Archive forDecember, 2008

Our ‘Gator

No, we haven’t seen him, but we understand there’s a three-legged ‘gator living in our pond. We’ve been told he likes to sun himself on the bank of the pond which is viewable from our living room window.

In fact, the report is that EVERY pond here in Kings Point has at least one ‘gator and many have three legs because they fight with each other, and loosing a leg is often the result.

So in addition to watching the golfers out on the course, we’re alert to the possibility of a big critter!

Last night we went to the karaoke evening at the South Club. It was fun with a lot of our friends present: Rachael and Jerry, Elsie and Frank, Jane, Marty, and others. The vocals were often “off-key” but we appreciated everyone’s effort!

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Another Sunset

our view

Above is another sunset photo taken out the window of our living room. We have such a lovely view. Actually at this time of the year, the sun sets a little left of the ponds behind our place. But the sky is often just ablaze with color. This one was taken Christmas evening.

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Bob Taylor

The plans for Bob Taylor’s memorial service are as follows:
Bob, who was born 3/12/1931 will be honored with a memorial service, 11:00 a.m. on Monday, January 5th, Sun City Funeral Home, 1851 Rickenbacker Dr.,
Sun City Center, FL 33573

There will be a burial service at Bushnell Military Cemetary, Bushnell, FL, at 2:30 p.m.

Those of us who loved Bob will want to remember this fine man who was a gentle, thoughtful, considerate friend who loved life.

Join us at the 11:00 service.

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Christmas 2008 – Sadness

This morning as we were planning our Christmas dinner (which we knew would be way too much for two), I stopped and called our buddy, Bob Taylor, to see if he would like to join us. There was no answer so I left the message on his machine.

When I hadn’t heard from Bob by noon, I called him again. His son-in-law answered the phone and asked how well I knew him. (I thought it was a little strange but figured he was screening Bob’s calls.) I explained that John and I think of Bob as our best Florida friend.

It was then that he told us the sad news. Bob died. It must have happened suddenly Tuesday night as he was heading to the bathroom. He wasn’t found until today (Thursday – Christmas Day). When he didn’t answer the phone for a couple of days his daughter (Laurie) became concerned. Apparently it was sudden with no suffering.

Ahhhh but we’ll miss Bob. He was a sweetheart. He loved to entertain us and often had us over for dinner, or we’d reciprocate and he’d come to our place. He threw himself a fantastic 76th birthday party in March 2007. We always saved him a spot near us at Rockin’ Rondezvous. He was always respectful and generous with his lady friends.

He called us about a week before we got to Florida. He wanted to know if we were “home” yet. We explained that we were in Michigan. He said he was lonesome and hoped we’d hurry down. We assured him we’d arrive by Saturday, the 20th.

As promised, we called him. Early Sunday he joined us at the pool. We sat and talked about everything from investments to our up-coming plans. He wanted me to go help him pick out some living room furniture after Christmas.

He phoned us Monday to tell us he had some information he’d rounded up for us about investments. We could pick it up if we were in his neighborhood. Sadly we didn’t get over there.

Tuesday we were at Busch Gardens. He was in our thoughts there. We talked about bringing him with us next time. We knew he couldn’t walk around the huge park, but we could rent an electric cart for him.

We both loved him like family. It was a genuine, mutual affection.

It won’t be the same without Bob. He was the first house guest to visit our new condo. Our first dinner guest. Our best friend.

Here are some of the many photos I took of Bob since we met him in 2006. (And no, he hadn’t grown a black mustache. That was his Halloween look. He was Charlie Chaplin.)

Buddy Bob Taylor

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Christmas Eve

Today we finally registered and licensed the Toyota that was given to us by the lady who sold us the condo. It’s not a bad car. She maintained it religiously. We jumped through the hoops that were necessary to register it. (It took messing with the insurance company, two trips to the registrar’s office, and lotsa $$$’s.)

We were until about 3:00 getting it all done plus we needed to pick up some extras for tomorrow’s dinner.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the pool. It was a perfect day. In fact on the weather report, it stated lots of the areas around here set “record highs.” It was about 82 in Sun City Center but sorta breezy. Still it wasn’t bad!

