"" Writer's Wanderings: 2019

Monday, September 16, 2019

Happy Trails!

The nice thing about living near a national park is the availability of nice walking trails. We are fortunate to live near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which, by the way, has no fee for entry. We have a beautiful tow path to walk along the canal and river that runs through it. And now we have a trail even closer to home.

Our community along with several other organizations have put in a trail from near our recreational area down to the tow path a little less than two miles away. The path is paved so it can be used by bike riders as well. And it is beautiful! It begins at the corner of Selig and Brecksville Roads in Independence and goes east.

This past Saturday was the official opening and dedication. We joined a lot of neighbors in celebrating in the morning but instead of waiting for the official ceremony, we took off down the path ahead of the crowds. I'm glad we did. It was a perfect morning and the walk was picturesque. The only problem was that there is a 8-9% grade for a good portion and the walk back was a little more than we bargained for. Today I have noticed muscles that I didn't know I had that are sore.

Along the way the path follows and crosses over Hemlock Creek and there are several historic sites. The old haydite mine being one. Haydite was mined in the valley until 2018. Haydite is used to make cement lighter for use in bridges.

Along the way are several benches (resting places for those of us puffing uphill) and one or two picnic tables. I'm looking forward sometime to a walk and a lunch. It's the perfect place. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Friday Funny--God's Laughter

This week has been a bottom-in-the-chair-fingers-on-the-keyboard kind of week. While it has been said that you should write the first draft of your novel straight through to the end without looking back and editing, I find that the editor in me keeps wanting to fix what I've just written. I go back and find the -ing words and make them stronger action verbs, eliminate the unnecessary -ly words, and see if there isn't a better way to say something without a "was" or "were" in the sentence. It all takes time and slows the process but it's a tough habit to break.

While I was praying one day this week during devotion time, I found myself editing my words. I wanted to make them just right. Habits tend to invade other areas of life. When I realized what I was doing, I stopped. For just an instant, I thought I heard a chuckle. God must have enjoyed my discovery. After all He is Father, and as children of His, I'm sure we contribute much to his laughter.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Attention Kindle Readers! Chance to Save!

The opportunity to do another countdown sale has arrived.

I can't decide which book to choose however.

If you had the opportunity to purchase a Kindle edition of one these books, which one would it be?

I'll do the countdown next week.

Fort Lonesome

In A Pickle

Pickle Dilly

Ruby, A Novel

Remember there is always the option of purchasing a Kindle edition as a gift for another. It's easily done through email. There's a link on the side of the book's page on Amazon that shows you how.

You can also request a book through your local library. If they don't have it, they will usually purchase it and then you can download it from them on loan.

All sorts of ways to read your favorites.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Doing The Laundry Without The Laundromat

When we are on an extended trip, we always plan to do laundry somewhere along the way. There have been some really neat encounters we've had in laundromats around the world. We've met students in Heidelberg and had instruction in French accompanied with lots of hand signals in Paris. Iceland was another interesting occasion where we had to receive instructions over the phone from the owner of the washer and dryer at a small campground. There was nothing on the washer and dryer that looked even vaguely familiar for us to even guess about what to do.

All of that said, I found some suggestions online that sound feasible if you can't find a laundromat or don't feel comfortable. One of the suggestions is to use a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Your put a small amount of detergent or even shampoo if you have no detergent into the bag with water and your article of clothing. Zip it closed and agitate. Do the same to rinse several times and hang up the item to dry. When I hand wash items, I usually roll them in a towel after I've wrung them out. That gets out just a little more water and speeds the drying time.

There are several products you can buy that are a bit larger and accomplish the same thing but are a bit pricey in my opinion.

