Larry

I love the Hawaiian tradition of “Talk Story". It keeps memories of our time on earth alive, passing them on to future generations. Today, on these pages I want to Talk Story about Mr. Wonderful’s Dad, Larry. 

 

My sweet Husband lost his Father on Tuesday of this week, and while I did not know him all that well, I know the stories that are told at family gatherings. These stories have made us laugh and I never grow tired of hearing them…

 

 Larry with his kids LeeAnn and Glen (aka;Mr.Wonderful) and Larry's brother Lee.

Larry with his kids LeeAnn and Glen (aka;Mr.Wonderful) and Larry's brother Lee.

There's the story of the year that Larry worked construction in the bitter Chicago winter of 1967, returning home one day and announcing to his wife that this would be their LAST winter in Illinois! “We’re moving to Florida!” The rest is history, the history of a family who bought the two story house on Ardmore, over in Flamingo Park. 

 

 Larry with his daughter Lois.

Larry with his daughter Lois.

I love the stories of the years that my husband and his Dad built the cabins in Franklin, North Carolina. They are the tales of two guys who venture off to the livestock auction and come back with a calf tucked neatly in the family van. They hadn't thought about how they would feed “BIG MAC” (Yep! That is what they would later name it) this leads to another story about their adventures in caring for the new family pet. On another trip to the auction, they brought home a pony for sweet Lois, my husbands younger step sister. Again, they packed up the pony in the van and off they went back to the property. That property, according to family legend, had the steepest driveway in the county. The driveway where a young Lois later learned to drive a stick shift.

Each of us inherit traits from our parents. Mr.Wonderful inherited his Fathers ability for cyphering (as he likes to call it). He can look at scraps of wood and figure out how he would make something out of it. (and does it beautifully)

A love for motorcycles, and the curiosity for how things work.

He inherited his Fathers love of adventure, road trips and especially exploring the western states. 

And, his love of a good crossword puzzle.

We each take with us the memories of our family dynamics, our stories good and bad. They form us into who we will become later in life. We use the bad to guard ourselves from repeating our parents mistakes. We hold on to the good and recreate a new version of our childhood in our own children's lives. Those golden memories of how things used to be, when fireflies lit up the evening sky in the woods of Franklin North Carolina.

Last night we sat around a dinner table and talked story about my Father in law. The stories told there are his legacy left to those seated around that table. While I don’t foresee his grands taking the family van to the livestock auction to pick up free chickens (Well, Lindsay might!) I know they will each carry on a part of their Grand Dad to their children, and the story of our dinner by the ocean, where we told his stories and talked of fireflies in our midst.  

Larry Pender September 19, 1930- November 24, 2015

 Larry with his little sis, Cleta.   

Larry with his little sis, Cleta.

 

   


The Man in the Arena

I have had a burning, conflicting, paradox within me,  it's plagued me my entire life.

As a small child my Father would always say, “Do it right or don’t do it at all” well, the “don’t do it at all” part meant a spanking, so what choice did I have really? Those words spoke to me that I should always do my best. There was never an option for “that’s good enough”. I have often felt paralyzed in trying new things or sharing my skills with others because I couldn't do things perfectly.

strive |strīv|verb (past strove |strōv| or strived; past participle striven|strivən| or strived) [ no obj. ]make great efforts to achieve or obtain something

In the Christian faith, we are instructed not to strive. We are taught that because of Christ coming to earth, (God in the form of man) we are set free from striving, by this grace that God has sent to us. We are loved and accepted just as we are. We as humans have a rough time with this, we’re always striving to keep up with the Jones’, striving to earn Gods love, have more, do more, be more, be perfect, be accepted…We think that if we can’t do something perfectly that it’s "not good enough” to share with others. I stand guilty on ALL counts. 

When I began teaching about creative worship years ago in my home church, and later in Hawaii to students from other parts of the world, I saw that these feelings of inadequacy reign universal throughout the human race, and I became an advocate for “YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH, YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH”. I felt it was Gods word to me to share with the students that were placed in my care.

In my life since those years, I have slowly but surely, drifted back, back into the dark hole of “Not good enough”. It happens. I think that's part of what this name “TOWANDATUDE” meant to me. An attitude, that  we are enough, strong, beautiful, glorious human beings, LOVED by God, created in HIS image.

I read something yesterday that struck me about “Not being good enough” It’s called “MAN IN THE ARENA” by Theodore Roosevelt.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

I have struggled with this website and blog. I’ve had a hard time with self criticism, not having a writing degree, with beating my head against the wall because of my lack of technology skills. I'm no scholar and I know that my grammar and punctuation are not always correct. It’s been difficult at times to pour out my deepest thoughts, memories, prayers and know that it’s not perfect. But it brings me great joy to encourage others to try. I love to share my stories, my epiphanies, our projects around here and my photo's with you, hoping to be a bright spot in your day and an encouragement. Yesterday when I heard this talk about the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, I got to thinking at least I’m trying. I want you to think about that too.

