A Letter from a Reluctant Southpaw

To My Dear Right Arm,

Thank you for staying beside me all these years. Now I realize more than ever that YOU really are my right arm, both literally and figuratively! I know I have taken you for granted. I can only imagine the emotional pain that I have caused you by not saying thank you for the services you have provided me. For instance, you are an amazing brusher. You have taken care of my hair and my teeth like they were your very own. Thank you.

You also are a star wiper. You have wiped up many messes from the spills that my family and I have created. You are great at wiping counters. And while I am mentioning it, there is something else that I won’t mention that you excel at wiping. Blush… Oh, how I miss you! Life is full of challenges without you. Actually, it’s downright hard.

You have waved hello to people, placed your right hand over my heart as I have pledged allegiance to the American flag, and even on one desperate occasion aided me in hitchhiking down the Rock of Gibraltar. I could not have stuck my right thumb out without you.

You have allowed me to cook, which I have never held against you. You have been essential in making my bed, something I have not done in almost 10 weeks since I broke your shoulder. Have I told you I’m sorry for fancying myself an athlete, even for such a brief time? I am sorry. It hurts to think about that day when I came crashing down on your shoulder. What was I thinking!

You mean so much to me! My left hand misses coordinating with you, especially the simple tasks of typing and cutting my own food. There is a long list of things that you have championed for me, which have been suffering while you heal. Drying my hair, changing my clothes, driving, doing laundry, filling the birdfeeders, shuffling cards, signing my name, scratching my left arm, zipping zippers, working in the garden, and mostly the two-armed hug.

Hang in there though! Don’t be discouraged! God is working during this time and showing your owner the beauty of slowing down and asking for help. He has prompted friends to come along side and has increased a loving attitude of service in my husband, which has always been there, but has never had to be used to this degree.

Your doctor says you can start making yourself useful again in a couple weeks. That is something to be excited about. Plus, I am taking you to England for a holiday along with my hubby, son and his family. We will have a jolly good time. That is definitely something to look forward to. Keep being a patient and cooperative patient and before you know it you will be holding a cup of tea whilst across the pond. Not a big cup, mind you, but don’t worry, your left hand will help you.

In the meantime, I will keep a closer eye on what my left hand is doing. She tends to be careless. She thinks she’s as good as you are and she clearly is not, as evidenced by these seven heating pads that arrived from Amazon today. Maybe when you are better, you can help me return six of them.

There’s Nothing Funny About My Humerus

The irony of the story I am about to relate here is not lost on me, so, unlike the top of my humerus, I guess my sense of humor is intact. Mostly, anyway.

It was just last month that I proudly announced that I had become an athlete. You can read that story here. A lot can change in an instant.

I have not posted since my instant, which was Sunday afternoon, February 20, when I was happily playing Pickleball with Bob and a few of our friends. Bob and I were becoming regular Pickleball hosts. Several times we invited friends to learn to play and then we would enjoy some time practicing with them. February 20 put an end to that. I sustained a career ending injury. It was a very short career!

I don’t remember exactly how it all went down. All I know is that I went down. Hard! I was going for a shot close to the net and the next thing I knew I was on the ground and my shoulder was not where it was supposed to be. The pain was immediate and excruciating. Yet, the moment was kind of surreal. I looked at my right shoulder and I remember thinking – there are no shoulder pads in this shirt. I looked from my left shoulder to my right shoulder and back again and it didn’t make sense to me.

Bob and our friends immediately knew that I was hurt. It was difficult to get up because my right arm was useless. And the pain, the pain was off the charts. Somehow we managed to get me to the car and to the ER. I will spare you the details, but after five long hours they finally gave me conscious sedation, and a team of four people lined up the break in the top of my humerus and reset my dislocated shoulder.

Ouch!
Less ouch and freshly lined up.

They gave me that good news, which was even better news because there was a good chance I was going to have to have surgery. Because they could line things up well, that was not necessary. They sent me home with my arm in a sling and orders not to move it.

