Suspense Can’t Really Kill a Person, but It Can Be Mildly Annoying


Hi there! Can I have your attention please?

I haven’t forgotten that you are waiting for my announcement.

I have decided that it’s time to tell you my big news – tomorrow.

One more day – that’s 24 short little hours.

I should have all of my ducks in a row by then. So, hang in there, faithful readers.

Get lined up, ducks!

The Excitement is Growing

I’m working out a plan to tell you my news.

I’m trying to map it out, but it may take me a few more days because I am a non-mapprehender. I attempted to find the proper name for my map malady, but there doesn’t seem to be one, so I am launching this new word. I hope you like it. (I googled mappus ineptus, but I figure that didn’t come up because it’s archaic.)

Anyway, I’m off to run a few errands. I’ll get back with you soon about my big news. And, yes, I’m still sooooo excited! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But I will.

I’m So Excited (and I Just Can’t Hide It)

Bob says, “This is going to be HUGE!”

Things are getting pretty exciting around here.

Oh, but you’re probably in the middle of something right now.

I’ll post more later.

A Sign of a Healthy Valentine’s Day

This is a public service announcement. If you’ve been caught up in the post-holiday clean-up or the crazy cold weather that has invaded the country, then allow me to put you on notice that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. To be exact, 22 days as of this posting.

As I ponder the sign at the corner Walgreens, I realize it is more important than ever to plan ahead for this day of unleashed romance. This is a night when restaurants set up extra tables and there are long lines at the grocery store as men pick up handfuls of flowers as they head home from work. The card aisles in the stores get picked over so badly that if you are pale like our family, you may have to show the DNA results from to explain the Mahogany brand being chosen as the best of the remaining three cards.

Sidebar: Yes, I have received the Mahogany brand before, and while the verse was very nice it was unusual to have white-as-white Bob and I being portrayed by a couple of a different race – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Our kids called their dad out on being a last-minute shopper, while Bob said he didn’t know what they were talking about. For the record, I’m sure both sides were telling the truth.

But I’m not hear to warn you about card choices, though I will say it was long overdue for the card industry to recognize that it’s a colorful world out there. I’m here to join with Walgreens and encourage you to get a flu shot or do something equally special for Valentine’s Day like Lysol down the house. Do you know how many germ-infested people have used their disgustingly dirty hands to look through those cards? Some have probably flipped through them while awaiting their prescription for strep, flu, or bubonic plague, while sneezing. And the close quarters at restaurants are a veritable petri dish of influenza. That’s not the kind of culture you’re looking for on Valentine’s Day, that’s for sure.

Thanks, Walgreens! You truly are a caring organization.

In case you’ve been under a rock somewhere, let me inform you that the flu shot takes two weeks to gain efficacy in your body, so you still have a few days to ensure a very special Valentine’s Day. If you’re not an immunizer, you may want to stay under that rock for a few more weeks until flu season passes. Or you could do what Walgreens is really promoting, plan on getting those shots together for Valentine’s Day. Now that’s love!

Household Tip You Might Not Want to Try

I don’t share many household tips here, but I came across a surprising way to shine my granite countertops.

It all started with an ambitious idea to clean my electric teakettle. Hard water deposits were shrinking its capacity, so I needed to do something before it only held enough water for a single gunky cup of tea, plus my mom mentioned it was getting gross.

I’m not much of a tea drinker. I prefer coffee. If I’m drinking tea you can assume that one of three things is going on in my life:

  1. I’ve had my coffee quota, and I am cold. This can happen during the two weeks of winter that are spread throughout the months of December through February in Central Florida.
  2. I am sick. This often coincides with those same three months. I think it is brought on by using air conditioning one day and the heat the next during those crazed arctic blasts that make their way down here and wreak havoc on our landscape taking temperatures from 80 to the 40s in a few short hours. Sometimes it gets down to freezing and I have to go out with a jacket and gloves on and cover our plants so they don’t get frostbite. Often, I overdress and end up sweating, and then I get a chill as I shed layers. You Northerners, I know, will have no sympathy for me, but life is pretty darn hard down here during those few days. Sometimes I even have to wear socks.
  3. I am out of wine.

I love my coffee in the morning and I love my coffee pot, too. It has the good manners to let me know when it needs cleaning, unlike my tea kettle that makes me actually look inside of it and judge for myself. White vinegar, of course, was the way to go. I would tell you exactly how much, but I’m sure you know how to google and I don’t really remember the ratio of vinegar to water anyway.

