When It’s Cold Out, Special Memories Can Warm You

It’s a BRRRRRRRRRR kind of day here in typically sunny Florida.

Okay, so I know there are people snowed in up north. Kids are off from school. Some offices and businesses are closed. Folks are already skiing or sledding or building snowmen.
Florida Winter
But down here in the Sunshine State—land of sandy beaches, waves lapping the shore, seagulls drifting on the wind—winter jackets don’t make it out of the closet too often.
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So, when I say it’s a “bitter 41 degrees” outside this morning, that bitterness is relative. I’ve got friends in the northeast corner of the US who’d love it to be 41 where they live as they bundle up and head out the door. Another friend lives in New Mexico and she’s posting pics of her snow-covered house doing a darn fine impression of a scene on the front of a Christmas card. I got shivers just looking at her post.
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But while this Florida girl isn’t too keen on living in a snowy, icy, bone-chilling place, I do think it’s fun to play in the snow. And I wouldn’t mind spending a day on the ski slopes, then heading back to a warm cozy lodge for hot chocolate and a blazing fire in the fireplace. I’ve been known to plop down on the snow and make a snow angel or two. And my family has risen to the challenge when our neighbors pounded our door with snowballs—a definite call to arms initiating an intense, laughter-filled snowball fight in our front yards.
Buddy-and-Michael-in-a-snowball-fight
With Thanksgiving around the corner and December holidays not far behind, my nesting instinct starts kicking into high gear. Baking, gift buying, gift wrapping, family get-togethers, gingerbread house building, carol singing, mugs of hot chocolate, old memories shared, new memories made.

Can you tell I’m a big fan of the holiday season? Not because of the shopping and present buying, though I do love to gift giving and bringing a smile to someone’s face. But because it’s a time for families and friends to spend quality time together. A time for fun, frolic and smiles.
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I won’t ask about December holiday traditions—that’s an entire blog for later—but instead, I’d like to know what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most during the Thanksgiving holiday?

In this high tech world of social media and tweets and Snapchats and Instagrams and all the other apps I’m not cool enough to have heard about yet, there’s still nothing that can beat the feel of two hands held together in greeting. Or two arms wrapped around you in a welcoming hug. Or two lips pressing an I-missed-you kiss on your cheek.

For me, I’m most looking forward to when my family and I’ll gather around the table, clasp hands, and give thanks we’re all together. That’s when I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath and give the hands I’m holding an I-love-you squeeze.
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And even if it’s just for that briefest of moments, all will be right in my world.

So what’s your special moment, memory or tradition this time of year? I’d love to hear what you’re excited about!

Wishing you and yours many many many blessings! And a warm place to snuggle with your loved ones. ☺
couples holding hands.

Summer Fun

postcard KW
By now many, if not most, school districts and universities/colleges are back in session. Summer is over and it’s time to get back in a groove of school, homework, longer commutes and busier schedules.

The dog days of summer are behind us—though in the Southeast, we’re still feeling the heat and humidity. And typically will for months to come.

With our kids and teachers starting back to school, I thought I’d call upon a beloved class assignment from my past: the age old, “What did you do this summer?” essay.

I have to say, I had a blessed summer of 2014. My girls are older, so they’re not home all that often now and when they are, I treasure every moment.

I started off with a three-week visit from with my youngest before she headed back to college for the summer session. Yes, I tried to pack as much fun as I could in her short time with me.
zac brown band with belle

Then, my youngest niece and nephew arrived to spend two months with my parents and me. Talk about reliving my past. It’s been a while since I’ve had elementary and middle school kids running around the house. From World Cup soccer parties to 90 minutes of trampoline time at a local Skyzone…they certainly kept me hopping—in a fun way!

world cup gator dockside 1
Between two writers’ conferences, a rousing family reunion celebration in Texas
cousin love
and the passing of a beloved uncle, my June and July flew by.

To cap off my summer, my middle daughter arrived home for two weeks and we headed off for a long weekend in Key West, my old stomping grounds during junior high and high school.

