I will not spin. I will not be spinning. I will not have spun.

This is my convoluted, conjugated New Year’s Resolution (not revolution).

The earth is spinning on its axis at approximately 950 mph here in Florida. I can handle that. All other spinning is bad for me. Except maybe spinning a yarn, which should not be confused with spinning facts. In this politically-driven climate, I won’t go there. That could make my head spin.

My main goal so far this year is not to get dizzy. And when I say get dizzy, I mean experience vertigo – not to be confused with the Alfred Hitchcock classic film starring Jimmy Stewart, which I have experienced via television and it did not make me dizzy at all.

I don’t want to make your head spin, so I’ll get to my point. I truly do live a wonderful life (final Jimmy Stewart reference). A big part of that wonderfulness is family. So, when our daughter asked Bob and me if we wanted to go in with them on a family Christmas present for the six of them to experience Universal Studios, we did. Of course, we decided to tag along.

They are huge Harry Potter fans. I think I saw a movie or two back in 2004. I also read the first book, as I had to know what all the hubbub was about. They were good, but not really my genre. But my grandkids are a genre all their own – if that’s possible. So, we watched a couple of movies as a way to study up on Harry and his friends before exploring the parks with them. We didn’t want to look like complete muggles.

You may be asking why I would choose to go there seeing as I tend toward vertigo. Good question. We discussed it and decided to go with the full knowledge that I would not be able to get on a lot of the rides. A lot turned out to be about 95 percent. Our grandchildren were quite dismayed that I could not ride along with them, but I was happy standing in line with them and enjoying the pre-ride entertainment and holding all their stuff. Well, mostly I was. We stood in line for two hours for Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, which evidently had been towed to the nearest mechanic. You can’t wave a magic wand and fix such things. You would think you could, but no. This is clearly evidence that the park is run by muggles.

Realization #6,413 – Things like this don’t disappoint me like they used to. I used to ride all the coasters. I liked it. It’s okay that I can no longer do that without puking my guts out while my head spins for the next three weeks.

There is entertainment out there that you spin-lovers may not notice. Like, reading the signs at the beginning of each ride. This became my hobby. My conclusion: It’s a wonder anyone can go on those things.

What could have occurred on this ride to prompt such a specific sign?

Even Seuss Landing had danger within.

No riding for me. I just would not spin.

 

Things in Seuss Landing were just as lethal for us non-spinners.

 

 

Cat in the Hat. Imagine that!

One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Fish could be spewed all over town

Just from a spin – that’d make me frown.

 

 

Was it worth it, you ask? 15,000 steps in one day?

Why, yes, it was. And quite magical, I’d say.

 

(Disclaimer: No rides or people were spewed on during the research for this post. No episodes of vertigo occurred. Bob and I enjoyed what will likely be our last visit to Universal Studios – unless the grandchildren ask us to go again.)

Happy Holidays!

As we enter into the last week before Christmas, my heart is full with recounting the blessings of God this past year. I am thankful for you kind folks who read my blog! You are an encouragement to me. I wish you a Merry Christmas and to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah.

I will be taking time off from my blog until 2020, so I wish you a Happy New Year as well.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (Bob and I at ICE at the Gaylord Palms where the temperature registers 9 degrees. That’s enough cold for me!)

 

The November/December Blur – Time to Savor the Moments

Somehow or another, Thanksgiving was two weeks ago and Christmas is two weeks away. There is a lot going on, and I am trying to savor the moments.

Speaking of savoring, November was an exciting month for me. As I referenced in my post of November 11, I spent a lot of time writing last month. Time that was measured in both minutes and words. As for the minutes, God only knows how many of them I spent sitting at my computer pounding out a first draft for my next novel. The words can be counted though, and according to Microsoft Word, I wrote 50,018 of them. (What makes it better is that when added to my prior writing, I now have a complete first draft.)

According to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo*) hierarchy, that makes me a winner. And if you’re a winner, you get stuff. That means I get stuff! Stuff I can purchase to show everybody that I’m a winner. I know, it sounds funny. But you better believe I have ordered myself a t-shirt that declares to the world that I won NaNoWriMo. Not only will I proudly wear it, but I’ll also happily confuse people about what in the world NaNoWriMo is. So, it’s doubly good.

