Happy Labor Day Weekend

Tomorrow as you enjoy your picnic and day off for Labor Day, remember to thank unions. This annual holiday which celebrates workers and their achievements was first proposed by union leaders in the early 1880s and became an official holiday in 1894.

That’s pretty amazing considering a 12 hour work day and a 7 day work week was not uncommon and workers as young as six worked in mills, mines, and factories in many states.

Thanks to labor unions laws passed to regulate working conditions, air quality, work hours, and a “workingman’s holiday”. Not only did these laws impact union members, but most U.S. workers, even in businesses or industries where employees are not represented by unions.

Besides tomorrow’s holiday, here are some other reasons you should thank a union:

  • eight hour workday
  • paid vacation
  • sick leave
  • Social Security
  • overtime pay
  • child labor laws
  • workplace safety standards
  • employer health care insurance
  • holiday pay
  • worker’s comp
  • 40-hour workweek
  • breaks, including a lunch break
  • minimum wage

Unions have fallen out of favor recently, but I’m proud to have been a member of N.E.A. since 1979. After all, any business with a union deserves one.

Image from: http://www.freegreatimages.com/labor-day-quotes-2014/

Happy Labor Day Weekend!



Once is Enough

Up at 6:00am.  On the road by 6:30. An hour and a half later we began our search for a place to park in Ft. White so we could ride a portion of the Ichetucknee to O’Leno Trail.

Since the distance from end to end is just over 13 miles, we decided to ride the southern portion of the trail from Ft. White to O’Leno, and finally at 8:30 we began the ride. The trail runs parallel to CR 18 and SR 441 through the quiet, rural, North Florida community.

We passed plowed fields, grazing cattle, gargoyles perched on a gate guarding a house, along with an occasional pickup truck, but one thing that was missing from the trail were trees. A ride in July, even a morning ride, needs trees and the shade they provide. And maybe it was just me, but the trail seemed to be uphill to O’Leno and on our return.

We hadn’t been to O’Leno State Park in years and enjoyed riding on the shady roads in the park and rediscovering the hiking trails, picnic area, and campground. Located on the Santa Fe River, O’Leno will be the site of a future camping trip.

The ride back to Ft. White was especially difficult in the heat of the day. In fact, John offered to pay me a dollar to ride back to the car and then drive back to pick him up. My suggestion was more generous offering him $20 if he’d ride to the car and then pick me up. In the end, we both bicycled back to Ft. White.

The promise of a swim at Ichetucknee Springs was the only thing that kept us going. Fifteen miles on the bike on the Ichetucknee to O’Leno Trail was more than enough, and one we won’t repeat.

Instead we’ll just enjoy the parks located at each end of the trail, and if we want to bike, the shady roads in the parks will have to suffice.


It’s Big Cheese Time

IMG_2938The first weekend of college football season…that brings to mind not only the image of cheering fans, pacing coaches, white smoke, and booming cannons; it also evokes memories of favorite college hangouts.

While The Big Cheese didn’t exist until five years after John’s graduation from the University of Miami, it’s become our go to restaurant following a big game.

After all, what’s better than a hot, cheesy pizza in the company of liked-minded fans all dressed in orange and green basking in the glory of a win or even commiserating with one another after a loss.

According to the dictionary, the definition of Big Cheese is someone knowledgeable and of importance and high standing in an area or field. The Big Cheese certainly lives up to its name…a restaurant of importance and high standing to pizza loving Hurricane fans.

What’s your college sports go to place?

TBT Lesson #16

What possessed John to shave his head? A good cause…to encourage the students at Oakcrest Elementary School to read.

The challenge: The principal will shave his head if a reading goal was achieved.

Of course, that was the perfect motivation. Goal achieved. Head shaved. Local television station filmed the event for the 6:00 news. (Obviously, the Gainesville station. Orlando doesn’t cover the really big news from Ocala.)

photoTBT Lesson: (And there are many!)

  1. Tell your wife you plan to shave your head so she doesn’t find out by watching the news.
  2. Don’t agree to shave your head only a few days before family pictures are scheduled for the church directory.
  3. Make sure it’s for a good cause because your hair may not grow back as you remembered it. In John’s case, it came back gray; and if you remember, it was a shaved head that preceded Matt Lauer’s baldness.
  4. Choose a barber that doesn’t moonlight giving haircuts to corpses.


You are a Winner!

Those are words I’d love to hear!

The Submission Grand Prize: a trip for 4 to Yosemite National Park


The Voter Grand Prize: A Yellowstone & Grand Teton Adventure for 2

I could be happy with either prize!
I don’t know how I missed this earlier, but beginning June 20th, the National Park Foundation kicked off its Summer Scrapbook contest which runs until September 5th. Park enthusiasts are encouraged to submit entries in one of eight categories relating a personal experience from any of America’s National Parks. Along with the short essay, each entry must include a photo or video taken at the park with a trip to Yosemite being the Grand Prize.

