Angry Irma

Roger and I had planned this vacation/honeymoon for weeks. We planned to leave on Friday, 9/15 to head to the Smoky Mountains. While we started preparing our trip, the news was dominated by a strong, angry Hurricane named Irma.

Over a week before the hurricane hit FL, the warnings began. The governor declared a state of emergency in advance. We ventured out the day after Labor Day to stock up on water, batteries and charcoal. The local Home Depot was already wiped out — every generator had been sold, no charcoal, no D batteries, no water. As we drove home, I called two Publix grocery stores and Family Dollar – no water.

The next day I went out to find gas, water and batteries while Roger mowed grass and readied the property. The very large, very busy Shell station was completely out of gas. I stopped at a small Citgo station (yes, I was desperate) and managed to find enough to fill up the Jeep and gas can. While filling up, I tried 5 more stores and still couldn’t find water, so I drove home.

Once at home, I told Roger what was going on. We decided then that we needed to leave because evacuation orders were mandated in south FL. I started making phone calls. Jim at Sleeping Dog Cabins had no tenants in the cabin we were renting and allowed us to arrive a week early. I called 6 hotels in south GA only to hear “we’re totally sold out”. I moved north on I-75 until I found a vacant room in Tifton. They weren’t pet-friendly but due to the mass exodus from FL, they waived the pet policy.

morning, I packed while Roger battened down the porch, patio and deck. We planned to leave around 1:00 which would give us plenty of time to drive to Tifton in daylight. We took all of the meat and veggies from the refrigerator and freezer in case we lost power. We packed the Jeep, loaded Frankie and Teddy and headed north.

made great time on U.S. 98 and kept saying we’d probably pick up some traffic when I-75 and the FL Turnpike merged. WRONG!!!!! As soon as we approached I-75, we saw the slow-moving cars and trucks. For the next 200+ miles, Roger used the brake more than the gas pedal! Multiple gas stations were out of gas or had cars snaked around for blocks as far north as Gainesville. Rest areas had signs “at capacity” with cars parked along the rest area entrance and interstate as families tried to stretch their legs and relieve their full bladders.

Nine hours later, we arrived at our hotel normally a five hour drive. We were frazzled to say the least putting up with stop and go traffic for 297 miles, a sick Teddy throwing up and accidentally pooping on his pillow. (It’s in a trash can somewhere along I-75.)

We got dinner to go and decided to leave early in the morning to get ahead of the rest of FL’s evacuees. Thankfully, no gas shortage in Tifton, so we filled up and hit I-75. For the first 10 miles or so, I actually drove the speed limit. Unfortunately, it was very short-lived and we saw the sea of red tail lights ahead of us. We experienced stop and go traffic all the way through north Atlanta. AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

After another nine hour day, we finally arrived to The Wildflower. We unpacked the car and let Frankie and Teddy run around the yard. As we enjoyed the outside bar, Roger said “listen”. It was perfectly tranquil, birds chirping, no honking horns, no sirens, no 18-wheelers and no interstate hum below our seats. Let vacation begin . . .

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The Sunflowers

She comes out every morning with her coffee and sits on the deck. Her husband built the deck just for her because he knows how much she loves to watch and listen to the birds and other wildlife. She has always loved nature and her backyard provides solace and serenity every day.

She planted me and my 14 other buddies from seed back in May. We basked in the warm sun and drank in the daily rainfall. Each day she watched us grow taller and stronger. And then one morning just a few weeks ago, she walked out on the deck with her coffee and we surprised her! The night before, we all opened up in full glory and faced the sun as it rose in the east.

As she listened to the cardinals, blue jays, titmice, house finches, woodpeckers and Carolina wrens, she turned and looked our way. She saw me and my fellow sunflowers in full bloom! With help from the morning breeze, we swayed gently waving “good morning” to our lady friend. Then a beautiful smile came across her face as she gazed at our bright yellow “faces”. Our purpose has been fulfilled. All is well . . . let another beautiful day begin.

“We Are That Bread”

Two years ago we lost a great friend, father, grandfather, brother and husband. I didn’t think it was possible to move on and push through the darkness, but I did. In fact, God was merciful and helped me find a new love and be able to write a new chapter and book for my life. In the meantime, I wanted to share an impactful message from JB.

On August 22, 2015 what would have been our 20th wedding anniversary was instead a Memorial Service. John’s son, Jeri, shared a short but very moving memory of his dad.

JB spent over 30 years of his life working for Publix Supermarkets. Even after retiring, he was always excited to walk through the grocery store looking for new items and shopping for groceries! It was heaven for me because I despise shopping and especially shopping for groceries!

