Archive for the Miscellaneous Category

This summer I realized a long time dream by staying at the historic Casablanca Inn in St. Augustine, Florida. I’ve visited many times and gone on the ghost tour where they tell the story of the owner, a savvy businesswoman who made money off both the Federal Agents who stayed at the Inn, and the smugglers (rum runners).

The Casablanca Inn overlooks Matanzas Bay and she could go up on the widow’s walk and signal the smugglers with a lantern when it wasn’t safe to come into town. The story is, people still see this light at night. Cool, right?

We stayed in the gorgeous San Marco Suite. It had a comfy sleep number bed and tons of pillows. Decorated with antiques, I felt like I’d gone back in time.

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The last night of our stay, we took a photo of the Casablanca all lit up at night. Later, when we returned to our suite, I scrolled through the photos and made a startling discovery. I distinctly remember waiting until no one was in front of me before taking the picture of the Casablanca. I remember, because my daughter was impatient to get going. Well, there are some people in this picture I don’t remember being there or seeing at all.

I must have had a look on my face because my daughter asked me what was wrong. I questioned if she remembered anyone standing in front of us when we took the picture. She told me no, you made me wait until everyone got out of the way. I handed her my phone so she could look. All the blood drained out of her face and we both got tears in our eyes. All the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end.

We enlarged the picture and you can clearly see a woman standing there. Upon further investigation, it’s not one woman, but two! Crazy. I know they were not there when I took the picture. I would have remembered seeing them. See for yourself below:

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And it didn’t end there. At that point, I strongly felt someone was watching me from the other room, sitting on the bed. I snapped some photos, but saw nothing odd. I finally said, “If you’re here, let me see you”. And the most amazing thing happened. A ball of light formed right where I thought she was sitting, hovered, and then flew through the wall into the bathroom. I was stunned, every nerve tingling. I’d had an intelligent, visual response from a ghost!

I got up and went into the bathroom to find all the drawers in the vanity hanging open. Neither my daughter, nor I, had opened them the entire time we’d been there. What an exit!

During my lifetime I’ve had a lot of spooky experiences, but this was special. The whole time I stayed there, I knew there was a lady in the room. But she felt welcoming and protective. I slept like a baby in that place and I never sleep well away from home. I don’t know who she was, but I got the name, Liliana. I don’t know if she was the same lady in the picture out front, or someone different. But I’m grateful she let me “see” her.

In October 1995, I tested for my first degree (dan) black belt in Tae Kwon Do. The final requirement at the end of the test is breaking. I had to choose between two stacked boards or a concrete slab to be broken with a hammer fist.

I watched the first line of people attempt their breaks. Many who attempted the slab failed, even a lot of the guys. Here’s a little tip, if you don’t break concrete on your first attempt, don’t try again, waste of time. Your body knows what’s coming and you will subconsciously hold back to prevent further pain. It’s not going to break.

Most students who didn’t break, finished with their feet, and their teachers were down doing pushups. See, the student should not be presented for testing by the teacher if they’re not ready. It’s on the teacher if they fail, so they are the ones doing the pushups. Just how it works in martial arts.

My teacher appeared before me. He indicated the slab or the two boards. I knew what would be easier. I had successfully broken two stacked boards with a hammer fist before. He knew this. I’d never broken the slab, but I wanted it. Call me crazy, but I nodded to the slab. I know by this point, he was tired of doing pushups, but without a word, he set it up for me.

I lined up to the slab and stared it down. All I could think about was how that slab was between my black belt and me. I didn’t think about technique. That was already ingrained through many years of training. Inside of all of us, whether we know it or not, is a power we rarely, if ever, tap into. That day, I found it. When it was time, I went through that slab of concrete like a knife through butter. It was easy.

In fact it was so easy, at first I couldn’t believe it. But there it was, in two pieces. And there was my teacher, his face broken into a huge smile. I’d done it. No more pushups today!

I still have that slab. The two pieces fitted back together and displayed on top of a bookcase. For a long time now, I forgot about that secret power I have inside. The power we all have. I’ve allowed life to beat me down and I’ve doubted my ability to use my power.