Another option to washing your clothes without going to the laundromat is to wear them into the shower. Now I will admit to doing this with a bathing suit to rinse the chlorine from it but I never considered wearing clothes in and washing them that way. Hmmm. Given the option, I'll go to the laundromat. In a foreign country it's challenging and fun and you meet the nicest people.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Scams, Scams and More Scams: Travelers Beware

Just about the time you think you've heard it all there appears to be all sorts of new travel scams. Imagine if all these creative scammers put their heads together for something good. We could solve all sorts of world problems. Well, until they come over to the good side, there are some more things we as travelers need to be wary of.

I don't click on advertising links that come into my mailbox. Too often scammers manage to make a website that looks just like my favorite online stores and if you click and try to order, they will have your credit card information. Now I see the same applies to travel agent sites. Some are bogus. Stick to the ones you know are reliable and make sure you go directly to their site and check the URL to be sure it doesn't look flaky--like having an extra letter or number or symbol in it.

Another one I hadn't heard of is connected to some hotels. Now I know enough not to give out personal information like credit card numbers when someone calls me at home. I never considered what might happen if someone called from the front desk of the hotel where I was staying and asked for verification of my credit card. Apparently there are scammers who will call your room appearing to be the front desk and ask you to verify your credit card number. If you get the call, tell them you will be down to the front desk to straighten it out. If the call is legit, the front desk will thank you and wait for you to appear.

There are several other new scams you may want to take a look at to protect yourself as you travel. They are listed in an article on Smarter Travel. It's mostly a matter of staying on your toes as you travel. If it sounds too good to be true, it may be. Stay alert out there!

Friday, August 30, 2019

How Do You Clean A Lion's Teeth?

In answer to the question, you clean a lion's teeth very carefully and with the lion completely sedated. I think they used more than "happy gas" on him as you can see.

Since we have a zoo pass for the Metroparks Zoo, we often go just to get out of the house and get some exercise walking around. One of our stops for a peek in is always the Sarah Allison Stefee Center for Zoological Medicine. The last time we were fortunate enough to catch the veterinarians at work, we watched a root canal on a Mandrill monkey. This day, our attention was directed to the procedure they were doing on the male lion of the zoo.

The Center is a hands on learning place for children who can don a lab coat and pretend to be a vet while learning about the animals and their diets and health. There are several viewing areas where you can watch them work on some of the zoo animals when it's appropriate.

The lion was definitely out of it but I had to laugh when one of the guys got his arm tangled in the IV tubing and almost pulled out the IV. That could have been a rude awakening not only for the lion but the team of eight or so working in there on him as I'm sure that's what was keeping him sleeping peacefully.

We weren't sure what all they were doing. One zoo volunteer said they were just giving him a checkup. They were definitely cleaning his teeth though and we were able to watch the close up action on a video screen. I don't want to know what they were doing at the other end with his leg up in the air. Do male lions get a prostate exam?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Are You A Souvenir Shopper?

True confession: I hate shopping. I know. I feel like I'm a traitor to my gender but I've never much cared for shopping of any kind. I joke that I'd rather stay home and clean toilets than go grocery shopping. And shopping for clothes? I hate the trying on and the thumbing through racks of stuff that rarely looks good to me. So when it comes to souvenir shopping, well, I did it as a chore for a while.

I do on occasion buy a souvenir though when we travel. For a while I decided that I should collect something special. After all, everyone else had all sorts of collections--dolls, Lladro figurines, bells, spoons, etc. I was feeling the peer pressure. That was when I decided to combine my love of wood with starting a collection of wooden souvenirs from the places we visited.

Along the way I accumulated enough wooden pieces to get a good bonfire going. I did set limits though. The piece had to be from wood native to the country and made by an artisan of the place. I found a boomerang made by an Aborigine in Australia, a canoe carved by a fellow in Papua New Guinea, two wooden shepherd carvings (one for each trip) from Oberammergau, Germany, a knot of wood that looks like a heron from Mexico, a vase of mahogany from an island in the Caribbean (can't remember which one now) and the list goes on with much less impressive pieces.

