Making the Most of a Florida Summer

I’m a native-born Florida girl. Deep roots here and I’m not leaving. But I hate the hot, humid, swampy, sweltering, bug-filled summers. I’ve never gotten used to them. But, having said that, I refuse to waste an ounce of energy wishing them away. Doesn’t make things one degree cooler. In fact, I think it makes me hotter.

So I play mind games with myself. Instead of thinking of summer as six interminable months of heat, I tell myself I only have to get to August — I can get through June and July — and then I’m on the downhill slope. Cruising to October, with it’s promise of the occasional less-than-90-degree-day.

And I came up with a list of all the things I love about summer.

I love crackling, howling thunderstorms when I’m snug and dry inside my house.
I love to play Gershwin’s “Summer time and the Livin’ is Easy.”
I love all the fresh summer produce.
I love eating ice cream on my screened porch with two fans going.
I love that the snow birds have gone home.
I love swimming outdoors.
I love long afternoons with a good book and nowhere to be but right where I am.
I love almost-frozen, bright pink watermelon.
I love getting caught up on all my inside stuff when it’s too hot to go out.
I love having a tan.
I love working up a good sweat on an early morning jog, and then slurping up an icy cold drink.
I love how green the grass is and how pretty my flowers look.

So, folks, here’s to a summer full of as many good things as we can pack into it! Bring it on, and don’t forget to use sunscreen!

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Little Beggar

I see you sitting
by the kitchen,
as I work– your
face turned up,
patient, hopeful.

Maybe I’ll throw you
a scrap, you think, or
let you lick a juicy plate.
At the very least
you know you’ll get
a handful of treats.

You’ve got my number,
know I’ll cave, and
work me like the
little pro that you are.

Posted in emotions, family, human interest, love, pets, poetry, psychology, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Writing Exercise

I went to a writer’s conference last week-end at a small university about an hour north of me. I’d never been to one and the workshops looked interesting. And–this is the clincher–it was pretty easy to get to. 

In the second workshop, a fast-talking string bean of a lady instructor dressed in black with shiny gold sneakers told us to spend 15 minutes writing about something we were afraid of. She said to write quickly, without thinking too much. It didn’t take me long to settle on something. Here it is:

“I hate getting lost. I hate getting lost in downtown areas with one-way streets where everyone knows where they’re going but me. Or streets that push you unexpectedly onto expressways. Expressways with huge trucks on either side of you and bearing down on you from behind, and in front of you, spraying water into your windshield, because it’s always raining in situations like that. Or all of a sudden your lane becomes an exit. And did I mention how much I hate ambulances that you can hear but not see!

You’d think I’d love my GPS, right? Nope. Once it told me to turn right when I knew I should turn left. And it takes me ways I don’t want to go. So I make what my son calls a “paper GPS.” Using MapQuest. Taking side streets.

But today, on my way to this conference, I felt relaxed. I’ve been up this way before. Knew just what to expect. Easy country drive. Hardly any traffic. Then I saw it. Construction! Those hated cones that swerve you this way and that, trying to lead you through a maze of twisty turns. Will I have to detour? Will I have to rely on my treacherous GPS?

I took a deep breath, tightened my grip on the steering wheel and just kept driving.”

“Two minutes!” chirped the string bean as I wrapped up. She asked for volunteers and I offered to read mine. Got a few sympathetic chuckles.

Two workshops later, the conference ended and I walked out to my car. Looking up, I saw a bunch of dark, scowling clouds lurking up there and felt myself tighten. I ended up driving home in a blinding, flash-flood, hurricane-force tropical thunderstorm.  For a whole solid hour. But at least no mack trucks on my tail. Or ambulances.

Posted in emotions, fear, human interest, humor, psychology, senior citizens | 3 Comments

A Peace Offering

I’m cleaning out drawers.  There’s this one bedroom drawer that serves as an historical archive of my entire life!  It’s got some old diaries, baby teeth, whole pony tails of my bright red hair donated by my mom. How can I throw that away, I ask you.