That was almost 6 weeks ago. My arm is still in a sling and I am still not supposed to move it. I take the sling off twice a day and do little circles for five minutes to make sure that I don’t get frozen shoulder. The pain is a weird thing. Because there was so much bruising and swelling, pain was showing up in places that surprised me. Why would I have more pain in my upper arm and then I had in my shoulder? They tell me that’s normal. It has to do with swelling. Swell!

As you can imagine, life at our house looks different than it did six weeks ago. I am right handed, so normal tasks are no longer normal. Probably because of the swelling and the tendons and nerves that were stretched, I can’t really write. I also cannot use the keyboard unless I do everything left-handed. I am thankful for voice activated typing!

Bob has been amazing. He has taken over cooking, laundry, washing my hair, opening bottles, putting my hair in a ponytail, and many other things that I will not mention here. I am very thankful that he is retired because if it weren’t for that, I would be in my pajamas all day long with half a ponytail in. Plus, I am not allowed to drive yet. And because I still have pain, I don’t really want to drive.

But, I saw the doctor last week and I am healing. Praise God! The healing is a slow process though. I still am not allowed to use my right arm. I start physical therapy on Monday. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that! OK, to be honest, I’m looking forward to the results of the physical therapy and not the actual therapy. I will probably have 8 to 12 weeks of PT. Oh boy!

So that is the sad and rather long explanation of why I have not been blogging lately and why I probably will not be for the next couple weeks. Doing everything with my nondominant arm is tedious and slow. I also did not realize how tiring it is on your body when it is healing. I have a new empathy for people who break bones!

Thank you for hanging in there with me. I appreciate you and hope to be back to blogging regularly in a few weeks.

Man Oh Man Oh Manatee!

The suffering of us Floridians during winter seems to go unnoticed by our northern neighbors. We had winter this year, and not just the typical five or six days sprinkled throughout January and February. We have had to turn the heat on a lot lately, and our flip-flops have been collecting dust.

Today is the first day I have worn sandals this month! Claustrophobic feet is a real thing down here. Even Bob was seen wearing socks over the last few weeks, so I know we have a valid chill factor going. One night he even used a blanket on the bed. Yep, we’ve had winter.

There are some good things about winter. For instance, it reminds me of why I like living in Florida. I figure if I were to live up north, I’d lose what’s left of my mind by a literal brain freeze.

We also have manatees who like to put on a show in the winter. Manatees get cold easily, so they do not like winter. They do make the best of it though. I relate to them.

Among other places in Florida, they gather in the warm 72-degree waters of Blue Spring State Park whenever the temperatures dip down to the point where Bob wears socks. Personally, I prefer the water to be 82 before I go in it – but then again, I may be pickier than a manatee.

January 28 through February 3 forecast – Sometimes they tease us with 80 degrees. I think that is aimed at drawing the tourists down here.

January 30 was a perfect manatee viewing day. The weather had been very cold the night before. How cold? We had a hard freeze and our gardens told the story. We woke up to 32 degrees. A hard freeze means several hours below freezing, and this is what happens to cold-sensitive plants. They may come back. In a few weeks we’ll know for sure. It might be time to rethink this garden.

The beauty of that day was that right after that freeze, there was a warming trend. Therefore, we weren’t too cold, and the manatees were still hanging around. The sun came out and the wind stopped. It was perfect. My sister accompanied Bob and me that afternoon and we arrived just in time to make it into the park. On especially cold days, the pursuit of manatee sightings can cause the park visitor numbers to bulge enough to close the park. As we drove in, the gates closed.

We were excited to have Linda with us as, even though she had lived in Florida for several years, she had never seen the manatees outside of the occasional viewing one may have in a canal or along one of our rivers. This was her first trip to Blue Spring State Park. We were thankful to have made it in.

