True Confessions of a Floridian

True confession time: I have been obsessing over the weather. I can’t get over the atypical May we are having down here in Orlando, and I can’t stop commenting on it. I feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode – you know, the show about nothing. Only I’m not Jerry or George, I’m one of their parents, or worse yet Uncle Leo.

Let me explain (sans Seinfeldian references). You know that old saying – it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity. That usually refers to the fact that it’s the humidity that is making the day miserable, not the heat itself. But recently it’s been the humidity, or lack thereof, that has made the days downright tolerable, if you’re in the shade and it’s morning or evening, if you’re wearing lightweight clothing, and if you’re not exerting yourself. It’s been wonderful.

We have not experienced this kind of low humidity for a sustained period of time during the month of May or June since way back in 1998. The downside is that Florida is on fire and we have a drought that is coaxing snakes, alligators and bears out of their natural habitat into our yards, but isn’t it nice out!

All of this humidity talk is driving Bob crazy, but only a little. He’s figured out a way to either help pay for our vacation or silence me by putting a jar on the kitchen table and every time I mention the “H” word, I have to drop a dollar in. Looks like we’re going to have a great vacation! I’ve added $5 to the jar just with this post, plus I sneaked the cash out of Bob’s wallet so it’s a win/win for me.

Maybe We Should Leave the Scientific Method to the Scientists

I witnessed two ladies applying the scientific method the other day. It was fascinating to observe their dedication to discovery and the acquisition of knowledge, even if it might come at their own peril.

It happened at Costco, which is where so much of my writing inspiration has its source. From the moment I drive onto the parking lot and circle, circle, circle to find a parking spot, there is magic and anticipation in the air. This time it began as I exited my car and observed the aforementioned ladies just as they had finished loading their car with the treasures that embody a Costco shopping trip.

Their car was similar to mine, a small-to-mid-size SUV, and it was obviously loaded with the same feature that mine has which allows you to kick your foot under the rear bumper (if you have the key fob on you) and release the hatch to open without the use of your hands. I might add that this is a perfect feature for the regular Costco shopper.

When I say “obviously,” I mean that one of the women was halfway inside of the back of the car while the other woman was kicking her foot under the bumper to see how the stop-and-reverse safety feature worked. I’m sure that this was an experiment and nothing malicious, because there was friendly banter being exchanged the entire time.

Down went the hatch, and then up went the hatch when it hit the woman leaning into the car. She repositioned herself and they tried it again – I guess to see if the intensity of the hatch hitting the woman would change or if in fact she would be squished by the gate, thereby adding the possibility of a law suit, which they would surely win and, therefore, be able to buy more stuff at Costco.

This was so surprising and entertaining to me that I didn’t think to pull out my phone and video them, which would clearly have helped with any impending lawsuits. I just stood there and stared and laughed.

I also engaged them in conversation because I have some knowledge of how it feels to have your hatch hit you when you accidentally put your foot too far under the bumper while loading the back of the car. A summary of the outcome of that event from my firsthand experience is: pain and embarrassment.

In my case, I was putting things in the back of the car and turned to get more from my cart when I was interrupted by the hatch smacking me on the head. I shared this with them with a certain amount of caution, because I was honestly afraid that they might try that one, too. They didn’t, but they did return to their original application of the scientific method. Their systematic observation and testing was truly inspiring. After I thought about it, though, I did wonder if they had already done the experiment where the hatch hits them in the head. That would explain a lot.

Stepping-Stones, Light Switches, and a Few Other Surprises

We have lived in our new home for a year and eight months now. I am still discovering new things about our house. For instance, the backyard must have been a dumping place for surplus building material. We have unearthed chunks of concrete, bricks, nails, glass, and stepping-stones. When I say stepping-stones, I mean enough to make a small path in our garden. Literally, buried treasure!

All of these stones were buried in our yard

I’m getting used to entertaining here. After more than three decades in our old place, I now have to think about what was so automatic. Where is the best place for coffee service? Should I use the bar or the dining room table for a buffet? How can I keep people from falling into our sunken living room? Obviously, some of these questions carry more weight than others. You don’t want to make it difficult for people to find coffee, that’s for sure!

And then there is the random placement of light switches – behind doors, in the middle of the master bedroom wall, in the pantry (still haven’t figured that one out). And why is there no switch when you enter the dining room from the bedroom or the family room from the hall?

The view to the left

But the most unusual finding happened today. I moved my writing place to the family room. It gives me a new view and a new use for a room that doesn’t get much activity. I can still look to my left and gaze out the window to the pool deck and see plants and flowers, and if I lean a little, the bird feeder. But I had never sat here and taken in the view to my right. How long has that wad of gum been stuck under the fireplace mantel?

