Hi baby. I felt you in there squirming and doing backflips and kicking your momma in the ribs.
I know you’re still growing and developing and all that important stuff. I know your mommy and daddy are busy preparing for your arrival. I know there are still seven weeks until your predicted birth date. I’m okay with that, but barely.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of hanging out with my beautifully pregnant daughter, her awesome man, my other daughter and her awesome man, and a ton of their friends. We threw an amazing coed baby shower. This included multiple trips to multiple stores, a weird balloon baby, a taco bar for forty people, and some really fun games.
It was spectacular and I loved every single minute, even the non-glamorous moments.
I wasn’t expecting to feel so much excitement for you. But oh my, how ready my heart is for you to be here. It doesn’t matter what name is chosen, or if you have dark hair or blonde hair or no hair at all. You, little one, are already surrounded by so much love.
We cannot wait to meet you!
In the meantime, if any of you have grand-parenting tips to share, let me have it. This is exciting new (and slightly terrifying) territory for all of us. We welcome your wisdom.
Though I’m officially done with school, I continue to learn. The brain, for example, is fascinating and complex, and we are discovering how it functions, how we think, feel, and process, and how memory works. Fun fact: our sense of smell is powerfully linked to memory. I can personally vouch for this.
When I think of that smell, and remember the smoke, I am instantly transported right back to 1983. Of course, I am referring to the smell of burnt caramel popcorn. If you missed my last post, it will take just a hot minute to catch up.
Let me set the stage. I was a bored-to-death teen in small town Iowa, working at the only mall for miles around. It was actually hopping back then, with fun hangouts like Music Land (they sold OG vinyl) and a video arcade (games were only a quarter). My employer was KarmelKorn. You already know why I chose this place.
It was here that I perfected cotton-candy making, candy-apple making, and, drum roll please, the ultimate prestige of making caramel corn from scratch. In hindsight, they must have been desperate. This 15 year old had zero experience beyond consuming these sugary treats.
Karmelkorn was strategically placed on the corner at the main entrance, nearly dead center in the mall. The walk time from the farthest end (in either direction) to our counter, clocked in at a whopping three minutes.
It was probably a Saturday afternoon. Prime time for every teen in town to be strolling about, laughing at other people’s hair or fashion choices (it was the 80’s with plenty to laugh at). Or they may have been waiting for the next movie time. Yes, theaters back then were known for the stale, inferior, and very overpriced popcorn.
I must have gotten distracted while boiling of a batch of caramel, forgetting to add a key ingredient at the precise time. The contents in the copper pot severely scorched, and smoke billowed for a good five minutes before I could get it under control.
Thankfully, sprinklers did not activate nor did the fire department show up. There was a security person who hustled over to see if there was an actual fire. We determined that an evacuation of THE ENTIRE MALL was unnecessary. It would take several hours for the smoke, and especially the smell, to dissipate.
Our prime location provided for everyone’s easy inquiries, “What’s on fire?” “Is something burning?” “Did YOU do that?”
It was not one of my finer moments.
There were other humiliating character-building things that happened in my early working days. Like busting a lawnmower blade on a visible water pipe. Or totally forgetting to show up for an easy-peasy babysitting gig a mile from my house. Or when my mall career advanced to cashier – and I was nearly trampled in a Cabbage Patch Doll stampede.
I’m pretty sure this is the point of having a job when we are teenagers. So that we can be reminded that there is room to grow, and that we are not perfect. It’s a decent lesson to remember as an adult, too.
What are some of the learning experiences you had early on? Can you laugh about them now? Can we laugh with you?
That totally seems like a balanced diet, doesn’t it?
Well, I hope so, because that is about to become a menu staple for a while. And this is totally okay with me, because I can see the bigger picture.
After being unhappy with my smile for basically my whole life, I went to the orthodontist and had braces put on my teeth yesterday.