I knew I was getting into trouble when in a rush to buy a wooden souvenir from one of the Caribbean islands I found later, when I turned it over, it bore the mark "Made in Costa Rica." A few years later we actually visited Costa Rica. I decided I didn't need a souvenir. Already had one.

Today, I have started discarding some of the less meaningful wooden souvenirs. They were purchased because, well, I had to have a souvenir. Didn't everyone? I no longer buy souvenirs just to have something from each place we visit. I'm not home enough to look at them. I don't need the extra work dusting them off. And since they don't really mean much to my kids, I could envision them starting their own bonfire with them.

Pass the marshmallows, please.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Can You Pass Muster?

Recent reports from a team of researchers that went down to the wreck of the Titanic show that it is deteriorating more rapidly than first thought. Bacteria in the water is actually eating away the metal and the projection is that in around 25 years it will be reduced to sandy "dust". While our fascination with the whole story of the Titanic is at times romantic or shockingly disastrous, it is often overlooked that many of the rules we have for voyages at sea come from the experience of that ship's sinking.

One of the things we don't necessarily think about when we are required to report to muster stations for a drill at the beginning of any cruise is that this is a result of the Titanic disaster. After all who wants to think about a ship sinking when we're about to spend a week or more on one. We all know the story about not enough life boats. The requirement for sufficient lifeboats for passengers and crew is now set.

Also set is the requirement of the muster or lifeboat drill within 24 hours of the beginning of a cruise.The usual procedure is to warn passengers after all have embarked that there will be a drill. We all tend to groan about it especially if we have cruised numerous times. And who wants to don a bulky lifejacket and stand on the deck outside for fifteen minutes or more while roll call is taken? You do. Why? Because if you don't, you won't be allowed to sail and more importantly because you need to know if there are any procedures that you may not have realized are changed since the last time you cruised.

Every ship is different and every crew conducts the drill just a little bit differently. Most of them have it down to a quick and orderly procedure. What slows it down? Those guests who decide they don't need to report or report late or create havoc because they know it all and have done it all before. To those I say, "Great! Then you are prepared to help the ones who haven't done it countless times before and in an emergency (while rare, they do happen) you can help others." In a perfect world that would happen.

My question to you if you are set to cruise: Will you pass muster? Will you measure up to the standard required of you when it's time to drill and practice donning those lifejackets? I'm sure the passengers on the Titanic would have liked the opportunity that is afforded us today because of their experience.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Long Flight? What To Do To Keep Sanity

We're all different and we all need different things to keep our sanity when it comes to long flights. Facing a thirteen hour flight from Toronto to Tokyo soon, I was exploring what others might do to keep from going crazy sitting in one place that long.

First of all, it is always suggested that several times during your flight you get up and walk the aisle a bit. This usually works for me when nature calls. Good excuse to get up and walk and avoid the dangers of deep vein thrombosis. While we're on the subject, it is also helpful to keep hydrated. Hmm. Now that I think about it the hydration makes you get up for a trip to the rest room. I also had a doctor tell me that just before getting on the plane you might want to take an aspirin (if it's not in your regimen already). It thins the blood a bit and helps prevent DVT as well.

Moving on to the more mental exercise, I always load my Kindle with lots of books. On a trip this long, I can run through two if I don't get sleepy or there's a movie I want to see on the inflight entertainment system. Usually on long flights you will find individual TV screens in the back of the seat in front of you. It will have lots of free movies, TV reruns, and music choices as well as games you can play. The most exciting choice we had on one huge airbus was a view from a camera placed on the undercarriage of the plane that allowed us to watch the landing.

Bob likes to sleep, especially when the hours coincide with our sleep cycle. He will take two Tylenol PM and be out like a light. I can't seem to fall asleep, pills or no pills. My best hope is getting sleepy from reading and dozing off and on. If you plan to sleep and are considering medication, be sure to try it out before you fly. Some medications that are meant to put you to sleep actually react differently with some people and may keep you awake instead. It's also helpful to not have any caffeine in your drinks (remember some sodas contain it as well as coffee and chocolate). Alcohol is not helpful either they say.

