Nineteen States in Nine Months

Between August and May, we have seen 19 states, and in hindsight I wish I would have thought of collecting their plates. First there was Florida, then there was Georgia, and in Tennessee we stopped because of friends we wanted to see. Next we drove through Arkansas in order to get to Texas, where it was Dave’s brother, niece, and her girls that we saw. Up to Oklahoma was our next stop to see my mom and dad, then back through Texas then New Mexico so that we could get to Colorado. Another brother of Dave’s we stayed with for a couple of days, it was great.

Back to Oklahoma we went. Picked up my folks, and the next few days in Nashville we spent. My nephew’s wedding was what we did, a real shin-dig.

It was mid-September before it finally came time to come home, for hurricane Irma had  hovered Florida like a drone. Waiting until we knew it was gone, we high-tailed it back and it still took us long. Through Oklahoma then Texas, we felt at home there by now, then going through Louisiana, I felt we had a sort of comradery, somehow. Mississippi and Alabama were the next states to go through, before back in our home state of Florida, where there were no rooms at any of the inns, period.

A little less than eight months later, another road trip we took, this time to northern Michigan, where our daughter graduated nursing school – Look!

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Again we drove through Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, which I am not counting here, you see. But the next state, Kentucky – yes, which we thoroughly enjoyed – with beauty it has been blessed. Ohio was next, and their roads were so terrible, we joked about them having some kind of hex. Shortly after entering Michigan, we stopped for the night, seeing some old friends again.

On “Star Wars Day” we went further north, where Amanda’s graduation was on May the fourth. After celebrating and spending a few days there with her, the three of us went to Indiana – Indianapolis, as it were. Spending time together sight-seeing was mostly what we did, downtown we walked around just about every joint. Then finally, the finale – we went to Cedar Point! The “Roller-Coaster Capital of the World,” is what they say. Who they are, who knows, but what the hey!

Cedar Point is in Ohio, which we won’t count again because, you know. Next we went through a state neither one of us had been to – West Virginia. Is this now the most beautiful state I have ever seen? Yeah!

Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina we drove through before getting to familiar Georgia, and then the state we call home – Florida.

So there it is, nineteen states in nine months! And we loved every mile of it.

The Rock Star Tour of 2018

I was somewhat shocked to see the figure, after counting the states that Dave and I have driven through in the last nine months – nineteen. Nineteen states in nine months we have seen. “Pretty impressive,” I’d say. “Like a rock star!” Eleven states had us overnight and seven of the eleven for more than one night. This, I would like to remember. What a blast it has been.

Packing for this last trip went much more smoothly than our prior trip. Still, I brought too much stuff. But like I told Dave, “At least I’m getting better. At least this time, I only brought four bins of stuff we didn’t need!” Trying to be sarcastic and obviously exaggerate, this only made us laugh harder, as we both knew that I wasn’t exaggerating much. “Okay,” I conceded, and then added, “at least they were small bins.”

Because I wish to do different than I do, and not feel the need to lug around with me every little thing I think we might need on a trip, I am writing about it with the hope that it will help me continue to get better, for future trips. I am doing it for Dave, so that he won’t have to make as many unnecessary trips to the truck, hauling stuff. I am doing it for anyone who wishes they could pack lighter, including me. So while it is fresh on my mind, I will write of those things next. First, something I must get off my mind – saying, “I’m sorry,” to some of our Indy friends.

20180504_174903You see, we were in town last week and did not let most of our friends know. In fact, we told very few of us being around, as our goal was to simply spend time with our daughter and celebrate her passing nursing school. Yes, Amanda is going to be a registered nurse! And we are so very proud of her.

As per the plan, we had no plans for the three days we were there, and we stayed quite busy spending time together. We walked all around downtown, which is also where we stayed, and when we got tired of walking, we rented bikes. We saw lots and lots of sites. We also did “Escape Room Indy” one night and had a blast. The few friends we did see, we have known since Amanda she was four. Two of them had her in their childcare program until she started kindergarten.

My point is – some of you reading this might feel left out upon discovering that we were 20180510_143137in Indy and did not at least say hi. And if you know me, then you know that feeling left out is something I do not like – for myself or others. So at the risk of sounding defensive, well, yeah, I am.

It was our “Rock Star Tour.”

That being said, I can now share the many fun photos of our trip without worrying about a beloved friend feeling left out. If you still do, please know that we are sincerely sorry. We hope to return to Indy soon and when we do, we hope to see you!