What are you withholding because you might fail? What are you holding back because you might not do it perfectly?

DOING IT RIGHT means DOING IT with all you’ve got! But just DO IT. Share your gifts of love. Share your expression of love. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize, critique others, to be "those cold timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat"  but what are you doing? It takes a whole lot of courage for each of us to step out and share ourselves with the world. BE SOMEONES CHAMPION, BE AN ENCOURAGER. 

Be the “Man in the Arena” in your own life. Share your gifts, lavish them on your loved ones. You are beautiful, and “accepted in the beloved”. You are GOOD ENOUGH right now, just as you are.

P.S.I’m in the stands, rooting for you, in the arena as you "DARE GREATLY"

*EPHESIANS 1:6  King James version/ To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 

My Mothers House

 Miss Jane and her daughter 1998, wearing our GRITS Tshirts. An acronym for; "Girls Raised in the SOUTH"

Miss Jane and her daughter 1998, wearing our GRITS Tshirts. An acronym for; "Girls Raised in the SOUTH"

Once in a while it works out that you need someone at the same time that they need you. Last week was one of those times. I got behind the wheel and drove four hours to My MOTHERS HOUSE.

At my Mothers house,

I am always met at the car, bags are carried, hugs are in abundant supply.

Dog kisses await me at the front door.

I round the corner to the guest room where old photos have been selected for my review.

My bed is turned down, crisp clean sheets and my favorite blanket await my arrival.

At my Mothers house

All  my childhood favorite foods have been stocked in the little pantry.

From rye toast to liverwurst its a smorgasbord of comfort.

My tastebuds lavish in the deliciousness of evoked memories

At my mothers house is beauty

Everywhere I glance, the birds and blooms seem to be performing for me.

I drink in their beauty from her back porch. 

A cup of her delicious coffee steams in my favorite cup.

Camera in hand, I continue my ritual of trying to capture the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds (to no avail, as usual). 

This week I came to help out, two surgeries and all is well. This week my heart was hurting and I found solace in the comfort of My Mothers House.

Sunday Morning Gratitude List

I've been reading author Ann Voscamps "1,000 GIFTS". What a change we would see in our world, if we focused on the gifts of this life, rather than the daily negative responses I seem to be prone to falling back on. In that spirit of gratefulness, I awake on this Sunday morning, NOT to a hurricane, instead, a beautiful rainy day gift. Here's my little list this morning. What are you grateful for this Sunday morning? Enjoy the beauty of this day dear ones!

A rainy Sunday (favorite kind of day)

No storms threatening

A safe dry house

Coffee and the sunday paper

Yoga pants

Soup simmering

Biscuits baking

Nowhere we have to be

A nice cozy couch in the little shed, or the one on the screen porch and a good book

The sound of rain…

My two sweet companions to share this day with

The ability to recognize and be grateful for all of these gifts

A thankful heart.

 

 

 

 

In Admiration of Gal Pals...

In my BIO on this website, I wrote, “I’m continually in awe of my fellow gal pals...” It’s true. I am so blown away continually by the endurance and achievements of women everywhere.

 Sometimes you get to still visit with the girls you started school with.

Sometimes you get to still visit with the girls you started school with.

I follow several of you through the magic of Facebook and Instagram. I get to read about your adventures, and see the photographs you post. Sometimes I read about passages in your lives, births of Grandchildren and the passing of loved ones. I stand in awe of your courage through it all.

To me, the strength and dignity that women possess is a miracle thing.

 My friend Candy and her mom chris.

My friend Candy and her mom chris.

 One friend that I stay in touch with has been housebound for almost two years, unable to go to work or even drive her car. Another friend lost her sister a few months back. My close friend took three years out of her life to move to another state and care for her mothers final years with Alzheimer’s disease. There are countless stories of love and sacrifice, of joy and sorrow that I am aware of through these pages and still these women rise above and carry on. What an inspiration your lives are.

Your tales of adventures and Your photographs are fun to follow.

 THe Traveling Prima- cousins

THe Traveling Prima- cousins

I love the adventures of the three cousins, that call each other “Prima”. They take a trip somewhere together every couple of years. One of the gals moved across the country last year, to start a new life near her Grandchildren. Another Prima, is an artist and takes aerial photographs from the passenger seat of her husbands plane, the photos are something to behold! The third Prima and her partner, take motorcycle trips escorting the families of fallen soldiers. In their down time they take trips scouting out where they will live in their second act. I love following their adventures. I enjoy reading the Blog posts of other women, reading about their lives and the creative businesses they’ve started. Also, I’m a huge fan of younger women’s Blog posts, what amazing things these gals are doing with their various art forms, it’s so inspiring. 

 Yours truly and my Little one, not so long ago. 

Yours truly and my Little one, not so long ago. 