We biked all around the island,
P & G biking KW
hit Duval for a little dancing and nightlife, watched a glorious sunset on Mallory Square, caught sunrise before hitting the tennis courts, spent a relaxing day on a boat with old friends, passed by my childhood home and enjoyed playing tourist. It was a jam-packed weekend of catching up with good friends and sharing my hometown with my daughter.

Some folks have commented on all the traveling I managed to do over the past few months. Yes, I’ve been blessed in that respect.

For me though, what I really count as a blessing is the time I’ve been able to spend with family. The memories we created together. The hours spent in each other’s company. The opportunity to say, “I love you” in person to loved ones I don’t get to see often enough.

I’d say the highlight of my summer was the blessing of family time. With the traveling being the icing on the cake. ☺

So, as the Key West sun sets, the homeschool teacher in me wants to know: What did you do this summer?
KW sunset

Meaningful Things

I grew up as an Army Brat, moving every 3 to 4 years. My husband grew up like this as well. Our paths almost crossed in Fort Clayton, Panama once, with him living at the bottom of a big sweeping hill, one that was lined with wild, thickly growing birds of paradise on the edge of a beautiful jungle. He and his family moved out of their military housing and flew to Japan for his dad’s next assignment, just two months before mine moved in, just up that hill, onto Smith Street, a very bland name for a place that remains so beautiful and vivid in my mind—both for the tropical, concrete housing we lived in, three stories tall, with tile roofs, and gardens full of hibiscus and bananas, and also the towering trees filled with trumpet flowers where you could often see iguanas, sloths and toucans looking down.

Leaving there was one of life’s biggest heartbreaks for me. I still remember sitting on the plane, looking out the window, completely bereft over leaving and trying my hardest not to cry—because I was a teenager, and that would be the worst, to draw the attention of a bunch of strangers. Yes, I was upset to leave my friends, but most of them would be leaving soon as well, because we were all military kids, and that’s what happened. We all came and went, and then moved on to a different home eventually. No, it was really the place, Panama I didn’t want to leave.

Moving so often, we were limited with how much we could accumulate and take with us. Our mothers were experts at paring things down to just what we needed to set up a house in a new location, and have it still feel like home.

As I said, my husband is also an Army brat. While we aren’t in the service, we still seem to do this instinctively, purge out the unnecessary clutter of belongings we don’t need and just keep that which is useful and meaningful to us. Sometimes this can cause a little conflict between us, because I can be very sentimental about old things that belonged to people that I love, while he finds value more in…you know, machinery and tools and stuff. This means we often enter into negotiations about what stays and what goes. Most often, the negotiations are about the things I want to keep! Like that 40+ volume set of Readers Digest Condensed Novels that I had stored in boxes in the upstairs bedroom. I kept them because they came from my grandparents’ lake house, and that’s how I spent a couple of my teenage summers. My grandparents didn’t allow us to watch more than an hour of TV a day, so I read all those books, and I loved them. After my grandfather passed, and my grandmother was moving to a residential retirement home, the books were put out on the roadside for the trash truck to haul away, and I couldn’t let that happen. But yes…years later, I pulled out about eight of my favorites and donated the rest.

But there are some things I’ll never part with. I have them out where I see them every day, and they make home feel like home.
My great great grandmother’s ink well, still stained with ink. She’d probably be appalled that I write romance novels (or maybe not!), but isn’t this cool? I keep it on my kitchen windowsill, next to my collection of glass bluebirds (of happiness). Once, one of my kids actually perched an avocado on it, and I nearly had a heart attack that they were going to break it. But I don’t want to hide it away.

ink well

And of all things, my great great grandmother’s napkin holder. When I was little I remember this on my grandmother’s table at lunchtime, holding the napkins. Look at that funny rooster, and that bright paint. It makes me smile every time I see it. Also, in some way, it makes me feel connected to my family—those I know, and got to meet in my lifetime, and even those who passed on before I was born.

Rooster

Oh, I’ve got a lot more! But what about you? If you had to pick up and move, and just take a few meaningful things with you to make the next place feel like home, what would you take with you? (Not including your favorite people!)