America’s Supply Chain Disruption

I’m sure by this time you may have been affected by the disruption in our country’s supply chain. If not, you could be affected, since the news media predicts shortages of toys, Christmas decorations, and turkeys for the upcoming holidays. Unfortunately these predictions often contribute to hoarding which increases the problem and perpetuates the cycle.

Even so, the shortages are real. Who is to blame for the problem? The crisis is a result of Covid-19 disruptions paired with an increased demand for goods. Yes, Covid-19. The gift that keeps on giving. (Or taking… depending on how you look at things.)

I need a new pair of athletic shoes. I like to try on shoes before I buy them, so I shopped at a local sporting goods store. I found a pair in my size, but I didn’t like the color. The salesperson checked the warehouse inventory and told me I was in luck. The warehouse had one pair in stock to fit my size in the color I wanted. I paid for the shoes at the checkout and was told to expect my delivery in two to seven days.

To my delight the package arrived in two days! I tore open the outer wrapping, eager to see my purchase. When I took the shoes out of the box, my excitement changed to shock. The left and right shoe were different sizes. On closer examination I realized size wasn’t the only issue. Each shoe was a different style. But I did get something I wanted. Both shoes were black and white.

The moral of the story: “If the shoes don’t match, don’t wear them.” The next day I returned the mismatched pair to the store.

The manager shook her head. “Someone sure made a big mistake.” She apologized and refunded my money. Consequently my search continues.

I admit for most of my life I’ve been spoiled by the abundance of material goods our wonderful supply chain has supplied. The supply chain crisis is something new to all of us. In the midst of everything, let’s try to not let our patience grow short as well.

How about you? Are you keeping your cool in the midst of the shortages? Leave a comment. You can cry on my shoulder. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m a good listener.

Cruising the St. Johns River

Would you agree 2021 seems a lot like 2020? The more stressful our lives become, the more we need to take time to relax. Even a three hour get-away can work wonders. My recent trip on a St. Johns riverboat increased my awareness of the soothing effect of water. Did you know contact with water can help people feel happier, calmer, and more creative? Hmm… maybe that’s why we get some of our best ideas in the shower.

Some rivers are known for their length, others for their exciting rapids. The St. Johns River boasts of neither. However, it holds the title of the laziest river in the world. Remember your elementary science classes? Water flows along the path of least resistance. In Florida the path of less resistance is found between Indian River County in the south and Jacksonville in the north. The St. Johns is twenty seven feet higher at its source compared to its mouth. This slow moving river drops one inch per mile over the course of three hundred ten miles. No wonder white water rafters look elsewhere for thrills.

In spite of its laziness, throughout history the St. Johns has given rise to an abundance of activity. The river was one of the earliest routes used by Europeans to explore Florida. During the Civil War, the Union Navy operated steamboats up and down the river to carry out attacks on Confederate forts. After the war, riverboats carried wealthy tourists south for fun in the sun. Throughout the nineteenth century paddle wheelers moved produce from Florida farms to northern states.

Today, the Barbara Lee is the only authentic riverboat sailing the St. Johns River. The ship was built in 1986 and refurbished in 2012. Unlike the steamboats of the past, the Barbara Lee uses diesel engines to turn the massive paddle wheels.

We boarded the Barbara Lee at its port in Sanford for a lunch cruise. (By the way, the dining room is air-conditioned.) The food tastes great and the service is superb. Above the dining room, we relaxed on the deck and marveled at the natural beauty of the river.

Standing on the deck, I felt miles away from the problems of the world. Rivers seem so sure of themselves. They have no doubt they will reach their destination. I felt linked with nature, connected to the past, and renewed in my spirit.

Herb and I loved our trip on the Barbara Lee.

Travelers looking for alligators may want to select an evening cruise. The water temperature averages eighty-five degrees in August. Our guide told us during the summer the gators seek cooler temperatures at the bottom of the river. At night the reptiles are more active. When the gators swim across the surface of the water their eyes cast an eerie glow. How spooky!

Click here to learn about the many cruises offered by the St.Johns Rivership Company.