The manatee count that day was a whopping 711, which I believe broke a record. I don’t know how they count the big mammals, also known as sea cows. They are typically slow moving as they graze and frolic along the rivers and springs, so that is helpful; but they can swim up to 20 miles an hour. Still, it would be nearly impossible to get an accurate count in my opinion. But, who cares! There were so many manatees that it looked like you could hopscotch from shore to shore on their backs. But that would be illegal and ill-advised.

Side note: It is illegal to touch the manatees and alligators. Also, something I find must be a God thing, the alligators seem intimated by the manatees and they leave them alone.

When the weather starts to warm here, you may spot the occasional manatee in the area. The masses of them will have moved on and by summer it would be unusual to see one in the springs.

Here are a few shots from our walk along the boardwalk, which borders the headspring all the way down to the St. Johns River – about 1/3 of a mile. It’s a lovely walk.

Manatee snout

Bob and I wearing our winter clothes

This park is located in Orange City, Florida, about halfway between Daytona Beach and Orlando. Here is a link

Pickleball

I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’m an athlete now.

When Bob “retired” back in July he started playing pickleball three times a week. He’d probably play more but it might interfere with his golf game or his going back to the office as a contract employee (kind of like retirement light). Bob has a lot of energy and the heat down here in Florida doesn’t keep him from playing these outdoor games.

Then there’s me. The summer sun beating down on me can almost keep me from going to the mailbox. That may be a slight exaggeration, but after sweating that 15-yard walk (x2 since I have to return) six days a week, May through October, I’m ready to take a dip in the pool. I garden on the shady side of the house only in the late afternoon or after dinner. Once when I parked far away from a store just to park in the shade, my daughter told me she thought shade was my idol. She’s not completely wrong.

But Bob wanted me to play pickleball with him, and I love that. It was so sweet of him, especially since he knows darn well that there is not an athletic bone in my body. I am competitive, so I guess he thought that might see me through. I agreed to play but insisted I’d start in November or December after the blistering heat had subsided. That would up the chance that I might like it (from 10 percent to about 30 percent). Then we all got COVID in November, so that gave me a pickleball reprieve until December.

December arrived and I couldn’t come up with more excuses, so finally Bob got me to go with him to the neighborhood courts, which was great as I didn’t have an audience. We had a couple practice sessions and then joined the regular Wednesday night group, which he had already become a part of.

Pickleball, despite its ridiculous name, has a few things going for it. It’s played with a wiffle ball, so it doesn’t hurt too much if you get hit. The court is slightly smaller than a tennis court, so less running. To me it felt like ping pong, only with large paddles and strange scoring and rules. The part of the court close to the net is called the kitchen, and you are not supposed to go in there. That was endearing.

The most surprising part of the game was that I liked it. Right away. Even though I was just learning and wasn’t good at it yet. I’ve only been playing for about six weeks, so I’m still not “good,” but I am improving. I set the bar for enjoyment pretty low, and I have leap-frogged over it. I now even suggest playing pickleball, much to Bob’s delight. We are teaching friends to play. It’s practically a miracle!

But that was before the injury. Last week I sustained a hamstring pull. Yep, I pulled a hammie! I must be an athlete! In validation of my athleticism, I would have high-fived my friend who was with me, but I could barely walk, so that will have to wait.

The irony is that I sustained this injury while bird watching. I am still in disbelief that my hobby has so cruelly turned on me. We were walking along the shores of Lake Apopka, enjoying the beautiful, cool January day, spotting alligators and birds, and wham – I nearly did a face-plant after tripping on a partially buried rock. I guess I should have stretched before doing such rigorous exercise.

It might be a couple weeks before I’m back on the court. I sure hope this doesn’t hurt my game!

American Alligator posing at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Various ducks and water fowl on Lake Apopka

Getting Even

It was morning on Christmas Eve. I had my act fairly together. Bob and I had everything wrapped and under the tree. This was a luxury we didn’t have when we were raising our children. We would always wait until they went to bed to bring out the presents, which was more and more challenging the older our children got.

