It Takes More Than Autumn Leaves to Get Me to Michigan in October

Hail, sleet, and snow in the midst of a thunderstorm – that was my welcome to Michigan. The date was October 20. I had left almost 90-degree weather, an atypically warm Orlando autumn. To say this was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

First stop after touching down was Costco, of course. It was as I pulled into the parking lot that the sleet began. I sat there in my rental car in awe of the sudden extremely different from Florida precipitation when it started to hail, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Being a Floridian, I can drive in the worst of a rain storm, but this, I wasn’t so sure. Then, flashing through my mind, were those weird road signs that warn bridges ice before roads. I would be crossing bridges. I reminded myself that I could do this, but I didn’t wanna!

My first thought was, I needed a nap. I’d gotten up early to catch my flight and sleep on the plane, well, that doesn’t really count. But the thought of driving through this kind of weather did wake me up.

Of course, I didn’t have an umbrella, and the sleet was mixed with rain that was coming down pretty steadily. I needed to do my Costco run before making the two-hour drive to my son’s house. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and my grandmother calling was strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of Michigan autumn would stay this grandmother from the swift completion of her appointed Costco run. I decided to go for it – cold, wet weather and all. And then, it stopped.

I was so thankful! I bought my stuff and made the drive with only slight rain falling on the windshield. The temperature stayed above freezing, so the bridges were fine! The snow flurries waited until I arrived at their home.

Seeing my son, Joe, my grandson, and my very pregnant daughter-in-law was all the sunshine I needed. It was wonderful to be there. Now, the baby could come any time. He was due on the 24th. He had a plan of his own.

No grandmother I know has ever been so well rested while going to help with a new baby. After scheduling to be induced on November 1, Aubyron delivered a very healthy, 10-pound baby boy on Halloween. That was a Wednesday, and I was scheduled to come home on Saturday. We were really sweating out those final days, wondering if I’d get to see the baby at all, wondering if I’d be there to help with their three-year-old. Thankfully, I was able to push my departure back a couple of days and go home on Monday.

While we were waiting, I had the best time with my grandson. We built blocks, did puzzles, read stories, baked cookies, and played. I tried to pack in all the stuff that I don’t get to do on a regular basis with him. It was wonderful. We also saw all that their small, college town had to offer. We took walks. Many, many walks. My poor daughter-in-law was miserable and trying to do what she could to encourage the birth, and my son was getting a little anxious, too.

Let me give you a little glimpse of our tour. I was struck by the comparison of what a Michigan store stocks and what a Central Florida store stocks.

An entire section of things to keep the ice off your car. You can’t find this stuff in Orlando.

I mentioned they live in a college town. That should have given me a clue as to what this was all about.

Everything you need for beer-pong in one handy spot. I’ve never noticed that at CVS where I live.

They have a Family Video rental store, though I found no VHS tapes in there. The walls were lined with DVDs and I understand it is quite popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that weren’t enough, they have real, live Fall up there. They don’t have to fake it by purchasing colored leaves and pumpkins. Those things are there naturally. It was beautiful.

But the most beautiful thing I saw there, showed up on October 31. Yes, all else pales in comparison. Welcome to the world, Oliver!

Grandchild #8. He’s so beautiful!

Now you understand why I haven’t posted lately. Love is very distracting and consuming in the best of ways.

October Surprises

We are mid-way through October, and Christmas is prepared to pounce. I have become accustomed to Costco bringing out the Christmas decorations in September. I almost don’t even notice them anymore, kind of like the blue paint on the bumper of my car where something rubbed against it. It’s only mildly annoying, not hurting anything, but I do wish it weren’t there.

I love Christmas, but I’m not quite ready to gear up for it – that is until I realized that I’m going to Michigan on Saturday to welcome a new grandson and when I return it will be November. Oh my!

Still, I draw the line when it comes to Christmas promotions that are either too early or just plain wrong. I’ve captured a few for you. What do you think?

