Tis the Season


Bryce Canyon

Thanksgiving was marvelous….very different but wonderful.  We were in Las Vegas with Sean and Carly and had dinner at Carly’s dad’s country club.  Delicious food and lots of it.  My favorite was the shrimp cocktail…I could have made a meal out of just that. It did take concentrated effort to keep reminding myself that if I eat to much, I pay later.  I’ve gotten so used to eating small portions that I’m pretty good at it.  Still, every now and then, I forget.  I solved the problem but grabbing small plates and NOT going back for more.  It’s been so long since I’ve had problems with my small stomach.  I have no intention to start now!

Red Rock with Sean and Carly

Red Rock Canyon with Sean and Carly

Anyway, we loved being with Sean and Carly.  We did a little hiking at Red Rock Canyon.  Very little. Florida is so flat that even if I think I’m in shape, I’m not.  Uphill walking is just plain tough.  If I didn’t hate gyms so much, I’d go to the Y and use the treadmill on an incline.  But I’m not all that determined to get in shape, I guess.

We took a bus trip out to Bryce Canyon.  I’m not sure what it was…the time of day, the quality of the light, the lack of crowds, the stunning rock formations (hoodoos) …but it simply blew me away.  I loved it far more than the Grand Canyon.  I was dazzled.  How on earth could something be so magnificent, so breathtakingly beautiful?

We hiked along the rim for several hours, all bundled up (it was around 35) with hats, scarves, long underwear, mittens…Our fellow travelers made fun of “the Floridians” –some of them made do with a sweatshirt–but we were just fine and plenty warm.  I do want to go back and hike into the canyon, but only if I figure out a way to get in shape without going to the Y.

Brice Canyon

So now we’re home and so glad to be here.  I met an old friend from high school for lunch in Sarasota today.  How wonderful to see Anne again.  Honestly, we had such fun catching up and reminiscing about high school back in the 60s.

We’ll be here for Christmas this year. On Christmas Eve we’re heading to Naples to celebrate with Jerry’s sister and nieces and their families.  Erin and her gang are coming after Christmas but on Christmas day we’re on our own.  Eileen and Jim are coming for dinner and two other couples.  If there’s anyone else here who’s going to be alone and wants to come to dinner, speak up.  The more the merrier.  And unless it’s freezing (like 65) we can use the table on the lanai if it gets too crowded indoors.

I’ve seen a few movies lately.  Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing,, Missouri.  Really good but brace yourself.  It is far more complex that it appears at the beginning.  And violent. And funny.  And sad.

Ladybird….delightful.  What a good movie.

Wonder…cried all the way through it.  (Thank you, Martha, for inviting me to join you and the girls!)

We discussed A Man Called Ove at Book Club.  I still love that book.  It still makes me howl with  laughter and cry.

And I read a couple good ones recently…

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott…Such a lovely book and the nuns in the book are just wonderful.

Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle….This priest is exactly the kind of person I want to be.  The book makes you laugh right out loud and takes your breath away.

To the New Owners by Madeleine Blais….Madeleine Blais lives in Amherst.  She’s written several books I’ve enjoyed including one about growing up in South Hadley. This one is about her family house on Martha’s Vineyard.  She’s a great writer and her family knows all sorts of interesting people.

As I write this, I’m keeping track of the fires in California.  I just talked to Erin (she and her family are with Sean and Carly this week)  They all reassured me that they are MILES away from the fire.  It’s actually quite close to Sean’s old apartment near UCLA.  I begged them to stay alert.  Fire can travel fast and I’ve heard stories of people who got the word to evacuate and it was already too late.  I’m assuming they’ll be smart and err on the side of caution.  Wish I could just scoop them all up and move them 100 miles down the road.

Hoping you are all having a great holiday season.  Enjoy every minute with the people you love.  Much love to all

 

 

 

 

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Giving Thanks…

Let’s face it…if you are reading this, no matter how bad things are, you have much to be thankful for.  How did we luck out, my friends?  How on earth did we end up here instead in Syria or Iraq or Niger?  How did it happen that we were born into families that could feed us, educate us, send us on our way into the world?  How did we end up with children who grew up healthy and strong?  We live lives of privilege and we did very little to deserve it all.  Yes we worked hard. Yes we did our best to be good parents, good teachers, good workers…but there are a lot of people in the world who’ve worked hard and done their best and they certainly aren’t sitting down safe and warm to a Thanksgiving dinner this week.