Tomorrow the prediction is for about 80 degrees. Sounds like pool weather to me.

We’ll fix a huge turkey feast tomorrow for the two of us. We’ll plan to eat mid-late afternoon. If we find any lonesome folks without a place to go, we will invite them over. (Bob and Paul may be alone.) We’ll fix a 11 pound turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing gravy, two types of cranberrys, vegetable, homebaked bread, relishes, and pumpkin praline pie with ice cream. It’ll have to be enough although Willow (our 5 pound dog) will want her share and she has quite an appetite.

It’s sure different than snowy Michigan which has always signified Christmas. But this is the start of new traditions.

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Wearing White after Labor Day

My Grandma Brophey was firm about the “no white after Labor Day” rule. There were other guidelines by which she lead her life, but white after Labor Day was a firm resolution. She’d never have dreamed of violating it.

In Florida, life’s different. When down here, I wear white more often than any color regardless of the time of year. Even on a cool day, I’ll slip on a brightly colored cardigan over a white camisole with a pair of chrisp white slacks. White fits the Florida life-style.

I remember seeing a family in a restaurant in Ruskin, FL. They were in all dressed in blacks and dark colors. I just “knew” they were out-of-state folks on vacation. They stuck out.

So, Grandma, when you look down from Heaven at me running around in the middle of December wearing white, please don’t shutter or think I’ve gone mad. I’ve just adapted.

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First day back

The windows are open and a breeze is coming in. Charlie, our cockatiel is loving his communication with the outdoor birds.

We spent the afternoon at the pool. It was wonderfully warm and sunny but tomorrow it’s only expected to be into the 60’s. We figured we better take advantage of the temperatures. It sure felt good.

Accidentally our back door open came open and one of the little geckos came in.Gecko
We have a whole slew of them living in the shrubs around our condo. This one was bright green. Our buddy Bob has one who lives inside. He says they catch bugs so he likes having them around. I don’t know, but having a critter who looks like a mini alligator roaming the house isn’t my idea of insect control. But the geckos do have a charm. I love having them scurry ahead of me as I walk down the sidewalk. But not across my living room.

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We’re Here (in Florida)

We arrived about 3:00 this afternoon (Saturday, the 20th). It seems strange to have 75+ degree temperatures as I decorated the condo for Christmas.

Always before we’ve cut a large live tree and hauled it home. We compromised and just brought a small artificial tree and it’s now gracing our living room. We have a poinsetta, a lovely Christmas centerpiece on the coffee table, and about a dozen candles. In the windows there are candle style lights. Out on the lanai we have a tiny ceramic tree that was Mom’s. The dining room is festive with Christmas placemats and lots of candles.

We’ll have a nice dinner Thursday and hopefully we’ll get in lots of pool time.

It’s not our traditional holiday, but that’s ok. It’s the start of a new tradition.

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Near Lexington-Richmond

There’s no snow on the ground and the temperatures are about 47. We’re in Kentucky headed south. It takes a while to become accustomed to the change in temperatures. But it’s not the temperatures that tell me we’re in the South, it’s the “Ya’ll’s.” Our server at dinner tonight kept asking if “Ya’ll got everything you need?”

It’s strange that we hear the accent and think “this is the SOUTH” — but in Florida, there are no accents and that’s even further south.

But here in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, the charming accents let us know we’re not in Michigan any more.

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Christmas Rush

I have a business on-line where I sell Rick Thum hammered dulcimers. It’s not a big enterprise, but I enjoy helping people get into the wonderful world of hammered dulcimers. I write lengthy messages whenever a prospective buyer inquires. My prices are deeply discounted. Over the three or four years I’ve been a distributor, I’ve sold well over 100 dulcimers for Rick. My customers become my friends and I often hear from them afterward about how they appreciate my level of service.

My busy season is always December.

December 2008 had been disappointingly quiet. I figured it was “the economy.”

