Nobody Likes You Irma (Part 2 of 2)

Irma was an unwelcome guest, but there was no stopping her from blowing through. I thought I would share what it was like for me and my family as she came knocking on our door. Looking back, we got off easy compared to a lot of folks, but my story is the only one I can tell. I tell it mixed with prayers for those who have truly suffered through this storm and the many other “natural disasters” that are going on in the world today.

By 11:00 Sunday morning we were hunkered, which is a word we used liberally during the entire ordeal.

Hurricane Warning

By 2:20 PM our phones were going off like crazy with alerts. Watches turned to warnings. (Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for the storm. Warnings come when the storm or flood is imminent.)

The first rain bands arrived before 3 PM.

The wind significantly picked up by 7 PM. By 8:30, those winds became downright scary as they gusted over and around our house.

By 10 PM the rain was coming down in torrents. We experienced minor flooding over our front sidewalk. And the eye of the storm was hours away. FYI, we did not board up our house.

Our front sidewalk in the light of day. It took 3 days to dry out.

We decided to go to bed and get some rest. The worst was supposed to come around 2 AM. My parents seemed to go right to sleep on the other side of the house. Bob and I lay in our bed listening to the weird noises that the wind was making. I thought our roof was going to come off. I told Bob that I couldn’t sleep with all that noise. He said that he could.

And he did! I went to the center of the house and tried to rest in a recliner, but by then it was raining even harder and I could hear the dripping in the chimney while the weird noises continued. The wind whipped through our screened pool enclosure making eerie howling sounds. This was the first time in a long time that I can remember being legitimately scared. So, I ate some chocolate chip cookies.

The entire household was sleeping through this (minus me, of course). That amazed me, but I was thankful somebody was getting some rest! It was now clear that the storm was going to go right over Orlando. With the wind picking up even more, a little before 2 AM, I prepared the hall with cushions and chairs for my parents. Our phones, computers and car keys were placed in Ziploc bags. I was ready to take the hunkering to a new level.

I was awake and praying or chatting with other hunkerers on Facebook through most of the night – manning the conn from our recliner in the center of the house while eating the occasional chocolate chip cookie or three. I’d peek outside toward the east and look at the weird lightning and watch the trees bend in the glow of it. The water in the pool, though Bob had drained several inches from it twice, was over the edge. Irma was loud and violent, and the rest of my family slept through it.

With everything in place, I returned to my recliner. I must have dozed off, because I woke up around 6 AM and realized that it was over, and we still had electricity.

We live in the back of our neighborhood, which has 450 homes in it. A tributary of the Little Wekiva River flows through the center. Typically, it is a creek of about 8 feet width. Monday morning it was a raging little river.

The front of our neighborhood looked like a war zone of fallen trees and debris. They were without power. Our end of the neighborhood never lost it. But there were a lot of downed trees and fences and a new lake in our neighbor’s backyard. A wonderful neighbor had a front-end loader and went up and down every street clearing a path. Everyone was outside working and checking on each other.

Our next-door neighbor’s backyard

Bob looking at all the debris – our neighbor’s newly formed backyard lake in the background

Our damage was so minimal it doesn’t even count. I told my mother that we had an extra blessing from God because they moved in with us.

Bob and I put on our sneakers and leather gloves and got to work. Trees are no respecters of property lines. We have the neighborhood border wall behind our house. There is a vacant, treed lot behind us, so we got lots of debris from that. When I set foot in the yard, I was surprised to be up to my ankles in water. But there was no damage and nobody was hurt. We were amazed and grateful to God for that.

One of our sons and family showed up in the early afternoon. They were safe but without power. By nightfall, theirs was restored. Our other son and his wife were not so lucky. Theirs was out for nine days.

My parents’ home sustained no damage, but that area was without electricity for five days. It may be September, but it’s still close to 90 degrees every day down here.

