Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Home is Where the Lake Is

Home is Where the Lake Is

You, my readers, may remember a post in early April called “Sight Unseen.” In it I shared the story of how Mike, prior to our wedding, found a house for us on a lake in Florida. I was living in Ohio. Still, we put it under contract without me seeing it. If you missed that one, I’ll share the link at the end of this post. 


I have now seen the house.


Not only that, Mike and I have moved in…into a dream.

Note… Not a nightmare. A dream.


Not that it’s fancy.

Not that it’s a mansion.

It is “Just Right.” 


Okay, maybe that sounds a bit like Goldilocks, but the truth is the truth. This place is perfect for us.


We moved in slowly. One piece at a time. The dining room set my new sister-in-law offered us looks as if it was made for the space. Some chairs she donated to the cause appear as if they were designed for the small square table Mike already had. We put it in the breakfast nook. We bought new bedroom furniture along with a couple of sofas and televisions and moved in. 


We’re still learning about the house. Although we were initially told our lake is called Henderson, we have since learned we are situated on Lake Tsala Apopka. It is one in a chain of lakes called the Tsala Apopka Chain. After church on Sunday, we took a boat ride through several of the lakes, including Henderson. It is all unbelievably beautiful. I literally giggled and grinned the entire time. 


As I write, I am sitting outside, watching Mike cut the grass.

Calling this
"My Office with a View."


But it isn’t about the house or the furniture or the lake or even the view. 


It’s about that settled feeling you experience when you know you are “home.” 

That feeling of rest opposed to restlessness.

That breathing of fresh air sprinkled with sunshine.


Home is where you find peace in a world filled with pressure and tension, and chaos. It is…or always should be…that safe haven you crave when everyone else seems to be going crazy.


And for me? Home is sitting outside, looking out over the lake, and writing my blog. The American flag near our dock sways with the lakeside wind.  The Spanish moss, hanging from tree branches canopying the lawn, moves like delicate gray lace in the gentle breeze. 

Spanish Moss in the Magnolias


Mike is still mowing. (Probably because he likes driving his new lawn tractor.)


Anyone can buy a house. A house is brick and mortar. 


A home is created when it is furnished with love and peacefulness… and a little Spanish moss swaying in the magnolia trees by the lake. 


Well, a guy can only mow so much....


To read how Mike bought the house without me first seeing it, CLICK HERE



Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Pickup Truck

 The Pickup Truck

My husband, Mike, drives a big pickup truck. For me, it’s a climb to get into the front seat. The make and model?  A Ford F-250 4X4 (whatever that means…) and it’s a diesel. 


That truck can apparently haul anything we need to haul. It is a great vehicle.


The truck was a blessing the time Mike came to see me in Ohio and it snowed. Mike was born and raised in Florida where he has never had to drive in snow. Still, I climbed in the truck beside him and buckled up without a thought that this could be a challenge for a Florida boy. It wasn’t. He drove through the white stuff falling down and accumulating all around us without the least concern. 


Later, when I asked why it didn’t bother him, he said if the snow started to get deep he’d just put it in “4-wheel drive high” (whatever that means…) and it could handle it.


After our wedding in April, we left Ohio in that truck and headed for Florida. We stayed a couple of days at Mike’s house before we hitched up the boat and headed to Islamorada in the Keys for our honeymoon. 


Islamorada is small. The truck is big.


Still, even when I wasn’t sure we would be able to find a parking place at a restaurant or shop, Mike easily maneuvered the vehicle into a space. I continue to marvel at his driving skill.


Once we were back in Tampa, Mike offered to let me drive his truck. I declined.

I was nervous. 


I know men can be protective of their trucks. 


Then one day, I needed to pick something up from the store. There is a Target department store about a half-mile away from Mike’s house. Mike was busy.


“Take the truck,” he told me.

“But what if something happens to it?”

“It’s a truck,” he said.


I know a half mile on a country road doesn’t seem like much, but that’s a mile round trip with a stop sign and cross traffic with which to contend. 


Okay, I admit, there usually isn’t much cross traffic at that one intersection in the middle of the morning, but it doesn’t mean that on the one day I drive the pick-up there wouldn’t be a parade going through or a covey of bicyclists or even, worse yet, someone waiting to turn onto my road while I’m being all nice and waiting patiently. They will try to squeeze to pass me sitting in that big truck. I could see it all play out in my mind.


The possibilities for failure seemed endless. 


I breathed deep and girded myself for the journey. The truck is tall and wide and big. The drive turned out to be a piece of cake. I made it to Target and back without incident. (Of course I parked in the emptiest part of the lot and occupied two spaces…but parking is another story for another time.)


“I am woman. Hear me roar!” I said to myself as I pulled back into our driveway.


I lived on that small victory for a long time, but knew my resolve had dwindled when it became apparent I needed to drive to the new home we purchased.