 

A most unusual and kind of gross discovery

Of course, I took a picture and texted it to Dena (my daughter who along with her husband and four children stayed with us for five months). I wondered if she knew who the guilty party was. To my surprise, she was fairly confident that it was not her family, especially since she had noticed the gum before and forgotten to point it out to me. (Not to mention, neglected to remove it, but that’s for a different conversation. I will assume the best and figure she wanted to give me something to write about.)

We had a lot of people stay with us in 2016, so if you are reading this and you parked your gum in our family room, please contact me to get it back. I will gladly save it for you, though I am a little intimidated about prying it from its home. It may be hiding another treasure.

Happy Trails, Bertha!

How does one get claustrophobia while outside? I never thought it was possible, but I can tell you from experience – it is. While the most common definition talks about closed or small spaces, discomfort by being in a situation that restricts you also applies.

With that in mind, let me tell you about a recent afternoon spent with my daughter and her family in Colorado.

Always the semi-adventurous (if it’s doesn’t put me out of my comfort zone too far) grandmother, I thought an hour-long horseback ride seemed quite doable. After all, I had done this before. Once. In 1995.

Obviously 39-year-old Bonnie and 60-year-old Bonnie still have some things in common – but stamina is not on that list. Still, I was confident that I could sit on the back of a horse for an hour. I mean, seriously. It was just going to be sixty minutes. And I didn’t even have to move my feet.

I moseyed up to the ranch hand and whispered that my entire horseback riding experience consisted of a ride like this one, and that was ‘pert near twenty years ago. He said that Bertha would be perfect for me.

I should have asked perfect in what way, because we weren’t far down the trail when I realized that Bertha had a mind of her own. So perhaps he meant perfect to help me get those arms in shape. Or perfect to keep my attention on the trail since Bertha didn’t seem to want to. Or maybe he meant perfect to give me something to blog about. I don’t know; but I do know that this horse who was supposed to be trained to stay nose to tail with the horse ahead of her, follow a well-worn trail (more like a ditch), and to be so well-behaved that I would barely have to hold on to the reins, obviously had other plans.

The ranch hand placed Bertha and me behind my son-in-law in the line-up. The reason being that his horse liked to kick, which well-behaved Bertha would never prompt him to do. Wrong. Bertha did not get that memo and periodically would try to pass him or in one instance gave him a little nibble on the rump. He did not like that, but Bertha was undaunted and even seemed pleased.

The pungent smell of horse flatulence could not detract from the beautiful views near Estes Park, Colorado.

As the feeling was leaving my legs and the rest of my body was (I don’t want to exaggerate here) racked with pain, it dawned on me that our hour must be almost up. A smile came across my face at the thought of walking again. I could do this. I was almost there!

My hope was quickly dashed, because at that exact point in time, our trail guide announced that we were at the halfway point. That’s when a claustrophobic feeling took over and I wanted to jump off of the horse. I didn’t, of course, mainly because it was not in my power to do so. It’s a long way down off of a horse, and riding along the mountainside had taken all of my energy and most of my will to live. I remember feeling panicky and wondering how I could feel so boxed in while looking at such grand vistas. I wanted to run but knew my legs wouldn’t work properly, so I toughed it out.

My daughter snapped this picture at the moment the trail guide announced we were (only) halfway through our ride.

Also at that point in time, my daughter snapped a picture of me. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I guess I could end this right here. I won’t though, because you are probably dying to know how this story ends.

When at last we were nearing the stables, the trail guide told us to pull up to the raised board walk, hold on to the saddle’s horn, and swing our leg over the horse’s head and dismount.

Excuse me? Assuming I was able to swing my leg over the horse’s head, there was a 100 percent change I would kick her in the head and then she would ride off with me dangling from her side, laughing all the way (the horse, that is). I had to enlist the aid of my son-in-law to make sure that Bertha and I could go our separate ways amicably.

It was a strange sensation being on solid ground again. My body was so mad at me that it just wanted to sit, but I had to tell it no. We would not be sitting again any time soon. First, we had to learn to walk again. There would be plenty of time to sit later.

As a side note, I have decided that this will be the last of my every-twenty-year horseback riding trips. I don’t think 80-year-old Bonnie could handle it.

Leftover Pi

I was lamenting not having something sweet to serve to my family who was coming into town. It seemed wrong. I guess that’s how I was raised, and I also guess that explains why I have been on a diet for the last 45 years.