As is our “tradition,” Bob and I reminisced about former Christmas Eves. Sometimes we were wrapping gifts late into the night. Bob might have been found assembling a bicycle or one time pouring cement at the side of our driveway to install a new basketball hoop. These are things you can do when you live in Florida!

I also reminded Bob that our daughter and her family would be arriving late that night, probably around 10 pm, so he may want to consider a nap. Bob, who 364 days of the year has more energy than I could hope for, almost always hits the wall early on Christmas Eve night. The only thing that kept him going was assembling something, so if that wasn’t needed, he was ready to start dreaming of sugarplums dancing in his head. It usually would happen right after the children had hung the stockings by the chimney with care and shuffled off to bed. This was my time to take them all down, lay them across our bed and stuff them (the stockings, not the children). I always tried to get things evened out, which I don’t recommend because it can make you crazy. Often, before I could even get started, Bob was half asleep on the bed. It always has baffled me. Why, this one night, couldn’t he stay awake? It remains a a perplexing role reversal for us.

But on this particular Christmas Eve morning, all those thoughts about getting things even were stopped in their tracks. We received a text that a dear friend of ours had passed away unexpectedly that very morning. I gasped so loudly that my mom came in from the other room to see if I was okay. It was a shock made worse by the fact that it was Christmas Eve. I looked down on my bed. The stockings were laid out with their loot above them. I was in the process of counting and evening things out. And then it didn’t matter.

As tears flowed down my cheeks, all I could think about was my friends. We’ve known this family for decades. Christmas wouldn’t be the same for them. And with a flash I realized that my children never compared what they had in their stockings. Nobody cared if someone got a little more or less than their siblings. It was a blinding moment of clarity of what mattered.

What mattered was the people. What mattered was that our friend was now with Jesus. We know that with total assurance. What mattered was grieving with our friends, but not without hope. What mattered was sharing Christmas with our family – hugging them and being together. I hope I never try to make things even again and that every Christmas Eve I will think about Andy and Emily and the lessons that God taught me on that day when he went to meet Jesus.

Four of our grand blessings on Christmas Day

Breaking News!

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house

Things were breaking.

I know, that doesn’t rhyme, but there was nothing poetic about it! It all started with the dishwasher, just two days before our daughter and her family were to arrive. I told Bob that it wasn’t working. It’s a very quiet dishwasher – so quiet that you have to incline your ear to hear it. Bob said he thought he heard it. He did not.

He tried to assure me that it wasn’t broken, but somehow, I knew that this was wishful thinking. He thought I must have forgotten to start it, or it was some other operator error. That could have been the case, but washing dishes is my life. I’m kind of fanatical about keeping my kitchen clean. You might say that I’m simpatico with my kitchen appliances. I know when something is wrong.

Bob came up to me with great understanding in his eyes. He took my hand, squeezed it, and said, “Does that hurt?”

“No,” I replied. Then he took the other hand and repeated the gesture. When I replied “no” again, he said, “Then the dishwasher isn’t broken.”

I suggested that he leave the funny to me and see if it was still under warranty.

Wonder of wonders, it was just three weeks shy of being out of warranty. Thank you, Jesus! This was Wednesday, and Lowe’s said they’d have a repairman out on Thursday between 8 and 12. Hooray!

Except my hooray was misplaced. He was a no-show. After a long time on hold, Bob secured another repairman for Monday, sadly we’d have the busy Christmas weekend without my number one kitchen appliance. Still, we decided to let nothing us dismay.

On Monday, a repairman breezed in an out of our house faster than Santa can consume milk and cookies. Bob ran his own diagnostic along with him, and it looked like a communication board problem. He told Lowe’s, who managed to keep it a secret from the future repairman. He said we’d need a certified GE repairman since it appeared to be an electrical issue. So here we are, nine days later, and I get to meet a new repairman. He has no knowledge of any of the above, but eventually he made the same diagnosis. We should have a new control board by the 21st – a month after our first call.

