coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Monday, May 30, 2016

The things I saw

Here are some of the old friends I DID manage to see in Upstate New York a few weeks ago.
A proudly magnificent Solomon's Seal

Trillium, with some kind of little bug crawling around the center

Virginia Bluebells, pretty far from Virginia

Lilies of the Valley, you know the Valley I'm talkin' about, the one where you have to walk it by yourself?

Skunk Cabbage (top) and Marsh Marigold (bottom) in the swamp lands

Wild Geraniums, one of my favorite wild flowers

The amazing wild, red Columbine

A debonair Jack in the Pulpit

The Mighty May Apple, as Mother Earth News has referred to her

A pale yellow Primrose, not really all that prim

Peony shoots coming up, always a reassuring sight

The mysterious Hellebore

Freaking Fern Fronds, for cryin' out loud!

And last, but not least, the always hilarious Toad Shade (a variety of Trillium)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Going Back

We made a whirlwind trip to Upstate NY in mid-May. It was the first time we went back since moving to Florida in March 2014. We arrived late Friday and left after lunch on Monday. Absurdly short visit, I know; but T is not a good traveler. I apologize from the heart to those dear friends I was unable to see this time. The guilt and regret I feel is palpable. But this trip had a specific purpose.

Our friend, ShS, died in January and we were unable to go back for her funeral. We specifically planned this May weekend with the old gang to honor her and help her husband process the loss.

Saying goodbye to her was one of the last things we did before leaving NYS over two years ago. She was not sick yet. Still, when I hugged her goodbye at her doorway that cold March day I was overcome with sorrow and didn't want to let go of her. I fought tears as we drove away. It would be an understatement to say I don't usually cry. I am usually steely calm with goodbyes, so Tom asked if I was okay. I told him I had a strong feeling I was never going to see ShS again. It was one of those moments when the future reaches back with fully extended claws to rend your heart with foresight. Spooky.

On a lighter note, while there we went to
our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. When I walked in, the waiter immediately remembered me! He also remembered my standard lunch order after all these years. Whatta guy!

His kindness reminded me how we impact everyone we meet. A kind and gracious waiter can make a customer's day. We might remember him/her for the rest of our lives. Relationships take many forms. Make no mistake, we all play a role crafting goodness and light in this world.

Yes, we went to Wegmans. I had a hilarious "moment" with an elderly stranger who was sitting down in the dining area eating an entire Mini Ultimate Chocolate Cake all by her sweet self. As I walked by, I saw the cake and exclaimed "Look, it's one of those cakes!" She heard me and said, "I am just trying to make sure I stay fat." Ha!
I'll probably never forget her, either.

Just so you know, we brought a small, empty carry-on suitcase on the plane. Before leaving NYS we filled it up with 3 dozen bagels for our return. The security bag scanner at the airport got a big kick out of it. Six of the bagels were garlic. Now the suitcase will forever smell of garlic. I don't care.

Bagels, ripe for the picking

Heaven on Earth: the produce section at Wegmans

FYI - We are going to be preoccupied with a family wedding this weekend, so I probably won't be checking my or other people's blogs for a few days.  If you send comments I will publish them and respond Monday or Tuesday.  Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Big Payoff

It wasn't like I was ever going to have what some people refer to as "a life's work." I spent my adult life working jobs I was only remotely interested in. I made the best of it. I tried to do a good job and I opened myself to the work, whatever that happened to be. Consequently, I also enjoyed myself, probably more than I should have... why not?  I am proud of that, but I knew I was just a cog in that rusty old wheel. It is what it is and it seems the challenge is to accept reality and still find a way to be happy. Or, perhaps the reality is that you have to accept the challenge?

One of the things I appreciate about retirement is that I am able to focus for more than a few seconds on "things." Now if I read a book I can actually think about plot, character development, and nuance. I am once again aware of symbolism. I can even read a poem all the way through and decipher meaning. There were a few stressful years toward the end of my work life when I could not even read the damn newspaper. 

This is what it is like for us regular folks. We endure. We make the best of it for ourselves, our families, our future. We keep our heads above water for as long as we can. Then, if we are lucky, we retire.

A rusted wheel on a bridge overlooking Lake Apopka, still doing its job

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rise and Shine

I have become a morning person. I did not see that coming. In my working years I always woke up early, at 6:10 a.m. to be exact. I did not like getting up early in those days. Perhaps it was because I HAD to get up. I resented having to follow an established schedule. Still, it was the way of the world and I did it for many years. I was happy to have the job, the work, the money, the people who filled my life.

Now I am retired and I still wake up about 6:10 a.m. Now it is my choice to either rise and shine or to turn over and go back to sleep. Rarely do I choose the latter. NEWS FLASH: Early morning is a great pleasure. Who knew?

Sometimes I stay in bed for awhile, awake. When luxuriating in bed is meditative and relaxing it is a lovely way to start the morning. Unfortunately, staying in bed can also become an anxiety fest.  Then it is best to get up and start the day. There are things to do. Buddy the Cat wants to be fed, coffee needs to be made, and the computer wants to be started up. Flowers and vegetable plants must be inspected for overnight growth. More often than not T has already fed the cat and started the coffee. Then I stumble around, looking a sight and trying to find my bearings. No rush, no hurry. I can slowly find my way.

A frog, taking her own sweet time

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

It's Raining!

After a long, long drought it finally rained yesterday. We were gone this past weekend. We were exhausted when we returned, so we were thrilled not to have to go out in the steaming heat and water our flowers and vegetables. They are well nourished now. After a busy weekend of visiting with old friends, I am well nourished, too. 