I had other food to offer them, but I couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that I was failing at my hostess duties. I almost had myself talked into being okay with it, and then I made a critical mistake. While I was out running a quick errand, I called Bob (my husband).

Bob: You know, it’s pi day.

Me: You just want pie.

Bob: I do like pie. You could swing by Costco and buy one. Easy.

Me (as I turn the car towards Costco): I’ve been doing so well without eating sweets, I don’t want to buy a huge pie. Not to mention the fact that I just made a birthday cake for my mom for tomorrow and I plan on having a piece.

Bob: Do whatever you want. We don’t need pie.

I tell myself that I’m not going to do it. I’ll just fill up my tank. No need to go inside. I lie a lot.

Inside they are sampling apple pie. Arg! I look at it and decide to be mad at Bob. I buy the pie.

Before our company arrives, I check in with Bob to tell him that he is a terrible influence on me, I mean to tell him that I bought a pie. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, honey. Just thought I’d check in. Do you have a minute to talk?

Bob: No, not really. The entire staff is heading to the break room for pie, you know, since it’s Pi Day. I don’t want to miss out.

Me: What! You knew you were having pie at work and yet you managed to get me to buy pie! Stupid Pi Day. I hate math!

Later that night…

During dinner, my cousin tells me that he is now borderline diabetic, so he passes on the bread that I fixed, which I don’t usually fix but did because we have company and you must have bread. And, of course, he turns down the pie as well.

Oh, the irony! All this to say, you really don’t have to have dessert just because you are having company. And, you really don’t have to have bread either, but you do have to have wine. That helps you not to be angry at your husband or yourself when you and he are the only ones eating pie that you didn’t really want to have in the first place.

What are we going to do with all of this leftover pie?

 

Say Cheese! (the story of an immigrant and fellow cheese shopper)

Almost every time I go to Costco I see someone I know.  That’s what happens when you live in one area for forty years.  But today, instead of seeing an old friend, I made a new one.

Part of the fun at Costco is listening to and watching people.  Every trip affords an opportunity for conversation.  Today was an exceptional day in that arena.

We met in the cheese aisle while lamenting the expiration dates on the fresh tubs of mozzarella.  Soon an alert employee asked if she could help us.  As she went to check on the supply, we started chatting – me in my plain old American English and him with a charming old world accent that I could not quite place.

Bulgaria.  He was from Bulgaria.  He was a long way from the food lines of the late 1990s that were the norm at that time in his home country.  In less than twenty years he had gone from those lines and barely being able to feed his family, to Costco lines of carts overflowing with bulk purchases and fresh produce.  And cheese.

He risked it all to come to America so he could feed his daughters.  In those days the food lines started early in the morning, before dawn.  He would get in line and wait for hours.  There was not enough food to buy.  That is a concept that I cannot even imagine as I look at the aisles stacked with more kinds of food than I can count, not to mention my own grocery cart full of steaks, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.

He was a printer and worked in the newspaper business.  One day while reading the paper he saw a small rectangular ad with details of a way to go to America – a lottery.  He secretly applied – too nervous to tell even his wife.  For some reason he was confident that his name would be picked but still kept his action to himself.  And then he waited.  Six months later a letter came.  He was chosen.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he told his wife the news.  He told me there was a skirmish between them over it – mostly over him keeping it from her.  His intentions were good – he didn’t want their everyday life to be overshadowed by a mere possibility.  Even when it was time to go, they waited until the last days to tell family and friends.  Some things are difficult to share with those you do life with every day.  How does a person find the words to tell loved ones they are going to find a new life in another country?  Words.  Words can cut like a knife and soothe like a balm.  They can elicit tears of hope and gratitude.  They are part of happy hellos and heartbreaking goodbyes.

So I never know what I’m going to bring home from Costco.  This time it was a lot more than a rotisserie chicken.  This time it was a story that made me proud of this man for pursuing a new life to care for his family and proud of my country for welcoming him in.

Author’s Note: This story actually took place a year ago. I submitted it to The Costco Connection; but since I haven’t heard from them, I wanted to share it with you. This gentleman is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. It occurs to me that in this day of tension about immigration, maybe this is timely. There is a path to immigration that welcomes people to our country. I don’t fully understand how it works, but I am grateful for it. It was a process for this man that involved waiting. I’m glad he did.

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part III

 

full-moon-415501_640Did you happen to catch the lunar eclipse during the full moon earlier this month? Maybe not – you might have been distracted by the comet going past. Or you might not know what in the universe I’m talking about.