A special memory from Jeri was working with his dad in the grocery store. On one particular day, they walked the bread aisle where his father taught him one of his greatest lessons. Walking through the bread aisle, JB noted that there was one loaf of bread left on the shelf. He told Jeri, “if there was one loaf of bread left in the aisle, you know you had enough. If there wasn’t any, you don’t know how many people went without.”

It’s taken two years for me to come to terms with this, but as Jeri said, “we are that bread.” Those of us who were fortunate to know JB realize what those four words mean. He left enough “bread on the shelf so that you know you had enough.” His smile, kindness, compassion, love, and especially his wit provided enough. We who had the opportunity to know him and love him are enough. On August 1, 2015, he had done enough. His job was done . . . he can rest in peace. All of us who knew JB for a few moments, days, months, years, know that “we are that bread”. We will continue his legacy and make sure “no one goes without.”

The Empty Pillow

Once upon a time, birds of the air, beasts of the Earth, creatures under the sea were created. God was pleased but not complete. Man was added to the masterpiece. Day after day, Man watched over the birds, beasts and sea creatures.

Night after night, Man slept alone and woke up to an “empty pillow”. All of the birds, beasts and sea creatures had companions. God with all His mercy and compassion realized that Man also needed and deserved a companion, so Woman was created. No more “empty pillow” for Man!

That is a very simplistic summary of how I believe we were created. It convinces me that we were not meant to live in solitude. Some people we meet along life’s pathway are friends. If we are blessed, we find a “significant other” who is our best friend and true love. Some of us bear a child or children who we love and nurture, and some of us have fur-babies we can love and cherish. Throughout our relationships, we share laughter, tears, fears and successes –but most of all, love.

In my short life, I’ve crossed paths with 1000’s of people and adopted eight fur-babies. Some people were placed in my path for a season, and I’m blessed with those who are life-long friends and family. The hardest lesson I’ve learned through all of my relationships is this: What do you do when you wake up in the morning only to find an “empty pillow” – an unexpected void in your life?

I’ve experienced and somehow endured many, many, many “empty pillows” — each heart-wrenching no matter how long the relationship lasted. But as I said good-bye to each “empty pillow”, whether they left planned or unplanned I managed to endure. As the song sings “only the strong survive”.

For me personally, God always provided a new opportunity. With each “empty pillow”, a new friend or family member or 4-legged rescue was placed in my life’s pathway. Each was an opportunity to fill my void with a new “pillow” at precisely the right time. These new “pillows” will never replace the “empty pillows”. However, I’ve learned that all my “empty pillows” have provided new life and love to another.

I, too, have been given a new beginning. At just the right time when God knew I was ready, He blessed me with not only a best friend but a true love. My husband and Frankie make sure I don’t wake up to an “empty pillow”. My husband is my life and gives me a reason to wake up each morning.

We never know how long our relationship will last before we wake up to yet another “empty pillow”. Despite the grief with each situation, I managed to “push through” and “keep on going on”. I learned that it doesn’t matter how long the relationship lasts, but the gift of spending time and love together is what is important. Experiencing and appreciating the special bond between me and my friends, family members, and pets – but most of all my husband, my life-partner – gives me lots of love and “pillow talk”!

Bea positive and embrace each day with thanksgiving and anticipation to love fiercely and whole-heartedly with heart and soul. Someone will cross your path who needs a “pillow” from you or maybe they will provide a much-needed “pillow” for you. Bea-lieve because it happened to me.

The Water Woman by Wesley Cox

Life has a way of beating us down. Too many bad things happen to you in a short period of time. A loved one does, a special relationship ends . . . despite your best efforts to save it. You’ve been healthy all your life, but suddenly you have an array of maladies and injuries that are sapping what you thought was inner strength with endless supply. Instead, the physical and mental pain is dragging you down to a bottomless pit filled with depression and despair. Will you ever feel the warm, welcoming sun on your face or your back again?

Our own problems are always the worst. Our little world is crumbling around us, and we can’t stop the flood. We forget that our problems are but a grain of sand compared to the problems of the world. Life hurts and that is all you know and feel. You can’t see the forest for the trees.

When you come to this point in your miserable, wretched existence with pity party in full swing, you must remember the Water Woman. The Water Woman, you say? What in the world is this looney tune talking about?

Read on, my friend, and perhaps the parable will pull you out of that hold and restore your faith and strength. At this very moment, somewhere in some time, in some 3rd world village of some unknown village, a baby girl is being born. The essence of life and innocence is manifested in this child. Little does she know of the hand that she has been dealt. For she is the newest member of the Water Woman. Her lot in life will be to find water and carry it back to the village.

She will travel many paths and trails before her final day. Miles upon miles of danger are lurking everywhere including wild animals to maim, murder her. Diseases and infection are around every bend. Soldiers are all around to rape and pillage her and throw her into slavery.