 

     There are piles of debris along the roads that are taller than I am. And there is a subtle, funky smell in the air that is like a mixture of old diaper and chicken farm. Thankfully, the garbage truck removed the regular garbage today, so that may improve. Mass spraying has begun to combat mosquitoes. The sound of frogs in the morning is deafening as they take up residence in the newly formed ponds. We are keeping our eyes open for snakes. Alligators have been reported in some yards and pools. Flood waters are cresting along the St. Johns River. There are still some who have no power and others who can no longer stay in their homes. But we give thanks for being on the other side of this. It has been a blessing watching neighbor helping neighbor and churches joining together to serve. A lot of the differences that tend to divide us have taken their proper place, and we see each other simply as people going through something together.

I thought about being afraid in the middle of that night. I thought about how rare that is for me, and I was thankful. Now I think about people living in fear of storms real and imagined and how that affects their lives, and I pray that they will call out to God because He is there.

 

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A Pick-up Line in a Pick-up Line?

Pick-up Line

Bob and I were waiting at Subway (the sandwich shop not the mass transit system), trying to figure out what delectable delight we’d feast on for lunch. From across the not-so-crowded room, I saw him. His back was to me. Without hesitation, I walked right up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked, “What are you doing tonight?”

Think me brazen if you will, but I had to know.

I stood there gazing up at this tall, young man, who was easily young enough to be my son, waiting for my answer. What was he going to do tonight?

He smiled and replied, “The same thing I do every night – try to take over the world.”

Well, that made my day. You see, I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg. You may have heard of him. I understand he has produced numerous, notable films. But if you have not had the pleasure of viewing his animated TV series, Pinky and The Brain, while sitting next to your child or grandchild, you are clearly missing out on some serious fun.

I spent many hours watching with my kids. Brain is a genius mouse who is set on taking over the world, and Pinky is his insane sidekick (according to the catchy theme song and obvious to all who view). Every day Pinky asks Brain what they are going to do tonight. Every day Brain replies, “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

Just the thought of Pinky driving Brain crazy makes me smile. The thought of watching with my kids does, too. And, that day in Subway, I smiled as I engaged with a fellow fan and thought that if we all tried to take over the world with fun, love, and kindness, that would really be something amazing. Pinky would love it!

The 2017 USA Total Eclipse of the Sun (for your safety, please read before viewing the eclipse)

Me preparing for eclipse viewing – practicing not seeing things in the dark

Oh, Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you. I could deny it, but why bother. This is about you! Today, you’re the star! (I mean that metaphorically and literally.)

There is no need to fly a Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. It’s not there this time. I could simply drive to South Carolina. But I won’t.

At 2:50:58 pm, from my very own, easy to get to, front yard here in Central Florida, 85.6 percent of the sun will be obscured by the moon. That sounds like a solid “B” to me. I will be satisfied, though a little sad, to stay home for this event. Even though I hate missing anything of this magnitude. And, the realization that just a short eight-hour ride up the road is a potential “A+” total eclipse (depending on whether the weather cooperates) might make me crazy if I let it, but I won’t. I don’t want to be a lunatic over a solar eclipse. That seems wrong.

I understand that (possibly) this is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a total solar eclipse going from coast to coast. I should be more excited. I should pack a cooler and my ISO approved solar viewing glasses and go. But the thing that I keep going back to is that I can’t actually look at it. Not even a little bit. So, the thought of hurrying north to not watch the eclipse confuses my thought patterns – especially when I realize that I am very tempted to go. I want to not see the sun and experience darkness in the daytime, just like everybody else.

Engineer Bob, my sweet husband, brought home a pair of the viewing glasses for me – a gift better than flowers (though not as good as jewelry). I think he knows how tempting it will be for me to look at the sun and he is looking out for me and, I might add, himself. Both of our fathers have gone blind in their old age, and Bob is hedging his bets to keep my eyesight. We look out for each other that way. We have seen the future and we want to be able to see in it.

