Creepy and Weird in the Grocery Store

I understand from my extensive watching of movies and TV, that sometimes men try to pick up women in the grocery store.  We make it easy because it’s second nature for a woman to give an opinion to some poor floundering man while he’s choosing produce (or fish or just about any topic, for that matter).  It’s amusing watching them maneuver through the aisles with that deer-in-the-headlights look while they attempt to figure out the huge questions of life, like – how do we know if fruit is ripe or not.

I have often given unsolicited counsel to the noticeably naïve, and rarely have I been met with anything but gratitude.  Never has even one person thrown a tomato at me (would that be a vegetable or a fruit?).  Before I tell you my story of how I think I might possibly have been the victim of someone trying to pick me up in the grocery store, let me relate a few tips that might help the new shopper.  I like to make this blog both fun and educational.

How to buy a cantaloupe:  Method #1:  Choose one.  Purchase it.  Take it home and cut it open.  Taste and see if it’s any good.  Method #2:  This method eliminates some of the mystery that we’re all looking for when we buy cantaloupe.  Scratch and sniff.  Scratch the stem end and give it a sniff.  If it smells like cantaloupe then you likely have not picked up a watermelon, which is much more difficult to pick up and smell anyway.

On a side note, when choosing a watermelon I apply the thump method.  If it sounds hollow when I pluck it with my finger, it’s probably good – especially if it’s in the summertime when watermelon is pretty much always good.

But I digress.  Now that you are prepared for buying summertime melons (you might want to bookmark this and save it for review again in June), we’ll visit the ketchup and mustard aisle.  This is where things get really spicy.  I was choosing a yellow mustard.  Because my husband and I are empty-nesters, we don’t use that much mustard; so I look for the store brand that isn’t too big allowing it to form that ugly, hard, yellow crust around the edge, and not too small either so I don’t pay the same price per ounce as you would caviar.  This must have been a come-on for an old guy lurking in the lane there because he commented about it.  “Picking out mustard.  Do you use it on hotdogs?”

First off, the comedic use of observation is only truly effective if you’re Seinfeld.  Secondly, my mustard preferences are private, mister.  I was polite and informed him I don’t put mustard on hotdogs.  I’m not sure why I divulged this very personal preference, but there you go.  I quickened my step and moved on, not really giving the exchange much thought.  That is until the frozen foods aisle, where I was forced to give this man the cold shoulder while picking out mixed vegetables.  He was a little too obvious there.  Are people really that friendly?  Do others care that I prefer Birds Eye over store brands?  I think not.  I should have said, “Back off, mister, I’ve already been walked down the aisle – at my wedding!”  (Boo-yeah! would have been an optional add-on for effect.)

boo yeahI was able to give him the slip and leave without being followed (my definition of a successful shopping trip).  I remembered that when I was young I would feel flattered if someone inquired about my mustard choices.  Now that I’m not-quite-as-young – not so much.  Perhaps it was because the man who asked the questions was an old guy.  That made it creepy.  Or perhaps it was because I suddenly realized that he was about my age.  That made it weird.

 

 

Miracle at CVS

While in CVS today I was able to get a rather large knife out of the hands of a man.  And then I thanked him.  The amazing part of this story is not that the man pulled a knife on me – he didn’t.  It was that I asked him if he had a pocket knife I could borrow to pop open the back of a watch; and he, without hesitation, pulled out the biggest pocket knife I have ever seen.  He must have huge pockets.

I smiled about this for a long time because it did my heart good to be able to ask a stranger for help of this type, especially in this crazy world we live in today; and he helped me without hesitation.

Yes, Virginia, there are kind, knife-wielding people out there; and they are ready to lend a hand at the mere request of a stranger.  It’s a Christmas miracle.

Of course, it didn’t take but a moment to relate this to a Seinfeld episode or two.  This isn’t too Christmassy, but today I felt a little bit like Elaine.  Lesson to be learned here:  Never judge a book by its cover.

