she was deceptively strong. If she grabbed hold of you, you weren't going anywhere and it was going to leave a mark.
She was a fine musician, both piano and voice. When she sang, she rattled the china in the cabinets. When she played any piano, she wore it out. There are 88 keys on a piano and she was determined to use them all equally. It was awesome.
She loved flowers and always had a garden that was so beautiful, the trees were jealous. So were the neighbors. I am not certain that she actually gardened differently than anyone else, she just loved the flowers and they loved her right back. She had endless patience for her gardens.
On the flip side, she had no patience at all for such foolishness as cooking. She was absolutely uninterested in food. As such, she didn't cook very often and when she did cook she could never be bothered reading the instructions. The advent of frozen meals was a godsend to her. She thought that was the greatest invention since..well...sliced bread! Meals were not very good at our house.
She loved animals dearly. We always had a houseful, usually rescues of one sort of another. It was an ever changing cast of characters: dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish...it didn't matter what the creature was, she loved it and welcomed it into our home. There was never a question of them getting along. She expected that they would, and so they did.
She adored her grandchildren. In her eyes they could do no wrong. Even when they were clearly in the wrong. Maybe especially if they were wrong. She would defend them to the end. One year on Thanksgiving, after dinner when the adults were cleaning up from the meal and talking and doing other "boring" grown up things, my mother took all 5 of the grandkids down stairs and gave them a box of art supplies, pointed at the white painted walls of the basement and told them to let their imaginations soar. By the time my sister and I found out about it, the basement walls were both sparkly and colourful. The kids believed that she hung the sun, the moon and the stars. And maybe she did.
She read tea-leaves and movie magazines. Most of the magazine subscriptions came from some neighbor kids who was selling them door to door raising money for one thing or another. She never turned a child away. But she turned plenty of adults away.
She didn't play bridge or canasta and flatly refused to join the PTA or the Women's League. She didn't care to bowl or learn to play golf or tennis and she absolutely was never going to be part of the Country Club set. But she would play CandyLand with my sister and I for hours on end and allowed us to climb the big tree in the backyard of our house on Denton Dr even though the lady next door was screaming that we were going to fall out and break our necks.
She treasured and saved every letter or piece of artwork that the kids ever gave her. She didn't own a single dress and other than the occasional polish on her toes, never in her life wore a bit of make-up. But she loved anything that sparkled and had oodles of jewelry. And her favourite reason for anything she ever did was, "just because". Sometimes Just Because is my favourite reason now too.
She was one of the funniest people I've ever known and she was never trying to be funny. She just had a unique way of looking at things that cracked me up. She always said exactly what she was thinking with no filter at all. And sometimes that was pretty darned funny too. She definitely wasn't like anyone else's mom that I knew but she didn't care that she was different. In fact, I think she secretly liked it.
It's Mother's Day and I miss my Mother. But I am so glad I have so very many wonderful memories.
Ok, so this is me. This is how I've looked for about three years now. And, for the most part, I've been perfectly content with it all. There are always things I've wished were different but that's probably true of nearly everyone.
But about two weeks ago, I started noticing sparkly bits in my hair again. And that is earlier than usual. I didn't even (at that particular moment) have the darker roots. Just some silvery looking strands of hair here and there. Hmmmmmm. Had the time finally come when my hair was actually more grey than anything else?
I've been colouring my hair for so long now that I honestly had no idea what my "real" hair looked like? Oh I knew that a few days before my scheduled appointment that I had darker roots and some glints of silver here and there but that is easily solved. But here I was two weeks out from my appointment and there was some definite twinkling going on with my hair. Hmmmmmm again.
So it was on my mind. And I would think about it at the most unexpected times. Putting on my make-up with that magnifying mirror. Suddenly I noticed, not just the eye that I was decorating, but that sunburst of wrinkles spreading out on each side. I mean I guess I knew that they were there, I just didn't think about it on a regular basis. So I put the mascara wand down and really looked at myself.
I tend to only look at the specific thing I need to see when I peek into any reflective surface. I almost never see the "whole". Flossing my teeth - just the teeth, putting on lipstick, just the lips, a full-length mirror at a store - I am only checking things like hem length and bra-straps showing, detailed specific check points.