These pushy poinsettias have forced the lovely fall mums back under a table. I don’t like that!

 

Do I want to open my frig to see Santa in October?

 

This one almost left me speechless. Seriously, opening a beer a day to celebrate Advent!

Merry October!

These are the Days of Our Lives

Like sand through an hourglass

“I WILL NOT BE WATCHING SOAP OPERAS – unless for comic relief.”

This is a quote from my dear and funny friend, Pam. One fine day, she made the mistake of leaving the room while watching the news at noon and when she came back through, the soaps were on.

Here’s a peek at our texting conversation.

Pam: I stopped for a moment to see what I was watching. Excellent acting, by the way – NOT!!! I cracked up laughing and changed the channel. I felt like I was in Another World.

Me: You weren’t in Another World, these are simply The Days of our Lives. Think about it, we used to be the Young and the Restless. Now we’re the Bold and the Beautiful. We’re older and wiser.

Pam: Look, right now I feel like I am in A Secret Storm and it’s not yet The Edge of Night. But, As the World Turns, so does my life.

Me: True. And you only have One Life to Live. At least that’s what I tell All My Children.

Somehow, in the midst of this deep conversation Pam and I had forgotten this was a group text. That is, until another voice was heard: You are casting Dark Shadows over our text stream.

Alas, we were. Such is the danger of group text.

Side note: Do you remember Dark Shadows? Pam’s mom wouldn’t allow her to watch it. Since I was allowed, we are now afraid that our childhood selves could never have been friends. It’s so sad to see a friendship between people who didn’t yet know each other be thwarted by a television show!

Pumpkin Spice Peer Pressure

I took a five-minute walk through Whole Foods and was quickly reminded that it’s that time of year again – Fall in Florida. You might think I would wait outside on a lovely fall day, but it was 93 degrees outside. September was going out with a sizzle. Summer down here lasts easily until after Halloween, so if it weren’t for the plethora of pumpkin product placements, it may have slipped my notice that the season had changed.

A few short years ago, I came to realize that not everyone is pleased as punch over pumpkins. I have a friend who is not just overwhelmed, but annoyed at the things that those poor pumpkins are going through when all they really want to be is pie. Granted, she is in the minority, but she has a voice and she demands to be heard. And isn’t that what we’re all about in today’s world?

I thought about her as I wandered through the store; even I was overwhelmed by pumpkin. Every time I turned around, I was face-to-face with another pumpkin product. I love pumpkin, but at that point, I began to question everything about fall.

What about leaves? Isn’t fall foliage what it’s all about? And apples. Shouldn’t we be buying freshly pressed apple cider? Shouldn’t I be putting raked leaf essence in my coffee instead of pumpkin spice? Have I joined the ranks of pumpkin people without a second thought?

When I returned home I lit my pumpkin spice candle and thought deeply about this. I decided I might as well get my fall decorations out as I was thinking. They included 5 pumpkin spiced candles, a room spray, and various assorted pumpkin and leaf decorations.

It made me cry real tears when I realized that I hadn’t known when to stop. I hadn’t taken into account people like my friend who suffer from PSOD (pumpkin spice overload disorder). Plus, I also had ignored my own eye-irritant disorder, which is triggered by strong candle fragrances such as the ones I unleashed in my own house. Yes, the tears were real.

I’ll have to go on Amazon and see if they have any pumpkin spice lubricant eye drops. I’ll bet they’re out there!

 

 

 

Morally Degenerate, Ambiguous Meatballs

Whoever came up with happy hour $5 appetizers is a genius. Bob and I visited our local Seasons 52 recently and totally enjoyed picking out a few of these along with a glass of wine. It’s a quick, relaxing date. An opportunity to reconnect over a light meal. Plus if I choose the wrong thing, which equates to anything I don’t like, it was only five bucks.

