Birds of a Feather Flock Together for Lunch

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

One of the things that I miss from my old house is my backyard birds.  I had a feeding station set up just off my porch.  Watching the birds was one of my joys.  I guess you could say I’m a birder, but not one of those go-out-in-the-great-beyond birders who knows where and when different species migrate to add them to my life list.  I wait for them to come to me.  They are my perfect little pets.  (They never mess up my house.)

As the crow flies, I don’t live far from my old home.  It was suggested to me that I leave a trail of breadcrumbs so my feathered friends could find me.  If that would have worked, I probably would have done it; but I figured it was time for me to make some new feathered friends and let the new owners of my old house enjoy the regular visitors there. I guess you could say I’m branching out to a new birding environment.

So we set up the feeding station in our new backyard and waited.  I could hear the birds in the trees which surround my yard – hear them but not see them.  Days passed and I wondered what was preventing them.  I know there are hawks around.  Perhaps these birds weren’t willing to risk going out in the open.  At long last, the blue jays came.  I appreciated their loud cackle alerting me to their visit.  Eventually a titmouse popped in and soon returned with his whole family.

I was a happy girl…for a while.  Here’s an analogy that might help you understand my temporary happiness.  It is the reason why I shouldn’t open a large bag of M&Ms.  I can start out with a few and be content, but soon I want more.  I don’t have to see them.  I can hear them calling me from the pantry – just like the birds in the trees.

The sound of cardinals in the trees really bothered me.  What was it going to take to lure them in?  Sometimes I would see one on my fence, but he never stopped at the feeder. I also heard a sweet little bird called a Phoebe, whose call sounds like his name. I would hear him every day but never lay eyes on him.  Until today.  Phoebe stopped by.  He doesn’t spend much time at the feeder but he loves to perch on top of it and fly from perch to perch around the yard.  While I was looking at him, the cardinals stopped in.  (They usually travel in pairs.)  I caught a glimpse of the female leaving as the brilliant male made a pit stop.  This is happiness for me.  Watching the birds relaxes me and is one of the things God uses to still my anxious heart.

He uses my friends that way, too.  Today I had lunch with two such friends.  I’ll call them Phoebe and Cardinal.  I often hear how they’re doing on Facebook or receive a phone call or text, but I really need to see them.  Visit a feeder with them.  Spend time with them.  One of the things that I’m adjusting to is my access to my friends.  They are not as readily available, but I’m only 15 minutes away from that old neighborhood.  That is practically nothing.

Patience was what it took to see birds at my feeder.  Intentionality is what it takes to keep friendships near and dear.  Even if those friends are only fifteen minutes away.

Isn't he beautiful?

Isn’t he beautiful?

Starting Over – It Only Feels Like a Punch in the Gut

Bob and I have been on the fast-track ever since we returned home from our trip to Europe at the end of April.  Our feet hit the ground running, or maybe they were shuffling and dragging.  Who can remember!  All I can tell you is – it’s been non-stop (our lives, not our flight from Europe).

Over the summer we had enough major events in our lives to do our own Lifetime made-for-TV movie.  Our youngest son got married.  Our middle son, his wife, and their baby, who had been living with us, moved to Michigan.  We sold our home of 32 years.  The home in which we raised our kids.  The home that Bob drew up the initial plans for.  The home which we had chosen every detail from floor to ceiling.  The home that was in a neighborhood where most of our closest friends live.  Okay, enough of that.  And, we bought and moved into a new (for us) house.  Now, after forty years of marriage, we are official empty-nesters.

This morning as I was trying to get pictures hung on the wall, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to hang this one.  I’m not talking about my usual challenge to do anything handy around the house either.

This is not the home where my story began.  Plus, I’m a little old to begin a new story.  I guess I should have left this plaque at the old house.  It doesn’t seem to belong here.

I remember when I bought it.  It was an encouragement.  Now it confuses me.

Yet, I cannot sit in the silence of my lovely new home and not write.  Soon I will have the last of the pictures hung and the last box unpacked.  What will my excuse be then?

So today is a small beginning for me.  This is my first written offering from my new home.  It was not without challenge.  I am writing in a new space with less ready-made distractions – no neighbors that I know and no people living with my husband and me (especially no cute little grandbaby).  It’s going to take some getting used to.  I can do that.  I got used to eating spinach.