Our first stop on our “Rock Star Tour” was in Tennessee to visit friends. Little did we know nine months ago when we made them our first stop on our “Wonderfully Wacky Road Trip” as well, that the next time we’d see them, Stan would be doing chemo and radiation. A real trooper he has been through it all, both of them, indeed! After enduring a dose of radiation, he insisted on taking us to their friend’s place along the river – a place and a person we have heard much about throughout the last three years they have lived there.

A real treat it was for sure. Thanks guys! I will be sure to write more about it soon!

20180502_134312-COLLAGETo view all the pictures from our trip, click here or go to https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/102561194521147515210. Click on “Ask to Join.” You will then need to sign-in to your Google account (gmail) or create one. Keeping the site private through Google I have found to be the easiest, safest way to share my online photo albums. I will accept your request as quickly as possible. If you have any problems, please email me at admin@susieraffey.com. Thank you!

 

The Revival in Waurika

As I am not a huge fan of organized religion, my immediate reaction this morning upon hearing of the “Bible Quest Worship & Drama” schedule for the week at my parent’s church was, I hope my parents won’t want to come to this every night. Church every night, oh, that just seemed like a lot.

Ten minutes into the service, my thoughts changed to, I hope my parents want to come to this every night! It was awesome! One of their brochures says it best – You’ve never seen anything like The Master’s Storyteller. His name is Wesley Putnam, of Wesley Putnam Ministries.

Tonight, Elijah came to life as a New York Bronx cop. Tomorrow night we get to see Gideon as a Yiddish version of Barney Fife. The music was also amazing. A little mini-revival, is what I would describe it as, although I have never been to a revival before. I just know that it is absolutely entertaining and soul shifting – girls and boys young and old alike laughed until they cried and then tried not to cry when their heart started to stir. I saw it. I felt it. Powerful stuff, and I am grateful that I get to be a part of it at the First United Methodist Church Waurika, where I have been a visitor ever since I was born. I used to be visiting my grandparents, now it’s my parents.

On the way back to their house in Hastings, I took pictures of the sunset. Not bad, considering it is through the window.

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If you ever have a chance to see Wesley Putnam, The Master’s Storyteller, I highly recommend that you do. Until then, you can find him at wesleyputnam.org. (And yes, we plan on going every night. I am so excited!)

Hola from Oklahoma!

Hola, Hello, Hi, from Oklahoma where the air is dry, and sixty-five degrees and sunny seems like the perfect day. That’s how it was the day after I arrived. On Wednesday, however, when I flew in, it was in the 30’s, and I sure was thankful that I opted on bringing along the extra layer of warmth even though it meant carrying it from Florida, where it was in the 70’s at 5:30 a.m. when I left. Because, if you know me, you know there was no room in my carry-on for a jacket.

And yes, I was glad to have it, along with my hooded layer and my gloves while waiting for my parents to pick me up at 9:45 a.m., which was a little eerie. Never have I seen no one in an airport baggage claim pick-up area. There were three cars at the curb, but no people. Seriously, I was the only person around, at all. I found that so completely odd and I took a picture. Three, actually, looking one way, straight ahead, and then the other way.

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Maybe it happens all the time, I don’t know. I am surprised though.

So my parents picked me up and we went to the buffalo ranch and spent the night, where I have no cell phone service. Therefore, Dave could not get a hold of me. The last he knew when he had talked to me, I was standing on the curb at baggage claim in the Oklahoma City airport where I had an eerie feeling because there was no one else in sight. Was everything okay? Was something going on? Was I okay? Well thank goodness Dave didn’t torture himself wondering any of this. No, that is not Dave at all. He was more concerned that I knew he did in fact call. And I am so glad I have grown-up.

The sunrise in Hinton is something I love seeing every time we stay there.

Here, you can see the buffalo.

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The next day we drove to my parents home and when we pulled up, my dad said, eyeing his garden, “Alright, we can pick asparagus for dinner!” I walked out there, looked, and said, “Where?”

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He showed me and I said, “Oh wow!”

I picked enough for us to have for dinner, with some left over. I also left some in the garden to pick the next day. I have never had such fresh asparagus in my life. Man, it was excellent.

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A Last and A First

We seem to be going a bit slower here, compared to other pictures of us 4-wheeling.

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This was in late 2008, after Dave’s accident. It seems weird to me now that I would even want to go. And I likely did not, but did just to keep my eye on Dave. And no, it’s not weird that he would want to go. That’s Dave. And here’s me, keeping my eye on him…

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It didn’t do much good though. Before we knew it, we were calling our friend.

“Here comes Harold,” I hollered from where I was standing look-out for him.

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“What’s the problem,” Harold asked.