 

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Birds of a Feather Flock Together for Lunch

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

One of the things that I miss from my old house is my backyard birds.  I had a feeding station set up just off my porch.  Watching the birds was one of my joys.  I guess you could say I’m a birder, but not one of those go-out-in-the-great-beyond birders who knows where and when different species migrate to add them to my life list.  I wait for them to come to me.  They are my perfect little pets.  (They never mess up my house.)

As the crow flies, I don’t live far from my old home.  It was suggested to me that I leave a trail of breadcrumbs so my feathered friends could find me.  If that would have worked, I probably would have done it; but I figured it was time for me to make some new feathered friends and let the new owners of my old house enjoy the regular visitors there. I guess you could say I’m branching out to a new birding environment.

So we set up the feeding station in our new backyard and waited.  I could hear the birds in the trees which surround my yard – hear them but not see them.  Days passed and I wondered what was preventing them.  I know there are hawks around.  Perhaps these birds weren’t willing to risk going out in the open.  At long last, the blue jays came.  I appreciated their loud cackle alerting me to their visit.  Eventually a titmouse popped in and soon returned with his whole family.

I was a happy girl…for a while.  Here’s an analogy that might help you understand my temporary happiness.  It is the reason why I shouldn’t open a large bag of M&Ms.  I can start out with a few and be content, but soon I want more.  I don’t have to see them.  I can hear them calling me from the pantry – just like the birds in the trees.

The sound of cardinals in the trees really bothered me.  What was it going to take to lure them in?  Sometimes I would see one on my fence, but he never stopped at the feeder. I also heard a sweet little bird called a Phoebe, whose call sounds like his name. I would hear him every day but never lay eyes on him.  Until today.  Phoebe stopped by.  He doesn’t spend much time at the feeder but he loves to perch on top of it and fly from perch to perch around the yard.  While I was looking at him, the cardinals stopped in.  (They usually travel in pairs.)  I caught a glimpse of the female leaving as the brilliant male made a pit stop.  This is happiness for me.  Watching the birds relaxes me and is one of the things God uses to still my anxious heart.

He uses my friends that way, too.  Today I had lunch with two such friends.  I’ll call them Phoebe and Cardinal.  I often hear how they’re doing on Facebook or receive a phone call or text, but I really need to see them.  Visit a feeder with them.  Spend time with them.  One of the things that I’m adjusting to is my access to my friends.  They are not as readily available, but I’m only 15 minutes away from that old neighborhood.  That is practically nothing.

Patience was what it took to see birds at my feeder.  Intentionality is what it takes to keep friendships near and dear.  Even if those friends are only fifteen minutes away.

Isn't he beautiful?

Isn’t he beautiful?

Bird Watching in the Sixties

“Mom, why is there a statue of a naked lady in our backyard?”

This is a question that I thankfully never had to answer, but my poor mother did – just this morning.

My mother has influenced my life in countless ways.  Her love of birds has been passed down to each of her children. While I was growing up, there was always a feeder in our backyard, and we learned to identify the local birds at a young age.  We also had a bird bath featured prominently off our back porch.  When I was nine I took this picture of my parents, grandparents, and my little sister.  The statue in the bird bath is featured in the foreground.  I can picture my mom, so wanting to encourage me in my new hobby, and so wanting to pose for the picture anywhere else.  (Hey, how about we stand in front of those garbage cans?  The light is great there!)

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad's recollection of the bird bath statue.

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad’s recollection of the bird bath statue.

I have several scenarios in my head as to why there was a nude woman in the middle of our bird bath.  I debated whether or not to ask my parents about it.  (I didn’t want to bring up any old arguments.)  Finally I couldn’t stand all the questions circling in my mind so I made the call.

I didn’t want to put them on the spot, but inquiring minds want to know.  First I asked Mom.  She had no recollection of it, but got a good laugh out of the question.  Dad also denied any memory of it.  Hum, how could these people, who remember so many details from their 67 years of marriage, have blocked this shocking display from their minds!  (And, why can’t I forget it?)

