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…)

Quieting Anxiety and a Trip to Costco

Yes, Costco is open for business. Yesterday after Bob’s first day working from home, we braved ourselves and headed there. Bob had a prescription to pick up and I had our usual list. It was completely sane there. You read that right, sane. Not only was it sane, but gasoline was $1.65/gallon, with no line.

This is one of the things that baffles the brain of every Floridian I know. From June 1 through November 30 we are used to emergency preparedness which involves stocking up on things when a hurricane is in the forecast. In order to avoid the rush, in early June I go ahead and stock up on paper products, water, and batteries and make sure our propane tanks are filled. But buying gas before a hurricane is always tricky because you can’t stock up, and when one is coming there is always a line.

So, my brain draws from past behavior and thinks a hurricane is coming, and it won’t shut up about it. Yesterday I realized that my stress is mainly because there is no hurricane. Let me explain, when we know a storm is approaching, we ready ourselves. When the storm passes, we recover. I’m waiting for the storm and that produces stress.

This realization has helped me. People aren’t comfortable with open-ended problems. Well, we’re in training for that now.

One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I am thankful that God revealed to me that the source of my stress here is not simply a virus and the economic impact, but it is the unknown timeline of it all. I hope that helps you, too.

Meanwhile, I continue to chat it up with people at Costco and that is always interesting. I bought everything on my list yesterday except for onions. I was unwilling to spend $8 for an enormous bag of onions when I only needed one. I figured onions aren’t really in the need category anyway, so that was fine. But once in the parking lot, I couldn’t help but notice just a few cars away, a man and his wife were unloading their cart, and they had onions. My mouth was salivating.

“Hey there,” I said half-jokingly, “I’d love to buy one of those onions from you.”

He laughed and after hesitating a moment said, “Do you need one?”

“Well, kind of. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy so many when I knew they’d go bad.”

At that point he ripped open his bag of onions and offered one to me. I paid him a dollar for it, which he said was silly. So, I told him to put it in his church offering. After we debated over which of our churches should get the dollar, I offered to trade a roll of toilet paper for it.

This made my day. Laughter over an onion. Do you see the irony? Usually I’m crying over onions, but this one brought joy to four people in a Costco parking lot in Altamonte Springs. I love people!

Holy Zamboni!

I’m not a hockey fan, but after the unusual game played last week when the Carolina Hurricanes visited the Toronto Maple Leafs, well, I’m still not a hockey fan.

But I love a good story.

Thanks to my husband who keeps me apprised of all-things sports, knowing that there will be a small portion of those things that I am interested in hearing. He didn’t let me down with this story.

First of all, he had me at Zamboni, which is a fun word to say. I actually knew what a Zamboni is, because they use it in the Olympics to resurface the ice for the skaters. I guess it makes sense that they would use it to prepare for a hockey game as well. I hear hockey has a big following.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Evidently, every hockey team has two goalies. I’ve seen a little bit of hockey, so I was surprised that they only keep two, but seriously, what do I know? (Rhetorical question, but in case you’re wondering – not much.)

There is a provision in place in the event that both goaltenders become injured. It’s a weird one. The guy who drives the Zamboni becomes the goaltender. It doesn’t matter that he may be playing for the visiting team. That’s his job. (He also practices with his home team, which makes it a little less like they picked him up off the street.)

It reminds me of being back in school and learning to debate the other side of an opinion, only there is a chance you could lose teeth in the process. You have to give it your all and try to win the debate. That’s tough – hockey tough.

Well, the stars aligned and 42-year-old Dave Ayres became the emergency backup goalie for the visiting Hurricanes. He was met with great encouragement and admiration from both sides. Amazing. Carolina was leading 3-1 when Ayres entered the game. He ended up stopping 8 out of 10 shots, and Carolina won 6-3. He was the hero of the game for both sides.

Talk about stepping up to help in time of need! That’s what he did and now as a result of his 15 minutes of fame, he’s being featured in my blog! He also received $500 for his work and was allowed to keep his jersey. Pretty cool. He has an interesting story and you can read about it and more about the game here.