This morning, I woke up dreaming about breaking that slab and how it felt. I think it was a message. I’m taking my power back. I’m going to believe in myself again. I’m going to demolish the obstacles standing in my way. I’m going to make it happen. How about you?

“Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.” – Bruce Lee

Every New Year, I think about what I want to accomplish. Yes, the dreaded resolution. Last year, it was simply to be more positive. It’s an ongoing battle, but I think it’s helped my overall attitude.

This year, I really want to lose weight. Just thinking about it has me breaking out in a sweat. You see, I’m a lapsed lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I know what it takes to lose the weight and it overwhelms me.

I was wavering, thinking, how can I do this again? When out of nowhere, it struck me. Just go to a meeting. Break down that goal into little steps and celebrate each one. Don’t think about the final objective, only the thing you need to do today to make it happen. It was an epiphany, aha moment, and I had to share.

Whatever your resolution is, you can do it. Don’t think big picture, think about one thing you can do to move a little closer to the goal line. It helped me, hope it helps you, too! Wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with many celebrations!

“Celebrate what you’ve accomplished, but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed.”
— Mia Hamm

In a series of recent conversations with friends and family, this subject kept coming up. It made me think about things I learned as a young child that stay with me today. Things I do that I never thought about why, until I took the time to reflect.

For example, I never leave my gas tank on empty, and it gets me super aggravated if someone else drives my car and does it. Why? I thought about it, and realized this is something I learned from my grandfather. He was religious about it. He always kept his gas tank full. He lived through a time when gas was rationed. My Aunt Mary told me there was an emergency situation when my grandpa didn’t have gas. He had to gather ration slips from friends and neighbors. I know he wanted to make sure this never happened again. Without my realizing it, he passed this little quirk down to me. So, if there’s an emergency, my tank is full, people!

Children are like little sponges. Whether we realize it or not, they absorb everything. It’s important we share our history with the younger generation. I’m saddened when I realize that so many of our youth can tell you all about the latest reality show, but have no idea what country we won our independence from or who fought in the Civil War. They don’t know what happened on the Beaches of Normandy or at Pearl Harbor. It’s a national tragedy that they don’t.

Make it your mission to educate the young minds in your life, especially on this Veteran’s Day. Remind them why we live in a free country and must be ever vigilant to keep it that way.

Sincere and heartfelt thanks to our veterans and active duty service members. May God bless and keep you safe. Happy Veteran’s Day!

Do you ever feel like you’re merely going through the motions of life? Does your “to do” list look the same day in and day out? It’s far too easy to become complacent, fall into routines, and forget the excitement we felt as children. Those days before the daily grind of jobs, bills, and adult obligations erased our innate curiosity and wonder.

If I reach far back into the recesses of my mind, I can remember those early childhood dreams. Always an avid reader, I gobbled up everything I could get my hands on. From biographies to comic books, I wanted to have adventures like the people in the stories I read. I wanted superpowers, and trips to faraway places.

While I’m still waiting for my superpowers to kick in after that spider bite a couple of years ago, I have traveled a little, to Spain and Mexico, and several states here in the USA. But there are many more places I’d like to visit. My thirst to learn and explore has not dissipated, yet most days, it goes unfulfilled.

I have a passion for history. In fact, the first novel I wrote was a post Civil War Romance. I would love nothing more than to travel to historic sites and explore them.  I do it as often as I possibly can. Any time I go on a trip, I research the area and plan an extra day for sightseeing.  Traipsing about old musty mansions is a thrill for me.

What is my point? Each day, find one thing you enjoy, and do it. Whether it’s reading a book or eating a candy bar, do something for the pure pleasure of it. When you place your head on the pillow at night, close your eyes and think, “I can’t wait until tomorrow when I’m going to __________”. You fill in the blank.  Make sure you live each day with passion, doing something you love.

I was a kid back in the 1970’s in Florida. I spent a lot of time at my Grandmother’s house in the summertime. She had no central air, only a ceiling fan, and a wall unit she used when company came over. Yet, I don’t remember the heat bothering me. I remember the excitement.

