Prepare for Christmas

It’s the last day in November. With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s definitely time to prepare for Christmas.

The stores have been preparing for weeks with decorations, music and displays to entice shoppers to buy. Lights have been strung downtown and candy canes, toy soldiers and bells adorn light posts. I’ve noticed several cars with trees tied to their roofs the last couple of days, and several friends have posted pictures of their homes decorated for the season.

And of course, you can’t turn on the television, radio or computer without hearing about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, door buster deals and predictions about the total sales anticipated during the coming weeks in the busiest shopping time of the year. But it’s not shopping or decorating or baking or addressing cards that I’m suggesting you do to prepare.

The past several years have been filled with campaigns to put CHRIST back into Christmas by those who are appalled by a greeting of Happy Holidays. However, more recently I’ve noticed an effort by a few, to put CHRIST back into Christmas by recognizing Advent, the time to prepare for and anticipate the coming of Christ. I think that’s a much better campaign.

Yesterday was the first day of the Advent season, the time to prepare. It’s a good time to slow down instead of getting caught up in all of the hustle and bustle thrust upon us at this time of year. Slow down and prepare for Christmas by celebrating Advent. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’d like suggest you visit the blog of First United Methodist Church of Ocala where you’ll find daily Bible verses, readings, music or videos that can be a source of inspiration as you prepare for Christmas.




TBT Lesson #78

In the ’90s, we started a tradition of the whole family, my brother’s family, my sister’s family, our parents and John’s mom and husband all loading up and driving from Florida to north Georgia to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’d rent two or three houses in Helen, Georgia and spend the weekend cooking, eating, hiking, playing and bonding. While we no longer celebrate out of state, Thanksgiving is still cousin catch up time.


TBT Lesson #78: Be thankful for the time you spend with cousins.

Sangria and IKEA

A weekend in Sarasota concluded with a new experience: a trip to IKEA. When Sarah heard we’d be driving past IKEA on our way home, she asked if we could pick up a sofa for her so she could avoid hefty shipping charges. Of course, we could…that’s what retired parents do.

Well, much to our pleasure, we found the IKEA in Tampa is actually much closer to Ybor City and a short distance from one of our favorite restaurants. This was a perfect excuse to have lunch at the Columbia Restaurant, and of course how could we resist ordering a pitcher of sangria to accompany a 1905 salad and Shrimp Criollo.


It turns out the sangria was an excellent idea because I’m not sure we would have survived IKEA without a pre-shopping drink. I knew we were in trouble when I picked up a map in the form of a tri-fold pamphlet with diagrams and an explanation of the store layout. I had the item number, description and price in the email from Sarah. All we needed to do was pay and pick it up.


After wandering throughout the show room, we finally found a helpful employee who entered our order in a computer and instructed us to go downstairs to check out and pick up, easier said than done. Lost in the store maze, we eventually found the registers and paid, only to be directed to a holding area where we were to watch the board for our order number. (This sounded a lot like the process used by the now defunct Service Merchandise stores where we shopped in the ’80s. How is this working all these years later?)


I’m proud to say that with the help of the sangria, we didn’t blow a gasket  during this new shopping experience and Sarah and Daniel are now the proud owners of a sleeper sofa (that they assembled).


And as Sarah posted on Facebook, they now have “fancy futon” in their second bedroom and are accepting guests.


Please…no tablet cameras!

When I see people using their iPads or other tablets as a camera in public I’m so embarrassed for them. In fact, tablet manufacturers should stop including cameras on these devices to avoid this type of public humiliation.

How embarrassing!
How embarrassing!

I can understand that these cameras may be needed in a pinch when a phone or digital camera has a dead battery or isn’t working, but even then it’s best to use the tablet camera at home to document a birthday or whopper fish, not at a concert, game or other public event. It’s not only embarrassing but  irritating to sit behind someone holding a tablet above their head blocking the view of all behind them with a 9″x7″ camera.

If you use a ladder, you need a real camera. To protect the identity of the tablet photographer, I did not include a picture of his tablet faux pas.

