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!

Everything is Weird

Zoom! That’s what Bob and I did last week – only we weren’t on a video meeting, we were on an airplane. This is the only time since 9/11 that this has felt weird. And the only time ever that I can remember when masks were expected, I should say required, to be able to board the plane.

We were among 30 souls on a flight to Milwaukee. This golf trip had been on our calendar for months, and we were thankful that it was not canceled. Bob had been looking forward to playing with our son and his sons on the famed Whistling Straits golf course. He was not disappointed. It was beautiful most days and unseasonably warm, which means perfect for us Floridians.

But it was a weird trip. From the moment we pulled up to the curb at Orlando International and found no cars lined up dropping off passengers, it just kept getting stranger. No lines to check in. No one in front of us at TSA. No problems!

Orlando International Airport – May 25, 2020

Once on board, I settled into my window seat, bucked my seatbelt, and slid my mask down. I don’t know how people do it when they must work all day in one of those things! Bob was shocked to see my mask dangling from my neck. I am usually the rule-follower, but there was nobody except him within 20 feet of me – another advantage of the window seat.

The “service” on the plane was different. Canned water and real plastic straws were available, as were little packets of pretzel mix. These were easy for the flight attendants to toss to us from a safe distance. The cans of water – not so much!

My one disappointment – the typically funny Southwest crew had lost their sense of humor. I think it was the masks. Who can blame them!

Once we arrived in Kohler, Wisconsin, it was time to have our temperature taken and take a little quiz as to our prior activities and places we have been. You would have been proud of me, as I answered honestly and kept my inner smart alec under control. I was pretty sure telling them I lived in NYC would have been a bad idea. For once, being from Orlando seemed to be a perk.

The isolation in Wisconsin was much more pronounced than it has been here at home. They had just opened the state, and when I say opened, I mean that if you searched, you could find things that were open. Those things did not include spas, which my daughter-in-law and I had looked forward to visiting while the guys played golf. But we settled for having our temperature taken a lot – that’s almost as good.

Blackwater Run Meadows Golf Course

There was always shopping, which is cheaper than a spa, but again it was weird. We read the sign on the door to a boutique and knew we had to wear a mask and sanitize our hands. We opened the door and stood at the sanitization station spreading hand sanitizer over our hands in the full view of the only person in the store. She looked panicked to see our unmasked faces and rushed halfway across the store to tell us that we had to wear a mask. I assured her that I had not been fast enough to don a mask while sanitizing my hands and that we would comply, but the whole thing made me sad. She was afraid. I’m not sure if she was afraid of contracting COVID-19, or if she was afraid that she would get in trouble for having an unmasked person in the boutique, or maybe I have a foreboding air about me that I don’t realize. There was such a palpable fear and anxiety in her. I am ready for the fear to be gone.

After we started browsing around, she relaxed a bit, but she kept apologizing for the fact that the town was mostly closed. When I tried to tell her that it was okay, she said, “I hope you’ll come back another time when everything is open.”

I replied, “Oh, we’re never coming back,” but she didn’t give me a chance to finish my statement. She started apologizing again. Finally, I was able to persuade her that it had nothing to do with her or the town or anything other than we came for the guys to golf. They golfed. On to the next golf course. In short – she was a wreck. Poor lady! Seriously, I felt for her.

I think I would have enjoyed Kohler more under normal circumstances, but my husband got to play golf with our son and grandsons; and they had a great time. Successful trip!

Whistling Straits

Our flight home was uneventful except for Bob getting yelled at by a flight attendant. His favored aisle seat has disadvantages. When we were in the airport at Milwaukee, there was one restaurant open. I innocently bought a snack and a beer for the plane ride – I’m old enough! What I did not know was that there was no alcohol allowed on the plane. Since Bob gave him my trash, he assumed that Bob was the perpetrator. I just remained in my window seat pretending I was asleep and chuckling softly.

There was something weird about the Milwaukee airport. After going through security, there is an area to put yourself back together again – shoes, keys, cell phone, laptop. It can take time, so you need an area for that to happen.

This is where you go to get recombobulated after you have been discombobulated.

I love words and this one is a doozie. I had never heard it before but immediately knew what it meant. Barry Bateman, former airport director, never heard it before either, so he invented it. I love it! I think we should have Recombobulation Areas all through the country and not limit them to airports. So many of us are feeling angry and depressed, or baffled, befuddled, bewildered, buffaloed, confounded, confused, flummoxed, perplexed, puzzled, vexed, or even discombobulated. We can all agree that things just aren’t right in the world today. We all need some recombobulation. I’m hoping that now that we are allowed out of our houses, we can get to work on that.

