Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How Was Your Christmas?

If anyone should ask me and my family, the answer would be that it was the worst Christmas we ever had.

In preparation for our family Christmas, my 93-year-old mother had made our traditional cranberry salad, butter scotch brownies, fudge, two fruit cakes and three dozen of her prize-winning yeast rolls and was in the process of setting a beautiful table for thirteen, when she had a massive stroke. We were there in the room.  She was walking and talking ---and then she fell face down on the floor.

Over the past few days she received excellent care from paramedics, life-flight crew, and Lakeland Regional Hospital staff and was surrounded by family.


At the same time, it was the best Christmas, in that many prayers were answered.

There is no recovery from a stroke of such magnitude. On Christmas morning, we were all 10 allowed in her ICU room to speak to her, though she only responded with one hand that firmly gripped. We believe she knew we were each there.

Our dear mother went to Heaven on Monday.  She went peacefully, precisely at 1:00pm, in keeping with her love for numbers.

We know she felt the prayers of many and she died as she lived: with great grace and dignity. We are thankful that her suffering was minimal and for all the many years that we had with her. It is very, very hard to let her go, but we are all at peace. We know that she is having a wonderful reunion with her parents and seven siblings and many friends who went before her.

Our mother was an internationally published poet.

On June 18, 1973,  Mama wrote the following poem about death:


Think not of death as going from the kitchen to the attic

Where things are more jumbled and confused than they were.

Think of death as going to the living room

Where loved ones are waiting and others will join you later for love and laughter.

On April 18, 2004, she wrote:


I am Spirit;

My Spirit lives in a shell called body.

When the shell is gone, the Spirit remains and is free of the body,

Including sickness and death.

I took this picture in August:

Mom Newpaper

God blessed us with the best! Love you, Mama!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Resurrection

Our live oaks are covered in resurrection ferns (Polypodium polypodioides). During dry periods,the ferns look very brown and very dead. But when it rains they turn green again and are so lovely.



They are air plants and only use the tree branches for support and get their nourishment from the air.

Birth, death, rebirth, support, nourishment---these are themes throughout the (ongoing) life of our Savior.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grannie’s Fern

About 60 years ago, my grandmother brought an asparagus fern from her home in Kentucky to our home in central Florida. There it grew in the ground along side the old stucco garage accompanied by ten foot high poinsettias and glass lizards—which Mama abhorred but that is another story. The fern was completely happy in the sandy soil and all but ignored. When I went away to FSU, I took a piece of it for my dorm room window. I was such a novice gardener that I put it in a glass canister that had no drain-holes. I guess it only survived because I also planted it in only the sand from which I had dug it. And survived it has. Thirty-eight years later, I still have it---the same plant. It is in a three-gallon pot now and usually lives on our screen porch. Right this minute, though, it is on our hearth to protect it from the temperatures in the 20’s.


Long-time readers will know that we grow flowers that I enjoy making into bouquets and giving away. When my niece got married, I took an arrangement that included some of Grannie’s fern. That would be her great-grandmother’s fern. When our son got married, I made a large table arrangement for the rehearsal dinner. I included some of Grannie’s fern.

Grannie’s fern is a Protasparagus setaceus and  not actually a fern. It looks extremely delicate, but it has turned out to be extremely tough. Grannie was kind of like that.


Maybe it has to do with the thorns? Chances are pretty good at this point that Grannie’s fern may well survive us all. I hope someone will remember to put some in my funeral flowers when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fox Squirrels

We took a little drive through south Georgia to deliver a Christmas present and have a quick visit with family. At one point, B turned onto a country road and there beside the road were two fox squirrels. At my request he turned the car around and we went back, only to discover that there were three fox squirrels: two were light-colored and the one away from the other two was dark on its top and light underneath. The other two scampered off and this one headed for high branches. But at one point I was able to get this picture.


A few weeks ago, our son D was at Tall Timbers Research Station working on his—what else?---research. He took this picture of a fox squirrel that was a little more cooperative. I think this one actually posed for the camera.


