Florida and its amazing technicolor dreamcoat

Even more than the sunshine, our friends south of the Mason Dixon line seem to be hording the crayons this time of year.

With mango tango sunrises, mountain meadow water, cerulean skies and jungle green palm trees places like Florida wrap their mitts around the 120 count box, while up here in the Midwest, we’re stuck with a couple fat stubs — white, black and gray.

That’s why a quick trip to Florida can be such a feast for the eyes. We pale Midwesterners emerge from southbound planes and cars squinting like Cool Hand Luke after 30 days in the box.

“The light! The light!”

We stumble around a little, slap on a thick layer of sunscreen, and venture forth.

That’s what I did anyway.

Following a morning rain,  I grabbed my camera on our last day in Florida and went for a walk, giddy with the opportunity to document all of that color reflected in warm rain puddles.

I couldn’t bring the crayons home, though it’s always miraculous when the colors slowly find their way back to Wisconsin.

But, I did score a picture or two and, on dull, gray afternoons, I’ll close my eyes, draw back the curtain, to see for certain what I thought I knew…Florida and its amazing technicolor dreamcoat.

Palm trees reflection

I loved the reflection of the palm trees in the rain puddle. Can you spot me in this photo?

Racing reflection

This racing themed home, with its fancy gate, also made a cool reflection in the rain puddle.

Reflection in an alley

That’s the beach on the far side of this alley. I just thought the perspective and the puddle were cool.

Reflection in orange

An amazing technicolor dreamcoat of a house.

Short's Beach

I loved this colorful direction sign on the beach and the fact that this raft rested near it. Check out the boats in the distance too. I liked the whole composition of this frame.

Sunrise in Florida

I sat on an empty beach one morning shooting the sunrise. I’ve seen better sunrise pictures (mostly from my brother in-law Chip) but I did like the boat on the horizon and the glorious color of the sky.

The grandma and the kite

And, speaking on colors, I enjoyed watching this grandma and her twin granddaughters fly this colorful kite on the beach after the rain.

The Peridot Project: Hope rests in shadows

The first time I listened to “Lonely Work”, a brand new single by a branded new musical group, I found the juxtaposition of sweet music and sad lyrics intriguing. Unrequited love hurts my heart, yet there I was humming along.

Each time I listened, though, I heard more optimism woven into the compelling harmonies and score. I loved the image of a shadow on a shoe, as described in the lyrics.

So, asked by one of the band’s founders and lead singers, Hillary Reynolds, to create a reflection, I wrote the following piece:

Hopes rests in shadows.

It retreats, sometimes, from desperation’s scalding glare, gathers itself under the cool shade of sturdy trees, regroups in quiet corners among cracker crumbs and lint.

It’s there, though, in the rings left by half-empty glasses and pencil sketchings of half-baked dreams. Hope lives in unpretentious places – wine-soaked corks, dull keyboards, worn running shoes.

Strum-soothed, stride-tended, sweat-nursed, lyric-healed, hope feeds on common things like effort and risk.

The search for hope can be lonely, just like the search for love. You have to approach them honestly, with your father’s open heart and your grandma’s fearless soul.

Hope and love trade leads in life’s sweetest dance, bowing low to beckon. You just have to be brave enough to step out on the floor.

I wonder what you think when you listen to the song. Does it conjure up images of your first love? Do you think about how contagious love is? Have you ever been lonely in love?

Check out Peridot, a group that grew from the Hillary Reynolds Band, featuring Hillary and fellow Berklee College of Music graduate Trevor Jarvis.  Here’s a link to Lonely Work. Give it a listen or four and let us know what you think.

blurry Hillary

Here’s a nice, blurry action shot of Hillary and Trevor when they were the Hillary Reynolds Band.

Mile of Music 117

We caught up with Hillary at Mile of Music this year.

Hope Rests in Shadows

Art saved the world

Best stinkin’ party in town

Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?

We train all year for this event, alternating cardio, weight and cartography workouts.  We pack with precision. Wicking clothes. Check! Running shoes. Check! Sunblock. Check!

On the big day, we hit the road early, well before sunrise, fielding phone calls from various family members, concerned about our progress.

My mother’s birthday has become an endurance extravaganza. As I’ve written about before, the woman, born in the shadow of Coney Island, loves amusement parks more than anyone we know. She’s been celebrating her birthday at Disney World for the past 17 years.

This year, she met us in the parking lot, handed us rain ponchos she “keeps in her car for just these occasions” and said, “Let’s go!” We hit two parks, five rides, and three shows, all before we even checked into our hotel.

In the face of unrelenting rain, my mother charged on. My Fitbit kept sending me congratulatory messages about new step badges I’d achieved. Halfway through the day I’d earned a Hiking Boot, Trail Shoe, Classics, High Tops, and Urban Boot badges. I have no idea what that means, but I know I earned them in the pouring rain trotting after my 77-year old mother.

We exited Animal Kingdom and made our way to the buses, intending to head back to Epcot for a late lunch at Mom’s favorite French restaurant.

I jogged ahead as I was anxious to drag my drenched butt to dry land. “Will the bus to Epcot be here soon?” I panted.

“‘Bout 20 minutes,” the park employee said. “You catch it on the other side.”

Thankfully, mom caught up

“Here’s what we’ll do,” she said decisively. “We take the Boardwalk bus. We get off, walk across the bridge and take the back entrance into Epcot.”