I witnessed one of the most embarrassing examples of using an iPad camera last weekend at the Chalk Festival in Venice. A man in his 20s, carried a step ladder around the festival and took photos from an elevated position like the serious photographers with expensive equipment. Did he really think his tablet pictures required that type of set up?

Do yourself and everyone else a favor and please…don’t use a tablet phone (at least not in public).


In the Words of Charlie

With the Peanuts movie in theaters and the 50th anniversary of Charlie Brown’s Christmas, it seems like a good time to remember the words of Charles Schulz.

Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.

No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from!

I gave up trying to understand people long ago. Now I let them try to understand me!


Sometimes you lie in bed at night, and you don’t have a single thing to worry about…That always worries me!

Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.

Life is like an ice cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time.


Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, “Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?” …Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, “We hate to tell you this but life is a thousand word essay.

Just thinking about a friend makes you want to do a happy dance, because a friend is someone who loves you in spite of your faults.


I think I’ve discovered the secret of life — you just hang around until you get used to it.

Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.


Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it I wash my mouth out with chocolate.

Stop worrying about the world ending today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.

Words to live by!


TBT Lesson #77

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but I can’t think of any other reason I’d have two turkeys in my freezer. In fact, the cupboards are full on the ingredients necessary for the annual feast. The only thing missing are the guests, but by this time next week we’ll have a full house.image

TBT Lesson #77: Only the first grandchild can take attention away from a perfectly cooked turkey.

Let’s Keep Florida Real

With all the news regarding the Florida State Parks and the desire by some to make them self sufficient, it seems like a good time to remember the purpose of our state’s treasures. The purpose and value of the parks was discussed in an article titled, “Green for Green” in the Friends of Florida State Parks newsletter.

The first question we all have to ask is why do we have state parks in the first place? State parks exist to protect and preserve a particular location because of its natural beauty, flora and fauna, historic and cultural interest, or recreational potential. That is the reason we have state parks and that is why we need to protect and preserve them. The Florida Park Service with limited resources does a fantastic job.

Whether at one of the parks along the coast,

or ones protecting our springs and rivers

as sites for camping

or learning about our state’s history

our parks do indeed protect and preserve the real Florida. Let’s do our part to keep Florida real.



Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Venice Airport, the site of the Sarasota Chalk Festival. Artists illustrated this year’s theme ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry!’ in images that boggled your senses like this shark rising from the runway.


Scores of temporary works of art attracted visitors for the week long event.


My favorites were designed to let those in attendance become part of the art. I joined the children dancing around a shark’s tooth.


While John was served on a silver platter.


And we reached in a trap and posed with a pelican.


Each piece of art was marked with a pair of feet labeled “stand here” to ensure perfect viewing.


The event is recognized as the first international street art festival with more than 250 artists from around the globe…absolutely amazing.


Thanks Venice for a great event.




Don’t be an Idiot or Maniac

I recently read an article that described two types of drivers: Idiots and Maniacs.


It described those who drive slower than you as Idiots. Anyone who slows you down falls in this category. That might be student drivers, older drivers, texters or someone driving a vehicle experiencing mechanical difficulties.

On the other hand Maniac is the term given to drivers who speed along the highway often times weaving in and out of traffic or riding your tail, flashing their lights, honking and probably calling you an Idiot.

When you’re driving, especially on the Interstate, take a deep breath, avoid the urge to retaliate against either the Idiots or Maniacs and certainly don’t emulate their bad behavior.

  • No texting.
  • No speeding.
  • No tailgating.
  • No yelling at drivers.
  • No weaving in and out of traffic.
  • No road rage.

Be safe. Don’t be an Idiot or a Maniac.



What season is it?

There seems to be some confusion as to the season and which holiday we are preparing to celebrate.

I sent out the official Thanksgiving invite last week and have started preparing for a crowd, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m preparing for the wrong holiday.


The Christmas cactus on the porch is in full bloom. Maybe I should be decorating a tree and listening to carols.


The temperature says summer. Perhaps a cookout and fireworks are in order.


Yet the calendar clearly says November and pumpkins and gourds decorate my house.


I guess we’ll continue to plan for Thanksgiving, but it may be a good year to just roll all the holidays into a single day. Maybe it’s nature’s way of helping us to save a little money in our celebrations.