We were expecting a furniture delivery at the very time Mike and his son, Shawn, would be at Mike’s house loading a small trailer with some of our things to bring to our new residence. 


Our new house is NOT around the corner. Our new house is not a half-mile away


Our new place, the one we are calling “home,” is close to sixty miles from our current place. The old highway I had to travel is US Highway 41. The road makes its way through a few small towns as you drive north. The day before the drive, Mike pointed out places where the speed limit changes, roads merge, and the some of the confusing parts of the drive. To top it off, there is at least one major stretch of the road under major construction.


Me? I listened carefully and prayed intensely.


The next morning, after another heavy dose of prayer for God’s protection, I readied myself for the journey. 


“Are you sure about this?” I asked. “What if something happens to the truck?”

“It’s a truck,” he answered. “You’ll be fine.” 


Good answer. 


I hopped in the truck and headed off.  Well…I didn’t exactly hop…though I am getting better at climbing in on a single bound. The timing was good. I made my way into the next county and the next. The small towns, lane changes, and construction moved from in front of me into my rearview mirror. 


The big surprise? That came when I realized I was no longer checking the side mirrors every few minutes to make sure I was in my lane. I was passing other cars when I needed to pass and never got in anyone else’s way. Nobody honked or shook a fist at me.


I felt as if I “belonged” in that F250 4X4… whatever that means.













Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Lake Rules

 Lake Rules


Mike and I recently purchased a house. It is our first home together. It’s pretty exciting. It's on a huge lake. Some of my readers may remember the post where I shared that we purchased the house without me seeing it. (If you missed that one, click HERE.) 


It’s true. The final walk through before signing our names on the bottom line was the first time I saw the house in person. Inside, that is. 

We did manage to do a “drive by” when we came to Florida after the wedding and were able to sneak a peak in the backyard on another day. Shhh…not sure we were supposed to do that but the owner had moved out so we took a chance.

View From the Water


I saw the actual inside of the house the day before closing. As of this writing, we have not yet moved in…but we’re heading in that direction. I’ll likely share some photos or stories from the lake house at that point.


For this week's post I wanted to share some observations about our new residence and our very connected life.


We married and returned to Florida a couple of weeks before my birthday. We did the drive by a couple of days after the wedding and just a few days before leaving for our honeymoon on Islamorada in the Florida Keys.


Knowing how excited I was about this new chapter of our lives, on my birthday, my sister-in-law gave me a wood wall hanging for our new home. Each slat spells out a specific “rule” for the lake.


Rule #1 Go Barefoot

            I’ve got this one. Barefoot is my go-to both inside and out.


Rule#2 Read a Book

            Not a bad idea. I love to read though perhaps I should be directing more attention to writing one! Nah…we’re talking about dangling those bare feet off the dock with a sweet book to read under the spring sun. I’m in.


Rule #3 Jump Off the Dock

            Hmm…I may wait for summer for this one. But I’m sure to swim in the lake. It is clear and beautiful. While on our inspection tour, Mike spotted a fourteen or fifteen inch bass lazily making its way through the water at the end of the dock. I’m sure that ol’ fish will share his swimming hole with us.


Rule #4 Catch Fireflies

            Been there. Done that. But I know of eight grandchildren…or at least six of the  eight grands who might still be interested in seeing how many fireflies they can catch.


Rule #5 Watch the Sunset

            This one should be spectacular! The back of our house faces west. I can hardly wait.

Our first piece of "art" for the house.
Thank you, Karen.


Rule #6 Go Fishing

            I’m looking forward to this one. Several weeks before our wedding, Mike sent me a picture of the rods and reels he ordered for me. It’s been a while since I fished, but I’ll be alongside one of the best fishermen I know…my husband. (He actually fished several state tournaments and could have decided to make that his life’s work had he wanted to do so.)


Rule #7 Build a Bonfire

            Easy-Peasy. Especially since we have some brush and wood to clear up in the backyard. But a bonfire isn’t just about clearing the land. It’s about gathering in the evening after a satisfying day on the water, roasting marshmallows and sharing stories.


Rule #8 Make Memories

            This one is my favorite. This new phase of my life…this unexpected turn to share a life with this incredible man…is in itself a treasure. Breathing the evening air by the water, waking up to the sound of the birds, playing and working side-by-side at our new home…what else could you want? 


Make memories? Absolutely. Memories are the treasure chest of a life well lived

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

A Look in the Rearview Mirror

A Look in the Rearview Mirror

Yield. That was my word for 2023. Even as I typed it back in January, I didn’t have a full understanding of what it would mean to me this year. (If you want to view that initial post, click HERE.)


Here is part of what I wrote: 


“… YIELD means … trusting God with my life. Fully. Completely. It means giving up what I want for what He intends for me.”


I have a verse from the Bible I wrote out last year and placed on my kitchen counter. It is all about yielding.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.

Proverbs 3:5


Sometimes you have to take a look back
before you can make that Right Turn.

