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If Walls Could Talk

If you like architecture and history, Savannah is the place to go. Although I’ve lived in Orlando for 27 years, I finally made a trip to Savannah last December.  A great place to visit is the Massie Heritage Center.  Built in 1856,the building was originally Massie Common School, the oldest public school in Georgia.  The school operated for 117 years, until it became a museum in 1978.  Children still learn here. The museum is a popular place for  field trips. Travel back in time with me to a classroom in the year 1872.

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Walking among the empty desks I wonder what it was like to see the classroom in operation.  I imagine rows of children sitting in their seats…

Quiet children of course, feverishly writing multiplication tables on their slates with chalk. The smiling teacher, sitting calmly at her desk, overseeing her brood…. Everyone doing what they are asked to do… except for one student, usually a boy of course. The teacher, who does not tolerate idleness, asks the slug to stand. She places the notorious dunce cap on his head in order to publicly embarrass him. Wearing the cap, he perches on a high stool at the front of the classroom. She wants him to see that all the other children are working. She also wants the class to know that she means business.

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Who is this guy, anyway?

I awake from my daydream and continue to observe the details of the classroom.

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George Washington’s picture hangs on the front wall. Boys and girls, let’s not forget the Father of our Country. He’s watching you too, so you better do your best.

Side note: When I taught elementary school, I had a picture of George in my classroom, but it creeped out the kids. After many of them complained, I took it down. Too bad, he might have made a positive contribution to their development.

In the 1800’s rules didn’t only apply to students. On the teacher’s desk I picked up a handout, “Rules for Teachers in 1872”. Some are written below.

  1. Each day teachers will fill the lamps and clean the chimneys. What does that mean?  The kerosene lamp has a chimney?
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session. And I thought I had it ba’d whenever I had to buy school supplies for the class.
  3. Each teacher will make pens for the students by whittling the nibs. Is this a foreign language? What exactly is a nib? Thank goodness we had pencil sharpeners and some were electric.
  4. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed. That leaves me out since I’m married. I’m not going to try to define “unseemly conduct.”
  5. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will receive an increase of twenty-five cents per week, providing the Board of Education approves.  I get it. In many ways, it’s the same today.

A plaque attached to the front of the teacher’s desk read,

“WHAT YOU ARE TO BE, YOU ARE NOW BECOMING.”

I guess that just about says everything…

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On Facing Reality

We could have been camping today. If I lean into my imagination I can see the flickering flames of the campfire and taste the toasted marshmallows. Why didn’t it happen?

Reality struck. Have you ever been so blinded by your wants that you lose sight of your needs?  I was absolutely giddy about purchasing the Coachmen Clipper until….

Let me back up a bit.  The Saturday after the RV show my husband and I cleaned the garage to make space to park  our new tent trailer. We live in a townhouse with no yard or driveway. We believed the camper would just fit on one side of the garage with six inches to spare. How clever we are! One of us, can park on the street (probably him.) Now we won’t need to pay for storage. We were all set to pick up the camper later in the week.

Fast forward to Sunday night. A terrible rain storm hit Orlando. Tornados and hail were predicted. My husband realized he better put his car back in the garage. Then he decided he really didn’t want to park on the street permanently.  On Monday, he started to scout around for storage facilities.  He contracted to store the camper nearby.

Friday morning arrived. We dropped our dog off at my mom’s, and drove seventy-five miles to pick up our dream camper.  Only we realized our dream  camper was more of a nightmare.  We endured a three-hour training session of  raising and lowering the canvas top. Both of us were shocked to discover there are twenty steps in that process which must be performed in sequential order. No wonder the technician’s first words were, “Do you guys have any idea how much work goes into owning a tent trailer?”

The canvas top needs regular maintenance. It must be washed every time you use it and completely dry before storing to avoid mildew. That seemed impossible considering our storage situation.  My husband pulled me off to the side. “Do you still want to do this?” he asked.

My stomach started churning.  I felt like a deflated balloon. “I still want to get it, but if you are extremely opposed, I’ll relent.”

“I’m not extremely opposed, but I’m opposed,” He responded.

I need to also mention that while all of this turmoil was going on, his car was being equipped with a hitch and brake controlling device. My stomach was still churning.

Sometimes you have to face facts. How could I continue to insist that we go through with this plan knowing he wasn’t on board?  “Okay,” I said. “Let’s see if they have another vehicle we can buy instead.”

A sales representative showed us a few lightweight hard top trailers.  He tried to cheer us up with a bag of popcorn and some jokes. We came home empty-handed, except for a hitch and a braking device that continually flashes numbers under the dash.

In closing, sometimes the road to adventure includes detours. Take them.

 

 

 

Living with No Regrets

Last week I visited an RV show near Tampa, Florida. The show featured a variety of recreation vehicles, from tent trailers to behemoth fifth wheels.  One of the smallest trailers was the Little Guy pictured above.  It is so tiny an adult would not be able to stand up inside. This trailer is basically a bed on wheels with air conditioning and a TV.