For the next 20 months (or so), I will happily endure monthly visits, a limited diet, and considerable time on oral hygiene. There will be complicated scheduling for my dental cleanings (3x per year). Let’s not forget the medium size draft out of my checking account, too.
No almonds, popcorn, caramel, and a ton of other “do not eat” items. I couldn’t read the entire list through the tears forming. I really love caramel. And popcorn. You can only imagine how I feel about caramel popcorn!
There are people in my life who assure me that my smile is beautiful and that orthodontics are unnecessary. Yes, there are about twenty-seven million other things I could spend time, energy and money on. I can think of a myriad reasons why NOT to get this done.
But there is one super-dee-duper reason, and that outweighed all the rest. And it is this: I am worth it.
My parents could not afford to do this when I was younger. Heck, it’s a good thing we grew our own vegetables and butchered our own meat or we may have actually gone hungry. My dad is a farmer and times were tough back then. It doesn’t mean they didn’t want to do good things for me, they didn’t have the means for such extravagances.
I’m not entirely sure I do either, but I managed to provide braces for my daughter because she needed them. And now it’s my turn. Whenever there has been a trip to take, a car to repair, or any other big ticket item, it always gets taken care of. It’s been said (to myself each morning), “Everything is always working out for me.” And it is.
I want to be proud of my smile. I want to feel more confident. I love myself, so don’t start thinking I don’t. It’s because I love myself that I embarked on this twenty month hiatus from caramel corn.
If I can get through over six years of school to obtain my degree, surely I can get through this little season. June of 2021 is when this hardware disappears. Based on my perception of time, it really isn’t a long time at all. It’s only 87 weeks, or 608 days. You know how fast a week goes right?
Just make a commitment to do something (like posting a blog once a week) and you’ll see right away. As it turns out, I remembered an incident involving caramel corn (and smoke alarms) that will be the topic for next week’s post. You’ll want to catch it I promise!
This was the universal response last week when I showed up unexpectedly in my hometown.
You see, it was my mom’s birthday. And this woman is difficult to shop for. She doesn’t want much, and rarely splurges on herself. And so I decided she needed flowers, and that I should personally deliver them.
So while she was working away, I walked in holding an orchid (it will last longer than a bouquet). It took her a moment to realize it was me! And then she giggled all afternoon thinking about it. I proceeded to also surprise my sister-in-law at her office, then both nieces, then my brother.
Each time, the look I received was akin to that of someone seeing a ghost. Are my eyes playing tricks? Is my daughter – sister – aunt from Florida really standing in front of me on a random Tuesday afternoon?
My nephews read a message not intended for them, ruining their surprise, but not their excitement. And while I was there, I got to hold baby Emerson and whisper how much his Great Auntie Sherri from Florida loves him.
Yep. Sometimes I miss all these wonderful people whose blood I share. Sometimes I miss seeing red barns and silos. Old tractors and green cornfields. Sometimes I simply miss fresh, delicious sweet corn and tomatoes.
The Midwest maintains its predictable and peaceful charm. There was a quiet tempo which I can now appreciate. The famous Mark Twain Overlook, named in honor of Samuel Clemens, a one-time resident there, provided a moment of reflection along with the fabulous view.
It was good to drive around and reminisce. I spent a few minutes driving through Weed Park (yes, we sometimes took this literally). I drove by the house my grandmother lived in, and out to the original family farm.
I ate Happy Joe’s Special Pizza – Sauerkraut and Canadian Bacon, my personal food highlight. You can’t get it anywhere else, and eating there is non-negotiable. I also indulged in a grilled steak dinner with fresh eggplant, tomatoes and yes, sweet corn. I can’t tell you how many ears I ate, because I did not bother counting. I just kept eating until I was full.
It was the first time I’ve ever been really sad to leave. Also, did I mention it was 75 degrees and sunny with low humidity? My people, the food and perfect summer weather were all just amazing, and my heart is full again.