Are We There Yet?

“Some threads of our social fabric have changed forever.”

Do you ever wonder what life might be like if Covid 19 had never happened? Unfortunately, we will never know. One year has been wiped out of our lives. As difficult as the year has been, we have established new habits. We’ve become accustomed to a stilted way of life. One which is less social, less free, and less risky.

Why have we chosen comfort and safety above everything else? What happened to the bold Americans who explored unknown territory? Why do we still hesitate to venture into public without our masks and wash our hands countless times a day?

One year ago I wrote a post entitled Lessons from a National Emergency. Last March the entire country was under a stay at home order to “slow the spread.” Over the past year Florida eased many restrictions regarding social distancing. Public schools opened, as did restaurants and hair salons. However, many churches, and community organizations continue to meet virtually. Museums, if open, insist upon scheduling appointments to accommodate visitors. Businesses maintain mask policies, and many employees still work from home.

I believe some threads of our social fabric have changed forever. Virtual communication is here to stay. We are different now. It is so much easier to meet with someone on a screen. Driving somewhere to interact with people involves too much effort. We feel uncomfortable without our masks, and wonder… “what if the vaccines we receive do not protect us from a deadly variant?”

When our children were young, we rented a small trailer and took a road trip from Columbus, Ohio to Yellowstone. Prior to the trip, we prepared a child friendly map of the U.S. for each of them. We drew our route on the map and highlighted all of our stops. When we were on the trip the children placed a star sticker on each stop we made. We hoped it might help them to see how far we still needed to go before we were “there.”

In a similar way, most Americans can’t wait for the day when the pandemic ends. We all want to be “there.” Back to a time when we could enjoy a play in a crowded theatre or attend an indoor concert. (without a mask) The slow car ride to normality drags on. We feel disappointed when we hear our government say, “Put another sticker on the map, kids. Busy yourself by looking out the window.” Like you, I am bored with the view from the back seat and continue to ask, “Are we there yet?”

A Bevy of Bad Birthdays

Have you been one of the lucky ones to commemorate your birthday during the pandemic? Actually the way things are going, you might have the opportunity.

When Florida was under lockdown restrictions last spring, I felt sorry for those people whose birthdays were affected. Families felt desperate to do something special for their loved ones and began organizing drive-by celebrations. Friends waved, screamed, and honked as they drove past the home of the birthday boy or girl. Sigh…I wondered if these short-lived celebrations left the recipients feeling even more alone as they watched every car disappear from view?

I remember thinking, “Surely the pandemic will end by the time my birthday comes around in June. My birthday will be awesome.”

WRONG! Three days before my birthday, two family members tested positive for Covid-19. I spent my birthday in quarantine waiting to see if I would exhibit any symptoms. Fortunately, I was in the clear, and my family members recovered. Herb surprised me with a cake and candles, but guests were out of the question.

Fast forward to Herb’s birthday in August. We planned a family party, which is normal for us and I bought a cake mix. Then I realized, “I’d better make cupcakes because Herb will blow out the candles. I can’t serve cake to everyone after he breathes on it.”

So I did. I also gave everyone personal bottles of hand sanitizer and masks for party favors. How’s that for a pandemic birthday?

Did you ever wonder how our birthday traditions came about? Here’s the scoop.

Birthday cakes were first made in Germany during the Middle Ages as part of a child’s celebration known as Kinderfest. A candle was placed on the cake to represent the “light of life.”

Over time, people began adding one more candle to the top of the cake to represent a person’s age. We were all told to blow them out and make a wish.

Since everyone is more fearful of Covid-19 spreading, here’s a little known bit of information. A study by Clemson University in 2017 discovered blowing out your candles increases bacteria by 1400%. (Actually, this isn’t a huge problem unless the birthday boy is ill.) But in the year of the Covid, nothing is sacred.

Yum! More cake anyone? Don’t be surprised if birthday cakes will be next on the list for a Covid-conversion. I expect to see a shortage of cupcake papers in my local grocery soon. I honestly feel like the world will never be the same again.