It all made me think about how we don’t really know what our day ahead is going to look like. Maybe we’ll have to step in for someone else doing something we’d never dreamed of doing. I’m fresh off of a conference at our church about the Holy Spirit. One of the sessions talked about such things – adventures with God. So I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open and drive my Zamboni (or Ford Escape) until called upon to step in. It almost happened as I left Costco today.

The lady two cars up pulled out of the parking lot, and her wallet went flying off of the roof of her car. Horns sounded loudly to alert the driver, but it was to no avail. The woman in front of me quickly emerged from her car, snatched up the wallet, and tore down the road to make the goal. I hope she wins. She’s a winner in my eyes.

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 Short Post

When this is published there will be 38 days until the first day of Autumn. Contrary to excessive advertising bombarding us with all things fall, and considering there are 3 months or approximately 90 days in each of the 4 seasons, I do not think that summer is almost over.

Need calendar proof? If you’d like to countdown with me, there’s a website for that. Check out https://yourcountdown.to/autumn-fall

Living in Florida, I know that summer is far from over, and that’s why something has gotten on my nerves lately.

No, it’s not the great sales on summer clothing and swimsuits. It’s not the heat either. I look at hot days as opportunities to go swimming or to the beach.

It’s a little bit of the back to school hype. Even thought it’s been a long time since I’ve sent kids off to school, I don’t like to be reminded that summer is coming to a close – BECAUSE IT’S NOT! Even when we lived up north, summer was allowed to be in charge until after Labor Day. Autumn had to fall (so to speak) in behind it.

But that’s not the thing that has my dander up today. It’s shorts.

I’m right in there with all you people who like to make fun of pairs of shorts and pairs of pants when you’re talking about a single piece of clothing. It’s all clean fun. And it has been explained why those articles of clothing are referred to in the plural when they are singular in function. That’s fine.

I was in my beloved Costco a few days ago checking out the clothes, when I noticed they did not have any shorts. They had short(s). I don’t even know how to write this, because if I say they had shorts you will fail to understand fully this weird occurrence. Here’s a picture, that should explain it to you.

Shocking! Isn’t it?

I immediately searched the women’s and men’s tables for the historically correct and accepted word “shorts.” I came up short.

My next task was to ask Merriam-Webster. There is no shortage of definitions for the word “short.” A long way down in his definitions it is stated that shorts are knee-length or less trousers – usually in plural. Short drawers.

Whew, I felt better. Until…

 

Yep. All the tags come up short. I mean they are selling short, which of course means we are now dealing with the stock market and I’ll have to ask my financial advisor son to give me a short explanation of this.

I’m going to end this now just in case your attention span is short.

 

Walking with Ellen and Shaq

As Bob and I strolled along the beach with our feet in the water, it seemed like every other shirt on the beach was trying to tell us something. I was especially entertained by a nine-year-old who wore a shirt that said: “Take More Risks.”

Seriously, kid, who are you to tell me what to do!

We were just chatting while taking a nice stroll down the beach, but we kept passing t-shirts that begged to be read.

“Save Water. Drink Wine”

“I Pooped Today”

“Whatever”

We talked about what our clothing was like when we were kids back in the 60s. We didn’t think about making literal statements on our clothes. The clothes were the statement (and they didn’t say much).

Pretty much it was like this: You have clothes. Be happy.

At least that’s the sentiment suggested by our parents.

This gave way to a conversation about designers and branding, which is something I haven’t really cared about in my clothing. I simply want clothes that aren’t too expensive and make me look smarter, thinner, tanner, more approachable, slightly aloof, sophisticated, down-to-earth, and can be purchased at Costco. That’s it.

I do like words though. And if these kinds of shirts were around when I was a kid, you can be sure I would have begged my parents for them, been upset that they wouldn’t buy them for me, and then moped about it until either they or I couldn’t stand it anymore and I was forced to get over it.

Since Bob has become a grandfather, he has become particularly good at conveying an I-walked-30-miles-to-school-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways” posit, so he elaborated about his childhood, which according to him was mostly spent outside fending for himself like an animal until his parents turned on the porch light and he and his sisters were allowed to return home. Clothing was required but nobody cared what it looked like.

I looked at his clothes and mine as we walked along and said, “Our clothes aren’t saying anything.”