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“Dave is stuck over there,” and I pointed to where Dave was, waiting for us with the 4-wheeler.

Harold looked and then exclaimed, “He’s not stuck, he’s flooded!”

“Well, uh, I guess he’s flooded and stuck,” I said.

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So they tied a rope to it and did their thing.

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Thank you, strangers, for your help.

And thank you, Harold for coming to our rescue.

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This was our last ride.

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Harold towed us back to his trailer, where we laid looking up at the sun, shining through the trees. And then we took our first selfie. This was in 2008.

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When we were muddin’

We had fun in our 4-wheeling days, it is just not something I want to do anymore. We went out with our neighbor once after Dave’s accident, and that was it. I hadn’t given much thought to exactly how I felt about the activity until just a couple of days ago when I was talking with my neighbor about it. I don’t remember thinking anything bad about it, but I don’t remember having fun either.

As time went on, I couldn’t give it much thought because when I would recall Dave’s accident, I would feel some sort of anxiety. It happened to me when I came across pictures of us 4-wheeling and anything that reminded me of his accident. Well I have decided that I have had enough of that. I also decided that I am not against ATV’s in any way, it is just not an activity for me anymore.

I knew a few years ago that I wanted to write about his accident and other stuff that I just was not ready to tackle at that time. “Maybe when it’s been 10 years,” I said to myself, making a mental note to deal with whatever I needed to deal with to be able to talk about it and do the online photo album I have longed to do and share. It’s weird, but I could not start this journey of sharing my photos until I felt that I was not purposefully skipping over a big chunk of my life just because I was uncomfortable with it.

And Dave, well he is different. He has always said something like he sees no sense in using mental energy for anything other than what he is doing right now. In other words, whatever it is, if it is done and over with, then there is nothing to “get over” because it is over. He is very accepting of the past. Me, not so much. However, I have decided that I would like to change this. Therefore, being a person of sound mind, I should be able to change this!

So when I look at the photos of us 4-wheeling, I will choose to think of how much fun we had in that chapter of our lives (and secretly be glad that it is closed), and not be afraid of my feelings any longer.

These were taken in 2005. And it wasn’t always mud. Trail rides were fun, too.

I just came across the photos from our last ride. They tell a story. I remember now. Coming next.

It’s a bunny, it’s a monkey, it’s Susie!

People may have thought (and with good reason) that I was likely the latest resident of Royal Palm Beach to loose their driver’s license (or their home 😉 ), but thank God that was not the cause of my peddling more than nine miles around the town yesterday. “No, I am not a homeless person loitering in the lot,” I said to myself, and really, to others when they drove through the industrial park, looking at me a little funny as I packed up my bike for the day. “No, I am not a bum looking for a handout,” I silently said to people parking in the lot at Costco, “for if I were, would I have a Costco card? Doubt it,” I said to myself as I walked into the store, and then wondered if anyone watching me was wondering what I was going to get at Costco on my bicycle.wp-1488551650627.jpeg

I didn’t think much more about it, rolling down Royal Palm Beach Boulevard, heading toward the DMV. My mind was more preoccupied with patting myself on the back for what a big a girl I have become. You see, my truck’s steering-something-or-other was loose, and although I allowed fear to get the first foothold, I turned it around and showed it the door and decided to be a big girl and see what I could do about it. As I determined where I would take it and what to do while waiting, fear came storming back in, and this time brought a friend – the head of the pity party committee.

While the two sources of major discontent tried their best to talk me into being the party’s guest of honor, I declined. After arguing with them incessantly, I remembered that the only way to win with these two is by doing, not saying. “Faith without works is dead,” as Jesus said, whereas works is synonymous with action. As in, what are you doing to combat these two trouble makers? So I went to Walmart and bought new tires for my bike.

wp-1488551548437.jpegI also splurged on a side mirror that wraps around the handle bars, which I found to be real handy. The first time a fellow biker scared the heck out of my while whizzing by on my right, I was like, “Duh, Susie, what did you get that mirror for?” I was prepared each time after that. And I got passed a lot, for I was not on a mission, I was simply enjoying the journey. I had all day, or so I thought, to mosey on down to the DMV and get my tags renewed.

On my way, I stopped at Commons Park, had a picnic and took pictures.

I then got an hour’s worth of work done while waiting at the DMV. On the way back to retrieve my truck, I decided that it would be good mental health maintenance to do this once a week – to get out and ride my bike with no time restraints tugging at my mind. As I thought of my usual mental state, I decided that loosing this much time once a week would frazzle me too much. So I changed the frequency to once a month. By the time I reached my truck, I had talked myself into once a quarter being totally sufficient.