Every morning I couldn’t wait to get up and go outdoors. We rode bikes, climbed trees, played “Cowboys and Indians” with our cap guns, and dug trenches in the orange grove for warfare. Our ammo was rotten oranges, bulbs fallen from the giant magnolia tree, berries from the mulberry trees, kumquats, and good old fashioned balls of mud. Let me tell you, rotten oranges stink, the smell has to wear off, mulberries stain your skin purple, kumquats and magnolia bulbs sting, and I had a mud facial for free!

Some days we’d range so far from home, my granny would come outside and honk the car horn like a dinner bell. We’d hose off in the outdoor shower she had in the old fern shed before going inside to eat. My granny made the best food: fried chicken, potato salad and apple pie, yum.  I loved spending time with her in the kitchen. I remember frying my first egg in a tiny little pan wearing an oversized apron. I spent a lot of time in that kitchen cooking with my granny. She loved it and so did I.

My granny had a big freezer in the fern shed behind her house. The shed was ancient and creepy, but usable. One night, I went out well after midnight, to grab something out of the freezer for her.  I ran in, turned on the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, went into the room with the freezer, took out the necessary item, and headed to the door. Just as I was about to reach the door, I remembered I needed to turn off the light. I reached out to grab the dangling cord.  Before I could, an icy cold hand touched mine and the light went off. I was too scared to scream, I ran!  I guess someone was trying to be helpful. LOL!

I still dream about my granny and her house. It was a magical place. We had a TV with rabbit ears and three channels, make that four if you went outside to turn the antenna pole! No DVD player, no game console, no computer, no cell phone, and still, we had a blast. When we were indoors, we’d play board games, make believe with Barbie and GI Joe, or watch a movie on TV. No DVR, no pause, only run to the bathroom and rush back during the commercial. It was a simpler time which I miss. Time moved much slower, summer lasted forever, and I fell asleep listening to the sounds of nature, rather than electronics.

Do you remember those lazy days of summer? Savor your memories, share them, and make new ones with the loved ones in your life. Make your house a magical place for the children in your life by going retro!

My daughter, Leigh Jackson, inspires me.  I know, I’m her mother, but I think she will inspire you as well. In September of 2007, my daughter was a competitive cheerleader, doing back-flips and gymnastics. She dreamed of college cheer and one day becoming a doctor. Then everything changed.

I’ll never forget driving to the Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium on LPGA Blvd for a high school football game. Dark clouds gathered in the sky and I made sure I had my umbrella. Leigh was far ahead of me with her cheer squad on a school bus.

During the game, I watched from the stands as my daughter performed a basket toss. I could tell something went wrong as it didn’t go straight and Leigh was the only base to catch the flyer. For anyone who doesn’t know, in a basket toss the flyer can go up to fifteen feet in the air. There are two side bases, a front and a back spot to catch her when she descends, four people.

My daughter had a reputation for NEVER letting a flyer hit the ground. She didn’t this time. Somehow, she caught her all by herself. She squatted, the flyer landed mostly on her left shoulder, her body twisting to take a force equivalent to a car wreck.  If not for Leigh, the flyer would have landed on her head. Yes, Leigh is a hero!

Immediately after placing her flyer safely back onto the ground, Leigh grabbed her back, but then continued to try and cheer. I thought she was okay at first, but I was so wrong, it was the beginning of a nightmare.

I’m not going to type here about the eight months of horror that followed. Suffice it to say that my daughter missed her entire junior year of high school, unable to sit, stand, or walk without assistance.  A parade of doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. The best spine specialists in Florida looked at her and could not figure it out.

Finally, my chiropractor, Dr. Buckley, looked personally at a CT scan of Leigh’s spine and saw the crushed facet joint in her back. A facet block injection from a pain specialist and Leigh was able to walk for the first time in almost a year!

I wish I could tell you that all was well after that, but it has not been.  Leigh has suffered with chronic pain ever since. The injections stopped working, we went on to other procedures, but the end result is that Leigh still struggles with mobility and pain related to her back.

And what about her dream of becoming a doctor? Leigh needed two credits to graduate high school at the time she injured her back. She could have taken the easy road. Done them online and graduated, but not my girl. She went back to school her senior year, took FIVE AP classes and graduated Salutatorian of her class. She went on to graduate with honors from Stetson University and has been accepted to the University of South Florida’s Morsani School of Medicine. She achieved all this while fighting through back pain that at times makes even sitting impossible to bear. I am in awe of her.