What a variation there is in their coloring! Sciurus niger shermani or Sherman’s fox squirrels are the ones we have here. Niger, meaning black.

This is its description from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory: A large (23 - 28 in.) tree squirrel with highly variable dorsal fur color ranging from nearly all black (uncommon) to silver, with variations of black over silver and silver over black.  Underside is tan.  Head is generally black; ears and muzzle are often white.  Tail is long, nearly the length of the head and torso.

This webpage had some information about some research at Jacksonville University on these critters and the positive impact of fire on their habitats.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Fancy and Festive

This is a real mailbox and as tall as your typical one.


That’s one merry mailbox!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Bird in Hand…

Is worth two in the bush. Or something like that.

B and I enjoy watching birds in our yard and elsewhere, though we are far from dedicated bird-watchers. There is an area on our Christmas tree that displays a collection of bird ornaments, all gifts from students and family. We also have a collection of bird houses in the living room. While we did not set out to collect them, they have been given to us and we love them.


Well, last night, I was in the kitchen when B said, “We have a bird in here!” Sure enough a wren flew in and perched in the Christmas- decorated chandelier (Gosh, that sounds a lot fancier than it is!!). We decided to see if (like wasps) it would go toward light. We turned off all the lights in the house and turned on the garage light and porch light and opened the doors. Out it flew into the garage. B opened the big, electric door and it disappeared into the night. He told me that the night before a wren had suddenly flown up out of a bush in the yard and brushed his cheek as it flew past him. That would have totally startled me. We have decided that the wren is hanging out in the wreath on the front door. We have had them do that before and even go so far as to build nests in the wreath. So in an attempt to keep the birds out of the house, we now knock on the door before we go out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

On the Right Track

Tracks ran along parallel,  quite close but in opposite directions on the wet sandy road. Big Deer. Big turkey. I wonder if the animals met, or just their tracks.




The following day, we were making a run to town. B saw me looking out the window and asked me what I was looking at and I said that I always expect to see turkeys along the edge of that field where the forest begins. It just seems to be a likely spot. There was nothing in the way of large birds to be seen and we continued on our way.

We were less than a half mile down Old St. Augustine Road, when we stopped to watch a  pair of large turkeys feeding beside the pavement. It was the closest I have been to wild turkeys. They were really big birds and were in no hurry to run off. It must have been a good feeding place to be so hesitant to leave it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Singing Christmas Tree

On Saturday evening, we went to a large, local Baptist church to see and hear their singing Christmas tree. We had been last year and this year invited friends to go with us. It was different from last year, but still quite an impressive performance, involving well over 100 people. The tree is built to hold 75 choir members.



A full orchestra is below them. Other music is provided on the altar/stage. It is all very professionally done and a meaningful way to spend a Christmas evening.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Catch a Falling Star and Put It In Your Pocket…..

Perry Como sang this song when I was a child. I always loved it.

It is five a.m. and I have just come in off the porch. It is 22 degrees outside and since the porch is all open screening, it is close to that temperature out there, too. (I don’t think we are in Tallahassee anymore, Toto.) It is clear and cold with only a slight breeze. I went out prepared, wrapped in lots of layers for warmth and took two quilts: one to go under me and the other above. I have looked forward to the Perseid meteor shower for weeks and went out in hopes of viewing the “one per minute,” and sometimes more. I have seen meteors before from the porch and they are exciting. This morning was disappointing. I stayed a while and saw one teeny one. If it was not so cold, I would be willing to stay longer.

B just said from the kitchen, “It’s still going on out there.” And, of course, he is right: just because I did not see it, does not make it not be there; others are seeing it when I could not. There seems to be a deeper meaning here. The train conductor, voiced by Tom Hanks in the movie The Polar Express, has a line, “ Sometimes the things that are the most real, are the ones that cannot be seen.”

