A Thankful Thanksgiving to You All!

I’ve come up with a new Thanksgiving greet this year. “Have a thankful Thanksgiving.” I have loved ones who are going through great trials and loss. Many are missing family and friends this year, so wishing someone a happy Thanksgiving is not the same and those words may be more than some can bear to hear.

Reminders to be grateful are always in order, for we truly do have much to be grateful for. The common graces of God are around us, and they alone are quite a lot. I’m thankful for sunshine and rain, for electricity and water, for food in our pantry, for family and friends, for our church and our God. Yes, amid suffering and loss, let’s not forget to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God and a greeting of thankfulness and grace to each other.

Life is not in the trash; well, this one is, but it’s only a game anyway.

Get excited about what’s ahead.

Enjoy some turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie.

Thank you for visiting my blog and for your encouragement to me.

Veterans Day 2020

On this Veterans Day 2020, a fitting commentary to this year was provided by our American flag. It typically flies proudly from the roof in our front yard, but yesterday I found it on the sidewalk, slightly worn and tattered. It looks like it was pulled off its bracket by winds no doubt related to Tropical Storm/Hurricane Eta, which is traveling up the west coast of Florida. (I should add that it is late in this busiest-on-record hurricane season. We’ve used up the alphabet and moved into Greek. I’m not even surprised, 2020, but I digress.)

It’s been a rough year for our flag, which sadly will no longer see the light of day. But I still love it and all for which it stands. Flags can be replaced – they are just symbols, after all. But today I am thinking about people whom I love who fought for what that flag represents. Specifically, I’m reminiscing about my dad, Arthur L. Manning, Jr., and my uncle, Luther C. Cox.

My dad was a gunner in a B-29 in the Pacific campaign. During part of his tour, a war correspondent, Richard Tregaskis from the Saturday Evening Post, flew with his crew. My dad’s face is one of the young men surrounding Tregaskis in a featured picture in the series of articles entitled Road to Tokyo.

I don’t remember hearing much about the war when I was a kid. Perhaps it was because memories can be painful, or more likely it was because I was a kid and didn’t ask. In Dad’s golden years, though, he’d talk freely. He kept up with his crew or their widows until he was the only one left. So much so that their names were familiar to me. I am sure he was the last of them because he was the one who kept them together in each other’s hearts and minds all those decades after the war. Dad died three years ago at the age of 94. In the last years of my memories of him, he’s always wearing his hat. He was a proud veteran and loved his country fiercely.

Uncle Luther was a navigator of a B-24 bomber in World War II. He survived the crash of the “Double Trouble” when he was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea on a cold January day in 1943. For the next two years and three months, he would be a guest of the Fuhrer; but he survived that, too. He retired an Air Force lieutenant-colonel and went on to teach ROTC at Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School. Also surviving his internment was his journal, which was featured in the Florida magazine of The Orlando Sentinel on June 24, 1984. He published a book, Always Fighting the Enemy, a World War II Chronicle, which includes writings and drawings from his journal along with stories he kept in his heart.

Uncle Luther in Italy

I spent a lot more time with my uncle after I was married because we lived in the same state. He was ten years to the day older than my mom, and we celebrated their birthdays together. He was kind of a legend to me. I was and still am in awe of his surviving being shot down and all that time in POW camps. There is so much about him to admire. He and his wife adopted two children from Europe and brought them home to the states. I have many fond memories with Mark and Dee, and even though we live in opposite corners of the country, we visit with Dee and her husband about once a year. Thanks, Uncle Luther!

On October 31, Bob and I went to the Lockheed Martin Space and Air Show here in Sanford with our son and his family. I was pumped to see the Thunderbirds, but I had no idea that the entire program was going to thrill my heart and stir up so many patriotic juices. At the beginning of the show, several new Air Force recruits were sworn in, which moved me to tears.

Following is a little glimpse of the air show. Enjoy; and God, bless America!

It was a little loud for our grandsons.

Ants on Crack and Other Random Curiosities

Because my world is smaller than it used to be due to that which shall not be named, I am noticing little things. Like ants. Ants are crazy busy, and there are actual crazy ants, which are from the Caribbean and can be found in Florida. As you may be aware, Florida is famous for bugs.