I picture my dad going to buy it and installing it in the backyard without Mom’s input.  He has always been like that.  He’d see something that he thought would work and act on it.  I’m sure he was happy to bless my mom.  I’m also pretty sure Mom would have been happier with a garden gnome.

Things were a lot different in the 1960s.  (They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.)  Perhaps my parents were classier than I give them credit.  Maybe there was an artsy side of them that I did not appreciate at the tender age of nine.  After all, I always liked the velvet painting of a matador that Dad brought home from Mexico.  Yes, that’s the story and I’m sticking with it.

Starting Over – It Only Feels Like a Punch in the Gut

Bob and I have been on the fast-track ever since we returned home from our trip to Europe at the end of April.  Our feet hit the ground running, or maybe they were shuffling and dragging.  Who can remember!  All I can tell you is – it’s been non-stop (our lives, not our flight from Europe).

Over the summer we had enough major events in our lives to do our own Lifetime made-for-TV movie.  Our youngest son got married.  Our middle son, his wife, and their baby, who had been living with us, moved to Michigan.  We sold our home of 32 years.  The home in which we raised our kids.  The home that Bob drew up the initial plans for.  The home which we had chosen every detail from floor to ceiling.  The home that was in a neighborhood where most of our closest friends live.  Okay, enough of that.  And, we bought and moved into a new (for us) house.  Now, after forty years of marriage, we are official empty-nesters.

This morning as I was trying to get pictures hung on the wall, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to hang this one.  I’m not talking about my usual challenge to do anything handy around the house either.


This is not the home where my story began.  Plus, I’m a little old to begin a new story.  I guess I should have left this plaque at the old house.  It doesn’t seem to belong here.

I remember when I bought it.  It was an encouragement.  Now it confuses me.

Yet, I cannot sit in the silence of my lovely new home and not write.  Soon I will have the last of the pictures hung and the last box unpacked.  What will my excuse be then?

So today is a small beginning for me.  This is my first written offering from my new home.  It was not without challenge.  I am writing in a new space with less ready-made distractions – no neighbors that I know and no people living with my husband and me (especially no cute little grandbaby).  It’s going to take some getting used to.  I can do that.  I got used to eating spinach.

For now, I think I’ll post this and go hang my picture.

Road Rage

I don’t remember when I had been so angry or felt so misunderstood.  It was a revealing moment that had me name-calling and yelling in frustration.

I was driving down the street and clicked on SYNC, the command center in my car.  Usually I’m greeted with a melodic chime prompting me to ask my personal assistant, who hides somewhere in my dashboard, to do something for me.  More accurately, I tell her to do something, like get directions or make a phone call.

I never say please or thank you.  There’s no need.  Of course, there is also no need to be rude with her either.  Until today – because she was acting like a real jerk.

My most-used command is “Call Bob.”  SYNC and I have been through this hundreds of times.  She always answers me, “Calling Bob,” and everything is fine and dandy.  I guess she had been feeling taken for granted though, because this day she acted like I was speaking gibberish.  I tried again and again.  She kept telling me (The audacity! She was telling me what to do) to say a command like Navigation or Phone.  I played along for a while until I realized she was playing me for a fool.  That’s when I let her have it.  I called her a moron and told her she was as useless as a cassette tape deck.  She continued to command me with that smirky chime of hers.

SYNC is supposed to be a safety feature enabling me to keep both hands on the wheel, but I was so fixated on getting through her thick dashboard that safety was the last thing on my mind.  I had been yelling at her for about two miles when I realized that I was losing this battle.

“You win,” I told her as I dug my phone out of my purse and made the call like I used to way back in 2013.

She smirked again, “Chime.”

I hate her.

You'll be happy to know that SYNC and I are communicating well again.  I had to let her know that I am her boss so I reinstalled my phone.  There are no hard feelings.

You’ll be happy to know that SYNC and I are communicating well again. I let her know that I am her boss by reinstalling my phone. There are no hard feelings, but I wonder if the “Do Not Disturb” is her subtle way of getting in the last word.