It could be worse. Bob was right. My hands can still wash dishes. Plus, we had an inordinately large supply of plastic spoons, which I thought we would have until Jesus returns. I guess that could still be true, but unless Jesus is coming back in the next two weeks, probably not.

At first realization that we were a man down, so to speak, in the kitchen. I stocked paper and plastic stuff in the cabinets to encourage everyone not to use the real stuff, which must be washed. I think the entire household is now afraid of my wrath if they circumvent that plan. And rightly so.

Also, that first night, Bob said he’d fix dinner on the grill so as not to mess up the kitchen. (He really is a good guy.) He went to start the grill and one side would not work. He managed to fix it, so that’s a point for Bob.

My baking day was the next day, and I managed to make a huge pile of dishes, but the family was coming over, and I love baking cookies for them. I did make a mess of crumbs on the floor, so I got out the vacuum cleaner to suck them up.

The noise that came out when I turned the thing on was deafening. It sounded like a plane was crashing in the kitchen. The one thing in your house that you really want to suck, did not.

Bob took it apart and got it to suck dirt, but the noise makes it unusable for me. It didn’t bother him, but then again, he thought the dishwasher was running, so you can draw your own conclusions.

That pretty much sums up our last two weeks, except for the part where we had a wonderful Christmas with our family. We are blessed and we know it. Here’s to a Happy New Year to you all!

Trimming Trees and Checking Lists

Christmastime is here. Our halls are decked. The shopping is almost done. The baking will happen next week. (Any sooner and I would just have to do it again.)

We have four Christmas trees. Last year we added a tree just for the White House ornaments. This year we added 2 four-foot trees – one with a bird theme in my mom’s family room, and one with McDonald’s Happy Meal toys in the dining room. It might just be a one-of-a-kind!

You may remember the Pursuit of Happy Meals post. I decided with Disney World’s 50th anniversary, I should decorate a tree with my hard-sought-after toys, complete with Lumiere on top. I can’t wait to see what nine-year-old Layna thinks of it.

Speaking of grandchildren, mine are getting older, which is the natural progression. This year we will have the six oldest grandchildren around for Christmas. Only Layna has not yet entered her teens, and we will sorely miss our youngest two.

Getting Christmas lists out of the kids is interesting. Some of the things on their lists I’ve never heard of. Some of the things are way too expensive. Some are just plain dangerous, which brings me to my 13-year-old grandson, Jett.

Jett is well on his way to being some kind of an engineer or maybe a mad scientist. I’m not sure there is a big difference between the two. When I watch Jett, I think that is what my husband must have been like when he was a kid. That mind is always going, and creativity is often on overdrive. Bob turned out great, so I’m hopeful for Jett’s future.

Following are some of the highlights from Jett’s Christmas List. (Don’t worry, he has parental supervision, so he likely won’t blow anything up. I would make sure to take regular inventory of what is in that shed he wants to build.)

  1. K.A.T. – Per google, this is a knife ability test – a player-vs-player death Roblox game. No need to research what Roblox is; we won’t be getting him anything that has to do with knife ability.
  2. Nerf guns
  3. A thin metal plate (makes me wonder)
  4. Clay
  5. 100’ x 100’ tarp
  6. Super Mario Odyssey
  7. Tons of Jello mix
  8. Wood, nails, hammers, screws, and tools to build a shed
  9. A brother (adopted is okay)
  10. Bagpipes
  11. Five ounces of gunpower and four ounces of sand

Our 16-year-old granddaughter, Ella, has my favorite list – mainly because she has the collecting gene that I have worked so hard to suppress. She loves Sherlock Holmes, Funko Pops, and all things Marvel. Since I have stopped collecting, I now support my grandchildren in their pursuit of entire collections of things, which you can imagine makes me popular with my kids. It’s fun, and I know I need to seize the moment while I have it; because it won’t be long, and these precious items will seem like kid stuff. Although, I still like these things, I have Groot and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy on my Christmas tree. Maybe when this phase is past for her, she can save these treasures for her own grandchildren. They’ll be vintage!