Typically we see fire ants or carpenter ants or even Pharoah ants, which are known to have a superiority complex. Fire ants love to bite people while the more industrious carpenter ant just wants to make improvements to your house; i.e. make it his house.

Whatever type of ant, if it’s making mounds, it is my job to get Bob to destroy them.

Over the summer I discovered ants boring a hole in our driveway. I can’t imagine what possesses them to do that, but it was interesting until I remembered I don’t want my driveway to look like Swiss cheese.

This is how deep they had gotten before we stepped in. These ants are aptly named Pavement Ants.

About 1.5 inches deep

Last week at a quick glance I noticed they were at it again. I pondered the ability of ant jaws to chisel through concrete with their tiny teeth. Bob handled it but assured me that they weren’t indiscriminately chewing through our driveway. These ants were on crack.

That made perfect sense to me until Bob explained they were on a crack in the concrete.

Something else to ponder down here is the I-4 Ultimate Project which began in 2015 and has no sign of being completed during the remaining 15 months of 2020. I’m not good with maps, but it appears to me that any delays are probably due to the Scarlet King Snake (or is that a Coral Snake) resting in the middle of the project.

Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow
Red Touch Black – Venom Lack
Yellow Touches Red – Soon You’ll Be Dead
Red Touches Black – Friend of Jack

I early voted and it was a breeze, much simpler than remembering the coral snake rhyme. The old Party City in our area is now serving two parties and third parties as well. It was an easy in-and-out experience except the woman who checked me in was sort of blind. She was excited to work the polls for her first time – so excited that she forgot her contact lenses and had to use a magnifying glass to check my picture and signature. That was a first for me, too.

And, finally, a consumer alert. Available at Walmart, of course, for a limited time: It’s time to buy your KFC fried chicken-scented firelogs. I hope they don’t cause a grease fire.

I’d Like to Weigh in on Something

Every morning, without fail, my husband dutifully weights himself. Several years ago he lost about 35 pounds and watches that scale to make sure it doesn’t creep back on. Most mornings I, too, weigh myself. But not in front of him. When you’ve been on a diet for 45 years, you get a little sensitive about certain details. Yes, he can know how much I’ve lost. No, he cannot know what my current weight is.

Eventually, I tell him, but only after I get to my goal. He is a genius with numbers, so I know he can remember my weight loss and figure out from whence I came, but I don’t think about that. And he’s smart enough not to mention it.

Last Saturday was like every other day, only I was awake to see Bob weigh himself. He got on. He got off. He got on again. “Hey,” he exclaimed, “this scale is like the wheel of fortune gone crazy. It stops on a number and then rolls to another, over and over.”

Bob’s weight went from 170 to 214 to 68 in no time at all. Well, folks, that is 2020 for you. Nothing is what it should be. I stepped on and was delighted to see that I was in a weird bathroom/carnival game, not knowing where the scale would land. I decided I would choose a number I like and go on with my day.

By Monday, Bob was going through scale withdrawal and stopped at Costco to buy a new one. Alas, they had none. I know they’ll reappear in January, but for now, Bob had to find another source. If you follow me or know us, you will marvel at how we think everything can be found at Costco and if it isn’t there, then it’s either the end of the world or the year 2020. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s pretty much how we operate.

Bob got on Costco.com and found some options and listed them as I fixed dinner. Did we want bamboo finish, clear glass, black finish? Would we like our weight to the nearest tenth of a pound? Hey, these have Bluetooth. They will track our weight for us. That’s when I put down the spatula.

A great big NO to tracking! I turned the contact tracing off on my phone. Why would I want our scale to keep my numbers for public display to anyone who was passing through our bathroom? And who needs Bluetooth for their scale? Really, is that what this crazy world has come to?

Bob added that some scales can track up to four people. “Fine,” I said maturely, “but if you get that scale, I’ll never weight myself again.” And with that, I sliced myself a piece of pie to make sure he knew I meant business.

Amazon (Costco’s alternative universe) gave us more sensible and lower cost choices. When I saw a scale that came with a tape measure, I knew order had returned to my universe. So if you are feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember you can discover what your weight is for $14.38 on Amazon.com. Let’s just hope this scale can keep a secret!