How many candles fit on a single cupcake? Just look on the bright side. This year you can extinguish the flame of your candle in one breath—and no one will know your age.

Front Porch Friendship

What comes to mind when you think of a front porch? A swing? A rocking chair? An old dog asleep with one eye open? I think of relaxing conversations, sweet tea, and laughter.

For the first time in my life, I live in a house with a front porch. In this coronavirus climate, a front porch is a great place to meet your neighbors and develop relationships. People can stop by for chat and not feel like they’re intruding on your space or time. After all, you must want to talk or you wouldn’t be sitting on the porch, right?

Like most people in my age group, I’ve felt quite isolated during the past four months. My church conducts services on line and my book club meets through Zoom. Even my Wordweavers’ meetings are conducted through Zoom. I’m thankful for technology, but when I have an actual face to face conversation with a person, I feel happier.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
– Albert Schweitzer

Pause and think about the friends you have made over the years who rekindled your inner spirit. Friends encourage us to keep going through the hard times. Here are some of the benefits of friendship:

*Friends increase your sense of belonging and purpose.

*Boost your happiness and reduce your stress.

*Improve your self confidence and self worth.

*Help you cope with personal trauma.

*Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Of course developing and maintaining a friendship requires effort. I’ve had access to a front porch for three weeks and I must admit, I think I’ve sat out there three times. But each time I’ve venture onto the porch, someone always stops by to talk. And I know the investment of my time is worth it.

People need other people, now more than ever.

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
– Zig Ziglar

Dear Reader, I hope my post has encouraged you to reach out to those around you. Until next time…

When Does a House Become a Home?

Welcome back, readers. I apologize for my absence from cyberspace. During the month of June, Herb and I immersed ourselves in the process of downsizing to move to a new location. Under the best conditions, moving is emotionally and physically exhausting. Add ninety degree temperatures and moving becomes unbearable. Now that we have settled in our new home, I’ve rewarded myself with a nap every afternoon.

Yes, piece by piece we dismantled the old homestead and carried all the things which passed the “keep test” to our new digs. As each picture came down and each knick-knack packed, the old place lost its charm. And when Two Men In A Truck came to carry the furniture out, the empty shell no longer seemed like the same home we’ve known for the past sixteen years.

I highly recommend Two Men and a Truck to anyone making a move. The team carefully handled our belongings and listened to our requests. They also wore face masks in compliance with local Covid-19 mandates.

We were ready to go. Perhaps it was the impact of the pandemic that encouraged us to let go of our sentimental feelings. After all, when you’ve been staring at the same four walls for months on end with no opportunities for travel, you get a little stir-crazy.

Buddy whined the first two nights, but eventually he acclimated to his new environment. Beagles are happy if they can continue to eat, and Buddy never missed a meal. Since we were doing most of the moving ourselves, we involved him in the process by allowing him to supervise.

Once everything was out of the old location, it took awhile to determine how to utilize the space in each room. Even though I thought I’d downsized, I sorted and gave away more clothes when I couldn’t squeeze another item into our closet.

After a few days our family became more comfortable in our new home. We hung a few pictures and placed potted plants on the front porch. During my youth, it always took awhile to break in a pair of new jeans. When you brought them home from the store the fabric felt stiff. After washing and wearing them a few times the jeans softened. In the same way a house becomes a home by living within the space.

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.” —Cecelia Ahern

A home is made by the people who live there and the love they share. Home is where the heart is. May you be happy in yours.

Patience is a Virtue

Hello friends,

How are you getting along this week? Have you counted the days since our National Emergency began? That’s right. Forty-five days. Many of us have been quarantined in our homes for most of those days. I can’t believe I’m still here looking at the same four walls. Herb suggested we change the pictures in the living room in order to see some new scenery.

It hasn’t been all bad. I have plenty to do. Remember the song, “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers?

“Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.”

I sing that song to myself sometimes…but I haven’t started smoking and I don’t think this would be a good time to start.

Now, back to the subject of waiting. We’re all waiting for our stay-at-home orders to be lifted. I dream about going shopping, visiting friends, and worshipping with my church. (in person!)

