The Celebration Will Continue…..

The gathering has commenced for my father’s 90th birthday, but we did have time for a quiet lunch of catfish and appropriate fixings before I headed to the airport to collect my sister and her husband. My brother and his wife drove up to arrive at virtually the same moment. This is the first time in many years – in fact, perhaps since my mother’s funeral, that all three of us have been at the table with Daddy. There have often been 2 of the 3, but not all together. It was chattering dinner as to be expected.

The extended families of my stepmother who mostly live in the area will pour in this afternoon for cake and that will swell the crowd to around thirty, although probably not everyone at one time. I believe that my two uncles will choose to come at a later date when it will be calmer. Telephone calls came in all day on Thursday and cards line the shelf of the hutch in the kitchen.

As expected, we are gleaning a few stories that I hadn’t heard before – my grandfather spent some time as a commercial fisherman on the rivers there in Southern Arkansas. By the way, for those who assume that Arkansas is only the Ozarks, Southeast Arkansas is a large rice producer. Yes, flat and wet. My grandfather leased much of his land for this as well as cotton. The big garden and chickens were mostly for family use and the hogs and cattle were minimal sales combined with freezing meat for family use. There is a reason that none of the four boys wanted to inherit the family farm. My father did choose forestry, but tree farming of pine seedlings was a small portion of his career and that was far removed from the days of hoeing cotton.

When Past, Present, and Future Blend……

Poignant Content Alert. At certain stages and points in your life it is difficult to not look back, selecting certain events, people, experiences, knowing that for good or bad, these are a part of what has made you, you. I know a few people who cavalierly say they never think of the past, and perhaps they don’t. I was teased a bit when I wanted the theme of this blog to be Living Forward, Looking Back, yet I think that for so many of us, that is the way we approach life. I leave in a couple of hours to fly back to Louisiana for my father’s 90th birthday, and it will be one of the moments where past, present, and future blend together. My father has now lived longer than any other member of his direct family, yet his memory is degrading. It’s still manageable, but for how long is difficult to say.

We are gathering as a family, my sister, brother, and their spouses – my hubby can’t be with us. We suspect this is the last time that we will all be together where we can celebrate in this manner, although there is the chance that my father will stabilize and the decline will achieve a somewhat steady state. That is not statistically likely, although it does happen. What we will be able to do is reminisce about those things that he wants to discuss and I will try to capture a number of the stories that he tells of his youth. Yes, it was a one-room school house in rural Arkansas and yes, they walked even though it wasn’t uphill both ways.

I don’t know if either of his younger brothers will come down – the oldest passed away a year and a half ago. My uncles may wait for a bit, so it can be “just the boys” together. I called my aunt on my mother’s side last night to let her know that we wouldn’t be driving down to visit as we usually do – my father already said he didn’t think he could do that as well as handle all the hub-bub of the birthday celebration planned for Saturday. That will be a fairly low-key event in the sense of we’re just doing cake and ice cream at the house, but with the extended family of four generations that will be present, that makes for around 30 people who will be in and out.

We will celebrate and laugh and no doubt bring up a few stories that some of us would rather forget – that little fire in the kitchen from a science experiment that was a very small, easily extinguished fire – and such things. It will be a good day and how many come after that, we can neither know, nor worry about. This will indeed be a time to “live in the present”.





Another Quickie Pasta Sauce….

This is travel related only in the sense of what we learned about pasta and sauces when we lived for eighteen months in the village of Tirrenia in Tuscany. (By the way, that inspired the short story Painted Cabanas if you want a quick read.) We were no strangers to pasta, or so we thought. Food in Italy is highly regional, to include the type of pasta and certainly the sauces. Yes, Bolognese and pomodore (what we think of as marinara) can be found almost everywhere, but pesto is more common around Genoa than in other places and if you see marinara on the menu, the odds are it will be a tomato-based sauce with clams or mussels. The other thing we learned was that with the exception of Bolognese, sauces are cooked very quickly – they do not simmer for hours. In fact, most of them cook in about fifteen minutes. The secret to how delicious they are is high quality olive oil and fresh ingredients (although canned or boxed tomatoes count as “fresh”).