The Importance of Play

My North Carolina grandchildren popped in for a few days in September. Before they arrived we had had an abundance of rain and the pool water was spilling over the edge. They fixed that for us in a matter of moments without us having to do a thing. I love to watch them and my local grandkids (their cousins) playing together. No one is safe from getting wet when they’re around.

Getting rained on is a nice break from the pool.

One of their favorite pool games is categories. One person is “it” and everyone else waits on the opposite side of the pool for a category to be called. Each person secretly chooses something from that category and when that name is called, they try to swim to touch the opposite side without being detected and tagged. Categories range from colors to Disney princesses to Marvel Superheroes.

As we watched, my daughter Dena commented that there should be an adult form of the game. Perhaps the person who is it would yell out, types of wine or places you’d like to travel or part of your body that is currently hurting. I’d love to have my neighbors hear the words, merlot or cabernet sauvignon being shouted from my backyard. It might be even more fun to have them hear sciatica or lower back.

We are a big game playing family, but you don’t have to like games to enjoy some play time. Doing a jigsaw puzzle might be more your cup of tea. Or maybe a tea tasting is your cup of tea. Perhaps you’d enjoy viewing sports together if you’d rather watch something than physically play. You could try Bob’s and my favorite game. That’s the one where I change something insignificant in the house and see if he can figure out what I did. You can imagine how much he loves that!

Board games and puzzles have had quite the resurgence during COVID. They provide great times of interaction and don’t involve a screen. Of course, video games can be fun, too. Bob and I have enjoyed video games for as long as I can remember. I was first introduced to PacMan back around 1981. Our good friend and pastor innocently introduced us to it and our lives have never been the same. (Thankfully, this is not the only influence he has had and still has on us. Thanks, Danny!)

Prior to that, there was Pong or Space Invaders. Child’s play! PacMan had a catchy tune and I immediately was hooked. One day soon after Danny introduced this to us, I ventured to the mall with our two kids – a toddler and a six-month oldish baby. There was a game room there. How had I never noticed that! I blew through a bunch of quarters with a baby on my hip and a toddler mesmerized by the sights and sounds. It was amazing.

Soon we discovered that we could have a gaming console in our very own home. Then, if I wanted, I could practice while the kids were taking a nap! I could beat Bob! Well, I wasn’t that obsessed. Close though. When Nintendo introduced Tetris, we were hooked. Then came Dr. Mario, which was a lot like Tetris only with cute Mario characters. When we would put our children to bed at night, Bob and I would play. I think even now when they hear the music they drift off to sleep. 

We took a decade or so off when our Nintendo died. We would blow on the cartridge or smack the top of the console, but alas, game over. Then one day our son said he was taking his Wii to the game store to trade for an xBox. He told us Wii had Dr. Mario. Our hearts leapt for joy and we traded him right then and there for car insurance money. Score.

Fast forward to now – 2020. Bob and I have that same Wii and we regularly play Dr. Mario. I tell myself it is good for my hand-eye coordination. Don’t spoil that for me!

 

The Importance of Knowing What’s Important

There’s been a lot of important stuff going on this past week. So many special days to celebrate! National Daughter Day. National Son Day. Drink a Beer Day. Coffee Day. Whew, it’s been busy.

I’m not sure who started this national craze, but now that the train has left the station, there is no telling how many national days lie ahead.

I do know that the first Thursday of May celebrates a National Day of Prayer. The way 2020 is going, I think we should extend that into a National Year of Prayer.

I’ve done my research so you can be prepared to celebrate the daylights out of October. Get ready. Today is National Black Dog Day, National Hair Day, Fire Pup Day, and National Homemade Cookies Day (at last something I can sink my teeth into).

The list for the month is extensive and you can find it if you click here.

Some of my favorites are:

  • National Produce Misting Day, Oct 2 (Is once a year enough?)
  • World Smile Day, Oct 4 (challenging due to COVID)
  • National Get Funky Day, Oct 5 (necessary due to COVID – Spread a little sunshine.)
  • National Greasy Food Day, Oct 25 (Do we need a day for this?)
  • National Hermit Day, Oct 29 (simple due to COVID)
  • National Candy Corn Day, Oct 30 (I don’t get this one. Why waste my sugar calories on candy corn when M&Ms are available?)

