What We’re Doing this Summer…

What’s Happening with Us…

What on earth have we been doing? We’ve been selling and moving for months already! Aren’t we gone yet? No, we aren’t. Here’s what’s been happening in the past few weeks of relative silence:

  • The husband has been finishing up his last weeks at American Aldes Ventilation. They finally realize he is leaving and are asking him questions and scrambling to learn the things he will not be doing for them anymore
  • About half of our “things” got boxed and put in a container that is stored someplace in Tampa.
  • Packing has continued as I empty out closets, dressers, cupboards and the garage.
  • Keeping the house “showing” ready in case an interested buyer comes our way. We’ve had two open houses, both of which had 0 visitors. Really. Everyone is up north I guess.
  • We have been using up our food supply, giving some things away, sold the freezer. (Now we’ll hopefully leave before we get a hurricane so we don’t have to restock.)
  • Sold my car, and traded our red truck for a newer Chevy Colorado in a sophisticated grey.
  • Ordered a topper to go with the new-to-us truck to give us space for the move. They take weeks to make and getting it put on will probably be the last thing before we leave.
  • Spending lots of time driving around together, since I love to drive the new truck and am not letting the husband get behind the wheel.
  • Doing our last visits to doctors and dentists, compiling our health records to take north with us.
  • Keeping up with summer growth in the yard, mowing, pulling weeds and vines, trimming trees.
  • Visiting with friends we may not see again for quite a while.
  • Last but not least, trying to keep healthy and find our way out of some disturbing health problems.

 

What we hope to be doing in the next few weeks:

Dennis Retirement  (Click here to see the invitation with a nice picture of the husband. I’m technically challenged to get it to show up, sorry.)

  • Retirement party!!! I am so excited to see the husband getting honored by his co-workers. He has been faithfully on the job for 35 years and has been through a lot with this company. They have been planning a special lunch out at a restaurant and a surprise. I have no idea what it is.
  • Making an appointment at Mayo Clinic. The husband is frustrated and depressed with his erratic blood pressure and extreme mental and physical fatigue. He has had a brain MRI and tests for his heart and circulation but no helpful diagnosis yet. Ever heard of NPH? We hadn’t either but it is one of the possibilities.
  • Emptying out the house. Filling our container and returning it to storage until someday when we have another house to furnish.
  • Buying a small trailer for the things we want to take north.
  • Taking our trip to Wisconsin, via Greensboro to see Julie and possibly Madison, Indiana to check out Ron and Marlene’s project (this is the first they’re hearing about this though, so we will be flexible on that.)
  • We absolutely have to be finished traveling and in Wisconsin by the end of July because the first week in August is the Smith Family Reunion and we are going to be there helping it happen!

 

So a lot has been happening, even as some important things, like the sale of the house, have not been happening.  We are learning and practicing our waiting skills. And since it doesn’t make much difference where we wait, we will do it with family. We are not discouraged. The house will sell, eventually.

A Vow to Soften

I did not write this. It came to me from a friend and was written by Rachel Macy Stafford.  I found words in it to make my own.  I think there is something here for everyone to take to heart.  Read and see if I’m right.

 

My Vow to Soften

I’ve had enough of my hard edges.

I’m tired of straining my voice.

I’d like to loosen up and laugh a little more,

Be a positive rather than a negative.

 

I’d like to feel the upward curve of my lips.

I’d like to surrender control of things in which I have no control.

I’d like to let things unfold in their own time, in their own way.

I’d like to participate joyfully in this fleeting life.

 

I’d like to be softer

Towards him,

Towards her,

Towards me.

 

And this is my vow:

I vow to listen to opinions – I don’t always have to be right.

I don’t always have to agree or have the last word.

 

I vow to hand over the hairbrush, the pile of laundry, the school project,

The task before us. “How would you do it?” I will ask.

I vow to step aside and respect a new approach.

Success might be difficult to see at first; I vow to keep looking.

I vow to be more accepting of quirks and mannerisms.

I vow to be more accepting of tastes and styles unlike my own.

 

I vow to remember he is in the process of becoming; she is in the process of finding her way.

And they are more apt to do it if I stop telling them how.

 

I vow to regard “weaknesses” as hidden strengths.

Inner gifts can be nurtured when I stop plotting ways to alter, change, and “improve”.

 

I vow to greet my family and myself with a loving smile, no matter what happened yesterday.

Grudge holding only hurts us all.

I vow to pause before correcting.

I shall take a moment to consider if the mistake even needs to be mentioned at all.

I vow to stop nitpicking until it bleeds.

I vow to demand less and inquire more.