This era of our lives is something new, it’s an adjustment in so many ways. Our children have flown the coop, our parents are aging and needing us more…When I look back over the gamut of where we’ve been, from a heartbreak you thought you couldn’t endure in your youth, the joy of marriage, giving birth, raising children or co-raising your loved ones children, having a career and now full circle, here we are again…Beginning a new chapter, a little heart ache sometimes, a little miracle or two, a new start…This era is a blank slate to be colored in with your very own signature hues. What will you make of this year? If I’ve seen anything at all in my female counterparts, it’s been courage, creativity, strength and soaring. Yes, SOARING, I love to watch as you soar! Each of you in your own beautiful, inspiring way.

So, "SOAR on" reader friend, and know that your admirer is cheering you on, "TOWANDA!"

 

Little visits in our garden

We got through winter unscathed this year. We've had some rough winters since our move to the little yellow house. We've had plants freeze and die, we've had frost, and one year we even had a thin layer of ice on our patio table. Where we live, just forty minutes from the county we were both raised in, is actually in a different "zone" as planting standards go. Sadly, we found all this out the hard way. This winter was mild here, and the one time that I did bring ALL of my Orchids inside must've been the right time, because all but one of them is blooming all at the same time. They are beautiful and lush. It seems that those few days spent at the "kitchen spa" (where they hang inside) was just what they needed, a little "incubation" time! Here's some shots of the current blooms... 

 

From Spring to Summer...little visits in our garden.

 A little box turtle stopped by sporting a hot pink bougainvillea.

A little box turtle stopped by sporting a hot pink bougainvillea.

Spring has sprung and as it often goes here in "mostly always sunny south Florida" it's instantly summertime at our little yellow house. There's a lot of activity going on. We have nesting birds, turtle visitations, Anole rescue, baby doves who have flown the coop too soon, and many yearly fix-up endeavors happening.

This little girl showed up and I named her "Little Wing" after my favorite Jimi Hendrix song. She had flown the coop a bit too soon.  Mr. Wonderful gave her a little tiny dish of her very own for water and she drank from it immediately. It's been rather hot here already. It was a record setter last week at 93 degrees. I guess "Little Wing" had good reason to be so thirsty. 

 The Great crested flycatcher

The Great crested flycatcher

 

There is a pair of Great crested flycatchers nesting in our "new-to-us" birdie condo that a friend gave to us last fall. I am enjoying watching them and learning their calls and habits. The Cardinals are also nesting out back, and we're still following (with binoculars and the zoom lens of the Cannon) the giant Hawks nest across the street. It's a treat watching them.

 Green Anole

Green Anole

Last night my prince charming, also known as Mr.Wonderful, rescued this green Anole. I had accidentally transferred him to the screen porch from the little shed, in my many trips back and forth. The shed is getting it's bi-annual scrub-down, before the Garden Party. Mr.W. and I LOVE our little green Anoles. They are the creatures of our childhood years. Unfortunately, thanks to the introduction of the brown cuban lizards, who kill them off, the green anole's are just about extinct in these parts. We rescue them whenever we can! 

Part of the shed clean up is washing all of the Orchid pots. I know I should probably do it as I throw them in there, so much for good intentions! Instead, I fill the little wagon with soapy water and do the dishes (so to speak) outdoors! Meanwhile, the little wagon is now clean and ready to be the "drink wagon" at the annual Garden Party.

 

I hope that Spring has sprung for you, wherever you are. I know it was such a hard winter for so many. Soon your garden will be filled with the beauty of blooms and nesting birds. Life is so full of beauty, it surround us, embraces us, soothes us. What a gift! Wishing you joy and beauty this magnificent day. 

Morning Petition

Let me always...walk barefoot in the garden, on a sandy beach, or a cool shell rock road
Let me hear the wind, as it whispers to me filtered through the pines
Recall the sweet fragrance of my babies, feel the down of their soft hair against my cheek

 

Never let me forget the blinding reflection of the sun on a summer lake, the miracle of fireflies at dusk, or how the gentle roar of my children's laughter sounded in those magical moments.
Let me always know the sweet pleasure of give and take with a dear and trusted friend
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Let me always dance with the innocence of my childhood, floating in garments of beauty
Worship with my whole being and sing with my soul fully exposed
As I dance barefoot, holding my babes close in my arms, singing in my truest voice, may my countenance reflect your glory and my gratitude for this miracle of life.
 

*words and photos K.Pender 2015


JOYFUL, JOYFUL

This morning I'm sharing a verse from a favorite old hymn, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" by Henry Van Dyke, along with a few of my photos.

I hope you have a beautiful day!

 

All your works with joy surround Thee,

Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,

Stars and angels sing around Thee,

Center of unbroken praise.

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Field and forest, vale and mountain,

Flowery meadow, flashing sea, 

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Chanting bird and flowing fountain, 

Call us to rejoice in Thee.