So please enjoy not watching the eclipse. It will be a memory of something that you didn’t actually see that you will enjoy for years to come.

 

A Weird Connection – Maybe

In a day when everyone is taking pictures of everything and google delivers boatloads of images with the touch of a finger, it was surprisingly difficult for me to find a picture of Paul McCartney and my grandmother together. And by that, I mean – impossible.

I am a huge fan of Paul McCartney. I am a huge fan of my deceased grandmother. About ten years ago, I realized that every time I’d see a picture of Paul, I thought of Grandmom Manning. Weird. She was not a fan. She opted to watch Hee Haw when he was rising to fame.

She was an amazing woman who lost her eyesight when I was a teenager. I barely remember her being able to see, but I do remember her kind, gentle manner. When she was a young, she taught ballroom dancing. I am told she was quite a cook and a more than proficient seamstress. Probably her biggest achievement was raising my dad and his siblings. Born in 1900, she always said she was as old as the years.

So where is the connection? I think Paul looks like my grandmother. Seriously, maybe we’re related! Here are some pictures. Do you see a resemblance? My dad’s family is huge, so, you never know! Maybe that’s why Paul has always been my favorite Beetle/distant cousin.

Grandmother Manning before she was a grandmother

The last picture I have of her circa 1987

“The Wheel”

We used to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on a regular basis. That was before cable TV, Netflix, and the realization that these shows were geared toward senior citizens. Truthfully, the shows are really great for any age (especially when students are on Jeopardy, which gives the vast majority of us a fighting chance). It is the advertising on them that reveals their target audience. Now, with the DVR, we don’t need to watch and see if the lady who has fallen will in fact be helped up. (Spoiler: She will be.)

Last Saturday, Bob and I gathered at my parents’ house along with my brother, my sister, and her family. The clocked chimed seven, and we sat down to watch Jeopardy and The Wheel.

My dad is blind, but my mom calls the play-by-play for him during Wheel of Fortune. It is challenging for him, a man who was always involved in everything going on around him, to sit and interact in this manner. But to his credit, he does.

Let’s ramp up that challenge by acknowledging that Dad has a huge hearing loss. With his hearing aids, he can converse, but a lot of chit-chat and our yelling out answers at the TV makes it hard on him. With the rest of us engaged in being the first one to get the answer, we hardly notice their challenge.

The puzzle was “Found in the Kitchen.” It had two words.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Got it yet?

The letters started to fill in a few at a time.

_ O O _ _ O O _

_ O L L _ _ T I O N

Mom kept Dad informed. Dad, who can’t see the television much less what is displayed on it, who can barely hear, who has trouble with a lot of noise, softly said, “Cookbook Collection.”

We all went crazy. The blind man solved it before the five sighted adults in the room did. My sister asked if somebody whispered the answer to him, but we aren’t that kind of family, plus he would have never heard us! We are fiercely competitive, and we also would never insult our father by giving an answer to him.

This still has me shaking my head. Maybe Mom and Dad are using some of the products advertised on the show. Maybe they are onto something that keeps their brains sharp. Maybe I should be a regular watcher (not a joke about being regular). For now, I will just shake my head and smile when I think about what a great team my mom and dad are. I guess after 69 years of marriage, the two really do become one.

Mom & Dad celebrating their 65th anniversary,                                 4 years ago

Please Forgive Me, Mr. Saluja

It’s funny – the triggers that uncover the hidden things in my memory. Things for which I personally have not been brought to account. Things that are shameful and embarrassing to speak of. Like how I used to peek into the neighbors’ windows on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

It was for a good cause. But, I’ll get back to that.

First, the trigger. Last weekend Adam West died. He was 88 years old. Holy sadness, Batman!

It was my pleasure to watch Batman, and Robin, especially Robin (his sidekick and ward, Dick Grayson played by Burt Ward). They came running into our living room when I was nine-years-old. I can still hear the “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, Batman!” in my mind as I type.  They came on every week at the same bat time and on the same bat channel.