There’s the plastic covering from the flag used at my dad’s military funeral, the ID card I got when I registered for my first college class after 18 years of mommying. My son’s high school graduation ring. And on and on… Even one age-dappled gift box from a downtown department store where my mom shopped for her trousseau in the 1940s.  So — long story short — lots of memorabilia.

But there’s one particular item that really got to me. I’d forgotten about it, tucked away in a corner. A smoothish gray rock. On it was written in a child’s scrawling cursive, in red ink, my youngest son’s name: Matthew; the date: 5/22/94 and even the time: 6:51pm.  I remember him giving it to me.  He would’ve been ten years old. It was a peace offering. I don’t remember what childish transgression he was attempting to smooth over, but I remember how sweet it was to get it. How sweet he was to offer it.

Times were kinda topsy-turvy back then. I was still getting my single-mom act together. The older kids were leaving home, or getting kicked off the bus or scrabbling their way into adulthood. One day, I did something I regretted, probably yelled at Matt, and then later gave him a peace offering of some kind, for going overboard. That’s where he got the idea.

Life goes so quickly. You’re going along full tilt, having fun, making mistakes, cleaning them up, doing the best you can and the next thing you know, you’re looking through a drawer full of memories. But, let’s look on the bright side –there’s still enough room in the drawer for as many more as I can cram in.

Posted in beauty, children, death, emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, nostalgia, psychology, relationships, sadness, spirituality, trauma, women | 6 Comments

The Plant Pincher

There’s a natural law that posits “As soon as you get rid of something, you’ll need it.”  Maybe not the next day or even the next week, but sometime in the foreseeable future, I guarantee.  Of course, logic would dictate that it doesn’t happen every time, but enough times to make you wonder about logic.

After accumulating a year’s worth of empty plastic plant pots (I’m talking at least two dozen), I donated them to a local nursery last month. In fact, I went to considerable trouble to do so. But I kept a few pots for myself, just in case.  I’m a just in case type of person.

Little did I know that I would become a plant thief within the month.

It all started with a walk down one of the streets in my country-in-the-city neighborhood, and one particular yard overgrown with a wild profusion of plants. The owner was in the yard so I told her how much I admired her little Eden, and she gave me a couple of native plant cuttings – a cactus and a hibiscus.  As soon as I got home, I dabbed the cut ends with rooting hormone and put them into two of my few remaining pots.

It seems that a monster has been created. Now, every time I take a walk I seem to find an interesting plant or two growing near the road. If it’s the kind of plant that no one would notice a snippet missing, I surreptitiously pinch off a few inches and add it to my growing baby plant nursery.

I now have about six or seven little rootlings crowded together in my nursery pots, and no more empties.  I guess my career as a plant pincher is over – at least until the rootlings are snugly nestled into the ground, and my puny collection of pots is empty again.

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Little Boys Grow Up

I’ve overdosed on the Royal Wedding. Sniffled as many tears as if Prince Harry were my own son. Why all this emotion?

Prince Harry reminds me a lot of my youngest son. They’re the same age. Both good-looking young men with tender hearts. Both marrying beautiful, dark-haired young women with caramel skin. My son even looks like Harry, minus the red hair and blue eyes.

I think my brain, or my heart, or something, got Harry and my son mixed up as I gobbled  up footage of the Prince and his intended in the lead-up to the big day, and the wedding itself. My feelings for this handsome redheaded Royal were decidedly maternal.

You see, Harry and my son were both twelve years old when they lost their mothers. My son didn’t really lose me, of course. I just moved five minutes away and his dad took over. But it was still a kind of losing.  Harry and my son both went through some rough patches and they’ve both grown up to become fine young men. I want them to be happy.

Oh, I know that “happily ever after” is an illusion. I know there are no guarantees that love will last. But when I see the happy, smiling, deeply-in-love faces of Prince Harry and his bride and my son and his lovely fianceé, I so want to believe in fairy tales.

Posted in beauty, emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, poetry, psychology, relationships, romance, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | 2 Comments

Reading Poetry Aloud

When I arrived in the classroom the tables were almost filled. I looked around and saw some familiar faces.  That was a relief. I had mixed feelings about this class. I’d signed up for it in spite of considerable resistance.  Wanting to stretch my comfort zone, but wanting to stay well within it too!  Speaking in front of an audience is not my favorite thing.

