Passing Inspection

February 21, 2012 § 3 Comments

Our county’s inspection office is rigorous and thorough. In fact, these people are notorious in the construction industry here in central Florida … but that’s a good thing! Who wants to learn after-the-fact that that new roof wasn’t tied down according to the 1996 hurricane building regulations? Who wants to know after the lightning strikes that the new screens on the lanai weren’t grounded properly.

Sanders Florida Room

We passed and our new Florida Room is now ready to move in … just as soon as Tom has steamed the new tile floor one more time!

I almost hate to move in, though. It’s so pristine and pure … so glistening! I can’t think of a worse sin (well, I can, but that’s another blog) than cluttering up that wonderful, lovely new space!

But of course, we will … Murphy’s Law, etc.

Ever thought about how many times in our lives we have to ‘pass inspection’? So much angst. So many sleepless nights!

  • School Exams
  • Routine Physicals
  • Driver’s License
  • First Dates
  • Meeting the In-laws
  • Interviewing for a Job

For a writer, the ‘inspections’ begin when we write that first short story and are brave enough to share it with a critique group. The next test of our skill comes from that editor we want to buy the story and publish it. Or the agent we hope will represent that novel to the publishing world.

There are those writers who have a hard time finishing a project, and then, once they have, just can’t let it graduate … can’t push the ‘baby’ out of the nest. That manuscript is like my new Florida Room … pristine, uncluttered, un-tainted by human hands.

But eventually, they do it. They mail it to an editor or agent … and wait … and wait ….

Finally, the manuscript returns in its SASE (Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope) with a standard rejection letter—‘doesn’t fit our list’, etc.—all semi-neatly copied by an assistant.

I’ve known writers who collected ‘nonstandard’ rejection letters with pride … ‘she signed it herself and said she thought it had promise!’

That’s when the questions begin. Why didn’t she want it if it has promise? What does that mean? Who knows? And that’s the problem! With a construction inspection, you get a detailed report on what needs to be fixed in order to pass next time. With writing, you don’t get that!

Last year my agent and I had high hopes for my YA historical fiction novel, but editor after editor said no. Finally, one editor gave us a review and it changed my perspective. Her suggestions made needed revisions clear.

I will soon embark on the rewrite of that novel … now aimed at the middle grade reader (9-12). Meanwhile, I have been hard at work with the final revisions to another middle-grade novel … another historical, this one starring a boy of 12 in 1774 western Virginia. I will be sending it out into the world, via my agent, hopefully to pass inspection and gain an audience.

And then, I will begin the cycle all over again with a new project. After all, that’s what we do, we writers. We send our ‘children’ out into the world and hope they pass instruction.

Cross your fingers! That’s an order!

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A Day in My Renovation Journal

January 9, 2012 § 5 Comments

My Heart is Racing, Pounding! My ears are RINGING!

Plastic Protection!

No, I’m not having a heart attack. The contractors are taking the two sets of sliding doors down between the “old” living room/dining room and the new Florida room.

I think a little onomatopoeia is appropriate!

Buzzzzzzzzzzz! (is that a small jack-hammer I hear?)

Blat! Rumble! GRRRR! (loosening the calking and mortar?)

Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle and twist (taking the doorframes down now!)

Plink! Plunk! Plonk! (falling plaster, nails, aluminum frames – concrete? Yikes!)

Quiet now – except for:

“What did you do to my broom? That’s new!”

“It was bent that way the other day.”

“XXXXX­!!!!” (and a few choice words I NEVER use!)

Insulation in!

Different from the insulation guys. They were so quiet I never even heard them!

The fun of renovation projects lies in the buying-stuff expeditions! Since Christmas, Tom and I have bought:

– Three ceiling fans with lights—two for indoors, one for the new lanai (over the swim-spa);

– Five sconces—three for outside the new doors, two for inside the lanai giving light to the swim-spa)

– 600 square feet of tile flooring (or there abouts)—with another bunch bought and stored for when we get around to replacing the vinyl flooring in the living room/dining room/kitchen great room and have to match it with the new floor in the Florida Room! (Sooner than later, I hope.)

Treasures

We have also spent engrossing hours with:

The Electrician—where, oh where, to place the electrical outlets and new switches?

The Air/Heat guy—which ductless AC/Heat unit will fit code, and where will it be placed?

New Arch

The Sheetrock guys—how low do we need to go for the arch over the openings (where the two sliding doors used to be) from the “old house” to the “new addition.” We decided that the “old arches” (in the rest of the house) aren’t uniform, so no need for the “new arches” to be! They are putting these in NOW!

The new garage back door looks good, even without paint! This one has a window and screen so that we get cross-ventilation in the garage all summer. Whoopee!

Hammer, hammer, hammer!