 

 

 

*Words by Henry Van Dyke 1907, while he was a  Professor of English Literature at Princeton University.

 

Happy Easter

This is the field next to my Mothers house. These wild Easter lilies come up every Spring. No bulbs were ever planted, it's just one of those things...

 

A verse from the book of Matthew chapter six verse twenty eight comes to mind...

Consider the lilies of the field...Even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself as beautifully as these

 

 

Wishing you a beautiful Easter Sunday.

Letting Go.

 CharlieBean and his little boy, fifteen short years ago...

CharlieBean and his little boy, fifteen short years ago...

It’s a rainy morning here in "mostly always sunny south Florida”. I’m sitting out on our screen porch, which is my favorite place to be when it’s raining. I’m missing my “side kick” that usually accompanies me in this morning adventure. When I wrote the bio for this website, I wrote about how on most days you can find me back here on the porch, with my trusty companion… “My fifteen year old killer Cockapoo, CharlieBean-dog.” He would sit right next to me with his head pressed up against my thigh. This has been his behavior since the day he joined our family fifteen short years ago. He was born a cuddle pup.

 

 No leaving drinks around, He'd help himself to them.

No leaving drinks around, He'd help himself to them.

It has been about a year and a half since C.B. lost his sight and over the last six months he began to experience hip problems. As I talk with friends I hear this diagnosis more often than not. It seems to be the way it goes for our senior dogs these days. My Charlie-boys heart and lungs were strong, and he just kept going. But things had gotten progressively worse since the holidays and I kept wondering if I was going to be required to make that sad drive to the vet’s office one day. I prayed diligently that he might just go to sleep one day and not awaken, but that was not to be. 

A few people said to me, “You will know when its time” or “He will let you know.” Well, earlier this week, those prophetic words came to pass, and He did, and I knew. 

If there has ever been a peacefulness in one of these last trips to the vets office, then I guess we had one, and I’ll leave it at that.

 Last summer Charlie made his senior road trip with us to Asheville.   

Last summer Charlie made his senior road trip with us to Asheville.

 

Meanwhile, Mr.Wonderful and I are lost, feeling like empty nesters all over again. We didn’t realize just how much our duties with C.B. had begun taking over our time. Yesterday, I stayed away from the house for as long as I could, and then when Mr.W got home we left again, trying to avoid the emptiness that awaits us here. "This is going to take some time" I hear from friends. The loss of a pet is the loss of a family member. My Charlie was my sons puppy when he was twelve years old. These dogs usually stay on with you when your children leave home, and fill the void left behind. In them we still have a piece of our children’s childhood and the promise that they will return home to visit and everything will be as it was. For others that have no children, their pets are their children. I have many people in my life like that, and losing their pets has been devastating for them. It’s just such a hard thing, no matter what.

About two weeks ago, I began writing a letter to myself about letting go. One of those exercises you learn in counseling, church camp or writing courses (funny, who knew there would be a correlation between those things?) I have struggled so much with the practice of “letting go” in my own life, so this is certainly no exception. If I’m in your life, chances are you’ve known me for most of your life, I don’t give up too easily. Anyway, I share these words from that letter here with you today. Maybe it will be helpful to you in some way. Meanwhile, I’ll be here on the porch missing my companion and writing to you from our little yellow house.

Letting Go

How do you know, when its time?

In a marriage, a friendship, a family pet, a job, a home, a dream not fulfilled?

It’s hard to move on…

Feelings to consider, the feelings of others, obligation, guilt, tangled circumstances. 

Tough things that each of us have to face in our lifetime.

There is no clock, no calendar, no real right or wrong

Each circumstance is unique

But if you listen with your heart

You will know the time   

And you will take comfort in knowing:

That you have tried your best

Given it your all, Served with your whole being

Loved with abandon and that you are being true to your own self

Release

Release with the same hands with which you’ve clutched to it so tightly

Relax and let go of the negative talk that seeks to ridicule you in your own mind

Cling tightly to the sweetness that remains

Burn the fond memories into your very being

And let all else dissolve 

Leave the rest behind

With a sweet abandon

Walk forward and go on

  

 My sweet Charlie Bean.

My sweet Charlie Bean.

 

  

Living a COLORFUL Life of COMPASSION-Changing Out My C's

Dear Reader Friend,

I've noticed lately, the angst that seems to build within me at times. I catch myself getting irritated for small reasons. I cut myself off from social media and the television for a day or two at a time, allowing myself peace and quiet from the turbulence. I am all for agreeing to disagree. We all have different persuasions, that's not it so much as the negative, "snarky" posts on social media, the blasts on the news. It's not the way I want to fill my day, my world, my mind, or my physical well being.

