What Did You Savor Today?

August 31, 2011

“The pleasure of doing a thing in the same way at the same time every day, and savoring it, should be noted.”
Arnold Bennett

Everyday adventures

When the Storms Come

August 29, 2011

This weekend, we watched as Hurricane Irene sashayed up the East Coast, killing 21, flooding cities all the way up into Canada and leaving millions without power—and her effects were not as bad as feared!

Since we live in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, we’re intimately familiar with hurricanes. Though we’ve been spared the past few years, in 2004 and 2005, eight hurricanes blew through here. Our home was undamaged, but we lost electricity several times, an uncomfortable situation in sticky August. I learned how important being prepared could be, and after struggling along with candles and flashlights, I finally bought battery-operated lamps, and fans to help us keep from getting too hot. Now every year at the end of May, I pull out my list of recommended items to have on hand: water, canned and packaged food, first aid supplies, medications, pet food, and so on. I remind myself that this year could be the year we get a direct hit and not to get complacent.

It occurred to me that in the same manner I prepare for physical storms, I could also prepare for emotional storms that come my way. Just as I stock up on water and food and batteries, I could “stock up” on things that soothe me when I’m angry, sad or just emotionally overwhelmed.

The key to hurricane preparedness is to make ongoing preparations, not wait until a storm is bearing down on you. You don’t want to go to the grocery store and find the shelves bare, do you? Just so, the time to prepare for an emotional hurricane is before the winds begin to pick up and the rain pours. Here are some things in my emotional hurricane kit:

Affirmations and inspiring quotes written on 3 x 5 cards. I look through these during times of emotional upheaval. One example: “We insist that we can’t possibly be happy until tomorrow, when things change. But if happiness is possible tomorrow, it is possible today. If love is possible tomorrow, it is possible today. We can find healing even if nothing changes” (quoted from Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler).

Something funny and light to read at bedtime. I’m currently reading The Provincial Lady in London, by E.M. Delafield. I find her mild, dry humor very soothing and perfect for bedtime. I also love Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Dave Barry’s compilations of columns, and even the occasional Baby Blues comic collection. I’d rather go to sleep laughing than crying, wouldn’t you?

“Quiet time” every morning. Every day, I spend a half hour or so reading inspirational or spiritual material in an effort to begin my day with right thinking and emotional health. I also write morning pages, a practice described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. I feel morning pages help both to clear out my brain of non-essentials and jump start my creative thinking. I do believe in something larger than myself, whether you call it God or the Universe or some other man-made term, so I often express gratitude and ask for inspiration.

Keeping physical needs met. I’ve learned that to avoid unnecessary emotional storms, I should get enough rest, exercise regularly, eat as healthy as possible and not overschedule myself. Becoming a martyr and not caring for myself properly is just asking for a storm.

When all else fails: good chocolate! I know it’s best not to comfort myself with food. However. I find the dark, rich stuff is satisfying in small amounts and if I tuck it away where I don’t see it constantly, I don’t eat too much, and it’s there when a little bit of sweetness is most welcome.

Despite the damage and suffering, which I do not wish to make light of in any way, people seemed mostly prepared for Hurricane Irene and took appropriate precautions, probably saving many lives. Unlike a literal hurricane which can be identified and tracked long before it reaches land, you never know when an emotional storm will blow through. That’s all the more reason to nourish yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically every day so you can be ready when the storms come.

How do you prepare for and weather the emotional storms of life?

Everyday adventures

First Alligators, and Now This?

August 26, 2011

As if alligators weren't enough, this sign recently went up in our subdivision:

The email in question warned residents to be cautious while outdoors from dusk till dawn, because of the presence of aggressive wild hogs. A trapper is working to capture them, and we are to let the management company know if we see any.

Time to move?



August 24, 2011

Humans first prized horses for their strength and speed, but we have since been captivated by their beauty, their deep eyes and mysterious silences. Here’s a poem by Robert Wrigley, who lives in Idaho, where the oldest fossilized remains of the modern horse were found. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

After a Rainstorm

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn’t know a single word they understand.

I'm sure you won't have any trouble recognizing why I liked this poem...

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Robert Wrigley from his most recent book of poetry, Beautiful Country, Penguin Books, 2010. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Everyday adventures

So Long, Summer

August 22, 2011

Tomorrow my son starts school again. Tomorrow. The summer days that stretched so alluringly ahead of us are gone—just like that! Though I’ll miss being able to wake up without an alarm clock most days, I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see summer go. That makes me sad, because I used to love summer.