 

Land Shark – Another Florida Reality

Coming to Florida soon?  I’m sure you’ll remember your sunscreen; but you might want to pack mosquito repellant, bear pepper spray and shark repellant, too.  Why?  Because it’s a jungle down here.  And a swamp.  And sharks turn up in the oddest places.

Mosquitoes:  The county in which I reside, Orange County, was formerly named Mosquito County.  The name change was made in 1845 when Florida became a state – probably a good idea promoted by whatever was the equivalent of a chamber of commerce back then.  Everyone loves those Florida oranges, but due to a couple of severe winters in the 1980s that destroyed many of our lovely orange groves, you are more likely to be bitten by a mosquito than find an orange to bite into down here.

Bears:  Recently I was driving through a residential neighborhood on a late afternoon and a Florida black bear crossed the street in front of me.  He acted like he owned the place and I guess he kind of does.  We have had them visit our yard on a few occasions.  Raccoons and opossums also frequent our area.  And I don’t even want to talk about snakes (so I won’t).

Alligators:  For me the scariest things in the wildlife realm down here are alligators and sharks.  According to The Defenders of Wildlife’s website, there are approximately 1.25 million alligators in Florida.  Considering our population of nearly 20 million people, that means that there is about one alligator for every 16 Floridians.  That being said, I stay out of our lakes.

Sharks:  I can’t make myself stay out of the ocean, even though I know what lies beneath is pretty scary.  I also can’t bring myself to stay off the highways, which are far more dangerous than our swamps, rivers, lakes and oceans.  Just last week, there was an accident on I-95 in Volusia County (Daytona area) that illustrates this point perfectly.  In that accident, thankfully, there were no people injured, but one shark lost its life.

Yes, I said a shark was in an accident on I-95.  A semi-truck was transporting sharks to an aquarium in New York when a tire separated causing the driver to lose control of the truck.  In the tradition of every fish story you have ever heard, this story has grown a bit.  At first I heard there were three sandbar sharks in the accident.  Then I heard that there were four hammerheads.  The last count is five great whites, but one of them may have been a lawyer who showed up at the scene when he heard sirens.

So there you go, you aren’t truly safe anywhere, so why not enjoy that trip to the beach and take a dip in the ocean.  Be cautious.  Stay close to a lifeguard and be very careful as you drive there.  But, please, stay out of the lakes.  Don’t go crazy on me.

 

The famous Land Shark from Saturday Night Live

Contrasts

Photo Credit: Mindi Osbourne

Last night we attended a Matt Redman and Christy Nockels concert, which was really a big worship session.  It is a privilege to freely worship in this country, and it warmed my heart to devote an evening to worshiping God.  It was like a feast for my hungry soul.

This morning I was still basking in the experience of the night before.  Then I turned on the news.  In Charleston, South Carolina, another group of Christians who were freely worshiping the same God at the same time had their lives end.  It breaks my heart for them and their families and their community.  One thing that I am aware of today as I pray for those affected is this.  We all need Jesus.  Every day.  Every moment.  Those families know that more than ever.  We will be talking about this for some time.  Let’s be praying as well.  Pray for these precious people to be comforted as they walk through this very dark valley.

We’re On the Right Track (Europe Part 8)

 Most of the notable challenges during travel have involved trains.  Inside of the train terminals there are kiosks, which I assume you need some kind of higher education to operate.  Either that or you need to be a teenager.  Fortunately for us while we were trying to figure out our train from Salzburg to Munich, we encountered a group traveling together being led by a German teacher from Boston.  She had traveled to Germany many times and showed us the cheap tickets that allowed us to get to Munich and then have the rest of the day with free use of their transit system.  Unfortunately, she led us to believe that we could take any train.  This was not true.

This became crystal clear after we boarded our train.  Unlike every movie I have ever seen, there are not porters standing by the doors waiting to check your ticket.  You, and I mean we, are supposed to know which train we are  getting on and where our seats are on that train.  After all, it is clearly written (no it isn’t) on the signage.