The absolute best part of the whole entire day – are you ready for this? My truck – it was a loose bolt. Now how many mechanics are going to hand you your keys and say, “It was a loose bolt. Have a nice day!” I was dumbfounded. Really? Well I can’t believe the difference in the way it drives. He could have gotten a hundred bucks out of me, easily, and I would have been happy. But he is a good guy, George – the owner, and just one of the reasons why I will continue to take my vehicles to Value Tire in Royal Palm Beach. Much more than tires, they do, they do bushings and calipers and the knuckle-like things, they do brakes and of course, tires and alignments. So the next time your auto needs some help to get it rolling down the road safely, give them a call! When I need them, I say, “OK Google, what’s the number for Value Tire in Royal Palm Beach?” And then my phone even offers to call it. While I hope I don’t have to rely on them too much, it is nice knowing that I can when I need to, and having my truck for about 220,000 miles now, I sure am glad I found Value Tire in Royal Palm Beach!

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It was a good day to have a good day!

I almost started to wallow and wonder why I had forgotten to change my appointment for my semi-annual teeth cleaning, for who wants to go to the dentist on their birthday? I decided instead to feel grateful that I can. I decided instead to call it a ‘celebrate me’ day. And after getting my teeth cleaned, I went to meet Tim Dorsey.

WAY out of my comfort zone I went – all the way down to Boynton Beach. South Congress Avenue, to be exact. It was so much out my zone, it took me ten u-turns to find the WXEL television station.

wp-1486507191742.jpegSo what was I doing at the WXEL’s television station for the afternoon? I was in the studio audience during the taping of their show “Between the covers,” which I found to be a very exciting and fun time. The people there at WXEL could not have been friendlier or more welcoming, they were great. It was a neat experience all around.

Tim Dorsey is the author whom host Ann Bocock interviewed for this show, which airs on Friday evenings at 5:30 on the local PBS station in the West Palm Beach area. Unaware that they would have books there for purchase, I bought mine at Barnes and Noble and in the future will be giving the public television station my business. Just sayin. And while I’m at it, let me say that this author, Tim Dorsey, is a super funny guy. All twenty of his books are probably pretty funny too. That’s what the lady who sat next to me said.

So the life-changing stuff for me is this – I decided to have a different attitude about my appointment and it worked. I had a wonderful time at the dentist today. Driving down to Boynton Beach, I told myself repeatedly that I was excited, not anxious or fearful about stepping way down south out my box, into a studio, all by myself – and it worked. In hindsight, I was a little giddy and likely appeared over-exuberant. And I loved every minute of it!

On another note, the one that comes with, “Happy Birthday to you,” I would like to thank everyone who wished me well on Facebook as well as called, texted or emailed. I am so blessed to have such good peeps in my life. And thank you all for reading and following my blog. If you like it, please share! If you don’t, well share it anyway – it’s my birthday! 🙂

Reel Big Fish at the Fair

I think it is funny, how I had never heard of Reel Big Fish before exactly one month ago. On that day, December 26, 2016, we – me, Amanda and David – were driving the three hours from Ft. Myers to West Palm  when David asked if we wanted to listen to a CD he had. We said, “Sure,” and when it was over, agreed that we all liked it.

Three weeks ago when I was packing up stuff to send to Amanda, I saw the CD in the stack of stuff she had asked me to mail. I grabbed it and played it for Dave later that night. Although the genre is not his first choice (or even second or third), he enjoyed it well enough. They have some funny lyrics, and while reading them on the jacket cover, I noticed that the CD was from 1998. We were surprised we hadn’t heard of them since this was the type of music most of us mostly listened to back then.

Last week, we went to the fair, and not because I wanted to see the fair, but because I wanted to buy baby chickens there, as we had done a dozen years ago. We found out that baby chicks are no longer sold at the fair, which was sad to hear, and that the following week, Reel Big Fish would be playing. For some reason, this excited me. And since Dave’s been saying I need to get out more, I made the decision that we would be going back to see the band. We told David of the date and asked if he wanted to meet us there, which he did, and we all concurred that it was a good time.

The guys in the band are super funny. One of them was like, “Okay, we are going to sing the song that made us famous in the 90’s,” and upon hearing Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play… the crowd went wild, singing along and jumping up and down and I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know they sang this!” They would go on playing for a few minutes before whining to a halt and then say, “No, no, no… just kidding, that’s not our song,” then say whoever it was and then, “Now, this is the song that made us famous in the 90’s.” They went on like this with four or five songs. It was really funny. Every time, I looked at David for confirmation – is this really their song? And only on the last one did he nod his head yes, which they played all the way through, proving it was indeed their song. I knew it from back in the day and concluded they must have been a one hit wonder band I didn’t remember. I also found this odd, since they were so freaking funny.