And, I am not the only winner in our family. My 13-year-old grandson, Manning, plays Pop Warner Pee Wee Football and his team had an amazing season. The day after Thanksgiving they won their Division II Regional Championship.

Manning asked for a picture with him and his whole (present) family after his team won the Regional Championship. It was special to have cousins in town to cheer him on.

 

Do you know what that means to win a regional championship? It means they’re going to Disney World – specifically the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There they have played two games against other regional winners and have smoked them. On Friday morning they will play in the Pop Warner Superbowl for all the marbles and ESPN 3 will even televise it.

I am so proud of Manning and his brother, Winston, too. Winston’s team did not make the playoffs this year, but I can tell you that both boys have practiced and trained so that they can be the best they can be on the field. It bleeds over to off the field as well. They are turning into fine young, albeit goofy at times, men.

Friday morning you can find me out at Disney rooting for Manning. I hope he wins! Of course, in my book he is already a winner. Well, not in my actual book, but you know what I mean.

The complex is huge. It’s like a city, and they really went all out for the kids.

 

 

*****

*If you’ve ever entertained the idea of writing a novel, this is a great way to launch those ideas into a bonified manuscript. Maybe you’ll want to join in next year. Here is the NaNoWriMo mission statement:

“National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.”

*****

Black Friday

I have considered wearing an armband to show that I am grieving over the loss of Black Friday. Gather around and let me tell you the story of the true meaning of this shopping event. If you started Black Friday shopping in the last 10 or 15 years, then you have no idea the fun you missed.

First of all, nothing was open on Thanksgiving Day except for the occasional grocery and convenience store. We ate our feast and played games together and watched football. Movie theaters were open. Many times, we’d catch a holiday movie on Thanksgiving evening with family and friends. After which we would go home and enjoy one more piece of pie and go to bed because we had to get up early the next day.

Early meant around 5 am. Lots of stores opened at 5 or 6 and my mom and I would plan our route by scouring the ads in Thursday’s paper. Why get an early start? There were lots of good deals, but also you could get free stuff. FREE. You didn’t have to buy anything. Amazing.

Free ornament from J C Penney’s – I put this on the tree every year and it reminds me of shopping on Black Friday with my mom.

The jewelry store in the mall gave out coupons to possibly win a piece of jewelry and they’d give you little cheap charms, too. J.C. Penney would have their free Christmas ornaments. Target gave out goody bags full of swag. And that’s just to name a few things.

We would finish our shopping before noon, come home, eat another turkey sandwich, and decorate the house. I got a lot of Christmas shopping done during what was the kick-off of the season.

I remember back in the 1990s when my daughter Dena had reached the age where she was old enough to go with me. She was thrilled. Now a mother of teenagers herself, she has turned Black Friday into an event of epic proportions. This year she started out late on Thursday night with her 16-year-old daughter, returned home several hours later for a nap, and then went back out again, this time making it a foursome with her 14-year-old daughter and me. She has more energy than Charlie Brown has anxieties.

 

New Black Friday memories

I have given up being excited about the event, but I am excited about spending time with my daughter and granddaughters – to a point, that is. I won’t leave the house until 9 am, and my first stop has to be Costco. That’s where the real magic happens.

I wanted to introduce Dena to the joys of Costco Black Friday shopping. I’m not talking about the things you find in their ads; I’m talking about food. Food that you and your family and friends will eat and then you can brag about the deal you got on it. Plus, you don’t have to get up before the crack of dawn. And that’s a huge plus.

In years gone by we have gotten Butterball turkeys for two or three dollars. This year, unfortunately, Costco was better about judging how many turkeys they needed for Thanksgiving, so none were left, but that still left the pork loin.

 

At $8 off per package, we got this baby and five more like him for around $4. That’s three for Dena and three for us. Her family of six will devour a half a one in one meal – that’s $2 a meal. Score! Bob and I will cut ours in thirds and we’ll be eating pork until next Black Friday.

