What I Look Forward to Most of All, About This Fall.

Ah, Fall! Just the word alone drums up images of vibrant colors abound, the cool, crisp air, and the smells. You can literally smell the pumpkin, just thinking about it. Where I come from, fall is a very prominent season. In fact, it may be the most revered and highly loved season of all. I should dare say, I believe it may well be more loved than summer. I love fall. I always have. But, I believe this year, it may hold a more dear and special meaning than ever before.

For me, no matter how much I loved fall, there was always something not quite fulfilled within me. There had been this unsettled sense of longing for so many years. The first time I stepped out of my car in Biloxi, Mississippi, I learned what that was. The smell of the salty air, the warm coastal Gulf breeze, and the sound of the gentle waves lapping as they made a continual reintroduction of themselves to the shore. I was a beach girl at heart. I had never really been to the beach, save for the local homemade beaches at the lakes around my area, but once in my life. That had been a very long time ago and during a quite tumultuous time in my life, and I do not believe I had to opportunity to really see the beach life for all that it could be. But, after that first trip to Biloxi, it was all over for me. I spend the next nine years obsessing over living in the Gulf of Mexico. It became the status of my ultimate dream life, and eventually, part of my five year plan.

As luck would have it, nine years after I first sank my toes into the sugar sand beach of Biloxi, I had an opportunity presented to me to move to Southwest Florida. It wasn’t exactly the part of the Gulf that I have envisioned living in, but it was still the Gulf. And at that time, given the circumstance, it was the only viable option for me. There was no debate for me. Without even questioning it, I got rid of everything that I could to downsize, packed what I needed to take, and moved to the Gulf of Mexico.

Settling here in my new apartment with its top-notch amenities that included a beautiful fishing lake complete with a walking trail bordering its perimeter, a stunning resort-style pool, grounds around the entire community bathed in the most lush tropical landscaping I had ever seen, and an impeccable gym that featured top of the line workout equipment and windows that overlooked all of the aforementioned, with only a twenty minute drive to the beach, I thought I had it made. Finally, my dream had come to be a reality. I was living life in the Gulf of Mexico. Oddly enough, however, we had made the move here during the last weekend of September and began our official move-in during the first week of October. Up to this point in my life, I had never really had an opportunity for beaches and swimming in October.

Now, it was still relatively warm back home in north Georgia during this time, so it wasn’t initially a huge difference. But as the month progressed, a huge difference was being noted. We made plans to take my granddaughters out to a local farm for some “fall” inspired fun. It was a little difficult to think of pumpkins and fall themed decor, while it was still above ninety degrees here. But we decided to give this a chance. Later that month, we found a local church hosting a trunk or treat just before Halloween, my daughter in law dressed the girls up in their beloved and highly anticipated Halloween costumes and we set out for an evening of fun. Ironically, long before the end of our night, the girls had shed about half of their costume pieces. None of us had ever experienced a ninety degree Halloween before, and we were not acclimating very well. There was still hope for Christmas! Lo and behold, December came around, and things did not change all that much. I knew there had to be some way the South Floridians celebrated the holidays, they deserved fall and Christmas too, right? I found a few local events such as a holiday light show complete with Christmas carols, hot cocoa, and a bonfire. Yes! It was a perfect picture of everything we loved to do back home. The girls were dressed in holiday themed attire and off we went. No one could bear to drink the hot cocoa and we all avoided going anywhere near the bonfire like it was the plague. The temps had begun to fall here in Southwest Florida, but still being in the mid-eighties, it proved far too difficult a task to feel in the holiday vibe. On Christmas day, my husband had the idea to make it a special day and spend our first Christmas here on the beach. After all, that is what we moved to the Gulf for anyway. Well, as luck would have it, we were not even able to get across the bridge to get to the beach. This was the height of “snowbird” season, and everyone in the state seemed to have the same idea. It seemed that living in a beach town was all well and good, until the reality hit that the seasons and the holidays were going to be nothing like they had ever been before. We really missed snow.