Plan ahead. Don't carry more than you need on the plane and plan to put your carry-on in the overhead bin. Your legs will thank you for the extra room under the seat in front of you. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes (guaranteed your feet will swell a bit), something that you can wear off the plane when you land. You can't plan to change into pjs and back to clothes in the tiny little bathroom on the plane.

Of course if you should be so lucky to snag an upgrade to first class, it will be a whole lot easier to whittle away those hours in the air. Good luck.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bidding On Travel Upgrades

Anticipating the long flight we will be taking to and from Japan soon, I wondered if we might be able to upgrade to business or first class. Once before we found that we could upgrade on a flight to New Zealand. It was a bidding process. You submit a bid and if it's accepted, you get the upgrade. There are lots of rules and auctions are not available to all airlines so I looked up the possibilities.

The auction site I found is called Plusgrade. It has seventy participating travel partners. I say partners because to my astonishment there are also several cruise lines listed as well. Who knew?

Once you have booked your flight (or your stateroom) you can register with your airline if they are partnered with Plusgrade. After you've learned that your flight is eligible, you can submit a bid. Don't expect to submit a one dollar bid however. The site will suggest a bid and most bids that are accepted are between 20-40% of the regular cost to upgrade. So say your economy ticket is  $400 dollars and the upgrade is $2000. The difference is $1600. Your bid should be somewhere between $320 and $640.

If your bid is accepted, you will be notified 24-72 hours before your flight. The worse that can happen is that you are left with your original seats if you lose the auction. The reason they wait so long to notify you is that they are still trying to sell those business/first class seats at the full price.

The only other problem is that if you are traveling with someone else, you may not be able to upgrade both seats. There may only be one available or you may not be sitting together. Not sitting together in business class is okay but I figure we either draw straws for the upgraded seat or we switch seats halfway through the flight.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Funny --Lost in Translation?

Let's face it. Traveling to Asian countries without knowing any of the language is a challenge. Thankfully most tourist areas and guides speak enough English (often very well) that you can get along. When we are traveling with our grandchildren who are proficient in Japanese thanks to their mother (our son speaks it but the kids correct him), we rely on them to help us out since many times when we are with them we are not necessarily in tourist areas.

When we visited a couple of years ago and we all decided on climbing Mount Fuji, our tour guide spoke relatively good English but he was only getting us to the mountain where he handed over the guide responsibilities to a man who spoke little English. Since we were with mostly Japanese, the mountain guide spoke all of the instructions to our group before setting out in Japanese. He rattled on in a fascinating melodic cacophony of Japanese for about ten minutes or more.

Our granddaughter stood next to us the whole time but if I remember correctly, she may have been fingering her phone. When our guide was all done and nodded his head and waved his arm for us to follow, Bob turned to our granddaughter and asked, "So what did he say?"

She shrugged her shoulder and wrapped up fifteen minutes of instruction in two English words. "Be Careful."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ishigaki For Foodies

Knowing our son who has become quite a foodie since moving to Tokyo and traveling the world I've tried to get a little heads-up before our trip to Ishigaki, said to be a haven for foodies. On our very first trip to Japan years ago when he got married in Sapporo, our daughter-in-law's father who has quite a sense of humor, took the eleven of us Americans to a soba restaurant and sat across the room from all of  so he could watch how we ate the soba. Now soba comes in a broth usually and it is most politely eaten by slurping. He wanted to see if we could do it. I still remember his smile.

Soba noodles, unlike udon noodles, are made from buckwheat and are thinner. Usually they are served either cold with a dipping sauce or in hot broth. They are wonderful either way. When we get to Ishigaki however, they make their noodles a bit differently. The Yaeyama soba, made from flour, is a little like Ramen and is served in a sweeter broth than the buckwheat soba usually is. The broth and noodles are topped with thin sliced pork, fish cakes and green onions. Locals are said to spice it up a bit with some of their own spices and peppers.