A sauce fairly limited to our area was matriciana and it is basically onion, garlic, prosciutto, tomatoes, herbs, and red wine. Ready?

12 slices of prosciutto, julienned, one tablespoon olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, half a medium onion, sliced, one can diced or chopped tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon basil (fresh if you can), 1/4 cup red wine, salt and pepper to taste. Bring a skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil to brown the prosciutto for 5-6 minutes until it crisps a bit. Remove it to a plate. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2-4 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, wine, herbs and seasoning. Stir thoroughly, then stir the prosciutto in. Cook for another 5-6 minutes until the liquid is cooked down. You will probably need to stir every 1-2 minutes to keep the prosciutto from sticking. Serve over your favorite pasta. This makes enough sauce for 2 people. You can also add pepperoni and/or hard salami if you like to give it more depth. If so, julienne about 12 slices of pepperoni and 6 of salami that you cook at the same time as the prosciutto.


What You Say Now……

Serious Content Alert! I had another conversation recently with a friend who is bordering on exhaustion, the example of the sandwich generation who, in this case, is caught between caring for an aging parent and grandchildren. Either role would be tiring, both together bring about a level of emotional and physical drain that is daunting. The irony, as is so often the case, is that the aging parent,  when having been through this with her own parents, had talked about how difficult it was and how she wouldn’t do this to her children. Except this is precisely what she is doing. There are a number of studies that capture this dynamic and what it comes down to is relatively simple. although emotionally complex when you are the one going it through it. It is why I chose, “This Isn’t Supposed To Happen To Me” as the title for Part I of, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid. No matter how intelligent a person is, there is a strong tendency to believe that they will never become that querulous, demanding, confused individual who truly needs to be in assisted living. In your fifties, sixties, and seventies if you are fully functional, you just can’t imagine that your body and mind will betray you, even if you are coping with it as the caregiver and watching it happen to someone else.

The main points to Your Room are: 1) that you could be lucky, but there is no way to know how your latter years will be; 2) if you refuse to make plans and the worst happens, then what you have done is forced others to bear the burden that you didn’t intend to, and 3) you force others to make decisions for you. These are uncomfortable things to think about, and to plan for, and there is nothing that makes them easy. But, and here is the very big but, not planning doesn’t cause it to not happen. What I urge in the book, what I urge to everyone when I do presentations is this. Find out what resources are available, what resources you have, and make a plan for if the worse happens. Seek out what facilities or at home assistance is available, think through if you might have to relocate. Recognize that if you have more than one child, they may not be able/willing to share equal portions of caring for you. What to do if you don’t have children is too complicated to get into, but I do cover it in the book.

Most of all, be honest with yourself now, while you can, and it’s okay to hope you never have to deal with this. Maybe you won’t, but that’s not a good way to bet. Staying at home instead of going into assisted living is sometimes a better option (or sometimes the only option), and if so, build some relief for your caregiver into the plan. It will become important.


You Just Never Know…..

Re-furnished Rooms Quality Inn, Florida City

Re-furnished Rooms Quality Inn, Florida City

Last week as part of the Chamber of Commerce, we attended the unveiling of the refurbished Quality Inn and Travelodge on Highway 1 S in what is actually Florida City. You don’t often notice them because they are tucked back off the road behind the gas stations and the Denny’s and McDonalds. While these are more economical options for lodging, the refitting they have done is really quite nice. Both properties are owned and managed by the same individuals and the actual property managers were there to walk everyone around and answer questions. The Quality Inn has something different which are some rooms that have double king-size beds. That is correct. Granted, it doesn’t leave a lot of extra space to move around it, but it isn’t cramped either. Both motels have free wi-fi, breakfast and a Tiki Hut. In fact, small sitting areas are scattered around the properties and even though neither has scenic views, they are attractively arranged. I can’t personally speak for the comfort or service since we haven’t stayed there, but I will say that if you are looking for lodging for visitors, you may very well want to stop by and see what they have.