Sheetrock guys

They are sheet-rocking the lanai now! According to the plan, they will finish putting up the sheetrock in the Florida Room this week. Then it’s brick laying, plaster, finish, paint and clean up—the plastic sheeting must stay up for about two weeks, or will it be three?

Drill, drill, driiiiiiiillllllllll!

Tylenol Time!

Time we started thinking about how we will furnish the new space, too. It surely is much larger than I envisioned. Ah! Another shopping expedition in the works, I think!

Stay tuned. This is going to be good!

2011 in review

December 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

December 19, 2011 § 5 Comments

I love Christmas and I have no trouble getting into the spirit of the season, as a rule. But this year is different. You see, we’re in construction … we’re adding a Florida Room on the back of our house where the Lanai and birdcage used to be.

New Florida Room

Who wants to use an unfinished Florida Room as a backdrop for a gorgeous tree? Next year we will have a great new place to decorate and party … but not this year!

What to do? What to do? How can one get into the holiday spirit without decorating and baking?

I know! We’ll go to Disney World. Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re not planning to spend Christmas week with the swarms from around the world. We’re smarter than that! We went the first week in December!

Wilderness Lodge Tree

We  “ooo’d & ah’d” over huge, theme decorated trees in all the hotels. My favorites this year were the trees at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge.

After contemplating these trees, we proceeded to count ‘hidden Mickeys’ on all of the gingerbread creations – the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian,

Stitch's Bakery

Stitch’s Bakery at the Yacht Club,

The Carrousel at Boardwalk.

Hidden Mickey!

(I found all the hidden Mickeys on these last two this year!)

Nothing like the smell of gingerbread and the sounds of carols in the air to get me in the holiday spirit!

I’ll finish my shopping this week – I don’t believe in buying Christmas presents before Thanksgiving – no fun in that! Of course, stocking stuffers are different – I find these all over, in craft shops and in catalogues. Those are fun!

And while I’m shopping I’ll listen to my Christmas CDs in my car – Josh Groban, John Denver, Liberty Singers, King Singers, Boston Pops. Let’s see … that’s five different versions of Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy, and the Twelve Days of Christmas … hmmmm!

As to Christmas Day itself, Sarah has invited us to her house this year (it was our turn, but she graciously volunteered). After worship and the Christmas cantata (Christmas is on Sunday this year, after all), we’ll return to her house for presents and a dinner of ham, green bean bake (why not!), twice-baked sweet potatoes, fried apples – to go with the ham, don’t you know! – dinner rolls, orange slices from the oranges of our own trees, and salad. The desert will depend on what I get for my birthday – cake or chocolate pudding pie. We shall see! I will probably add a pecan pie, however. Pecan-anything is a Summers-Sanders’ favorite!

After dinner, we’ll call family and wish them a Merry Christmas and tell each other that we loved the presents received – and we always do. I have a philosophy – whatever someone gives me, I love. Then it will be naptime (another Summers’ tradition from days of old!), followed by a favorite Christmas movie.

The spirit of the season will have been fulfilled; old traditions observed; new traditions begun.

Whatever your traditions, I wish you joy this holiday season!

Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah – or, as in the case of some friends, both!

Christmas Birthdays are Cool!

December 8, 2011 § 6 Comments

You might not think so, but Christmas Birthdays are COOL! Everyone is in a good mood (mostly). Everyone decorates for the season (mostly). And special bargains abound for present givers. And the best of all, the birthday child gets to celebrate a special bond with the meaning of Christmas – “For unto us a child is born”. As a child, I always liked to think they were singing that song in the Messiah for me, too. My birthday is December 23rd.

Christmas Tree & Birthdays

But having a birthday during Christmas celebrations can pose problems.

First problem – when to give the birthday party. Oh, yes! There must be one, else the birthday child will feel cheated. My brother’s birthday is in April – he always got a party! My sister’s birthday is in August – well, her party was usually just family, since we were always on a family cross-country vacation then. But we made a big deal about it!

[Actually, I did give her a party one year – with cake and presents – when she was a camper and I a camp counselor at Camp Crestridge for Girls in NC. That party included all of her camp friends and I think she enjoyed it.]

But birthday children whose big day is just before or after, or even ON Christmas Day, need a party, too.

Peppermint Birthday Cake

Mother’s solution – I got a party two weeks before the actual day, so that all my friends in school and church could come. Of course, that posed another dilemma – what to do on the actual day? No problem! Celebrate again – just family this time – with a special dinner, followed by my favorite – Mom’s Chocolate Pudding Pie with whipped cream topping – MMMMM GOOOOOOD – and she even put another candle in the middle. So, actually, I had two birthday parties – not bad!

Second Problem – presents. Now, I’ve heard of families giving one big present for both, but is that fair? Mother didn’t think so. “If you give MLS one present for both, then consider your Christmas present from her as your birthday present as well,” she’d tell my siblings. I got two presents each from David and Sarah.