As time went on, and luck would have it, there was about to be a shift in our lives that would take us into another direction. Shortly after the beginning of August, and following a recent trip back home to visit family, there was an opportunity for us to go back home. Our family clearly wanted us closer, and Henry was really not as much in love with living the south Florida as I had once hope he would be. Truth be told, I think missing my family began to outweigh the picturesque lifestyle imagery that I had envisioned for myself ten years ago. So, without hesitations, we graciously accepted the offer presented to us and will be making the necessary arrangements to leave the Gulf of Mexico and return home to North Georgia. Our journey home will not be until October, which, ironically, will culminate a year of living the beach life and be at the heart of the Fall season.

It will be with bittersweet emotion that I will bid adieu to the Gulf. Yet, in the same regard, my heart is so happy and full to be returning to my family. And, with that, this year Fall will be so much more special to me this year. In knowing all that I have learned about the value of family and in seeing firsthand what life is like for those who do not get to enjoy a proper fall. What I look forward to most for this fall is taking my grandchildren to the pumpkin farm, and to indulge in hot cocoa or cider to provide a warmth and help knock the chill off. I look forward to getting to wear hoodies. In my entire fall and winter in south Florida, I had to opportunity to wear a hoodie only twice. There is just something about hoodies that are a natural a part of fall as chili and other beloved comfort foods. I look forward to seeing all the children dressed for trick-or-treating on Halloween. I look forward to feeling that first frost, the one that signals snow will be on the horizon. Mostly, I look forward to football. I had to learn the hard way that moving out of state will put you in the network for your new state’s professional sports team, and I missed every single game my football team played last season. But, I really want to bundle up in my favorite hoodie and go out to enjoy a local high school football game. Nothing truly says fall quite like bonfires, pumpkins, and football, and I greatly look forward to getting to experience them all again this fall.

A Story of the Undone Summer Bucket List.

This past spring, as the days became just a little bit longer, and the temperatures became just a little bit warmer, I sat down to gleefully write out my Summer Bucket List. Little did I know at that time, that before Summer’s end, my life would be taking a drastic shift. I still have things left on my bucket list that I haven’t had the opportunity to complete! Now, I am faced with the daunting dilemma of how to accomplish some of the most desired items on my summer bucket list.

When my husband and I made the move to South Florida last year, it turned out to be quite a difficult transition, teetering on the brink of down right depressive. Being so far away from our family and friends, combined with the cost of living being substantially higher than where we came from and employment pay scales not faring comparable to those increased costs of living, it was a rather challenging adjustment. Yet, we were determined to make this work, and believed we could enjoy Florida and all it has to offer for as long as we were living here. I did some research on the area we live in and the surrounding are and compiled a beautifully constructed bucket list of things to do, see, and experience this summer. Being our first summer to live here in South Florida, we were determined to make it a most memorable one. One of the first things we learned was that a summer in South Florida is not that easy to get out and enjoy. Between the sweltering heat and humidity, the continual barrage of daily thunderstorms with their intense lightning make any outdoor activity a battle. We have visited New Orleans in August before and were somewhat familiar with the humidity and heat of the Gulf of Mexico. However, visiting for a few days does little to prepare you for enduring those unfamiliar conditions as part of your daily life.

We recently made a trip up to visit our family back home in North Georgia. While there, everyone made it abundantly clear that they wanted us to move back home. We miss them dearly. Given the fact that we have no family or friends in Florida, and the increased cost of living with decrease in earned wages, we expressed a desire to come back home as well. It just wasn’t in the cards at the moment. During our trip back down to Florida, we talked of little else than how much we enjoyed seeing the family and wish we could be closer to them. The drive is ten hours. While that may be closer than many people who relocate here are from their family, it was still a bit far for our peace of mind. A few days after arriving back in Florida, we were presented with an unexpected opportunity. One that would put us back in North Georgia close to our family and provide an opportunity to save money for a home. Without hesitation, we accepted the offer.

