Monday, January 28, 2008

Last day

A quick trip through our last day here and then I must pack.

Chuck is having his breakfast; danish, yogurt, banana, coffee, hard boiled eggs, etc. "Our" table looks out on the pool and patio. We had that table every morning but one.
Here is the pool as seen through that window where we sit for breakfast.
After breakfast we each went our separate ways for quiet time. Then one last soak in the hot tub and a good workout in the pool.

Then to the beach. It was chilly today so it was good I had sweaters along. We read to each other for a while, took naps, went for a walk, searched for seashells, and stayed for sunset.
We managed to capture the silhouette of a pelican flying through our view of the sunset. The beach was emptier today than any other day we've been there, probably because of the cold wind. But people come out for the sunset. Even teenage girls who were freezing because they still needed to wear their sundresses stayed to see the sun disappear beyond the horizon.

Directly across from the spot where we watched the sunset was another local seafood restaurant. I ordered blackened grouper, the local fish, and Chuck had Alaskan snow crab.

Our server was about our age, had played football for a small school in Nebraska and had played against Bethel, among other schools.

Enough for now. We'll be home tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hanging out in Florida

I'm two days behind. Will I remember everything?

Yesterday we went to a Saturday morning market in St. Petersburg. It was stands with crafts, fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, great things to eat, clothes, and more. There was a live band playing old rock and roll covers. There was food from Peru. There was a booth with about 15 kinds of empanadas. There was pizza and quiche and soup and crepes and granola and breakfast stuff and barbeque and fresh breads and more than I can list or remember. Almost all the booths would give you a taste, and Chuck would wander slowly past looking as though he were trying to decide whether to buy something. All the vendors would ask him to come try what they were selling.

We did buy a crab empanada in honor of Paraguay.

The people there all seemed to be in a good mood. There were people of all ages and family groups and all of them seemed to be having a good time. We saw a couple of ladies who had to be in their 80's wearing biker tights and helmets wheeling their expensive bikes through the market. Half the people there had their well behaved pedigree dogs with them. We saw two families with very young twins.

While we listened to the band a red hat lady came and stood enjoying the music right in front of the band. She was loving the music and started dancing a little. Here she is getting down to a hard driving cover of the Beetles' "Come Together".
After the market we went to the beach. We did some more walking/jogging, this time with socks with my shoes. It got too chilly to swim and soon it started raining.

We came back, had a nice dinner, and watched 'Breach' on HBO. And then we watched the end of 'Pretty Woman' which was much dumber than I remembered it.

This morning we took it pretty easy. Chuck went outside for his quiet time and I hung out in our room for mine. I really missed being at church today.

When Chuck came back we looked up state parks on line and picked the closest park that was in the Everglades---about a 3 hour drive.

The drive was nice, a good time to talk and dream. The park was OK. It was pretty close to this gathering of motorcyclists who had a very loud rock band playing. All the pristine paths sounded like rock music.

This park had royal palms, which are the glorious really big ones you see in photos of tropical wonderlands. This is a frond from a royal palm.

This is looking up at one of them from the bottom. They say that lightening has killed every one of the original trees and these huge ones are second growth. I wished to see the height of an original.
All along the trail there were these huge root systems of uprooted trees. I don't know if this is the result of a hurricane or just natural life span, but the roots are all spread out thickly in this shallow disc around the tree trunk.
I don't know what these berries are but Chuck wanted a picture of them so he got a picture of them.

I didn't get a picture of the gumbo limbo tree. It is nicknamed the tourist tree because of it's red, peeling, paper-thin bark. It took me such a long time to get that, but I finally did.

* * * * * * * *
While we were driving Chuck was playing Christian radio. They played the song, Come to Jesus, by Chris Rice.
Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

I'm drawn to the melody of this song, but I always judged the words as too simple, too much about Jesus making me feel good and not enough about being like Jesus. But today it caught me off guard and I found tears rolling without really knowing why.

I've thought about it all day, and still don't really completely get it. The best I can make of it is this. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be who I should be, to take care of the people I care about, to be responsible. I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I could do better.

The song was like a hug from Jesus. Maybe taking it all to Jesus won't make it all go away. How do we balance out taking up our cross with laying down our burdens? I don't pretend that I can understand this. But I know a hug helps, and it helped today.