One of the points that we as a community are trying to emphasize in gaining tourism market share is that we are a great alternative to the Upper Keys when those places are booked). Additionally, and this is where people can help spread the word for those who are not familiar with the area, if someone lands in either Miami or Fort Lauderdale mid-afternoon and plans to head to the Middle or Lower Keys, they tend to think they can land, grab bags, and be at their destination in a couple of hours. That is a logical conclusion in looking at the distance on a map. Getting luggage, rental car, and battling traffic until hitting the Overseas Highway is not something people think about. What we want to promote is: Why stress with trying to make it to the Middle or Lower Keys on your day of arrival? Plan your first afternoon and night here in Homestead or Florida City. Check in, relax, pop out to one of National Parks if you have time or stroll around the historic district, and have a nice dinner. Get up the next morning whenever you’re ready, have breakfast and leisurely continue on the trip. Life will be simpler.

One of small seating areas, Travel Lodge Florida City

One of small seating areas, Travel Lodge Florida City


A Lovely Quilt and More…..

Quilt to be Raffled in Support of Homestead Town Hall Museum.

Quilt to be Raffled in Support of Homestead Town Hall Museum.

Among the activities that I volunteer with (no, this isn’t about my reluctance in saying “no”), is the Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum. It, too, is part of the Homestead Center for the Arts that I often post about. (http://homesteadcenterforthe Housed in the first municipal building (1917) after Homestead was officially incorporated in 1913, the museum is small, but packed with wonderful photographs, memorabilia, books, and information about the area’s short, yet rich history. There is no admission charge and like many small museums, funding is always tight.

For the first time in a very long time, we will be having a fund raiser and that is a raffle for a gorgeous quilt and pair of matching pillow cases. One of the board members has a friend in Illinois who is a quilter and she offered to create one as a suggestion for a fundraiser. What makes this quilt so unique is that it incorporates historic images from these incredible linen postcards that were done by Jack Levy, artist and photographer. Mr. Levy has been a chronicler of Homestead and the area history for decades and he generously gave permission for his images to be used. The talented quilter then took some of those images and transferred them to fabric to use as squares bordering the central part of the quilt.

Raffle tickets go on sale Thursday, September 25th at a kick-off reception at the Town Hall Museum from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 each or $20 for 5 tickets. They will be sold until around noon on Friday, December 5th. The drawing will be held as part of the annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Children’s Concert in Losner Park.

The Town Hall Museum at 41 N. Krome Avenue, is open Tues-Sat from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Please consider dropping by and helping out this cause or you can order tickets by mail from Homestead Town Hall Museum, Attn: Quilt Raffle, 41 N. Krome Ave, Homestead, FL 33030. It would also be nice to use social media to spread the word.

Also, we are still looking for 4-6 more volunteers to join our Docent Program. The commitment is for 4 hours a week, but not more than once a week and as part of the program, docents have the opportunity for some behind-the-scenes access to certain collections that we can’t display just yet.

Tending the Grave…..

Serious Content Alert. One of the reasons that I went to Maine last week was because I wanted to make arrangements for special care for the Kimball family plots in the small cemetery where generations of Kimballs were laid to rest. While our son and his wife in general are able to go by once a year, that doesn’t always hold true and I wanted to have something in place for those times when they couldn’t take care of it. In the course of making these arrangements, there was a discussion about a gentleman (and perhaps also his wife) who take it up on themselves each year to put out the small American flags at the site of each veteran. This is a practice in many places and it brought to mind what a touching gesture it is for people who are willing to devote their effort and time.

In fact, there is a national organization, Wreaths Across America, ( that was established in such a way. Larger in scope than the placement of flags, they provide wreaths and this is from their website:

“Our mission, Remember, Honor, Teach, is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies a specified Saturday in December at Arlington, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.  We also organize a week of events including international veteran’s tributes, ceremonies at State Houses and a week-long “Veteran’s Parade” between Maine and Virginia where we stop along the way to spread our message about the importance of remembering our fallen heroes, honoring those who serve, and teaching our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families to preserve our freedoms.

This week of events is made possible by thousands of volunteers who organize local ceremonies, raise funds to sponsor wreaths, and participate in the events. We receive no government funding. The cost of our programs is paid by individual wreaths sponsors, corporate donorsand volunteer truckers.

We also coordinate veteran services and recognition through a variety of programs, and provide schools with teaching aides for projects throughout the year.”

