Posted in Family & Friends, Florida Fun, Randomness

T’was the season!

What a great holiday season we had this year! I typically find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in Florida as there is no prompting from the white stuff that would normally cover the Michigan ground this time of year to remind me daily of the season ahead. And all the neighborhood houses lit up with colorful Christmas lights and their lawns with inflatable snowmen are a little amusing without the icicles hanging from the roof tops. But this year was different.

This year my Meg decided to spend Christmas here, the first time in 6 years any of the kids have been with us for any holiday. She arrived a week before, which I was so excited about, because I had a special gift in mind for her. (Read more about that here.) She has a way of making any event more fun with her contagious energy, and this Christmas was no exception. We shopped the flea market, enjoyed the holiday lights in St. Augustine, played Christmas music non-stop, and even opened the required night-before-Christmas presents (matching jammies!) Christmas day found us 05busy preparing a traditional Christmas dinner complete with turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, rolls, green bean casserole, and PIE! And then my sister Molly and her entire family joined us for a wonderful Christmas afternoon and evening, where we ate, laughed, got to the beach for a beautiful sunset, then went back to the house for a crazy game around the table. I was so pleased they stayed as late as they did, as they had a long drive back to their hotel in Kissimmee. It made me realize how much I missed these gatherings, and I was grateful for all the photos from all the phones that were shared with everyone.

Now the tree and decorations are down, slowly the neighborhood is getting back to normal. The sun is shining and temperatures are hovering in the high 60’s to 70’s. My mother is here out of the cold of the north for a couple months. I’m back to work, and life continues. But I do love looking back on that day, that visit from family and the laughter that reassured me that some things just never change. Thank God.

Posted in Family & Friends, Florida Fun

Expect the expected

My Meg has been complaining for years that she’s never been to Disney. All her friends have been to Disney, but not her. Perhaps while watching a Disney movie or seeing a Disney sign, she’ll still say, “I can’t believe I’ve never been to Disney!” Never mind that she was raised in Michigan, over a thousand miles away, and never mind that we only took ONE real family vacation in all their growing up. Never mind that at 31 she’s well aware that a trip to Disney costs an arm, a leg, and several gold bars. That’s not the point.  She’s 31 years old, and she’s never been to Disney.

 And so for her Christmas present this year, since she was going to be spending the holiday with us, I decided to take her to Disney. I’d heard about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a party inside the party that is already Magic Kingdom, and there’s limited tickets that cost slightly less than a regular park admission. But the park stays open until midnight, including rides, food, and all the extra fun.

 I was ridiculously excited while planning and anticipating the surprise. She would arrive in Florida the night of December the 17th, and the last day for the MVMCP (as it’s referred to online) was the 19th. Thankfully there were tickets still available, so I bought two (Thom declined the invite) and then started planning HOW to tell her. My thoughts were filled with those TV commercials where the kids are presented with their surprise and the little girl breaks down in a puddle of happy tears. I couldn’t WAIT!

 She finally arrived and the intervening day was filled with plans to go to the flea market, the beach, St. Augustine and more. I convincingly agreed to whatever she wanted to do, knowing in my mind that THE SURPRISE awaited! And then I started to question my plan to tell her.

 I’m very much like my mother when it comes to surprises or any kind of good news. She and I are the ones who jump around screaming when we learn of a new baby, a surprise visit, or any other joyful occasion. We get JOYFUL!  And I know she, like me, can’t seem to help it, and to try and stifle it is like trying to stifle a sneeze.  Similarly, at scary movies with ‘jump’ scenes, I’m in the fetal position and have, on occasion, strained muscles when startled. I guess I feel things a bit more intensely than the average Moe, much to the enjoyment of my boys.