Maybe next year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gardening is One of the Good Things in Life

This is the most extensive winter garden we have ever ventured. Before this latest cold snap, everything was coming along nicely. Time will tell how hardy each vegetable turns out to be.

B has mulched with leaves and grass clippings as well as with compost from the landfill. The soil definitely looks better than when we started the garden in April.

The sweet peas are blooming and beginning to run up the string grid he made. The lettuce is slowly growing. The broccoli are starting to make their branched heads. Onions are getting noticeably bigger.


The turnips are happy, and to borrow a word—purplicious! We have had a few.


The cabbages are growing huge outer leaves.


Look a little closer and the rain droplets start to sparkle.


Now move in close enough so that you can see the blue heavens reflected in the rain droplets.


OK, so it might have been my blue jeans reflected, but didn’t the former read so much more poetically?

(I’m thankful for the beautiful sky, but I’m also thankful for my blue jeans.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Upper Crust, First Class

The Upper Crust Pizza in Key Largo has this mailbox.

Upper Crust Pizza in Key Largo

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sleeping Beauty?

Or maybe Prince Charming?

I was cleaning out some of the ton of leaves that had threatened to fill in our little goldfish pond when the net revealed this palm-sized frog. It was definitely asleep and only moved a little when I gently dumped it out with the leaves onto the grass.


When B came so that I could take a picture, it began to awaken. Look at its beautiful pattern on its belly.


B put it on a rock by the pond and I got one picture before….


it jumped back in the pond!


I sent these pictures to a UF herpetologist and the ID was undecided between bullfrog and pig frog, but leaning toward bullfrog. We have heard  bullfrogs in the swamp across the cul-de-sac and  have had pig frogs in the little pond, so either does sound likely. The very dark color was not what is shown in frog ID pictures for either, complicating it for me. Either way, it was a good-sized, sleepy frog.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Informing the Uninformed

A kindergartner was sharing that he got home from his grandma’s to find  his parents having a party. He was surprised because no one had told him there was to be a party. Another child asked, “Did they have bouncy houses?” A third informed the others that when grown-ups have parties, “They don’t have bouncy houses. All they want to do is drink!”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hi, High Guys!

Recently a cell tower was erected near our little garden plot in Jefferson County.


“Angels, we have heard on high, sweetly singing…..”    No, wait!

On Saturday when we arrived to do a few chores, there were workers on the tower.

(Well, they might be angels to someone! But the singing was their drill.")


Eventually, we could see three men on the tower and we could hear at least one other on the ground.




This guy was working a a little lower down, but still plenty high.


It was windy. I bet they could feel that tower sway. I guess acrophobia is not an issue for these guys.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Monarchs in a Holding Pattern


On our little beach walk at the lighthouse last Sunday, I was surprised to see so many monarch butterflies in the salt bushes that are no longer flowering, but all fuzzy with their seeds. This coast is known for being the jumping off place for the butterflies that migrate to Mexico for the winter. But the big migration takes place in October and here it was the last of November. These were the dawdlers.

I can only imagine that they were all hanging out waiting for a cold front with a strong north wind to help blow them on their way. They were all in a holding pattern, so to speak. But several were holding each other; they were mating. I took a couple of pictures, but of course they were lousy since they flew further away to  more private spots as we approached.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cabbage Patch Kid

100_3063 Last night B came home with our first cabbage from our fall/winter garden. It was of Alaskan proportions. My nose was actually touching the leaf in the picture. (This was no fish picture where you hold the fish closer to the camera to make it look bigger.)

The tiles on the porch table are twelve inch squares.



It is a Savoy cabbage and it was perfect inside. I sliced it very thinly with a blade and then chopped just a little. About a third of it filled a large iron skillet before it cooked down. I braised it with chopped bacon and onion and added a little red wine at the end. It was delicious. Even son, D, who is more of a carnivore ate a full serving and complimented it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mail Memorials


On Tuesday, we only got two pieces of mail. One was a gift fruit and nut catalog addressed to B’s dad, who, by the way, never lived at this address. The other was a Medicare option ad to B’s mom, who, by the way, never lived at this address. 