I do wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for reading my blog, and I hope your holiday season is full of love and happiness.

Ode to Black Friday

As I wandered the Altamonte Mall on the day before Thanksgiving, I wondered if Black Friday was coming off life support. There were definite signs that customers were being wooed back to the brick-and-mortar shops. I even spotted this team stocking the stores with goodies to sustain the merchants through the “big day.”

When my children were young, I looked forward to shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. I didn’t even mind getting up pre-dawn to do so. I have wonderful memories of picking up my mom and heading out for the Black Friday Shopping Expedition. We would use the newspaper to map out our path. (By the way, that is my favorite type of mapping.) You would need two hands to hold that massive issue with its dozens of Black Friday ads.

There were always bargains to be found. JC Penney would give away ornaments like this one from 1996. There would be scratch-offs for prizes and discounts. The jewelry shops often gave away goodie bags with little “gold” charms inside them. Target and Home Depot gave great incentives for stopping in early. Early meant around 5 am. That was doable.

Eventually my mom lost interest in the adventure and my daughter was only too interested in stepping into this grown-up outing. We always hit the mall, especially Penney’s, and Target and Bealls. I do admit to going to Walmart a time or two, but for me, it just wasn’t worth the crazy.

Confession: Over the past five years I have been losing interest in Black Friday. Probably because as I have gotten older, and I’d rather not exhaust myself in the pursuit of bargains. My daughter, however, has not reached that point. I dedicate this post to her. She is in mourning over Black Friday, which by all accounts from the last two years has gone from life-support to flatlining.

She loved going out at midnight on Thanksgiving and staying out for 12 hours was not uncommon for her. I drew the line on that one, but I have joined her for a few hours during a more civilized time on that Friday. Mainly, I’d do this out of guilt. You know the power your adult children can wield – especially if they throw in the word tradition. It was a tradition, but like so many traditions, it changes through the years and generations.

Even though I was fairly certain of my Black Friday plans, I picked up the local Orlando Sentinel. It was so skinny! I also had sticker shock as it cost $5.35!

Bob and I have one all-important stop on Black Friday, and we don’t have to be there until 9 am. If you read me at all regularly, you can probably guess it’s Costco. Who can resist $8 off a pork loin or $10 off a Butterball turkey? Not me. And as of this year, not my daughter either. She sadly admitted to me over the phone that Costco had the best Black Friday deals. I couldn’t see her face, but I think there was a little catch in her voice. At least her family of six will be eating pork and turkey for the next few months.

We will tell our grandchildren of those days of old. The days when Black Friday meant something. The days of people being trampled in hot pursuit of a bargain. The days of people camping out in front of Best Buy to snag that new mega-TV or gaming system. The days before Black Friday became a joke that lasted all the way through November. Sigh. Those were the days. How did we get here? I’m putting a lot of the blame on COVID. I’m reminiscing about the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” by Peter Seeger.

Here’s my rendition.

Ode to Black Friday

(Where Have all the Sales Gone)

Where have all the sale ads gone

Long time passing

Where have all the sale ads gone

Long time ago

Where have all the sale ads gone

COVID took them one by one

When will they please return?

Oh when will they, return?

Where have all the papers gone

Long time passing

Where have all the papers gone

Long time ago

Where have all the papers gone?

Gone to online every one.

Oh when will they return?

When will they ever return?

Where have all the shoppers gone

Long time passing

Where have all the shoppers gone

Long time ago

Where have all the shoppers gone

Buying on Amazon every one

They never leave their home

They never leave their home.

A classic for you – Joan Baez singing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

Bonus weird Thanksgiving product

Is That Your Final Answer?

Winter Garden. Every time I go there, I wonder why I don’t visit more often. It used to be a sleepy little burg outside of Orlando but has evolved into a destination area for shopping and dining – not unlike Mount Dora. People are moving there by the droves, too.