Later in the weekend, when my non-Black-Friday-shopping daughter-in-law asked Dena what her best bargain of the day was, you can only imagine my joy when she said $4 pork roast. Score one for Costco and getting up after the sun rises on Black Friday. I may as well say it, score one for me, too.

A Pen, a Sword, and a Great Blue Heron walked into a bar. Which was mightier?

I’ve been thinking about killing someone off, and it’s harder than I thought it would be. I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a campaign to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in the month of November. I have reached the juncture in my story where someone must die. I knew death was inevitable, but I’ve been writing around it for the last three days. I can’t bring myself to do it.

I am pretty sure that it’s a good thing that this is hard for me. It should be hard. After all, my novel is based on real events and real people whom I closely know, so this is personal. Even though death is a part of life, I wasn’t prepared to do the deed with my own hand on the keyboard.

In 1839, novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned the words, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” That may be true unless you’re on the wrong end of the sword. Get my point?

Anyway, when I finish this post. I will open my Word document and try again. I hope I can finish the job this time. The rest of my characters are waiting to react to the event. Right now, they don’t know what’s going on.

Hopefully sometime next year I will have this book published. Hopefully you will read it and forgive me for this weak spoiler. If you’re anything like me, you will have forgotten about this by then, so I think we’re safe.

As of this morning, I have written 31,438 words.  If I add this to the 14,008 words that I wrote earlier this year, I am well on my way to completion of my first draft. In January, I will have massive editing to do, so there is that; but I am on pace to finish by the end of November. Thanksgiving may cause a problem, still I’ll press on and hope for the best without making my husband and myself crazy.

Last weekend, Bob and I took our local grandsons to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. We were excited to introduce them to this favorite place of ours and get me out from behind the computer for a while. A wildlife drive will offer idyllic scenes of beautiful birds flying about or perched high above and wading birds floating around the water surrounded by flowers.

 

Great Egret in the Burr Marigolds

It will also offer a decaying corpse of an alligator. The boys were fascinated. The gator was swollen and floating upside down in a pond. It was gross and we were thankful we were upwind of him. I did not capture a picture of him even though the boys requested one. You can’t give them everything they want. I don’t want to spoil them too much.

Bob, our grandsons, and an Anhinga (aka Water Turkey or Snake Bird)

In keeping with the death theme, which has been on my mind as I try to do in my character, we came across this lovely scene.

Great Blue Heron with a snack-sized American Alligator

I don’t think I gathered any ideas which I can use in my death-scene writing dilemma, but you never know. Would you be surprised to find out that one of my characters had been killed by a bird or an alligator? Maybe I’ll try to work that into the plot. Maybe not.

Growing Old Gracefully

When the class with the above title was announced at our church and the teacher is everybody’s favorite older woman, Shirley, I signed up. I’ve never been a particularly graceful person, so I thought, hey, maybe I can do this aging thing gracefully. You know, finish well, not trip over the finish line, stick the landing.

My youngest grandson after achieving new heights. Looks like he stuck the landing.

Not that I feel old, I typically don’t. That is probably aided by the fact that my mom, who is 91, lives with us, so I am the youngest person in the house. She has demonstrated aging gracefully and has also let me in on some of the challenges of aging. This class combined with my mom’s fine example would be beneficial.

Last Wednesday, for the first of the three sessions, Shirley covered, or I should say taught us about, our aging bodies. (The next two sessions will cover spirit and soul, as we are made up of three parts.) I am a woman in her sixties, so I am painfully (no pun intended, I just can’t help myself) aware that there is something of a decaying nature going on. That is verified in 2 Corinthians 4:16 – “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Eyesight starts going south around age 40. Some of my joints let me know when the weather is changing. And worst of all Alexa (our Echo) has begun to get confused by my commands to her. I have wondered if I’m slurring my words, but I’m also working on the theory that our Alexa is getting old, too. Perhaps Amazon wants me to upgrade her and they built that into her system. But I digress. People were designed to age, but we are also charged with stewarding the body that God has given us. In other words, we aren’t supposed to aid the deterioration that’s going on in our bodies, we are supposed to care for and strengthen them.