For you see, you must understand that your special problems are minute in comparison to the life of a Water Woman. Your petty problems, your inconsequential foibles are but a passing breeze in the life of a Water Woman. . . what she would trade to have one day of your life. If I need water, I turn on the faucet. If I need food, I turn on the microwave. If I need a doctor, I go to the clinic.

So the next time you think of feeling sorry for yourself, remember, you could have been born a Water Woman, damned to an endless existence of trails and water holes. “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Give praise and thanks for your blessings as meager as they may seem to you. And give praise to the Water Women of the world; for without them, we would die of thirst.
Amen,
Wesley Cox

Bea-Day

My birthday is in mid-April and for many years coincides with Easter. This year was one of those. The past few years have been emotional and full of change. Why is it that years that end in 9 are the hardest? This year I turned 59, and it was a tough transition. It’s just a number, right?

For many years, we lived close enough to my parents to spend my birthday with them. Over the past 3-4 years, so many things happened personally that it wasn’t feasible to meet. However, this year was an exception, and we made plans to spend my birthday/Easter weekend with my parents.

We met halfway between FL and AL in Valdosta, GA in a pet-friendly hotel. My parents traveled with Princess, and we had Frankie. Conveniently we had adjoining rooms which turned out to be a blessing. Princess has serious separation anxiety, so Frankie was the perfect companion to keep her quiet and settled so we could enjoy dinner together.

The restaurant we chose was a short walk across the parking lot. We had a very pleasant waiter who looked like Wesley Snipes! He was so nice and took pictures of mama, daddy, me and Roger for special photo memories of our time together. We “messaged” the pictures to my sister, Beth. Her response was hilarious – “you must be at Olive Garden because the breadsticks gave it away!”

As we ordered our entrees, my father told “Wesley” that it was my birthday. After we finished our dinner, “Wesley” and two other waiters showed up at our table with two ice cream desserts. Well, to my embarrassment, they couldn’t just set the desserts on the table, they sang Happy Birthday to me!

We spent one more day together enjoying lunch and dinner as a family. On Tuesday morning we departed and went to our respective homes. Reflecting on the time we spent together, I realized how fortunate I was to spend my birthday once again with my parents and with my new husband. We all know we have fewer years ahead of us than behind us. Bea Positive that when you have the opportunity to spend time with your family – don’t let it slip away.

“That’s Why They Call It Fishin’ and not Catchin’”

Finally, we had time to take a much needed honeymoon/vacation. It was Valentine’s Day week and our first together. We headed south to Ft. Pierce and the Atlantic Ocean for sun, waves and fishing!
On Valentine’s Day, we headed out early to the pier right outside our room. It was the first time Roger had been fishing in almost 7 years – something that he loves to do. He had his Shakespeare fishing pole that I gave to him for Christmas. I had my bright Jewel pink, LED blinking girlie fishing pole. We stopped at Capt. Joe’s bait and tackle shop and got shrimp bait. We also got a couple of ball caps to shade our faces from the sun!
So, I had practiced casting in our backyard, so I felt ready. The only problem – I was not touching a live shrimp to place on my hook! Roger helped me out, and we casted out waiting with baited breath for the big catch!
For those of you who know me, you know I’m not a patient person. I didn’t expect to cast my hook and bait to just sit there and bob with the waves while I stared at the pole to see if it was moving. It didn’t take long for me to get bored. Roger was a bit perturbed and told me to pick up my camera and he would man my pole. So I did . . . .
I managed to bring in probably a pound of seaweed, two pieces of coral reef and I was done. Roger kept casting all the while feeding the savvy fish in the ocean with our live shrimp. And then it happened . . . Roger saw a major tug on his pole. He said, “baby, I’ve got a fish!”. I had my camera and phone ready for the big catch. About 20 feet from the pier, we saw the prize – but it wasn’t a fish but an octopus! (see photo)
The following day was almost a repeat of the first. However, I have to admit that I managed to catch something. Roger had gone back to the room for sweatshirts. I decided to surprise him and cast out and try my luck. As I flung the pole back to cast, it stopped short. I turned around only to find my hook caught on the pier rail. I frantically tried to remove the hook all the while looking around hoping no one saw me. And just as I got the hook free, Roger said, “honey, it looks like you caught a really nice rail fish”. Ha! Ha! Ha! I was mortified, but he got the biggest laugh of the day!
Well, I sent photos back and forth to my sister, mom and dad and facebook friends. In response to my coral and seaweed “catches”, my witty sister exclaimed, “well, that’s why they call it fishin’ and not catchin’”.
It was our first fishing excursion together. Afterwards, Roger threatened to never take me fishing again. We’ll see. . . I can be very relentless and persistent. The best part of the whole experience is that I was able to spend quality time with my new husband with his life-long passion – fishing!

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