For now, I think I’ll post this and go hang my picture.

From Two to Ninety-Two

Easter Sunday afternoon has changed a lot for us over the years. Bob and I have always lived close to my parents. For the most part, we were the only of my four siblings that lived near them, and we’ve never lived close to Bob’s family. That made for fairly easy holiday celebrations. Mom and I would take turns having events at our houses. We’d flip Thanksgiving and Christmas each year, but until the kids were teenagers, we usually ended up at their house for Easter afternoon.

They had a beautiful backyard on a small lake.  The beach area was dotted with palm trees and citrus trees lined the edges.  Mom loved hiding Easter eggs and the kids loved the hunt. Those times were uncomplicated. Once in a while relatives or some friends were there, but things still fell on Mom and me; and we liked it fine. My mom and I could throw together a holiday dinner with hardly a thought. We just split things in half. We each had our specialties.

This Easter we met at our house. We equals Bob, me and our four kids, three spouses, six grandkids (plus one in the oven), my mom who is 86, Dad who is 90, and Bob’s dad who says he’s 92 but is really 91.

That means there are five wives to cook. What a spread we could put on! What culinary masterpieces we could display. How our taste buds could be titillated! But I choose Costco, the happiest place on earth. Nothing beats picking up a spiral ham (no slicing), Hawaiian rolls, redskin potato salad and a vegetable tray. Throw in paper plates and you have yourself a perfect day. Okay, we did have homemade deviled eggs and desserts – we’re still human.

It has taken me a while to be able to admit this publicly, but simply put – it’s time for me to simplify where I can. 20140425-141648.jpgI’ll also admit that when I see Facebook posts of lovely tables set up in anticipation of Easter lunch, I feel a little guilty, but the feeling disappears as fast as a bowl full of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

20140425-113424.jpgThose wonderful, simple days of eight of us celebrating together are gone. I love having 18.25 of us together and look forward to the number growing. The challenge for me is remembering it’s about enjoying the people, and I don’t want to be so worn out from prepping and cleaning up that I don’t get to relax and play with them. Also, our people span 90 years. That means keeping the floor clear for a walker and a wheelchair, making sure I have my dad’s favorite root beer on hand, and giving Bob’s dad some time to tell a story to his grandkids and spouses. It also means having a portacrib for the youngest with a sound machine to drown out noise, and taking some time to play a board game with the kids. And, of course, there are always activities beyond the egg hunt in the backyard. Our oldest son is great about getting the kids outside and active. We have the added joy of our neighbors’ grandkids playing with ours – three generations of friends.

The Quest for the Golden Egg

The Quest for the Golden Egg

We are an exhausting group, so Bob’s and my parents don’t stay as long as they used to. My mom brings bags of treats, but now they’re for her great-grandchildren. We still have the egg hunt as the Big Deal of the Day.  My kids and I hide the eggs and Mom watches us.  I think she loves watching the children scour the yard for treasure more than any of us. I like to observe my mom. She stores up treasures in her heart more than the kids store eggs in their baskets. I want to be like her.


And let’s not forget about Jesus.  I’m not sure how we went from the resurrection of our Savior to dying and hiding eggs, but I don’t want Jesus to get lost in the shuffle.  When my oldest son was little, he and his buddy were into action figures.  They had all the usuals and a few unusual ones.  Among those were Jesus and Moses.

20140425-141704.jpgThis past week I found Jesus in the top of my closet, just in time for Easter.  I handed him to my grandson.  He couldn’t guess who it was and tossed him aside in favor of the Millennium Falcon.  I picked Jesus up and set him on the mantel among the chicks and bunnies.  He looked out-of-place, but I know better.



Love Hurts (But It’s Worth It)

I'll miss your sweet smile, Ruby.  Love you!

I’ll miss your sweet smile, Ruby. Love you!

Do you have anyone in your life who makes you smile every time you see them?  Someone who is the perfect mixture of funny and serious?  Someone who is welcoming and warm with a dash of rascal?  That’s how I would describe Ruby (okay, maybe two dashes of rascal).

I always told Ruby that she was my oldest friend.  She turned 92 earlier this month, and she went to be with Jesus last week.  I will miss her.