This week I decided it was time to check in on how that word is playing out for me. I went back to the January 4th post. After reading it, I read a few previous posts on my blog. The one that caught my attention…the one that made me laugh out loud was a post from August 24, 2022…just a few days before my high school reunion. 


In that post, I basically conceded that though I always considered myself a Florida girl, my true home was in Ohio. 


That was before Mike. Before he drove me to the reunion. Before he helped me with the post-reunion potluck picnic. Before we confessed our love for each other. Long before we married and… moved back to Florida. 


Yes, Florida is my home.


By January, when I sought a word to guide me through the year, I had already sought God’s guidance on my future with Mike. I want my life to be aligned with all God wants for me and of me. Yet, when I latched onto the word YIELD, I wasn’t consciously considering my personal life. More my writing life.


How silly of me to think I am so divided. My writing and my personal experiences intersect on a regular basis.


I can honestly say that I am daily yielding to God’s will in my personal life. I pray about it every morning and with almost every daily decision. But my writing life is another story. I keep my blog going, but what about other writing I need to do?


At last count I have at least ten novels in the works. That’s ridiculous. A few are “finished” but now, since I’ve learned more and grown as an author, I know they need to be revised. Some need a complete overhaul.


I tell myself I have a lot on my plate. A new husband, a new house to settle, finding a new church in a new town, well…you get the idea.


The truth is simple. I refuse to yield. I resist sitting down and tackling the hefty job of rewriting and revising. I have to face it…those ten books have been on my plate for long time. And…I have a wonderful family encouraging me, a husband who delights in my writing, and the time to write. 


I am coming to understand I am basically a lazy person. (Even as I type this, Mike is doing the laundry and vacuuming the floor!) 


It is May. I will honor my commitment to the word YIELD. I will earnestly pray for God’s guidance in those stories. I’m asking you, my readers to hold me to it. 

It occurs to me that you have to YIELD before you make the "right turn"...in everything.


So how about you? Did you choose a word for the year? How is it panning out for you? I’d love to hear from you and encourage you with your word.





Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Birthday Candles

 Birthday Candles


I had a twinge in my shoulder the other day. 

“I wonder what caused that,” I said to Mike.

“Birthday candles,” he replied with a grin.


He’s probably right. We are the same age. Almost. His birthday is in February and mine is in May. We married in April so he could always say he married a younger woman. At least that’s the story.


This week I celebrated my birthday and caught up with him. He may tease me about the growing number of birthday candles, but he has a loving heart. 

Mike and my late husband, Tom, were childhood friends. He knew Tom well. He also knows me. This year, my sweet Michael surprised me for my birthday in a most tender way.


Some of my readers will remember the story of the palm tree. A few weeks after Tom’s sudden death in 2014, my oldest daughter and I attended an event called “Grieving Through the Holidays.” 


It was much too early for us to wrap our heads around the grief we experienced. We were about to leave when a volunteer from the church caught up with us. 


“May I pray with you?” she asked. The woman prayed words of comfort over us and asked God to bring to mind the image of a palm tree when the pain was great or when we felt torn up inside. We lived in Ohio so the image of a palm tree seemed unlikely. Shows what we know. If you want to read how that has played out, click HERE


Those palm trees have shown up everywhere. But the message has changed from one of comfort to one of strength. Throughout it all, is the image of a “deep-rooted faith…a trust in God that is flexible enough to bend and not break during the storms of life.” The palm tree has morphed into a sign of strength and beauty.


When Mike gave me a charm bracelet for Christmas, it had as its centerpiece… a palm tree.


“Did he know?” my youngest daughter asked when she came by that day.

He didn’t, but when she left, I shared the story with him. 


Mike was surprised, but embraced the moment. I wear the bracelet every day. It is beautiful. 

A couple of days before my birthday, Mike slipped away to run an errand. The errand was real, but he used the time to return to the jewelry store where he bought my bracelet. 


Mike walked in and handed me a bud vase with three beautiful roses. “Those aren’t for your birthday,” he said. “Those are just because I love you.” He then handed me a card. “That is for your birthday.”


“Should I open it?” I asked. My birthday was still a couple of days away.


“It says, ‘For My Wife’,” he said with a grin. My wife… The first birthday card of it’s kind.


I read the card carefully, knowing he had spent time selecting just the right one and thinking through the personal message accompanying his signature. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes. He is so sweet. 


But the best was yet to come. I looked up after reading the card. Mike had a gift in his hand. A small box wrapped in gold paper and tied with a creamy satin ribbon. It was from the same store as my bracelet. 


I drew in a deep breath and pulled at the ribbon.


The gold chain on the necklace matches the bracelet perfectly. And hanging from it? You guessed it… a beautiful palm tree. 


What was first intended as an image wherein to find comfort, that palm tree came to represent a deeply rooted faith…a source of trust. 


And now? Now the palm tree represents a full, beautiful circle of life. A connected life of comfort and care; of faith and trust; of love and beauty.