Batman Dance Party

I loved the show so much that my mom bought me The Batman Theme Let’s Dance with the Villains 33 1/3 LP (commonly referred to as “vinyl” nowadays). I would play it on my record player and my little sister and I would have dance parties in our bedroom (also embarrassing).

I had a huge crush on Burt Ward. He was dreamy. True confession: I got caught up in the research for this post and watched a few clips of the old show. Wow, Burt Ward was a terrible actor! How could I have not seen that?

I loved everything about the Batman show. I loved the campiness of it. I understood that Batman was the straight man, a solid, no-nonsense kind of guy who could be depended on in a time of need. And boy were there needs! Each week a new “special guest villain” would appear to attempt to topple the fine city of Gotham; and Batman and Robin would foil them with a “ZOK,” or a “POW,” or a “SOCK.”

But what I did not know, at least until summertime, was that this show was in color! We only had a black and white television, but in the summertime my dad would set the TV out on the porch of our Suburban Maryland home so we could watch out there with the hope of a cool breeze. Yes, not only did we not have a color TV, we didn’t have air conditioning.

That’s when I realized that I was really missing out. Our porch faced the neighbor’s “rec” (short for recreation) room, and there through their sliding glass doors, I spotted Batman and Robin in living color! It was like scales falling off of my eyes. I could not believe that my parents had not provided better for us! I guess we must have been poor and Mom and Dad couldn’t bring themselves to tell us. (Of note, only about 10 percent of homes in the US had color TVs at this time – 1965-66 seem to have been the transition years from black and white broadcasts to color.)

So now I’m sure you understand. I had no choice but to slip over to the side of the house and position myself at the very edge of our yard so that I could see the “BLURP, GLURPP, KAPOW, ZZWAP” the way it was meant to be viewed. Of course, sound was a problem, but a small one in light of the spectacular visual of Batman and Robin in color.

I wondered what else was I missing. Could Bewitched, The Addams Family, and Gilligan’s Island also be in color? (The answers are yes, no, and yes.) Was there a whole world of color that I was being shielded from? Would I have to live in a black and white world forever watching TV through my neighbor’s window? And how would I survive the winter?

I can only imagine that my dad discovered what I was up to and found himself with the dilemma of putting up the cash for a new TV or my disgracing the family. He succumbed and soon I was happily watching my favorite shows from the relative comfort of our own rec room. Once the color TV invaded our home, heat and the view of Mr. Saluja’s color television no longer motivated me to go to the porch in the summertime. But just in case you’re reading this Mr. Saluja, I’m sorry. I should have just knocked on your door and invited myself in.

 

Stepping-Stones, Light Switches, and a Few Other Surprises

We have lived in our new home for a year and eight months now. I am still discovering new things about our house. For instance, the backyard must have been a dumping place for surplus building material. We have unearthed chunks of concrete, bricks, nails, glass, and stepping-stones. When I say stepping-stones, I mean enough to make a small path in our garden. Literally, buried treasure!

All of these stones were buried in our yard

I’m getting used to entertaining here. After more than three decades in our old place, I now have to think about what was so automatic. Where is the best place for coffee service? Should I use the bar or the dining room table for a buffet? How can I keep people from falling into our sunken living room? Obviously, some of these questions carry more weight than others. You don’t want to make it difficult for people to find coffee, that’s for sure!

And then there is the random placement of light switches – behind doors, in the middle of the master bedroom wall, in the pantry (still haven’t figured that one out). And why is there no switch when you enter the dining room from the bedroom or the family room from the hall?

The view to the left

But the most unusual finding happened today. I moved my writing place to the family room. It gives me a new view and a new use for a room that doesn’t get much activity. I can still look to my left and gaze out the window to the pool deck and see plants and flowers, and if I lean a little, the bird feeder. But I had never sat here and taken in the view to my right. How long has that wad of gum been stuck under the fireplace mantel?