This has been a sad time for my family and friends.  We’ve said “good-bye” to three friends in as many weeks.  Love does indeed hurt, but the hurt is soothed by sweet memories and assurance of our friends walking the Streets of Gold in Heaven.  In my mind’s eye I see Ruby, Russ and Carl.  They have arrived at their final destination.  It’s new for them, but immediately they know they are home.  For those of us left behind, we grieve, but we have hope (I Thes 4:13).

Is It Still Considered Stalking if You’re a Nice, Harmless Person?

I am just now coming out of the fog that was last weekend – good timing since another weekend is upon me.  What on earth did I do last weekend that was so consuming?  Glad you asked.

We moved my father-in-law within his assisted living facility (ALF).  This required my sister-in-law flying in from Oregon for four days.  She had the job of relabeling all of his clothing and linens with his new room number plus various other organizational activities.  In addition, my husband, my son and two other men from our church joined together to do the heavy lifting and toting all of his belongings down the hall and around the corner from his old, north-facing room to his new, east-facing room.  This is more important than you might think due to the fact that he is legally blind and sunlight is such a treat for him.

Now you are probably asking what that has to do with stalking.  Was I stalking some elderly person in the ALF?  Uh, no, of course not.  Who would do such a thing?

And, why wasn’t I helping out with the move?  Because I had the day off.  This was a gift I suggested for myself several times until Bob offered that he thought I might need a little time off from serving his dad.  Great idea!  And, it’s a good thing, too, or else I would not have had time to go stalking my favorite celebrity.   Okay, stay with me and I’ll tell you the story.

I have a dear friend who lives in Seattle who was considerate enough to visit Orlando and stay at a resort near Sea World last weekend.  This was pivotal to my impromptu plan.  I was scheduled to pick up Margot in the early afternoon on Saturday.  We planned lunch and a little light shopping.

Before heading out, I checked my face book and discovered that a friend was at the Ritz day spa in that area and she had an encounter with Paul McCartney.  (Thank you, face book location services.)  He walked past her while she was holding her grandchild and he couldn’t resist reaching out and holding the baby’s hand.  That put things in motion for me.   I jumped in the car, put on my Beatles 1 CD, cranked up I Want to Hold Your Hand, and headed out.

I asked Margot where she would like to eat and she was pretty open.  I asked her if she would like to go to lunch at the Ritz Carlton and stalk Paul McCartney and she was open to that, too.  So, off we went.

I’m a bit of a novice at stalking people, but I thought I’d be pretty good at it.  After all, I am a mother of four children, so I’m used to trying to observe people when they don’t want to be seen or bothered.

There was a lot of security out front, so we figured we were in the right place.  We walked into the lavish lobby, scoped out the place and asked the concierge for the eatery options.  We were calm, cool and collected.  I’m sure nobody thought twice about two middle age ladies popping into the Ritz for lunch on a day that Paul McCartney was staying there.

Yes, that is a cloth cocktal napkin.  Fancy!

Yes, that is a cloth cocktail napkin. Fancy!

As we headed to our seats we noticed a gathering of his entourage and my heart leaped a bit at the thought that I was so close to people who may or may not be close to Paul McCartney later on that day.  Does it get any better than that?

Unfortunately, no.  That was as close as we came to seeing him.  We did enjoy our fifty dollar lunch and I got quite excited by the fact that my Diet Coke came to me all fancied up with a linen cocktail napkin.  (So that’s what they mean by putting on the Ritz.)

In conclusion, I didn’t have to help move my father-in-law.  I enjoyed a wonderful yet expensive lunch with my friend, Margot.  We saw a group of people who may or may not have been part of the McCartney entourage.  I drank a fancy Diet Coke on a cloth cocktail napkin.  Oh, and I didn’t get arrested for stalking.  Sweet.

Beware of the Couch – Part 2

Yesterday I began telling the history of couches in our family which leads up to an incident that I didn’t want to tell you about my husband.  As a reminder, he has insisted that I should tell this story in the hopes that it will help even one person.  Today I resume with our need to purchase yet another new couch.

We waited until the furniture was pretty worn out before we decided to replace it.  We had turned our living room and family room into one big room and we thought a sectional would be great.  The kids were older and the pets were no longer abusing our belongings.