We have had several versions of seaweed, a staple in Japan, but have never had what is called sea grapes. Now this sound interesting. The seaweed grows only in warm waters and the leaves are like little bubbles resembling clusters of small grapes.

I'm a lover of pork. Unfortunately the more delicious fat the better. I love pork belly and when my mother would make a "fresh ham" as she called it, my brother and I would fight over the crispy fat skin. Another on my list of must tries is rafute, Okinawan pork ribs. They sound delicious. Rafute is made from skin on pork sweetened and spiced before stewing and is tender enough to pull apart with chopsticks.

Of course the number one thing my son commented on was the Ishigaki beef. I'm sure we will be tasting that.

If you are intrigued and curious, here is a site I found with many of the local dishes described. Okay, I'm hungry.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Surfing Ishigaki On The Internet

When I began to explore what might be interesting to see for our trip to Ishigaki, I decided I must be out of the travel loop. How did I not know about this place? There is a ton of information about it to read and absorb.

I'm not so much interested in beaches. We don't usually spend much time on them unless there's a good reason to other than lounging and getting sunburned. It appears that there are quite a few beaches on the island and they are mostly white sand consisting of broken coral. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, thus the snorkeling and diving activities I mentioned in my previous post.

The best and most scenic beach area is said to be Kabira Bay. There is an iconic picture that pops up in all of the travel sites that shows a white beach and blue green water. Unfortunately you are not allowed to swim in the bay. They say the currents there make it unsafe and it is also one of only two places in Japan where black pearls are cultivated. You can however take a glass bottom boat trip to see the marine life. Not my favorite choice but better than nothing. There are also kayak adventures to some deserted islands nearby where you can snorkel.

Ah, but read on farther in the descriptions and you get to the really good stuff--the food. Lots of restaurants nearby and some feature Ishigaki beef which is said to rival Kobe beef in flavor. We'll see about that for sure. Another offering is soba noodles, a little different in that they are green and made with a plant that comes from the area and served in a conch shell.

Anywhere you go in Japan there are temples. Near Kabira Bay's observation point is the Kannon Temple. The story is that a young boy was on a ship that anchored in the bay sometime in the seventeenth century and he went ashore to explore. When he returned he found the ship had sailed. He went back to the hillside and began to pray. A great North wind blew in and forced the ship to return to the bay. The boy was able to get back to the ship and years later, returned to the island and the bay as a monk and built the temple.

Okay, pearls, scenery, a walk on the beach and great food. Sounds like a must see place to me.

Monday, August 12, 2019

We're Going To Ishigaki--What?

When your grandkids live in Japan, it's a little more work to get to see them. Long flights and jet lag and immersion into a very different culture and tradition. We've made the trip several times now including a trip before they were even born when their mother and father got married in Sapporo.

Their home base while in Japan has been both Tokyo and Sapporo. The kids attend international school and there are several breaks throughout the year to accommodate both US and Japanese holidays. Last year they were with us for our golden wedding anniversary celebration so it's been a year since we've seen them in person--Facetime fills in. It was time for us to plan a visit.

Since we knew they usually take their fall break away from home, we asked if we could join them. This fall they had decided to book accommodations in the south of Japan, Ishigaki Island. When you think of Japan, you don't normally think of sunny beaches and surf and snorkeling but in the south of Japan there is a group of islands that provide just that.

On our first visit to Okinawa when our cruise ship stopped there for a day, I was surprised to see that it was very much like a beach town. This island, Ishigaki, is even further south and promises to be an exciting experience. Our son has booked a house for our stay and our daughter-in-law is already looking into activities and the all important food places to visit.