 Meg isn’t like that. And I know that. And if I forget that, I have people to remind me, because invariably I will be disappointed in her very calm reaction to what I think is a great surprise. And so instead of waiting for her to get up the morning of the 19th and say to her, “Get dressed! We’re going to Disney!” and expecting that puddle…instead of that, I decided to use social media to surprise her.  And so I enlisted the help of SnapChat, a cute little app I’m not all that familiar with but that I figured would get her attention. I worked on it in the wee hours of the morning while laying in bed too excited to sleep. You only get a 10-second video, so there were several trials and mostly errors.  Finally on the morning of the 19th I went into her room, woke her up by climbing into bed with her and said, “Hey, I sent you my first SnapChat video. Check it out.”  The video went something like this,

                 “Meg!  Wake up! We’re going to DISNEY!!!  ♫ Merrrrry Christmaaas! ♫”

 Her slightly sluggish response was, “Why are we going to Disney?”  




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Posted in Florida Fun, Randomness

Singin’ in the rain! Not!

I’ll apologize in advance for the second post on the weather here, but this was a pretty unusual September for Florida. The only thing that was predictable this past month was that if the sun was shining when you walked into the store, odds were, if you didn’t grab your umbrella, there would be torrential rain when you were ready to leave. Rain became a subject of conversation for everyone you encountered. Normally we exclaim daily about the warmth and the sunshine here in the ‘sunshine state.” But not last month. Last month was the gloomiest on record with a total of 151 severe weather reports causing the weather radio to “Blare!” “Blare!” “Blare!” and then repeat over and over the latest alert. Areas around Miami, Palm Coast (Jacksonville) and Tampa were especially hard hit with torrential rains keeping beach-goers indoors and umbrella sales at an all-time high.


My friend Anita was making her way home from work one afternoon going through quite a downpour in the 18-mile drive. When she entered her subdivision, she found she couldn’t make the first turn towards home due to flooded streets. She tried another direction only to learn that the further into the sub she ventured, the deeper the water was over the road. She finally left her car in someone’s driveway and began wading through the knee-deep water hoping to NOT encounter any weird, scary critters in the murky flood waters.daily rainfall recs

Summer is typically the rainy season, and I always enjoy the daily afternoon showers that might last about 15-30 minutes and be very isolated; when they come in over the ocean, they create tremendous photo ops. But enough is enough. We’ve broken the record for the most rain in one month, and I’ve learned my lesson: If a hurricane creates this kind of rain along with 100+ mph winds, we’re outta here!

Now let’s get back to the sunshine!

Posted in Florida Fun, Randomness

Florida weather

20131207_071013When we first moved to Florida nearly three years ago this September, we were just heading into the best of the seasons. Late fall through early summer here in northeast Florida consists of sunny skies, some sweater weather, few bugs, and the rare shower in the evening. We sleep with the windows open listening to the cacophony of noise from the forest behind us and wake up to the quiet.

Even though spring in Michigan means winter might finally be over, it is typically slow in arriving with showers, dampness, puddles and mud. Spring here in Florida means a gradual warming with even more time bike riding, walking, or enjoying meals outside and sun-sun-sun! Granted, summer here is hot and humid once we get into July and August, but like Thom says, it’s our ‘winter’ where we do outdoor chores in the early morning and then move indoors to stay cool and comfortable. Thankfully we have the beach close by where the water warms up to the 80’s, and walking into the surf is as refreshing and as wonderful as it can be. But our ‘winter’ also means rainy season, and if you like storms like I do (thanks, Grampa B),you’ll love the rainy season.

I love the colors of the sky as the wall of clouds move in. I love hearing the thunder in the distance and watching the far off light show moving quickly towards us. I love the weirdness of it when it’ll be raining in the front yard but not in the back yard…at least not yet. And then it’s overhead and all around us, and the lightening and thunder and drenching buckets of rain surround us, and I’ll sit on the lanai as long as I can, watching an opening way, way up in the trees behind us, jumping at the claps of thunder that arrive so quickly after the flash of lightening.