But starting about last Thursday, I began receiving 4 to 6 inquiries a day. Not every inquiry resulted in a sale, but I ended up the season with a bang. Yesterday Rick shipped out THREE for my customers plus I sold my own lovely Professional hammered dulcimer.

But when folks wait that long, it becomes a challenge to figure out how they can get their payment to me quickly. Since most everyone who contacts me via the internet is initally a stranger, I ask for prepayment before the order is shipped. I’ve always dealt with very honest folks, but the horror stories of internet scams have taught me to be cautious. So, although I’ll accept personal checks, I ask that they get to me before I place the order (which generally is shipped out within a day.)

I accept credit cards, but only through Paypal. And when using Paypal that way, Paypal assesses me 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction. To be equitable, I assess a service fee equal to that amount therefore I can keep my prices low. (2.9% plus 30 cents sounds like so little, but if added to a $1,255 instrument sale or even a $400 one, it is an amount not to be sneezed at.)

So the cheapest way is to complete all the arrangements and decisions for the sale early enough so the customer can send a personal check.

I did receive one check Monday, but the other last minute buyers used Paypal even though there was a charge for the service. All the instruments are on their way and I can breathe!

With so many orders coming in, it got really confusing about who had paid, who was sending a check, who was paying with a credit card, who…. well, you get the idea.

I spent at between five and seven hours yesterday answering inquiries and scheduling sales.

I will never get rich, but I am a very legitimate Michigan business. (My accountant will vouch for that.)

Now that all of the orders are in, I can relax!

Additionally we are more at ease because we wrapped up our Sub-Strings’ (our dulcimer club’s) playing commitments. This a.m. we played for Christmas at Bronners. It was a fun way to wrap up the 2008 holiday season with our club. All of those folks are really special to us.

Our performance was broadcast live through a website so even those who were far away could enjoy the show.

We are packed to take off early in the morning for Florida. There’s a storm predicted to be coming later tomorrow but we hope to be well ahead of the bad weather. (Up to 10 inches may blanket this region.)

Today is Wednesday. By Saturday, we’ll be enjoying 80 degree temperatures in Sun City Center. Wow what a wonderful thought!

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Big Blow

This morning we awoke to a major wind storm. It was warm enough to melt most of the snow over night but now it’s turned colder and will be dipping even more throughout the day. One TV channel is off-the air as a result of the wind.

John’s lawn clean-up chore from the trees that were topped in our yard is going to be even harder today. (Certainly no burning.) I’ll be gone most of the day with a dental appointment, some banking chores, and last minute Christmas shopping. Then back home to start filling the truck. (We leave for Florida in three days.)

Last night our buddy Bob called to see if we’d arrived in Florida yet. He was lonesome for us.

I’ve always just loved the holidays. The beauty of the freshly cut Christmas tree has always been one of the hilights of our season. This year with no decorations and everything waiting for our trip to Florida, I am really finding it hard to capture the spirit. Yesterday we had a pleasant celebration with John’s family. It’s always nice to get together with them.

But something is missing this year! I’m sure it’s the absence of the tree and the tradition that has gone along with it. But a big part of it is grief over my mother’s recent passing. She had been lost to us for many years, but I was still optimistically included her in my Christmas thoughts. Now she’s gone, and there’s a real emptiness.

I keep thinking that when we get to Florida it’ll be fun and festive. We’ll have excitement and enthusiasm and the spirit that is missing will be found. We’ll be with friends. I hope we’re not disappointed.

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Counting Down

Today I packed. I figured this trip to Florida would be “easy” because everything’s already down there, but it’s getting more complicated all the time.

We purchased ourselves a 26″ TV for our bedroom and our plan is to take it back and forth since we need one both in Michigan and in Florida. The box is huge.

I’m taking along two small Christmas trees and the boxes are enormous!

What’s Christmas without candles and some ornaments that have become a tradition for us, a table decoration that we use every year, and … well, you get the idea. I think I’ve prioritized the stuff that we’re taking. If there’s a problem fitting everything in, I’ll just have to leave some stuff behind.