Many of the faces I saw were from a poetry group I’d been to a few times. That was a little daunting too. They were practically all Thespians. Poetry buffs. Professional orators. Some with aristocratic British accents. Let me just say they were very, very good. They didn’t need to learn how to read poetry aloud!

Each of us had brought a poem to read and we started with a mesmerizing rendition of an old classic, “The Highwayman,” delivered in rich, velvety tones by a man named Shelley. I bet he was named after the poet.

I sure as hell wasn’t about to follow that act. One by expert one, the class read their chosen poems exquisitely, as I listened, trying to build up some nerve.  Then, fifteen minutes before class ended, I took the plunge. It was now or never.

I cleared my throat, uttered a few apologetic words about the brevity of my poem and  started reading, trying to keep my voice above a whisper.  When I finished I looked up. A few gentle comments were made, and then the venerable instructor said, “It could have been read a little more slowly.”  I surprised myself by asking if I could do it over since it was so short. This time I slowed down. They clapped!

My next poem will be a little longer and if I get braver, the next one longer still. Who knows, maybe my fear will turn into something bordering on confidence. And if not, my comfort zone will have been stretched and I’ll have heard some beautiful poems read by beautiful voices.

Posted in adventure, beauty, books, emotions, health, human interest, humor, poetry, psychology, romance, senior citizens, spirituality | 3 Comments

A Very Very Nice Day

Today was a perfect 10. It started with a good night’s rest and an adventure on the way. As soon as I tumbled out of bed, I threw on my robe and popped outside to check the weather. Perfect. 70s and sunny. I got dressed, gobbled some breakfast and headed for the county Rec Center for a day trip to a nature park with some fellow retirees. We were off to the woods in the big white van to see what we could see.  Continue reading

Posted in adventure, beauty, birds, friendship, health, human interest, love, nature, senior citizens, spirituality, travel | 2 Comments

Three Things

“Not every day is good, but there’s something good in every day.” Anonymous

Several months ago, in the throes of a painful breakup, I went to a grief workshop at a local retreat center. I’m sure it did me good– just walking the peaceful grounds with the river flowing by is therapy enough– but the only thing I took away from the workshop was this:  Every night before you go to sleep write down three things you’re grateful for. Keep a notebook by your bed they said – makes more impact if you write it.

I dismissed the notebook idea as too much work when I’m hitting the sack – it’s all I can do to brush my teeth. Instead, I kneel down by my bed, like when I was a kid, and say good-night to all of creation and come up with three things I’m grateful for that happened that day. My prayer is straight talk  – like I’m talking to an invisible friend who really knows me. No made up stuff.

Once in a while I have a tough time digging up even one thing to be grateful for, other than the givens of being alive and able to see and hear and walk and talk. I look for something truly special to me, like seeing that big woodpecker on my morning walk, or hearing my son laugh – laughs don’t come easy to him –  things like that. Something that moved me a little and sometimes a lot. I can usually think of at least three things and on a really good day I may have a bunch.

But one night I remember saying, “There isn’t one single thing I’m grateful for today – the whole lousy thing sucked out the wazoo! But thanks for today anyway, and good night. ” Somehow saying thank you for the day even if I mostly hated it is good for me. Keeps me from feeling sorry for myself. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Posted in birds, children, Christianity, emotions, health, human interest, love, nature, poetry, psychology, relationships, religion, sadness, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Touched

After leaving my church’s peace-filled prayer garden on Good Friday I had a feeling of good will towards all, and drove over to the library to pick up a couple books.

Waiting in line for the librarian, I noticed the lady ahead of me asking in an Eastern European accent for a book by Edith Stein, a Jewish intellectual who became a Catholic nun. While the librarian took care of someone else I said to the lady, “That’s Mother Teresa isn’t it – Edith Stein?”  “No,” she answered, “but I’ve met Mother Teresa.”

She told me the story.  Continue reading

Posted in Christianity, emotions, human interest, love, psychology, relationships, religion, spirituality, women | 4 Comments