We did as told and arrived at our reservation 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

We’ll never take for granted the privilege of scurrying along in Grandma Peggy’s wake. I’d write more, but it’s only day two of our celebration, she’s waiting in the lobby and Splash Mountain calls..


We paused briefly during our sprint through the parks, appropriately in front of the Tree of Life.




And rides upon the storm…

“God moves in a mysterious way. His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.”

William Cowper 1779

I thought about that quote as I sat at the 10:30 mass last Sunday at St. Pius.

Pure laziness had brought us to this mass. We normally attend the 9:00 a.m. mass at St. Therese but decided to linger a little while over our pancakes and mosey over to a later service at a neighboring parish.

As it happened, an adventurous pilgrimage also delivered three busloads of teenagers to this particular mass, and a cool call to service brought a delightful young family of missionaries as well.

I spent a good part of the mass looking around in wonder and thanking God that all of us had converged.

Later, I spoke to Daniel Aragon, one of the chaperones on the Green Bay Diocese March for Life road trip that spent nearly 24 hours stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He also spoke of the God’s mysterious ways.

“Either I didn’t read God’s email, or He didn’t tell us, but I think maybe God planned all along that we would end up at that mass on Sunday,” he said. “I think He wanted all those young people to hear that there are other vocations and different ways to live their lives in faith…Had we left five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, we would have ended up in a totally different place on that turnpike.”

Instead, they arrived in Appleton just in time to attend mass and listen to young missionaries Jacob and Calena Rudd speak about their upcoming trip to Nicaragua to work in a settlement there.

It turned out to be the perfect coda to a weekend of faith that could have stalled in the Pennsylvania mountains, but instead gathered steam.

The group made its first adjustment to the weekend plans Friday night. In light of an approaching historic snowstorm, Aragon and the rest of the chaperones met with the priests and bus drivers and decided to leave Washington D.C. a day early. As they approached the Somerset, Pennsylvania exit, only about an inch of snow had fallen and they were poised to make it past Pittsburgh ahead of the storm.

Thanks to an accident five or six miles in front of them that shut down the interstate, they ended up stranded for 23 hours and 15 minutes although, according to Aragon, stranded is a deceptive word.

“When people hear the word stranded, it sounds like we were alone, lost and in the middle of nowhere  and no one knew where we were,” he said. “This couldn’t be further from our situation.”

With plenty of food, water, heat and bathroom facilities on board, the students and their chaparones made the best of their situation. Many went to help clear off cars and semis nearby, and invited drivers to join them on their bus. As they relayed information the National Guard provided them, they also listened to stories.

“It was really amazing. Some people were trapped for 24 hours and they were only five or six miles from their destination,” Aragon said.

One man in a rental car borrowed a cell phone charger. No one thought anything about it until the buses were freed and the group stopped at a restaurant to refresh themselves as best they could.

“When we parked our bus the man was there and he had the charger in his hand. He was looking for the student who had given it to him,” Aragon said. “Those are the kinds of things that happened. People were so thankful for the help they received from other people.”

The lessons of faith and love proved invaluable and, though they wore the same clothes they’d marched in 46 hours earlier, the group themselves had evolved by the time they arrived back in Appleton.

“You feel the hand of God playing there,” Aragon said.

(The following pictures are courtesy of the Green Bay Diocese)



On wily deer and the road not taken

Appropriately guided by a blaze orange sunset, we went tramping Saturday.

We followed an impressive line of tracks into the woods, our boots recklessly crunching through the hoof prints of a hundred deer.

I imagined them rolling their big doe eyes at us as we cautioned each other to be quiet so we might spot them.

Thick-coated, relaxed and wily, they rested, easily hidden, while we clomped along. We’d been down this road before, and they knew our visit would be brief. They may have passed each other big bowls of tasty roots as they kicked back their hoofs and enjoyed our show.

We followed our frozen breath around their favorite spots, circled a pond, and waited near a small hill where our paths diverged.

Darkness spread and cast an eerie air over our adventure. I heard a howl.

“Wolf?” I asked.


Both relieved and disappointed, I walked on, eyes darting back and forth, cold finger poised on my camera’s shutter release.

In other seasons, I’d seen plenty of wildlife as I tramped through these woods, and had even found myself embarrassingly pinned by a porcupine once on that very path. We’d seen twin eagles swooping high above our heads, whole families of deer darting back and forth across the path, gaggles of turkeys loudly running with their awkward wattle waddles.

Saturday, though, we tramped alone, eventually consoling ourselves with the wonder of a rare opportunity to make our own tracks through the snow.

Tramping through the woods 042

I like this sign, with its optimistic martini glasses and the ice shanty city growing behind it.

Tramping through the woods 052

I thought the angled line of these trees looked cool with that little sliver of sunset.

Tramping through the woods 065

White winter sky, white frozen snow, and a blaze of light in between.

Tramping through the woods 075

Those are all deer tracks and we followed their winding trail into the woods.

Tramping through the woods 085

But we didn’t see any deer so, eventually, we left that path and enjoyed the rare opportunity to make our own.

Tramping through the woods 091

And this was our reward as we made our way out of the woods. So beautiful!

Tramping through the woods 098

It’s always good to see the warm lights of the cabin after a good winter tramp.

My 30th and last semester as a high school mom

Yinz ought to treat yourself to this Pittsburgh Polish deli

Thanks to the Red Devils for a golden opportunity


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