Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Critters in the House

Critters in the House


 We have critters in our house. 


Two dogs and a cat to be specific. 

 

Long ago, Max Lightening the Wonder Dog was a member of the Waters family. We all mourned his passing in 2012. Losing Max was so painful I didn’t want another dog. He was a member of our family.

 

When Mike and I started dating, I knew he had pets. I was cool with the notion of a dog. Or two. But having a cat was a different story. The only cat I’ve connected with in any way was my neighbor cat, Joe. (You can read about Joey HERE).

 

Still…I like animals and as it turns out, I love the man. So the answer is YES…we have critters in our house.

 

Honeybee


Honeybee is a Blue Healer. We call her “Bee” for short. I wasn’t too sure about how she would take to me. Blue Healers tend to be “one person” dogs. Mike…to be specific.

 

“Don’t worry if she nips at you,” Mike said. “She’ll get used to you.” But if she growled or turned my way, Mike scolded her. 

 

Blue Healers are herding dogs. I soon learned that Bee’s “nips” were barely anything at all. She was merely trying to move me in another direction. I could live with that. 

 

When we moved to our new home, Bee no longer had to deal with stairs. No stairs to go out or in. No stairs to climb to go to bed at night. Having no stairs breathed new life into the beautiful animal. She now accepts morsels of food from me and stands nearby, looking up with sincere appreciation as I prepare her midday meal. 

 

The change? I think somehow, Bee credits me with giving her an easily accessible yard and a single story house to call home. 

 

Roxy


Don’t tell the other critters, but far and away, Roxy was my favorite at the start. That’s a strange thing to say because going into this relationship with Mike, she was the one I feared the most. Roxy is a full-blooded pit bulldog. Until I met her, I had only heard stories of how horrible and vicious pit bulls can be. I heard of how they had a taste for blood and killed young children.

 

Not Roxy. She might lick you to death…not really…but she is the most loving dog you could hope to find. Roxy is the manager and caregiver of the three. Actually she looks out for all of us. All. Including Bee and the cat. Okay, maybe she merely tries to care for the cat and wants to play with her, but the cat is not receptive of Roxy’s care nor is she ever in the mood to play Roxy’s games.

 

Tiki Kitty


The last critter in the lineup. Tiki was named after the resort Kon Tiki in the Florida Keys. She has the coloring of the famous “Hemingway Cats” you find in Key West, though unlike those critters, Tiki has the normal four or five toes on her paws unlike the six toes the Hemingway Cats often sport.

 

Mike rescued Tiki in the midst of a storm. Now, as far as Roxy is concerned, Tiki is the center of the storm. Tiki doesn’t have much to do with me either, though from time to time, she’ll let me stroke her soft gray fur…while she sits on Mike’s lap

 

She does appreciate me, though. She watches as I prepare her food and follows me until I set the dish down. She’ll throw me a look of “thanks” before digging in. 

 

So what have I learned from having these critters in our house?

 

Bee reminds me to respect the differences of those we don’t know well. To appreciate them for who they are and never write somebody off if they don't respond to your overtures of friendship immediately. And... this is the biggie...always be willing to give others a second chance.

 

Roxy was able to show me that even with all my talk about accepting others, I can be swayed by media to form unfounded opinions about those I don’t know. She has helped me see how bias and discrimination is shaped in the unsuspecting mind.

 

And Tiki? I’m not altogether sure what I’m learning from Tiki Kitty. Patience, I guess. I’m confident that with patience, one day she’ll trust me enough to let me pet her…on my lap

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

More Than a Bed and Breakfast

 More Than a Bed and Breakfast

 

“It’s just a bed and breakfast.” 

Not “just.” But I’ll get to that later.

 

When Mike found our house in Florida, I was still living in Ohio. I studied the pictures he sent, read and reread the details on the real estate listing, and researched the area.

 

I pulled up Google maps and traced the road leading to our lakeside home. Gospel Island Road. Interesting. The overhead view revealed a building near us labeled “The Lake House Bed and Breakfast.”