I was standing in the check-out line at our local supermarket yesterday. A woman got in line behind me and I was immediately taken by the sight of her hair, it was beautiful. I kept talking to our cashier "Robin", she and I always chat when I come in. As I was about to leave, I turned to the gal behind me and said, "Your hair is beautiful", there was a second where she seemed stunned and then, "Oh, thank you so much!"

I exited the store, conversing with Rob, (the guy that carries out my groceries) about his kids coming from Connecticut next week. I stopped for a group of Japanese tourists that seemed to be lost in the parking lot. I noticed within myself a peace, and a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow man (woman) and realized I was smiling.

These kinds of events don't happen daily for me, and I guess that's the point I'm about to get to...You knew I was going somewhere with this, right? Why can't they happen everyday? I began to think about changing out my C's... To give more Compliments rather than Criticism. 

What if ...EACH DAY, I could live a more colorful life, one of non-competition, co-existing with others in camaraderie...

When I feel  that my words are sounding caustic, I try to extend COMPASSION?

Every time I start to criticize, I switch it up to a COMPLIMENT?

Instead of critiquing with my eyes, I look beyond with my heart... to CARING

Whenever I feel combative, about to challenge someones opinion, method, political or religious persuasion-I CONSIDER their way?  What if I am COURTEOUS and respond with "I'm going to give that some thought" What a lovely way to COMPLETE A CONVERSATION.

When I feel that green eyed monster of condemnation, I can switch it up to give someone or myself, a COMMENDATION!

These are challenging ideas that will take some work on my part. I'll have to practice holding my catty remarks and switch up my behavior to being COURAGEOUS! There's no room for the CHICKEN HEARTED in this exercise!

Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope you know that you are beautiful, gifted and cared about from afar. I hope your day is gentle, colorful and glorious.

Blessings, Towandagal-KayLou

P.S. Let me know if you think of some other C's we can switch up!

Vegetable Garden in a TUB.

It's getting to be that time again, time to think about a veggie garden. While I know that many friends are still under a blanket of snow, Spring will be here before you know it! The weather here in "mostly always sunny south Florida" has taken a turn for the HOT. I guess Spring has arrived for us. Let the sweating commence!

 

We have tried many vegetable garden attempts here at our little yellow house. Some have gone great, others have bombed! Last fall, we tried something new and it's worked well enough that I am now planting my Spring garden the same way.

I'm sharing it with you today, and maybe it will be a good match for you. It's a great gardening method for anyone without much yard space or poor soil.

I started out with a large, old galvanized tub given to me by a friend who was moving away.  We purchased two more at our local feed store/tractor supply.

Mr.W. drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, then set them on bricks on our patio. The bricks keep them off the ground and allow for good drainage.

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Next, we filled them with soil and cow manure. I keep my morning coffee grounds and egg shells (which I crush) and mix them in with the soil.

Add your choice of seeds, cover with soil, sprinkle with water and there you go! In a few weeks you will be on your way to your very own lettuce beds right outside your door.

 

This method is great for lettuce, spinach, arugula or for an herb garden. Things that do well in shallow soil. 

I hope this was helpful, and if you do try it out, send me some photos! As always, I love to hear from you reader friend!

Blessings, Towandagal-KayLou

Here's our trio, on the patio!



 

As Joni would say, "I WISH I HAD A RIVER..."

There’s an old song by Joni Mitchell that I’ve always liked, but could never really relate to, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down the trees, putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace…I wish I had a river, I could skate away on…I would teach my feet to fly…

I’ve never understood it because I am an absolute lover of all things December, I would most certainly NOT be looking to escape it. My Birthday month is December, and when you share your Birthday month with the son of God, ya gotta take what you can get! So, I begin the month of celebration on the day after Thanksgiving. We venture out early on “Black Friday” and purchase our Christmas tree and I don’t stop until after New Years, when I am a traveling hostess, taking our southern tradition of black eyed peas and ham with collards and cornbread in crockpots and pans, to my children. I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS! I am always a little slow at taking down all the decor, because that means it is all over for this year. My daughter will return to where she lives in Brooklyn, my Grand Buddies school break is over, and Mr. Wonderful and I go back to reality. THIS January is a little different…

I have hesitated in the putting away of all things Christmas, over the last few days. Yesterday was my goal, it didn’t happen, again. This year, I can relate to the Joni Mitchell song, but in reverse. I’m wishing for a river here at the end of the season. Our holidays were, shall we say, eventful, in every depressing way one could imagine. So many things happened over the last month, and still I kept right on going, because that’s what we ever-ready crazy people do, to avoid what we don’t want to face.

I’m afraid that if I start this closure of Christmas, all the other closures I’ve left dangling over the last few weeks, will begin a domino effect of reality. When I  pack up these boxes this year, it means my son in laws mother, my friend, sassy Patricia, is really gone, my eccentric neighbor has moved on to the afterlife, and we will be waiting to meet our grandchild, in heaven, and not this June. Yeah, Joni, I’m with you girl, I wish I had a river, I could skate away on…“ 

 My future son inlaw with his Mom, my friend, Sassy Patsy.   