But we might have to wait longer. So I try not to dream too much. That’s like inviting Mr. Discontent to come into your house and take residence. No thanks.

Waiting doesn’t mean you’re inactive. Instead you’re harnessing your mind, will, and emotions to work for you within the boundaries of your circumstances. Each day I try to do the following:

Accept the reality there is nothing I can do to change my circumstances.

Pray for the emotional strength to endure until my circumstances change.

Determine to use this time as productively as I can.

On March 13, I didn’t believe I could endure spending six weeks in my home. Although it seems like I’m stuck in time, something is happening. Even if my circumstances don’t appear to be changing, I’m different. I’m learning patience.

“Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires.” —Sheri L. Dew

Today I remembered a baby cardinal which was trapped in our courtyard a couple years ago. Its little wings were too small and weak to lift its pudgy body any higher than the patio table.

After several failed attempts to fly, the mama cardinal coached the baby higher. First it flew from the ground to the table, then from the table to the top of the garage door. Finally, it took off into the wide blue sky.

“Here I go!”

Re-opening America will be like that. Little by little we will find our way forward and enjoy all the wonderful freedoms we used to know. We will fly!

Until then, keep counting those flowers everyone.

Still Waters

Are you tired of sitting at home because of COVID-19? Are you ready to travel somewhere, anywhere?

Come with me on a journey. Although I’ve lived in my neighborhood for sixteen years, I didn’t really become acquainted with this pond until last week.

Beautiful, isn’t it? This view is very near my front door. On previous occasions, I was usually too busy to notice. Maybe I was walking Buddy, or riding my bike. Maybe I was getting the mail. I have to say, COVID-19 has forced me to pause and consider my immediate surroundings.

Our local stay-at-home order permits walking outdoors, but I wanted to keep my walk short (since I am recovering from a back injury). I discovered it takes twenty minutes to circle the pond. So let’s get started.

These bald cypress knees aren’t always visible. During the summer rainy season the roots of the tree are under water.

White ibis photo courtesy of Herb Burton.

The shallow water provides an ideal feeding ground for the white ibis. These birds use their long beaks to probe the soft mud in search of insects.

white egret

This spring the water is so low, little islands are rising. They make me think of continents pushing up out of the ocean. The islands attract snapping turtles who are eager to warm themselves in the sun. Soon after I took this photo, the egret perched itself upon the sandy mound to scan the water for its next meal.

This is the view from the western end of the pond. There have been years when the water recedes even more and the island becomes a land bridge.

Here is one of my favorite views. Standing in this spot I feel like I could be on a trail in some remote area, away from the confines of our Orlando neighborhood.

Unfortunately, my desire to walk closer to the water resulted in disaster. I picked up some dog poo-lution on my shoe. Lucky for you, a virtual trip doesn’t include this hazard of the trail.

Blue heron photo courtesy of Herb Burton.

As we near our starting point, we are delighted by the stately blue heron. During moments like these, I realize how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place. My walks have provided me the opportunity to thank God for his love and care, even during this time of despair.

I’m reminded of Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside the still waters,

He restores my soul.

I hope our journey around the pond has helped you relax a little. True, the pandemic has taken much from our lives. I trust that in this season of loss, something will be gained. My walks around the pond have inspired me to remember how God still provides for each of us.

Have you experienced God’s provision during this season of loss? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Lessons from a National Emergency Part 2

“A major disruption has occurred in our lives.”

By now you might be tired of reading anything related to our war with the coronavirus. Can anything be said that hasn’t already been said? I’m asking myself the same question as I sit down to write today.

When I walk outside the sky is still blue, birds are tweeting, flowers are blooming. The sunshine warms me. Somehow it seems like a perfectly normal spring day. It’s as if nature didn’t get the message. Doesn’t the natural world know the shadow of death is upon us?

When I wrote my last post I shared my initial reaction to our national emergency. We’ve all experienced many more setbacks since then. As the number of COVID-19 cases rise, more businesses, churches, and schools close their doors. Opportunities for socialization and recreation have diminished. Like many of you I’ve felt trapped in my home. It’s a good thing I like my husband or this could really be bad.