 

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Amanda’s Visit at Christmas – Part 2

wp-1483320410643.jpegIn Part 1 of Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016, I left-off on Christmas day in Ft. Myers, and in case you missed it, this has become my favorite part of Christmas – when we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus at Dave’s cousin’s house. She goes all-out, birthday cake and all. I love it, even though I believe that this time of year was when Jesus was conceived, not born. Still, it is one of the best things I have ever seen.

Afterwards, we stopped by to see some friends of ours and by the time we got back to the condo, everyone was beyond ready for bed. The next morning, I drove Dave to the boat docked at the beach and the kids and I packed up my truck and headed home. Dave enjoyed a day by himself on the boat fishing. The three of us made plans for the following day to go out to dinner and then head downtown to see Sandi the Christmas tree, sculpted entirely out of sand.

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Choreographed to music, the lights danced around, blinked, and changed color quickly. It was pretty neat. Not missing a chance to capitalize, West Palm Beach made Sandi a star – she had trailer just like the movie stars and “Sandi Swag” was offered for sale.

Here, Amanda and I sit in Sandi’s dressing area – a good spot for a photo-opp.

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The following day, Amanda said goodbye to her dad, and she and I headed north. Because we needed to be at the Orlando airport at 6:00 in the morning, we decided to drive up and spend the night. We had planned on taking the long way and stopping in Sebring to see Jonathon, which we did, although we wound up taking the long, long… long, long way.

wp-1483402366629.jpegIn hindsight, I somewhat enjoyed it. I am glad to know where River Ranch is, and am happy I can say that I have driven through it. Even more so, I am glad to know that right down the road from it are fishing and boating communities. The best part though, and yes, I know this is just weird, but to be a little scared, driving in the pitch dark between Reedy Lake and Lake Arbuckle on a two-lane tiny road with no shoulder, well, I would have rather been with no one but Amanda, and since it was indeed her sitting next to me, well, in hindsight I can say it was a bit thrilling. My “drama-fix” for the year, perhaps.

I thought I knew where I was going and it was not until I saw signs for Ft. Drum that I realized something was wrong. “Ft. Drum!” I exclaimed, “we are going to pass Debbie’s house,” I told Amanda, “that’s not right!” After chatting for a few about our friend while I tried to decide what to do or where to pull over, Amanda pulled up the map on her phone. She showed me what it said. We determined that turning around was not the answer. So we took five hours to get to Sebring. They were also some of the best hours of conversation.

After having dinner with Jonathon, we continued north to Monroe’s on the Lake in Sanford, Florida. Unfortunately, I could not avoid I-4, although I would not have known that I wanted to until it was too late anyway. I-4 was under construction, bumpy with uneven pavement like I have never seen. The six lanes of highway twisted and turned and were as narrow as could be, and with semi’s barreling through the 60 mph zone going 80 while tourists slowed down to 40, trying to figure out where to go, it made for the worst experience on the road I have ever had. Amanda even groaned when she looked at the map and saw we had 20 more miles of it to go. Finally, we made it to our hotel a little before 11, and the first thing Amanda said was, “I see why dad choose this hotel!”

wp-1483449712211.jpegSituated on Lake Monroe in Sanford, Florida, this affordable hotel had a friendly staff and nice rooms. The room we were in on the second floor overlooking the pool was nice anyway, with a mini-fridge and wood (laminate) floor. The bed was comfy and had the type of pillow-top comforter that I love. Perhaps Dave figured, with a bass fish for an emblem, how can you go wrong? I am glad he wasn’t wrong.

In the morning I took Amanda to the airport and waited around, hoping to get a picture of her plane departing. Realizing it would be another 20 minutes or so, I decided to go back to the hotel, only 10 minutes away, and take them from there. Before leaving, I took a picture of the airport, where it appears that Allegiance Air has the place all to itself. The place that reminds me so much of middle-school pickup.wp-1483449362046.jpegBack at the hotel, I saw a plane take off at 7:20. I took a video and pretended that I knew it was Amanda’s plane. Then I set out to take photos of the scenery that surrounded me. wp-1483403287918.jpegThis would be a nice place to meet up with others, whatever the occasion. I believe they also have a banquet room, and this beautiful gazebo is in a nice yard area in between the hotel and lake. I also spotted a huge grill/smoker but do not know if this is available for guests or what the story is on that. Worth checking out though if you are looking for something like this and enjoy doing that sort of thing (like us).wp-1483403287927.jpeg

 

Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016

Three hours north and then a half hour west in the middle of nowhere, was about all I knew of the road trip I was taking to go get Amanda from the Sanford Airport. Although not in the middle of nowhere, much of the two-lane road ran right through the St. John’s River.