 

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

Good Night, Eddie Haskell

If you want to understand what growing up was like for my generation, watch Leave It To Beaver, which debuted a year after I did. Then you will understand the “image” of a family from 1957 – 1963 when it aired. Ward Cleaver went to work in a suit and tie everyday. I have no idea what he did. He read the newspaper. He was full of wisdom. June stayed home, fixed the morning breakfast and coffee in the kitchen, displayed a lovely dinner in the dining room, made sure the boys bathed regularly, and took care of the house. She was undeniably a successful, wise woman and homemaker. She did all of this while wearing high heels. Her typical outfit consisted of a dress cinched at the waist and a short string of pearls around her neck. She never had a hair out of place.

Ward’s character was familiar to me. He mirrored my dad. But my mom saved the dress and pearls for church or a special occasion. June was only a vision of what a housewife was. (more…)

My Phone Thinks I’m an Idiot

I’m fairly certain my phone thinks I am an idiot. It didn’t come right out and say so, but it definitely implied it.

We spend a lot of time together, my phone and me. Having a phone in 2020 is a lot like having a toddler. If you don’t know where it is, you have to find it before something terrible happens like you get a text, or a notification that it’s going to be a bad weather day, or someone goes crazy on your Amazon account. Or, in the case of a toddler, they have locked themselves in the house and figured out how to turn on the stove while climbing a ladder and holding scissors. (more…)

People – or – Who is That Masked Person?

Everyday faces of people who are on the front lines of the pandemic grace our news feeds. A huge thank you to all of those folks.

Today I want to feature faces of people who you will likely not see on the news. People who I meet as I’m walking down the aisle at Publix or in the parking lot at Walgreens. People who are part of my family or my church.

There is more to each of these people than meets the eye. And I’m not just talking about their nose and mouth. They all have a story. They all have people they love. They all are pretty tired of life’s adjustments over the last couple of months.

These people include a bride-to-be at her virtual bridal shower, the young man taking my order at Chic-fil-a, the young woman whose mom in Nevada made a mask for her and sent it to help keep her safe, newly weds, oldly weds, and the fun lady whom I met at the bakery in Publix. There’s my granddaughter, and a dad and his daughter. There are close friends of mine. I even threw in the Mayor of Orlando, mainly because I like the way Orange County Sheriff John Mina is looking at him. I think he’s wondering why the mayor didn’t bring masks for everyone.

To show you these beautiful faces, I asked several people, some of whom I do not know, to allow me to take and post their picture. Every one of them said yes. Isn’t that fun? With a six-foot social distancing mandate, it’s harder than ever to chat with people, but I’m finding that a lot of folks are eager for a kind word or even to have their picture taken. Especially since my goal was to encourage people to look behind the mask (figuratively, of course). Make eye contact. Smile and say hello. I know – I’m in the South, but I’m pretty sure it will work wherever you find yourself.

Meanwhile, we continue to pray for God’s healing, mercy, and comfort. And we remember to smile with our eyes until we can stop wearing these crazy masks.

 

People.

People who are people.

They’re the peopliest people in the world.

(That’s my version of People, the song made famous by Barbra Streisand. I guess I can’t copyright that.)

 

April 30 – The End is Near?

I am hopeful that some semblance of normal life is just around the corner. I am also aware that some of the corners we round are blind corners – it can take a while to get around them and you don’t know what you’ll face once you do. I’m not sure what end is near. Maybe just the end of April. Hopefully the end of so many ordinary things being closed and the end of being sequestered in our homes but mostly the end of this horrible virus.

For those of you who have suffered loss during this season of COVID-19, my heart goes out to you. Your normal is forever changed. I’m so sorry. I continue to pray for comfort, healing, and God’s mercy.

In keeping with the title of my blog, I also continue to look for the light side of whatever life looks like. Sometimes that side is funny and sometimes it is brilliant with the light of God shining through a situation. Sometimes it’s hard to find that light, but God is always there, even in the darkness. May you feel his presence in a greater way than ever.

I’ve taken some pictures as I’ve traversed my part of the world this past month. (I decided to use a big word for those little trips out of the house.) I want to reprioritize my life a little and remember and appreciate what we have, had, and will have. I want to remember how hard people worked to keep us safe even if they made mistakes while doing so. I realize that it’s easy to forget, so here’s my perspective of how things have looked in Altamonte Springs, Florida, during the April 2020 pandemic. (more…)