Fast forward from childhood to graduate-student-hood. Sarah and I were planning a ski trip for the week following Christmas and I wanted my own ski boots. Now, by this time, I had developed a tradition, that of giving myself a birthday present. I usually waited until I received other presents before deciding, but this present would be something I knew no one would think of and was really too expensive anyway to expect anyone to give. Such a present were the ski boots, but as a graduate student on limited funds, how was I going to afford them?

Sister to the rescue. She was also in grad school, in Fort Worth, and when I finished my classes at the University of Texas opera theater, I drove up from Austin to visit her. We went to the mall (doesn’t everybody?) and there, in a sports shop, I found a pair of ski boots that just were perfect – but without a perfect price.

The presents!

“You go away now,” SNS said. “Shoo! I’ll meet you at El Chico’s.”

“You can’t afford them,” I said.

“Never you mind!” she responded.

On December 23, after my birthday dinner with the family, out came the presents (gone were the days of the two-week-prior-party-for-school-friends. Too old for those at 24!). When I opened Sarah’s present there were the ski boots – or I should say the “ski boot”! Two days later, I received the other boot for Christmas. Fair is fair – two boots, two presents. And exactly what I wanted!

Chocolate Pudding Pie

Two weeks from tomorrow, I will celebrate my birthday with Tom and Sarah. We’ll go out to a favorite restaurant (Ipanema’s in Ocala, I hope … great Brazilian food) and afterward return home for “cake” and presents. I say “cake” because sometimes it’s a Chocolate Pudding Pie (Marie Callender’s is about as close to mother’s as you can get!).

The point, of course, is that all birthdays are special, even the ones that fall on holidays.

This year, I’m already gearing up. Next week we will begin the “house decorations tour” in The Villages and surrounding areas. We’ll sing carols and light Advent candles in church, and on Christmas morning, our church choir will present a cantata.

Angel Tree

And during all of this fun and frolic and remembering the reason for this best of all seasons, I’ll celebrate by picking up another  “Angel child” card (Sarah and I’ve already done one for Christmas) and go shopping for a child who needs some Christmas love this year. The child will receive my gifts and enjoy them, I hope, and I will enjoy giving them. However, only I will know that these gifts are for my birthday, too!

Thanksgiving Means Memories

November 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

In the spring of 1978 … that’s November in the southern hemisphere … all of the missionaries from the US studying at the Escola do Portugués e da Orientação in Campinas, São Paolo, Brasil, decided to come together for one large Thanksgiving Dinner. We invited all of our Brazilian professores e professoras, and other missionaries from the UK and Canada also studying at the school.  

Turkey, Yumm!

Our traditional menu included turkey and dressing, giblet gravy, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows baked on top, green bean casserole, salad, yeast rolls with butter, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie, and other deserts.

I volunteered to bake a turkey and make cornbread and sage dressing, and giblet gravy. As soon as I got back to my apartment, I called Mom and Dad … collect. They promptly declined the call and hung up. Yikes you say? No, that was our signal. In those days, we found it cheaper for them to call me than for me to call them. Within five minutes, we were on the phone talking turkey. Mom promised to send me her recipes. I promised to journal the whole experience in a letter. We blew kisses into the phone and said our “talk to you Sunday nights” and hung up.

True to her word, Mom included her guidelines and recipes, complete with her secrets of success, in the 8 x11 envelope in which Dad sent the latest Sunday sports pages (he did this each week I was on the field, bless him).

I had no trouble finding the ingredients. Turkey was a favorite in Brazil and the birds came in all sizes. But what size to buy? My little oven was about half the size of a standard US model and powered by bottled gas … heat settings in centigrade!

I called Mary Burt—veteran missionary and go-to person for all things culinary. She recommended a 10-12 lb bird, the heat setting, and timing. The rest was up to me.

Cornbread & Sage Stuffing

On the day, I presented a nicely browned bird with cornbread-sage-stuffing-ala-Mom, two quarts of giblet gravy, and two pecan pies made with my horded pecans (brought in my crate from Texas!). This was my first Thanksgiving culinary effort and a success. I was proud as a peacock!

Pecan Pie

I learned something about serving buffet in Brazil, too. Brazilians love to eat and wanted to taste everything, even every pie and cake! The old hands knew this, and cut my pies into bite-sized pieces, along with all the rest of the deserts.

Dona Aidé, my private lesson teacher, and my other professoras, wanted all my recipes. I had come prepared, as Mary Burt had forewarned me, and made copies. Well, after all, Dona Aidé had taught me how to cook arroz brasileiro (Brazilian rice) and how to order carne moida (ground beef) at the butchers!

[BTW, if you are ever in Brazil and want to make hamburgers, order half a kilo (app. 1 lb) not a kilo and a half (3 lbs!).]