I don’t know about you, but I need reminders to do the things which I am supposed to do. The Bible does repeat itself a lot. I think that is because we tend to forget or become distracted. God knows that’s how we operate, so I’m thankful for the repetition.

Three days before that first class, I started feeling a twinge of pain on the lower lid of my left eye. The twinge became a pang. The pang became a pain. By the Wednesday meeting I had a sty the size of Rhode Island. And it was an angry sty – the kind that could scare small children, but I went to the meeting anyway. There would be no small children to frighten at that meeting.

By Thursday I had officially named the sty Rhode Eyeland. I figured if my entire body represented the 48 contiguous states, then my left eye was probably that size. When I saw the ophthalmologist on Friday, he said it was the largest he had seen in quite some time and added that it was “a dandy.” I told him I figured I’d go big or go home. Of course, when you have a sty the size of Rhode Island, you tend to want to stay home.

Dena (my daughter) and I caught up with each other on the phone on Friday afternoon. I had already sent her a picture of my eye when it was at its worst because she’s into gross things like that. In case you know Dena, you will understand why I made her give me her most excellent promise not to share that picture with anyone. To the best of my knowledge, she’s been true to her word.

She is also an encourager. She told me she was proud of me for going to, what she calls, the aging class.

Two things come to mind here:

  1. It’s kind of weird but okay I guess that she tells me she’s proud of me. I thought that was my job to be proud of her and her brothers, and I am, but whatever…
  2. I didn’t really care for the name Aging Class, but again, whatever…

I told her that one of the great things about being older is that you can go out looking like I did and it’s okay (except for frightening small children). Also, if I were to go anywhere with Rhode Eyeland, the aging class was the place to go. We don’t tend to major on that kind of thing. We have much bigger fish to fry than an eye with a sty.

Image result for free picture of a pig sty

I had to include a picture of a sty for you. This one’s not nearly as messy as the one on my eye, which is doing much better with drops from the doctor. Photo Credit: freepik.com

I’ve Decided They Can Come

They bring with them a lot of energy and it can seem like they take more than they give. I had seriously contemplated what it would be like if they didn’t come this year. I’d get more rest. The budget wouldn’t take the enormous hit it usually does. There would be no consumption of mass quantities (of food).

Image result for picture of Coneheads consuming mass quantities

Do you remember the Coneheads when they appeared on SNL? Supposedly they were from France. Photo Cred: FilmFed.com

But I can’t say no and I really can’t stop them anyway, so I’ve decided to let them come. That’s right – Thanksgiving and Christmas are welcome in my home this year.

Image result for picture of the grinch contemplating stealing christmas

No Grinching for me this year. Photo Cred: tvline.com

Can you imagine what it would be like with no Thanksgiving or Christmas? I tried and I can’t. For me, the struggle is that my kids and grandkids are spread across the country now. Some are close, thankfully, but it’s not the same as it used to be. It hasn’t been for quite some time.

I’ve decided, once again, that that is okay. I’ve also decided that it’s okay if I have a favorite season of life. I have a favorite season of the year, so why not extend that to life’s seasons. Mine would be the years when my husband and I had all the kids at home. I loved it in spite of the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, constant calendar challenges, and all.

For favorite season of the year, it would have to be summer. Long days of sunshine, trips with the family, more relaxed schedules. I can almost hear the waves crashing on the beach as I type. My least favorite is winter. I hate to be cold and I don’t like the short days, but I do enjoy the coziness of it and the holidays.

Image result for picture of its a wonderful life

One of the movies we have to watch every Christmas – It’s a Wonderful Life. Photo Cred: imdb.com

Don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying the season which God has me in now. It’s just not my favorite one, and that’s okay. It really is a wonderful life all through the seasons. Do you have a favorite season? Either of life or of the year?

Love is Blind

Bob, me, and Dena 1983

When we were in our first decade or so of marriage, we had to be creative with our date nights. Inflation was out of control (raising four children is the very definition of inflation). Funds were always tight. Sometimes Bob and I would go to the mall and walk around, get ice cream, or go to the bookstore. Not too exciting, but it got us some time together out of the house, and we enjoyed it.

