Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bok Tower & Garden

Now I'm going to sound like a Central Florida tour guide.....

A sweet reader, Tracy, from Winter Haven sent us tickets to go to Bok Towers.  She's always sending things for the kids and this was so nice- we could all go. 

Jon was born and raised in Polk County and he'd never been.  I'd never been before either which is hard to believe.  It's like a rite of passage to have gone to Bok Towers and somehow we never did it!  The funny thing, when I first became a probation officer, that was my area.  I could see the Tower from some of the homes I visited.  I hadn't been to that area in years so it was interesting to see how it had grown up.  (the area is not a bad area- it's a small town)







It was my son's girlfriend's birthday weekend so we got to take her too.  
 
 
 
 

Sarah and Sam enjoyed the music from the tower
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
This picture just cracks me up.  We were trying to get all of us into the picture so Lauren did a selfie...It looks like she's saying "Look mom & dad I found this crazy family in Florida!"  






 

 
 
 
 
We had such a good time.  The weather was perfect and the place is beautiful.  They are doing a lot of work to put in a few more garden areas and to expand.  It's a great half day trip if you want something different than Disney.  Bok Towers is probably no more than a 30 minute drive from Disney.
 
Thanks so much for the tickets Tracy!
 
 
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We had an amazing speaker at our church this past week.  Sergey is from Russia and he has a ministry called House of Hope. 
 
 
 
 
 
They work with orphans who are too old to stay in their orphanages (ones with no special needs) and they are expanding to take in older orphans with special needs.  They also have a ministry to prisoners and to drug addicts. In the area they are in, it is rural, but there are over 60 prisons.   Our church was very moved by the testimony of the ministry.  I will be sharing more about them again as they set up an easy way to give to their ministry to reach the hopeless of Russia.  (they are affiliated with our church denomination)
 
 
Jon & Sergey
 
 
 
 the rest of us including his translator Igor. 
 
 
After we ate, Jon took them to the woods to see some real life Florida alligators :)  They were rewarded by seeing a HUGE one. 
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This blog is a must read....
A family is fighting to adopt two children-one who has serious health issues.  Issues that can easily be taken care of in the US.  they've adopted before, they know what they are getting into....
 
The family went to their church for support and was turned down....they were told to not adopt this child with these health conditions.....
 
Reading this just broke my heart! 
And it PISSED ME OFF to be very un pastor wife like.....LOL
And it made me want to tell that church "KISS MY GRITS"
 
But more than anything it made me determined to help this family raise their support. 
You'll be hearing more in the days to come but I really want to be a part of this.  If you'd like to give, there are several ways set up that the blog tells you how to do it.  As always if you'd like to give through our church and we'll send one check to them ( I don't do any money transactions on line if I can help it.  Plus I like a "paper trail" of anything that comes in for the Orphan fund)
Grace Church
7060 Berry Road
Zephyrhills Fl 33540
Mark it YASIMINE
 
I will be sharing more about her situation but I wanted to at least get this out today. 
 
 
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Thank you and have a nice week!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Circle B Bar Reserve

 
 
How many of you saw this video?  It happened in a park near us....so we went to that park. 
(don't worry that area was closed off)
 
(park's website)
Circle B Bar Reserve
 
We'd been meaning to go there for awhile but hadn't had the chance.  Jon was wanting to do something before he started back to work so we decided to go.
 
For the record if you live or visit  in Central Florida this is an amazing FREE park!
 
The park has a whole area given to education with various buildings and interactive things.  But the trails are just amazing!!! 
 
It was not easy pushing Sam and Sarah's wheelchairs on the gravel/sand path which makes up most of the trail but it was well worth it.
 
PLEASE NOTE GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE PARKING AREA!
Also there are NO trash containers on any of the trails.  We had to carry our drink containers the whole way back.
 
But it is worth it!
 

do you see the turtle?


Must be my Southern roots but I love Swamps!  


 
 
 



 
 
Yes we match!  I've had this shirt for a couple of years and saw the one Sarah is wearing in a store and had to get it for her:)







 




 
one of my favorite birds
Sand Hill Cranes
aka Swamp Birds

 
 
 

 
 
 

















Can you see our two friends in the middle?








Look over Shad's shoulder 







Jon loved it and Sam fell asleep in his chair. 

 





Not sure if you can tell but on the left side of the trail is the lake and the right side is canal.  There were frequent spots were gators had crossed.  You could see their markings on trail.  I was getting nervous and I'm used to being in the woods and hiking.  But I usually don't have the kids with us!  This was the most "real" park I've ever been to!  Usually the parks we go to have well cleared trails, no underbrush and built up trails near the water.  Of course it's different in the woods- but again we don't have the little ones with us there!  We weren't the only ones there with little kids, a whole stroller brigade of about 6 moms pushing strollers passed us.  Now knowing how rugged the area is, we probably wouldn't take the kids with us again.  Shad loved it and spotted so many alligators and other animals for us.  Next time we go-no kids and we're taking Jon's nice big walking stick!!!!
 

