Monday, December 22, 2014

Is It Christmas Yet?

      I've been back in Maryland for a little over a week and it is starting to look a lot like Christmas!
Trees are decorated as are homes inside and out and it's wonderful!  Cookies are filling the air with sweet aromas!

This past Friday our family experienced another indicator that Christmas is just around the youngest daughter's birthday...number 26!!!  I stayed at her house the night before so I could make her a birthday breakfast before she headed off to work!  Omelet muffins laced with ham!  Yummy!  Later her dad took her out to dinner and after THAT, a group of us went to Loonie's Pub and Sports Bar to continue the celebration!
Megan, Rachel, Matthew, Adam, Jesse
Me and my birthday girl
front and center!

Rachel, Matthew and Nicole

Since all three of my offspring AND their significant others were in attendance, I seized the moment and was able to get someone to snap all of us!   Rare opportunities such as this are precious and few and far between!  We have a lot of fun when we are together being silly!  I am looking forward to our holiday dinner Saturday when my sister and Amy as well as the 'boys' will be around so I can get a complete family picture!!!
     Since the holiday season is about family, I am happy to be home this year actually on Christmas day for the first time in 5 years!  My life has taken me to places other than here and even though we have all stayed in close touch and visited throughout the year each year...being home is very special to me this time of year.  I saw a wonderful quote earlier today that I'd like to share.  It touched my heart expressing a simple yet profound truth...I believe that many of us feel the same way.
                                "Family isn't always blood.  It's the people in your life
                                 who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for 
                                 who you are.  The ones who would do anything to 
                                 see you smile and who love you no matter what."
     Happy holidays to everyone from all traditions.  May peace and love fill you this season and every day throughout the coming new year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Frustration to Celebration in a Flash

   I arrived in Maryland safe and sound after a crazy trip through Washington DC at 4:45pm on a Friday.  Knowing that my GPS didn't turn on me...thanks to my son who I called in a panic...was very reassuring as I depend greatly on her directions.
   Once I finally got into town I called my daughter and we met up at the Bull on the Beach restaurant for a drink to celebrate.  Megan's brother got married earlier that day!!!  That was fun...I got to meet some new people!
   The next day I worked my way through a Walmart on a Saturday 11 days before Christmas....what was I thinking???!!!  I went up aisle after aisle and could not find one particular thing that I was looking was very frustrating...until I found Susan!  Bright Spot -    Not only did she help me find what I wanted, but when I thanked her and wished her a Merry Christmas, she announced that it was already a wonderful holiday because at 3:45am her youngest son's first child was born!!!  Jack arrived yesterday weighing in at 7lbs. 1.5oz.  Mom, Tiffany...Dad, Bryan and big sister, Ry (age 3) are thrilled!  Susan, the proud grandmother, pulled out her phone to show me this beautiful addition to the world!  I asked if I could take a pic of her  She said YES! So here he is everyone.  Join me in congratulating the family and welcoming Jack!
Jack Harrison

Jack and mommy

Welcome Jack!!!

Kenly, NC Denny's...More Than a Meal

    Heading back to Maryland for the holidays, I wanted to have a good breakfast because I planned to drive until I couldn't drive anymore before I stopped to sleep.  I must have missed at least three exits with a restaurant I recognized...I was singing to the radio...oops!  I turned the radio off and decided to stop at the very next exit with gas and food!  Of course, I ended up at the absolute PERFECT spot.
    I filled up Van-Go's tank then I went into Denny's to fill up  There was a little confusion regarding my breakfast and the general manager came over to my booth and she made things right. She was so pleasant and I was thinking that it was very considerate of her to do what she did.  I thanked her and didn't think much more about it.  After I paid my for my meal, I stopped in the ladies' room to wash my hands and ran into the manager again.
 Bright Spot - Christy asked if everything was okay and wished me a happy holiday.  There was something light and cheerful in her voice and a smile in her eyes.  I asked her if she had a second and I told her about my adventure to see if she wanted to share anything for my happy news segment.   She lit up in seconds and she told me that if she had been given the opportunity to hand-pick every detail of her life so that it would be perfect, she could not have done any better than what her life actually was!   Her husband, her son, her job...was exactly what she would have wanted.  "I am so happy with my life".   What a beautiful spirit!  We hugged and went out into the dining room so I could take her picture.  We exchanged Merry Christmas greetings and I left feeling very grateful that I missed those other exits!!!

PS-Thanks Christy for the great gas prices tip...I needed gas just as I approached 104 in Virginia!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Visit with Cuz in Palm Shore, FL

    My last stop in Florida proved to be a lot more fun than anticipated!  The two planned stops before I was going to go to my cousin Steve's house fell through which was wonderful because that gave me an extra day to play with!  I hadn't seen or talked to Steve in 7 years ever since he just happened to be in MD on his birthday and a bunch of family got together at his brother Robbie's home.   Well, thanks to Facebook, we hooked up and he invited me to visit while in the area.  So, Monday, the 8th I arrived around 6PM!  It was so great to see him again AND I got to meet his wife Maureen  (Mo)! You would think we had all been in touch on a regular basis over the years.  Both of them were wonderfully welcoming and we just had a blast!   We went to dinner and I ate SHARK!!!  It was amazing!  We laughed and talked for hours...there and at the house!
Steve and Mo's patio

Mo and Steve...the perfect pair!