Yesterday John took on an unscheduled huge job. We have a row of poplar trees on our east lot line that John has planned to chop down this winter or spring. Since they’re about 50-75 feet tall, it would be a challenge with his limited equipment. So when a tree crew came by yesterday and offered to top them (take about the top half off) for a reasonable price, he jumped at it. The problem was that the crew took them down, but the clean up was left to John. We had no idea that it would be such a monsterous job. Our neighbor’s yard was also littered. So John’s been working to clean it up. I was out there for a while today too working. But he’s using a chainsaw and chopping everything into modest sized pieces so there’s not much I can do. There’s no way he’ll ever get it cleaned up before we leave Thursday. He got a burn permit from the township but green wood is slow to burn and sure does produce a smokey fire.

I guess, if we had to delay our departure a day or two it would be ok. There’s really no rush. We could leave as late as Saturday which would get us there Monday so we’d still be able to be ready for Christmas down there.

We’ll see….

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Packing for Florida

I am packing again. I keep thinking “this is the last time” because I always intend to leave everything in Florida, but last spring I made the mistake of bringing back all of my “heavier” Florida clothes to Michigan. Now we’re about to head back and we’ll be arriving in the middle of the “Florida Winter.” Don’t kid yourself, it can be dern cold in Florida in January and February. Last year during those months, we had both warm and chilly days. We had some “pool weather” but just as often it seemed we were bundled up inside even into March.

So today I’ve been packing warm stuff. I have lots of shorts, capris, and bathing suits waiting for me in Florida, but out of necessity, I need to bring along some sweaters and “long” pants.

Between you and me, they’re ugly. Covering up just isn’t fun. I hope I can wear my “for warm weather only” wardrobe.

I heard from our near-by Florida neighbor, Linda, who is glad we’re headed back. We also called our buddy Bob to tell him of our plans. His smile was transmitted over the phone-lines.

For the holidays, we’re hoping we can make some kind of a music contribution to the neighborhood. A small “house concert” of holiday music is a possibility. We just want to let folks know how glad we are to be part of their “community.”

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Hard Times

Quite a few years ago, a lovely vocalist, Cindy Feigel, did a stirring intrepretation of Stephen Foster’s lovely tune “Hard Times.” We were in the audience and spell-bound. It was especially touching since Cindy did it without accompaniment and Cindy is blind. When she sang about “hard times” you knew this lady has had to face adversity.

Her pure voice sweetly sang the tune and everyone felt an emotional bond.

On September 22nd, 2008, we received this message from Charlie Feigel, Cindy’s wonderful husband. He said, “I want to ask everyone to pray for my wife Cindy. Last night she was severly burned when her pajama top caught on fire. She is in the burn trama center at U of M hospital with major burns to her neck, chest and back. She is currently on a ventorlator and heavily sedated. Her vitals are looking good and her lungs look good so that is encouraging. They currently cleaning her wounds so I am taking advantage of the internet conection in the waiting room until I can see her. I will share more if I get a chance later. (signed) Charlie”

We have all been listening to Charlie’s near daily up-dates. Cindy was burned with third degree burns over more than 55% of her body. There have been dozens of skin grafts, the struggles with infection, the feeding tubes, the tracs. She’s had pain and life-threatening concerns. But last week Charlie told us that Cindy has improved to the point that they would be moving to the rehab unit Monday (yesterday).

We all applauded.

There isn’t one person who has ever met Cindy who isn’t in awe of her and her phenominal talent and spirit.

Now it’s been tested more than any of us can imagine enduring. She’s going to make it and we’re going to be there to support her.

She still has all that physical therapy ahead of her. Her arms are fairly fixed because the skin that’s been grafted is stiff and inflexible. It’ll be hard and painful for her to regain the use of her limbs. But she’ll do it.

We want her to know how much we care about her. She is a beautiful flower who was just blooming when she met this tragic problem. We’ll pray for her, but please help us.

She needs to know we care.

We all want the best for her. We all want her to continue to be part of our world.

So if you are just dropping by this blog, and you don’t know Cindy, you can still shut your eyes and say a silent prayer for her. She needs everyone’s support.

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Christmas Decorations

Christmas Lights



We finally got our Christmas lights up. Do you need help with yours?