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Every Little Guy camper includes an outdoor cooking area complete with stove, sink, and pull out cooler. An additional screen room can be attached to the bedroom to provide more living space.

My husband and I have never owned a trailer. Although we love to visit national parks, we’ve usually stayed in hotels or lodges. I am the one interested in camping. (A throwback to my childhood in Ohio.) Now that we are both retired, we want to take more trips for longer periods of time.  However, we own a sweet little beagle with special needs. We don’t like to board him for more than two weeks.  My solution is to take the dog with us. So…that’s how we came to be at the RV show.

At the show, we attended a seminar on extended travel in an RV.  The leader of the seminar owns a home in the mid-west, and winters in Florida in his RV. He shared that many retirees actually sell their homes and travel in their motor home permanently. That would explain why someone might want a motor home with more than one bathroom, a washer, dryer, and big screen TV.  The speaker gave tips on managing mail, prescriptions, and banking while on the road. He closed his presentation with a quote from Malcolm Forbes Jr., “Go as soon as you can, as far as you can, for as long as you can.”

Immediately I recalled my word from God for 2017, “Go.” The words of Mr. Forbes resonated with me.  (For details read my blog from post of January ninth.)

Over dinner that night, my husband and I discussed our options. At the show we saw a Coachmen Clipper tent trailer which suited our needs. We wanted something easy to pull, with enough room inside to accommodate our dog.  I especially liked the idea that the canvas top had plenty of windows. Even when I was inside, I felt like I was outside. The Clipper was also very affordable.

Then the what ifs began. What if we don’t like it? What if it doesn’t work out to travel with our dog? How will we store it? Maybe we should limit our trips to no more than two weeks at a time and continue to stay in hotels.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that what we did before we retired? Didn’t we work all year and eagerly anticipate the two weeks out of the year that were truly ours? Enough of that!

I don’t want to regret that I never tried to travel in a camper.

So the next morning we sealed the deal. In two days we pick up our new camper. I can’t wait until we will take off for our first destination. Our little beagle doesn’t have a clue what adventures await him.  Tune in during February for more posts about our experiences in the great outdoors.

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The Mystique of a New Year

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New year, new you. How often have I heard that phrase? The magazines for sale at the grocery checkout claim anyone can lose ten pounds in one week. I’d like to lose the fat, lose the flab, and get the body I’ve always wanted. Maybe 2017 is the year I will reach my ideal weight. The new year arrives with hope, motivation, and maybe change.

In the past, I’ve made resolutions. My resolutions are usually about some kind of self improvement. I’ve heard some people pray and ask God for a “word for the year.” I admit I was skeptical about this. What makes January 1 so special?  God can speak to us in a variety of ways, according to his timing.  But praying seemed better than resolving.  Praying might lead to the right resolution.  I don’t usually get this personal or spiritual with my posts, but I want to share a prayer I wrote in my journal on January 1, 2017.

Lord, you are Holy.  You are worthy. Thank you for abundant life. It’s a new year Lord. A new year makes for a new beginning.  I pray that I will be open to your word…open to your spirit…open to you. I pray for your will to be done in my life. May I step out of your way, Lord.  Father, some people hear a word which is their word for the year. Is this possible? Is it real? I look to you Lord. Do you have a word for me?

I stopped writing, closed my eyes and waited.  My spirit heard the word, “Go.” You’ve got to be kidding, I thought, “Go?” I wrote it down and waited again. Nothing.

I thanked the Lord for the word, and closed my journal.

My mind was filled with questions. Will this year be a year of travel? Will it be a year for  new experiences? Will I be challenged to step out of my comfort zone? To “Go” means to leave the place you are. “Go” can apply to the physical or spiritual realm. It can mean leaving the fears and failures of the past behind.

The word “Go” is a lot like God, mysterious.

There’s a problem with resolutions. They can be limiting. God’s vision for us is much bigger than our own.  A new year brings an opportunity to be open to his vision, his leading. The question remains, will I have the faith to follow?

Friends, I’m excited to see what opportunities God will bring in 2017.  I believe “Go” means more than going on a diet. At least I hope so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrub-Jay Way

I like the last week of December.  The stress of the Christmas season is winding down. The resolutions of the new year have not yet begun. It’s a good time to slow down, reflect, and revisit memories.

One of my favorite December memories took place during a trip I made to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Located near the Kennedy Space Center, the refuge was established for the protection of migratory birds. Fifteen hundred different species of plants and animals inhabit this wilderness of 140,000 acres. The land features coastal dunes, marshes, scrub pines, and hardwood hammocks.

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The best time to visit Merritt Island is in the winter. If you drive on the Black Point Wildlife Drive you can see waterfowl, wading birds, alligators, bobcats, snakes, and raptors. The drive is seven miles one way. Make sure you have gas in your tank, and plenty of time to explore. We got out of the car frequently to photograph the locals.