 


I knew nothing about it, but knowing it was there was a comfort. I have a large family. Surely, if everyone was to show up in Florida at the same time, we could book some of the kiddos at the B&B. It was at least a possibility.

 

Mike and I moved into our home in May. As it turns out, there is only one house between us and the B&B. Once we were settled in our new home, I started doing a bit of research on the place. I checked their Facebook page and tried to find out a bit of the history of the large house. I left it at that.

 

Then, one afternoon, on my way home from town, I spotted a man at the road in front of the long drive leading back to the bed and breakfast. I stopped, put the passenger window down and introduced myself as a new neighbor. The man, Billy, told me the owner was out of town but would be back in a few days. 

 

Sure enough, a few days later, Cathy Johnson, the current owner and manager of the B&B, invited us to the Lake House where she could give us a proper tour and share some of the stories the house holds within its walls.

 

The Lake House is more…much more… than a bed and breakfast. Oh, sure, weddings and parties and receptions and teas are held on the grounds or in the large gathering rooms. But the Lake House is actually a piece of the history of our town. It’s a telling of Old Florida and a bygone era. 


The place is furnished as much with interesting stories as it is with antiques.

 

The property was first purchased by a “St. Petersburg man of means” to be used as a fishing and hunting camp. Built in 1930, during the era of prohibition, the Lake House sports a hidden “speakeasy” and disguised compartments within the walls for the safe storage of money. There were, at that time, brothels on the property for uh… guest use. Eventually, those went by the wayside and the property turned into a proper B&B.

 

Babe Ruth flew into the resort via a seaplane, landing on the large lake known as Lake Henderson. He and Ed McMahon were frequent, well documented guests.

 

Ownership of the house changed both hands and purposes through the years. At one point, internationally recognized artists, Gary and Kathwren Jenkins, owned the property. They added a large studio and offered art classes on site. You could stay and paint under the tutorship of either or both of the artists.


Gary and Kathwren Jenkins

 

Cathy now owns and runs the establishment. Guests rest soundly in large, beautiful bedrooms, each with its own bath. They can meander down to the dining area for a delicious breakfast featuring freshly brewed coffee and tea, home baked sweets, an egg casserole or quiche, and fruit. 

 

As I walked through the house, the writer in me only wished the walls could talk. Mike and I enjoyed our visit with Cathy and Billy. They both take pride in the B&B. They make the stories of the house come alive. 

 

I couldn't help but envision a writing retreat there. 


My historical fiction friends would find ample fodder for their books. 


My friends who write romance novels would breathe in the romance in every room.


My friends who write time travel or fantasy? I can see you typing away at your keyboard challenging your readers with amazing twists and turns. 


My friends with a bent for mystery or suspense? The house offers the perfect setting and enough secrets within its walls to inspire.

 

As for the contemporary fiction I write?

 

Perhaps it’s the story of a woman who owns a B&B on Florida’s Nature Coast. A woman embracing the past but jumping into the future. The story of a woman with a curious author-type neighbor who lives a mere two doors down.


And now...your own personal tour:


Breakfast Areas

Relax in the Large Gathering Room





More Nooks and Crannies


 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Deck Of Integrity

A Deck of Integrity


When Mike and I married this past April, we purchased a house. We went through all of the steps for the purchase. We had it inspected thoroughly. There were a few items to address. Nothing major.


We moved into the house in May. We haven’t painted or changed much inside. Yet

 

The back of the house has a large screened porch. We enjoy sitting on the porch looking out over the backyard and the lake just beyond. Off of the screened porch is a deck.

 

Sunset on the Lake
A View From the Deck


The deck came with a ramp. I suppose it was built for someone who simply couldn’t climb steps or was relegated to a wheelchair. 


It doesn't matter. Our dog, Honeybee, thinks we built it just for her. Not dealing with steps to go outside has breathed new life into the fifteen-year-old “pup.”

 

The deck was made of wood. We wanted to replace the wood top with Trex, a composite material designed to last much longer than wood. We found a good contractor through our local hardware store, picked out the color we wanted, and set the date.