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And right through a fish camp.

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Arriving at the small airport just north of the Orlando International reminded me of middle-school pickup back in the day. Almost immediately, traffic came to a complete stop, where, for about ten minutes, I waited.

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Traffic started moving slowly and I inched my way closer and closer to the terminal. Then Amanda called, she had retrieved her luggage and was on the curb waiting. It was just like middle-school pickup.

The next day, back in our neck of the woods, I spotted a new sign I thought might interest someone:

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One day, Amanda and I went downtown to take Dave to lunch. We went in to see the tree he had been telling us about, and of course, get a picture.

wp-1483302734740.jpegOur tree at home is a bit less traditional. Dave did all the decorating and I love it. “Dreaming of a black-light Christmas” is our song this year!

 

Presenting the Raffey Family Christmas Tree of 2016:
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The “pilot” Blacklight Christmas

For Christmas, we went to Ft. Myers, where, Dave and John carried on Gus’ tradition of hosting a Prime Rib dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by opening presents. Fourteen people got their fill and there were leftovers. Costco came through once again.

Dave said Gus’ traditional grace, to which Jeff and I traditionally tacked-on, “Rub-a-dub dub, let’s eat this grub!”

wp-1483303257394.jpegThen we opened presents. Here, Dave is reading the tag – To David From Santa. At some point, he looked at me, confused. “You sure this is for me?” “Yes, finish reading the tag,” I told him. Because you will always be David first here, he read. And our gift tags confirmed this.

wp-1483317210859.jpegSanta got him cookies – Butter Pecan Meltaways – to be exact. In a round tin with the cookie maker’s name written across the top it and, “a bite above the rest,” I had to try one. The name of “David’s” was a plus.

wp-1483303310748.jpegMan, am I glad that Dave does not enjoy them nearly as much as I do. We would have to fight over them. But as luck would have it, or his big, kind heart, he allowed me to eat almost the entire tin of cookies.

On Christmas Day, we did the traditional get-together at Dave’s cousin’s house. After lunch we played games and then sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

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Visit my site on Shutterfly to see more pictures.

The following day we came home and planned out Amanda’s last few days here.

To be continued…

Big Block Party of Birds

I took this video on Christmas day in Ft. Myers. Not a rare sight for those whose yard we were in; however, I was amazed. It was really something to be standing in the middle of! And I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother. Ha ha ha!!

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Saturday, In the Parker – Part Two

Exactly a month after Dave’s dad passed away, we were at his house, just Dave and I, on a Saturday night. Earlier that day, we had attended a celebration of life for Dave’s cousin, Peggy, then went to see the sunset when we “accidentally” wound up going over the bridge on to Sanibel. Since we were already there, we made the most out of our six dollars and drove down the island. We stopped at The Love Boat Ice Cream Shop where I ordered a Turtle Sundae and almost ate all three scoops by myself. It was the best ice cream.

So, back at the house after the six-dollar sunset, Dave was in the living room watching television and I in the master bedroom reading, when a lady walked right in and greeted us.

“Well hi there,” I heard a lady’s voice say just outside the bedroom door. I walked to the entryway where a lady who appeared to be in her 80’s stood in bare feet and a nightgown.

“Hi,” I said, walking toward her, “can I help you?”

“Yes, please,” she said, as she reached out to me. I came closer and she grabbed my arm. Instantly, the look on her face changed. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “He is so mean,” she said, and then started to cry.

Somewhat shocked, Dave and I both prompted her to tell us what was going on; who was she talking about? All we got was how he is so mean and says she can’t do anything right. The strong smell of alcohol coupled with the slur of her words spoke volumes to me. Of course, her choice of words – blaming her husband for all of her woes and ensuring her spot as the victim – prompted me to pray for her while at the same time, thanking God for removing such a mindset from me. While she was spinning it one way, I was seeing it another. I was seeing what I looked like just a little more than seven short years ago.

We let her go on, understanding ourselves that this had more to do with an insecure drunk woman than anything else. We asked her to come sit down and she refused. I wanted to get her a tissue but she did not see the need. “I’ll be fine,” she said, as she gripped my arm tightly with one hand and used the other to gather a fistful of her nightgown and wipe her face with it.