We made our way from car to car and found the car with the bar.  There we discovered that we were in fact on the wrong train.  The bartender and a gentleman traveler interpreted our ticket for us.  We had boarded the fast train.  Oops.  A man who looked a lot like Dumbledore was watching us and speaking to the others in German.  It seemed he knew what he was doing and what we should do, but it did not seem like he spoke English.

After much discussion by the three men, they agreed that we should ride the train to the next stop, just five minutes away.  The bartender said, “The conductor won’t be coming by anytime soon.  Just stay on.”

Then Dumbledore spoke up in perfect English, “That is best.  Just get off at the next stop.  You will be fine.”

I knew this was the closest I would ever get to hopping a freight (even if that freight did have air conditioning, a bar and cushioned seats).  Plus we had the blessing of the bartender and Dumbledore.  We stayed on.  After all, it was only a five-minute ride.

Three minutes into the trip, guess who came through our car.  That’s right, Harry Potter.  No, the conductor.  My sister, who was facing that direction, had the color drain from her face as she whispered, “Here comes the conductor.”

I assured my co-conspirators that I would not implicate them.  As the conductor passed us, the bartender and I exchanged a look.  I mimed biting my fingernails.  Dumbledore gave me the thumbs up.

We pulled up almost to the station and sat for ten minutes.  There was discussion as to whether or not we should make a run for it, but we were cool.

As we disembarked, the train we were supposed to be on pulled up.  I looked back at our first train and there was Dumbledore, pointing us in the right direction and giving us a thumbs up.  And then he disappeared.  Okay, his train pulled away.  It was magic.

The Right Train

The Right Train

Winter Can Be Sneaky (Europe Part 7)

We were enjoying our car ride back to our resort in Pongau, near Salzburg, after a lovely day touring the castles of King Ludwig II in Bavaria.  By the time we got in our car, we noticed the weather had cooled and the wind had picked up.  Off in the distance we could see cloud cover begin to cloak the tops of the Alps.  I figured it might be snowing up there.

The scenery was unbelievable.  My mouth pretty much hung open the entire trip.  We were happy.  Bob, my husband, was enjoying driving along the mountain roads.  (Side note – If you ever go on a trip to Europe and plan on renting a car, consider asking Bob to come along and chauffeur.  He is amazing.)

I was getting cold.  I touched the glass on the window and knew the temperature had dropped.  The indicator on the dashboard read an external temperature of 11 degrees.  (Double the Celsius temperate and add 30 to give you the fahrenheit.  That meant it was 52 outside.)  Not bad, but cooler than earlier.  I watched as the temperature dropped to 9.  Then 8.  Quickly it was 2 degrees.

IMG_4036

Soon we encountered a few snow flurries.  How exciting!  My first Austrian snow.  It looked a lot like the snow we have in the U.S. except the flakes were enormous.  They looked like they could have been cut out of paper.  Now the temperature was zero (double that and add 30 – you get 30).

We were winding through the Alps.  It was getting dark.  The flurries had turned into a snow storm.  This Florida girl was not liking it.

We were about 45 minutes from our resort when the snow started accumulating on the windshield and the road.  The temperature held at zero.  The speed limit was around 80 kph, not that we were going that fast.  At one point a car in front of us stopped and Bob had to swerve around him to avoid a collision.  I think the other driver must have skidded and panicked.  We pressed on.

IMG_4038

We were heading down the mountain so we figured we would be driving out of the snow, but no.  It was picking up and now it was totally dark.  We were so thankful to pull into the parking garage at our resort and sleep safe and sound in a warm bed.

The view from our balcony April 22 in St. Johann at Pongau, Austria.

The view from our balcony April 22 in St. Johann at Pongau, Austria.

The next morning was beautiful and the weather had warmed up.  We could see the beautiful new dusting of snow on the roofs and trees.  The server at the cafe told us winter had decided to come back but it was gone again.  What a difference a day makes.

 

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