 

A most unusual and kind of gross discovery

Of course, I took a picture and texted it to Dena (my daughter who along with her husband and four children stayed with us for five months). I wondered if she knew who the guilty party was. To my surprise, she was fairly confident that it was not her family, especially since she had noticed the gum before and forgotten to point it out to me. (Not to mention, neglected to remove it, but that’s for a different conversation. I will assume the best and figure she wanted to give me something to write about.)

We had a lot of people stay with us in 2016, so if you are reading this and you parked your gum in our family room, please contact me to get it back. I will gladly save it for you, though I am a little intimidated about prying it from its home. It may be hiding another treasure.

Happy Trails, Bertha!

How does one get claustrophobia while outside? I never thought it was possible, but I can tell you from experience – it is. While the most common definition talks about closed or small spaces, discomfort by being in a situation that restricts you also applies.

With that in mind, let me tell you about a recent afternoon spent with my daughter and her family in Colorado.

Always the semi-adventurous (if it’s doesn’t put me out of my comfort zone too far) grandmother, I thought an hour-long horseback ride seemed quite doable. After all, I had done this before. Once. In 1995.

Obviously 39-year-old Bonnie and 60-year-old Bonnie still have some things in common – but stamina is not on that list. Still, I was confident that I could sit on the back of a horse for an hour. I mean, seriously. It was just going to be sixty minutes. And I didn’t even have to move my feet.

I moseyed up to the ranch hand and whispered that my entire horseback riding experience consisted of a ride like this one, and that was ‘pert near twenty years ago. He said that Bertha would be perfect for me.

I should have asked perfect in what way, because we weren’t far down the trail when I realized that Bertha had a mind of her own. So perhaps he meant perfect to help me get those arms in shape. Or perfect to keep my attention on the trail since Bertha didn’t seem to want to. Or maybe he meant perfect to give me something to blog about. I don’t know; but I do know that this horse who was supposed to be trained to stay nose to tail with the horse ahead of her, follow a well-worn trail (more like a ditch), and to be so well-behaved that I would barely have to hold on to the reins, obviously had other plans.

The ranch hand placed Bertha and me behind my son-in-law in the line-up. The reason being that his horse liked to kick, which well-behaved Bertha would never prompt him to do. Wrong. Bertha did not get that memo and periodically would try to pass him or in one instance gave him a little nibble on the rump. He did not like that, but Bertha was undaunted and even seemed pleased.

The pungent smell of horse flatulence could not detract from the beautiful views near Estes Park, Colorado.

As the feeling was leaving my legs and the rest of my body was (I don’t want to exaggerate here) racked with pain, it dawned on me that our hour must be almost up. A smile came across my face at the thought of walking again. I could do this. I was almost there!

My hope was quickly dashed, because at that exact point in time, our trail guide announced that we were at the halfway point. That’s when a claustrophobic feeling took over and I wanted to jump off of the horse. I didn’t, of course, mainly because it was not in my power to do so. It’s a long way down off of a horse, and riding along the mountainside had taken all of my energy and most of my will to live. I remember feeling panicky and wondering how I could feel so boxed in while looking at such grand vistas. I wanted to run but knew my legs wouldn’t work properly, so I toughed it out.

My daughter snapped this picture at the moment the trail guide announced we were (only) halfway through our ride.

Also at that point in time, my daughter snapped a picture of me. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I guess I could end this right here. I won’t though, because you are probably dying to know how this story ends.

When at last we were nearing the stables, the trail guide told us to pull up to the raised board walk, hold on to the saddle’s horn, and swing our leg over the horse’s head and dismount.

Excuse me? Assuming I was able to swing my leg over the horse’s head, there was a 100 percent change I would kick her in the head and then she would ride off with me dangling from her side, laughing all the way (the horse, that is). I had to enlist the aid of my son-in-law to make sure that Bertha and I could go our separate ways amicably.