After a few more minutes, I suggested that we walk her home. “This is my home,” she said with assurance. “No… this was Gus’ home,” I said. She looked at me confused. I continued, “Did you know Gus? This was his home, and this is his son,” I said, motioning to Dave. She looked at Dave, threw her arms around him and busted out crying, “Oh, I loved Gus so much!”

A different kind of cry than when she originally appeared at the door, this unknown woman went on and on about how much she loved Dave’s dad and is going to miss him. I listened for clues to who this woman might be and where she lived. It had to be close.

Seeing a good opportunity to see if we can see her home, we walked out the front door, down the walkway, and onto the street. “I live over there,” the lady said, and pointed to a particular house. As we walked up the driveway, I said, “Oh, did you guys put up Christmas lights today?” “Well no,” she said, as it dawned on her that this was not her house. “Silly me, I mean, that’s where I live,” and she pointed next door. We cut across the yard and a dog started to bark. “Do you have a dog?” I inquired. “No,” she answered. “Well then that wouldn’t be your house either,” I informed her.

It was getting cold out. Dave and I decided we would take the woman back to his dad’s house while we figured out what to do. The three of us walked back down to the street where the woman abruptly said, “Shhh… someone’s coming,” and stopped walking. “Stay right here until they pass,” she instructed us, and then appeared as if she were trying to huddle into herself and roll-up into a ball.

“There you are,” bellowed the man walking toward us, “I have been looking all over for you!” It was the woman’s husband. Witnessing their back-and-forth was like a flashback of me carrying-on about anything I could to get attention off of me and my wrong doings. This man seemed to be sober and sincerely care about this woman. He pointed out to me their house and I walked the woman home while he and Dave stayed on the street and talked.

“How long have you two been married?” I asked her, as we walked up their driveway. She exclaimed, “Oh gosh, 60 years!” I took a big chance and said, “I’m sure he really loves you.” “Yes, I’m sure he does,” she replied, then turned to me, grabbed both of my arms and said, “I won’t remember this tomorrow, but I want you to come tell me.” I laughed and said, “Tell you what?” I did not really expect an answer, and she said, “Just come and say hi, promise me you will at least come and say hi.” “Okay, I will come and say hi,” I told her.

The next day, I walked by and she was sitting on her front porch. I said, “Hi.” She smiled and returned the gesture. “Beautiful day,” I exclaimed, as I carried onward with a wonderful walk around the neighborhood.

The Six-Dollar Sunset

Heading west, Dave made an impromptu move, and changing lanes said, “Let’s go over to Sanibel and watch the sunset.”

“I don’t care,” I said, with no enthusiasm.

“Okay good,” he responded, as if I had said, “Yeah, wonderful idea!”

I sat there amused at first, that he chose to take my “I don’t care” statement as – I don’t care that we’re not doing what I thought we were (going back to the house to nothing) – instead of – I don’t care if we go see the sunset – which, clearly, is what I meant.

Of course I care that we are not doing what my mind was set on doing. Deviate from our plans of doing nothing? No way! My mind has very little room for change sometimes. If I think it’s going to be one way, then by golly darn it, it better be that way, or else. Even if your way is better. I was totally aware of this and wanted to be able to “go with the flow,” yet some part of me refused to give-in and go with it.

My amusement quickly downgraded to annoyance and grasping for excuses, I added, “As long as we don’t go over the bridge. I don’t want to pay the toll.”

“Me either,” he replied.

We soon found ourselves in a ‘no turn around’ predicament and before we knew it, we were being asked for six dollars. I was shocked. Six dollars just to get on to Sanibel? Damn it, we didn’t even want to go to Sanibel. Or so I thought.

I felt myself getting mad and then remembered that if I was mad, it was because I was choosing to be mad. I asked myself, “Do I really want to feel anger? Is this the feeling I really want right now?” I decided that it was not the feeling I desired for myself, and therefore, I would not be mad. Instead, I chose to focus on happy I am that Dave is nowhere near angry whenever my actions don’t line up with his expectations. Instantly, I felt my load lighten.

After fumbling for money and handing it to the attendant, Dave looked at me apologetically and before he could say a word, I joked, “What a topic – the six dollar sunset!” He smiled. I rolled down my window and started taking pictures.

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Saturday, in the Parker – Part One

Two memorials in three weeks with the Raffey clan – In 2016, November was a month of mourning. First, on the 5th, we had a funeral mass for my father-in-law Gus, and then on the 26th, a memorial for Dave’s cousin, Peggy. Emotions ran the gamut on that Saturday. Funny and sad were both had at both – Dave’s cousin’s house and at Parker Lakes.

