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!

 

 

 

How’s Your Summer Going?

Is it getting to you yet? The constant reminders to be safe? The debate of masks or no masks? The fears that are controlling us more that any virus could?

I’ll be honest – it gets to me, at least sometimes. We took a road-trip to South Carolina to help our son and his family with their move from Michigan. That was a wonderful diversion. We hadn’t seen them in a year and the boys have grown so much. There was no place I would have rather been – nothing I would rather have been doing than helping them move and spending some time with them. Even in 97-degree, South Carolina heat, it was so worth all the sweat and sore muscles just to see them face-to-face.

These two!

It was wonderful, except for when I needed to use a restroom while on the road. You’ve never seen desperate until you’ve seen a full-grown woman pounding on the door of McDonald’s to beg the people inside to open the dining room just long enough for her to use the restroom. They gave me the same empty stare I’ve seen over so many masked noses and mouths. No sympathy. No compassion. No entry.

I’ll admit that was a low point, but I got through it. Now that we’re back home and into our usual/unusual routine, I find that some days I’m ready to jump out the window, then I remember we live in a one-story house. Then I remember I’m 64 and would likely hurt myself even from that height and I don’t like pain. Then I remember if I make a mess, I’d have to clean it up. Then I remember I have a lot of time on my hands right now so what’s one more mess to clean up in an effort to make my point. Then I remember I’ve worked hard at avoiding work, so I go take a nap.

Always the careful one, first I calculate the risk.

 

It looks like a medium risk of at least scraping myself or getting dirty from the window ledge. Not worth it.

So, how’s your summer going?

***********

I remind myself:

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

 

We are Puzzled

Usually summer is a time to kick back, relax by the pool, go to the beach, visit with family and friends, take a vacation, and so much more. For our family it also means game playing and jigsaw puzzles. But this is not the usual summer. While still able to do many of the above-mentioned things, we have done an exorbitant amount of puzzles. In all fairness, though, that began back in March. We took a little break during June as our eyes were glazing over after doing a couple of 1000 piecers with writing on them so small we had to use magnifiers, but the puzzling continued after that short respite.

As I’ve mentioned before, puzzles are in short supply around the country. We have borrowed and lent out puzzles. We have done every puzzle in our closet with the exception of the holiday/winter ones. I have even gotten in a virtual line at http://www.libertypuzzles.com to purchase a single puzzle. They simply cannot keep up. It took two weeks before my name made it to the top of the list and then I had 24 hours to place my order – one per customer. It is due to arrive this week. I’m so excited. Yes, it’s come to that. I’m excited about getting a new puzzle.

Also, my favorite local used bookstore, BrightLight Books, has taken some of my puzzles on trade (or they’ll pay you a reduced price – http://www.brightlightbooks.com). I love that store and they were happy to have the puzzles which caused eyestrain to Bob and me.

Picking out the perfect puzzle to reflect the mood of the day can be challenging. When I saw this Blockbuster puzzle, it took me back to 1975, the year I was married; and people were impacted in such a great way by a single movie that the beaches were a lot less crowded that year.

Of course we had to go birding. This 1000-piece puzzle about did us in. I’m sure someone has bought it by now and is cursing the day they did – unless, of course, they are under 40.

 

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park were on our puzzle travel list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did a quick pass of all the major national parks as well.

 

 

 

Bob wanted to go to the place where golf was invented. No problem.

I insisted on more bird watching.

We really loved our trip to Utah which we took two years ago. It was nice to revisit.

But I don’t know what I was thinking when we did the map of Bryce Canyon. Maps, maps, maps. Sigh… Bob wouldn’t let me quit though, even though the printing on the puzzle was miniscule.

This was as tall as we let our tower of puzzles get. Oh, this is not all that we did, but it is still a fun memory.

 

Enjoy your summer as best you can. We have a lot to be thankful for, and if you’re in my area, you can always stop by and borrow a puzzle.

An Unexpected Shortage

I am so thankful to God for birds. We have a wonderful area in our backyard that we have fixed up just for them. Feeders, birdbath, trees and shrubs to hide in – it’s lovely and has been a source of peace for me in the midst of COVID-19. I think the birds like it, too.