So I guess I was taken by surprise a little bit. I have so many more "smile lines" than I realized. Hmmmmmm one more time.
I had breakfast with a friend recently. She is a stunningly beautiful woman with masses of curly hair that she is allowing to slowly become whatever it chooses to become. And what it is becoming is snow white. It is stunning! We talked about hair a little bit and how she just got tired of fussing with it. She just felt that any extra time and money she had could be spent elsewhere rather than fighting against her hair colour. Since she is a very smart woman, I paid attention and added what she was saying to the Hmmmm pile.
My best friend stopped fighting the hair colour fight a few years ago. Her hair is a gorgeous blend of whites and silvers and greys and a little bit of something very dark. She is a beautiful woman anyway, but her hair is so striking! She still looks young and vibrant and that was added on the ever growing pile of things to consider.
Then there was the capper. An older lady walked past me on the Avenue recently. MUCH older lady. Her hair was the colour of a red crayon. Now I am going to assume that she loves it. Maybe she did it to be fun..and why not? But on the off-chance that she chose that colour because she was always a red head in her life and wasn't ready yet to adapt to grey hair I had to consider that possibility too.
I never want to look like a joke. I never want to over hear someone say, 'Who does she think she is kidding?' So I called my hairdresser and gave her fair warning that at my next visit, I wanted to discuss hair colour. Ok. That gave me more time to think about this. What did I really want to do.
My hair was blonde, I mean naturally, until I was an adult. As soon as I started having children it became darker. And it became progressively darker with each child until it was a dark brown. I never liked the dark brown hair on me. I think it looks great on other people but I felt that it didn't suit me somehow. So eventually I began lightening it. At first on my own at home, and then when I had totally ruined my poor hair, I began having it professionally done.
Eventually I began dabbling with lots of other colours, various shades of blonde, red and even back to various browns. I had fun! It's fun to play with hair. It's creative, it's fun, it's like re-inventing yourself over and again. The same way different styles of clothes change how you look, so does hair colour and make-up. So if I did this.....if I stopped fighting the greys...this would be a huge committment on my part.
Yesterday I had my appointment. I made my choice. I was all in. Let's do this. My hairdresser and I talked at length and ultimately the decision was to darken it all over to sort of match the darkest part of my roots with a demi-permanent colour that will gradually fade out. Once the hair colour is completely gone I will find out what my actual hair really looks like! Now I'm kind of excited to find out! Am I grey, silver or white? Is there just a little bit or is there a lot?
It's going to be an adventure! Ok..here it is folks. Hang on to your hats. On the left is pretty much what I looked like walking in and on the right is how I looked on the way back out.
In a few weeks time, the evidence should be showing itself. The "reveal" if you will. Stay tuned.
I don't know if this happens where you live, but around here, at this time of year is the "Letter Carriers Food Drive". What a wonderful idea! And it absolutely could not be easier. They even provide the bag.
Here is how it works. Yesterday in my mailbox, along with my mail was this empty bag with the cute little Family Circus kiddos on the front. I brought it in the house and started poking around my pantry. What did I have more than one of? In went a jar of spaghetti sauce, followed quickly by a box of crackers, cans of vegetables, a bottle of salad dressing, a box of tea bags and so forth. Once the bag was full I set it on the counter where I won't forget about it. On Saturday morning, I will leave this bag out by my mailbox and when our letter carrier comes by, off the bag will go to a central collection site where the contents will be divided up to various area food pantries. Done.
Last year in my general vicinity more than 195,000 lbs of food were collected! That is pretty amazing considering that the population of my town of Venice is less than 25,000 people. This is such a simple thing to do and it helps so many people who are going through a difficult time in their lives.
You might be surprised to learn that in this country, most families are only one tragedy away from needing assistance at some point in their lives. The sudden loss of a job, an illness, a death, a divorce or even a natural disaster can take a person from being financial secure to being unable to provide meals for their families on a regular basis. Did you know that in the USA, our affluent, 1st world, powerful country, one in six children goes to bed hungry?
