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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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What Do You Look for in a President?

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Have you decided which presidential candidate you will vote for on election day?  What qualities do you think make a good president?  I examined each candidate according to my own criteria to make my decision.

First, a good president needs to care. He or she must listen to the people he or she serves.  Second, a good president should be trustworthy. Someone you can count on to fulfill the duties of the job. Our president must be a good communicator, since they speak on behalf of our nation. America needs a strong leader who can take appropriate action if our country is threatened.  Temperament is also important. Our president must be able to handle the pressures of the office under stress. As top executive, the president needs to choose competent people for his staff. He or she must be a good delegator of responsibility.  Since our nation is head over heels in debt, we need a leader who will not waste taxpayer dollars. Finally, the best presidents are those who have overcome challenges in their past. They are fighters who do not give up easily.

After considering all of the above qualities, I believe my dog, Buddy, would make a terrific president.

img_5145Buddy cares. He listens to my problems after a bad day.  He can be trusted to come when I call his name. Buddy is a great communicator. He whines when he’s sad and wags his tail like crazy when he’s happy.

Buddy barks whenever he feels threatened. He’s never bitten anyone, but he has the capability to. As far as temperament goes, he’s sweet and calm.

Buddy is a great delegator of responsibility.  When he’s hungry, I feed him. I even pick up his poop for him.

Buddy would never put up with wasteful government spending. He makes sure every crumb I drop is put to good use.

As many of my friends know, Buddy has overcome challenges. In 2013 he suffered from paralysis in his hind legs due to a herniated disc. After surgery, and physical therapy he regained his ability to walk. Buddy is a fighter.

Buddy is my candidate for president. Oh,  I forgot, he’s not on the ballot this year.

Write in?

 

 

Web of Wonder

 

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One September night I noticed this spider web above our back door. The web looked scary. What if the architect dropped in my hair when I walked through the door?  As I looked closer, I appreciated the beautiful way it glistened under our porch light. The spider worked  hard to create a masterpiece. Why should I tear it down? After all, the web snared flying insects before they entered the house.

I strained my eyes to try and find the spider. The web hung several feet above my head. In the center I made out a small orange fuzzy looking ball. If that was the spider, it looked harmless.

I asked my family to take a look. Our daughter was visiting at the time. She knew  the spider was  a spotted orb weaver. “I had one build a web on my balcony,” she said. “I didn’t tear it down because it built an amazing web. It died after a few months.”

For her sake I didn’t disturb the web that night. But after a few more days, I wondered how big this web could get. What if I can no longer get through the door without feeling its sticky threads on my face?

I had an idea.  I’ll gently sweep out the web. The spider will probably stick to the broom. I’ll place the broom in the alley overnight and give the orb weaver a chance to escape without killing it. Then my daughter won’t think  I’m a murderer. I’ll be rid of this problem. I grabbed the broom and quickly carried out my plan before I could change my mind.

The next day I discovered the web was back in the same place. I couldn’t believe it. The spider must have hidden behind the porch light when I swept the web away. In twenty- four hours it rebuilt its web.  Then I saw it. I realized the orange fuzzy ball really did have legs and was scurrying down toward me. Yikes!

 

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I took a deep breath and my fear slowly dissipated. The spotted orb weaver was definitely a master builder. My plan to get rid of it failed.  Why don’t  I just let it be?  So I did for another week…

Until the exterminator came for his routine visit. “How are things?” he asked.

“I only saw one roach this month, and it was lying on its back.” I replied. “But there is a large spider web above the back door.”

The exterminator smiled, “I’ll take care of that.”

After his visit, I didn’t see a trace of the web above the door. I kind of missed the spotted orb, but after all, it was only a spider.

During the first week of October we prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. We expected the worst, and were relieved when Matthew did not make a direct hit on the Florida coast.  Orlando experienced winds strong enough to down trees in the area.

The day after the storm I noticed our porch light tilted sideways. As I looked closer I saw a smaller web hanging between the light and the side of the house.

Unbelievable, I thought. This spider is some escape artist. Its web was swept down. The door frame where it made its home was sprayed with poison. Somehow the spotted orb weaver built another web that withstood forty mph winds.  It will not leave until its ready. So now I wait. Maybe I’ll wear a hat when I go out.img_7704

 

 

Florida’s October Surprise

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Dear Fellow Floridians,

Like many of you, I’ve watched approaching hurricanes with anxiety and dread.  I’ve turned on the local weather every few hours.  I’ve prepared to the degree I can prepare. And like you, I’ve seen storm warnings that didn’t materialize. So as Hurricane Matthew churns its way through the Caribbean Sea, I wonder, what will happen this time?

I remember Hurricane Charlie in 2004. My daughter drove to Orlando when forecasters predicted the storm would make landfall near Tampa. Charlie surprised everyone when it missed Tampa, but passed through Orlando.  We never really know what is going to happen until the storm is closer.  Hurricane Matthew has that same kind of unpredictable nature.

So fellow Floridians, instead of worrying, let’s try to relax and think of positive things associated with hurricanes.  Since we have the opportunity to survive without power, we won’t be dogged by political ads on TV.  Without hot water, or maybe even any water, we can have bad hair days and no one will care. We can have romantic dinners of cold canned food by candlelight. After the storm passes, we can grill all the meat that defrosted in the freezer, and invite our neighbors over. We just need to look on the bright side.

All that wind and rain is good news for roofers. Building supply companies all over the country will benefit.  Downed trees provide work for tree removal companies. Local stores benefit from the sale of bottled water and batteries. A good hurricane can stimulate the economy.

Surfers love the high waves that only a big storm can provide. The storm surge can dredge up sunken treasure from pirate ships. Gold might even wash up on shore. A hurricane can deliver great finds for beachcombers.

Teachers and children love vacation time from school. Power outages encourage old fashioned activities like reading books, drawing, and writing.

During the days prior to a hurricane’s arrival, local weather reporters become big celebrities. This is their time to shine. They  stir up the drama and excitement! Today I tuned into Channel 13 to see a weather reporter predict the wind speeds of Hurricane Matthew for early Saturday.

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I hate to say this, but it looks like we’re doomed!

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