The reality of leaving Florida washed over me in a bittersweet flood of emotion. I miss my family and truly wish to be close to them, but I had come to really love Florida, and still had plenty of things on my bucket list yet not done. That being said, there are still a lot of things unchecked, not only on my summer bucket list, but also my whole Southwest Florida wish list. I still have not had the opportunity to dip my feet in the majestic waters of Islamorada, or eat authentic Key Lime Pie in Key West, or visit the Naples Zoo, or tour the infamous gardens along the river at the Edison Estate, or drive up and see Clearwater Beach, the current number one voted beach in the nation. As my time here in the Sunshine State draws closer to an end, I will attempt to complete as many of those as I can. However, the problem with many of them is that, given the cost of living, I have been unable to collect the spare funds needed to accomplish them, and I do not see that condition changing in the time I have left here. Although, I will be here through summer, and I have the utmost intention on stealing away every possible moment I can to enjoy an ice cream and watch the sunset at the beach, and I will enjoy the resort style pool located at my apartment complex, and I will take hundreds of pictures every where I go. Yes, I will savor these final moments and I will forever hold this place and this time in my heart and my memory in the most beloved of regards.

My Must-Have Office Supplies

Planner – The most essential part of of my office arsenal is my planner . It is literally the heartbeat of my day. Even though I work from home, I try to maintain a very detailed cleaning schedule for my home, and am a full time online college student, as well as trying to schedule in time for my personal development practices, on top of having a full time job. My life would be hectic and stressful, as well as messy from having post-it notes strewn all over my house if it was not for having my one personal planner to organize and maintain all of my tasks that I need to complete. Having a functional planner is essential to planning out the monthly, weekly, and daily tasks of my life to keep me balanced and organized. I have tried a wide variety of different styles and brands of planners. I have some that worked for me in terms of functionality, and I have found some that just did not really vibe well with me. Finding the perfect planner set up is like finding the perfect pair of jeans. It needs to be comfortable to write in and yet stylish enough to encourage you to look at it every day.

Pens and Highlighters– Aside from the traditional black and blue inked pens for daily writing purposes, I also make a point to keep some colorful and pretty writing utensils on hand for decorating my journal and planner. Both the Paper Mate Flair Medium and the Click Inc are my top choices for use in my planner and journals. Along with an assortment of color highlighters to use, I try a variety of all things writing from packs I pick up at the local Dollar Tree to a pretty and fancy pen spotted while running into Staples to grab a pack of printer paper and ink. It pretty much goes without saying, that no office could be remotely functional without things to write with.

Accessories– You know, those little treasured trinkets that every self-respecting office contains- paper clips, binder clips, index cards, and such. In addition to those types of accessories, I also keep a collection of thumb drives on hand in my office. Between blogging, and taking my college courses, I tend to do a lot of writing assignments, and I have found from past experience, the hard way, that it a great value to save those writing assignments to an external memory drive in the event that my laptop takes an unfortunate tumble into the floor and all things on it are forever lost. Understandably, a memory drive is now considered a must have for my office so that in the event of a recurrence of such tragedy, at least I will still have access to all of my hard work. Finally, an understated office supply that I must have on hand is something to jot down quick notes, phone numbers, websites, or names to reference. I try to keep a small stash of memo pads and a few blocks of post-it notes on hand for such. That way when I am online researching something, and I just need to quickly write a name or address, or even a website to look up later, I can jot it down quickly on the post-it note, and not have to worry about having a bunch of random names taking up space on a full notebook page that I have to look at later and try to remember what it is for. The sticky notes are perfect to stick in my planner on future dates, in my notebook for future reference on pages where I am currently writing ideas on that particular subject, or to the top of my laptop when I need to return to a specific website when I get logged back online.

Notebooks– My home office would not be complete without a vast array of notebooks. I have everything from hard notebook binders, to basic dollar store composition books, to journal style notebooks, to a small collection of Happy Planner notebooks created from packs of Happy Planner brand filler paper sheets. I use them for a variety of purposes. I have some that I use specifically for journals, in which I jot down my daily affirmations, log my list of daily things I am grateful for, or just purge as my thoughts ramble on about life and all its mysteries. I have notebooks that I use specifically for work to jot down things to follow up on for the next day or to track my productivity from time to time to give myself a reality check about how much time I wander off from my actual work related work. I have several that I use for school, as I am currently enrolled in an online college to complete my bachelor degree, I keep a few notebooks to work out homework problems and jot assignment details for reference. And, I keep a few notebooks on hand for my personal development in which I jot down blog ideas, social media challenges that I wish to participate in, or note from any personal development online course I take or self-help audio books I listen to.

