January in Venice

What is this?  Gale force winds. Temperatures in the 40s and 50s (even the 30s at times)  Dark skies.  I can’t remember when we’ve had so many days when I had to convince myself to get out of bed and get moving.  We did have some gorgeous days this past week when it was cool in the morning (needing socks for yoga cool) but well into the high 70s by afternoon. But we’re back to cold weather …well, cold for us, anyway.

I got to yoga yesterday morning, stepped out of the car and immediately went rummaging around the trunk for socks, hat, leggings, extra jacket.  (I definitely have never learned to travel light. I’m prepared for anything)  I went to the rest room to add on some layers…looked a tad ridiculous with the leggings under by yoga pants that stopped mid-thigh but hey, I never did look particularly classy.

We went to Croissant and Company afterwards to reward ourselves for sticking it out. Actually it hadn’t been bad at all.  Sometimes it’s worse in the parking lot than on the beach. Still coffee and a pastry at the local French bakery with friends is such a good way to begin the day. (after yoga, I mean.) I call Croissant and Company, Cheers without the booze.  We know everyone…the owners, the wait staff, the bakers, the patrons.  Love that place.

Busy week…Met with the dentist who’s going to do my root canal (ugh) next Friday, went to a funeral (Celia was only 66 and perfectly fine until she wasn’t), visited a friend in the hospital (another friend who was fine until she wasn’t and needed bypass surgery and ended up having complications,) lunch with my good friend, Mary Anne (who is still doing well three years after a Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis) and with my dear sister, Eileen, who is almost as busy as I am.

I had two “Audubon days” too.  The Audubon club in Venice sponsors a program for second graders in south county to introduce them to Florida birds.  They send teachers into the classroom with a power point and activities and lessons to teach kids how to use binoculars. Finally, we meet the kids at the local rookery where herons and anhingas and egrets are in the process right now of building nests and raising babies on a little island in a tiny pond right in the center of Venice.

Great program and this year I’m working with Cranberry’s second graders. Yes, back to my old stomping grounds where I have the extra treat of reconnecting with old friends.  And, much as I’m loving being with those cute little second graders, I am so incredibly happy to be heading home after a couple hours.  I wasn’t meant to work more than a few hours a day, not any more anyway.

Oh and I had a mammo…which  I assume was fine because my doctor didn’t call me the next day and I figure if things are bad they call right away. They certainly did with the last cancer.  They called within an hour for the esophageal cancer. So I think I’ve dodged that bullet, for now anyway.

We’ve seen a few movies lately. The Florida Project was really good.  Four of us drove to north Sarasota to see it.  One hated it (right, Ann?) but I think the rest of us really liked it.  Or maybe like isn’t the right word.  It’s terrible, it’s horrifying, it’s honest and if you teach kids or have taught kids, you spend most of the the time thinking “Thank God that kid isn’t in my class” and “Oh my God, I’ve had so many kids like that” and “How on earth can a kid ever get OUT of this mess.”  And Jerry and I saw The Darkest Hour…great movie.  We especially liked it because we’ve been to the bunker where Churchill’s war room was and to Parliament where so much of this took place.  We want to see The Post next…probably on Thursday.

And we went to a party last night…fabulous food and wonderful friends. (Thanks, Martha) Most of the guys got hooked on the Patriots game and most of the women talked and talked and talked.  (what else is new?)

I just finished reading Manhattan Beach (thanks, Deirdre)..liked it a lot.  And I’m listening to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Thanks, Linda)  Thoroughly enjoying it.  And I started The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (thanks, Anne).  Loving it.

And one of my New Year’s resolutions was to work for one hour a day on “my book” about teaching …Umm…that hasn’t gone so great.  I owe myself (what’s the date?) fourteen hours already.  Maybe this week.

Enough.

Love to all…stay warm. Stay safe.  Hmm…I need to find a good picture before I send this out.

A few good words…and an old picture of the seven siblings….Taken in 1964 shortly after Karen was born. We were so darn cute!

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2018-New Life, More Joy

When Jerry and I were in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, we stopped for lunch with Sean and Carly on our first day.  As we waited for the food to arrive, I started telling them our plans for the coming year.

We’re heading to Texas in late February, I said, first for my checkup at MD Anderson and then to Flower Mound to babysit for the Littles when Erin and Lana go to Europe with the middle school. Then we thought we’d fly out to San Francisco in June, see family and slowly make our way down the Pacific Coast Highway till we get to Los Angeles, stay with you for a bit before heading home.

Sean shook his head.

I don’t think June is good, he said casually,  I think you’d rather come in May…

I’m thinking, “Why, does it get too hot in June? What’s the matter with June?” when he finished his sentence..

…in May, so you’ll be there for the baby.

Struck dumb for a moment and then I promptly burst into tears.  Yep, a new one is on her way.  Yes, HER way…a tough, smart little girl who will join her older cousins around May 18.

Our newest grandchild

So obviously we’ll plan our trip for May, fly into San Francisco and make our way down to them, slowly if the baby takes her time arriving and quickly if she decides to show up early.

I have lots of great “Sean stories” to tell this little girl. One of my favorites was when Lana was around five and really into the Disney princesses. It was Christmas time and we were all at Erin’s.  Sean and Carly had been a couple for awhile but I had enough sense NOT to ask when they were getting engaged.  Lana, on the other hand, didn’t read that memo.

Miss Carly, she asked at dinner one night, when are you going to marry your prince?

We all looked up expectantly (we had been hoping there would be a diamond that Christmas)

Carly blushed and said, ” I don’t know, Lana.”