About ten years ago now, back in Colorado, I was the Co-Chair (which means Co-Director - I don't know why they called it "chair") of an assistance agency. It was another wonderful organization that provided food, guidance, resources, financial assistance and more to people in need. On a regular basis we gave out bus tokens, chits for free clothing, medical help and even in emergencies, brief hotel room stays. We provided a regularly updated job board, help with resumes, and taught people how to budget. We had special programs for holidays and backpacks filled with supplies for school kids.
The hardest part of that job was educating the public. First explaining that there really and truly was a genuine need in the community (you would not believe the number of people who refused to believe that anyone in that community had financial problems) and then changing the minds of the folks who thought that anyone who couldn't pay their bills or feed their families somehow had done something to deserve it. Wow. That was always a tough educational process. It's not just people who have made poor choices in their lives who need help, what about their children? Those kids still need to be fed and clothed and housed. And what about our Military Veterans who have protected this country and now, due to their injuries, need our help? And the forgotten elderly? And as I said before, just regular workaday normal people who have had a sudden change of fortune. They all need and deserve help too!
We partnered with area churches, schools, service organizations and businesses. We held monthly food drives and gave talks and tours endlessly. We submitted an exhausting number of grant proposals and worked with utility companies, thrift shops, medical offices and local law enforcement to make this happen. And here is the part that will astonish you the most. That organization was entirely, completely and totally run by volunteers. 100%. Including myself and my Co-Chair. Our feeling was that if we collected a salary, we would have less money to provide help to our community. It was such a good feeling, every single day, to know that we helped people.
And you can help too. Easiest thing in the world. Even if your area doesn't do the Letter Carrier Food Drive, I am pretty darned sure that somewhere in your area is an assistance organization that needs help. And I am even more positive that someone in your area needs that assistance. Just a little hand up during a difficult time.
Here's a thought, anytime you are at your local grocery store and you see one of those BOGO, buy one, get one free sales, go ahead and get the free one too. If you don't need it, donate it. Costs you nothing. If you can afford to give more, do that. Give money, give time, give groceries, give whatever you can. Every single little bit helps. Back at my old job, I remember an adorable little boy, maybe 7 years old, who came in one time with a little envelope. He silently handed me the envelope. He mother, beaming with pride, tears in her eyes told me that her son had been doing chores for the family for a month and he saved all of the money to give to us so that "some other kid won't be hungry". It wasn't a lot of cash but it was a ton of heart.
I will ask you this though, if you choose to participate, don't use this as an opportunity to get rid of outdated food. If you wouldn't eat it, nobody else should have to either. Do not donate opened jars, boxes or cans either. That stuff will just get thrown away. You can throw it away yourself.
Please consider participating in the Letter Carriers Food Drive if you have one in your area (it is a nation-wide program) or if your area does not, make the extra effort to drop off some food at your local food pantry. It's such a small thing to do, but it makes such a big difference.
It's a karma thing. I promise.
That's kind of what I looked like after Pilates class yesterday. Well honestly, not that good because the lady in this picture is young and pretty. I looked more like the Wreck of the Hesperus. It was well deserved. We work out hard (of course we did, there is no point in doing it otherwise)
I didn't even think too much about how I looked with my messy hair, sweaty body and no make-up as I walked by home but at some point along the way, the following sentence rang through my head, "Pigs Sweat, Men Perspire and Women Glow".
I learned that one when I lived in Texas. With all due respect too the lovely ladies of Texas who at that time still wore gloves to church on Sunday and the worst thing they ever said about anyone was, "Bless her heart", this particular woman sometimes sweats. Buckets.
Especially in Florida. Especially in August. It's only May right now. It's still cool in the mornings and evenings and even on the most hot and humid day in May, it is positively lovely outside. The great outdoors is a very desirable place to be. Even at the worst part of the day, people are still out walking, riding their bikes, playing tennis and frolicking on the beach. We are all wearing shorts, sandals and using sunblock by the gallon, but we are outside. By choice.