And so I’m grateful for the big stuff and the little stuff. I’m grateful that Jerry is alive and well.  He certainly hasn’t had an easy year.  And I’m grateful that my kids and grandkids are just fine. I lost both parents this year but I’m grateful they’re ready with us so long.   I’m grateful that I still have all (most?) of my marbles, that I can still balance on one foot (if it’s a GOOD day), that I can find so much to laugh about, that I (usually)know where I left my phone and my keys, that beautiful music can still move me to tears, that walking the beach in the early morning still brings such joy, that good friends still put up with me and that, unlike some very dear friends, I’m still alive and kicking and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Yep, there’s lots to be grateful for and in the midst of a million terrible things, small and large, I’m going to keep reminding myself of all those things.  It hasn’t been the best of years in many ways but in other ways it has been the very best year of all.  Lucky me, lucky us.

Jerry and I are in Las Vegas.  We’re getting together with Sean and Carly and Carly’s family for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.  Lots of pictures of our trip west on the next post

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  I am so very thankful for each and every one of you.

This Weekend…

Siesta Key Sand Classic

A few years ago, we were gone the second weekend in November.  I imagine we were probably in Massachusetts or Texas.  That’s where we go most of the time.

The problem was this is my favorite weekend in Florida.  And so I told Jerry that we could go away any time at all EXCEPT the second weekend in November.

It’s always busy in Florida once the snowbirds start coming but this weekend it’s just crazy. You can’t do it all but we sure try.  We miss things but we hit our favorites each year.

There’s the chalk festival.  It’s held in Venice now, every year.  My good friend, Pam, is team captain for the merchandise booth and Jerry and I volunteered for a few hours in the booth.  We could spend time with Pam and another friend, Paula, and meet lots of nice people from all over the country who are in Venice at the moment.  And, best of all, volunteers have their own morning at the festival after the final day…breakfast and time to take a good look at the creations without the crowds.  We were there this morning.  Nice.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how they do these 3D pictures.  Here are a few.  Some look 3D even when you look at them with just your eyes but when you look through the lens of your camera, you can’t imagine how everything changes.  How do they do it?

3-D chalk drawing

Anther 3D

And this one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there’s Bowls of Hope, a fundraiser for All Faiths Food Bank.  We went with good friends and picked up two new bowls made by local potters and had soup and bread and salad and desserts donated by local restaurants.  We’ve got quite a collection (maybe twelve bowls)  We’ve been going for years and just love it.

Bowls of Hope

And finally there’s the Siesta Key Sand Classic.  We went there on Monday.  It’s pretty impressive. I will never figure out how they do it.  Such magnificent sculptures made purely with sand and water.  This year’s offerings were as magnificent as ever but not as wonderful as ever.  I wondered if I was just used to it…that they didn’t make me gasp the way they used to do.  But I think the “gasp factor” was still there.  They just didn’t touch my heart the way they have some years.  Some years you’re just impressed. Some years you’re moved.  You know the difference?  Still it was a great afternoon capped off with a meal at Turtles on the south end of the island.  Love that place.

Hopefully I can  catch my breath before we fly out to spend Thanksgiving with Sean and Carly.  I do have things to do around here besides play, you know!

One other thing.  I subscribe to the podcast Fresh Air on NPR.  It’s always good but this week there was an exceptional one.  Terry Gross interviewed a priest who is working gangs in East Los Angeles. He’s been there a long time….started as pastor of the parish right in the center of “gang country”.  I listened to the podcast twice and won’t delete it.  Too much wisdom, too many memorable quotes.  Here’s my favorite. He was asked about how he goes about turning kids’ lives around.  First, he says, we need to “hold them in a place where they feel cherished.”  I can’t stop thinking about that.  And thinking we need to hold everyone in a place where they feel cherished.  What a different world this would be. The priest’s name is Greg Boyle.  And he’s written a couple books that (obviously) I put on reserve at the library.

And to all of you who are facing cold weather up north…think about visiting the second week of November next year.  It is a load of fun.

 

End of Daylight Savings

The Thoubborons…left to right.  Mary, Paula, Karen, John, Kim, Eileen, Anne.  What a great week we had.

