I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
Today, I wanted to share something that I read which inspired me, especially during this difficult time for our country and world during the pandemic.
“Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle.” -Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gymnastic Gold medalist, who also won two silver medals and two bronze medals in 1984
Life is good; find that bridge somehow somewhere today. Carpe Diem, friends.
One of my best friends and I have a little saying that helps us to deal with life’s ups and downs from time to time. The saying is that one needs a “little slice of normal” when the chips are down, much like one “needs” a slice of cake from time to time. When one of is is having difficulty with something, such as someone we love in the hospital, an accident, or some other sad and unforeseen event, we go to lunch and have “a little slice of normal.” That “little slice of normal” means something different to each of us, but for my dear friend a “little slice of normal” is a manicure, pedicure or a trip to the beach, no matter what season. For me a “little slice of normal” might be some ice cream and a movie, a cup of herbal tea, or a hike in the woods. That “little slice of normal” represents something that give us peace and is something we often do normally. That “little slice of normal” gives us a sense of perspective that life will go on somehow, as the routine of the “little slice of normal” somehow gives us comfort that some things stay the same. A “little slice of normal” is something that speaks to our soul somehow. It is not an indulgence, but it is rather something ordinary that we frequently do. For some people it might be a run on the beach, and for others it might be a few laps of swimming. For others it might be breaking bread with your family, and for others it might be curling up with a good book in a comfy chair.
Today I am thinking about this same best friend from my youth, who just finished her chemotherapy for breast cancer recently and then had her last radiation treatment yesterday. I can’t celebrate with her in person because of the quarantine associated with flying to where she is, but I just spoke with her on the phone this afternoon. As I suspected, she is out having lunch with her daughter, along with a “little slice of normal” today.
Life somehow goes on……despite the little AND big bumps along the way.
I met Diane about thirty years ago when she was middle aged and I was a young adult. She and I worked together, and she was one of the most inspirational people I had ever met at the time. My first impression of her was a well-kept, slim attractive woman who had a certain “joie de vivre” right off the bat. She wore professional clothing, and her suits were well-tailored. Her skirts were always hemmed well above the knee, as she had legs to show off and somehow knew it. She was always smiling and always looked on the bright side of things, despite her background and the events which occurred along the way. She was divorced and a single mother of an only child at the time of her divorce several years before I met her. She was married to a prominent member of the community but decided her happiness was more important than staying in a stale and loveless marriage. While I wasn’t sure of the details and circumstances of her divorce and had always believed that marriage was a forever commitment, I admired her courage and honesty to herself and others. She left the marriage and the financial stability that came along with it, living by herself at the time I met her in a house she had purchased with her salary. I got the impression that she didn’t work outside the house until her marriage ended. I admired her ability to make something out of nothing. You see, she clipped coupons and searched high and low for shopping deals each week. She told me she treated herself to a vacation each and every year out of the country since her son grew up and moved out of the house. She knew she didn’t have extra money in the budget to pay for these vacations, and that’s why she started clipping coupons. Her goal was to clip enough coupons to finance this vacation each year. I remember her lively laughter when she announced to me that the local market was actually paying for her to try a new product with the double store coupon and manufacturer’s coupon that she used in tandem to bring the price down. She actually did save enough money through sales and coupons to finance her vacation each and every year.
Diane tended to her yard and garden all by herself, as she was strong and very independent. She had a “strong faith” and knew that life was to be lived fully and completely. When she returned from her most recent vacation at the time, I asked her if she had any pictures to share. She handed me a roll of “prints”, which were from the old days of film, to sift through. I admired her photographic technique and how she captured the joyful faces of her traveling companions, too. Almost every single picture she showed me made me smile. One time I bumped into a picture of Diane that had inadvertently ended up in the pile of photos she was showing me. It was a picture of Diane with a sly, coy smile wearing nothing at all while standing behind an over-sized sombrero hat. I looked surprised by the photo, and she laughed saying she forgot to take that picture out of the set of prints that she handed me. She didn’t apologize, however, knowing there was nothing wrong with her photo that captured the moment beautifully.
I lost track of Diane through the years but think of her often. I recently looked her up on social media, and she looks great with the same effortless curly-locked hairdo she always sported. Evidently she is over eighty and now has a seasonal home in Florida with her male companion, who owns a Tesla. They drive to Florida each year in the Autumn, and she still takes care of her own yard there as well. I smile when I think of one of her social media posts that says:
“I have a watch that I bought about 20+ years ago for $1.75..yes…on sale at CVS 90% off!!!…and it tells the same time as a friend’s Rolex that cost many $$$ more…once again……….TRUE HAPPINESS IS NOT FOUND IN MATERIAL THINGS!”