My initial look into where we're going revealed some scuba diving. The giant manta rays are in the area and we're taking our dive cards (certification that we are divers) just in case we have the opportunity. Over the next few days, I'm going to see what else is going on there--just to level up the anticipation. Of course seeing my son and his family are exciting enough. All the rest is icing.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Friday Funny--Speechless Again

Two more funnies from my speaking experiences. Just before it was time for me to speak at a women's function at a church, I went into the restroom to freshen up a bit. Deciding to use the toilet, I picked a stall, entered, closed the door and sat down. When I looked up I was staring at myself. The planning committee had decided that the best place to advertise the event was on the back of the stall doors in the ladies' room. While I was startled, I had to smile. Yup. Best place to advertise.

My other story involves my husband. I was invited to speak at a campground for a women's retreat and since it was quite a drive from our home, he volunteered to drive for me. Usually, I went on my own. This would be his first experience helping me with my book sales at the engagement.

The campground was beautiful nestled among scenic mountains. The drive had been very nice. As we pulled into the campground we saw lots of cabins where most of the women were staying and in the middle of the park like setting was a huge building which I took to be a large gym. When I spoke with the chairperson she had said we would be in the chapel. I didn't see anything that looked like a chapel so we parked and got out of the car to look around and find someone to ask where to set up.

A lady came out of a door to the "gym" and stopped to greet us. When we asked, she pointed over her shoulder. "The chapel is held in the tabernacle," she said. "Just go right through that door."

Following her direction, we opened a door to a huge auditorium, a tabernacle in every description of the word. It was like the kind you see huge revivals being held in. I'm guessing it would seat 2,000 people comfortably. I hadn't asked the chairperson how many women she expected. I gulped. Well, if God wanted me to speak to a group this large, I thought, He'd better stop my knees from knocking.

I walked to the middle of the room in front of the stage and looked back to see if Bob was behind me. He was still standing there, mouth gaping, as he stared at all the seats. I can't imagine what he was thinking. When I turned around again, the chairperson was approaching me. I tried to act nonchalant as I asked her how many she expected to attend.

"At last count," she said, "we had about 150 registered."

I tried not to look too relieved. It was still a good sized group but certainly not as intimidating as 2,000 would have been. I laughed when Bob carried in the first box of books. "Do you think we have enough books?" he asked as his eyes roamed over the cavernous room again.

"Plenty," I assured him. "There's only 150 registered." He almost looked as relieved as I did.

By the way, Bob charmed all the ladies who visited the book table and when I was invited back a couple years later, the chairperson wanted to know if he was coming back too. He did, Only this time he didn't stand speechless as we entered the tabernacle.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Travel Germaphobia

I've seen some you might call germaphobes but not a lot. I don't think they are being extreme. Who knows what might be going on with them physically that requires them to wipe down their tray table and seat in the airplane. Some people have conditions that require that kind of caution and yes, the planes are not always cleaned that well between flights.

A recent article however gave lots of ideas for germaphobes to chew on, gadgets and gizmos that they could take along to help them out. I carry lots of hand sanitizer but fail when it comes to packing sanitary wipes unless we are going somewhere that I don't trust a reasonable amount of cleanliness.

This article went much farther though. A sanitizer for your toothbrush? Another for your phone? Do you let others use your phone? Maybe because you might set it down on a table?

How about carrying your own blanket? Of course. Lots of room in the suitcase for that right next to my UV wand and portable air purifier.

The one I really liked was the cover for your tray table and airplane seat. It's washable so you can clean it up for your next trip.

Now again, if you truly need to be that careful, these products might be of use to you so I will give you a link to the article here. For me, I"ll just replenish my Purell supply.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hot Summer? Time To Plan For Antarctica

One of the greatest trips we have ever taken was to Antarctica. There are all sorts of cruise lines that go there now and you can get several different types of experiences. What I liked so much about ours was that we had several opportunities to go on land and experience the penguins and other beautiful scenes that were not viewed from the ship.

I ran across someone else's experience in an article, 10 Days in Antarctica. Her adventure was similar to ours. So if you want to see Antarctica what should you look for in a cruise?