I am not a culinary guru. I can’t taste something and dissect the flavors on my palate, but I know what I like and even more what I don’t like. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I might really like what I claim not to like. Perhaps I’ve just not given it enough of a chance. Maybe my tastes have changed. Maybe I’m evolving into a foodie. Maybe, but probably not.

So after enjoying our flatbread and grilled chicken yakitori skewers and finding ourselves not quite there yet in the contented department, we decided to order one more appetizer. I really wanted another grilled chicken yakitori skewer. I still had the taste of the caramelized pineapple, slivered scallions, and toasted sesame bathed chicken on my lips. (Of course, I would have had no idea exactly what those flavors were except they were printed on the menu.)

But Bob loves variety, so we ordered the wood grilled meatballs with roasted tomatoes and Parmesan. One bite was more than enough for me to know that I didn’t like these, so I took another bite and then one more. With each bite I tried to figure out what was in with these funky tasting meatballs that Bob was enjoying. I struggled to discern the weird taste. Finally I came up with it – metal. Possibly iron. Or maybe some of the burnt wood which they grilled them on. In an effort to get that terrible taste out of my mouth, I finished off Bob’s glass of wine, which he offered in payment for me hating his food choice. He made the exchange happily as he polished off the meatballs.

Finally, when the server came by, I mentioned the meatballs reminded me of some of the heavy metal bands of the 80s, and I didn’t care much for them either. “Oh,” he replied. “It’s the shiitake mushrooms. They are rather earthy.”

Earthy was putting it mildly. That ingredient should have been listed on the menu. Please!

But, that explained a lot. I hate mushrooms, so this was good news. I had begun to doubt my mushroom hatred. I wondered if I had given them a fair shake or maybe I was just used to saying I hate them. Nope. I hate them. You can hide that fleshy fungus deep inside of an otherwise pleasant-looking meatball, and I still will turn my nose up at it.

I guess it’s true what they say – it’s what’s inside that counts. Evidently that goes for people and meatballs.

On the bright side, they were only five bucks. Plus, Bob did let me finish his wine. Most of all, I felt justified in my long-held mushroom disdain. That was worth $5 all by itself.

Honest, Abe, I love $5 appetizers (most of the time).

Artie and Tommy are Together Again

Writing my book, Always Look for the Magic, started out as an exercise to keep memories alive, to keep those stories that my dad told from disappearing. It turned out to be much more than that for me as I wrote and edited. It became a connection with my parents and their families before me. Especially Tommy (my Uncle Tom).

Uncle Tom passed into Heaven last month. My dad, Arthur, the big brother, has been there since last October. It is a comfort to know they are together again.

I grew up in Maryland and lived close to tons of relatives on both sides of the family. My parents grew up across the street from each other, so everyone knew everyone else. When I was six, we moved from the Baltimore area an hour away to near Andrews Air Force Base where my dad worked. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point, Uncle Tom, Aunt Audrey, and their three kids moved our way. We saw them a lot.

I know that as a kid I didn’t appreciate what was being built by those times together. It may have looked like eating dinner, playing badminton in the backyard, an epic game of Monopoly, or listening to the more musically inclined jamming in the basement; but it was family building blocks. Blocks of time that knitted us together.

Now we are all over the country. My three siblings and I and those three cousins all live in different states. Different regions, too. We don’t see each other often – in some cases it’s been over a decade.

Arthur and Tom, 1930

My cousin, Mark, and I have kept in contact more due to the fact that we both had our dads living with us and both had the privilege of being with them during those last days and weeks. We understood each other. It was comforting.

How does it work when you haven’t lived near each other in over forty years, that you can talk like best of friends? It works really well. For us, it’s aided by the fact that our dads both were Christians and we are, too. But I also know that somewhere deep in the foundations that were built when we were young, there was always a bridge to family. It’s like a draw bridge that you can lower and reach out to each other across the miles whenever you need to make the connections. It’s amazing.

I had a texting conversation with my cousins that lasted nearly two hours. We sent each other pictures and reconnected where necessary. We joked around and made fun of each other. I laughed and I cried. What a gift!