Not a park visitor or not a writer? You can still win! Simply vote from September 9 – September 26th for your favorite Essay Finalist. In fact, you can actually vote one time per day in each category for a total of eight votes per day or eight chances to win that trip to Yellowstone.

It’s time to submit an entry for each category!

  • Fun with Family & Friends:
    Share your national park moments and memories of relaxing, having picnics, hiking, or simply enjoying some quality time with your friends and family in your national parks.
  • IMG_7569
    Redwood National Park
  • Celebrations & Achievements:
    Share your national park moments and memories of engagements, weddings, birthdays, holidays, or completing a goal.
  • DSCN0328
    Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Inspirational Moments:
    Share your national park moments and memories of star-studded night skies, picture-perfect sunsets, breathtaking vistas, and moments of inspiration.
  • photo
    Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Action & Adventure:
    Share your national park moments and memories of sports, activities, and adventure.
  • IMG_2796
    Everglades National Park
  • Hidden Gems and Surprises:
    Share your national park moments and memories of finding a little-known trail, an unexpected wildlife visit, and other surprises.
  • photo
    Bandelier National Monument
  • Making a Difference:
    Share your national park moments and memories of volunteer work or other ways you’ve helped.
  • Throwback:
    Share your national park moments and memories from 10 or more years ago.
  • IMG_7575
    Yellowstone National Park
  • Learning & Discovery
    Share your national park moments and memories of exploring American history, celebrating cultures, finding a fossil, taking a class trip, or other educational experiences.
  • IMG_0152
    Fort Matanzas National Monument

    Looks like I’ve got some work to do this week if I plan to enter an essay in the contest, and I’ve marked my calendar to start voting on September 9th. I want to be a winner!

8 Down; 6 To Go

Bioluminescence –noun; the production of light by living organisms

Last month I made reservations with A Day Away Outfitters and Kayak Tours for a 10:00pm kayak tour on the Indian River Lagoon in hopes of witnessing the magical light show produced by the plankton. We scheduled for the Friday before the new moon since viewing is best on dark nights.

The tour met at the Haulover Canal Launch where we checked in and were issued life jackets, whistles, paddles, and either blue, orange, or green glow sticks. Our group, the blue group, was first to launch and from the first stroke of the paddle, the water lit up with eerie bluish green streaks. Every disturbance in the water created light!


We watched the kayak glide through the water trailing the light. We dipped our hands in and marveled at the light produced by the drips. We splashed and paddled. We created swirls. But the most amazing light was produced by the fish swimming through the water.

Mullet streaked through the deeper water (deeper = about 4 feet) and darted through the shallow water launching themselves through the air. One even ended up in one of the kayaks…fortunately the boat of one of our guides, although another fish hit one of the kayakers before falling back into the lagoon.

A Day Away warned us that bringing cameras would prove useless for capturing the experience, but we brought a water proof camera nonetheless. They were right. You can’t capture the ghost-like glow but ghost-like really does describe what we saw. The same spooky light used in movies or by Disney to represent the phantoms sailing through the Haunted Mansion.

Our ninety minute tour didn’t return until midnight almost thirty minutes late. No one was in a hurry to get back to shore. Bioluminescence in the water and a star filled sky overhead mesmerized the blue group!

Eight down, six to go on this year’s list of 14 in 14.

Visit a National Park

Today is Founders’ Day, the 98th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service, and it’s a good time to remind you to visit these national treasures.

Did you know the U.S. was the first nation in the world to set aside treasured lands to be protected and enjoyed by everyone? On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was established to care for the national parks throughout the country that recognize and commemorate notable people and historical events and protect the natural wonders and landscapes providing a place for people to have fun and learn.

To celebrate Founders’ Day you can sign a birthday card to let the National Park Service know you appreciate their work. You may also want to like the National Park Service on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter @NatlParkService. You can also check out their photos on Instagram by following NationalParkExperience.

As a family we’ve visited many parks:

  • Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Everglades National Park
  • Acadia National Park
  • Manassas National Battlefield Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Redwoods National Park
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Gettsyburg National Military Park
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • Castillos De San Marcos National Monument
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • National Mall
  • Olympic National Park
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Redwood National Park
  • Rock Creek Park
  • San Juan Island National Historic Park
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument
  • Statue of Liberty National Monument
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Washington Monument
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial

but, that’s just a start. Make your own bucket list of parks you want to visit. You may want to start by visiting one or more of the eleven parks located in Florida or you may want to revisit ones you enjoyed on family vacations or maybe you want to see parks for the first time.