I honestly don’t like to see Daylight Savings end.  I don’t mind the darkness in the morning.  It’s when it gets dark in the evening that I think I should go to bed or something.  And I absolutely love the way everyone looks when the light finally hits the beach during yoga.  People look positively gorgeous.  Still, I’ll like the extra hour tonight and I (unlike people with kids or dogs) can actually enjoy and sleep later.  And I’ve wanted to go to full moon yoga for awhile but it’s so late in the summer (like 8:30 last month!) and now that it’s going to be at a reaasonable 7:30 even this “early to bedder” can make it.

All’s well here.  I had a great time with my sibs and Jerry and I had a wonderful week with the kids in Flower Mound.  We saw swim meets, helped with Halloween costumes, and, in general, tried to be useful.  Declan has turned into a passionate little baseball player and Erin saw an ad for private coaching …a young Flower Mound resident who plays for the minors who was home for awhile.  Declan loved his lesson and can’t wait to go back.  But the funny part came when we were talking about it at the dinner table, about how smart this guy was to offer private coaching to make some money in the off season since he didn’t get a paycheck until the games started again.

He gets PAID for playing ball? Declan asked, astounded.

Well, yeah, Declan, that’s his job.

It’s not a job.  It’s a sport. You don’t get paid for playing a sport.

Oh yes, you do.  Tom Brady probably gets more than a million a game with the Patriots.

No way.

Yes, way.

But it’s a sport.

Well they don’t play for free, Declan.

Well, I’d play for free.

I know, but they don’t.

You mean I could make MONEY playing baseball.

Maybe…

Wow!!!

He was dazzled.  What a totally new thought…athletes get paid to play ball.

The weather here is spectacular.  And the snowbirds are arriving every day.  It’s like old home week at yoga almost every morning.  I just love it.  We just pick up where we left off last spring and go on.  And life falls into it’s winter rhythm.

What have I been reading?

Hmmm…well I read Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan and promptly wrote to my friend, Debbie, who has a lake house in upstate New York. The story is about a family at their lake house for a week in August for the last time.  The mom is selling the house..too expensive to maintain, too much work to keep it in shape…It’s a bittersweet time…People don’t want her to sell but no one is in a position to take care of it.  I liked the book a lot but didn’t love it.  It was just too long…more than 500 pages…and even though it was beautifully written I wanted it to be over so I could read something new.  I had no idea it was so long.  That’s the trouble with reading books on my Kindle.  I have no clue how many pages they are when I start. But I do think Stewart O’Nan is a marvelous writer.  I guess I’d recommend Emily Alone or Last Night at the Lobster if you want to try him out.

I liked Celeste Ng’s new one, Little Fires Everywhere, which Sean and Carly still can’t believe. They really hated the ending. I couldn’t see any other way to end it.  I think she’s a marvelous writer and this was a good one.

Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network was good, not great. Loved the idea of it…two stories about two women, one who was a spy for the British in World War I and one a young girl looking for her cousin after World War II…nothing profound but a good read.

John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down didn’t blow me away the way The Fault in Our Stars did but it was good.  And he did a fabulous job shining a light on what it must be like to struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Rachel Cusk’s Transit was beautifully written but I just didn’t love it. I just couldn’t appreciate her brilliance, I guess.  It gets rave reviews and I enjoyed reading it but it was “easy to put down.”

I loved Louise Penny’s latest, Glass Houses, but I’d probably love anything she wrote because I just love Louise Penny.  The plot doesn’t matter, though it’s a good one. It’s just checking in with the villagers in Three Pines that works for me.  I think I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again. If you haven’t read any of Louise’s books, start at the beginning with Still Life.  They certainly can stand alone but are so much richer if you get to know the characters as you move along.

Oh and if you have any elementary kids in your life, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, is great. Calli and Lana had it and I read it while I was in Texas.  Wonderful book.

So I haven’t been exactly dazzled by the books I’ve been reading in the past few months…liked them okay but nothing has me saying ” Don’t miss this one..” except the one I’m reading right now…Alice McDermott’s new one, The Ninth Hour. No wonder…one of the few books in which the nuns aren’t dumb or mean and spiteful.  I am loving this book.  Beautifully written with characters I care about…what more could a woman want?

Time to quit.  I need to see if I have any pictures to go with this post.  As I said, the weather has been heavenly…a bit chilly in the morning but gorgeous by early afternoon…warm sun, cool breezes…My very favorite Florida weather.  And we usually get lots of it from now until April!

Love to all

On the porch on Mustang Island

This is so us!

