Spring Didn’t Get the Memo

Photo Coronavirus 1

Texas Bluebonnets welcome us each morning, as we begin our hike

Spring didn’t get the memo today
Flowers bloomed while birds blissfully sang
Quarantined within these lovely surroundings
Making sense of the yin and the yang

There’s a long grocery line and I imagine
The cart handle is a ballet bar
I can use it to exercise, but one yoga downward dog
And my husband says he’s headed to the car

I’ve come to appreciate simple pleasures
Like a six-foot visit with a neighbor on the street
Or ordering local takeout
Always good, but now delicious to eat

Some neighborhoods open their windows nightly
And in unison they happily sing
Parents and children spend precious time together
Something only hunkering down can bring

Be comforted that we’ll be well read, well fed
And most probably binge watched out
Remember there’s always a beginning, a middle and an end
This too shall pass, there’s absolutely no doubt

And, when we open our doors and reenter the world
Heads held high, though needing a hairdresser’s touch
We’ll be thankful that spring reminded us to be grateful
For our country, state and city that mean so much

Photo Coronavirus 2

Nothing like a message in a tree to start the day right

 

Author’s Note:
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Here’s to Life; All 190 Years of it!

Photo 190 Years

I would like to introduce you to two of my friends. At 95 years of age, they are each so full of energy and have such a zest for life, that I thought you would enjoy meeting them.

When she closes her eyes, she can still see herself singing with her sister, while her father accompanied them on the mandolin. She attributes her love of opera to her father, who would close his shoemaker business early on Saturdays to listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio.

After befriending the nuns at her local parish, she decided to enter the convent. She trained as a nurse and received her BSN and Masters in Nursing Administration. Tireless and fun loving, everyone knew her in the large hospital. She worked as a surgical nurse, pediatric nurse and in nursing administration, but her heart was always with the children.

Small in stature, but with a big personality, it is no wonder that when a travel agent friend of one of the nuns was looking for two sisters to accompany groups on pilgrimages to pray on the buses as they traveled from city to city, off she went to see the world.

With missions in Brooklyn, California, Chicago, Montreal and Seattle, she now makes her home in New York City where she lives with 24 other nuns in a senior residence that is near to her family. One of her favorite pastimes is sending weekly emails filled with jokes, interesting photos and stories to her large mailing list. Each time we speak on the phone I marvel at how she corrects me at least once, with details I had forgotten. She always makes me laugh.

He is one good storyteller. He had me on the edge of my seat as he regaled me with his naval adventures from World War II, recalling every detail as if it were yesterday. Stationed in Honolulu and Saipan, it was where he wasn’t sent that he still remembers all these years later. Drawing straws to see who would be headed to Iwo Jima was the only way his medical group could come to a decision. That he wasn’t chosen and lived to mourn his fellow corpsmen, who were all killed instantly as they approached the island, had a lasting effect on him.

After the war he attended college, proud of the 1937 Ford he had purchased that finally replaced his bicycle. He was content with his job as a high school teacher, but with a wife and a growing family, he couldn’t resist an offer from the Atomic Energy Commission that doubled his salary. Only when he remembered to use laymen’s terms was I able to follow his career from there to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Still trim and standing tall and straight, he attributes his independence and positive attitude (he’s survived three wives and two of his four children) to his naval career and does not let the fact that he has some vision issues deter him. Lately, he’s been thinking of becoming a motivational speaker in schools and connecting with the children.

If 85 is the new 95 and 70 is the new 80, etc., etc., then do the math and follow my friends’ advice: get out there and make the best of the time you have!

 

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It’s Never Too Late for Fate

She ripped the letter open while still standing in her driveway. Her old college boyfriend had written to those he’d had past friendships with, explaining that since his wife had died, he was looking to rekindle relationships to fill the void. Her life passed in front of her, as she remembered the fun they’d had together, how their lives had veered off in different directions, how her marriage wasn’t the fairy tale she had envisioned.