What makes your hometown visits memorable? Is it a restaurant and a park? What are the things you must do when you end up there? I’d love to hear from you.
There was a funeral today for a sweet family member at my church. And since the bulk of my heartfelt writing energies were invested in preparing a short message for the service, I share it with you as well.
ODE TO PAUL What in the world can I even say, As we gather to honor Paul on this Saturday.
Paul was around at almost the beginning, Even then he knew when he saw a good thing.
“I was the original drummer!”, he would say, When drumsticks were lost often, back in that day.
Paul was messy, but Paul was sweet, Even though he was no longer on his feet.
He served with a smile and sometimes a snore, Yes, there were a few Sundays he fell asleep at the door.
He had lots of ideas for us, the church staff, And a few practical jokes, the man loved to laugh.
Paul would have grand schemes for all to carry out, Though sometimes his plans were not well thought out.
But Paul was positive regarding anything new, Especially when it gave him something to do.
He would embrace the latest changes with a smile, Not only would he help, but then go the extra mile.
This little round man signed up for everything, What he lacked in skill, he made up for in attempting.
His heart was always in the right place, But a mess he tended to make, no matter the space.
Cooking, parking, greeting, and softball, too. There was not a task anywhere he would not do
Almost daily, the church office received a call He was caring about people, his church crowd, after all.
He was always on Team Suncoast, a most loyal fan, Paul was faithfully a servant among his fellow man.
He loved everything about his family the most. He will be surely missed by them, and by all of us at Suncoast.
For those unacquainted, you pay perfectly good money to enter a sauna-like heated room to practice yoga. As opposed to turning off the air conditioning, or simply going outside. It’s a dry heat (100 – 105 degrees), and this allows for deeper stretches and more calories burned. It’s challenging for sure, and these tips may help you to not die.
Be sure to hydrate the day before. What did I do the day before? I sipped lime-flavored White Claws all afternoon at the pool, and then in the evening enjoyed a couple of glasses of sangria with dinner. So yes, hydrate before hand, or be very sorry during the workout.
Be sure to have a full bottle or two of water at hand during the class. What did I have? A measly 12 oz. tumbler, which was nearly dry halfway through the class.
Be sure to have a full towel for your mat, and another towel for your face, and another towel to sit on when you leave. What did I have? Just a small hand towel for my face. The upholstery in my car needs a good shampoo for sure, and my mat needs a solid wipe down to counter the sweat it absorbed. Gross.
Be sure to place your mat carefully upon arriving at class. I prefer to be near near the air conditioner vents. This will save your soaking-wet-self during the last 10 minutes of class. At this juncture it feels slightly less hot because they bring the temperature of the room closer to that of Earth instead of Venus. You might begin breathing normally sometime soon after.
Be sure to have the most handsome instructor to ever walk the planet leading the practice. Bonus if he has a sexy accent, say, from somewhere south of the Equator. This will keep you from walking out or giving up without at least trying to hold the poses. And you don’t want to embarrass yourself. You don’t want to leave his very presence. It was definitely hot yoga…
Be sure to remember your form, and watch your alignment in the mirror. If you have the most handsome instructor leading your class, feel free to modify. Perhaps it’s okay to hit a pose IMproperly so that he has to come by and correct your posture, with his hands right on your body.
Be sure to have your friends come with you. I went to the first class solo, but will definitely be sharing this with my crew. I’m not selfish.
Be sure to have plenty of time afterwards to go home. You will be drenched and disgusting and in desperate need of a cold shower and more water. Do not plan to be seen by others right away, especially if you get a tomato-face like I do when I am overheated.
Be sure to say prayers of gratitude for your body, and that you did not actually die during the class, though you were convinced of this likely outcome about 7 minutes into the 60 total you just endured.
Be sure to be kind to yourself the rest of the day. And go ahead and sign up for the next class while the image of the most handsome instructor is still fresh. Delaying your registration could coincide with the soreness of your body, keeping you away forever more.