* * * * * * *
So, Chuck and I were talking about this on our way home and we were in some slow moving traffic. I started checking out billboards.

One of them had the words, "Casual Atmosphere, Serious Faith" over a picture of a family sitting on a lawn. Underneath the family were the words "Fairway Church". I looked again. Is this about golf? YES!!! Next to the family there was a golf ball in the grass.

Chuck wanted me to take a picture, but I guess I wasn't quick enough.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On the beach

We decided to take it easy this morning and spent some time journaling and praying. The day started out cold, but Chuck is determined to wear shorts for the entire trip. Since he does his praying outside, even in winter at home, he went for a walk while I laid claim to our room.

At noon we decided to go to the beach. I wanted to stay for a beach sunset because the skies were so clear, but I wanted to be warm enough. I put on three long sleeve sweaters.

Chuck wanted to swim.

We were quite the pair.

Chuck chose a different beach than the one we were at a couple of days ago. We had lunch as soon as we got there. This is the view from the park bench where we ate.

It became clear that it was going to be warmer than I expected. I ditched the first sweater. After lunch Chuck found a place to change and then went jogging a bit to get warmed up in preparation for his swim. While he swam I sat on the beach with my journal, but the birds were so friendly I ended up taking pictures. I'll only bore you with the one that proves Chuck was in the water.
He actually got all the way in and swam for at least 20 minutes. Then he was well chilled, while I was getting quite toasty and got rid of the second sweater. I'd brought along a sarong and since I was still too warm, I changed out of jeans into the sarong. The only shoes I had were sneakers, so I took off the crew socks, but kept the sneakers. I wanted to get in a nice long brisk walk before the day was over.

We moved to a different area of the beach, since our parking time was up already. Parking was $1.25/hour, no matter where along the beach you parked, so we moved down toward the tip of the beach, closer to restrooms and shops.

We walked down to a fishing pier. Chuck is collecting seashells so this was not a brisk walk. At the fishing pier there were birds that let you come right up to them. I'm not posting all the picture, but this was too amazing to not share.

This is one of four pelicans. Each was different so it's hard to choose which one to post.
This small white bird was on the park bench. I don't know what it was.
This larger bird sat just outside the guard rails and I had to hold the camera out and guess whether I was aimed correctly. The best shot seems to have the bird eating a tiny woman. Oh well.
Then we decided to get a picture of us. The sun was incredibly bright, which makes it really difficult to see the display on the back of the camera, so this is what we ended up with, after deleting all the many worse shots.
Now it was time for my brisk walk. Chuck went to the car for a nap and I set off along the water line. It was so nice that I walked for a long time, and even did some jogging before I realized that these sneakers without socks were probably not such a good idea. For the last bit I took off the shoes and cooled my raw feet in the waves. That felt so amazing that I kept going in farther and farther. Then a couple of larger waves took me by surprise, and soon my skirt was wet nearly to my waist. Here I'm cleaning the sand off my feet in my wet skirt.
By that time we were about a half hour from sunset, so we walked along the beach slowly and gingerly. A group of dolphins were spotted very close in to shore and Chuck moved quickly along the shore with them to try to get a picture. There were probably four or five of them. We have one photo with four fins showing. I'm not posting that one because the fins were far enough away that it would be hard to identify them. This is the shot with the clearest identifiable fin, right at sunset.
Actually we have some pretty great sunset shots too, that actually have the sun setting in them, but this is enough pictures for today.

We found a Wendy's on the way home and since we were so hungry AND this is a vacation we decided it was OK to depart from the dollar menu :-)

* * * * * * * * *
Part of what I thought about today was how to think about going on a trip like this. It's pretty much out of character for us to fly somewhere and spend this kind of money on us. I know that among our economic group, taking a trip like this to celebrate a relationship like ours is a no brainer, but how do I see this in relationship to people who can't do the same? How do I justify flying for fun in a world where flying is the least environmentally friendly way to travel?

I know it is part of who I am to think these thoughts. We are having such a good time, and I think sometimes we let ourselves believe that having a good time is the proof that God has blessed this decision. Well, God has blessed this trip, but I'm not certain that this means God wouldn't have blessed a trip with less impact.

Still, seeing Chuck's joy on the beach is a memory I can't put words to.