I get it. It’s quaint and interesting. It’s close to Disney. It has bike paths, boutique shopping, a train museum, and our favorite MoonCricket Grille, which is a lovely spot to chow down on some bam-bam shrimp al fresco and watch the people go by with their dogs. It is very dog friendly. Dogs are walked, pushed in strollers, toted in purses, and carried like babies. While that is not my idea of a fun day in Winter Garden, clearly, it’s a dog’s world there.

Moon Cricket Grille 14 W Plant St Winter Garden, FL Bars - MapQuest
Photo Credit: mapquest.com

The impetus for our outing was Christmas shopping. We are not familiar with how things work in Wintergarden on a Saturday but suffice it to say the town takes it up a notch on weekends. Frankly, we didn’t really know where we were going and figured it’s a small town and we could enjoy roaming around. How hard could it be to find our way to our shopping destination (which will remain unnamed because it would give away our gift choices)?

The answer to that question is: pretty hard! It was made more difficult by the fact that it was my first outing that involved exerting any energy since recovering from a light case of you-know-what. (Yep, all four of us got it. We are thankful to God for a light case and an uneventful recovery.)

Our quest should not have involved the farmers’ market, but it looked interesting, so why not! We had no idea that it was huge! I must say that it is a farmers’ market that does the name proud. Or a crafter proud. Or a foodie proud. But that was not where we should have been, and we didn’t figure that out until we had walked the entire thing. Since we came up empty on our main goal, we checked the internet and discovered that our true destination was several blocks away. Bob figured it was 2 to 4 blocks. It felt like 10 to 12 blocks. And then back. I suppose I should be thankful and frankly I am for the exercise. But I did not pack water and I was quite dehydrated and exhausted by the time we fell into a lunch table at the MoonCricket well over an hour later.

During this trek, we were stopped by a group of young men who were interested in getting us to sign a petition for something or another that had to do with promoting or stopping casino gambling. I couldn’t decipher what they were saying in my weakened, dehydrated state. We politely passed them with a not today. I even mentioned they should’ve caught us when we were not worn out. One of them stated that yes, we did look a little tired. He was being kind.

Several blocks down on our adventure we were again pursued by people with clipboards, and I assumed they were part of the same group. When they started to talk, I had no energy and I just muttered, “No, not today,” and kept walking.

My brain was definitely operating on a delay. Just after the words left my mouth, my foggy brain deciphered what my ears had heard. Their question was, “Would you like to help save a life?”

I suppose “not today” wasn’t the worst response. It’s not like someone was on the ground needing CPR. Frankly, I was in no condition to save anybody’s life. I was kind of needy myself – and a little bit embarrassed.

The Pursuit of Happy Meals

What happens when the Happiest Place on Earth intersects with McDonald’s Happy Meals? For this writer, it revives a part of me that is a little embarrassing to tell you about – a part of me that I thought was dead and buried.

It was an ordinary September morning, a week before Bob and I left for his 50th High School Reunion. The morning news anchor reported on Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. She added that McDonald’s would be joining in the celebration with their Happy Meal toys. The celebration would include 50 – yes, you read that right – 50 different toys; and the promotion would begin on September 14, the very day we set to leave on our trip.

I made a note on my calendar, not that I would forget this auspicious event. I seem to remember hearing Bob utter a sound like this:

I interpreted his groanings in two words – he knew. He knew he would have no reason not to pull through McDonald’s on our way up to the D.C. area. We typically start our trips with an egg McMuffin. That would be Opportunity #1. Of course, you can’t throw a dead squirrel without hitting a McDonald’s along I-95, so lunch would be Opportunity #2. There was also a good possibility that I would have to use the restroom whenever we passed a McDonald’s sign. Endless Opportunities! Poor Bob! He was doomed.