Desktop Calendar– I know it sounds crazy in a world where cell phones have taken the place of our calendars, our calculators, and even our alarm clocks. And, given that I keep a personal planner that I refer to on a daily basis morning and night. But, I work from home and there are times when I am working at my desktop computer and I need a quick reference to the date, either the current date or a future date, and it is just so convenient to not have to stop what I am doing in my work to pick up my phone and open the calendar app or go fetch my planner to flip through, but to just glance up to my handy, ever-waiting desk calendar. I do not write anything on the desktop calendar, but I do circle the weekend dates that I am scheduled to work, and that provides a quick and easy reference at a glance for days that I cannot plan anything, at least until that evening, for that day.

Laptop– My personal laptop is an older one that I purchased roughly about five years ago. I know, with the rate in which technology advances, I am sure it is darn near obsolete at this point. However, it still works perfectly and does anything I need it to do in order to complete my writing tasks or perform any homework assignment that I currently have to complete for school. Therefore, I see no need to update at this time. My laptop is a crucial part of my everyday life, however, and it is generally turned over every morning by 7:00 am at the latest. Ironically, I do not use my laptop to surf the internet or look at social media. I save that for my smartphone and look at Pinterest on my Ipad. I really only use the internet on the laptop to do research for a writing project or to access a website in which I will need to download or print something, such as when I purchased my annual parking pass for the beach. Laptops nowadays come in a variety of price ranges and can be very expensive to very affordable, depending on the purpose in which you intend to use the laptop. So, I know that when the unfortunate time comes in which I will need to put my current laptop down, I will have no choice but to replace it, as it is now a vital part of my daily existence.

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5 Things to do in Fort Myers, Florida

Whether you decide to pay a visit to beautiful Fort Myers Florida during the summer or winter, it makes no difference. It is summer all year long down in sunny Southwest Florida. There will not be any shortage of sand, sun and sparkling beverages, regardless of what time of year you make the trek south to Fort Myers. No matter if you make the trip for a family vacation, a lovely couples’ get-away, or decide to be a regular snowbird and make The City of Palms your part time home, there are many things for everyone to do. However, there are a few things that everyone should move to the top of their bucket list for their visit to Fort Myers. It only takes on visit to Fort Myers, Florida to easily understand why so many people choose to call this place their favorite vacation locale, their winter retreat from the bitter winters up north, and, for many, home. Here are a few of the many things to do in Fort Myers that will guaranteed make it a memorable and exciting visit, and, quite possibly, have you returning again and again!

1 It goes without saying, that the first thing you should do when visiting Fort Myers, Florida is to see the beach. Florida is most notably known for its beaches, and Fort Myers Beach does not disappoint. While visiting the beaches at Fort Myers, you need to make a point to stop by Times Square. If at all possible, be sure to take in one of the Sunset Celebrations located at Times Square on Friday and Saturday nights. You will be entertained by some of Fort Myers’ local musical talents, and get to enjoy an infamous sunset, along with dozens of your “fans of Fort Myers Sunsets” friends, eben if you do not know them when you arrive. You sure do not want to miss out on any opportunity to drive across the causeway and see the historic and stunning islands of Sanibel and Captiva. If shelling is your thing, you will definitely want to take in the shell-lined beaches at Sanibel and Captiva. You may even get the opportunity to swim with dolphins or manatees while visiting the beaches around Fort Myers. It is no surprise that most people visit Fort Myers for its beaches. After all, they are among some of the most beautiful in all of Florida.