Maybe this is a trip that ignores justice. I don't know. I wrote in my journal that our lives have been pretty focused around justice most of the time. Jesus took time away to pray. He didn't fly to the beach for a week, but then he knew he only had three years, and his time was limited. And he lived close to the water. How is that for justification?

Anyway, there is always a lot to ponder.

I'm really grateful for this week. It is replenishing my spirit. Maybe I would also be replenished at an inexpensive retreat center in Kansas, but this is where I am, and I'm going to experience the fullness of this place while I am here.

The rest of Thursday...

I'm finally getting back to posting. After we returned from the park we decided to go for a swim. It wasn't really swimming weather, but the pool is heated. Still, putting our toes in the water was a little too much and we decided to get very warm in the jacuzzi first. After that the pool was great and we got good workouts.

Now we were hungry, but we decided to be a little bit economical and go for fast food instead of a nice restaurant. We'd seen a Panera Bread somewhere along the main drag so we started out. We are about 15 miles from the beach and we never did find the Panera. The closer we got to the beach, the more we realized we'd have to turn around and begin the search over. Chuck began suggested trying a local mom-and-pop seafood place on the beach since we would already be there anyway.

That was the best idea ever. We tried Crabby Bill's, and it was terrific. They had fresh crab claws, and they taught us how to eat them. I had blackened tilapia. It was so good. The place was in this old blue low metal building. It looked like an old meeting hall with a large bar moved into the front half. The back half was filled with long tables that would seat 20. It looked like a place you might rent to have a dinner, if you weren't too picky about how it looked. People were seated at the long tables right next to each other. There were a couple of booths at the back, and we were seated at one of those.

The waitress was fun and very helpful. The menu had dumb little sayings inserted all over it, like "Don't worry, be crabby." and "I woke up crabby this morning, but she didn't want to get up."

We got back to the hotel, where they have a plate of cookies out every night, and decided to watch Nanny Diaries, which was OK but not great.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yesterday was a great day. We decided to find a state park and see what native Florida was like. We had light breakfasts and each took an extra bagel with us for our lunches. Then we looked on Google maps for a state park close to us and found the Hillsborough River State Park.

I has plenty of trails for walking and the promise of rapids along one of the trail. There were also bike rental, which seemed especially appealing.

By the time we got there and scouted out the trails we both needed a rest stop and found a gift shop next to a huge swimming pool. The gift shop had a special on shoes---75% off, and out of the three pairs there, the cutest ones fit me! Chuck said to go for it. Sorry, no pic today.

There were bikes, but really not many places to ride them, so we opted for walking and picked our trail. Early in the walk we came to the rapids. Here the mirror-like river speeds up a bit and goes over a few rocks. But there is a great place to sit and have lunch!

We'd called home and since Thursday is usually the day we talk to Becca we also called her, so we have a couple of pics of us being typical tourists and talking on the phone while we walk. Becca can tell you that a lot of the conversation was about what we were seeing while we walked. We didn't miss the beauty around us.
Here, Chuck is showing what baby palm trees look like. Baby palm trees? Do trees have babies? Anyway, the young palms look like palm leaves growing out of the ground. As they get bigger they will have a trunk a few inches tall and about 6 inches in diameter.

There were a lot of tiny lizards, but we didn't have much success capturing them with our camera.

There was a sign telling about red shouldered hawks. We saw a few of them. The sign said they are especially noisy during mating season. While we were talking to Bec we heard a ruckus high above us. There was a hawk in the top of a huge tree. Then there were two. Then...

Bev also talked to Bec.
This is on a suspension bridge over the slower part of the river. After crossing the bridge we got into some boggy areas. We wondered how much this was like Everglades.

We also saw some more cool stuff. The light coming through a palm leaf shows how beautiful they are.
There were loads of turtles in the river and we took quite a few pictures but I will only bore you with one.
There were these butterflies in a lot of places but until nearly the end of our walk, we did not see one land on anything. Then it was so obliging that Chuck got a ton of pictures of it, including this beauty.
Unfortunately we did not get a good picture of the armadillo that came lumbering out of the brush. We got a picture, and we could show you where the armadillo is in it, but posting it here would be useless.

I've got to go meet Chuck for breakfast so this is all for now.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

some pics

A couple more pictures from yesterday before we leave for the day.