By July the number will have dropped off to a courageous (or foolish) few and by August, only mad dogs and Englishmen as the saying goes. Well and me. I'm usually out there too. I'm "Glowing" like the Las Vegas Strip at night, but I'm out there. Like the stubborn fool that I am. Even on the worst of days, come noonish, Tim and I are out doing what we have come to call the noon-walk. Tim tries, every work day, to take a break roughly half way through his day, to get up from his desk, to step away from his work, and then we take a walk. Our usually trek is a two + mile circle. Two miles is nothin' on a nice day. But at noon, in August, when it's 90 something degrees hot with 90 something percent humidity and just thinking about going outside gives you sweaty pits, well, obviously we are out of our minds.
And yet there we are, outside, walking, talking, laughing, sweating....
Lizards watch us walk by from the shade of a shrub or a tree, bunnies peep out from shady glens, birds splash in puddles and shake their heads saying, "crazy humans". I was going to say, Crazy like a fox but I think it's more crazy like a crazyperson because, I mean, well, other than us, who does this?
Turns out more people than you'd think. At least here. Some of them I think are tourists. Maybe they come from very cold places and they just want to warm up. Or maybe they have arrived here from even hotter, more humid places and this is cool and dry by comparison. Or they are just regular ordinary people who came to the beach for vacation and Damn the weather, they are going to act like someone on vacation! Good for them. Personally, I refuse to be a prisoner (of the weather) in my house.
We have found that once you get past the initial...ewwwww I'm sweating....part, it's not that big of a deal. Wear sunscreen, wear sunglasses, wear a hat! Dress appropriate to the temperature, drink lots of water and then, relax and enjoy it. The high heat and humidity won't be here forever so be one with it. It's all very Zen.
Be forewarned, you may sweat. You might perspire. Personally, this year, I plan to work on glowing instead. By the end of the summer, if things work out, I'll be able to light up the night like a beacon!
I am a very smiley person ;) It's just my nature. It isn't something I do on purpose, it's just who I am. I am not just a Glass Half Full sort of person, I'm a Glass Half Full AND there is more in the fridge sort of person.
Most people like being around happy people. I have found that Smiles are contagious. When I am around happy, smiling people, I tend to be happier, smilier (smile-ier? Is that a word?) It not only brightens my day, it lightens any load I'm carrying. It makes life easier somehow.
There are, however, a couple of downsides. One of course is that while Most people like being around happy people, not everyone does. And my being a smiley person REALLY irritates those folks. I know I've told this story before, but I'll risk being redundant to tell it again. It's pertinent.
One of the many amazing nurses I was fortunate to have worked with in my life was not a jolly happy person. A Great nurse! A terrific human being! But while she wasn't a constant thunderstorm, she just wasn't all sunshine and roses either. And some days she was seriously Not in a Good Mood.
On one of those sorts of days, when I walked into the office chirruping out my happy Good Mornings and getting my workday underway, she walked up to me and said, "You know how you are always happy and smiling and cheerful all the time?" "Yes" I nodded and smiled back at her. "Well" she continued in a perfectly conversational tone, "It's really starting to piss me off!" I laughed so hard. Not to be mean, but it just struck me funny.
Of course it did. I'm that kind of person. You give me lemons I not only make lemonade, but I am happy about I'm doing it. I suppose my whole Pollyanna thing can be a bit much. I can tone it down if I have to. Turn down the wattage on my smile with concentrated effort.
And, that brings me weirdly to the other problem with being a happy person. Some people incorrectly interpret my smiling, friendly, happy attitude as flirting. WHAT? No. No. No. That's not what I'm doing. I am being pleasant. I'm being friendly. I'm being a good listener.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have been having what I thought was a perfectly innocent and pleasant exchange with someone male who suddenly gets way too friendly. When I am then surprised and put off by their change of demeanor, they get huffy with me. They are surprised that I am surprised because after all, "I was flirting with them. What did I expect?" Well NOT that for sure! No I was absolutely NOT flirting!
I even asked one guy why he thought I was flirting with him. He said that it was because I was nice to him. I was dumbfounded. I'm nice to EVERYONE! I smile all the time! I like people, I find them interesting but that doesn't mean I'm flirting! Geezo criminy!