She enjoys the finer things in life but doesn’t need them. She knows how to find true joy and happiness in feeding the ducks, having a good meal with a companion, and spending time with those she loves. She is at peace with herself and her world.
At last account, Diane wasn’t able to take a cruise with her companion in May during the pandemic when the rest of the United States waited indoors with caution. Instead she posted pictures in May of her previous cruise, finding pleasure in re-living the moment, as she knows how to savor her memories. Diane’s introduction on her social media pages says that she “works at living each day to the fullest” under her occupation, as she has since retired. There is a picture of herself and her companion dining with a wine glass toast that I love that captures her essence so well. Along with the photo there is a caption that says they are “brave souls”, as they were the only diners present at the restaurant that evening in Florida in May during the pandemic.
Diane routinely posts pictures of the ducks and lizards that visit her yard, as she notices and finds enjoyment in so many little things. One post on her social media says that “Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath, smile, and begin again.”
One thing that struck my interest in Diane’s social media page is her feelings about the pandemic:
“I read most of this, and it is quite scary to think of all those DROPLETS Etc. Etc……..at this point in order to not be exposed to anything and go on trying to live a somewhat normal life….I THINK EACH OF US HAS BECOME a HERMIT of sorts…JUST GO OFF SOMEWHERE AND LIVE ALONE IN THE WOODS???? I REALLY DON’T TAKE TOO MANY PRECAUTIONS EXCEPT WEARING THE MASK WHEN I GO TO THE MARKET…AND WASH AND SANTIZE MY HANDS AFTERWARDS but …I SAY ….LIVE AND LET LIVE…IF IT HAPPENS IT HAPPENS….WE ALL HAVE TO DIE OF SOMETHING…AND YES, I KNOW IT DOESN’T SOUND NICE…BUT I THINK WE SHOULD TRY TO BE LIVE A BIT BETTER THAN WE ARE NOW…”
Diane is a class act. A person that takes precautions but keeps on living a full life with intention, despite the world around her. She has learned to live like she is LIVING, not DYING.
Life is good; find your own “joie de vivre”. Carpe diem friends…….
Note: the name in this blog was changed to protect the identity of the subject, and the picture simply reminds me of Diane with her dark curly hair. The picture here is NOT Diane.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, as it is usually spent breaking bread with those we love. No pressure to buy gifts and no wrapping. Football, parades, good food. Despite the lavish meals many people prepare, Thanksgiving is simplicity. It is time spent with friends and family. It is a whole day set aside for visiting and making connections. This year is a little different for many people because of the pandemic. Many will be spending the day in a different way, with fewer people. No matter how you spend the day, may a spirit of gratitude fill your hearts and may you find something today for which to be thankful. Brighter skies, along with a Covid vaccine, are ahead. So, Happy Thanksgiving, friends. “Happy Turkey Day” somehow doesn’t seem to embody all that is good in today.
Life is good; carpe diem friends……………
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” — Melody Beattie
“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” — Catherine Pulsifer
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Growing up in New England, I have a strong fondness for tulips. I remember looking out my bedroom window each and every day in the spring when I was a little girl with anticipation while I watched the tulips below my bedroom window with my Mother. Watching and waiting. Watching and waiting. Watching and waiting for that exciting day when the tulip transcended from popping up from the cold spring ground to achieve a brilliant bloom sometime later. My Mother inspired joy and so did the flowers.
The fall reminds me of countless hours throughout my lifespan selecting and planting tulips in the yard. There was something about the deferred gratification of planting something in the fall that would bloom many months later in the spring that appealed to me. Looking for and finding the “perfect” tulip bulb in the garden center brings back such fond memories. Some years it was a parrot tulip. Some years it was a black tulip. Some years it was a bright and bold tulip color, yet other years it was a soft pastel color or two to blend harmoniously together. Thinking of those days puts a smile on my face and a song in my heart today as I remember sharing those beautiful days with my husband when life was a little simpler.
One of the things I love about tulips is how they grow, arching toward the light even after they have been cut and placed in a vase. Watching them stretch toward the goodness and warmth of the light always fascinated me, and if I close my eyes I can see them right now in my mind. A beautiful memory soothes the soul and provides peace somehow in a chaotic world of pandemic.