The ocean changes with the weather; something that should be obvious but wasn’t to me. When it’s windy, the water 1-P1010176-002is typically choppy and frothy, with large breakers and high rip current. If there’s little wind, the Atlantic is calm and quiet. The pelicans come in trails, soaring low to fly against the calm water, sometimes coming so close you could reach out and feel the breeze as they pass.

I can’t decide what I like best: The calm, clear water where I can just rest on my board watching for dolphins and pelicans without fighting the breakers and the current while soaking up the sunshine, or the hot, unexpected days of the rainy season with the amazing storms, the breathtaking skies, the violent ocean. I guess I love it all.


Posted in Comp'ny, Family & Friends, Florida Fun

Short but sweet

Whenever my Sarah plans a visit with me, I approach it the same way I approach P_20140427_095313_1 (Medium)anything that can change: Make a plan, but don’t plan on it. And while we sort of laugh at that fact, we both know it’s true, and we’re both okay with it. So when she told me months ago that she wanted to come down in April, I said, “Sure!” And then I didn’t hold my breath. But after inviting her daughter Emma and Em’s boyfriend, Jamee, I thought it just might happen. And it did!

Thursday night to Sunday isn’t a very long visit, but we seemed to pack a lot into that short time. We went all over beautiful historic St. Augustine, seeing Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (very cool), riding the trolley, shopping up and down St. George St, and enjoying a wonderful lunch at an outdoor cafe. Friday night was dinner al fresco at The Golden LionSaturday found us at the beach for hours and hours having a great time in and out of the water. Emma and Jamee were a happy and welcome addition to the fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Em all grown up. Thom had eager boogie-boarders in Emma and Jamee, and the two of them took to it like old pros.

Sunday, of course, came too soon, but even those couple of days with my BFF was just what I needed to get me through to August when I’ll see her again.

Posted in Family & Friends, Florida Fun

Drew and family visit Florida!

0019Even though this is the sunshine state, one never knows for sure if the weather is going to cooperate when you have company; especially when that company involves small children. I did my best to arrange things we could do outdoors, and with the help of some great friends, I was able to procure two more bikes and a bike stroller. The ocean is always there, so now we just needed some sunshine and warmth. And God provided!

Drew and family arrived late Sunday night, so after a little adjustment, the kids went to bed without too much ado. Morning actually came later than expected, and after a MOTOWN BREAKFAAAAAST! we decided to try the bikes. Thom had to work, so it 0025was left to Drew and I to prepare the tires, seat heights, etc. We had one glitch that we overcame with a little ingenuity on Drew’s part, and off we went, kids trailing happily behind their dad. Leading the way and with Kristin bringing up the rear, I looked back and couldn’t help myself grinning from ear to ear and saying a silent “thank you, God!” to the beautiful sunshine above.

Some time at the playground and a quick trip to show my kids off to my co-workers, and we were back home for lunch, naps, and finally a trip to the 0004ocean. Thom was already there with the umbrella set up, in his wetsuit and in the chilly water. The waves were great but the water was COLD! Drew tried a couple times to go in, finally saying he couldn’t do it; he was already feeling “hypothermic.” But watching how much fun Thom was having and being ‘this close’ to the action, he resigned himself to becoming numb and took the plunge! Standing on the warmth of the shore we could NOT believe he went for it! After a few failed attempts to catch a wave, he timed it perfectly and caught right on. We watched for over half an hour as he and Thom fought and caught the huge breakers in that chilly Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, the kids, especially Dez, enjoyed playing at the shoreline, running from the waves or jumping as they crashed. Dez was a slippery little thing, and he did have a couple scares, but all in all he had a ball. I was in heaven watching Drew in the water, Kris and the grandkids on the beach, and the pelicans and gannets soaring and diving, all creating wonderful entertainment!

The next couple days flew by with more biking, beaching, shelling, swinging, dancing, bubble-blowing, chalk-drawing, crying (yes) and laughing. Meals in and meals out were a great success with the kids behaving beautifully. Drew said the best part for him was it was the first time in four years he and Kristin were both able to sleep in after 7:00 am!