Maybe I’ll review the other studios in town, write about them, and eventually become a secret shopper who writes amazing reviews. I’d need to remove my photo in case people recognize me and start giving me extra goodies in exchange for my writing talents. This could spill over to restaurants too, where I could enjoy free food. Maybe I’m onto something…
Stay tuned for more – there are a few other classes I’m taking while my 10-day pass is good. If you’re in SRQ and you’re curious about this particular studio, send a message and I’ll gladly share.
If you know me even a little bit, you know I have recently finished school. This accomplishment has been properly acknowledged – or as others may say – outrageously observed – with multiple parties and the ridiculously great trip to Italy.
So, now what?
I knew that I would want something to work on post-graduation. So when I returned (sadly) from Italy, I was fresh out of excuses, and decided to dig in. I had toyed with The Artist’s Way a few years back. That copy was long lost, so I picked one up at the Goodwill Bookstore and it’s been staring at me for weeks (duh, I plan ahead).
That’s a wordy way of confessing that once again, I have homework.
Wait, didn’t I just swear off that stuff?
If you’re not familiar with this incredible work by Julia Cameron, let me give you the view from ten thousand feet. It’s “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”; a twelve-week guide to help get your flow flowing when you feel stuck.
It’s not necessarily difficult homework, but it’s work for sure. There are daily and weekly assignments in addition to chapter specific tasks as you go. Somewhere between seven and ten hours each week is what I’m expected to invest. The variety of proven exercises re-energize your slow-moving (or downright stuck) creative energy.
I am happy to report that it’s working already, so I cannot wait to see where this takes me in ten more weeks. I have already experienced closure in areas where I have been stuck for years.
First, there is a daily exercise is called Morning Pages which is different than my usual journaling. First thing, I empty three pages worth of clutter and nonsense that spins around in my head onto a page. It does not have to make sense (whew!). It is just a release of any and all swirly-twirly thoughts. I’ve managed this task easily (okay, maybe not so much on Turtle Patrol* mornings when I’m on the beach twenty minutes before sunrise).
Next, there is a weekly assignment of taking my inner child, the artist within, on a play-date for two hours. This time is not to be shared with anyone else, and it can be anything that I consider fun. So the list of fun things has been curated, and my goal is to do a different fun thing each week.
Week One was the Sarasota Farmers’ Market, which is chock full of soaps and candles to smell, puppies to pet, tons of artsy-fartsy things to admire, and best of all, fresh empanadas to consume. And Week Two was taking my kayak out to the mangrove tunnels, which is one of my all time favorite things to do.
The point is to refuel. To absorb. Change up the environment. Engage as many senses as possible. Also, the idea of it something that makes me smile when I think of doing it. What things made me smile when I was a kid?
The swing set. Playing with the animals. Taking a walk. Riding my bike. Visiting my Grandma. Swimming. Fishing. Drawing. Reading. Dancing. And, now that I think about it, I still love these things.
It seems easy, right? Go have fun for two hours! What would ever be hard about that?
Interestingly each time, at about the halfway mark, I was ready to be done with my play date. Talk about inner child! I wanted to whine, like, can we go now? I don’t want to have fun anymore, I’d rather go home and do nothing.
Well, maybe not quite like that, but my lack of capacity for fun was startling, and a little bit sad. I know how to work hard, but to take playtime this seriously was foreign. I managed to complete the assignment, but it wasn’t as easy as I expected.
The introduction of the book says this, “Art is a spiritual transaction”.
Maybe children hold the answers to everything. Maybe playing is the secret to being creative?!
What I am realizing, is that I am the one blocking my own inner child. The great news is that I can fix that, and I’m going to trust the process. Week Three, let’s do this!