But then I looked closer. While t-shirts yell things at you, our clothes were much more subdued. We took inventory. Bob was wearing:

  • Adidas ballcap
  • Adidas beach shirt
  • Nike swimsuit with a small swoosh
  • O’Neill flip-flops

I really teased him about being a walking, whispering advertisement. Then he turned on me.

My flip-flops were Sanuk. That was all the advertising we could find without looking at the inside tag of my swimsuit. We are very competitive, so we looked at this like golf. The person with less name brands would be the winner.

“What about your glasses?” he asked in frustration. (It looked like I was going to win this round in a cruel and unfair way.)

“You got me there,” I said. “They’re Ellen Degeneres.”

I was winning – 4 to 2, but I felt bad. I was not wearing a hat or a swimsuit cover-up, so the playing field wasn’t even. I thought I should declare it a tie, but then I realized something. “Hey. You’re wearing glasses, too.”

Bob looked at me defeated. “They’re Shaquille O’Neal.”

“Shaquille O’Neal! Shaq has a line of eye glasses? That guy’s into everything, and he just gave me the win.”

I’m still not sure why I find it so funny that Shaq has a line of glasses, but it cracked me up. So, we finished our walk – Bob in his Shaq’s and me in my Ellen’s. Two walking, whispering billboards.

 

The Dirt on my Amaryllis 

Sometimes putting up with the stink yields a reward. 

Before Christmas I bought a three-pack of Amaryllis (from Costco, of course). It was another great find as they were marked down to $4.97. When something at Costco has a “7” for the last number of the price, it’s being discontinued and it’s generally super cheap. 

These plants were not in bloom yet. Part of the fun of them is watching how fast they grow and produce beautiful flowers. I put them on my kitchen counter. Within an hour, my kitchen reeked. I was planning to give these away, but there was no way I’d give a stinking dish of dirt to anyone. After an initial watering, I put them outside on my screened porch table and forgot about them. 

In a couple weeks, they rewarded me with vibrant blooms. I couldn’t believe how lovely they were. Once the flowers were spent, I forgot about them. I kept meaning to throw them away, and then around the first of February, we noticed new growth. I didn’t know they did that. I chose to water them once more and see what would happen. Soon, they looked like this.  I took these pictures on February 15. 

It made me wonder how many other things I had not given their due opportunity to bloom. Things from plants to ideas to relationships. Sometimes things start out pretty smelly. But when given the chance they bloom into something beautiful. 

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!

Life Has Its Ups and Downs

One minute I’m up and the next minute I’m down. That’s life in the Costco aisle. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Costco surprised me with Charmin toilet paper with scalloped perforations between the sheets. It was a stroke of brilliance that brought about this long-needed update to a very mundane (yet essential) product. Not since we were told “not to squeeze the Charmin” have I been so excited to sit next to this Grade A paper. Mr. Whipple would be proud. But he probably would be OCD about that, too. I can just hear him say, “Don’t rip between the perforations!”

This does solve a lot of problems. For years when our grandchildren were over we would go through toilet paper at a rate of about 1.5 rolls per day. We helped them learn to count with toilet paper, for goodness’ sakes. Now, though, it will be all the easier for them to count and tear. Genius! Plus, no more having to make that cute little triangle on the end of the roll to make it extra fancy. Perforations – that’s what it’s all about.

But then Costco threw me for a loop. They changed out my favorite yogurt. Dannon Activia has always come in three flavors – peach, strawberry, and blueberry. Always. But not yesterday. They claim to have updated the flavors and blueberry got the axe. I made an audible gasp when I saw the box promoting black cherry. I practically climbed into the refrigerator in search of any blueberry hidden back there. Alas, I am forced to try something new. Bob says it’s good for me and reminds me that I love cherries. I know what you’re thinking – how can he really not know me after all of these years!

Oh, blueberry! We had a good run!

This is my last blueberry yogurt. I will savor it and bid it farewell. I am reminded that you can purchase this at the grocery store, but that’s not how I roll. Oh, Costco! You drive me crazy sometimes, but this blueberry debacle will not be the end of our relationship. I forgive you.

Furthermore, I will not concentrate on the negative. Who knows – maybe I’ll love black cherry yogurt. Either way, whenever I visit the bathroom (which really goes hand-in-hand with Activia yogurt), I have a pleasant roll of perforated tissues there waiting to cheer me up.