Sunset at Fort Myers Beach

2 Ideally, you will want to find some local favorite places to grab a bite while visiting Fort Myers. One of the places that should be on your to-do list, is 3 Peppers Burrito. While 3 Peppers is only one of the many dining options around the Fort Myers area, they are definitely worth putting on the top of your must do list. You can get a little history about how the brothers started up the restaurant, which is native to this area. However, whether your dining palette craves fresh seafood, beach-side burgers, or just a casual family dinner, there are ample choices around the Fort Myers area to satisfy every taste from traditional to a true cultural experience.

3 Peppers Burrito

3 Of course, no trip to Fort Myers would be complete without a visit to the Downtown River District. While visiting downtown, you will find many local eateries filled with folklore and history galore. One such place to stop in for a nice casual dining experience as well as some very conversational decor is Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza. For a fun-filled family outing downtown, you want to also stop off to see Centennial Park and take the family to the Imag Museum for an interactive science discovery center that the whole family will enjoy.

Cannoli from Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza

4 If parks and recreation are what you are seeking on your visit to Fort Myers, be sure to stop by many of the great parks that Fort Myers has to offer. These include Lakes Park, Six Mile Cypress Slough, and Manatee Park.  In addition, Fort Myers is home to both the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox major league baseball training camps, so you can catch a game while they are in town, or maybe stop in for a minor league game and enjoy watching the Fort Myers Miracle at Hammond Stadium.

Lakes Park

5 Perhaps, a little souvenir shopping is on the agenda. Or, you just simply want to browse local shops. Fort Myers has plenty of options to get your retail therapy. Close to downtown, you will find the Edison Mall with plenty of space to take a break from the fun and sun to browse and shop. For a little more relaxed atmosphere, you will want to stop by the Shops at Bell Tower. There you will find more of an open-air type shopping, with plenty of options for a bite to eat or enjoy a tasty craft beer at the World of Beer, and a very spacious stand alone movie theater. Be sure to take the scenic route to your shopping destination, and drive down McGregor Boulevard

Driving down McGregor Boulevard

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When the Water Recedes

Life throws a lot of things our way. Life will send the storms; the flood, the fire, and the rain. But I believe the most important thing to consider is, when the water recedes, what does your character say about you? I have literally been through some of life’s storms. My son and I were trapped in our severely damaged home after the Palm Sunday tornadoes in 1994, and most recently my family survived a devastating flood. Having to jump from a window because we were in danger and getting to higher ground to watch our life literally floating away before our very eyes. They say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but I like to take that a step further and say that I believe what doesn’t kill you can make you kinder.

One who learns to value how fragile life is can in turn learn to appreciate even the smallest gestures of kindness. Since the flood, I have seen my sixteen year old daughter really grow in her maturity. She has ministered to friends at school, and even to those in school whom she does not consider very friendly. She makes posts on Facebook and Twitter that get hundreds of likes and retweets. She has become quite the inspiration to many, and she is without doubt the most uplifting person I know. Her character speaks volumes of the wonderful person she is, and people are naturally drawn to her because they feel better just being around her.

 Since the flood, I have become more aware of people, as in their actions and reactions. I recently took my car in for service at the dealership, and while I was there I planned to catch up on some of my reading. I found myself getting sidelined by people watching instead. Mostly I was watching and listening to the employees of the service department. Many of the “grunt” workers of the department were coming into the main area and mingling a bit. As I watched them and caught bits and pieces of their side conversations, I gathered it was lunch time and the service department manager had lunch catered in to them every day. I was highly impressed by this. Not by the fact they were enjoying BBQ sandwiches as much, but rather in how they responded to him and him with them. He was more than a boss to the men in his employ, he was a leader. Many places would think nothing of the employees clocking out, fighting traffic to get to a place of choice, and waiting to get their meal before finally eating only to fight traffic getting back. But there was no “every man for himself” attitude in that service department. I could easily see the employees not only respected him, but admired him, and they followed his example. I was so impressed by witnessing of the service manager’s character, that I called my daughter right there in the lounge and bragged emphatically over the place.