This is lots of fun, but the trouble with all these national days is, in my humble opinion, if everything is important then perhaps nothing is. Do I need a day to celebrate my sons and daughters? We used to call that their birthdays. Am I less of a mom because I didn’t pen a fitting tribute to these wonderful people? I’m going with a big NO. I will tell you, though, just for the record, God has blessed me with the most wonderful children and now children-in-law and grandchildren. I think they know that’s how I feel even if I don’t participate in National Days of tribute to them. (To quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)

What’s most important to me is remembering how important the truly important is. That would include The Four F’s:

  1. Faith in God
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Fellow man

Whatever we can do to celebrate these is okay with me.

And while we’re adding in National Days, perhaps we could make this day the “National Day to Share Bonnie’s Blog Day.” While that’s not truly important, I could celebrate that!

My parents in front of the church where they were married,

which is the church we attended when I was a baby.

Photo taken 2007

The Importance of Friends

I am finding it more and more challenging to uncover the lighter side of life these days, but that only makes me more determined. My mind has become a bit numb. I would wear a hat to warm it up and maybe get the blood circulating, but that is problematic for me due to the size of my head (plus, I don’t think it works that way). I used to be sensitive about my extra-large noggin, then I discovered that my friend, Moggie, has what she considers a small head. For entertainment we would go try on hats together. The hat that sat way on top of my head would slide down to her nose.

I have convinced myself that when you look at me you are not thinking, “wow, she has a huge head.” If Moggie and I stand next to each other, you wouldn’t be thinking about our heads. You would likely notice that I look like a giant next to her, but that’s okay. We have learned that the size of our heads or height of our bodies does not define us. We large headed folks can mingle with small headers quite nicely. That’s called diversity.

Moggie stopped by our house spur of the moment the other day. It was like medicine for my soul to see my friend.

There have been times, which had nothing to do with a pandemic or social distance mandate or masks, when I felt isolated in my life. One of those times was when Bob and I first moved to Orlando from Maryland back in the 70s. We were young and knew no one outside of my family. We had begun attending a mega church and that was not proving a successful means to friendship building. So many people and no new friends! It was a bit overwhelming for us.

We prayed that God would give us friends.

One night we bravely attended a church class for young married people. Since it was smaller in number, we thought we’d meet people. Alas, they all seemed very friendly – with each other. Little did we know that God had something different in mind. After our meeting was over, we were going to the main service, so we wandered out to the hall with another couple who were also first-timers. We sat together in the meeting and introduced ourselves. I remember whispering to Bob that maybe we could invite them over, but before we could act on that, they passed us a note with their address on it and a friendship was born.

That was over forty years ago. Since that time God has brought many more amazing friends into my life. Recently I have been attempting to refocus on friendships. It has been far too easy to live life isolated from the relationships God has blessed us with. I want to encourage you, in whatever state of pandemic safety you find yourself in, reach out to those you love. Friends are a gift – it’s important that they are present in your life.

I’ll leave you with this, if someone thought it important enough that their pets have friends, how much more should we humans cherish our friends.

According to the report, this was to fill the need of dogs feeling isolated during the pandemic. Wow!

A Period of Hostility

According to Hannah Frishberg, I became cool when periods were no longer a part of my life. That’s right – it’s cool to be postmenopausal. No more messing with those pesky periods (though I refuse to omit one here).

You may rightly wonder what I’m talking about; sometimes I do, too. This should clear things up. I read an article in the New York Post (online edition), by Hannah Frishberg. It’s about that little dot at the end of a sentence, the innocent little period, and is titled, “Young People Don’t Trust Anyone Who Uses this Punctuation Mark.” It brought me to a full stop. Seriously?

You. Have. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

This is going to be the thing that divides us?

Hannah is touting her views on texting and the use of this end-all punctuation. She claims that periods come across as “overly hostile and, worse yet, extremely uncool.”

WHO ARE CALLING HOSTILE, HANNAH? 