I am one who believes that you can make your own entertainment if you just put your imagination to use. That is why Bob didn’t care too much for walking around the mall with me.

During these walks, sometimes I would challenge him by acting like I was blind. This was especially fun when he would walk a few feet away from me and I would act panicked with my hands outstretched grabbing at the air while calling his name. Sometimes I’d even add, “please don’t leave me alone again,” just for effect.

Bob loved this game as much as you can imagine he did. I often marvel that our marriage is going strong after 44 years!

Of course, I thought I was hysterical. Poor Bob! The thing is, since that time we have watched both of our fathers lose their eyesight. Yep, it doesn’t seem quite as funny anymore, except when I think about my sweet husband navigating marriage through the Altamonte Mall while I was acting like he had navigated himself away from me, I can’t help but chuckle. Even Bob will smile at that memory.

I made the mistake of telling this story to Dena (my daughter). She loved the dark humor and suggested I post it on Halloween. Personally, I wasn’t sure I wanted you to know about this weird side of me, but since I came up empty in the idea department, I relented.

I have matured since those early days. Now I would never act like I’m blind – that’s a little too close to home. I am in my sixties though, and I can tell you that this aging thing is quite interesting. If you want to be scared on Halloween, think about that. My father-in-law once told me that being old was the hardest thing he had ever done, and he was a WWII vet.

Today, I might act like I can’t remember some things – like cooking or cleaning or how to defrag my computer. But there is a method to that madness.

Martha Stewart and Me

I enjoy both Southern Living and Martha Stewart Living magazines – that is when I actually sit down to read them. I was so proud of myself for taking the time to read my October magazines, looking for a recipe or household idea I could make my own. I was almost finished Southern Living when the mailman delivered my November magazines. This makes me a little crazy. How can time fly by so quickly that it’s time to read about November? Shoot, there were still 12 days left in October!

I set the new issues aside and committed to finishing up October before November 1 (my idea of goal setting). I even tried a new recipe from Southern Living. Here’s a picture of it. It’s beefy squash and pasta (or something like that). It had collard greens in it – that should have been a clue. Anyway, I cooked it and it looked just like the picture in the magazine.

I know there must be some collard green fans out there, but why is a mystery to me. Controversial cooking tip: avoid cooking them with ground beef.

The butternut squash was the star of the show. The greens were the horrible ending, which lingered through the night. Bitter endings are the worst. I threw the recipe away so I wouldn’t make that mistake again. It was a glorified hamburger helper.

But this post is more about Martha Stewart’s fine publication. I don’t relate to it as easily as I do Southern Living. SL has a down-home feel. Martha Stewart Living has an uppity, uptown feel, even though her uptown is her home in the Hamptons or her home in Maine or her other home in Maine. Still, I know there is much to be learned from Martha, and honestly, I do admire her.

But I can only go so far with her.

I live by my calendar. I keep one on the wall and one on my phone, which literally keeps me going in the right direction. Page 2 of Martha’s magazine gives us her calendar. Its subtitle is “Gentle reminders, helpful tips, and important dates.”

There are few similarities. Of course, I live in Orlando and she lives in one of the above three locations, so yeah. I get it. Plus, she’s Martha Stewart.

Thing(s) we have in common: Get flu shot.

Things we don’t have in common:

  • Pick apples and make cider
  • Move tropical plants indoors (She should have a Florida home, too. That would eliminate this chore.)
  • Have horses reshoed.
  • Prepare chicken coops for winter.
  • Today Show appearance.
  • Swap out summer linens for winter bedding (again, a Florida home is needed)
  • Speak at Horticultural Society of NY’s fall luncheon
  • QVC appearance – This is a close one. I made an appearance at CVS this month.
  • Take drone photos of fall foliage. This is my favorite.

This is a sampling of her month. Next month she has an entire day dedicated to checking and refilling the bird feeders. They must be some kind of humongous feeders. I have to refill mine every other day.