I’ve also taken notice of people’s reactions to you in checkout lines. Of course employees are taught to say the generic “have a nice day” as part of their customer service training. But how many people going through those lines, actually appreciate or take time to reciprocate their “have a nice day?” I have started a habit, sadly I do not remember to do it every time while in checkout lines- I’m far from perfect, but when the cashier says for me to have a nice day, I reply with “thank you, and you have a blessed day as well.”  I have had quite a response to this. I’ve had many people take a double take, light up, and say, “Thank you so much!” with gleaming smiles.

am I being Kind

We all have bad days, bad weeks, and bad years, but the trick is, not to let the storm make you bitter. Besides, we never know when someone else’s day is worse. Are they still in their time of flood season? Maybe just a simple gesture of kindness can make a difference in someone’s storm. So when life throws her perils your way, and the waters recede from the flood, what will your character say about you? Anyone can learn the mundane task of repeating “have a nice day” as part of your routine. But I believe people should be sincere in their delivering and receiving of even the simplest acts of kindness. I believe that once the dust settles and when the water recedes, people have the ability to learn valuable lessons from the story, and even greater, the ability to grow from the experience. Just like glass is put into the fire to refine it and make it something beautiful, I believe we can use our trials by fire to refine us and build the kind of character that legacies are made of.

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My Favorite Things

As Fall approaches here in beautiful north Georgia, it is a time to reflect on the things that we enjoy most. So, I have compiled a list of five items that are just a few of my favorite things.
1- Books- Oh how I love to read a good book. Sadly, as times have changed, I have given in to the bittersweet progress of digital books. However, nothing is more satisfying than to hold an actual paper laden book in hand. The feel of the paper in hand, and the smell, especially when the book is an old classic, it just has the delectable book smell. I have been recently reading more self-growth books than anything, and one of my particular favorites is “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.

2- Music- whether I am driving in my car, or going for a nice little walk, or even working out my frustrations in the gym, music is life. I honestly have said over and over, if I could choose which sense I had to lose between sight and sound, I would opt for sight, because I do not think I could live in a world without music. I listen to a wide range of music, depending on my mood and thoughts at the time. Mostly, though, I listen to the genre of music affectionately referred to as “Emo” music. To me, there is just something so relatable in their raw emotion felt through the song that gives me more of a connection to their music than any other type.

3- Planners- I just love planners. Currently, I am obsessing over The Happy Planner. I like that it is so customizable, and I can set it up to suit whatever needs I may have at the time. I have used many different types of planners in the past, but the key is to find a planner that works for you. After all, the objective is not in the brand of planner, but rather the functionality and whether or not you will use it. I like the feeling of being organized and making lists. My therapist once said that with my adult ADD, I need structure in my life, because chaos and clutter are huge triggers. Thus, began my continual need for planner peace. For an example of The Happy Planner: https://amzn.to/2MNB6Ac

4- The Beach- In reality, who doesn’t love the beach? Well, I suppose there are some people out there who do not. None of which I care to know. The beach is calming, and there is just something about sanding on the verge of such an expanse of sky and ocean that really puts you into perspective. You realize what a small portion of this great world is when you are standing on the heels of something so grand. I can imagine many incredible things in the world can give you that sense of humbleness as well. Such as, the California Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful. However, I have never seen any of those. Therefore, my wonderment is based solely on my personal experience at the beach.

5- Fall- Ah, Fall. It is the epitome of everything that is great about living in the south. Thinking of fall drums up all kinds of nostalgic imagery of things such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin farms, bonfires, and hayrides, and of course, pumpkin flavored everything! Then, there is football. You see, we take our football very seriously in the south. To properly engage in the watching of football, it is required to attend a local (generally your home town) high school football game on Friday night, then you would spend the better part of Saturday watching college football games, and then, finally, Sunday is for the NFL. It is literally a three-day event. Ironically, even though we are mere days away from the first day of fall on the calendar, it is still nearing in the nineties here in North Georgia. But, I know, just the same, I will miss fall this year, as I will be moving to South Florida in one week. I will most definitely miss the frosty chill in the air, and most of all, the changing of the leaves as the north Georgia landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red and orange and yellow.

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