I think I look a lot younger until I see myself in a photo, but it is alright to look my age, I guess. This is in our room. The color is poor in the photo. This motel has been recently remodeled and the colors of the walls and fabrics are wonderful. The furniture in the room is really nice too, a deep reddish cherry wood, possibly.

Some water birds on the beach. There were a lot of these, as well as gulls, of course, and brown pelicans. I can't see pelicans without thinking of the movie, "Pelican Brief".

Time to get out of here. Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the trip - part 2

I'm back from all the things we did today, so on with the story I was telling.

At Borders we found two books we were interested in, one fiction and one a true story. We've started the true story, Three Cups of Tea. It's the story of a mountain climber who had a bad climb up K2 and then began starting schools for children in remote villages in Pakistan.

We arrived in Tampa after midnight. We went to pick up our car and they offered us an upgrade from a compact car, which we turned down. This is what they gave us.

This morning we woke up to warm, humid, and sunny. We decided to go to the beach. First we needed breakfast. Then we needed to buy groceries for lunch, sunscreen, flip flops, hats.

When we got done with all the shopping we could see clouds coming in.

We headed for the beach, and when we got close we realized that that although there was a beach, we could not find it. There was a row of buildings; cabins, motels, resorts, cottages. They were nearly touching and all had signs about tresspassing. We finally went to a store and asked if there were any public beaches. It turns out there was a public beach just a half block farther, but that the only free place to park was right next to the building we were in to ask the question. We parked, packed up, and set out for the beach.

The sky had become white fog, the wind had shifted to the north, and the flip flops hurt after only a little bit. I was cold but we had to have some beach time.

You can see that the view is pretty limited with the fog, but I wrapped up in a sarong for more warmth and we walked for a while.

Then to the car for light lunch and we found a pretty place to park and use my prayer book. We slept for a while, and when we woke up the sky was clear. We headed back for the beach...

It was foggy again by the time we got there.

So what?

We found a park bench and took turns reading out loud so that we could also take turns watching the waves, the water birds, and the many people who use the beach for walking/jogging.

We are here for the run up to the Florida Republican primary, with the Democrat Presidential part of the primary still in the balance.

We ate supper at Tucson's, a southwest restaurant across the parking lot from the motel. The food was amazing. We may go back there again, although there is also a deli, a seafood restaurant, and a Japanese grill in this same group of businesses.

Travel - the trip, part 1

We are in Florida!

Our room doesn’t have wifi, like I had expected so I am trying to write in Word so I can cut and paste when I have a chance. My Word program keeps experiencing run time errors, which close down the program. When I restart the program a version of my document is saved, but it is saved with the runtime error intact. Every time I open the document, Word shuts down again.

It’s not the same error I had a couple of weeks ago, but it’s frustrating.


We got rerouted because of backed up schedules in Chicago. We had a longer wait before flying and I got caught up with the last two days of devotions I’d missed while Chuck staked out a corner of our gate area and took a nap.

Our new itinerary took us through Dallas where we had nearly another two hour wait. That was really good. We had time to eat and walk around a bit. We found a Borders newsstand there, which had mostly periodicals, but a couple of racks of books as well.

We’ve been looking for books. We had wanted something that neither of us had read before, hopefully fiction, but if not fiction at least a story rather than a how-to-improve-your-life book.

I went to the library before we left, but it is hard to choose a book for both of us by myself---and there were just too many books.

We tried a gift shop in Wichita, but the books weren’t tempting. They were all sensational. Stephan King. Danielle Steele.

Borders didn’t have a lot of books, but they had several that looked worth reading. We got two.

However, Chuck is ready for the beach now so I will write more later.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm parked beside Moka's trying out my new wifi card. It works!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I didn't take the camera back. After looking it over thoroughly I decided it was good enough for me and I did not need to take time to do that one more thing. I did do things, though.

I'm getting ready for so many things at once. I got a much smaller Bible, Today New International Version, today. I've been wanting something not so cumbersome for when I go places and this trip coming up gave me the final push.

I also was wanting a translation that was more gender neutral. I told my sons that. They wanted to know if I wanted a changed version of the Bible. Does it still say God created Adam first? One of them asked that. I'm glad they care whether I'm changing the Bible to suit my opinions. I'm glad I can also say I'm not changing the Bible to suit my opinions. Ephesians still tells wives to submit to their husbands.