 

The first task facing our contractor was to remove the old decking boards making up the top surface. He and his assistant put in a full day deconstructing the existing deck. 

 

Midway through the process, he called us out to “see something.” One of the supports beneath the deck top…the board connecting the deck to the ramp… had rotted. Someone had attached a new two by four (2X4) to strengthen the connection. 

 

The problem? Of course the damage to the existing support was extensive. But the real problem was that whoever tried to fix it, did not use pressure treated wood. The 2X4 was the sort you might use for an interior wall in a house. Not for a deck intended to survive the elements. 


Reminds me of Jesus talking
about putting new cloth
on an old garment.


The experience made me think about how we often try to put a band-aide on our own flaws. 

 

It is a matter of integrity. 


My maternal grandfather once defined integrity to me as being the same on the outside as you are on the inside. While we may look fine on the outside, those internal problems weaken us. Left unaddressed, they compromise our integrity. 

 

Like the deck, we may look great. We may pass the “home inspection.” But if we are crumbling inside, the fa├žade will fail.

 

It isn’t that we should seek perfection. Not at all.


The simple truth is that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. 

 

One of the characteristics that drew me to both my sweet husband, Mike, and my late husband, Tom, is integrity. Neither man ever claimed to be perfect. 

 

Mike is who he says he is. He is a good, honest, and caring man. 


He has never suggested he knows everything. He admits to himself and others where he falls short. He isn’t interested in his “image.” He is interested in being the best person he can be with the limitations he possesses. 

 

I get it. I appreciate it. That defines a man of integrity.

 

I contend that when we acknowledge who we are with all our flaws, our strength may prove to be our weakness and our weakness may prove to be our strength. 


There is truth in that as long as you recognize it. (Actually, you can read a post on strengths and weaknesses HERE if you like.)

 

The bottom line is this: When we not only recognize our weaknesses, but also own up to them and use them in ways that benefit others, we can truly be recognized as people of integrity.

 

Oh…and by the way... the new deck is looking great.

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

But the Greatest of These is Love

 But The Greatest of These is Love


“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

 

These verses from the New Testament book of the Bible, 1 Corinthians, are often spoken at weddings. 


Long ago, a friend of mine suggested we would all do a better job of living side-by-side in this world if we replaced the word “love” with our own name. He said it would be a good reminder of who we are and how we measure up to living a God-filled life.

 

I tried it. “Becky is patient. Becky is kind. She does not envy, does not boast, is not proud…”

 

You get the idea. 

 

And if you know me, you know I am not always patient. I’m not always kind, though I try. I can’t say I’ve never held an envious thought or never boasted about something. And yes, I’ve been proud…though I contend that part is perfectly accepted and expected of grandparents.

 

I’ll not go through the entire list here. 

 

Still, the passage came to me this week unbidden. My brother-in-law, Tom’s brother, came for lunch. He hadn’t been to our new house. Ron knows Mike.  My whole Waters family knows him. They all grew up on the same country road in Florida.  

 


My thoughts were filled with the love my Waters family has displayed throughout the years. 

 

They are what my folks always referred to as “good people.”

 

Tom died in 2014. If you read last week’s blog post, you know that Mike and I started dating in 2022. When it became clear we would marry, I decided to call Tom’s siblings. 

 

Tom and I were married for forty-three years. I didn’t want my Waters family to read about my newfound relationship with Mike on Facebook.

 

I called Ron. I shared with him Mike and I were planning to marry. His response?

 

“Mike will be a good addition to our family.” ... a good addition to our family.

 

Tom’s older brother and his younger sister were also supportive.

 

When my mother and I came to Florida for the month of February, Mike came to the house the same day my sister-in-law, Christy, was there. 

 

“You remember Christy, right?” I asked Mike.

“Yes, I do,” Mike said. He headed Christy’s way, his hand extended.

 

Christy stood up. “A handshake won’t do,” she told him. “You’re family now.” And with that, Christy hugged my future husband. Love.

 

The entire family has been that way. A family who understands what love really looks like. 

 

Love isn’t an emotion.

Love isn’t a word. 

Love is… a way of living and accepting. 