We arrived at our son, Joe’s, house in South Carolina on the 14th in time to pick up dinner for the four of us adults and stop at McDonald’s to get Happy Meals for our 6 and 2-year-old grandsons. I was excited to have someone be excited about happy meals with me. Sadly, when Bob and Joe returned home with the two meals for the boys, we opened them to discover Mickey Mouse on a train. It was the great switcheroo! That was a toy from last year! Oh, McDonald’s! Who do you think you’re dealing with here?

Lucky for them, it was Bob they were dealing with. Bob saw Mickey and fell right into their trap. The boys were happy enough, but I knew the truth.

Here’s a little backstory for you. When we were raising our four kids, Friday was lunch at McDonald’s day. I would get everyone, including me, a happy meal. I would strive to get complete sets and have one set that was never removed from the wrapper (MIB or NRFB, mint in box, or never removed from box). When I say strive, that’s what I mean. I would often pull up to the speaker, ask what toy was in the happy meal, and if we already had that one, it was on to the next McDonald’s. I look at this as perfectly reasonable behavior. My children, on the other hand, just wanted to eat.

This behavior got so bad, I mean interesting, that my oldest son, Jesse, wrote a completely fictional essay for a school assignment about me assaulting a cashier at McDonald’s because the Barbie happy meal toy had a scratch on her nose. Seriously – you don’t believe I’d do that, do you? I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, I did demand, I mean ask for, a flawless Barbie (and I got one). I mean, Barbie wouldn’t put up with that lack of perfection and neither would I. My children ate quietly in the corner. They were so well behaved!

Our next stop was at our daughter’s house in North Carolina, where I knew I would have one excited 9-year-old granddaughter who would join in this pursuit of happiness as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Layna is always happy, and she was anxious to join in the search. After a few days, we were on the road again, and Layna had five Disney 50th Celebration Happy Meal Toys.

After returning to Florida, I kept adding to our collection. I wasn’t trying to get all 50 – honest I wasn’t. There were some I particularly wanted, and I found most of them, but it was becoming challenging to find new toys and, when we did find them, to eat yet another happy meal. Often, I would get lunch for my mom. I told her I’d buy (hey, big spender!), but the toy was mine. After about the third time, she strangely was no longer hungry at lunchtime.

My sister, Linda, also got the bug. I guess there’s no doubt we are related. She displayed her treasures in her office, and before long the entire office was on the look-out for additions to her collection. We made checklists to keep everything straight. I intend to send most of mine to Layna, but I couldn’t help but display Groot and Rocket (Guardians of the Galaxy). I’m a fan.

To fully understand how challenging collecting different toys is, I’ll share how I do it. I go inside the restaurant. Here’s how it would go down:

McDonald’s Employee: You need to order at the kiosk, please.

Me: Okay, but first could you tell me which toys you have in your happy meal?

This was met with different responses – from having a variety of toys laid out on the counter for me to see, to a curt, “We just have Daisy.” (Everybody had Daisy.)

Then I would take it from there. It’s really quite exhausting. If Bob was with me, he’d wait in the car. He loves me, but there are limits!

One night when we were having hamburgers from our grill for dinner, they looked so weird without a toy next to them. I think this was when Bob began to worry.

That’s better!

I assured him that I had found a McDonald’s that would sell the toys without the meal. While he was relieved, we both knew the truth – this search unleashed the collector that I thought was dead.

Frankenstein Its Alive GIF - Frankenstein Its Alive GIFs

Now the promotion is over. I collected over 20 toys and will be sharing most of them with Layna. She and I facetimed over the last weeks and it was so much fun! (I did hear Dena, her mom/my daughter comment about how she was reliving her childhood!) Now it’s time to stop going to McDonald’s for a while, except for coffee. When I got coffee from there yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that the next promotion is from the new Marvel movie. My granddaughter, Ella, loves Marvel. I think I’m in trouble.

One last thing – I’m still looking for Celebration Mickey and R2D2, if you can hook me up that would be great. They don’t even have to be NRFB!