I scoured furniture stores looking for the right piece.  After narrowing it down, Bob and I took all four kids, who by then had grown quite a bit, to try our sectional choices on for size.  We found the perfect one.  It fit all six of us with plenty of elbow room and it was comfortable.  Still, I was hesitant to finalize the purchase.  I will blame this on my friend, Moggie.  Moggie is adventurous in her decor and thinks out of the box.  She is one of the most creative people I know and it seems whatever idea she has works for her.  I began to ponder – What would Moggie do?  Would Moggie settle for a standard issue albeit perfectly sized couch?  No, she would make a statement.  I decided I would, too.

My statement came in the form of a blue denim couch and oversized chair that I found at a store that was more upscale than I would typically shop.  I had the salesman move the items around the store so I could see them next to each other.  I labored over the decision while poor Bob just wanted to get on with life and have a sofa he could sit on.  Finally, we made the purchase.  I was so proud of myself.  I made this decision without even asking Moggie to come down to the store to critique it.  This represented real growth for me.  I had finally arrived – I was thinking out of the box.

The furniture was delivered and I have to say, I hated it.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  There was seating only for five.  The proportion of the furniture was not right for our room.  And, the denim look was not for me.  To say that I was upset with myself is a gross understatement.  I couldn’t sleep.  I repeatedly burst into tears.  I was a mess.  The really sad part was when we went to bed that night – I  tossed and turned and lamented this stupid purchase, and I was disturbing Bob; and he had to go to work the next day.  So, I left our bedroom to try to let Bob rest, but there was no place to go.  All the bedrooms were full of sleeping children and the only place for me was the couch, and it made me cry.  How can you rest on something that upsets you so much?  The answer is – you cannot.  If I remember correctly I found refuge on the floor of our small office with a pillow and a blanket.  I felt banned from my own living room.

By the next morning I knew I had to do something.  Bob was feeling the same way, only his main concern was for my sanity and the peace of our household.  I told him that I wanted to take it back.  He left for work and said I could do whatever made me happy, but I should remember we bought it on clearance with no returns allowed and I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

I got in my car and headed for the furniture store only to be assured that the no return policy really does mean just that.  Finally I talked to the manager who must have seen my bloodshot eyes and believed that I really was losing sleep over this purchase (or perhaps had other issues he didn’t want to deal with) and he had pity on me and let me make an exchange.  I didn’t plan this and was not trying to manipulate the man, but I burst into tears.  I told him how grateful I was but there was really no other item in his store that I could picture in my house which I could afford.  This kind and I’m sure frustrated man broke the store policy and gave me a full refund.  When I got home I called Bob who to this day is still amazed at the success of this feat of desperate determination.

Before I had any more time to think about it, Bob grabbed me by the hand and drove me to the store with the standard issue sectional.  We made the purchase and lived happily with it for well over a decade.  I decided right there and then that decorating “out of the box” is not a place I should ever consider going.  It works for Moggie, but it surely would produce an ulcer in me.

Eventually our perfect sectional wore it out which meant that it was time to shop again.  I can assure you that Bob was nervous.

We decided to go leather this time.  We quickly found the couch and loveseat that we liked and bought it.  It was delivered and everybody was happy.  It looked great and was comfortable.  We all fit on it.  It was perfect and so easy this time.  Or so it seemed.

Join me tomorrow as I conclude this story and reveal the “incident” regarding our current couch which my husband has so humbly insisted I share.

The Importance of Good Grammar and Coffee

Happy National Grammar Day!  I love that this day falls on the fourth day of March.  I always told my kids that this is the most active day of the year – march forth (I’ve taken liberty with my forth/fourth spellings).

In honor of this, my post today will contain some (oh the horror) grammatical errors.  It’s up to you to find them, fair reader, as you read this true story of my pursuit of a cup of coffee.  Please report your findings in the comment section of my blog.  Let’s see how good you are.  I believe there are four to seven errors.  Three are totally unacceptable and the others are lesser offenses or perhaps matters of preference.  I also realize that it is entirely possible that there might be other errors that I have not discovered.  If you point out any of these, I will most likely give the impression that I made them on purpose.  I’m the writer, so that’s my privilege.

I love having monkeys and butterflies on my coffee package.

I love having monkeys and butterflies on my coffee package.