I thought back on the days of my life (not the soap opera) – days that included periods of youth, marriage, child-bearing, child-rearing, and empty nest. And these days were marked with periods of joy, laughter, fear, anger, peace, confusion, sorrow, searching, exhaustion, sickness, health, resting, faith, and contentment. These are the things that punctuate life; and by cracky, I’m going to use proper punctuation when I write about them. PERIOD!

I do remember being slightly hostile when on my period, but that was normal. It was nothing that a Snickers couldn’t handle. This article, though, has brought up some grammatical hostility in me, but since I’m dieting right now I can’t appease it with a Snickers. Sigh.

Stop the madness!

Honestly, I do understand what she’s talking about; it’s the extremism toward punctuation that gives me pause. If I answer a text with a yes or a no, I don’t put a period behind it. It’s not necessary. Hannah quotes Victoria Turk, who claims in her digital etiquette book that, “Only old people or troubled souls put periods at the end of every sentence.” I had no idea that the simple little period revealed so much about its user. It makes me want to send her a text right now that is full of periods. Who is troubled now, Victoria?

I suppose the exclamation point is downright violent!

Side note: In the old days of texting, you had to pay extra for it. As it became common place, my husband led the resistance to texting. He argued that people had worked hard to go from the development of Morse Code being tapped out on connected lines to actually being able to talk to people over land lines to carrying a phone in our pockets. Why would we want to take a step back? Now, of course, he’s a convert; but he had a point. Hearing someone’s voice is sweet, but texting is efficient.

In doing my due diligence for this post, I came across this quote from Matthew McConaughey that might sum things up:

“Life is a series of commas, not periods.”

He ended it with a period, so there you go. Our life may be viewed as one long run-on sentence, but it is best appreciated when broken up by proper punctuation.

 

Face-to-Face and Loving It

I don’t want to dwell on the Corona, but it’s challenging not to have it affect everything in life right now. Even my faith is affected but in a good way. I am reminded that God has everything under control and my seeming control of any situation may be just that – seeming. I am constantly talking to myself about how I serve a good God and he cares for me (and you!). Recently when I had a near miss from a car t-boning me, I was reminded that there is a lot of danger out there besides Corona – a lot that I am not afraid of even though the possibility of “bad things” happening to me is (as it was that morning) just around the corner.

When my sweet husband suggested that I go see our kids and grandkids in the Carolinas before school starts, I was hesitant at first. The internal debate began, but I felt like it was a good idea to go. Bob knew how much it would mean to me and them. I married well.

I set out on a Sunday morning for a week of real live, face-to-face time and hugs. It was medicinal. From Oliver, the youngest (21 months), to Mia, the oldest (17), I received plenty of hugs to warm my soul. It had been only a few weeks since Bob and I helped our son move, so Oliver needed no adjustment time. He is active and cute and squishy. I’m so thankful they are closer to us now.

The biggest reward of the trip was surprising our daughter’s kids. She wisely didn’t tell them I was coming because no plans are set in stone nowadays. My last trip had to be canceled and we didn’t want to make 8-year-old Layna cry again. Mia is recovering from knee surgery, and when she came down the hall on her crutches and saw me standing in the foyer, she hugged me and cried. She’s been through a lot and is recovering well.

I would have been satisfied hanging around the house with the family, but Dena thought we needed some adventure. Adventure that would take face-to-face to another level. She, Layna, and I headed for The Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, NC.

Here is where the meaning of face-to-face ratcheted up a notch or ten. I’ll admit that I wasn’t really excited about our prescribed adventure, but it sounded like the perfect thing to do with Layna while the older kids were occupied with a church outing. Plus, I can never resist hanging out with her.

The greeting committee at The Lazy 5 is well-chosen.

They do not understand the words “social distancing” and are hungry for interaction – especially interaction with someone who might have a bucket of feed.

On my initial encounter with this wild bunch, I thought to myself – this is how The Beatles must have felt when they went out in public. It felt a little dangerous. I felt slightly violated to have large heads and hard beaks invade my space. But I couldn’t stop laughing. That was the best part.

Layna was hesitant at first but she warmed right up to feeding the animals.

Dena made fast friends with a hungry, aggressive ostrich.