Life is good; look for a memory to make you smile today. Look for a way to stretch yourself toward the goodness and light just like the tulips if you can. Enjoy the magic; enjoy the moments. Enjoyall the moments.
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis, “The Magician’s Nephew”
Life is good; recognize today that you see things differently than others and embrace your perspective today along with the perspective of those around you. Sometimes it seems as though we live in a “house of mirrors” where life can look so very different from different angles .
I know kayaking is all the rage, and I do like a good kayak trip. Sitting “IN” the water has its allure, but there is something about being in a canoe that I like so much better. Perhaps the canoe brings to my mind days of long ago when our ancestors hollowed out a tree to make something they could use in the water to get from place to place. Perhaps it is the hard work and ingenuity of those same people that I admire. Maybe it’s because paddling a canoe can be quiet and peaceful while it glides sleekly ON the water. Maybe it’s because using just one paddle to move the canoe around takes a certain degree of skill, and maybe it’s because using a double paddle on a kayak somehow feels a bit awkward. I’m not sure WHY I like a canoe better; I just do.
This week end we went paddling at Silver Springs State Park in Florida, where numerous movies were filmed. This place was THE theme park where Floridians flocked in days before Disney. This is “old Florida” at its best. Of all the springs I’ve traveled to, Silver Springs is my favorite because of the allure of the possibility of seeing wild monkeys, because of the beautiful butterflies flying about, because of the crystal turquoise waters, and because of the large blue fish found in the waters.
We started our canoe journey at the Fort King Paddling trail, a partially shaded narrow waterway flanked with beautiful foliage that looks like a jungle and is 1.1 miles long. This is an easy paddle, allowing one to stop, look, and listen, along the way. I love pulling over to the side of the waterway to close my eyes so I can hear the birds in the distance. Along the journey, old abandoned buildings that used to be part of the theme park on the site in previous days are dotted along the shore. Upon exiting the Fort King Paddling Trail, we entered the Silver River for an easy upstream paddle for a while in more open waters in the direct sun. Paddling by the hundred year old glass bottomed boats still in operation at the park gives a sense of continuity and connection to the past while peering into the depths of the water at some point where there are a few underwater sculptures (and site of the filming of a movie scene in the movie “Thunderball”).
After leaving the Silver River, we paddled again through a more narrow waterway like at the beginning, shady and flanked by beautiful foliage on either side and then under a bridge. The trip brought us in a circle to where we started.
I can’t help but draw a parallel of this circular loop canoe course to life in my mind while paddling quietly through the waters where Native Americans paddled before me. The shaded narrow waterway at the beginning of our journey reminds me of the protected years of our youth, where the “paddling” is easy. After the narrow waterway, when we entered the Silver River in full sun, I am reminded of our adulthood when we are out in a larger environment with more people and experiences, sometimes “paddling upstream” when things get a bit complicated in our lives from time to time. We are more exposed to so many things during this part of the paddle, including an alligator or two either sunning itself on the shore or in the waters to our sides like we are exposed many new experiences, both good and bad, in our adult lives. From time to time we are surprised and delighted upon seeing something unexpected like turtles sunning themselves on a log in the water while paddling, and we are surprised and delighted in our lives in general when we encounter something new in our adult years as well. After leaving the wider and exposed Silver River, we paddled back to a less complicated place in some ways, like the Alpha and Omega of our lives. Things are a bit simpler and quieter in some ways with less commotion as we age, and the narrow water way at the end of our canoe journey reminds me of those calmer years, closer to home, when we need quiet and tranquil “waters” around us more than ever.
Life is good; find a way to enjoy today. Carpe diem, friends………
I can still hear my wonderful father saying to me time and time again in my head: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That was him, “King of the Colloquial Expression”, always finding a teachable moment everywhere. A man of few words but words that meant something. He didn’t speak much, of course, unless he had something to say. No idle banter for him, but a pleasant and funny disposition, a kind and loving heart, a warm smile with a sunny laugh, and a man of few words. Life lived well and lived fully.
I think of my Dad today on day three of a week of lavender recipes I am trying. It comes down to the idea of cut the idea of cutting your losses while you are ahead versus you never know until you try. Go the distance; live without wondering what could have happened. Go the distance; risk disappointment but know you tried. I impart these same words to my daughter, “Teen Traveler” and decide without blinking an eye that the proverbial “show must go on”, another quip from my beautiful days with my father before he passed on. Even though we haven’t really cared for the two lavender recipes we tried this week, we will continue in our quest.