So, one fine Saturday morning, I grabbed the jug of “vinegar.” I did exactly what google told me to do, turned on the kettle and walked away.

Image result for mount st helens eruption

Mount St Helens (photo credit Wikipedia)

I came back a little later to discover the kettle had done an imitation of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. She spewed all over the counter and puddled down into the top two drawers. What a mess! There were suds everywhere.

The worst part of it was the smell, which was so strong it burned my eyes. I had to air out the kitchen for a couple of hours. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the vinegar until a couple of hours later I was doing laundry, and there on the counter by the washer was the bottle of vinegar I used. Only it wasn’t vinegar. It was ammonia – sudsy ammonia.

So, as an upside, we got a new tea kettle. It’s very nice and won’t need cleaning for a while. Plus, ammonia, which I would not recommend using because it’s so hard on your skin and eyes, evidently does a great job shining up granite. Who knew? Certainly not me!


The Pencil Sharpener (There is a Point to this Story)

I may not be the sharpest pencil in the drawer, but I can sharpen those pencils.

As we prepared my parents to move into our house and say goodbye to living autonomously after 69 years of marriage, I learned a few things. Life is unbelievably hard when you are old. Giving up control is one of the most challenging things a person can do. Pencil sharpeners may hold hidden meanings.

We moved Mom and Dad into our Florida home two days before Hurricane Irma hit. Six weeks later, Dad graduated to heaven. He was ready. His body was worn out, as was his hearing. His eyes that used to sparkle so blue had clouded over and gave way to blindness.

His legacy includes being an efficiency expert. He was a micromanager, which was my biggest challenge. He wanted to inspect each and every item that they owned to judge its usefulness and potential in their new home with us. And being raised during The Depression, there were a lot of items.

There were 13 telephones hidden in various places, plus 2 in use. When asked about this, he supposed my mom was the responsible party. He even grasped at the straw that someone had been stashing phones in their home. Certainly, a foul plot was afoot!

My dad was sharp until the end. His mind had to derive an option that did not include his inclination to never throw away anything that might have some future use. We didn’t bring up the eight razors or the seven pairs of TV ears. He didn’t need the frustration.

But the pencil sharpener fit into a category of its own. Possibly Dad loved this office supply more than all the telephones put together. He was determined to bring it with him. I lamented our lack of need, for we had a sharpener, not to mention that I personally have not used a pencil since 1967.

That began an all-out search. At Dad’s direction, I called my son to see if they needed a top-notch sharpener. I asked my daughter. I called my brother in New Jersey. Sadly, it looked like this sharpener would be reduced to living on the streets.

Dad ultimately accepted that the sharpener was no longer needed. Its usefulness complete.

I did not see the parallel in this story until weeks after Dad’s death when I tried to sharpen a pencil with our sharpener, and it failed to work.

I guess Dad got the last laugh. His beloved sharpener was retrieved and has a place of honor in our home. It took me a while, but I finally got the point. May it sharpen our pencils forever.


Why Do These Things Happen to Me? (Don’t answer that)

When your computer says your document is locked for editing by another user, and you are the only user, you wonder how you have once again sabotaged yourself.

Not exactly a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, but it got the job done.

I am working on investigating my actions to get to the bottom of this. I have collected the necessary items from around my house to conduct a self-interrogation. You will have to excuse me while I lock myself in the closet because it is the only room with a single light bulb in the ceiling. I will sweat the answer out of me if it kills me.

I am sitting on a folding chair so as not to get too comfortable. Where was I on the night of the 10th?

This is a stupid question, because I know I have trouble remembering what today’s date is. I’m going to have to do better than this.

A cup of water waits for me on the other side of the door if I will just offer up any information leading to the cause of this minor inconvenience. Maybe a glass of wine would have been a better idea. That always helps my memory! But alas, I have no idea how I do this stuff. And, I have discovered that sitting in the closet on a folding chair is not all that uncomfortable. I think I could actually take a nap in here – it’s dark and quiet and relatively un-distracting, save that box in the corner which I don’t seem to recall ever seeing before. It’s taunting me, but who cares, I’m going for the nap. Maybe my document will be unlocked when I wake up.


How to Avoid Cooking

4 and 20 Blackbirds minus 20 eating leftover pie

It’s been almost two weeks and we have finally made our way through the Thanksgiving leftovers. That means I had to generate more leftovers by cooking. This is not my favorite thing to do. I rank my love of cooking on a 1 to 10 scale, and that can change daily or even within any given day. One means I won’t even entertain the idea of cooking, or entertaining for that matter as they kind of go hand-in-hand. I’ll have to let you know what 10 means if I ever generate that high a score. It is highly doubtful that will happen, but hope springs eternal like eyes on an old potato, which I would know because I just cleaned out my refrigerator.