While Dave was fixing the bike Saturday morning, the three of us started talking about the stuff they had at the St. Columbkille thrift store, where John had taken their dad’s clothes. I started telling John about how I had wanted Dave to take a particular pair of pants and before I could even describe them, John knew which ones I was talking about. Dave’s brother scolded me for not taking them or telling him that we wanted them. “No, we really don’t,” Dave was trying to interject. I won.

On our way to the thrift store, I shared how I could not believe we have never been to it. Gus had talked about this thrift store many times, and although we had been the the K-Mart many times, we had never walked next door to the St. Columbkille thrift store, run by the church Gus loved and served with all of his heart. And then there we were, buying back his pants for five bucks.

I knew I wanted the pants their parents had bought in Hawaii over 40 prior, though I did not realize how much until I could not find them (and I am still wondering why). After scanning the “men’s pants” rack twice, my heart sank a little. And then Dave, a couple of isles over, hollered, “Found them,” and I skipped over, excited as all get-out. Right next to them was a fun, colorful pair in my size – I just couldn’t resist. Of course you couldn’t, Dave was thinking. So now we both have a fun pair of pants from the greatest thrift store in Ft. Myers, Florida.

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Ironically, Dave’s dad was very much a minimalist, yet he held on to these pants for over 40 years. Here are his parents in 1972, his dad wearing the pants.

Our First

Keys1After twenty years of marriage, my husband and I finally did it – we took our first vacation – just the two of us, without any other agenda, event to attend or person in tow.

We choose to go somewhere we have never been and have wanted to check out – the Florida Keys. Marathon, to be exact, a few miles past Vaca Key, and before the 7-mile bridge. The exact location was solely based on finding a place that would accommodate our large dog, and we were happy with the outcome.

Keys16The Banana Bay Resort & Marina came up in my search on the internet for pet-friendly lodging and looked like the best deal. After booking a room for 2 adults and 1 canine and a marina slip for our new boat, we read some unflattering reviews of the place but figured, what do you expect for under a hundred bucks a night in the Keys? And besides, we weren’t planning on spending a whole lot of time in our room.

What we did plan on doing was exactly what we did, and it included being out on the boat from dawn to dusk. A few nights we were out after dusk and one morning before dawn. It was the best week ever. And I have some funny (and not so funny) stories to tell you!

In a nutshell… the first night of our 7-night stay, we tried our hand at “bully-netting” for lobster. We also tried our hand at snorkeling for them during the day using a tickle stick and net. We purchased a navigational chart and made our way to numerous sites while I learned how to read the darn thing. We cruised around in the boat for miles and miles. There were times I was fearful and Dave would remind me of the safety of this boat. Mostly though, our boating consisted of drifting and fishing.

There’s lots of other stuff to write about, like going to Key West or losing our dive flag, but there’s absolutely no question about it, our last day there definitely tops the vacation story chart.

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Lobster

Keys2The first night of our 7-night stay, we tried our hand at “bully-netting” for lobster. Apparently, lobsters come out at night and roam around on the shoals (shallow patches of land in the Gulf), and with good lights, you can see them from your boat when idling over the shoals. Using a long pole with a net attached on one end and a string attached to the net, you can catch them. The bully-net was easy to use, as I caught plenty of seaweed, the difficult part lied in spotting the darn lobster. We were told over and over that they were out there, but we couldn’t find them. After visiting the local fishery and seeing them there, we realized how perfectly they camouflaged with the grass on the ocean’s floor where they are said to be found. Who knows if they were under our noses the whole time, and I can’t tell you if they’re as easy to catch as seaweed.

Keys3We also tried our hand at diving for lobster during the day using a tickle stick and net, and again, had no luck spotting the shellfish. I attribute this to low visibility in the cloudy water as well as our inability to dive very deep. Nevertheless, we had fun exploring the sea.

There are two things – no, make that three, but the tarpon story is with fishing – so two things besides a big butt tarpon I’m glad we didn’t encounter under the sea are stingrays and jellyfish. We saw plenty of them from the boat, jellyfish that is, and 3 or 4 stingrays. One of the stingrays was beautiful, with black and white specks all over, and it was one of those moments when we saw it that we couldn’t believe what we were seeing – right there! However, we donned our diving gear and jumped in numerous times before it dawned on us (me) that I could encounter something I didn’t care to come close to. Thankfully, this particular fearful thinking didn’t happen until the last day, and by this point I was fried anyway, clothed in long sleeves and staying in the shade.

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