Herb and I enjoying another evening at home.

I commend the health professionals who risk their lives to fight the pandemic on the front lines. Those of us complying with local stay-at-home orders also play an important role. Social isolation holds back the enemy’s advances. But isolation does have a negative impact on our emotions. Every day we must put on our armor to stand against the anxiety which assaults our minds.

I think by now most of us realize a major disruption has occurred in our lives. We have changed. Maybe we don’t trust people as much as we used to. Last week my level of distress had actually escalated to the point I’ve had trouble focusing. Is this the “fog”of war?

Then I read an email from Dr. Valerie Allen, author of the self- help book, Beyond the Inkblots: Confusion to Harmony. A trained psychologist, Dr. Allen shared tips in her email for coping with the anxiety associated with the pandemic. Here are some suggestions:

Keep reaching out to people. Commit to at least one phone call, email, or text a day. Share your concerns and feelings with people you trust.

Engage in physical activity. Take a walk, ride a bike, lift soup cans if you are stuck indoors.

Develop your Creativity. Cook a new dish made from ingredients you have in your pantry. Write in a journal. Take an online class. Read about a topic you’ve always wanted to know more about.

Increase your level of spirituality. Watch live streaming videos of worship services. Pray. Engage in Bible study.

Tackle a Project. Clean out a closet. Organize your photos. Reorganize your kitchen cabinets.

I’d like to add a tip of my own to this list:

Make a Positive Statement. Encourage others by sharing something up-lifting. Post positive quotes on social media. Hang up Christmas lights in your window to send a message of encouragement to your neighbors.

Our daughter and son in law hung these lights on their apartment balcony.

Christmas lights send a message of hope. Leave a comment and share how you’ve received encouragement during these dark times.

Lessons from a National Emergency (Part One)

What have you learned about yourself over the past week? There’s nothing like a good old fashioned global pandemic to show us what we’re made of. Americans have been fortunate to escape the wars and epidemics which may have affected the rest of world. But this is different. As many have already said, we are all weathering Covoid-19 together.

It’s hard to feel a sense of “community “when you’re told you need to stay home to protect yourself from a disease capable of killing you or members of your family. Although I have not been “quarantined,” I’ve felt lonely, fearful, and exhausted this week. I’m sixty-six years old, my husband is sixty-nine, and my mother is eighty-six with an “underlying health condition.” My decision to practice “social distancing” has been for my own and my family’s protection.

I’m exhausted from trying to ensure we have enough food and supplies to last at least two weeks. When I encountered empty shelves at my local Publix I became anxious. Why? Because we’ve always had enough, in fact we’ve always had more than enough. I’m not a fan of hoarding, especially if my behavior keeps others from getting what they need. Fortunately, I managed to purchase what was necessary, and made substitutions where I could.

The image of my newly planted flowerbed is my effort to gain control in a world that’s gone out of control. Even the Florida State Parks have closed their campgrounds for two months. If I’m going to be expected to stay home, at least I’ll have something pretty to view.

So far here is my list of seven lessons I’ve learned about myself from this emergency.

I don’t like feeling out of control.

I am spoiled.

I hate having my plans cancelled.

Disease is scary.

I take “the good life” for granted.

What I think is necessary, might not be necessary.

I don’t like limitations placed upon how I can choose to spend my day.

As the next two weeks unfold, I hope I can adjust to my new life. I hope I can see the hand of God in the midst of the storm. There is no way I can come through this without being changed, and I pray it’s a change for the better.

Sometimes it helps to remember those people who have lived before us. This morning I thought about Anne Frank, who hid in the Secret Annex for two years along with her Jewish family. She spent her time writing about her thoughts and feelings. Her diary helped her make sense of her situation.

When I think of Anne and the suffering she experienced, I realize what a “spoiled baby” I am. This is a time like no other time. It could be an opportunity for me to grow up. (even at my age)

I entitled this post part one, stay tuned for more lessons as they unfold. How has the pandemic affected your life? Leave a comment.