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The refuge features several hiking trails. My favorite is the Pine Flatwoods Trail. It’s a mile round trip through a rare community of oak scrubs. This area is home to the threatened Florida Scrub-Jay.  Their survival is threatened due to a loss of habitat. Fewer than eight thousand Scrub-Jays remain in the world.

Scrub-Jays can become hand-tame if they have contact with people. A fellow hiker shared that once we found a family of Scrub-Jays, we should stand still with our arms outstretched and see what happens. About half way through the hike, I came across a bunch of scrubby looking plants. Sitting on top of a branch was a pretty blue bird. That’s it, I thought, the Florida Scrub-Jay! 

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I signaled the rest of my family members to freeze. We looked at the grass around our feet and saw several peanut shells laying on the ground. Someone clearly had been feeding the birds, but we didn’t want to actually feed the wildlife. (It’s against the rules.)  Still, we were very curious about the rumors we’d heard.

I whispered to my son,  “Let’s stand with our arms outstretched to see what might happen.” As an extra enticement, we put an empty peanut shell in each palm. Wow! I was amazed. The Scrub-Jays didn’t hesitate to light on our palms. One even sat on my son’s head!

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Each Scrub-Jay didn’t sit for long. It was clear to them that we didn’t really have any food. My husband shot this amazing photo of a Scrub-Jay leaving my hand. I laugh every time I look at it.

Fellow Floridians, we live in a unique state with more to explore than the space between Mickey’s ears. If you are interested, visit Merritt Island and see the real Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case of the Green Bean Casserole

img_8118How did green bean casserole become part of our traditional Thanksgiving feast? I’m pretty sure the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t have it on their table. And what do French fried onion rings have to do with an all-American holiday?

I don’t really like green bean casserole. In the past I’ve tried to swap it out with a different vegetable dish. After all, I’m the menu planner, shopper, and cook at our house. I have rights, too. During the month of November grocery ads feature new recipes to make the perfect holiday meal. I’m usually pretty adventurous about trying new recipes, but hesitate to risk springing something new on my critics. Still, I discussed the possibility of change with my son.

“Why is green bean casserole on the chopping block?” he cried. “Can’t you get rid of something else?”

I relented. After all, the thought of disappointing my family on Thanksgiving Day over- ruled my own needs. Still, there was the additional matter of another ingredient in this dish, the mushroom soup.

My daughter hates mushrooms. For the past two Thanksgivings I modified the casserole by making it with cream of chicken soup, cheese, water chestnuts, and of course the onion rings. I did it to make her happy. Everybody had a spoonful to be polite, but as a leftover, it simply never disappeared.  I decided to call my daughter.

“Honey, the green bean casserole with mushroom soup is in high demand over here. We need to make some trade-offs this year.  Can I prepare sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows for you?”

“Sure Mom,” she responded. “How about throwing in one of your cheese balls as an appetizer?”

“OK, no problem. See you soon.” After I hung up the phone I felt like I had just brokered a peace agreement between two countries.

My menu was taking shape. Although I purchased the turkey the week before, I still had to buy the sides. I made my list. At the top I wrote in big letters:

REMEMBER TO MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOURSELF!

After cooking thirty-five Thanksgiving meals, I know how stressful this holiday can be. I suffer from my own past successes. Achievers always feel the need to at least live up to their own expectations. Still, I am starting to tire of myself.

Before I walked out the door to Publix, my brother called.

“Anything I can do to help with the meal this year?” he asked.

“How about bringing some pre-made mashed potatoes?” I responded. “And a can of cranberry sauce.”

“You got it,” he replied.

I smiled to myself. That’s the change. I will not stand at the sink peeling potatoes this year. I am thankful for microwaves.

As we gathered around our Thanksgiving table, we gave thanks to God for our many blessings, including the green bean casserole.

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For the Love of Bread

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This summer, I returned from a two week vacation to Nova Scotia and discovered I had  gained six pounds. I complained to my husband, “Honey, I thought lobster was low in calories.”

“Not if it’s prepared in cheese sauce and served over fried potatoes,” he smiled.

Like many dieters, I decided to stop eating bread. After all, it’s those nasty carbs that make us gain weight, right? I knew saying no to bread would be a challenge for me. I routinely ate toast with peanut butter for breakfast. Even so, desperate to drop the vacation weight, I started eating oatmeal instead. Which by the way, I could only manage to consume if I heaped brown sugar on top. Over the next few days I pondered how unnatural it felt to not eat bread.

Bread is the staff of life. It has been around since the dawn of agriculture. Revolutions have occurred over the price of bread.

Bread is multicultural. Mexicans make tortillas, the French are known for baguettes, New Yorkers love bagels, and Greeks eat pita. Bread comes in all sizes, colors, and textures. It can be leavened or unleavened, and made with wheat, rye, oats, or corn.

Bread is a symbol of hospitality. According to scripture, the first Christians gathered for fellowship and the breaking of bread. Bread is so important to life it became the symbol for Christ’s body as part of the Eucharist. How can I give up something of such cultural and spiritual importance?

This morning I measured the peanut butter and enjoyed a little slice of life.

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