Once in a while a big one stops by. This is a Sandhill Crane.

Do you have a place in your life that helps you to find calm during the crazy right now? For me it’s my backyard. I like to sit outside in the morning with a cup of coffee and the Bible and enjoy my little slice of heaven. Hearing the birds sing in the trees and watching them fly in and out for their breakfast is peace to my soul. I confess that once during the shut-down phase, I went to Costco solely because we were out of birdseed. It is essential for me.

Two weeks ago, we had a hailstorm. We had our roof examined and it has no damage, but one of my birdfeeders wasn’t so lucky. Its roof must have taken a direct hit and had a nice size crack in it. (The insurance company said it was not covered under our insurance.)

Different birds like different feeders, but this one, a hopper feeder, is the favorite of most. I keep two on hand because these guys may look like birds, but they eat like pigs. When I go out-of-town, I hang the extra feeder because I don’t want the birdies to think I deserted them and look for food elsewhere.

These hopper feeders are cheap – I can pick one up for $10-$12 at any hardware store. At least I thought I could, but that was before stupid COVID-19. I checked our local Lowe’s and Home Depot and the feeders had flown off the shelves. I looked at four different stores before I gave up and went on-line. Even on-line they were in short supply, though I did manage to find one not too far from me, so I ordered it and picked it up this morning.

I donned my mask and entered Lowe’s where I stood in line, six feet behind two women who each had a dog with them. One dog was in a carriage. The other was on a leash, like some kind of animal. These women didn’t know each other, but the one was quick to come to the aid of the other when her dog pooped on the floor right in front of us. The cashier behind the plexiglass was unable to help because they don’t have any wipes in the store, but the woman with her dog in the carriage was prepared for whatever would come her way. She even explained away the accident to the embarrassed owner by saying that the dog must have been nervous.

By this time, I was getting a little nervous. Bad smells have been known to trigger my gag reflex and you don’t want that when you’re wearing a mask; but I controlled myself. It was a good thing too because I already knew there were no wipes in the store.

On the way home I surveyed the incident and came to the conclusion that animals were being treated like people and people like animals. We people were herded through the line, obediently standing six feet apart, and those dogs weren’t even wearing masks! A little poop on the floor – no big deal! I had to wear a mask to gain entry to the store and I never poop on anyone’s floor. Sigh.

This isn’t a post about the Great Mask Debate of 2020 or about people bringing their pets everywhere with them as if they were people. Well, maybe it is a little. It’s more about the irony of the day. Unlike birdfeeders, puzzles, coins, rice, pasta, meat, Lysol wipes, and toilet paper, irony is not in short supply. I sure hope we don’t experience a sense of humor shortage. We would surely be doomed if that were to happen.

I take refuge in the fact that nothing escapes the view of my Heavenly Father. He loves the birds of the air and he loves his children.

 

Matthew 10:29-31 – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

 

These are red-winged blackbirds, not sparrows, but the point stands.

 

 

Looking for a Sign Every Day

I have enjoyed seeing neighbors reaching out to each other during COVID-19. It has been one of the benefits. I also appreciate parents trying to teach their children to bless others and to look on the bright side, too.

Bob and I met the mom and two young children who live in this house on one of our evening bike rides. They were outside playing with some wood ducklings that had apparently fallen out of a tree. I didn’t know they nested in trees! See how educational bike rides can be!

I didn’t need to pet the ducklings. It was enough for me to watch the children and their mom enjoying this bit of nature that had literally dropped out of the sky for them.

Several days later, we passed by and found this sign. I tried to get a picture of the kids and talk to them about how they bring a smile to my face every time I pass, but I was unsuccessful. I wanted to tell them that I look for the sign daily and when I don’t go out, my husband comes home and tells me the joke of the day. I wanted to say thank you.

I hope you are noticing the positive signs around you, too. I know, sometimes it’s hard to see them. Maybe you could become one yourself. God Bless you all!