Me and Cuz

One of the spectacular tabletops at the restaurant

Go Steve!!!  He's back on the boards
riding those Florida waves!!!

Front white meat....SHARK

Steve and Mo's lovely home


       As it turned out, Mo and I have a lot in common and when the next morning arrived with sunny skies and warm temps (after a whole day of rain), we decided that I should stay another night.  What a fabulous plan!  We went bargain hunting, had fajitas and margaritas for lunch then we "shelled" for hours on the beach!
Fab lunch

Caught in the act!

Atlantic Ocean

I love the foam

cool leaf by the beach...
looks a little like leather

refection of sky on the sand

me being goofy...shelling

modeling for LEXUS...LOL
Steve grilled burgers for dinner and we even watched several episodes of The Big Bang Theory and continued to laugh...out loud!
     I'll be visiting again when I head back to Florida mid March/April!  I can't wait.  This time I'll make sure it is over a weekend so Steve can spend more time with us!  Thanks was indeed a great visit!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

    On my way to the next campground...I stopped at a food pick up a few things.. I couldn't find an item, so I asked for assistance.  Bright  Spot - To my delight, a young man came along and made every effort to locate what I wanted.  As it turned out, that particular store didn't carry it anymore.  So, I thanked him and went to check out.  He was there bagging for me and offered to take my basket to the van!  Well, Dakota and I started chatting.  He has done quite a bit of traveling early in life with family and friends.
His very first solo plane travel was to England!  He recently moved to Florida from Alabama to begin a 'new life!'  He is studying at the University of Florida and his major is secondary education.  He plans to teach English and incorporate critical and creative thinking skills for his students!  Dakota is a determined young man and I'm sure he will reach his goal and make a positive difference in his classroom!  Good luck, Dakota!
    I have always had an appreciation for nature.  As the years progress and especially since I've retired, I have been blessed with opportunities to really engage with and learn about the ways that nature not only takes care of itself, but takes care of us.
Florida's state butterfly

twisty vines


medicinal herbs


bamboo pathway

a species of bamboo

 Spending over 2 hours on a walking tour of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, FL...the fascinating world of plants, flowers, trees, herbs, insects, etc....left me in awe of nature's perfection!  Enjoy!
    After the tour, I headed to my next overnight spot...The Dixieland Music and RV Park in Waldo, FL.  I arrived just before dusk and was greeted by the most endearing couple...Greg and Joy.  Joy took care of my registration and Greg made sure I got just the right site and got set up okay.
Their hospitality didn't end there.  They told me about the great little diner, the huge flea market across the street and even called upon a friend to give me directions to where I wanted to go!  I had told Joy a little about my trip and left her a card and told her I'd catch up with her for some happy news!
     I had a blast at the flea market, the diner was terrific and I rode my bike all around the grounds!  Monday morning came and I stopped in the office to say good-bye to Joy.  We sat for a while and she shared some of her beautiful life with me.  Bright Spot -  Listening to the ways Joy has enthusiastically participated in her life brought tears to my eyes.  For 30 years, she was a 'catastrophic event' manager where her duties included coordinating teams of doctors, attorneys, insurance companies and case managers to insure that the proper treatment and care was given to anyone who had been involved in a life altering accident.  She told me about her most cherished success story.  A young man in his 20's lost his arms in a machinery accident.  She made sure he got his prostheses after a period of healing and made modifications in his home as well.  Best of all though she spoke with his 'old boss' and arranged for the young man to be rehired as a safety manager!!!  She was a real estate broker in her early years and went back and got her GED at age 39.  She went on to earn her degrees and certifications.  Back in 1967, Joy ran an orphanage for 50 girls AND started a church in Port au Prince, Haiti.  Joy explained that a few weeks ago, she had her right eye removed because of a serious cataract condition.  She is currently waiting for it to heal enough to be fitted for a 'new eye' (prosthesis).  She told me how grateful she was to at least have sight in her left eye smiling brightly throughout the entire conversation!  I was at a loss for words, so I hugged her.
    These moments of  human interaction...of sharing "life" with everyday extraordinary people like Joy and the many many other Bright Spots so far along my journey is what is making my adventure so much more than I could have possibly anticipated!!!   With every corner I turn and each path I take, I look forward to the next blessing in my life!
spectacular labyrinth at the gardens

just LOOK at this tree

ying yang resting spot in the Asian area

waterfall through gazebo

A Spectacularly Spooky Sensation

    I finally discovered the peace, quiet and beauty I was hoping to find at the last stop.  Because of information about some weird 'invisible' insect where I WAS heading, I rerouted to Yogi's Jellystone Park and Campground.  I had been to the one in PA, so I knew it was probably a safe bet.  I got a spot right on their lake that was absolutely gorgeous!  Less than a dozen other campers and no one terribly close!  These last three days have been blessedly quiet!  I even struck up a fire just before sunrise today where I sat and had my Chai tea while watching the water in the lake shift with the direction of the breeze.

     I have become quite enthralled with the hanging (Spanish) moss.  It is mysterious, yet whimsical!  Like with the willow, the breeze inspires the silver gray strands to sway with total abandon.   I find it rather intriguing to think about the play.  Does the tree invite the breeze to come out and play or is it the breeze that surprises the tree with its strategically executed maneuver.  Either way, together they create a magical dance like none other.  It is a delight to experience!!!  Gaze at the pictures and feel the dance!