Seven Sibs in Texas

Three sisters walking the beach

So my sweet daughter-in-law wondered if there was something the matter with me because I hadn’t posted in so long.  No, actually it is just because I’m lazy, have been reading some good books and hate typing on my iPad (didn’t bring my computer to Texas) No, life is good.  But we were busy cleaning up after Irma and getting into the swing of fall activities. And, of course, packing for Texas.

My 70th birthday was back in April. My sister, Anne, planned an incredible present…a week on the beach on Padre Island for me with my brother and five sisters. And we all cleared our calendars, booked our flights and everyone but me started planning meals. (They said I didn’t have to cook because it was my party but honestly i think it was because they are all far better cooks than I could ever hope to be)

And then Mom died. And then we lost Dad.  And then we postponed the trip until October.  Then Harvey slammed into Padre Island and ripped off the roof of Anne’s condo. Then Anne got sick.

We figured maybe we should postpone the party until Eileen turned 70 in November of 2018.  But Anne got better, found us a beach house, bought a ton of food and lots to drink and we all flew into Corpus Christi for almost a week of time altogether on Mustang Island.

We are so different in so many ways.  The oldest was born in 1947 (me) and the youngest in 1964 (Karen). But we are also so amazingly alike. We like to read. We’re all readers.  Raised kids who are readers who are raising kids who are readers.

We like to walk the beach. We like to sit and stare at the waves for hours.  We like to cook and some of us ( not  me) are fabulous cooks.  We like to eat. We like to drink. (Some are big on craft  beer,  some love wine, some are gin and tonic fans—me, I drink anything anyone offers me.

We like to talk (some, like me, more than others)  We’re all on the same page politically.  That was nice.  We don’t like having our picture taken(we booked a photographer and considered it something to be endured)  I’ll post the picture of all of us jumping on the beach when I get the digital downloads.  It’s hilarious.  We like games…played several games of Oh Hell (I came in last both times but at least I wasn’t way behind the one who came on second to last.)  I played Gin Rummy with Kim who killed me even though  play every day with Jerry and she hasn’t played in ages.  We did several thousand piece puzzles …well, some people did three puzzles.  I put in a few pieces for each one.  And Paula had a trivia game for us.

We said grace at dinner in honor of Mom and Dad.  We always said grace when we were growing up.  And we spent a lot of time on “Remember when…” and found out we all remembered very different things.

We didn’t go anywhere except to church (we’ll, some of us went to Mass) and John and Karen found a bar to watch the Patriots on Sunday.  We didn’t need to go anywhere.  We were content to just sit and relax and read and talk and nap and cook and eat and drink.  It was a good week and everything was almost perfect except the mosquitoes and flies that attacked you on the way to and from the beach.

I don’t know when’s all seven of us will be back together again…hopefully at a wedding in the next few years.  I do know it was just marvelous to be together and live together as a family again.  We’re lucky we still have all of us.  And we’re lucky Anne made this happen.

Still in Texas…in Flower Mound with the Littles….playing more cards, reading more books (Declan is reading a kids’ bio of Alexander Hamilton.). They have swim meets this weekend. Got up at 5 this morning and will do it again tomorrow.  Can you imagine? And worked on Lana’s Halloween costume with her.  If you need to know how to make tulle skirts, call me.  I know how to do it.

We’re heading home on Thursday and won’t take off again until we meet up with Sean and Carly in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving.  Can’t  wait to see them…haven’t seen them since June.

I’ll post again soon  I’ve read some good books lately and seen some good movies…

Happy Halloween, my friends.  Love to all

Beach house on Mustang Island

View from the house

Working on the puzzle

Kitchen at the beach house

Beach walk at dawn

 

 

 

Home Again and So Thankful

Back to Normal…Sunday Breakfast at Croissant and Company

We drove into Venice about 5:00 yesterday evening and stopped at one of our favorite local restaurants for dinner before we went home.  It was an easy ride home (minimal traffic and plenty of gas) and we were thrilled to come into Venice, to see working stoplights and trees still standing and then to drive into our driveway and see a house still standing, oh my.  We walked in to air conditioning, lights, Internet, Cable…could anything be more wonderful?  Trust me, I take nothing for granted!

We were bone tired last night but needed to at least begin to put things back in order.  Jerry took down hurricane shutters while I dealt with unpacking and getting the house back to normal.