It was a strange sensation being on solid ground again. My body was so mad at me that it just wanted to sit, but I had to tell it no. We would not be sitting again any time soon. First, we had to learn to walk again. There would be plenty of time to sit later.

As a side note, I have decided that this will be the last of my every-twenty-year horseback riding trips. I don’t think 80-year-old Bonnie could handle it.

Leftover Pi

I was lamenting not having something sweet to serve to my family who was coming into town. It seemed wrong. I guess that’s how I was raised, and I also guess that explains why I have been on a diet for the last 45 years.

I had other food to offer them, but I couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that I was failing at my hostess duties. I almost had myself talked into being okay with it, and then I made a critical mistake. While I was out running a quick errand, I called Bob (my husband).

Bob: You know, it’s pi day.

Me: You just want pie.

Bob: I do like pie. You could swing by Costco and buy one. Easy.

Me (as I turn the car towards Costco): I’ve been doing so well without eating sweets, I don’t want to buy a huge pie. Not to mention the fact that I just made a birthday cake for my mom for tomorrow and I plan on having a piece.

Bob: Do whatever you want. We don’t need pie.

I tell myself that I’m not going to do it. I’ll just fill up my tank. No need to go inside. I lie a lot.

Inside they are sampling apple pie. Arg! I look at it and decide to be mad at Bob. I buy the pie.

Before our company arrives, I check in with Bob to tell him that he is a terrible influence on me, I mean to tell him that I bought a pie. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, honey. Just thought I’d check in. Do you have a minute to talk?

Bob: No, not really. The entire staff is heading to the break room for pie, you know, since it’s Pi Day. I don’t want to miss out.

Me: What! You knew you were having pie at work and yet you managed to get me to buy pie! Stupid Pi Day. I hate math!

Later that night…

During dinner, my cousin tells me that he is now borderline diabetic, so he passes on the bread that I fixed, which I don’t usually fix but did because we have company and you must have bread. And, of course, he turns down the pie as well.

Oh, the irony! All this to say, you really don’t have to have dessert just because you are having company. And, you really don’t have to have bread either, but you do have to have wine. That helps you not to be angry at your husband or yourself when you and he are the only ones eating pie that you didn’t really want to have in the first place.

What are we going to do with all of this leftover pie?

 

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part III

 

full-moon-415501_640Did you happen to catch the lunar eclipse during the full moon earlier this month? Maybe not – you might have been distracted by the comet going past. Or you might not know what in the universe I’m talking about.

This is where grandchildren come in handy. I would have been clueless if it weren’t for the newsflash brought to us by our eight-year-old grandson, Winston. It seems he was listening in school that day! He told us about a golden moon, an eclipse and a comet, and that we all needed to be outside at 7:30 to watch the show. Because Winston loves to tease, I thought he was doing just that. Thank goodness for Google, because I could see Winston was right on, even if some details were a little fuzzy.

Our dinner discussion with Winston and his ten-year-old brother Manning then turned to the difference between comets and meteors and what was a meteorite. They had the definitions down fairly well, giving me hope for the school system.

That is until I asked them, what was the most famous comet they ever heard of; and Manning answered, “Comet the reindeer.”

I laughed so hard I nearly spit my food across the table.

We composed ourselves and went outside at 7:30 to watch the night sky. We observed no noticeable eclipse of the beautiful full moon and no comet passing by. Not even one joined by seven other reindeer pulling Santa and a sleigh full of toys.

According to reports, we understand that we did see an eclipse – a penumbral eclipse. I have to tell you, it looks remarkably like a regular old full moon. My “extensive” research said it is hard to tell the difference between a penumbral eclipse and a regular full moon, which might be why they don’t get much press. So why bring it up now? What are those scientists trying to pull here? I don’t want to join in on the fake news bandwagon, but this is lunacy.