As a tribute to my Uncle Tom, I want you to know that he was a truly wonderful uncle. When Bob and I moved my parents into our house last September, he was on the phone to me with unsolicited (but good) counsel. “Bonnie, it’s not easy living with old people,” he told me.

I’m not sure if that was a quote that he picked up from my cousin when they moved under the same roof or if down in his basement he kept an even older person than his 88-year-old self, but I appreciated his call.

“Remember,” he warned, “it’s your house. You don’t need to change everything for them.”

Hum, I wondered, what had it been like for my poor cousin and uncle during their transition? I’ll be sure to never ask!

“Also, my brother can be difficult,” he added.

Can’t we all!

After my dad died, Uncle Tom called my mom about three times a week to check on her. They had been like best friends/siblings growing up together. They shared their love for the Baltimore Orioles and music and, of course, my dad.

As my father’s hearing reached the point that made telephone calls difficult, Uncle Tom and Mom did most of the communicating, especially during baseball season. Uncle Tom would call and complain about the Orioles or they’d relive the highlights of a victory.

Two of my own sons are Oriole fans like their grandmother and uncle. Eleven years ago, our son Jesse was growing concerned that his grandmother had not been to Camden Yards since its opening in 1992, so we made it happen.

Of course, we took Uncle Tom with us to the ballgame. This was the first up-close-and-personal experience that Jesse had with his great-uncle. It was love at first sight as Uncle Tom let Miguel Tejada have it for messing up at shortstop – standing up and booing him and telling anyone who would listen that the Orioles should get rid of him (in so many words). Since my dad was more of a fan-by-marriage, Jesse had never experienced a rabid Oriole fan of the male persuasion. It made his day.

What a fond memory that is for me – four generations at the iconic ballpark bonding over the Baltimore Orioles.

More important than his love for the Orioles, he was a prayer warrior and vocal about his walk with Jesus. I liked the way he referred to my dad as his big brother. I also can’t forget hearing him call his two sons “the beauties.” He was always part of my life whether near or far. I will miss him.

Where Did My Funny Go?

“I lost a little of my funny over the past year, but that’s okay.” This is a quote from someone very dear to me. I can also relate to it as I’ve had the very same experience. Life is not all roses and cat videos. It’s not all amazing trips and book releases. In between all of those things is the hard stuff. Suffering. Death. Unemployment. Injustice. Frogs that jump and make you scream. (I had to lighten things up a little!)

If you happen to write a humor blog like I do, that can add to the challenge. What do I do when the lighter side of things is hidden behind dark clouds? When I just want to go to bed and sleep until the funny comes back? When I’m tempted to retreat?

One thing I’ve learned. I’m not alone. There are always people who can relate and understand. There are always those who can’t yet.

So today I thought I’d remind you to be on the lookout for opportunities to look up. Personally I know where my help comes from. I know where the light comes from – or I should say I know who the light is. My help comes from The Lord. I hope you’ll see him as your help, too.

I have experienced something that I want to share with you. It’s joy. Joy through tears. Joy through sorrow. Joy when I don’t know where I’m going but I know who is guiding me. Over the past month as I’ve taken some walks with Jesus (literal walks), I’ve found my smile in the most unusual times. I’ve always had laughter come easily, but sometimes, along with my funny, I’ve found my smiles have faded. But I have experienced joy welling up in the form of smiles when I’m all alone. When I think of someone I love. When I witness life in front of my eyes. When I am grateful. That’s amazing to me.

So if you are finding your funny a little elusive, don’t give up. Look up. I hope you have a joyous day.

I always get a kick out of this picture. Even monkeys need to keep hydrated.

Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say

I kind of talk a lot. I admit it. I have opinions. If you’re around me, you just might hear them. I have things I am passionate about. You’d probably hear about those, too. But there are some things you’ll never hear me say, words I’ll never use even to make a point.