 

We were told not to feed the zebras. Evidently they like to bite. My window seemed to be going up in slow motion as I wondered if I was going to be additional evidence of why one doesn’t feed the zebras. This is my mildly panicking face. Dena said it went up a notch after she took this picture.

When was the last time you laughed with people? I mean that deep, belly laugh that makes you tired afterward in the most contented and happy way?

I highly recommend this adventure. I highly recommend any adventure that will reconnect you with people and allow laughter and love to flow. (I know, I know. I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind. Being safe right now is all you hear about, and we should keep that in mind. But think outside of the box. Think outside. Outside is good.)

 

Proverbs 17:22 – A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Amplified Bible)

 

The Lazy 5 Ranch is a drive-through safari. “The purpose of the Lazy 5 Ranch is to educate in an entertaining way, as well as provide an excellent environment for the reproduction of some of God’s most unique creatures. The Lazy 5 Ranch also seeks to help the recovery of several endangered species including the Grevy Zebra, Scimitar Horned Oryx and Ring-tailed Lemur.”

 

 

Searching for the Worst Beach in Florida

Bob and I celebrated our 45th anniversary last weekend. This was not without its challenges due to the pandemic and a tropical storm/hurricane threatening Florida’s east coast. Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs) turned out to be a dud storm for Florida, thank God, but it caused damage up the I-95 corridor. It’s gone now – only clean-up remains. Other than the obvious reason to breathe a sigh of relief, we are grateful that we will not have to listen to people trying to say Isaias properly. One local radio announcer dubbed it “the storm with the name we can’t pronounce.”

And speaking of storm names – who are the ad wizards that came up with these? Later in the year we will have a storm named Nana. Seriously? Nana is threatening the coast. Nana is knocking out power. We hope Nana doesn’t come on shore. But I digress.

A day trip seemed a good plan. Being inside with all the masked people and pandemic reminders dampening our mood was not what we wanted for our anniversary. We love a good day trip and love to explore places we have not seen, so we headed for North Central Florida’s West Coast.

We threw our swimsuits, beach chairs, and a cooler in the car and were off for adventure. Who knew what we would find? Who knew what perfect little beaches we would discover? Who knew if we would find a place where we could use the bathroom?

First stop was Crystal River. It is famous around the state for its scenic nuclear power plant. Seeing the majestic steam billowing up to the sky, well, that’s nature at its finest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy we have it. In Florida having power is what it’s all about. We get cranky when our AC is out.

We rambled down the road and found a crowded little beach right on the Gulf. I guess you have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a parking space, so we opted for a picnic by the river, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip.

Next stop was Lil’ Shark Park at Cedar Key. We had heard great things about Cedar Key, but in retrospect all those things were from people who had boats. We had a Styrofoam pool noodle.

You know those cute little couples who even though they have been married for 45 years still hold hands? We were one of them. Of course, we were motivated by the need to steady each other as we walked into the water. I was surprised by the slippery slime under my feet. To add to the ambiance, the smell of dead fish wafted around us like mosquitoes on a summer night. We stayed ten minutes.

It was 4 o’clock and we were riding around in our wet swimsuits still in search of a place to swim. Surely Pine Island would provide that. By 5:30 we were in the Gulf again. This was a step up from Cedar Key. We could walk in the water without fear of falling, but it felt like we were walking on fishing nets. I walked about a quarter mile before getting to waist deep water. It didn’t stink and although it felt yucky on my feet, it wasn’t completely gross. We got wet. We saw a small pod of dolphins. We left.

When we changed from our swimsuits in a beach house that was about 85 degrees inside and smelled like wet dog, I got homesick for our backyard (which is where we spent the next day). We were on the road again by 6:15. Little did we know that our real adventure was finding Florida’s worst beach.

Our day in summary:

Wildlife seen: 6 dolphins, 2 otters, 1 deer

Nuclear Power plants spotted: 1

Things I’ve never seen in Central or Eastern Florida: quarries, sawmills

Places to which I would return: 0

Worst beach to swim in Florida: Lil’ Shark Park at Cedar Key

Time spent with Bob: 13 hours of talking and laughing and enjoying being together. We can’t wait to go to Clearwater!