“Well,” says her future niece, “if your prince doesn’t come, you could always marry Uncle Sean.”

I was just telling Lana that story today and Calli commented, “And she did.  Guess her prince never showed up.”

My guess is that her prince DID show up…

I’m not sure what Carly was like as a baby.  Sean was the baby who never slept.  I remember a new mom  asking me when Sean was around five, “When did Sean finally sleep through the night?”

I thought for a minute and then said, “Never.  I just quit getting up with him.  And when he was old enough, I gave him a thermos of water and told him he could manage on his own.” Hopefully this kid doesn’t take after his dad in that way.

Needless to say, we’re all thrilled.  Happy for Sean and Carly and happy for us.  Our “Littles” aren’t so little any more…time for a new one to hold and coo over.

The Littles have been here for the past week.  They’re growing up, happy to be on the go (we were at the beach and they were in 69º water) and happy to sit and read or play games on their iPad.  Liked the trip to Manatee Park n Fort Myers and the family card games.  Calli went to yoga with Jerry and me and then to Croissant and Company for breakfast. (hot chocolate and an eclair–am I nuts?)  They’ve been to swim team practice at the Y. They swam there during the summer and the coach told them to come back any time.  Today is their last day.  We might go up to Myakka State Park to do the canopy walk and see the alligators.  They plan to go to swim team practice tonight (are they nuts? It’s 50º out) There’s also full moon yoga.  It’s a pack up, laundry day for them.  They’re heading to Cape Canaveral and then to Miami tomorrow morning.  We’ll miss them but will see them again at the end of February.

Happy New Year, my friends.  We are so looking forward to 2018…especially May!!!  And I know the two of them will be fine parents. They’ve been trained by three very cool kids.

Sean and Lana 2006

Joy to the World

Merry Christmas from Downtown Venice

Well, if you are reading this, you’ve survive 2017.  I started the year in DC at the Women’s March with Martha Magliacane and may end the year with another march in Sarasota.  We’ll see.  I’m hoping that won’t be necessary.

At any rate, it’s been quite a year. It’s been incredibly beautiful.  And joyful. And filled with laughter and friendship and new beginnings.  And also with challenges and loss and heartbreak and frustration.  But yes, ultimately, the light does triumph over the darkness, doesn’t it?

It’s been absolutely gorgeous here lately.  We had a cold snap (got down into the 40s!!) but we’re  back to shorts and tee shirt weather.  Good thing.  I have a limited supply of serious winter clothes!  Christmas will be relatively quiet.  Sean and Carly are staying in California.  Erin and Brent and the

2010? Best. Santa. Ever

kids will be here later in the week but on Christmas Day it will be Jerry and I, Eileen (my sister) and Jim and a few good friends.  Not too quiet, thank heavens but a far cry from the years we’ve been in Texas up at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought.  At 7, 9, and 11, I’m guessing only one of them is still a believer but as of last year, even the oldest played along with the magic.

They’ve never been here at Christmas time before.  I’m hoping we’ll get out to the magical fairyland of lights on Mission Valley Road in Nokomis.  And maybe hit the beach for fireworks on New Year’s Eve. And I think there will be full moon yoga while they’re here.  Calli will go even if the others don’t.  She’s my yoga buddy.

Lord, we are lucky.  We sat out on the lanai the other days and just looked around.  It was warm and green and gorgeous.  We’d been to the local French cafe for a breakfast with friends. We may get kicked out of that place one of these days for laughing too loudly, except the owners are  such  good friends. They just added to the noise.  We had been there a couple days before to celebrate their granddaughter’s first birthday….an after hours party for the cafe regulars.

Croissant and Company Rose is one!

Anyway, we’re lucky.  We live in a place we love. We have good friends to share the good and the bad and the ugly with.  Our grandkids like it here and come often.  What more could we ask for?

Everything isn’t perfect…just darn close.  I did miss some really special gatherings last week because I was so sick for a couple days.  That was not great.  But I guess that’s it. Everything else is great.

I’ve been reading two fabulous books…I just finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish.  It reminded me a bit of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.  It moves back and forth between present day and the 1600s in England.  It’s one of those books that I liked from the very beginning but about two thirds of the way through, the liking turned to love as I grew to care very deeply for the characters…both the present day ones and the 1600s ones.

The other book is 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster.  Warning:  it’s long.  Warning #2:  it’s weird.  Kind of like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  Four different versions of the same kid’s life…born in 1947 in New Jersey…I was born in 1947 so I keep making comparisons.  Trust me, this kid was way ahead of me…in bed with his girlfriend at age 16.  I led a very sheltered life.

I also loved Ta Nehisi Coates new one…We Were Eight Years in Power but warned a friend of mine, “If you don’t believe that racism is very much alive in the USA today and if you don’t love Barak Obama, you’re not going to love this book.” I did love it.  I think I’d love anything Coates wrote.

And I thoroughly enjoyed Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.  (Can you tell I was on long airplane trips to Las Vegas and back and sick for awhile …tons of time to read.)

Enough…have to take a quick shower, have supper and go out to play Trivia where I can display my thorough ignorance of almost everything.  We have a great team and actually win (or come in second or third) fairly often.  Mostly we just laugh.

Love to you all.  My life is so rich because of each and every one of you.  I hope your holidays are marked by the “peace that passes understanding” and a “fullness of joy.”  And may we all look forward to a new year with hope and courage.

In Los Angeles

2010?

Yoga on the Beach

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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!