 

I vow to listen

Consider

And expand my thinking.

 

I vow to be a voice of encouragement in a demeaning world.

I vow to be a silver lining spotter in my family’s little world.

I vow to be softer today than I was yesterday – a softer voice, a softer posture, a softer touch, a softer thought, a softer timetable.

 

 

I vow to be softer towards the imperfect human being inside me and beside me.

 

By being softer, I can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more.

At last I will fully see.

I will see his colors.

I will see her colors.

I will see my colors.

Perhaps for the very first time.

 

The colors might take my breath away,

Bring me to tears

And offer long-awaited peace.

 

I shall soften in order to illuminate the colors of the soul.

I shall soften so the human being within me and beside me can shine.

 

©Rachel Macy Stafford 2016

 

 

 

 

Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

Being Known

“You know when I sit and when I rise.  You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:2,3

 I was scrolling down through Facebook and came upon a video of a young man who was visiting his mother in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients. He was sitting with her at a table as she ate her ice cream, asking her questions about her life and family, trying to jog her memory to remember him. She couldn’t. He went out to his car to finish the video and the tears were streaming down his face. It was a devastating thought, that his own mother did not know who he was.

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This from mollysmovement.com, YouTube video series.

So I spent some time thinking about the importance of being remembered by those who know us well, especially those who have the most reason to love us. We allow the concept of “being known” to shape us probably more than we realize.  Love, from someone who knows our faults as well as our good attributes, can give us a strong platform from which to love ourselves in spite of the ups and downs we experience in careers, in relationships, in accomplishments of all kinds.

Memorizing scripture has been an eye-opening experience for me lately. Verses like the one above from Psalm 139 suddenly seem close and relevant to everyday life. There was a person, a writer, who felt this way about God – that he was intimately known by his creator. I could see and feel the comfort in that. God was not going to get Alzheimer’s, or run away, or die, or become inaccessible in any way that a person could. It was his perception of God based on his personal experience, but it holds hope for anyone who spends time getting to know who God really is.

These verses could give rise to a lot of questions, and those would be good questions to put to one claiming to be Creator of the universe. Creating beings capable of thought is something we haven’t quite figured out yet, not for lack of trying (hello, Artificial Intelligence). Knowing what those beings are thinking would be the next step and David thought God could do it. I do too, just sayin’…

 

Hands Speaking

My hands are telling me things lately. They are tired of being cut, scraped, banged up, painted, scrubbed… Most of all they are tired of hurting. The stiff and swollen joints still have to pull, pry, twist and grip in order to survive. My hands talk about pain and its very real presence. 

“Pain is like an angry neighbor. He is not moving away anytime soon. He is constantly looking over the fence and his stare, his piercing eyes, can be felt following our every move. Sometimes he scowls, sometimes he kicks the fence, sometimes he gets really confrontational and yells at us. Often he goes back in the house, angry, pouting and sits, but even then we can feel him looking out his window at us, wishing us ill.”

“But he is a neighbor and it’s better to get along than not.  we’ve gotten used to him. We know his name, his whereabouts, his nature, and generally how to pacify him.  We think we prefer him to others who are nastier, and more deadly. He is OUR pain, like him or not.”

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Myakka, strange name, great place

Myakka State Park

Years ago when I was a teenager my family would take winter trips to Florida. All seven of us would travel in a pick-up camper which made it prime bonding time. I think we usually stayed about two weeks, about as long as we could stand to bond, and in that time, we would park in private and state parks along the way. Myakka was often one of the northern-most state parks we would visit in our search for sunshine and beaches. The Myakka River is one of the national wild, scenic rivers and a small weir widens the waterway out into Myakka Lake.

Two of the memorable things about Myakka that are still going on today are the tram ride to look for wildlife and the airboat ride, also to look for wildlife. I’ve done both. We were always successful seeing the “a” animals, armadillos and alligators, but there are also occasional deer and lots and lots of birds.

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Me and three old trees

This park is always pretty busy in the winter when the weather is cool and conducive to camping and hiking. There are over 39 miles of trail in this park. I’ve hiked there once and you also get a good idea what Florida’s pine flats are like. As the name suggests, very flat, lots of pines and palmetto. The park does a good job of controlled burns and maintenance of the trails.

I mentioned in another post that in the 30 years we’ve lived here, the husband had not been to this park at all. People would visit us and I would take them to Myakka but Dennis would be working. That has been remedied, and none too soon. On the Friday before Memorial Day we visited the park with our good friends who go there quite often. This weekday was a good time to beat the crowds, although there were quite a few there by noon when we left. This was also an unusual time since we had just started having seasonal rains and the river and lake were FULL. Some campsites were underwater and the water level was way above the tree line.