Today as I write this post, I am sitting here drinking a cup of organic, shade-grown coffee from Costa Rica, which a friend of mine brought back for me from her recent trip.  It is perhaps the most challenging cup of coffee that I have ever had the privilege to take a drink of.

It all started back around the first of the year.  I had just cracked open a three pound bag of coffee from Costco days before Cindi gave me my present.  Being the slightly anal person that I am, I decided to wait until that bag was exhausted before opening the new one.

That day finally arrived on Saturday.  I was more than excited as I prepared to make myself a cup of the exquisite new brew.  After a long, tiring day, I was ready for my afternoon coffee fix. The only thing standing between me and that delight was the unknown location of my coffee grinder.  I didn’t leave a drawer unopened or a cabinet unrifled through.  It was nowhere to be found.

Later that night, we popped into Target to get a pound of coffee just in case my grinder still proved to be eluding me.  I grabbed a pound (or I should say 12 ounces, since a pound package seems to be obsolete) and we headed home.

My sweet husband was putting the coffee away for me and suddenly stopped, held up the package and asked me, “What’s this?”

Even in my tired, coffee deprived state, I knew the answer – coffee.  But he kept asking so I read the label, “Dunkin Donuts Original Blend WHOLE BEAN Coffee!  Nooooooo!!!”

But it was true.  I bought a bunch of beans.  I considered throwing them out the window to see if they would turn into a coffee beanstalk over night.  Then I could send Bob up the stalk to fetch me some coffee, but I would still have to grind it, so that wouldn’t work.  Instead I frantically called my neighbor.  Melodye understands the importance of coffee and even had an extra grinder.

So now you know how I outsmarted my coffee grinder and am now drinking a delicious cup or organic, shade-grown, Costa Rican coffee.  Thank you Cindi and Melodye.

Perfect Strangers

Have you ever come across Perfect Strangers?  I’m not talking about the 1980s sitcom starring Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker as Balki and Larry.  I’m talking about day-to-day life.

Balki and Larry are cousins on the TV sitcom Perfect Strangers
Photo Credit:

Who are strangers?  Sesame Street tells us that “They’re the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street; they’re the people that you meet each day.”[1]  I’d like to introduce you to some of the strangers I have recently met.

1.  At church on Sunday I stopped to meet some new folks.  There were five of them – a young couple with a baby and a couple about my age (her parents).  Starting with the young man who was on the aisle, we introduced ourselves and then continued down the row ending with Kim and Andy.  This was a very friendly group.  They had big smiles on their faces, maybe a little bigger than what would be the norm.  Finally, Kim said, “I know you, Bonnie.  I’ve been to your house.”  Her daughter went to school with my daughter years ago.  Nothing like a little embarrassing moment to break the ice.

2.  On the cruise Bob and I went on back in August, we ended up seated at a table for twelve during dinner.  Two ladies who are sisters were sitting with us.  One, Gina, lives about three miles from me and the other lives in New York and is a teacher and author of Christian children’s books.  Her name is Tina Crayton.  You can check her books out at  I love meeting other Christians.  It’s like being introduced to a long-lost cousin.

3.  And then there’s Todd and Scott.  These two had literally missed the bus when we found them sitting by the Wekiva River one evening.  They had rented canoes up the river and somehow missed the van that was to take them back to their car at King’s Landing.  They assured us that they were fine, even though the van was supposed to pick them up at 5:30 and it was now 6:15.  We talked for a while and then decided to drive them to their car, which was about a 15 minute ride from there.

The Fearless Canoers

As they piled into the back of our car, they expressed their gratitude.  They asked what we do around here and I told them that we pick up strange guys along the road, give them a ride someplace and then lift their wallets off of them as we say goodbye; that is if we take them to their desired location at all – it varies.  This did not faze them one bit.  They informed us their wallets were in their car and were pretty much empty anyway.  We loved interacting with these two.  We even talked religion.  They said they didn’t care for organized religion.  I told them with all the mess in the world, I didn’t want any part of disorganized religion.  Organized religion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

4.  Next there are some of you who are reading this right now.  When I started writing my blog I didn’t realize I would be making new friends.  Thank you to those of you who have never met me yet stop by and read this.

We all have to start out as strangers, you know.  So when was the last time you met a stranger who became a friend?  Or, in my case, re-met a friend.

[1] Sesame Street’s People in Your Neighborhood