When it rains in Florida it REALLY rains. T had to go out about 9:00 p.m. and drain some of the water out of the pool because we were afraid it was going to overflow. This morning it is overcast and the ground is soggy. I imagine it might rain all day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Walking around in circles

I seem to have a bit of a writer's block.  I sat down to write and spent a good five minutes staring into space.  Oh well.  We are going to be very busy this weekend and I'm trying to relax and organize my thoughts.  FYI, I probably won't have time to check my blog or others until the middle of next week.

T and I have been doing a lot of biking, walking, swimming the past couple weeks.  We've discovered a beautiful walking path surrounding a landscaped pond.  We bike to it and then we walk for at least a mile around and around.  I find that comforting, walking in circles.  I always have.  I'm a daydreamer.  I like to walk fast and think hard.  It is nice not to have to come back down to earth and pay attention to things like stop signs or intersections. 

Walking has been a constant in my life.  I used to walk over my lunch hours when I worked.  I rarely ever stayed in my office or workplace over lunch.  I walked outside in good weather and inside on a large inside track during the bad.  It helped me let go of work-related stress.  Sometimes walking and thinking helped me plan my next move or make sense of the insensible.  It nearly always cleared my head.  

And, of course, you never know what you might see on a walk.  

Here's a photo taken at Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida.  It is a wonderful, large, urban garden and they often have large scale sculpture exhibitions that change periodically.  I was thrilled to see this on a recent walk:

Spider sculpture on walking path at Leu Gardens

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Cute Tomato

Well, if you can believe it I ate our second homegrown tomato of the season this morning. I chopped it up and sprinkled it on a split five grain baguette piece, topped it with sharp cheddar and stuck it in the oven until the bread was toasted and the cheese melted. Yum. It was almost as good as a bagel.

We have a couple of teeny raised beds and we are able to start planting some things in March here in Florida. Since we bought tomato plants instead of starting them from seed, we have a nice head start on the fresh produce.

Our 4 year-old grandson, N, took the actual "first" tomato from the garden earlier this month. He wanted to take it home to Daddy. Unfortunately, his father was unable to eat it because by the time he received it the tomato was mush. It seems N used the tomato as a ball. We live and learn.

Little N is my partner in this year's vegetable gardening adventure. He helped me plant seeds for carrots, beets, snow peas, cilantro, green beans, zucchini, and basil. There was much excitement when the seeds started to grow. He likes to water the beds when he comes over to visit. Then he waters the fence, the shed, the house, and me. He loves the power of the sprayer, but he is still learning to control it. When he holds it in his grubby little hands he becomes a de facto sprinkler system. I love that kid. It is a joy watching him learn new things and make new connections in his little mind. It would be wonderful to have a mind so open and uncluttered again.  

and here is the third tomato of the season, coming right up

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Willful Behavior

This morning T and I went to review and sign our wills. Having an appointment outside of the house requires major adjustments to our retirement lifestyle.  Thankfully we live in the Land of Mouse in Central Florida where tourist-casual clothing rules. 

I wore non-denim capris and replaced my usual ratty t-shirt with a black top that enables me to pass as normal.  It is my go-to shirt for trying to pass as normal.  I also wore leather sandals instead of flip-flops.  I put on earrings and a necklace.  I would have worn lipstick but I forgot about the tube that lives in the bottom of my purse. 

Men have it so much easier.  All T had to do was replace his white t-shirt.  In T-land a short sleeved shirt that buttons up the front and has a collar means "dressed-up." 

I would have put my wedding band on, but Florida weather usually makes my fingers swell.  As a result, most days I cannot get my ring on.  Or if I could manage to cram it over my knuckle, I would not be able to get it back off.  Not being able to get my ring off triggers my claustrophobia, so I usually go ring-less.  This morning was no exception.  If the lawyer needs to see a ring on my finger to figure out us two old farts are married, then I guess it will have to be his problem, not mine.

My hair came out of the low, comfortable pony tail I am now used to wearing.  I twisted and pulled it up on the back of my head with a clip.  Now I'll probably go bald from all the pulling and twisting.  It had to be done, though.  Nothing weirds people out like an old woman with long, gray hair.  Ageist crap.  Actually, I might get it all cut off super short this summer.  I don't think I can go through another Florida July or August with long hair.  I would have to find someone trustworthy to cut my hair, though.  You know how that goes.  I'm not sure I am up for the hunt.  Plus, I hate surrendering to bourgeois expectations.  It is a matter of principle. 

Going against the grain

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Chocolate Cake

I have been craving the perfect chocolate cake for a couple of months.  I try not to have dessert because I absolutely don't need it, and I also want to eat less sugar.  However, a craving is a craving is a craving.  It seems like the longer I deny myself a pleasure the more I want it.  Something has to be done or I might possibly lose my mind.

The other day I caved and made a cake.  It is good, but it isn't the chocolate cake I wanted.  It just isn't.  It isn't dark or fudgy or dense enough.  It occurred to me that what I really craved was a Wegmans Ultimate Chocolate Cake. 

Wegmans is this amazing grocery chain in the Northeast.  If you've never been to one, you simply cannot imagine. It is so good that when family from the Midwest would come to visit us in Upstate NY we would take them to the State Parks, the gorges, the Finger Lakes, the wineries, the Cornell plantations, AND Wegmans. 

They sell this cake in two different sizes: full size and mini. T and I would buy the mini and it was perfect for two servings for each of us. The problem was it was SO good that my second serving would end up being my breakfast the next morning. The cake I made the other day is not that good. Maybe that's a gauge of excellence for chocolate cake. Do you want to eat it for breakfast?

This morning I searched the internet for the recipe. Turns out it is a secret recipe and not to be found. Probably just as well.

Wegman's Mini Ultimate Chocolate Cake