Papa died 14 years ago and Grandma died 13 years ago.

But apparently, they live on in the U.S. Postal system.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Water World

This picture was sent to me, along with the text.


An employee of German postal carrier Deutsche Post DHL  arrives to deliver mail from her flat-bottomed canoe in the narrow canals in the Spreewald Forest on April 9, 2010 in Luebbenau, Germany. She has been delivering mail via the waterways for 20 years and is the only postwoman in Germany to deliver mail door to door by boat. The Spreewald Forest is interlaced with canals that are still used by locals for delivering goods, ferrying tourists and even collecting garbage. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seeing Stars

Our son and daughter-in-law accompanied us on a trip down to the lighthouse. They had not been in quite a long while and requested the excursion. We do not take much convincing to go.

We walked along the muddy shore by the lighthouse itself. The tide was way out.


Son, D, found a small sea star above the water line.


Here is the underside.


He took it back to the water after he took these pictures but was uncertain as to whether it was still alive. Sea stars are not at all common on our beaches.  I hope it will live.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Black Friday

While some spent their Black Friday looking for deals on alligator shoes and munching on left-over turkey, we spent ours observing some wild turkeys and alligators at Payne’s Prairie (and driving a few hundred miles.)


On our drive back to Tallahassee (and through Gainesville), our son directed us to a part of the park we had not seen before: La Chua Sink. It was a popular spot today. We counted 52 alligators enjoying the warm temperatures and breeze in our brief hike. There were alligators in many sizes.

100_3041  Look closer at the belly on this one!100_3043

This one still has its immature stripes.


Supposedly you can also see the wild horses and bison from that spot. We saw some sign, but no large mammals.

There were a number of wading birds. I was amused by this female anhinga sharing a stump with a large turtle.


It was a really cool spot and we will want to go back.

But despite all these gator pictures:

GO SEMINOLES!! Beat the Gators tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Bizarre Bazaar

B and I went to the Bizarre Bazaar on Saturday. It was held as a garage sale at a community of old warehouses that are now artists’ studios. We did not find anything we needed but we did have fun looking around a little shop of resale items—mostly vintage things.

Where we parked were these interesting notices on the side of the building.




I forgot to ask him what he saw!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkeys and Eagles


The story goes that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the wild turkey be named as our national bird. Of course, you will already know that the bald eagle was out-voted. We eat turkeys. Though they did not attain that status, I would venture to say that more Americans have seen turkey (at least in its sliced form) than eagles.

In our wanderings around north Florida and south Georgia, we often see wild turkeys. In fact, there is a driveway on my way to school that I check every day for turkeys. (Those are wild turkeys, but they are fed like other wild birds by the residents.)

Well, last Sunday we did not see any turkeys, but we did see six bald eagles down at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.  It is possible that one of these we saw twice in different locations. One was a juvenile and still in its big, brown look.  On our way out, an eagle flew over the road and into a pine, some distance away. There, another adult eagle was already perched. They faced each other for a while. I had already decided that even twelve times larger was still a very small picture of even birds the size of eagles, but they waited so patiently, that I decided to get out of the truck and go for it.


This is the cropped one.


It is not the first time we have photographed two together but I think these were closer together.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Another Stumper

I don’t really know what I’m looking at here.


It reminds me of an old-fashioned telephone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Colors Have Finally Arrived

We had some much-needed rain on Tuesday. Depending on the location, it ranged from an inch or so, to over three and a half inches. Our yard received something in the middle of that but our school rain gauge measured 3.6 inches.

By Tuesday night, you could see the grass greening up and by Wednesday morning, the leaf colors had popped. When we walked around the block on Thursday evening, I carried my camera.

The hickories and grapevines are golden:




Some maples are turning yellow:


While the native maples are more multi-colored:


The dogwoods are crimson:


But the winged sumac is spectacular!





I am thankful to live in a part of Florida where there are at least three seasons.