Check out the itinerary closely. Do you just want to look from the ship? Some of the larger ships will not set up land excursions. They are labor intensive and include a lot of sanitary precautions to keep our germs from infecting the wildlife and their germs from infecting us. Our crew had to scrub our boots each time we went on shore.

If you want to immerse yourself in the wildlife and land, choose a smaller ship. There are some that are extremely intensive with studies of what you will see, not just excursion lectures. The only problem with a small ship is the Drake Passage which can be quite rough since it is a large body of open water. We lucked out and it was a relatively smooth crossing both ways. I have heard stories of some pretty rough weather though.

Whatever you choose, it is an amazing adventure. I have never seen snow so white and icebergs so blue. Seals and penguins so comical. The time to visit is in January/February which is "summer" in the south. We had temps in the 60s one day and snow on another. But when the sun came out the sky was so blue and the snow so white.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday Funny -- Speechless

Speaking engagements always offer opportunities for fellowship and meeting new people and sometimes, well, often for me, some great humor. There was the time I didn't realize it was a very casual affair and I had purchased a bright pink suit because it was a spring banquet. It was okay though, no one missed who the speaker was. The funny part came later.

The speaking fee I had agreed to was a love offering. In the past, the groups I had been with usually collected the offering, counted it and wrote me a check. I assumed that's what would happen. To my surprise, the ladies in charge emptied the baskets and handed me quite a fistful of money--mostly fives and singles. I didn't quite know what to do with it so I just stuffed it all into my purse as best I could.

The place where I was speaking was not terribly far from home but I didn't want to drive back by myself that far at night so I had booked a room near the interstate. What I didn't know was that it was a hotel used by a lot of truckers. By the time I arrived at the hotel, it was getting a little late and I was quite thirsty. In my arms I juggled my notes and other things I had used in my talk. I managed to open my purse and pull out the dollar that the pop machine asked for to get a bottle of cold water. 

I took my bottle of water and got into the elevator to go up to my floor. A trucker followed me in. He looked at me and smiled. "Have a good evening?" he asked.

"I did," I said just about the time the elevator door opened to my floor. I got off and the doors closed behind me. 

Once in my room I suddenly realized that I was in the elevator, in a bright pink suit, probably looking quite spent since speaking always wore me out, and my purse was open with a bunch of currency almost falling out. 

I have no idea what he thought.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Would You Like To Ride In A Beautiful Balloon

Several years ago we checked another item off of my bucket list, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. It was an amazing experience but to understand why it was on my bucket list I have to go back to a demonstration that a local balloonists did at my kids' elementary school.

The kids all gathered in the playground area and watched as he and his wife unrolled the balloon and fired up the propane tank to blow hot air into the huge balloon bottom. It didn't take long before the balloon was vertical and the mouths of all of us watching were hanging open in awe. Since it was not flying weather, he quickly deflated the balloon and while the kids filed back into school they rolled it up and packed it into the back of their truck.

I would find out later that the couple were a part of our church and I met them there on occasion and had the opportunity to listen to some of the tales of their ballooning experiences. I was not ready to fly though.

Fast forward to New Mexico and watching seven hundred balloons inflate and ascend into the air and I found myself once again gaping in awe. They float over your head and each is a unique design, some resembling animals, others cartoon characters and still others intricate designs. It was an early morning launch because that's when the air is still and less wind is better. We returned in the evening for an illumination of balloons but there was no launch. The wind had kicked up a bit and even then they shut down early because the several balloons that were illuminated (the propane fire lights them up) were blowing too much.

In all this time though, I've never had the courage to take a ride. While it might be a wonderful sensation for many, I'm not so sure I would enjoy it. No, I'd rather watch from the ground. I did find an article that describes a ride in a balloon. You might find it interesting. It's called Lessons Learned From Up In The Air.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Quieter Side Of Florida

December to April and depending upon which direction you travel, the highways to and from Florida are packed with cars, trailers, and RVs. License plates are usually displaying a state or a certain country to the north of the US. Coming and going, the migration of the snowbirds is tremendous.