 

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Chef at work

My friends usually take breakfast or a snack to a picnic table close to the lake, but this table had been removed so we chose one of the pavilions for our breakfast spot. I had no idea this was going to be such a feast, but my friend is an excellent host and planner so all the bases were covered. Her husband was soon cooking bacon and eggs over a charcoal fire while the three of us sat watching him with our coffee and homemade biscuits. The picnic area is well appointed and close to parking and restrooms.

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Hostess and the husband, holding down the table

While there we watched people arriving for the airboat tour, the first one starting at 10 a.m. We could see the new gift shop and boat dock from our picnic table. I made a quick trip up there (it’s on stilts for obvious reasons) to look for a hiking medallion which I had never gotten before and they had them, along with tons of other interesting stuff. The airboats claim to be the largest of their kind in the world and they do hold a lot of people. The tours are guided by knowledgeable park staff – I have always come away knowing more about the lake and ecosystem.

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Great shop for souvenirs but you have to walk up the steps to get there. Tables beneath in the shade. (There may be wheelchair access but I didn’t see it.)
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The big fan in the back powers the boat so it can get in very shallow places (where the alligators are…)

This park has rustic, old log cabins for rent as well as various types of campsites. The cabins have been refurbished and are very comfortable. You have to rent them well ahead of time because they are very popular.

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part of the boardwalk into the marsh

This park is great for birdwatching and we saw a lot of high tech cameras and tripods being lugged around. There is a long boardwalk out into the marsh, and also a canopy walk high in the trees. We went to the end of the boardwalk, but the water was so high that there were few birds to be seen. It was getting hot and the husband was getting tired so we didn’t go up in the canopy this time.

We rode through the park from the south entrance to the north entrance on this visit. The north entrance is not always open – you can always drive out but can’t always come in – so visitors need to check the schedule. It’s safest to enter via the south. Lots of large oaks shading the road, lots of water views, opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, fishing – it’s a great place to get a feel for central Florida waterways. Pack some food. Go there. Enjoy.

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My hiking staff with medallions . The dark one with the alligator is from Myakka.

The Last Day of May

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This last day  of May 2018 – the perfect morning to sit with my cup of coffee and my book. At this time of year the sun in the east finds a break in the wall of trees between us. It shines through the translucent blades of grass, lighting them up. It shines through my dusty windows, to the floor and back up into my eyes. The husband thinks it’s too bright and shuts the blinds. But what on earth is light? Why can’t I see it, but without it, I can’t see anything else?

It’s a wonderfully quiet time of day. I can hear the cardinals, a mating pair, that live in the backyard. I can hear the refrigerator running and the faint hum of my “device” as I sit and think and type. It’s a wonderfully quiet time of the year, as the number of summer tourists is much less than the number of winter tourists. The traffic problems are lessened, noticeably. It’s the last day of May and I realize that summer is starting and the slower pace and the heat affect everything, in a good way. I find it easier to relax. I have slept well.

I can sit here and think so many different thoughts. Am I hearing all the electrical synapses as they connect and bring up memories, phrases, mental pictures? (I think I can!)

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. “

 I don’t want May to end but I don’t know how to hang on to it either. Time is like light, another thing that I can’t quite comprehend. Some people think they know all about light and time, but I don’t believe them. If that were true there would be nothing left for science to explore. We will never have it all down. Light and time are actual creations of someone not like us. Someone “other”.

“Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 It’s not just me. People have been thinking thoughts like this for a very long time.

The Bible, Psalm 139 (My new memorization project)

 

 

Three Day Story – Conclusion

Day Three

Florida in the rain. Darker than usual with the clouds. Everything green, almost fluorescent. Humidity almost like being underwater. Frogs coming alive, tropical croaking sounds from all quarters. Smells of  damp leaves and rotting vegetation. Hello Open House Day.

It was pretty much a bust. Four people went through the house. One was the next-door neighbor (the one under the tree branch) and the other three were friends of the realtor’s son who came to see him more than the house. We did get a lot of talking time with the realtor though. He came up with a couple of things he thought would be simple improvements in the rental house which he thought Joe could take care of for me. When he left at 2 pm, I couldn’t quit thinking about them so I texted Joe and he called back, then came over.

It was still raining off and on, but the work was inside so we spent a couple hours doing that. I could tell he was thinking about “the branch” because he kept looking out at the tree and the ladder. Sure enough, a break in the rain and that’s what he wanted to do.