It's almost enough to make me not be smiley. Almost. But not enough. I like being happy.
But I promise you, I am a lot more careful about misinterpretation!
I actually have recently learned that this is not an unusual problem. Many smiley happy friendly people have this exact same issue! Wow! I think it's time for some education. A little PSA if you will.
Ok, let me be very clear. Being happy does not mean flirting. Smiling does not mean flirting. Being pleasant does not mean flirting. It just means being happy. Happy is good. But it is not flirting. Are we crystal clear on this now?
In every single one of the photos below....Happy. Not flirting. Learn the difference please!
This has been a Public Service Announcement :)
Cinco de Mayo! Woohoo!
Well actually we enjoyed our Mexican food on the 4th rather than the 5th (and May the Fourth be with you) just because. Seriously no other reason. We were hungry for Mexican food and it was the 4th which we felt was close enough to the fifth to count. We are not all that rigid about our holiday celebrations.
We were out and about running errands anyway, so when we got tummy rumbly, instead of going directly home instead we headed toward our favourite local Mexican restaurant. Plaza Mexico! I really should have taken some photos of the inside of the place. Think dark heavy rustic wooden furniture and bright happy colours everywhere. Perfect! Not the Disney version of a Mexican Restaurant. Nice.
We had guacamole of course. A nice young man with a trolley loaded with ingredients came by to ask how we wanted ours made. Tim very thoughtfully allows me to dictate the amount of heat and spice since, while I adore guac, I can only tolerate tiny heat. As in, for anyone else it's, 'Is there any spice in here?" but for me, my mouth is tingling. Yes, I'm a wimp.
Our food was wonderful, it always is there, the service was attentive and very pleasant, as per usual. We left very full and very happy. I was too hungry to remember to take photos when the food first came to the table, sorry. You will have to extrapolate from the evidence below how amazing our meal was:
So it's all good right? Except, I wasn't exactly sure what it was that we were celebrating. Most holidays I know the origin of. This one I do not. It just feels like, if I am going to celebrate something, I ought to know why. So, of course, I did some reading.
In case you didn't know, May 5th, Cinco de Mayo is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It is important to note here that the Mexican army was much smaller than the French one and yet they prevailed! That is worthy of note! Something to be proud of.
I've always been a fan of the underdog in any fight. Stillo do I have the right to celebrate a Mexican Holiday? I mean is that cultural appropriation? (I understand that right now that is kind of a thing). I would never intentionally offend anyone.
But then I went on to read that Cinco de Mayo is far more popular throughout the United States than it is in Mexico? What? In the US it has changed from being the celebration of a military victory to a celebration of Mexican-American Culture! I love when people are able to assimilate into 'American' culture and yet still hang on to and celebrate their origins! After all, one of the nicknames of the US that I have always been most proud of was that we are the "Melting Pot". So many different cultures, so many different languages and backgrounds and religions living in relative harmony (we still need to work on that) together! What a wonderful idea!
Everyone in this country has blended some of their history/traditions/foods/language together to make us stronger, more robust, more vigorous, richer, more interesting as a people. It's like weaving a very colourful blanket of super sturdy yarns. Strong and beautiful!
Thinks about it. In any fair sized town or city you can find food from nearly any country you like. We enjoy the festivals celebrating each of these cultures as well. Nobody is turned away. The attitude is more, "Come learn about us!". Knowledge is understanding after all. The fashion industry is long known for adapting various cultural dress into our styles. Literature, art, science, are all richer for the diversity of it's contributors. While there are of course differences from one country and culture to another, ultimately, there are far more similarities. Still the differences are important too because how we learn and grow and become more global in our mindset.
So as it turns out, I do not need to feel any more guilty for celebrating Cinco de Mayo than I do for wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. It's true that if you go far enough back in my family history, there is a line or good Irish folks and my maiden name is Hurley (from the O'Hurlihy), but we are talking about 300 years or more ago. And I've never been to Ireland so I certainly do not feel as if I can call myself Irish. Or German (some of that in my background too) or English (got some of that yupyup) or any of the many other ethnic backgrounds that comprise my genetic history.