In contrast, my month had:

  • Art show meeting
  • 3 appointments for my mom
  • Furniture repairman
  • Grandsons’ football games
  • 3 church small group meetings
  • Writers group meeting
  • A weekend trip to Maine not to see Martha Stewart, though we took photos of the fall foliage (not with a drone)
  • 3 luncheons (I wasn’t receiving awards or the speaker)
  • 3 special birthdays – Happy Birthday to my son, Joe; my son-in-law Derek; and my grandson, Oliver, is turning one!

I think I like my calendar better. In fact, I know I do. But, thank you, Martha, for pointing out the need to be organized and balance work, friends, and commitments. Now that I have my November magazines and I realize that the holidays are upon us, I’ll need all the encouragement I can get. I’ll use her calendar for comic relief and to remind me to deep clean the oven on November 19 and polish the silver on November 20. (Thought I’d end this post with that little joke!)

A Homecoming I Couldn’t Have Pictured

My plan was to take the year off from decorating for fall. I was thrilled with my decision. I even bragged about it to my daughter, which normally would be dangerous. One year I had told her that I planned on doing much less Christmas decorating and you would have thought that I canceled Christmas. I offered good, sound reasons, but she looked so disappointed. She may have believed that she was witnessing me aging right in front of her eyes. Who knows, but she was a little distraught over it.

I thought I was safe with this year’s decision. Dena lives in North Carolina and wouldn’t have the ongoing reminders that my house was free of fall leaves and pumpkins. My tables could be dusted without moving all the tchotchkes. There would be nothing to put away before decorating for Christmas. I was happy.

Last weekend we traveled to Maine for an October getaway. It had been planned for a few months, so I was dismayed when I found out that Dena would be coming to Orlando while we were gone. She would be attending her high school twentieth reunion and would stay at our house. I wouldn’t see her.

Part of me knew I wouldn’t see much of her during that time anyway, so I found happiness in knowing that she was staying at our house.

On return home last Monday night, the first thing I noticed was a basket of fall décor on my dining room table. It confused me until I looked around and found pumpkins all over the house. Dena!

I’ll admit it, I was mildly annoyed but then deduced that she must be returning next month to put away the things which she got out. After all, that is how I raised her (tried to raise her).

It was 7:30 at night. We had been traveling all day and by the time we lugged my mom’s, my sister’s, and our luggage into the house, plopped down our bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches on the counter, and did that other thing you do after riding for a while, we were pretty tired.

But there was a feeling that we were being watched. In addition to the pumpkins, leaves, and baskets, there were pictures – lots of pictures. They appeared one after another. I hung my mom’s coat in her closet and a picture of one of my grandchildren dropped out. I looked on the fridge and found that Dena was looking back at me. There she was again, nestled into our grandchildren photo gallery on the foyer wall. She and her family were everywhere, including:

  • On the ceiling in the shower
  • In my car visor
  • In the freezer
  • Underneath of a jigsaw puzzle she had put together
  • Behind a pillow on the porch
  • In Bob’s and my laptops
  • In a container of cashews
  • Taped behind my make-up mirror
  • I flipped open the blinds, and there she was again – in two different rooms.
  • In my desk
  • In Bob’s closet
  • In the front closet
  • In the mailbox
  • I took out the garbage this morning, and there was my grandson looking at me from a picture taped to the inside of the lid.

Here’s my favorite hiding place:

I’m being watched on the pool deck from the phone holder on our hot tub.

 

It was time to call Dena. This was the best homecoming she could have planned and I have decided to forgive her for decorating my house because there is something wonderful about coming home to pictures of family. I will, however, continue my efforts to get her to come back down here to put this stuff away next month.

The selfies she took at our house were supposed to be clues to where other pictures were hidden. I’m not good at Clue.

So far, we have found 27 pictures. She tells me we have a long way to go before we find all of the pictures and that she hid clues in some of them to lead us to more. I think she forgot that I am terrible at the game of Clue and I’m sure I have messed up the sequence which would pave the way for Bob to discover more pictures. We’ll have to wait and see where she turns up. One thing for sure, she will.