My future son inlaw with his Mom, my friend, Sassy Patsy.

 

As I begin this new year, I hope above all to be more MINDFUL, to be CONSCIOUS of every fleeting wonder of life. I will make moments that count by being AWARE of the miracle of them, not by documenting every waking moment on the internet, but by being PRESENT in them, with the persons I am REALLY with. I feel pretty certain that’s what my friend sassy Patsy would say to me. 

And, if I feel like waiting one more day to clean the house and put away Christmas, I’m gonna do it, because I can, and you can too! I feel pretty certain that’s what my eccentric neighbor Steve would say, if he were here, he left up his giant Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed as Saint Nick in the front yard, all year long! 

So, maybe I’ll let these things go for another day…write some stories, photograph the birds, call a friend… HEY JONI, we’ve got a river to skate!

Blackbird turns 58

I love to sit outside early in the morning, I read my devotional, drink coffee and snap photographs of the birds that visit. I do not fancy myself to be a photographer but I try my best to capture my feathered friends with the help of a zoom lens on our Canon camera.

  The little Phoebe   

 The little Phoebe

 

 I share my bird photo’s with a group on Facebook called The Great Backyard Bird Count. I love to visit their site, it’s a visual feast of bird photographs and facts along with an occasional thread of hilarity. (the most recent "is that an owl in that tree or a husky?" with 400 plus comments is my favorite). Sometimes when I look at the photographs there I think to myself, Oh I wish I could see one of those (birds) in person. Like last year, I kept seeing photos of PHOEBE’S. A beautiful little bird with an amazingly spunky personality. I hope to myself that someday I will get to see this little bird, and guess what? A Phoebe showed up here last month. I enjoy watching this sweet bird. 

 Our oldest Painted Bunting winter resident.

Our oldest Painted Bunting winter resident.

Of course nothing can compare to my love of the Painted Buntings that live in our yard every winter. They are a little miracle to behold, brightly painted wonders flitting about each morning, such a delight.  Sometimes my wishing doesn’t quite work out the way I thought it would go, like last month when I saw someones photo’s of a snow owl that blew me away and left me thinking, “Wow, I wish I could see a Snow Owl!” A few days later, a Florida Bobcat showed up in my backyard, all the wishing in the world isn’t going to bring a Snow Owl to south Florida, but what a special gift to see that Bobcat and take photo's of him! 

Today is my Birthday, I came outside with my coffee hoping for a memorable BIRD MOMENT to mark the start of my new year. I was wishing that I would see something I’d never seen before and then it happened…At eight a.m. December the eighth on my fifty-eighth birthday, the air filled with the sound of Blackbirds, there were SO many and the numbers just kept growing.

There were Blackbirds in every tree, bush and shrub. Blackbirds in the air over the house and on the roof tops of both of our buildings. They were on the fences, the ground and all over the feeders. The noise was overwhelming, I felt like Tippy Hedron in THE BIRDS ! I started taking photographs of them to document this odd moment, because surely no one would believe this. I like to take meaning from things in nature. It brings me great peace. I kept thinking what the heck kinda comfort can I take from this crazy moment? Around eight thirty my friend called as she does faithfully every Monday morning. She always has something interesting to say about the significance of things in nature. So I told her this black bird tale and she immediately said “the first thing that came to my mind was the old Beatles tune 'Blackbird singing in the dead of night…' It lightened my ominous feelings from earlier when I was surrounded by THE BIRDS in what seemed like a sci-fi moment. 

So I took that thought and went to the internet to Google the words of that song…

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Black-bird fly

Black-bird fly, into the light of a dark black night

Black-bird fly

Black-bird fly, into the light of a dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise

you were only waiting for this moment to arise

you were only waiting for this moment to arise

Call me cosmic, call me whatever, I am a firm believer that God is always speaking. You don’t have to sit in a church pew to hear God’s voice. This concept has baffled me for many years, that we put God in a box and make him so small with our pea-brained minds. He is so much bigger than that to me. I believe He is the creator of everything and everyone, therefore He can speak to us in many different ways, through whatever vessel He chooses, after all, He is God.

 For me on this first morning of my fifty-eighth year, I’m going to take my Blackbird sci-fi- moment as a message to me from Him, and hope that I will make this my year to fly. A year to be free of self centered encumbrances that hold me back from bravery, and arise from brokenness and the dark night into the light. “Blackbird FLY!”

Thanksgiving Eve Morning...

Up early coffee in hand, eagerly making my way out to the screen porch. There is a promise of heavy rain this morning, so says my local weatherman. Opening the slider I am greeted by the sound I had hoped for, rain glorious rain! Rain pounding on the roof and gurgling as it makes its way through the gutters and into the rain barrels. Rain glistening on the leaves in our gardens, washing them clean. Just over a week ago a Bobcat walked through there, this morning even our usual suspects are silent, the Painted Buntings and Cardinals are hiding in the brush. It’s just me and my cozy companion Charlie Bean out here this soggy morning. The sun is beginning to rise now bringing a yellow cast to our haven as thunder rolls in the distance. 