She walked into the house and called him, the letter still in her hand. She could tell by his voice that he was overjoyed to hear from her. Before she knew it, she had accepted an invitation to visit him. By their second meeting, he told her that he’d lost her once, and was not about to let it happen again. No one had given her those butterflies in her stomach for a very long time. As she sat on the plane, heading to her new home, she knew that moving in with him was her destiny, never having envisioned another chance for true love.

Single and living in the same community, they seemed to have a lot in common. The two women soon became exercise buddies and prodded each other into attending more neighborhood events together.

When a close family relation died, she knew she would be there for her new friend. She politely made small talk as she was introduced to the other guests at the funeral. When she met her friend’s cousin, she was taken aback. He was so charming and easy to talk to. They made plans to meet for dinner the next day and a romance blossomed from there. Little did she know what fate was awaiting her and what an interesting story of their meeting she would have.

Enough! After years of laboring on match.com as if it were a part time job and with no success, she was ready to exit the online dating world, except for one thing: she had forgotten that her account self-renewed, since she hadn’t canceled it ahead of time. Annoyed, she took a friend’s advice and went on a few “last” dates, just to get her money’s worth.

They lived so far apart that they planned to meet half way. She was already telling herself that this was a mistake. He had a nice smile and seemed like an interesting person. What she couldn’t get over was how he seemed to listen to her every word. In time, the distance didn’t seem to matter.

This wasn’t their first rodeo; they knew what they wanted out of life, so they went for it, but not in the traditional way. They bought a house together, went on a European honeymoon and then got married. Her terrible divorce, her cancer; it all seemed like someone else’s life. Now it was her time to shine.

What makes these stories even sweeter is that the heroines range in age from 55 – 69 years young. They never expected to find love, but said it found them. Sometimes we need to hop into the back seat and let the universe steer us to exactly where we belong.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Author’s Note:
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Sweet (and Savory) Dreams

Photo Sweet and Savory Dreams Small

A little biscuit humor from Hot Box Biscuit Club

The story stuck in my head. Our new friends suggested that a group of us head over to Dahlia Café in Liberty Hill, Texas one Saturday night. Sitting out on the patio, drinking cold beer and listening to the live music, they told of how this restaurant came to be.

Whenever Debby Johnston passed the vacant building that once housed a florist shop, she’d wonder why someone hadn’t bought it, never thinking it would be her. One morning, she awoke and told her husband she had a dream that they bought it and became restauranteurs. The feeling was so strong that she convinced her husband to take a chance. As it turned out, the combination of their country cooking and a relaxed, downhome atmosphere was a success.

While in Fort Worth, Texas a few weeks ago, a visit to Taco Heads for lunch brought that story back to mind. Back home and not sure where her corporate background would lead her, it was a dream one night that motivated Sarah Castillo to develop the perfect tacqueria that would inspire a cult following.

Two jobs and two years later, she had saved enough to buy not just a food truck, but a unique custom trailer. Her mother provided the recipes and a friend introduced her to area bar owners, who agreed on the need for late night dining. Six years later, had her Uber driver not struck up a conversation with her, he may not have become her business partner and their two restaurants (with a third on the drawing board) may not have come to fruition.

With visions of tacos still dancing in my head from this incredible story, brunch the next day at Hot Box Biscuit Club had me taken aback. After dreaming about biscuits one night, you can guess what Sarah Houten had to do.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, the prestigious cooking school, she set out to create the perfect biscuit, then called her old friend, Matt Mobley. They had met years ago when he taught at Le Cordon Blue, the elite cooking school in Dallas, and she knew he was the one that could provide just the right accompaniments to take her biscuits to the next level. They collaborated on their favorite Southern recipes and soon their food truck gave way to a restaurant with lines out the door.

From pipe dream to reality; these women entrepreneurs were hungry to find their path in life. They listened to their inner voice, put their trust in their gut feeling and let intuition guide them. They dared to dream, but kept their eyes open and followed their destiny.

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Cowgirl Fascination: Annie Oakley

Photo Annie Oakley 1

Just under the wire, on the last day of 2019, I was able to squeeze in my goal of visiting the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. There, I was introduced to Annie Oakley.