When I was a child in California, summer meant visits to my father and to my grandparents’ 22-acre farm. It meant trips to the beach with my friends, tennis team practice, and frozen yogurt at the Cow Palace. It meant listening to music (records! on a turntable!) for hours, reading while lying on the couch and the occasional Dodger game. These were summer rituals I looked forward to all year.

Now that I live in Florida, I don’t love summer anymore. Summer now means trying not to suffocate in the humidity, and, as an adult, there is little lessening of my normal responsibilities. Still, I do have some summer rituals that I enjoy and that help me make it through the hot months:

Family vacation to a rented lake house in Georgia.

Sunday afternoons by—and in—the pool. When you’re wet, it’s almost comfortable to be outside. I take the Sunday paper and my crossword puzzle book out with me.

Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. They play in an air conditioned dome!

Reading a writer’s biography. This year it was Dared and Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. In previous years I’ve read about Louisa May Alcott and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Reading a “classic.” Summer really does have a more relaxed feel…perfect for slowly digesting a classic piece of fiction. I haven’t done this yet, but I can still get started before summer ends. Any recommendations for a readable classic?

Movies as a family. This is harder and harder to do with a 16-almost-17-year-old, but we all wanted to finish the Harry Potter saga together.

Pedicures. What with all the bare feet and sandal wearing, every summer I like to get at least one pedicure. It feels so luxurious to have someone paint my toenails!

I hope your summer has been full of long, lazy days, cool drinks and relaxed explorations. I’m always looking for more ways to make summer fun, so—what are your favorite summer rituals?

Everyday adventures

Sweating in Savannah, Part Two

August 19, 2011

When we last left our heroine, she was raving about The Olde Pink House. Let’s see what happened next....

Day 2
We started the day by joining a one-and-a-half hour trolley tour of the historic district. We figured it would give us a good overview and we could choose areas we’d like to go back to. The tour itself was forgettable, but we did spot several places we wanted to visit, such as:

When Oglethorpe and his fellow colonists arrived in Georgia in 1733, they set up an experimental garden in this area, called the Trustees Garden. In 1734, the Herb House was erected to house the gardener for the Trustees Garden. The Pirates’ House was built around the Herb House and is now a restaurant, but it began as an inn for seafarers when it opened in 1753. The Pirates’ House is said to be haunted by several ghosts. We chose to sample the buffet of southern food specialties—thumbs up to the macaroni and cheese and barbecued pork, thumbs down to fried okra (I just had to try it—you can’t live in the south and not have tried okra). Savannah is Paula Deen country, but her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, is always packed, so we chose another place to sample southern cooking.

After lunch, we took our time walking down Bull Street, the main street of the historic district. We took pictures, popped into shops (bless you, air conditioning) and checked out the shady squares, each of which is slightly different in character. There’s even a Johnson Square!

After dinner, we met our tour guide for our ghost tour…at the gate to Colonial Cemetery! There are several tour companies offering ghost tours, which are really walking history tours with an emphasis on unusual, scary or tragic tales. Sadly, the Haunted Irish Pub and Ghost Tour was completely booked, so we had to have our boos without booze. The American Institute of Parapsychology has named Savannah “America’s Most Haunted City,” and our tour guide told us that Savannah is a “city of the dead” because so many people have been buried outside of cemeteries, beneath the streets, on the grounds of the older homes, and so on. As our group walked through the darkened, nearly empty streets, it was easy to imagine Savannah’s historical denizens walking with us.

Gravestones the Yankees displaced during the Civil War

Haunted hotel
After our spooky—and let us not forget, sweaty—tour, we stopped for ice cream at Leopold’s,

another Savannah tradition. Leopold’s makes all its flavors of ice cream one batch at a time on the premises, from secret recipes handed down by the original Leopold brothers. The original ice cream parlor closed in 1969, but was reopened in 2004 by Stratton Leopold and his wife, Mary, at a new location, using many of the fixtures from his father’s and uncles’ original shop.

Day 3
On our last half-day in Savannah, we chose to visit Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace. Ms. Low founded the Girl Scouts of America. Having never been a Girl Scout, I did not know anything about her, but she was quite an interesting lady, and I’d like to learn more. She was an artist and animal lover, so I felt a kinship with her. The home itself contains many pieces of original family furniture and Ms. Low’s art work. (We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, or I’d show you examples.)