Day Three: Lavender pound cake. Pound cake brings to mind simpler, almost more old-fashioned times, as my beautiful mother adored pound cake and served it to me when I was small like her mother did before her. Pound cake, buttery goodness and sweet confection, just like Mom. Throw in a little lavender, and it HAS to be good, right? This time I am going to decrease the amount of lavender I use to see if that makes a difference and pair it with lemon. How could lemon pound cake go wrong with wise words of advice from my father coupled with sweet memories of my mother……
I decided to use my Mother’s old vintage Corningware loaf pan, complete with the cornflower from a lifetime ago filled with less complication, confusion and without Covid. This was either a very good thing to use my Mother’s pan as fond memories of love and comfort surrounded me while I was baking, or…..it was a bad thing because my mother wasn’t much of a baker. In either case, it was fun to take out my Mother’s old pan again if for nothing other than the sake of nostalgia.
Yesterday my track record for yummy lavender recipes was 0 for 2. I waited with excitement as I watched the cake come out of the oven and cool. I used a vanilla confectionary sugar glaze when it was cool enough as the recipe directed.
And I added sprinkles. Of COURSE I added sprinkles, as I had learned years ago from marrying into my husband’s family that sprinkles on our Italian struffali is the ONLY way to go. LOTS and LOTS of sprinkles. My daughter also taught me that life is better, always better, with a little sprinkles on top.
One person who tasted it said it felt like they were eating a scented drawer liner. My daughter said it would be delicious WITHOUT the lavender. I actually liked it, but I would have preferred the recipe to have a little heavier glaze on the top, as it was almost transparent in the recipe, even though I added even more confectionary sugar to thicken it than the recipe called for.
Day three: 1 for 3. Finally a recipe that tastes good (to some of us). I actually think I’m on to something here with the combination of lavender and lemon. Perhaps tomorrow I will try lavender lemonade. You know how it goes…..”if life gives us lemons, we make lemonade!”
Day two of my seven days of eating lavender. How could I go wrong with lavender honey ice cream? How could I EVER go wrong with ice cream? My daughter and husband now wonder out loud why we didn’t choose seven days of cinnamon.
I found a recipe that uses lavender with honey, so I elected to use orange honey, a local favorite here in Florida. How could I go wrong with orange honey either? Orange honey tastes a little sweeter than the regular clover honey which is what one normally thinks of when one thinks of honey. It is also a little more “floral” in taste.
Using heavy cream, whole milk, dried culinary lavender blossoms and honey in a pan on the stove until steaming, this is how I began the process. The recipe says to cool the mixture for one hour in the refrigerator after it is steaming, and the honey melts and to follow the instructions in one’s ice cream maker. At some point, I strained the lavender flowers from the mixture, too. My ice cream machine says to put cold ingredients into it before starting it up, so that’s what I did. I cooled the mixture much longer than an hour. I decided before I put the mixture into the ice cream maker that the muddy-colored default ice cream color simply would not do, so I added a few drops of neon purple food color before continuing after I strained the lavender out of the mixture. Lavender should be purple. One of life’s axioms perhaps.
After waiting with great anticipation, the ice cream started to freeze and began to take shape. After my first trial of a recipe using lavender yesterday (lavender-mint water), I was a bit skeptical, but the ice cream looked so appealing in the ice cream maker. Finally, the time came for me to try it……ready…get set……….go…..Smooth texture, appealing color but tastes like…….SOAP. I immediately reminded myself that the French word for “to wash” is “laver”. Sounds like lavender. Lavender is associated with WASHING, noteatingevidently, and for good reason.
After freezing the ice cream for many hours, I decided that it tasted a little better when it was colder. The texture was smooth and creamy, and I almost liked the flavor. ALMOST. I am wondering now if the hints of floral taste to the orange honey may have given it the strange after taste. Might try this again another time with standard clover honey instead……or….might NEVER try this recipe again.
All in all, it was fun to experiment with a new flavor. I have come to like expecting the unexpected.
Life is good………..find enjoyment in the unexpected today if you can. Carpe diem, friends.
Note to self: perhaps combining lavender with lemon tomorrow might do the trick! Luck with lavender and lemon……at least the alliteration is fabulous!