 The recent visitor to our backyard haven..   

The recent visitor to our backyard haven..

 

There is something therapeutic about a rainy day, it’s always been that way with me. It’s a “free pass day” for a secret introvert. A day unto ones self, a day to stay home, for reflection, reading and writing. This is the Thanksgiving Eve morning I had hoped for.

 My cozy companion   

My cozy companion

 

My Thanksgiving duties have evolved over the years. Not a lot of cooking is required of me anymore, those tasks are reserved for the biggie on Christmas Eve. My Pre-Thanksgivng prep now involves spending Tuesday afternoon setting up and decorating with our hostess, my oldest daughter. I look forward to that each year. We tidy up her house, rearrange furniture and pull out the once a year platters. My Grandbuddies unload my car of folding tables and chairs and baskets of indian corn that I’ve managed to preserve since my own children were young. Classical music plays on her favorite digital station as the boys and I tromp across her newly mopped hardwood floors with my contributions. If I close my eyes, it’s a deja-vu moment… where feet ran across hardwood floors, the aroma of “Murphys Oil Soap” filled the air and Claude Debussy played on our stereo. My daughter, myself … 

 ..and if I close my eyes...my daughter, myself...   

..and if I close my eyes...my daughter, myself...

 

I am thankful this Thanksgiving Eve Morning for many things, like “free pass for introverts” rainy days..for the accepting of the baton to host Thanksgiving by my daughter and her family. I’m thankful for the later in life gift of my precious husband who has been my cohort in the making of our backyard haven that is so beautiful on this rainy Thanksgiving Eve morning.

All the best wishes to you and yours for a beautiful Thanksgiving.  


LIVE

The word "LIVE" was a prompt on the Facebook page of a writing group that I belong to. Thoughts began to flow and words forming sentences of the gut wrenching feelings running around inside me over these past months. Perhaps with this prompt, this word "LIVE" I can put words to what's been going on around here and the resolve it's brought me to.

   This is our new normal, our future and we choose to     LIVE   and go forward. Maybe alone for now and without some of those that we held so dear. 

This is our new normal, our future and we choose to LIVE and go forward. Maybe alone for now and without some of those that we held so dear. 

While watching a favorite news show over the weekend, I saw a piece about some veterans who, despite grave injuries had made a choice to fight and LIVE out their lives in a new way. I thought of friends who have battled the “c” word, or lost the function of an organ. The human spirit is an amazing thing! When I think of those people I am always in awe of their determination in making these adjustments and fighting on. It puts proper perspective on the puniness of my little problems. But even in the small things we must decide with determination to carry on and LIVE.

It began a while ago, this feeling of  sadness. Over the last couple of years I have battled some physical problems that have changed the way I live. I have always been a physically strong person, a hard worker with a very physical job and a love of gardening and ALL things outdoors and a deep love for writing. Things had gotten so bad that I couldn’t hold a pen and even typing was painful, forget gardening AT ALL. I have never been unable to do something I set my mind to, so this has been hard to accept. Then, in May I had to have a suspicious lump removed from my breast. This was the fourth time in twelve years, so I was quite concerned. It never becomes old hat, you’re always holding your breath until you hear those words from your Doctor and thankfully, it was NOT the “c” word. Things began piling up upon things… 

Then the things involving my loved ones began. My only sibling’s marriage came to an end after thirty plus years, another family members relationship ended, my best friends Mothers long battle with Alzheimers ended, a friends lung cancer came back and another close friend went into total renal failure. We rounded it off with our foster grand buddy’s season in our little family coming to a close. It was all too, too, much. I have felt this grieving for months now. My heart aches so much for each of these loved ones. I take phone calls, I listen, give advice, pray, hang up, cry and pray some more.

 I choose to  LIVE  this  BEAUTIFUL LIFE .

I choose to LIVE this BEAUTIFUL LIFE.

So what do we do? What do we do when we know not what to do or how to go on? We make a choice and choose to LIVE. We get up in the morning putting one foot in front of the other and take that first step to continue to LIVE. We LIVE not in the familiar, safe, comfortable way that we have known. We pray, we change things up, make adjustments, grieve, make more adjustments, cry out to God for help and we begin to LIVE out our adjusted life (when we liked the old way just fine)! This is our new normal, our future and we choose to LIVE and go forward. Maybe alone for now and without some of those that we held so dear. 

In the middle of all these changes, I’ve made some adjustments. Life is shifting and I am making the choice to live in new ways. I am good to my body that is telling me “enough is enough”. I try and follow an anti-inflammatory diet. I blow it and cheat, waking in the morning with hands that won’t open for hours. Sometimes when we have a big garden project I have a helper. The first day he helped out I bawled like a baby! But we all make adjustments to meet our new life.