Exterior of house

We also strolled through Forsythe Park,

Fountain in Forsythe Park
saw the exterior of the house where there events recounted in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil took place,

grabbed a quick lunch at Zunzi’s and, finally, returned to City Market to purchase freshly-made pralines.

Why, yes, I'll try a sample...
I spent just enough time in Savannah to intrigue me. I hope to go back one day and sample more of the history, charm and delicious food.

But not in August.

Where have you been this summer? Would you like to go back?

Everyday adventures

Welcome to Sweat-vannah!

August 16, 2011

Or Savannah, as it is more commonly known. In early August, my friend Kerri and I spent two nights in this lovely Georgia town. Kerri had been in Georgia visiting high school and college friends, so I flew to Atlanta where she picked me up, and we drove together to Savannah.

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia, and was founded by British General James Oglethorpe in 1733. Oglethorpe is the one who came up with Savannah’s city plan, a system of squares, surrounded by homes, churches and businesses. Twenty-two of the original 24 squares still remain. Many buildings in Savannah are pre-Civil War, because General Sherman did not destroy Savannah on his “march to the sea” from Atlanta. In fact, in December of 1864 Sherman presented Savannah to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas gift!

On the surface at least, Savannah is more of a southern lady than New Orleans. Even the name sounds genteel. I didn’t stay long enough to really get a feel for the town, however, as this trip was much shorter than my NOLA trip—only one full day and two half-days. With no agenda except vacationing, my friend and I chose the “fly by the seat of our pants” travel plan. My inner control freak gnashed her teeth, but managed to keep quiet most of the time. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

Day 1

We arrived in Savannah to find the temperatures would likely be more than 100 degrees all three of the days we are in town, with heat indexes of 110-112. Goody. (Kerri lives in Seattle, WA, where the temperatures were averaging the upper 70s this week. Tell me again why we weren’t meeting each other in Seattle?)

Our first stop was the Savannah Visitor’s Center, where we picked up brochures for hotels and various tours and attractions. We wanted to go on a ghost tour, and see a house museum as well as walk the streets admiring the architecture and looking for good photo ops. Several trolley tour companies begin their Savannah tours from the Visitor’s Center and we decided to return the next day for an organized tour before we hit the cobblestones on foot.

After checking out several hotels, we opted for the Inn at Ellis Square. After a brief rest, we wandered down to River Street where it promptly began to rain. The late-afternoon thunderstorm is a staple in Florida, and evidently in Savannah, too, as it rained every afternoon, adding a certain extra soupiness to the already steamy air.

City Market

We walked to The Olde Pink House for dinner. Built in 1771 for the Habersham family, it originally got its distinctive pink color when the native red brick bled through the plastered walls. Besides being a private residence, The Olde Pink House has been a bank, attorney’s office, tea room and bookstore. The food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and the service was just as good. If you’re ever in Savannah, I highly recommend this restaurant.

Some of the delicious food:

No one ever told us not to play with our food...
 Stay tuned for more Savannah adventures!


Checking In

August 01, 2011

So how are you? I’ve missed my blog friends these past two weeks, so I thought I’d check in and see how you’re all doing. Me, well, I’m fine but it’s been interesting…

We took our yearly trip to the lake house with one significant change: we brought with us five of our son’s teenage friends…I know, I know, what were we thinking? We had two other adults to supervise along with my husband and myself, so we were only slightly outnumbered.

This year instead of the Clampett Mobile, we had “The Cadillac” and “The Ferrari.”  The kids spent most of the week tooling around on the two personal watercraft, pulling each other on an inner tube or a wake board. When they weren’t playing XBox or watching Comedy Central. Or eating. Other than a yellow jacket attack the first day, all went well—no serious injuries (thank goodness) and everyone is still friends. Even my husband and I.

I’ve been doing some reading (see reading challenge page for updates) and writing (a series of articles for a website that’s about to launch) and I’ve also unfortunately been spending some time at the vet’s office. Scout has been under the weather, and we haven’t quite figured out the whole story. She’s been looking and acting pretty pitiful but she’s on some medication now that I hope will do the trick. There is nothing like the face of a dog who doesn’t feel well. She’s always been pretty healthy so we’re all a bit stressed out right now.

I don't feel so good...
But the sun is shining and the AC is working and life is generally good, despite the occasional hiccup.

How is your summer going?