One thing that is so wonderful about visiting other countries is the people. There is something magical when you connect with others, especially those who seem so different. Here are the top ten ways we observed (while in Italy) that we have far more in common than we may realize:
Babies on Airplanes. While this could be its own post, it was fun to watch the one in the seat ahead of me continually throw his stuff on the ground, and then to watch his grown-up pick it up repeatedly. I began counting this, kinda like sheep, but only got to twenty-seven before I drifted off.
Young Lovers. When you’re young and in love, you are a lot less picky about where you’ll have a full blown make-out session. While Italy is quite romantic, sitting on a curb in the middle of town, in the middle of the day is not. Unless you’re young and in love, and it won’t matter in the slightest.
Politically Averse Young Adults. We chatted with 2 friends from the UK (age 21) who were as irritated by their own government as we are with ours. We concluded that the best way to affect change is for their generation to step up and vote.
Swimming In Cold Water. This may not apply everywhere (I’m talking to you, Canada). But it was fun watching kids enter the 72 degree water without flinching, and totally commiserating with the other sensible adults who could barely get in past our ankles.
People Yelling at Seagulls. It’s not the least bit effective, but when a seagull snatches your wallet and flies off with it, the response is universal. This particular woman (not me, thanks be to God) chose to run after it screaming hysterically. When it landed in the harbor with its new treasure in its beak, the performance included the victim stripping off her clothes at the water’s edge and getting in after it. This may have worked if she had only stopped screaming first.
Puppy Love. No, this is not the same as point number two. Penelope was a four month old, roly-poly Golden Retriever who belonged to one of the waiters. During dinner, the puppy-sitter decided to lounge on a stoop two feet from our table. Each and every person who saw this pup broke out in a smile and petted her cute little puppy head. Puppies for the win every time.
Street Artists and Musicians. I have a rule that if someone is performing, I put money in their cup or guitar case or whatever it is. We heard an incredibly talented jazz band and saw chalk artists replicating fine works of art. We witnessed a man dressed like Michelangelo freaking people out when he actually moved. Art has a way of dissolving differences.
Say Cheese. Okay, so everyone may not say this exactly, but taking photos is such a THING. Selfie sticks and timers have their place, but whenever my daughter offered to capture the entire group, people were thankful and reciprocated. Smile everyone – for real.
Respect For Our Elders. No matter how rushed we are, the frailty of those a generation (or two) ahead of us, catches our attention. Whether it was boarding a train, plane or automobile, we consistently saw others express patience and assistance to the elderly travelers. This alone gives me so much hope for the future.
Good Manners. In every language, there is something sweet to be found in a few basic phrases: Hello/Goodbye, Please /Thank You, You’re Welcome, Excuse Me, Good Morning, and Good Evening. It’s like the WD40 of humanity, it just keeps things moving and easy. Travelers Bonus: know these in the native tongue of the country in which you are visiting.
What are the things you observe about people when you travel? Does the amount of similarity cause you to feel connected? What is the thing you are most surprised about when you find yourself in a different space?
This concludes the Italy trip as it’s time for other topics now… Next week I’ll be posting about my experience (so far) with the Artist Way.
Let me take a moment to introduce you. Raimondo and his family own Torcibrencoli, a family vineyard and winery estate about 30 minutes outside Florence.
They take turns hosting the AirBnB Experience that we enjoyed on our last day in Italy. Once we found the bus station, we paid the fare and hopped on a very nice bus which took us to Greve, and from there we were driven to their estate.
The views were, well, see for yourself…
As you can understand from these photos, the temptation to stay was real. I could have totally hidden in one of these barrels. When they found me a day or two later, I would have had the story all rehearsed.
“Oh hi! I must have gotten lost. Maybe I could stay and work in the vineyards in exchange for food and wine. I would be no trouble. I could just sleep on a stone floor somewhere. Or in a hammock outside, whatever, I am not that picky.”
Surely Raimondo would have been okay with that, right?
After all, I am a farm girl at heart, and I am no stranger to working in fields. Okay, vineyards, fields, same same. I’d be willing to learn about grapes and olives and lemons. I am quite teachable.