The good news: you can find parks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and even in U.S. territories. They’re located in cities and remote areas and everywhere in between. You can hike, bike, drive, take a tour…be active or sit back and enjoy. What better way to get to know the U.S.?

You don’t have to go tomorrow or even this year, but make a list and check them off as you visit the National Parks. (I wonder if National Parks will be on our 16 in 16 list for the 100th anniversary of the NPS?)








Dog Days of Summer

Created by the National Dog Day Foundation, National Dog Day is celebrated yearly on August 26th with two goals: to honor dogs and to rescue dogs from homelessness and abuse. Their motto: “Saving 10,000 Dogs – One Day at a Time”.

 “You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘Wow, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’”

 “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”
~Emily Dickinson
~Dave Barry

dogs“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
~Harry S. Truman

“If you are a dog and your owner suggest that you wear a sweater…suggest that he wear a tail.”

~Fran Lebowitz


“Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
~Ann Landers

IMG_0392“A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can’t get it by breeding for it, and you can’t buy it with money. It just happens along.”

~E.B. White The Care and Training of a Dog


“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.”
~Christopher Morley

“I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.”

~Rita Rudner


“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

~Groucho Marx
“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.”
~Franklin P. Jones
“The time to save is now. When a dog gets a bone, he doesn’t go out and make a down payment on a bigger bone. He buries the one he’s got.”
~Will Rogers
“Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.”

~Kinky Friedman
barkboxTuesday: Every dog will have its day!




The Bucket Challenge

I know what you’re thinking – she left out the word ICE in the title. Well, no, that was intentional.

First, I LOVE the ice bucket challenge! I’ve enjoyed watching videos of friends, relatives, strangers, celebrities, and college presidents taking the ice bucket challenge. I click on the link to every video despite the fact they’re all pretty much the same and each one brings a smile to my face.

We’ve lost three family members to ALS in the past decade. My dad’s cousin’s husband, Howard, my mom’s uncle, Condit, and John’s cousin’s husband, Gary all suffered with this disease and lost their battles.

In addition, two neighbors have been diagnosed with ALS and seeing the changes in Jim has been heartbreaking. I’m delighted at the publicity and donations rolling in to such a worthwhile organization.

However, the reason I left out the word ICE is because I’m taking a different challenge. My daughter Sarah issued the following challenge:

photoand I accepted as did her sister Emily. (In fact, you should read what Emily posted on her blog about the #icebucketchallenge.) Of course, Emily challenged her Dad, and since both girls knew their sister, Meghan had already contributed $100 to our team for next month’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, she wasn’t called out!


What a great thing the ice bucket challenge has been! It’s started conversations about ALS. It’s encouraged people to donate to the A.L.S. Association; but it’s also started an even bigger conversation about the numerous organizations that need our support, both financial and as volunteers.

So, to the A.L.S. Association, yes, the check is in the mail. And on Saturday, September 6th, I’ll be walking to end Alzheimer’s. Our team can use your help! Click here to donate.

And instead of calling out any individual to accept the ice bucket challenge, I’d like to challenge everyone who reads this to make a contribution of time or money to any organization you feel passionate about. No ice required, but heck, it’s August and the “Feels Like” temperature is 100°, icy cold water may be just what you need to cool off.



Lunch with Miz Kathi

About a year ago I started hearing people talk about eating at a restaurant in Wildwood with rave reviews about the food, especially the desserts at the Cotillion. Located on Hwy. 301 in downtown Wildwood, Miz Kathi’s Cotillion serves lunch Tuesday-Saturday and supper Thursday-Sunday.

IMG_7247When we arrived at 11:45, we were surprised to be greeted by a question, “Do you have reservations?”

Reservations? For lunch? In Wildwood? When we responded that we did not have reservations, a discussion ensued as to whether there would be sufficient time for us to be served prior to their 12:30 reservation. We assured them we would not linger over our meal so we were seated.

John ordered the open face turkey sandwich smothered in mashed potatoes, and I ordered the open face meatloaf sandwich also smothered in mashed potatoes. Both dishes were topped with an onion ring, (something I didn’t understand, but enjoyed nonetheless), and we ordered the Cotillion Salad, the house specialty, as a side.

Everything about the meal was delicious, and we kept our word about finishing in a timely manner, walking out the door at 12:33. No time or room for dessert, we walked two doors down to Miz Kathi’s Sweetery and took home a piece of coconut cake, a piece of chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, and a cookbook.

We’ve already prepared Mammy’s Meatloaf and we’ll be baking a Million Dollar Pie, Miz Sylvia’s Lemon Pineapple Coconut Cake, and Grandma Carroll’s Chicken Casserole in the weeks to come. You can even find some of Miz Kathi’s recipes on The Cotillion’s website.

And we’ll know to make reservations for Miz Kathi’s Cotillion the next time we’re heading to Wildwood.