Born Phoebe Ann Moses in Ohio in 1860, Oakley’s father died when she was 6-years old. She was sent to live at the city poor house, but returned home as a teenager. She helped feed her family and eventually paid off their farm’s mortgage with her hunting skills, selling the excess to a local hotelier. When the hotelier set up a shooting contest between the fifteen-year old, five-foot tall Oakley and well-known marksman, Frank Butler, Oakley won, scoring 25 out of 25 shots. Smitten with her moxie, the two courted and eventually married, traveling together as a shooting act. When Butler realized it was Oakley the crowds wanted to see, he took a step back and became her manager. It is said the stage name Oakley came from the Cincinnati neighborhood they lived in.

They soon set their sights on becoming a part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. William F. Cody was a soldier, hunter and showman who turned his real life adventures into the first outdoor western show. Known for his foresight and business acumen, he was soon celebrated as one of the most famous Americans in the world. His use of press agents and poster advertising was innovative for the times. Realizing how essential Indians were to the shows, he paid them the same wages as the other performers. Their families traveled along with them and were encouraged to retain their language and rituals.

In 1885, Oakley auditioned and was hired on the spot. That year, she performed in 40 cities and then made a grand three year tour of Europe. In 1893 alone, the show performed for 6 million people and made a profit of $1 million. Patrons were fascinated with the ingenuity and efficiency behind the scenes as they were the show itself. Every night, the cast and staff of over 500 plus horses and buffaloes (along with grandstands and acres of canvas cover for the 20 thousand ticket holders) moved to the next town. Depending on the destination, they were housed in either walled tents or railroad sleeping cars. Three hot meals a day were served and their entourage even included its own fire department.

In a male dominated profession, Oakley was able to retain her femininity and become the most famous sharp shooter in American history. She was known for her ability to hit small size objects, such as a dime at 90 feet or the ash from a cigarette, once held in the lips of the Crown Prince of Germany. She headlined with the show for almost 20 years, retiring after a car accident. She still kept shooting even with the brace she wore due to a fractured hip and ankle, giving exhibitions, holding charity events and teaching women to shoot. The celebrity cowgirl died at age 66 and it is said that Frank died of a broken heart a few weeks later.

Photo Annie Oakley 2

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Ireland: September -October 2019- Part 2

Photo Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle, home of the Blarney Stone

Day Four: Annascuale
Dingle is a charming fishing village, but in the teaming rain, we can’t seem to see the picturesque spots featured in so many films and we don’t get to hear the locals conversing in their ancient language of Gaelic. Dingle is also famous for the most pubs in Ireland for a town of its size, so we resort to plan B and choose one. A hot bowl of soup and an Irish coffee hits the spot.

Fortunately, the rain subsides and we are able to take in the amazing views around Slea Head. Regarded as the most beautiful peninsula in the world by many photographic magazines, it is also the home of some of Ireland’s famed beaches.

As we head to our overnight destination, the small town of Annascuale, Barry surprises us with an invitation to The Randy Leprechaun for dinner and karaoke, compliments of Paddywagon Tours. Sitting together at long tables, the fun group all get to know each other over cocktails and dinner. Before I know it (and much to my surprise), the usually reserved Mr. Wiz* has us both up and performing Willie Nelson’s “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys!”

Day Five: Killarney
Our day begins with a horse and cart ride through Killarney National Park. It’s great to be able to view the mountains, lakes and waterfalls without getting muddy shoes. An added plus is our comedic driver, who sends us off with a smile on our faces and some new material. We are awed by the spectacular beauty of the Ring of Kerry. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula boasts rugged coastlines and rural seaside villages and has an almost mystical feel. The Skellig Islands are famous for the filming of Star Wars, its meteorology station and a bit of meteorological humor: it is said that it rains there twice a week; once for three days and once for four.

The charming town of Waterville almost did not host its most famous guest. Back in the 1950s, Charlie Chaplin intended to go fly fishing there on the recommendation of his friend, Walt Disney. Disappointed there was no room at the Butler Arms Hotel, he drove away, only to be chased down by the hotel’s owner, who welcomed him graciously. For years after that, Chaplin and his family would visit yearly and the town’s annual festival still pays tribute to him.