Here are the reasons why I don’t cook much, feel free to put them into practice in your own life:

  1. I’m lazy – I thought I’d get that one out of the way.
  2. I’m not particularly creative in the kitchen.
  3. Costco – Need I say more? Chicken potpie, stuffed peppers, and the famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken are just three of the Costco reasons.
  4. Enchilada night at Amigos in Altamonte Springs. On Thursday night you can get an enchilada platter for $5.88, and that includes all the chips and salsa that I can fit into my purse. Essentially, that is two meals for $5.88.
  5. The Orlando Magic get a win at home. This means Papa Johns offers half price on your entire on-line order. Granted, we have not been able to take advantage of this much lately.
  6. My husband Bob is a great cook and likes creating new dishes. I can’t wait until he retires.
  7. I’d rather be writing.
  8. I have cooked enough. I multiplied the number of years I’ve been married (42) x 365 days and then assumed (conservatively) that a meal was cooked by me 70 percent of the time. That is 10,731 meals.
  9. I like to take naps after doing complex mathematical problems like the one above. Of course, that just got me off the hook for tonight.
  10. Leftovers – Whenever I do cook, I make enough for a family of six. I can’t figure out how to cook for a number smaller than that, but it means, like the meal or not, I don’t have to cook the next night.

Since my cooking is becoming rarer and rarer (amount of times I cook, not the temperature of meat), I now award myself bonus points for any night that I do cook. I told Bob that I can redeem these for a night out to dinner. He gave me one of his famous eye-rolls. I’d keep on writing, but I just realized it’s past time to heat the leftovers for dinner. Looks like no bonus point for me tonight.

Today I’m Sharing a Loss with You

My dad, Arthur Manning

It has been two jam-packed months since I’ve posted a blog, and that hardly seems possible to me. As I told you way back then, Bob and I moved my parents in with us on September 8. And then we had Hurricane Irma blow through. Both of these events generated a lot of work, but we were happy and relieved to have Mom and Dad with us.

We were all making the adjustment just fine, and Mom and Dad were feeling settled, when on October 2 my dad began to decline. Just the week before, Dad, who was 94, told me he was glad they were with us. That was a big deal, because moving wasn’t his idea. But it clearly was God’s timing and his amazing grace and mercy for them to be in our home.

On Thursday, October 19, Dad breathed his last and was ushered into the presence of God – the God he loved and gave his life to over forty years ago. I am confident of where Dad is now, and I am grateful that he has a new body. His old one was clearly worn out. Dad was very hard of hearing and had gone completely blind over a year ago. The last weeks of his life he could no longer walk or even stand. The VITAS Hospice group were our constant companions, and we are forever grateful for their support.

In many ways, I can’t believe he is gone. Wasn’t it just yesterday that he would call out, “Hey, Bon-bon,” when I entered their house. It’s a weird time. I miss him.

Things are calmer now. Family has gone home. The meals, which our dear friends brought to us, have stopped coming. We are finding our footing in the midst of grief. There is a peace that passes understanding that flows through my soul as I slow the pace of my life down and walk through this with my mom, but it is not easy to slow that pace. My natural inclination is to get things done so that they are done and I don’t have to give mental space to the many details. Frankly, that doesn’t always work!

I have to remind myself that “normal” is a fluid concept. I have a new normal that is in the developmental stages. I am not particularly fond of transitions. Change is hard and can be stressful, but it is within those transitions that I am reminded of how much I need Jesus. I have to lean not on my own understanding and wait on God.

Dad had a practice of asking everyone who entered their home if they knew Jesus as their personal savior. I did not know of anyone who was bolder. My dad was not a big man, but he filled a room. He had a big personality. He loved to tell stories and he loved to entertain. He was an accomplished magician and brought joy to a lot of people through his illusions. That man could control a deck of cards.

Knowing that my dad is in Heaven with no more limitations makes me happy. Watching my mom lean into God encourages me. Experiencing grace for things that I never thought I could remotely do, builds my faith.

I guess there really isn’t a lighter side to this post. I just wanted you to know what’s been going on and why I’ve taken some time off. I’m back now and expectant that once again, God will show me the lighter side of things and I will share them with you. Thanks for reading.

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.