I say that we should all celebrate not just our own cultural heritage but that of everyone around us! I feel like Oprah right now, "You get a celebration and You get a celebration and You get a celebration"!
So Happy Cinco (or in our case, quatro) de Mayo! Hope you celebrated! What's the next one on the calendar 'coz I'm gonna celebrate that one too!
It's May 3rd today which means we are just a few weeks from our official "Rainy Season". I like the rain. I love the smell of it. The air is floral perfumed. I love the sense of it. The rain makes everything seem fresh and clean. I adore the sound of it pittypatting on the roof and the windows.
Everything that grows is so happy then. The lawn perks up, the shrubs and flowers bloom like mad, even the wildflowers are happy. Which in turn makes the butterflies and bees overjoyed. The hummingbirds hum, other birds splash around in the puddles and I can take those oh so pretty pictures of water drops on flowers and other green growing things which I adore. And all is well with the world.
Well, maybe not everything. Summer is the season of humidity. There are days when the humidity percentage is higher than the temperature. I'm not even joking a little bit. The deeper we get into summer, AKA "The Rainy Season", the thicker the humidity becomes until, at times, it almost feels as if you are trying to breathe under water. Sigh. It's ok. It certainly doesn't prevent me from spending time outside! Nope. There isn't much that can do that! Humidity be damned, I'm going outside!
But if we can overlook that one teensy thing, the humidity, we are enterring the visually prettiest part of the year here.
Oh it's always lovely here. There is always something growing, something blooming and of course, I certainly cannot think of a single argument against the stunning beauty of the sea any day of the year. But during rainy season, everything is so lush and ripe with loveliness. It's almost an overload of beauty.
And still I hear so much criticism of Florida in Summer. Humidity..., heat...., Sun damage...hurricanes....
Ok. Let's look at this one complaint at a time.
Humidity, yes. But I've lived in a lot of humid places. Illinois and Missouri were both incredibly humid in Summer as was Connecticut and Texas. But in those states we lived nowhere near the ocean and here, I can dabble my toes in the ocean when it gets muggy. I also have a lovely sea breeze most days which I didn't have in either of those places. (and better air conditioning!) And hey, humidity...of course! What did you expect? It's Florida people, subtropical!
The heat? Honestly, most days it is cooler here than back in Colorado! I know because I check those things. I have my weather stats set up to tell me the what's happening weather wise not just here but also back in Colorado, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania (where the kids are). Our summer numbers here are almost never worse than any of those places and often better. Truth.
Sun damage. Well it's nice out most of the year and I spend a lot of time out in it but I do wear sunscreen. That's just good common sense. But you know what? As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, the only sunburn I ever got was in Connecticut on a cloudy day so if I have damaged my skin, it was probably then. And speaking of sun exposure by the way, Colorado has more than 300 sunny days a year! More than Florida! (Florida averages 175 just FYI) To say nothing of the fact that where we lived in Colorado we were a mile closer to the actual sun. Denver...mile high city...it's not just a saying folks, it's true. That's 5, 280 feet!! I think the elevation here is something like 7.
Hurricanes. Well yes. I cannot argue about that. There can be hurricanes here. But often there are not. The last hurricane we had here, Irma, was a humdinger! And we were fine. The one before that was 17 years prior. Lots of places have extreme weather: Wildfires, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes (not really weather I know), droughts, floods, Mother Nature has lots of tricks in her bag. Enough for everyone. The point is, there is no place to hide from the possibility of bad weather. It's everywhere. Here, yes, possible hurricanes during the hurricane season. Which coincides with the rainy season. What you gonna do? Weather is gonna happen.
So, while I might quietly complain to myself on a super humid day in the summertime I certainly cannot get cranky about the results of the humidity. I do love those pretty flowers. Apparently we cannot have one without the other. Balance in the Universe once again.
Have a great weekend y'all.