Our favorite spot is Key Largo, mainly because we've established a lot of friendships with other snowbirds and, not insignificant to us, our grandkids are just north of there. Once you are established with a condo owner and keep renewing your stay each year, you don't want to lose your place. If you don't or can't renew and you want to return, it is difficult to find rental places that are not already booked.

I ran across an article that may come in handy in a couple of years when we take our world cruise and lose our condo place when we don't renew that year. Some of the paces they mention (Underrated Places to Visit in Florida) sound intriguing and may be an alternative if we can't return to Key Largo.

There are a few places in the panhandle area like South Walton and Amelia Island which may be a little chilly in the winter months. Of course there still won't be snow.

Manasota Key halfway between Fort Meyers and Sarasota looks intriguing. It is a bit off the coast but looks beautiful. It invites those who love to hunt for sea shells and apparently is a favorite sea turtle nesting spot. Population is only about 1200 and it is said to be low key and laid back. Maybe a little too much for a three month stay?

Dunedin on the Gulf Coast may be a good spot. It is about 30 minutes from Tampa/St Petersburg and has proximity to two offshore islands that look like they invite exploring.

I guess that the best of all worlds though would be to return from our World Cruise and know that the next winter our little condo would be available to us again. We'd miss all our friends and definitely our Pickleball group if we located somewhere else.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Books For The Road - Summer On Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

Sometimes you want a book that isn't heavy reading, especially when it's summertime. Debbie Macomber is one of my go-to authors when I need something lighter. Summer On Blossom Street was a great read. There are several characters' stories in the novel but the central point for them is in a knitting class that the main character, Lydia, owner of the yarn shop in town, organizes for those who want to quit something.

All the other characters, including one male, join the class for different reasons. Their stories unfold and intertwine in and out of the class. Several of the characters are involved with foster care and adoption, two topics near and dear to me.

It's a good read for the airplane which is where I read it on two different flights to get to our destination. And even though it is the sixth book in a series, you would have no problem picking up the story. As a matter of fact, I think I might go back and read the others in the series now. Hooked? Yup.

Friday, July 19, 2019

To The Moon And Back

This week there has been a lot of remembering back to the first moon landing. I grew up in the generation that watched the first American, Alan Shepard, fly into space. We held our breath wondering if he would burn up on re-entry. John Glenn orbited the earth and again we held our breath as he re-entered and was brought aboard the destroyer that lifted the capsule out of the water.

Gus Grissom lost his capsule when the hatch prematurely blew open upon his splashdown. The capsule sank but Grissom was picked up from a life raft to the relief to all who were watching the television live reports. (Grissom would later die in a flash fire that claimed three of the Apollo astronauts.) That was all part of the Mercury program. Then came Gemini.

Gemini was the program that prepared NASA and the astronauts for the next program, Apollo, that would lead to the first moon landing. The moon landing took place less than a year after we were married. We had graduated from Ohio State University and moved to Laurel, MD, where we lived in a two bedroom apartment on the first floor of a three story building. Above us was a couple with whom we became good friends.

I don't recall watching the take off of the Apollo mission but I do remember making an evening of watching the landing. We joined our friends in their apartment (they had a youngster to put to bed early). We enjoyed snacks and watched as the moment neared that Neil Armstrong would make that fateful first step onto the moon's surface.

We had already watched the capsule landing and cheered as the legs found solid ground. No one knew for sure if it would land on solid ground or sink into moon dust. As the hatch on the capsule opened and the cameras attached to someplace below the hatch began to broadcast, we sat on the edge of our seats and watched in awe as a foot appeared and then legs as Armstrong made his way down the ladder.

He paused and then with a small jump, landed onto the surface of the moon. It was one of the most amazing things we'd ever seen. Thank goodness the technology was there for us to be able to share in that great moment. It is one moment in history that will forever remain with me. And, no, I never once believed that it was all faked.

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