This morning we were really back to normal…to yoga, to breakfast with friends, to the car wash (those love bugs in Alabama and Mississippi were disgusting) and to the grocery store for enough food to carry us through till tomorrow.  Everything in the fridge and freezer is heading for the trash.  We have no idea how long we were out of power and we don’t want to take any chances.  So sad…Ditwilers had a sale on New York strip and shrimp a week before we left and we loaded up! And when I make spaghetti sauce, I make a huge pot and freeze it in zip lock bags and it lasts us forever.  Just did that about a week before Irma.  Sigh.  But when I think of how bad it could have been, I know we got off easy.

Breakfast today was fun.  Everyone at the table had stayed except us and we shared Irma stories…theirs of riding it out, ours of traveling north praying we’d find gas.  And if we had it to do over again, we’d do the same.  And if they had it to do over again, they’d do the same.  The hardest part was making the decision.  After that, you just put one foot in front of the other and tried not to do anything too stupid.

I know a couple in their 80s who ended up sleeping on the floor at a shelter in North Port (Heron Creek Middle School) and said the experience was lovely.  And people in Englewood who put on a huge dinner for first responders and those who were restoring power to the town.  And local restaurants and grocery stores that were grilling burgers and passing out food to workers and anyone who had lost power.  People slept on neighbors’ couches and in their extra bedrooms.  Neighbors with power offered freezer space to those without.  A friend evacuated, came home and then turned around with her husband and four kids to go to Georgia to help her grandmother who property was filled with debris and downed trees. People took care of snowbirds’ houses.  Friends of ours came over after the storm to get a package that was delivered just before the hurricane.  It had survived the storm on our front porch.

There are still people without power.  One friend in Naples has a generator running her refrigerator and bought a window air conditioner for the master bedroom.   Schools in Naples won’t open for another week.  Too many of them still don’t have power.  Schools in our county open tomorrow and believe me, kids and parents are cheering!

I saw a friend at yoga today who still doesn’t have power.

I’m fine, she said. I have a great flashlight and a good book.  And I bought a deck of cards so I could play solitaire.  Sometimes it gets hot but it’s not THAT bad.  (That girl is tough!)

We worked in the yard today but we’re pretty sure our neighbors (the same ones who boarded me up in 2005 when Wilma was coming and I was alone) did some major cleaning in our yard when they did their own, including trimming some trees with their chain saw.  We haven’t seen them around today to talk with them.  They usually spend Sunday in church.  But we know we owe them “bigly”.   Hopefully we’ll see them tomorrow to thank them.  Still trying to figure out HOW to thank them.

We were lucky in so many ways.  Our house is fine.  And we had a wonderful visit with Erin and Brent and the kids…nice bonus visit that we loved.  We are well aware that many were not so lucky.  I see the pictures of the islands in the Caribbean and Key West and know we dodged a major bullet.  And I know how Houston has been since Harvey hit.  As I said, we were lucky.

Below is a picture of our neighborhood.  Everyone has been busy clearing out debris and putting it near the street.  Waste Management has been doing an incredible job of picking things up as fast as they can.  The number of people who’ve been working and are still working round the clock to get everyone back to normal boggles my mind.  Never doubt how many good people there are everywhere.

Looking down the street.

So Very Grateful

So lucky, so very lucky.  And so thankful for what didn’t happen.  We DIDN’T run out of gas on the way to Texas.  We DIDN’T have any car trouble (better not…we have a brand new car)  We DIDN’T sleep in a rest area on the way (Erin found us one of the last rooms available on the Panhandle) And we DIDN’T lose our house.  We DIDN’T lose our roof.  We DIDN’T have a flood.  And we have power.  (don’t know about cable and internet)

So it’s time to head home.  We’re watching the traffic and gas situation carefully.  We know that those who headed home yesterday crawled along and had terrible trouble finding gas.  We aren’t in that big a rush but we are anxious to get back.  If everything on the road looks good, we’ll leave tomorrow and be home Friday night.  Personally I’d like to wait till Saturday.  We’d get to go to another baseball game (Declan isn’t much of a fielder but that boy can hit!) and play a big family game of Oh Hell on Friday night and just be with these cute kids for a few more days.

But all good things must come to an end and I’m sure Erin and Brent will be glad to be back to normal.  Weren’t we lucky to have a place to go filled with so much love.

Be well, my friends.  Sending much love…