I grew up in an era where a tan was a sign of good health. As kids, we knocked around outside pretty much all day long, regardless of the weather. Sunscreen? I'm pretty sure that wasn't a thing when I was a kid. I do remember Coppertone Sun Tan Lotion. I'm not absolutely certain what Coppertone was for though. The early slogan was, "Don't be a paleface". Hmmmm Perhaps the intent was to promote tanning? I know that nowadays it's all about preventing it. "Tan don't Burn" is the tagline now. The fragrance will be with me forever. Very distinctive.
Regardless, I do not recall ever having a sunburn as a child except on my nose. A peeling nose was an indication of a great summer way back then. Of course, while I say that we kids were outside all of the time, I have to confess that I spent a lot of time in the library and then reading either in the shade of a tree or on the porch. Still outside but not so much in the sun.
By the time I was a teenager, a perfect tan was a goal. I mean, come on! It looks so good against crisp white clothing! And as a teenaged girl, it was supposed to be all about how we looked. Seriously, by the time I was in highschool in Texas, if looks weren't everything, they were at least 75% of the whole. It's sad, but it's true. Not so much about substance as it was aobut surface. And a tan was a desirable surface. So desirable, in fact, that a lot of the girls I knew would lay out in the sun after coating themselves with baby oil. A perfectly cooked butterball turkey comes to mind.
Now I wasn't part of the "in" crowd. In fact, I was more part of the "out" crowd. And since I already didn't fit in, it didn't really matter if I fulfilled the criteria of what was necessary to be a popular girl. Consequently, I do not recall ever doing that. I do remember being outside sometimes, running, walking, riding my bike (at least until I got my driver's license) so I was outside sometimes but I remember more time spent indoors than out, listening to records, gabbing with friends, reading, reading, reading.......all indoor activities. I may have had a tan when I was in highschool, but I wouldn't bank on that as fact.
I absolutely do not remember about getting a sunburn.
Until a few years later. It was during my first year of college in fact. Yes, the first sunburn I remember ever having was in college. I lived in Connecticut then. A beautiful state with a great variety of weather. A lot of it, non-sunny. And yet, that is where I got my first burn. It was a cloudy day. I spent the entire day out on a boat getting tossed about by frisky waves so I was salt encrusted, soaking wet and having a wonderful time. I didn't realize that I had a sunburn until the next day. I'd like to mention here that the two-piece bathing suit, that I wore that day, had a halter top. Which means exposed shoulders. Burned to a crisp. A bra on the other hand, is not a halter top. And the chafing from the bra straps rubbing against that dark red burn was so painful. Every bit of exposed skin was burned by my shoulders were absolutely the worst. It took forever for that burn to heal. Primarily because the product I was instructed to use to heal up that burn was Noxzema.
Noxzema is still around today in it's beautiful dark blue jar. It's another fragrance I will always remember. That and the feel of that ultrawhite cream as I scooped out two fingers full. The cream.....*tingles*.....as it cleans. Yes it's a facial cleanser! OUCH! Does that make any sense at all? Put a cleanser that tingles as it cleans on burned skin? No. It makes zero sense. But I was a kid and I was stupid and I did what I was told even though it was ridiculous.
It was a miserable few weeks of suffering. And when it finally healed a little bit, I could pull the dead skin away in sheets. Gross! In fact it was so gross that I decided that I did not ever need to be tan again. I would avoid the sun as much as humanly possible.
Turned out during most of the rest of college that was relatively easy. I was either in class, at work, studying, hanging out with friends in the dorm, at the library or sleeping. I did walk to classes of course and I was still running then but running is fast. Sun exposure time is limited.
Then I got married and had kids and while yes, I did spent time outside, working on the farm, playing with the kids, hanging clothes on the line, I was covered. No more sun burns. I think that was around the time that I discovered sunscreen. I used it. I made sure the kids used it. It was a normal thing. If you are going to be outside, put on sunscreen. If A then B. Easypeasy. No more burns for me!
It was many many years later in Colorado, when Tim got the worst burn I have ever seen anyone get from the sun that didn't involve blisters. He was not red, he was maroon. Clearly he was not wearing sunscreen. He was miserable. We tried aloe (which I kept in the fridge for minor burns) with no good effect. I went to the store and bought various unguents and creams and lotions and not one of them did a damned bit of good despite the claims on the label.