I am healthy, my mind and body are whole and for this I am so very grateful. I hope to never take anything for granted. Life is to be cherished and those we love should be held close and told daily how much we love them and we want them to choose to LIVE too. Despite how much things hurt and how unfair they seem, we are here for them, to walk beside them in their new life. From this day forward, we will place our feet on the floor, hold our head up high, cry out to God for help and choose to LIVE.   LIVE this beautiful life.     

   …And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up love and helpful deeds and noble activities...*    Hebrews 10:23&24 The Amplified Bible*

…And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up love and helpful deeds and noble activities...*Hebrews 10:23&24 The Amplified Bible*

Our Supper Club

Happy Sunday, 

Part of what TOWANDATUDE means to me is completing something you intended to begin! My intentions are good, but I rarely meet the finish line. I had three goals for this year and here it is, the end of September and I finally completed one! My intent in telling you about it is to encourage you in getting busy with making your goals come to pass. The holidays are nearly upon us and we all know what that means, the making of another New Years goal list!  

I have wanted to have a “Supper Club” for a few years now and here’s where that dream started. We have hosted a once a year intimate outdoor supper for the past four years. Each of us have said how much we enjoyed that evening every year, the relaxed conversation, the food and participants combined were a real hit. I read some articles in different publications talking about “The Return of the Southern Supper Club”. Wouldn’t it be great to duplicate our yearly dining experience on a monthly basis? Was that too much to hope for? I began to throw the idea out to this certain group and they took the bait! Last night was our “First Official Supper Club Evening” and I am writing here to tell about it. Some of the participants are readers of my Blog, so it’s a way to report in to them and a way to encourage you to begin your own “Supper Club” and give yourself something fun to look forward to during the winter months.

 Appetizers on the "back-back porch".

Appetizers on the "back-back porch".

 

Our little yellow house of "funky-shway" (our version of feng-shui ) was the host home this month. It comes with some challenges however, our dining room table sits on our back screen porch, which is nice in the winter and early spring months, but a bit warm for ten people sitting around the table in September! In some parts of the country, fall has begun, not so here in humid south Florida. My reminder note to each of our guests was,. “..remember no A.C. dress accordingly!" I had a fall theme for the evening with decorations and menu plan, but it was still 85 degrees. What troopers my friends are, persevering on despite the heat! I’m calling it “FALL FEVER”

 Our dining table on the screen porch all ready for guests.   

Our dining table on the screen porch all ready for guests.

 

There are many ways to carry out your Supper Club plan, the one I used was to provide the main entree’ and delegate each course to a different participant, letting them know our main course and asking them to do their homework to find a recipe that would complement our dish.

Here is our Menu from last nights Fall Fever delicious dining with friends:

The Appetizer: Attendee’s D&G made a delicious salsa comprised of corn, avocado and cilantro and served with root vegetable chips. 

Drinks: Our friend B. brought yummy Fall Beers and an assortment of red wines. I especially enjoyed the Sam Adams Seasonal Ale he brought. I included chilled bottles of S.Pellegrino on the table and  pitchers of iced lemon water.

Our first course: was made by D. She prepared a peppery Arugula Salad that had cubes of roasted butternut squash, cranberries and candied pecans with a delicious red wine vinegar and honey dressing. (Lucky me, I got to have a plate of leftovers of this for breakfast this morning. Wake Up taste buds! Here comes deliciousness)!

The Main course: was Grilled Apple-Bourbon Pork Chops with Faux Mashed Potatoes (nope, not potatoes, it’s really cauliflower!) and Applesauce full of lots of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Vegetables were provided by our friends D&J. They prepared a medley of delicious roasted root vegetables.

Dessert: My lovely neighbor friend C. is a gifted baker. We were so lucky to have her Pumpkin Cheesecake topped with chocolate ganache, she also served us chocolate zucchini bread.

In all, it was a lovely evening with friends over good food and drinks with delightful conversation. My note to self critique of the evening:

1).Next time add one more leaf to the table!

 2).Don’t make something you have to grill while your guests are left visiting (be with them) also; when you grill pork chops and have to put them on hold they dry out too quickly!

3).Never, Ever, under any circumstances leave your blind, 16 year old, killer Cockapoo in the house alone for the time you are outdoors enjoying your guests! (enough said)!

So friends, on to the next Supper Club endeavor for me and moving on down the list to my #2 item of goals for the year…starting a book club. Yep, for about thirty plus years I’ve wanted to belong to one, and I am determined to make it happen before the year is out! Gotta go, I have phone calls to make! 

 

What’s your dream idea? Share it with us here or on the Facebook page! If you’ve already got something going, how about a picture? You might inspire the rest of us to GET BUSY with our TOWANDATUDE inspired dreams!