Joe is Mexican and his “English as a second language” is adequate for his work but not always understandable to the average person. Even though I have developed an ear for it, I often put on a knowing look and nod while trying to figure out what on earth he is saying. He does have a phrase which I understand perfectly because he uses it often and it describes a common action which we use a lot when he pressure washes the house. It’s the “jumping over” method. He jumps (throws) the rope over the roof and hangs ladders to reach the high places.

The plan for the branch was to set the ladder as close to it as he could and jump the rope over it, hoping it would catch so he could pull it down. The thing that was troubling him was where to put the ladder. The trunk of the tree was too far from the dangling branch, and the ladder wasn’t high enough to reach outlying branches. Joe credits me with the idea we went with, although I had moments of being sorry I suggested it. I drove the truck under the tree and we put the ladder in the bed, making it almost four feet higher. It touched a nearby branch, just barely.

I sat at the base of the ladder, hoping to hold it in case it slipped, while Joe climbed slowly to the top and strapped the top rung to the branch with a bungee cord. He came part way down and I passed him the end of his rope. Going back up, he straddled the branch, got himself stable, and hauled the rope up into coils. His “jumping over” procedure worked after the third toss. The rope was caught in the branch and wasn’t coming down unless the branch did too. All the commotion was bringing down other dead twigs on me and the truck, along with a lot of water. It was getting dark and starting to rain again, but Joe was excited, having roped his branch at last.

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Our big dead branch, no longer dangling above our heads.

He came down out of the tree and we took the ladder off the truck. I have to admit I gave a sigh of relief as I got myself and the truck out of the way because Joe was pulling and the branch was making some serious cracking noises. It finally came free and fell. We have quite a pile of wood now, which Joe wants to come and load in his friend’s truck. I don’t know what he does with all the things he gets rid of for me, but he and his community find value in everything. Wouldn’t surprise me if he sells it.

I think the most fun part for me was taking Joe home and hearing how excited and satisfied he was that he had conquered that branch. He talked about it all the way there. I think there are other workmen who would have said no to the job, unless they had more equipment or more money – the job itself wouldn’t have drawn them like it did for Joe.

Joe is definitely part of what we will miss about Florida. The husband says we should pack him up and move him to Wisconsin with us, but frankly, I’m having enough trouble getting us there. Just sayin’…

Three Day Story continued…

Day Two

We have lived in Florida for thirty years now and the husband mentioned a while back that he had never been to our closest state park, only twenty some miles away. I have been there numerous times on family outings and could hardly believe he had missed them all. Since we are soon to leave Florida, we had planned a visit to the park with some dear friends on Day Two of this story. We had to leave early, which is why I had asked Joe to come the night before to get instructions on work to be done in our absence. We left, knowing that he would come and get things done. He is that dependable.

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A long boardwalk out into the marsh along the Myakka River is an excellent place for bird watching.
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The husband watching birds. Well, maybe not birds, watching something. I don’t know.

We returned around noon and found Joe busy setting posts around our parking area, paying attention to spacing and leveling, like he always does. I was glad to see that he had already mowed the lawn because it was starting to cloud up. Our realtor had scheduled an open house for Saturday (Day Three of this story) and I wanted the yard to look as good as it could. We are getting into the time of year when rain often comes in the afternoon and getting grass cut around all the wetness becomes a little summer game. In addition to that normal weather pattern, we had a tropical disturbance bearing down on our coast making it even more rainy than usual.

I had asked Joe not to go up on the ladder when there was no one around to call 911, but now that we were back, it was the first thing he wanted to do. He fully extended the ladder and set it against the trunk of the large oak and went up, armed with his heavy black rope. His plan was to throw the rope into the lower dead branch and pull it free.

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My special friend, the ladder, that has it’s own spot at my house and spends a good deal of time here.

It started to rain, but just enough to make the ladder and the tree slippery, not enough to make Joe quit. My job, as I mentioned, is to be ready to call 911, and occasionally to steady the ladder. A couple tosses put the rope where he wanted it and a good jerk brought the smaller limb down with a thud. I say “smaller” but it amazes me how something that looks little way up in a tree looks a lot bigger when it lands on the ground a few feet away from you. Joe was pleased.

If it were not for the approaching roar of serious rain, he would have continued with the job, but no. I think Joe is well aware of the dangers of lightning in Florida since he’s often up on a roof, having to get down quickly. He came down the ladder and we did our best to pile up the debris where it wouldn’t be visible to the hordes of people coming to the Open House the next day. We left the ladder where it was, up against the tree, and ran for shelter.  Joe comes and goes by bicycle or rides from friends, so Day Two ended early with me taking him home in the truck, in the rain.

It’s a three day story and tomorrow is the last day!