Desperate for relief, Tim did some research online and sent to me a local health food store to pick up a product called Emu Oil. I felt foolish asking for it, but they didn't bat an eye. Product purchased, I returned home, Very gently applied the oil and he felt immediate relief. It healed so very quickly we were astonished. What is this miracle product? (photo at the top of the page)
It is made from the rendered fat of Emu's. That's it. The only thing in the bottle is oil of Emu. It is the slipperiest thing I've ever had on my skin. It has essentially no fragrance at all. But it heals amazingly. Ever since that day, we ALWAYS have Emu Oil in the house. For burns absolutely and minor dings and scratches and blisters but honestly, it makes a darned nice moisturizer in a pinch.
The first visit that youngest child and his wife made down here to Florida to visit us, there were a couple of sunburns that happened. Delicate, pale New York skin pinks up pretty quickly here in the southland. We offered Emu Oil, which they used with doubt in their eyes, but they were won over very quickly. Our jar of Emu Oil went home with them and now their home is never without it either.
I am not one, normally, to promote a product, but this one gets no press. I have never seen a shiny magazine ad for it. I've never seen a celebrity wow about it on TV. And yet, it is the most incredible stuff! Why? Why? Why does nobody know about this?
Our first bottle was from the healthfood store, the second one, Tim bought on line through Amazon, but the last time, we found it at good old Walmart! I do feel the need to add here that I just read an online article indicating that there is no medical proof that Emu Oil does anything at all. But I'm fine with that. I have real life proof. I'm good.
Not long ago, Tim and I were at a fair sized gathering of fun and interesting people. We were having a perfectly lovely time talking, laughing, eating, y'know, the usual stuff that happens when a group of people get together. And then one man threw out the following question:
"If you didn't know how old you were, how old would you be?"
Interesting question. So if somehow, I had zero point of reference and nobody ever told me my age or what the actual date of my birth was, how old would I think I was? Hmmmm. Interesting question. For me, I think it depends completely on the day. I feel differently from day to day. Doesn't everyone?
I confess that there are days when I believe I'm at least as old as Methuselah. Days when just getting out of bed feels like a major accomplishment. I'm a little cranky, everything hurts and almost everything that needs to be done is a little more effort than I really want to expend.
And then there are days when I'm goofy and silly and bouncing around filled with all sorts of pent up energy. On those days, I think maybe I'm about 5 years old. I start out by having cookies for breakfast, ice cream for lunch and potato chips for dinner. I want a nap around 3 o'clock and I'm in bed by 8.
Other times I'm probably a young adult...20's or so. I'm optimistic, idealistic and full of purposeful energy. I eat very healthfully, work out without complaining about it and stay up very late at night. On those days, I'm kind of fun and I want to go new places and try new things. I am fearless on those days!
But then, that is probably balanced by the days I am my actual age. I get everything done that needs to be done, but sometimes I have to force myself a tiny bit. I have to remind myself every day to not get comfortable in my little "rut" and to be more adventurous. I'm happy most of the time but when I read the newspaper sometimes I get a little angry or worse, sad. It's hard to keep up with everything new in technology though I try. And I no longer have any idea who is singing on the radio in the car when it's set to a popular music station.
If I wasn't looking in the mirror and had to average it all out, probably most of the time I'd assume that I was somewhere in my 40's.
That's not really so bad. The decade of my forties was a good time in my life. Tim and I got married the year I turned 40. And in that decade, we bought a house, fixed it up, went on some awesome trips and created great memories with the boys. Now that I think about it, all of our parents were still alive in that decade too.
But would I want to go back and do it again? Nope. Not a chance.
You know those movies, Freaky Friday and Back to the Future where people have an opportunity to relive the past in one way or another? I have no desire at all to do it all over again. I'm all about moving forward. I may feel in my 40's but I'm very happy where I truly am now. It took 65 years to get here and every single experience I've had, every person I've met, every thing I've done, every place I've gone is what created this moment right now. And this moment right now is pretty darned good.
So..I ask you! If you didn't know how old you were, how old would you be?
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.