Photo Charlie Chaplin

We settle into our lodging quickly, excited to explore Killarney before heading off for cocktails at The Laurels. We’ve been told not to miss Quinlan’s Seafood Bar and the fresh fish does not disappoint. We’re lucky to get a front row seat at the Danny Man Pub and can’t wait to hear some traditional Irish music. The gentleman who will be performing looks a bit stern as he begins to set up, but as he puts on his cap he almost magically transforms, crooning wonderful ballads and even teaching the audience a few.

Day Six: Galway
To smooch or not to smooch the Blarney Stone? While we originally thought it a bit too touristy, once we arrive at Bunratty Castle, we find the best way to explore this 15th century bastion is to head to its top. While there, we might as well give the old block of limestone a peck and hope for some eloquence to be bestowed on us. You kiss the stone upside down, so hoping that the staff that assists us in leaning back has had a good night’s sleep and that the antibacterial spray bottle used to clean the stone is full, we give it a go. We leave with yet another unique experience under our belts, but still wondering why anyone would purchase the expensive photos taken of you in that awkward position.

Next stop is the Cliffs of Moher. A part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the spectacular sea cliffs rise over 700 feet out of the Atlantic Ocean. We’re able to hike up to the many vistas and take in our surroundings. Our journey then takes us to Galway Bay with fabulous views of the Aran Islands and a chance meeting in a small town with Joe and his mountain goat Puck (named after “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”). We’re captivated by the stories about the hamlet of Lisdoonvarna, with its Fr. Ted Festival (hundreds are dressed as priests after a popular Irish television program) and its Matchmaking Festival that lasts four weeks!

Photo Puck

After a quick hotel check in, we head to downtown Galway. With its cobblestone streets and stone buildings, you can see why The New York Times named it “Ireland’s most charming city.” The bus stops at Eyre Square, a park in the city center, and in front of us regally stands Hotel Meyrick. We stop in for a cocktail and then decide on a change of pace for dinner. We choose Lime, a contemporary Asian restaurant. The service is impeccable, the decor is chic and the food delicious. After dinner, we walk along the river, as we relive another great day and try not to think about how many days it will be before we have to leave.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
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Tell Your Worries to Take a Hike (Literally)

Photo Take a Hike

Mud; that’s all I remember about my first hiking experience. It was not a pleasant one (read “Coming Clean on a Dirty Little Secret: My First Hike Fiasco”). That’s the beauty of being a late bloomer; being just a tad behind the curve allows me the opportunity to watch and learn from others.

Years later, when Mr. Wiz* invited me to join him on the Camino, I had a decision to make. Do I stay behind, afraid to try something out of my comfort zone? Or, do I join him on this adventure and walk 500 miles through Spain? After some research, I decided that if pilgrims had been walking the Way of Saint James to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela (where tradition has it that his remains are buried) since medieval times, this was something not to miss.

I still remember the day the REI salesperson tied me into my first pair of hiking boots. As I stood at the top of that mountain, I felt positively giddy; no matter that it was the four-foot plastic mountain in the middle of the shoe department.

Walking for 33 days changes you; with nothing to be concerned about except your immediate surroundings, life slows down. It’s amazing what can go on while your feet are moving. Spending hours watching them maneuver rocky paths cleans out all those cobwebs in your brain. Sharing stories and feelings with someone you’ve just met exhilarates you. Walking in silence is meditation in motion.

The sounds of rustling leaves, rushing water or a bird singing, the feeling that comes from taking a big deep breath on a cool day and that wonderful ache you feel from pushing your body just a little bit more; this is Mother Nature’s way of putting her arms around you.

Too much wild life can take its toll. Let’s try to balance the party animal in us all with some tranquility. Being down to earth rewards us with the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of life that we might have missed out on, had we not stopped to smell the roses.

So, when all else fails, get out there and walk! Worries and stress are no match for flora and fauna. Uncomplicate those complications, hop over those hurdles, break down those barriers; it’s amazing how solutions can miraculously appear if you just let your feet lead the way and take one step at a time.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.