In our area, the Military Motorcycle Club has taken this on and there is a moving ceremony that they conduct with the American Legion Post #43 on the designated Saturday in December (usually the first or second Saturday) They accept donations throughout the year, so if this happens to be something that you are interested in, you can go onto the website and learn more.


Change of Seasons….

During my quick trip to Maine last week, the leaves had not yet begun to change and it was quite pleasant and sunny. That 46 degree morning was a bit of a startle, but the rental car had heated seats and my first meeting was at a Dunkin Donuts so it wasn’t a real issue. Next month when I go to Louisiana and then later to Northern Virginia, I anticipate seeing actual Fall.

The thing is that notwithstanding the fact that I am fine with hot weather, what we don’t get in South Florida are the beautiful colors and the crispness that comes with those gorgeous autumn days you have in cooler climates. You know the kind that I mean; that clear blue of the sky, the sun slanting through gold, yellow, orange, and red leaves that haven’t fallen yet. In early mornings, there might be the curl of wood smoke coming from chimneys. There is a brightness to the days like that you can’t find at any other time of year. And yes, for me, slipping on a sweater, or putting a wrap around my shoulders, taking a book out onto the porch or deck with a favorite beverage and relaxing is a memory that I hold dear no matter where it is that I live now.

So, how about it? What are your favorite fall memories, places, events?

It Warms My Heart (So to Speak)……

Okay, this is an expression that is almost oxymoronic since I am actually posting about having our air conditioner repaired. The “warm my heart” part though is that I am in the office and the AC unit is next to me. The young lady who is performing as the lead technician is accompanied by an older technician and it appears to be an on-going check and balance repair. This delights me for two reasons. For those who may not be aware, my military career was split between logistics, administration, and training. The logistics (unlike in the civilian world where that mostly means transportation) was heavily weighted in the initial years toward maintenance of military vehicles and weapons systems. However, that also included power generation and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning.) The Army has lots of different kinds of equipment. So, as the years progressed and more young women came into the technical services, it was always nice to see them entering these fields and exceling.

The second reason is that as I have posted before, while I believe in college education, I see too many people who allowed that goal to override the reality of the value of the trades and not accept that college isn’t for everyone. I don’t have the faintest idea of what this young lady’s aspirations are and perhaps she plans to ultimately go to college, or maybe she’s enrolled and only working part time. What I do know is that she seems to knowledgeable and confident and is definitely professional in bearing and appearance.

And as I have stated before, if you want true empowerment for women, it is about choice. While that is sometimes viewed as choosing between career and family, it equally applies to a choice of profession such as going into the technical trades. The women who enter into automotive repair, construction, electrician, HVAC, plumbing, or any of those very traditionally male fields are to be applauded for their willingness to take on jobs that “girls aren’t good at”.

I’ve waited to post this, and several hours later, the house is comfortably cool and while the repairs weren’t cheap, at least we didn’t have to replace the unit.

A Place Unplugged…..

Garden at Alewives B&B

Garden at Alewives B&B

In today’s seemingly always hectic environment with multi-tasking the norm, there are still people who seek out the “unplugged” version of travel. I found the Alewives and Ales Bed and Breakfast in Damariscotta, Maine to be such a place. (

There are actually no hotels/motels in Damariscotta, but there are four B&Bs that I know of and probably a couple that I am not familiar with. I decided to stay at Alewives this time. It is tucked into a residential neighborhood, an old Federal home converted into a B&B and only a few minutes drive from Main Street. It is within easy walking distance as far as distance goes, but there seemed to be a shortage of sidewalks. However, I wasn’t there long enough to really explore than option. It would certainly be a quick bicycle ride.

The charms of the house are the garden, the authenticity, the hospitality, and the breakfast was excellent. I don’t know if there was a television in any of the rooms, and while I didn’t ask about Wi-Fi, I would be surprised if there was one. The particular room I was in was not set up with a workspace. This is the type of B&B where you enjoy your breakfast and then set out for a day of whatever, coming back in time to relax in the setting. Or maybe you prefer early morning relaxation and then heading out. I didn’t have time to look for birds, but with the careful tending of the grounds that was apparent, I would think both birds and butterflies would be daily visitors.