  1. Never and always. I’m always careful never to use those words; they get you in trouble.
  2. Tonight I’m cooking a new recipe with 15 ingredients. (There are easily three things wrong with this statement.)
  3. I’d rather not go out to dinner.
  4. I’ll skip my coffee this morning.
  5. There’s no room for my grandchildren to come stay.
  6. I’m canceling my Costco membership.
  7. The word “at” at the end of a question. (Where are you at?) I practically break out in a sweat when I hear this.
  8. We’re getting a pet. (This is outlawed according to Bob’s and my No More Pet Pact of 2011.)
  9. I can’t wait to go camping.
  10. These political ads have totally influenced my voting decision.

How about you? Is there anything you would never say?

Traveling with My Engineer

Travel. Bob and I are known for traveling a lot. Sometimes family or friends have traveled with us. That has resulted in a reputation that leaves some scared to do so. We are what you would say… aggressive. We make a plan that is so detailed that we have to write in time for rest. Seriously. This is what happens when you are married to an engineer, or at least it’s what happens with my engineer. We figure that there will likely be time for trips that are heavy on relaxing in our future (God willing). So, for now, let’s see how much we can cram into a vacation.

This last trip began because Bob became concerned about my state of mind. Excessive sighing, staring at the wall (of pictures), wandering through the toy aisle at Target. These were tell-tale signs that I was missing my grandkids and kids. I had not seen the Michigan group since Christmas. So, before I was reduced to weeping and gnashing of teeth, Bob scheduled time off from work and the plan began. Read the full post »

Hope

Ella two years ago at the Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive. She’s a serious birder.

There is a birding bond between my granddaughter, Ella, and me that helps us keep in touch even though we are now long distance. Ella will turn 13 next month, and ever since she was a toddler she has been fascinated by birds. At an early age she could identify all the backyard birds that visited our feeder. None of this red bird or blue bird stuff for her. She wanted to know their proper breed names.

We have taken her and her older sister, Mia, birding a couple of times. Ella loves it. She is an excellent spotter as well, picking out birds hiding in bushes and trees far better than I.

I’m never surprised when she or her mom, my daughter Dena, sends me a picture to try to identify a newbie. I was surprised to get this picture.

This poor little guy flew into their sliding glass door. Ella was crushed and quickly scooped it up and laid it in their vacant bird-cage. Since her mom wasn’t home, Ella texted this picture to her. Dena sent it to me as she was not in a position to help. Ella and I began to facetime each other. She was convinced that the cardinal was still alive, so I had her wrap it in a cloth to keep it warm in case it was in shock. Ella held it and tried to will it to live. She named it Hope.

While facetiming I also was interacting with the rest of the kids. For hygiene’s sake, I asked did anyone else touch the bird. Mia, who was holding the cat way too close for comfort to our little patient, scrunched up her face like I had suggested the unthinkable and said, “No!”

Layna, who is six, showed her concern by reiterating that the cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina. I’d say what a poor little thing it was, and she would say, “I know and it’s our state bird.” Such concern over the potential loss of so proud a symbol of their state mixed with pride over knowing this important fact was impressive.

But Jett’s mind presented the most interesting prospect and potential problem with helping this beautiful, red cardinal. “What if it explodes?” he asked. I think he’s played one too many games of Angry Birds.

Meanwhile, I told Dena that she could give it a couple of drops of whisky from an eye dropper when she got home. If there was any life left in it, that might help. Unfortunately, they only had Vodka. I’m not sure that made a difference.

Finally, it was decided that Ella should put Hope in an open shoe box and tuck it under some bushes to see if it would revive. Alas, Hope died.

If love alone could have brought Hope back, he would have flown away to live on. He left behind a sad Ella, but I believe he taught her a few things, too. This was not the first bird that she has rescued, but it was the first one that didn’t make it. Life is full of learning from things like this. On the other hand, at least it didn’t blow up. I don’t think she could have handled that.