This is where grandchildren come in handy. I would have been clueless if it weren’t for the newsflash brought to us by our eight-year-old grandson, Winston. It seems he was listening in school that day! He told us about a golden moon, an eclipse and a comet, and that we all needed to be outside at 7:30 to watch the show. Because Winston loves to tease, I thought he was doing just that. Thank goodness for Google, because I could see Winston was right on, even if some details were a little fuzzy.

Our dinner discussion with Winston and his ten-year-old brother Manning then turned to the difference between comets and meteors and what was a meteorite. They had the definitions down fairly well, giving me hope for the school system.

That is until I asked them, what was the most famous comet they ever heard of; and Manning answered, “Comet the reindeer.”

I laughed so hard I nearly spit my food across the table.

We composed ourselves and went outside at 7:30 to watch the night sky. We observed no noticeable eclipse of the beautiful full moon and no comet passing by. Not even one joined by seven other reindeer pulling Santa and a sleigh full of toys.

According to reports, we understand that we did see an eclipse – a penumbral eclipse. I have to tell you, it looks remarkably like a regular old full moon. My “extensive” research said it is hard to tell the difference between a penumbral eclipse and a regular full moon, which might be why they don’t get much press. So why bring it up now? What are those scientists trying to pull here? I don’t want to join in on the fake news bandwagon, but this is lunacy.

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part II

I have mentioned repeatedly the brilliant move I made when I married an engineer. Marrying an engineer means never having to call a repairman. To quote Ferris Bueller, “It’s so choice.”

We had been having problems with our pool pump. I watched Bob as he quickly diagnosed the problem. I’ll describe for you in layman’s terms what he did after pulling something or another apart. He looked at it. He then put the thingamajig back on the what’s-it-called saying he’d have to tackle it later. He didn’t have the right tools.

The next day after he came home from work, he kissed me hello as I cooked dinner and headed out back.

img_1607-1Layna, who is four, was happily doing puzzles on my iPad at the dining room table.

Just five minutes later, Bob was back inside. I asked him if he was going to work on the pump tonight and he said he just fixed it. “It’s easy when you have the right tool.”

I know I shouldn’t be amazed at him, but I still am. I winked at him and told him, “I think I got the right tool when I married you.”

Obviously, the compliment was wasted on Layna, who kept saying, “Bumpa is a tool? Bumpa is a tool?”

 

 

 

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part I

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I am writing a few short blog posts inspired by those wonderful grandchildren of mine – my husband’s and my seven beautiful Valentines.

Four of these sweeties lived with us for the last five months of 2016, but I was too busy enjoying them to share some of the gems they left engraved on my heart.

It was a Saturday morning and Bob was getting ready to leave the house. We were checking with each other regarding our upcoming day. Bob said he was going to Home Depot, the pool store, and then he was going for a massage.

My sweet Ella

My sweet Ella

Ella, who is eleven, was watching our conversation. She looked at me and said, “Grandmom, I think Bumpa is cheating on you.”

Bob was pretty much speechless at this point. (Children will do that to you.)

Not being sure how savvy Ella is, I asked what she meant.

“I think he’s spending all of your money.”

“Well, I assured her. I don’t earn any money. I’m the one that spends his.”

That satisfied her, but left me wondering how she thinks I generate an income. I guess she figures I’m usually the one of us that takes her out and buys her stuff, so perhaps I have a secret job that I find time to do while she is sleeping. That also would explain why I take a nap in the afternoon. After all, it probably has nothing to do with all the kids in the house.

 

Wicked Weather

The forecast was foreboding, but we didn’t let the tornado warnings keep us from our Wicked plan. We arrived at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando before the storm hit, and we remained ensconced in the magical Land of Oz until after it blew through. (Thankfully, there were no tornadoes here, but it was windy enough for us to think about calling Auntie Em.)


Our seats were in the second row of the balcony, so in the middle of Act 1 when the place started buzzing (literally buzzing), we had a bird’s-eye view of the auditorium. Hundreds of silenced cell phones alerted us to the fact that wicked weather was on the horizon. We were all momentarily distracted from being immersed in the play. Cell phones were checked, but nobody left. Why would we – we were already in a windowless room.

As they say, the show must go on, and it did. The performance was wonderful. The cast didn’t miss a beat during the buzzing of the cell phones. (I’m not sure if that is good or not, but I’m going with good in this case.)

I have to say, my husband picked the perfect night for us to see Wicked. I’ve heard of pairing your wine with your dinner, but pairing the weather with the performance is really taking it up a notch.

(My thoughts and prayers are with the communities who were hit hard by this line of storms. After I saw the news this morning, I realized though our area was spared, others were not.)