 

Love includes it doesn’t exclude. 

 

That chapter in 1 Corinthians ends with this:

 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Peace of Woodstock

Peace of Woodstock

 

Woodstock. 

If you are of a certain age, you may remember the iconic music festival in upstate New York. 

 

I was one of those people oblivious to the whole thing. 

 

It was 1969. I had just turned sixteen. I was likely more interested in driving my Mustang and gearing up for my sophomore year in high school.

 

I heard about the concert after it happened. Roughly four hundred thousand young people descending on a dairy farm for a concert lasting four days made the news. 


Not that I watched the news. Still, it was big enough to garner discussion in most circles. Adults were appalled. The kids I knew thought it was “cool.”

 

I may not have offered an opinion at the time, but I was well aware through the years of the powerful impact this gathering of musicians had on our lives; both musically and politically. I knew many artists I later enjoyed got their start at Woodstock. 


 

A few weeks ago, an advertisement popped up on Mike’s computer. Peace of Woodstock it read. A concert commemorating the 1969 event was being held at the Crimson Sky Ranch, an outdoor event center. It is located less than an hour from where we live. A couple of calls as well as a few clicks on the computer and we had tickets for the evening event with Mike’s sister joining us for the drive. 


Karena and Sandee
We met up with Mike’s best friend, also named Mike, and his wife, Sandee. (That was a huge draw for me since I was anxious to meet them.)




 Sandee and "the Other Mike"

 

The five of us carried our camp chairs in bags over our shoulders, setting up in what turned out to be the front row. And yes…we dressed the part. Sort of. Mike and I wore our standard blue jeans and t-shirts. Mike bought me beads with a peace sign dangling from them. Mike’s sister and friends were a bit more into it than we were, but that’s okay.

 

Other attendees were totally into the part.

 

I recognized most of the songs but realized I really didn’t know all of the lyrics.


Some people sang along without missing a word. A few people danced. The music was only part of the experience. Most of us simply enjoyed the totality of the event. 

 

It was September 1, 2023. It was the day Jimmy Buffet died. 


The band, Peace of Woodstock, stepped away from their “Woodstock Music Only” commitment to sing a Jimmy Buffet song to honor the man.

 

Perhaps that simple act alone highlights the true meaning of music. 


Music is the language that transcends time and trends. And people. Music is, in truth, the universal language. 


It doesn’t matter if you wear flowers in your hair or even have any hair left at all. Music speaks to the heart and soul of people of all shapes and sizes; people of all nationalities and backgrounds.

 

Music brings people together…under the stars on a late summer evening. 


Woodstock Mike...and Me



"PEACE"


Your turn: How does music shape your life? 

 

 

 

 

  

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Pot of Gold

 That Elusive Pot of Gold 

 

In August of 2022, I drove from Ohio to Lutz, Florida for my high school reunion. It was deemed Chamberlain’s Class of 71’s “Fifty+One” reunion. (We had to forgo the fifty-year gathering due to COVID.) 

 

My mom came with me. She misses her Florida friends, so a few days before the reunion, we drove to Dunnellon to visit with her lifelong friend, Mary. 


On our way back to Lutz, the weather was rainy. The traffic on US Hwy 41 was crazy. We forged ahead but when I saw a sign pointing to I-75 I decided to take that alternate route and avoid all of the traffic on US 41 and the construction we knew existed just north of the Lake House where we were staying in Lutz. 

 

I couldn’t help but take pictures. The route was beautiful with a lake on one side, near the highway and lush greenery everywhere. But what made it photo worthy was the rainbow stretching over the highway like a colorful frame.


 


I managed to capture several shots on my phone without causing a wreck. We followed the highway to the interstate and made our way south.

 

The day before the reunion, I called Mike Tyler. Mike lived on the same road as the lake house. I had offered the Lake House as a venue for a potluck picnic on Sunday, the day after the reunion. Mike had offered to help me with the picnic. I hadn’t seen the man in years. We talked and made a plan. He offered to drive me to the reunion as well. I accepted.