We didn’t think we’d have time to get in a festive mood, but hey, this didn’t take long at all!


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Rain/Snow Mix

Seems that my recent posts all have to do with the weather. Today I’m watching an approaching storm with interest because tomorrow our club is scheduled to play a noon gig. The forecast is for 4-6 inches in this area. The rain is forecast to switch to snow this afternoon but it should all end about 9:00 tomorrow a.m. Hopefully that’ll leave enough time for the roads to be cleared.

I’m also looking ahead at the ten-day forecast because next Thursday morning we’ll be heading for Florida and obviously we wish for clear roads. At this point, it appears it’ll be cloudy but no precipitation. Whew!! The day before, we’ll be playing for WSGW radio which will also be broadcast on the internet. You can find the link to the “Listen Live” feature in the upper right corner of the screen at:

I’m going to start moving the stuff I want to take with us to a “staging area.” I’m trying to envision decorating for the holidays and what I’ll need to achieve a festive look with as little as possible. The stuff needs to travel well and be compact. I have so much Christmas-y stuff here, I sure don’t want to get down there and feel that I need to buy something. We have a large attic to store it after we use it, so that’s no problem.

At the condo, we’ll decorate our lanai with a small ceramic tree that was Mom’s and some tiny lights.

Inside I’ll have a more sophisticated tree (with tiny ribbon roses and white lights), a lovely centerpiece for the coffee table and lots of candles. In the dining room, I want to use some lovely holiday placemats, and gold charger plates. The guest bathroom will have holiday towels. It’ll work.

It sure seems strange to be waiting to get started on the holidays.

It will be so different than anything we’ve ever done for the holdiay, but I think we need a change. John always gets into a “holiday funk.” He mentioned that it’s hard to find projects that excite him here.

In Florida, we have lots to do. For starts we need to plant some shrubs across the back of the unit, put up a dining room light fixture, and mount flat panel TV in the bedroom.

We can always take a day and go to Busch Gardens, take some dance lessons, or plan a dinner party with friends.

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Escaping the Snow

Yup, it looks like we are going to make an “additional” trip to Florida.

We will leave Michigan on December 18th and arrive at our condo mid-day on the 20th. Because we have some commitments in Michigan that we can’t miss, we’ll leave to come back to Michigan on January 14th. But we’ll be back in our Florida conda again on the 28th. We’ll have to make three trips between Michigan and Florida between mid-December and the end of January, but our vehicle is comfortable and since gas prices are now lower, we figure we can handle it.

The only disappointment thus far is that the South Club’s New Year’s Eve party was cancelled because too few tickets were sold. (Now folks are calling about them, but it’s too late.) We don’t know what we’ll do to bring in the new year, but we’ll find some way we can visit with friends.

Our Christmas Day feast is portable. We can do our cooking in Florida as well as here. I’ll take along decorations so we feel festive.

We have lots of activities that we’re looking forward to. There are dances, dance lessons, and other scheduled stuff that will keep us busy. We hope to get together with friends. We are also anticipating the fruit which is ripe for picking in January. (Especially grapefruit and strawberries.)

I’m excited!

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Our Dulcimer Club Was Awesome!

Today Sub-Strings, our dulcimer club, played for a group of senior members of Catholic Federal Credit Union. It was a huge audience (nearly 400!) in a lovely facility (Horizons Conference Center). We were treated royally with a lovely lunch plus our fee which we divide between our playing members.

We had 22 musician members of Sub-Strings playing. It was a fun, exciting performance. The audience loved us, and the musicians seemed to really enjoy playing. We received a standing ovation.

Sure felt good! John is the lead instrument, and I’m the emcee. Together we organize the club’s performances. Our members sure made us look good! It was fun! Since that’s our first holiday gig, let’s hope all of our plays are as successful. We will be performing Sunday the 7th, then again on Wednesday, the 10th. Our last major performance will be Wednesday the 17th on WSGW Radio for the Christmas at Bronners broadcast.

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A change of plans!