These days I seldom cook on Thanksgiving. Once we discovered that Cracker Barrel serves a special Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie, we started a new family tradition—we let CB do our cooking! (No carcass to boil for stock; no leftovers to get freezer burn before we remember to use them!)

Today we watched most of the Macy’s parade, drove to CB and ate our sumptuous dinner—all that great nap-inducing food we love—and then took a drive through the newest construction areas of The Villages. Now comes football and naptime!

We also Thanked God for all of our blessings—good health, good friends, loving family, the freedoms we enjoy in these United States, and our armed forces around the world who go in harm’s way to preserve them.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and that you have had a great year to give thanks for … I know I have.

In closing I’d like to share with you my favorite hymn of thanksgiving …

“For the Beauty of the Earth”

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

To Family & Friends Everywhere!

Lost and Found!

October 19, 2011 § 5 Comments

For several years now, I’ve lived in fear of locking my car keys in my car. Or leaving them somewhere. Or letting them fall out of my pocket. I’m not sure if that’s a phobia, like arachnophobia (which I believe I do have!) but it probably should be. You see, Tom lost his own car key (the one with the key at one end and the “clicker” automatic door openers at the other) and we’ve been using my set ever since.

The VAN

I think I’ll make up a word here – clésperdantaphobia, i.e., a phobia of losing keys – that’s in French/Greek because the Greeks have no word for key (I think). How’s that? Honestly, when I’m getting out of my van, I do a thorough body search to make sure I have the car key in hand before I lock the doors!! (Fortunately, our van won’t allow us to lock the doors when the motor is running!)

Then there’s the lost folder – you know the type – clear plastic one holding the contract from the builder who is to extend our roof at the back of our house so that it covers the whole patio (birdcage) and then encloses the present lanai and part of the patio so that we will have a VERY LARGE Florida Room?

Let’s see, I think I’ll call this one … oh, who cares, I’m not the one who lost that one either!

However, I have lost some things … important things, too. Along the years, I’ve lost some friends, especially my high school friends. Our family only lived in Louisville, Kentucky, for five years – 1959-1964. I graduated Atherton High in 1962 and left for college the next fall. I never returned to Atherton, even for a visit. During the summers, I worked at Camp Crestridge for Girls or Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center, both in Black Mountain, NC.

Then, in 1964, Dad accepted the position of Chairman of the Religion Dept. at Baylor University and we moved back to Texas for good. I graduated from Baylor, taught in a couple of universities, got my Doctor of Music Arts degree in Church Music and Voice and headed to Brazil. After eight years teaching in the North Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary, I returned to the US and married. Tom and I lived in Kansas City, MO, for almost three years, then moved to New Jersey – 15 years there – and finally retired to Florida in 2003.

In other words, I never looked back! I’ve stayed in touch with more recently acquired friends over the years, but lost touch with others. Why do I do that?

I guess I do it – inadvertently – because I tend to look forward. I look at the future and see adventure and new experiences and rather quickly let go of the past.

This was brought home to me over the weekend when a lost friend from Atherton High School reached out and found me … through the internet and my web page. She wasn’t the one who called me, however. That was another high school friend who told me she’d been looking for me for years – every time the Class of ’62 geared up to reunion – and next year is our 50th.

Atherton HS, Louisville, KY

Will I go? I don’t know. We’ve already made plans to be in Fort Worth, TX for a convention that same weekend, and then the “every-other-year-visit-with-family-and-friends-in-Texas” tour. But we’ve been to two of Tom’s high school reunions and I think this is my turn! I looked at the contact list Susie sent me of our class and began recognizing names from my past. Choir buddies, Aerial (newspaper) colleagues, cheerleaders, jocks … I wonder if I’ll remember them when I see them, or if they will remember me? I’ve taken steps. This very morning I went to the Atherton website and registered as an Alum … now we shall see!

But what of others?

I occasionally talk to friends in New Jersey. We visit with folks at CBF Assemblies and Pearl Harbor Reunions (see past blogs for those activities!). And I’m in contact through Facebook with more and more friends from Brazil and college and church.

But the one friend I miss the most is Judye Mac, my best friend from Camp Crestridge and Carson-Newman College days. Judye died of uterine cancer several years ago, even as we planned for her to visit us in Florida. She never told me she was ill. I was mad at her for this … I didn’t want to go to her funeral, I wanted to visit with her even for one last tearful time. We would have talked of fun times and laughed … or not … but we could have said goodbye and that’s important.

When I left Brazil to marry, I lost another friend because she isn’t a good correspondent. Back in the days when letter writing was the ONLY way, besides overseas long distance, to keep in contact, she didn’t answer my letters and I stopped trying.

This morning I have resolved to try again – this time through the seminary website. Life is too short to lose important things, and friendships are the most important of all.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”  – C. S. Lewis