 

The CHS Class Reunion was filled with laughter, good food, dancing, and great conversations. Mike and I now recognize that evening as our first date. 


This Sunday was the first anniversary of that first date.
So...the clothes we wore to the reunion,
 we wore to church on Sunday!

The picnic the next day was perfect. The icing on the cake? That came Monday morning when Mike came back to the Lake House to pick up his grills before I headed back to Ohio. He loaded the grills in his truck, turned to say good-bye, and…he kissed me.

 

Ours was a long distance relationship with him making several trips to Ohio. I already had a month long stay planned for Florida in February. Mike and I texted and talked every day. We started talking about marriage. We planned a wedding for April 2023 and started looking at where we would live. 

 

We decided to keep the Ohio house and find a home of our own in Florida. We agreed to move north of the Tampa Bay area. With our realtor, Jake Yates, we toured several houses. Finally, well out of the region we had been searching, Mike’s sister found a house on-line that held promise. 

 

Mike toured it with our realtor. Jake walked through with his video camera for me. We made an offer and purchased our home, closing on the deal a few weeks after our wedding. 

 

It is perfect for us. We love the town of Inverness. We love the house. We love the location. And it’s on a lake. It fits us. 

 

Our home feels like a gift.

 

Maybe it is. You see… that picture I took on Highway 44 a year ago? That’s the road I now travel to the grocery store. It’s the route we take to go to church. And that beautiful lake I spoke of as I crossed it in 2022? That’s the lake where we now live. 

 

Our home? Like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.


If you missed links about "Our Story" I've listed a few posts here you will want to read.


The Picnic 

And He Will Direct Your Path

The Proposal



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Tuesday is Laundry Day

 Tuesday is Laundry Day

 

Marrying a second time requires being open to change. Especially when you’ve lived alone for a period of time. When Mike and I married, Mike had been widowed over thirty years. It had been over eight years since my husband, Tom, had died. 

 

When you live alone, you get set in certain ways. New routines and the ebb and flow of life become established over time. Routines make us feel comfortable. Secure.

 

When you remarry, it means you have to learn or adapt to someone else’s likes or dislikes. It means negotiating what channel to watch on television or when to watch something. Sometimes it means deciding between wrestling and westerns. At least for him. I would choose a western over wrestling every time.

 

And…it means adjusting to “Tuesday is laundry day.” For years Mike has taken on the chore of doing the laundry each and every Tuesday. It is part of his routine.

 

Me? I always tended to do laundry on an “as needed” basis. When my three daughters were young and all living at home that was pretty much a daily operation.  As they grew I included them in the task. Still, laundry was always my job. Like it or not, I did all the laundry. 



When Mike and I married last April, he made it clear he does the laundry. On Tuesday. “Tuesday is laundry day,” he told me. Who am I to argue with someone intent on doing the task of washing, drying, folding, and putting clothes away?

 

I learned to make sure my dirty clothes were in the hamper for the main event. I didn’t need to sort or prewash. I wasn’t asked to move things from the washer to the dryer. I didn’t need to fold or hang or anything. I do pitch in with putting clothes away from time to time. He appreciates it when I do, but he doesn’t expect it.

 

It is as if I am living in a castle… like a princess in a fairy tale. 

I feel like a pampered woman.

 

It isn’t as though I sit around all day eating bonbons. If you read last week’s post on the Cuban dish picadillo, you may have gleaned from that entry I do most of the cooking. And the grocery shopping. I actually love to cook so that’s good. 

 

Mike mows outside. I run the vacuum inside. We didn’t fuss over that one. He loves his John Deere. I love my Roomba. 

 

There are other areas where we’ve had to adjust. Not many. In fact, we are alike in many ways. When I started writing this post, I asked Mike, “What are some of the adjustments we’ve had to make?”

 

He thought about it and mentioned the laundry and cooking. He said, “I don’t know, Babe, I think we get along a lot better than a lot of folks do who’ve been married longer than we have.”

 

I told him, “I agree.” But I’m not sure he heard me. He was heading back into the bedroom to put the clean clothes away.

 

Like I said, “Tuesday is laundry day.”