This morning I received an advertising message from Red Roof Inns (the motel chain we use whenever we travel to or from Florida). I nearly deleted it as spam. Thank heavens I didn’t. They are offering us a special 25% off deal until the end of January.

John and I are considering an extra trip to Florida to use our condo. We’d leave our Saginaw home December 18th (we’d arrive at the condo on the 20th). We’d need to leave Florida for home on January 14th to be home on the 16th of January. We would only stay home until January 26th and then we’d return to Flroida.

That means we’d be in Florida for Christmas and New Years.

It would shake up all our holiday traditions. Gone would be our freshly cut Christmas tree. Instead we’d take along a tiny artificial and a ceramic tree that was my mothers. (I’d probably drag along a few other decorations so make the place look festive.) We wouldn’t have the fire in the fireplace and the wonderful holiday dinner in Michigan. Instead, weather permitting, we’d spend part of Christmas day in the pool.

Last year we were in Kings Pont for New Years Eve but this year there’s a party planned at the South Club and that would be much closer and more convenient.

I don’t know if tickets are still available for the South Club party, but we can check.

Even John says, “Sounds like fun.” We’ll see. We’re still flexible.

We aren’t locked into either decision yet.

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Old Friends

The other day I called Alex Usher. Alex is lovely lady and a wonderful autoharper. She’s instructed for me at Evart. We’ve missed her for a couple of years.

I hadn’t spoken to her for a long while, so I called her and we had a very pleasant chat.

The conversation drifted to talk of a mutual friend, Mary Lou Orthey, who passed away suddenly in 2006 after suffering a stroke. She was a beautiful, blue-eyed, charmer. Both Alex and I miss Mary Lou.

Alex’s voice grew husky as she shared something with me. She said, “I’ve never taken her address out of my address book. I just can’t do it.”

“Neither have I,” I said.

It wasn’t just a “me too” comment. I was being very honest. Mary Lou Orthey’s address is still listed in my address listing: 941-505-0823 (home) and 941-769-4439 (cell).

Each of us have ways of honoring those we love. I guess neither Alex nor I are ready to let go of Mary Lou.

Occasionally I’ll scan through by phone numbers and spot Mary Lou’s name. I am reminded of her sparkling blue eyes and humor. I can hear her say, “Hi, Hat Lady. How’s the dawg?”

She and I shared a fun evening in 2004 in Sarasota, FL. It was a night filled with girly conversation and friendship.

I won’t forget Mary Lou, and neither will Alex. Guess that’s the way it should be.

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When blogging last night, I talked about how much I enjoy snow and I was excitedly looking forward to a predicted storm. But that’s when I was thinking about being warm and toasty inside our comfy house. I wasn’t considering the possibility of a “power failure.”

In the wee hours of the morning I awoke to total silence. It’s funny how you miss the hum of the refrigerator, the on-and-off of the furnace, and other power driven sounds. When everything is off, it’s hauntingly quiet.

It’s about 9:00 a.m. and we still have no electric power. There’s no projection for its resumption.

We have a fire in the fireplace and coffee perking on our gas range.

It’s about 60 in the living room and colder in the rest of the house.


The out-the-window view is beautiful. Snow ladened trees and a blanket of white are awe-inspiring. The geese are spending most of their time in the open-water areas; although some show-off by walking on the thin ice. Believe it or not, the photo is actually “in color” but the colors are obviously primarily black and white.


11:08 a.m.

The power just came back on. I’d guess we were without electricity for about eight hours. It was a good reminder that we need to be better prepared for outtages.

We need to have a can of gasoline for the snowblower and the generator, batteries for flashlights and radios, matches or lighters. It would be a good idea to start up the generator and see if it works. (We haven’t needed to use it since we had power added to our place in the Upper Peninsula and that was about a dozen years ago.)

We did find an old battery operated radio so we weren’t totally isolated. Our cellphone continued to work, providing us with limited phone service.

Of course there was no internet access, but I had a good book to help pass the time. I was cozied up in an afghan and didn’t mind the inconvenience. John stayed warm by cutting wood and shoveling. We got by.

I will still look forward with excited anticipation to an approaching storm, but the heat needs to stay on.

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