I signed up for faster internet again. I signed up last week, but no one came to get us going. I called. They had accidentally shredded my application. I called one of their other customers about their service before going back to fill out a new application. I can hardly wait to get this connected. Right now our evenings are filled with juggling the dial up between the four of us who want to use it, and still trying to free up the phone for necessary calls during the prime time hours.

Enrollment is completed for my son and he begins his new school tomorrow. He is quite excited, as am I. I think we are finally ready for the next step. I take him early tomorrow morning so he can learn his locker combination before school starts. I've got to remember lunch money.

We have stuff every night now until we leave for the trip. I'm going to have to be pretty efficient to make this all work OK.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Did I or Didn't I?

My camera broke last night, a week and a day before we go on a trip.

Today I...
  1. Wrote a report.
  2. Made 8-10 phone calls.
  3. Attended 3 meetings
  4. Enrolled son in new school
  5. Searched the house for school supplies---and found nearly all the things we need
  6. Ordered Sunday school curriculum
  7. Talked with my daughter in Vermont
  8. Talked with my son in Tennessee
  9. Bought another camera---showed the camera to my son
  10. Decided to return the camera, maybe
  11. Had take out Chinese food for supper
  12. Enjoyed hearing from the two boys at home about their day
  13. Wrote in my blog while my husband plays guitar in the next room
  14. Got a package from my daughter in Vermont
Did not:
  1. Clean up piles of papers and books
  2. Vacuum
  3. Burn trash
  4. Update class lists
  5. Install wifi on laptop computer
  6. Work on last years financial records
  7. Exercise
  8. Water plants
  9. Go to a funeral at church

Obviously it would have been impossible to do all the things I thought I could have done today. Did I do the ones that mattered?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Change in Routine

I haven’t written in a while. I’m not sure if I’m awake enough to write now, but I miss it and I need it.

I’ve just finished two days of meetings with and advisory council for Timbrel, a Mennonite publication for women. This is my second year on this council. We met twice last year and now this weekend. One of the women I meet with has been a good friend since well before I joined this council, but the other two seem like old friends even though we haven’t been together often.

These are women who are honest about their lives and their faith, who are not afraid to say they have struggled. They affirm each other’s gifts. They work out their differences. They are invested in service and in living out their faith.

Our tasks included evaluating and setting direction for the magazine as well as giving editorial counsel for a new Bible study guide. It was stimulating and invigorating discussion.

In the total scheme of things, I doubt that what I did today had more impact on the world than when I am home, caring for my family. Probably it had less. Yet it nourished me and I’m glad for the brief change in the routine.

Another change in routine is coming up. We are taking a trip to Florida for a week. NOT DISNEY WORLD!!!! Our 25th and 30th anniversaries have come and gone and we have not really celebrated either. One morning recently, Chuck woke me up to tell me that his chores are minimal right now and it would be a good time to get away. We often take a weekend away about now, but Chuck said we should go for a whole week. We haven’t been away from the kids for a whole week ever.

Hopefully the weather will be nice and we can walk on the beach, or maybe even swim. We’ll have time to read and talk and dream. I bought a wifi card for my laptop so I can blog from there---if I can remember my password without my mozilla password file.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

We have four cardinals in the back yard this afternoon. A friend of mine gave me an article once about seeing cardinals as a reminder of how God is with us during difficult times. Another friend whose father had passed away said cardinals frequently seemed to be present when she missed him most. We often have cardinals in our yard, but not usually four of them.

We saw the New Year in with friends at church last night. Our boys were among four that were under 40, but they were having a great time. The all male Taboo game had them laughing uncontrollably---some very ‘male’ clues were being given.

For the word ‘jewel’: things that hang down on a man that he protects!

The women in the room were noticing how differently those guys think.

Some of us watched movies, some played games, some visited, all ate. We’d invited those from the homeless shelter who wanted to come and four or five were able to do that. Today will be a long cold day for them with the shelter closed during daytime hours and the town businesses pretty much closed down for New Year’s Day.

We have two more events this week besides wrestling practice and a short meeting. School starts again. I will be chairing a commission at church this year. I don’t feel adequately gifted for this job, but others on this commission have life events that prevent them from being chair right now. They have been pretty affirming and have offered to help with responsibilities to lighten the load.

We got a letter from our first foster daughter today. She was sent to Iraq just before Christmas, away from her husband and two little girls. It will be a long lonely tour for her.