It was a perfect visit. Thom and I had a great time, and I think Kris, Drew, Dez and Evie did, too.

Gotta love the salt life!

       More photos here: [portfolio-gallery include=2652]

Posted in Comp'ny, Family & Friends, Florida Fun

Welcome any time!

It was so wonderful to have my mom spend last month with us. She’s 87 now, thoughAt Cherie Down Park if you ask her, she’d say she feels like she’s in her 60s or so. She likes to say that fish and company smell after three days, but I beg to differ. Perhaps some company smells after three days, but not my mother. She’s the easiest, most pleasant person to have in any home. Here’s how she spent her days:

She’d wake up around 9:00 a.m., laze a bit and then shuffle on out around 9:30-10:00 in her bathrobe and slippers for her morning coffee, her “Nectar of the gods!”  She’d have a piece of raisin or peanut butter toast, a small glass of milk, and then she’d sit and read the paper, maybe start on a crossword puzzle.  She’d then exclaim how lazy she is and how guilty she feels not being dressed yet.

If she spent more than an hour getting ready for the day, it was because she had to shower. When that was done, she’d come out to the living room and drop into the chair and bemoan how hard it is and what a pain it is to get all clean.  (I was never sure if she was just kidding or if it really wore her out. I’m thinking it really wears her out! She’s 87!!)

She’d find her book that she’s read at least three times or a crossword puzzle or P_20140129_211507perhaps her knitting, settle herself in the chair, and then she would proceed to entertain herself. She’d glance at whatever was on tv, she’d visit with whomever was in the room, and she’d have to pat and talk to the dogs as they begged for her attention. She’d snack here and there but wouldn’t eat much. If you found the living room empty, it was because she was in front of her laptop playing – and winning – at bridge. If you asked if she wanted to go to the store or for a drive, she’d happily oblige saying, “Just point me where I’m going.” After dinner (God bless the cook!) she’d watch tv, do her crosswords, reminisce a bit, tell me I worked too hard.

Once she had her bedtime snack of peanut butter and honey toast with milk, and after she told you how spoiled she was, we would say our goodnights, and I would hear the echo of my childhood in her quiet, “God bless you.”

She’d tell you how lovely your home is, your town, your partner, your dogs, and how happy she is for you.

My mother has a gracious and joyful spirit. She remembers mostly the good and happy times, and she loves to relive them. She repeats herself often, forgets what you’ve told her and needs to be reminded of your grandkids’ names. But she is all the things I hope to be when I’m her age: Happy, grateful, kind, loving, non-judgmental, sweet.

And welcome any time.  [portfolio-gallery include=2737]

Posted in Family & Friends, Florida Fun

Meg’s long-overdue short visit

We’re standing at JAX airport watching all the passengers filing by us, coming in from who knows where, some being greeted, some not, most on their phones. I scan each face as they turn the corner, not quite able to make out features from a distance but knowing I’d recognize her walk. Thom asks, “Is that her?” “No.” “Is that her?” “No.” “You know, it’s been over a year. Maybe she’s changed.” “No. I’ll know her when I see her.”

Then, around the corner, I see her coming towards me. Even now, when they’re all grown and away from me, the sight of any of my kids reminds me that some serious pieces of my heart are out there, walking around, most likely oblivious to that fact. But I see my only daughter after being apart for over a year, and suddenly my heart fills back up.

I move forward, talking to myself, “There she is. There’s my girl. There’s my girl”  I wrap her in my arms, breathe in the familiar scent of her, feel her skin against my lips — utter completeness that I didn’t know I was missing until just that second. And I have perma-grin!

And so we spend the next four days at the beach, with a couple side trips to the Daytona Flea Market, some meals out, movies in, and more beach. The days fly by just like I knew they would, but I make sure to fill them with whatever she wants. I hope she had a good time. I think she did.

More pics here and a video here!