The only reason this didn’t happen is because there’s a grand baby coming, and I cannot be THAT far away from the little nugget. On my return visit to Italy, in a year or two, we can further discuss the details of my indentured servitude. Is it indentured servitude if it’s voluntary? No matter, I’m sure we could work something out.
There is a staggering amount of tradition and family pride in this beautiful country. It is astonishing that outsiders would be invited to their property, to eat their food, drink their wine and limoncello, and tour their facilities. Hospitality is a huge part of their culture, and we were the gracious recipients. Okay, yes, we paid for the tour. And maybe as a smaller producer, this has become a necessity for them, but still! It was absolutely the most wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Another thing I learned is that having the name of Chianti Classico is a big deal. There are strict guidelines for production, as well as fees associated with this designation. I used to think that all wines were the same, but I have a greater respect and understanding now. They are not all the same, and I’m a little bit spoiled. Sorry, two buck chuck, I think I have to upgrade now.
Yes, you can purchase wine and olive oil directly from them. Yes, you can book your own tour with them should you be heading that way. Yes, you too can fantasize about running away to a vineyard in Tuscany with Raimondo…. Sorry, I digress.
Let’s just say I’m mentally preparing for my next trip, and savoring the memories of my first visit. Stay tuned for more musings about Italy.
Of course, a primary interest one has when traveling in Italy is the FOOD. I don’t know why, but it’s magical and delightful and didn’t cause a single pound of weight gain.
We knew we were in for a fabulous culinary experience when our meal at the airport was delicious. For real.
Our first meal in Italy – 2 glasses of wine, 2 glasses of still water, 2 pasta dishes, total of €38 or about $43. Not bad at all. I’ve paid over $30 for nachos and a beer at US Airports. Also, did I mention this was FABULOUS?
Each venue had its own flair, but overall I observed the following themes while feeding my face in Italy:
No one is in a hurry around meal time. If you think you’ll go to Italy and squeeze in a quick lunch between this tour and that site, think again. Dining is ceremonious.
When you ask for water, be ready with your preference of sparkling or still, as both are available. Kind of like sweet or unsweet tea in the South.
Trust your instincts. I have a friend who visits regularly and gave us a personal recommendation for dinner. When the staff greeted us with annoyance and stress, we decided to go elsewhere. Your experience is important, and reviews are subjective.
The food is so delicious, you are actually glad about #1. You don’t want to gulp it down, trust me. You’ll want to slowly savor every single bite.
Save a piece of bread to absorb the remaining sauce. The actual name for this is Fare la Scarpetta, and it made us feel less touristy. It’s just wrong to leave it on the plate, and I wasn’t sure if licking it clean was acceptable (though I was tempted more than once).
Dessert is necessary. We enjoyed a caramel panna cotta at La Lampara in Riomaggiore that was basically a sexual experience (“I feel like I should be naked while I’m eating this”).
Our favorite pasta was at Casa del Vin Santo in Florence. The Penne Gamberi was quite possibly the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth. Sadly, there are no actual photos of this, but the memory will live forever.
The most memorable meal and hospitality we received was at the Torcibrencoli Vineyard (it deserves its very own post – stay tuned). Raimondo, the owner of the vineyard, shared his favorite pizza place with us, and he was absolutely right. After walking past 37 other pizzerias, dinner at Berbere on San Frediano was incredible! Their menu was impressive, as they are fanatical about locally and organically sourcing all of their ingredients. It’s quite likely that most of the Italian establishments share this practice, but someone at Berbere knows a thing or two about marketing.
My suspicion? All of the air and soil is infused with such love, that pure divinity is the obvious result. The vegetables and herbs and olive oil and grapes and all things landing on a plate and in a glass were produced with love. Not stress, not rushing, just an enjoyable satisfaction that was clearly ordained from above by the angels themselves.