Do you have a dream? Do you sometimes feel as though the odds are stacked against you and there’s no way it will ever come true? Don’t give up. No matter what life throws your way, if you want something bad enough, be like my daughter and stay in the fight. The only way to fail is to quit!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven….
-Ecclesiastes 3:1

This verse resonates with me. I’ve reached a point in my life where children are growing up, moving out, and creating their own lives and families. It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m happy and excited to see this occur, and on the other, I miss those little hands in mine.

My main job and identity has been mother. And under the title of “mom” there are many roles to fill. I used to tease my husband by telling him that if I died, he’d go broke trying to hire enough people to replace me.

I remember attending a workshop that still speaks to me. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the presenter’s name, but her words stuck with me. She said, “If I’d published my first book at the time I first submitted it, I’d have been a one book wonder.” I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the exact words. But that’s very close.

She went on to discuss how at that time, her life would not have permitted her to give the attention to a writing career necessary to be successful. Looking back, she was thankful for the way things turned out. When her writing contract finally arrived, it was at a time she could devote herself to her craft.

I’ve consoled myself with this on multiple occasions and I’ve heard this sentiment repeated by at least two other authors I know. But, I have to admit to wondering when my time will come. It feels as though I’ve been waiting forever. Some things truly are out of our control. I trust that someone with much more infinite wisdom than I will choose the right time.

My husband says worry is wasted energy, but I can’t help myself. I submit my case in point. I drove my brother to Shands Hospital in Gainesville for surgery on his leg. Everything went well. I finally got into my hotel room close to midnight. Once there, I called the hospital for one last check in. Dennis told me he was being moved to another room, but that he was okay.

After I got into bed and comfortable, my mind went crazy. I started wondering if I should call Dennis back and make sure they got his things out of the closet when they moved him. I chewed on this for a bit, but decided against it since there was nothing irreplaceable and I didn’t want to wake him if he’d managed to get to sleep. Whew, sleep now.

But no, wait a minute! They gave me two keys when I checked into the hotel and I could only find one after I got settled for bed. I never did find that other key despite searching all over the room. But it’s no big deal because there’s no room number on the key, it’s okay….

Oh no! The key I lost was inside that holder that has the room number on it and someone could find it and see the number and try to get in my room. Maybe I should get up and look for it again. Naw, I have the bolt and crossbar on the door, they can’t get in, I will look for it in the morning. It has to be here somewhere. Exhaustion sets in, fitful sleep ensues.

3:00 AM – I wake from a horrible nightmare where I’m fighting for my life. Where do I wake? I’m on the floor in a crouch, searching the room for intruders. After the adrenaline rush fades, I come to my senses and realize it was only a dream. No one is in the room. That’s also when I begin to feel the pain from where I hit my big toe on the chair near my bed when I flipped out of it liked a crazed ninja! Watch out people!

Finally, morning comes. I find the key in the console of my car. Mystery solved. Nothing to worry about, right? Au contraire, I will find something, never fear. I can’t seem to help myself. What about you? Do you worry? Do you lay in bed at night unable to sleep? Tossing and turning? Do share.

Two things have been on my mind lately: waiting and hope. They are integrally linked. Without one, you don’t have the other. If you’re not waiting, you’re not hoping. If you’re not hoping, you’re not waiting.  I can tell you that many times, I want to give up on both. But somehow, I hold on to hope and it keeps me waiting.

Currently, my daughter has been waiting and hoping to be accepted to medical school. A letter from one school came in the mail. My hands shook as I raced up the stairs to her room and waited for her to open it with bated breath. Good news! She’s been placed on the waiting list. Hope is still alive. Tears burst forth and I hugged her, the feeling of joy worth the wait.

I’m waiting to hear back from editors and agents, hoping for a publishing contract or offer of representation. It’s torture because I know from experience I may not get the response I want and it will be crushing. But, I’m hoping that my dream will come true. I visualize the cover of my book and how it will feel to hold it in my hand.

People say love or money make the world go ‘round, but I contend it is hope. It keeps us going, makes us work toward our goals and desires in the hope that today is the day the waiting will be over and joy will ensue.

How do we continue to hold onto hope? What keeps us waiting? What works for you?