 
So if you are in this area-take advantage of this amazing real Florida park for FREE!
 
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Family news
 
Jon started back to work this week.  He preached Sunday at the prison and the church.  Then Monday he hit the ground running back to his normal schedule.  I was a little scared/worried for him to start back but he's not one to sit around & was ready to go:)  The crazy thing is he and Shad were almost in a car accident his first morning back!  As they were leaving our neighborhood, an out of control car came around the corner and lost control and hit another car.  The car almost hit them. Thankfully no one was seriously injured but it was a reminder of how quickly your life can change (not that I need a reminder of that)
 
Some sad news....I found I have an allergy to dogs.  I've been sneezing and my eyes and throat have been burning ever since we got Hannah.  When I'd leave the house I'd feel better but back home I was hacking, nose running, miserable....finally one of my nurses put it together for me!   We've had dogs but never in the house.  Looking back I remember sneezing some when I'd play or sit with Brownie outside, but once I came in, I'd wash my hands and sometimes even change my clothes and I'd be fine.  (most of the time when I'd play with her I'd also be working outside in the garden so that's why I'd change LOL I'm not that germ phobic)   Thankfully her former family has found a home for her .  One of their family members will be taking her.  We are sad to see her go but I can't live like this anymore, my skin even burns/itches & I've had almost a constant headache except when I leave the house. 
 
One last thing.....a childhood friend of mine Tina, had a heart attack some months back.  She was misdiagnosed for days and her heart suffered terrible damage.  She had no option but a heart transplant.  She just got the call and they are on their way.  Please pray for her and her family.  They are so grateful to the donor's family and would appreciate prayers for them also as they deal with their loss.  What a wonderful thing they did, donating their loved one's heart....makes my eyes fill with tears.  Please pray that Tina will have a wonderful outcome with her surgery & transplant.  Thank you!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Meet Hannah & Catch Up with us!

 
Well meet our newest baby!  Last weekend my friend at the low cost animal clinic we go to, called and told me about an 11 year old Lab. The director knew we were looking for an older Lab.   The dog's  family is moving to Hawaii and just can't take her with them.  We were looking for a situation just like her so we met the family and Hannah.  We knew she was the right kind of dog for us.   We  liked Midnight the black dog but she had jumped up on Shad and scratched him.  Of course I know things like that can happen, but she was too puppy like still for us to feel comfortable with her around the kids unsupervised.  Thankfully one of our nurses just loved her & wanted to take her.  Our nurse lives in a rural area with a huge yard, so it was a perfect fit.  She actually is keeping her inside most of the time, but there is plenty of room for her to run and play.  It all worked out great and two dogs got a home. 
 
 
And YES she is inside.  Her former owners were ok with her staying outside but we were afraid it would stress her out so we tried it.  Basically she stays with me 99% of the time LOL  But today she was sleeping and Sam came upon her.  She's just like our old Brownie, very tolerate of him but I moved him right after this picture.  He was getting a little rough.  Hannah is very easy going as most Labs are and things are working out fine with her.  She has a few health problems but all in all she's in good shape and she is a sweet heart.  I've never wanted a dog in the house but she won me over!  I can't imagine her having an issue with the kids but we are still cautious and watchful.  Labs are our favorite breed we had such a good experience with Brownie and I'm sure we will with Hannah too.  
 
Jon is headed back to work next week:)  He's very happy to go back, he's missed the staff and the inmates.  We saw the surgeon and were told Jon had healed nicely and that the surgeon never wanted to see him again:)  Jon's started walking at the cardiac track daily for an hour.  He wants to go back to the woods but I'm scared for him to do that yet!  I think Sam will miss having daddy home all day long. 
 
 
 
Here's a cute picture of Sarah waiting Sunday morning for us to leave for church.  Isn't she cute?
 
 
 
 
 
I love how she holds her hands.
 
 
 
 
 
Well I've been busy working on recipes for Jon.  For now we are not eating complexly vegan-neither Jon's doctor or surgeon think a huge diet change will make a big difference in his particular case.  They feel if he continues how he was eating and takes the meds, he should be fine.  I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that so I've done everything to cut out oils & further cut fat.  Jon has an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic this summer, and I think that's where we will get more specific answers including genetic testing.  The surgeon told us he could save us some $$$ and tell us that Jon does have a genetic issue LOL  However depending on what kind of genetic issues he has, can determine meds and diet too.
 
Before the HA (heart attack) we mainly ate chicken or grass fed low fat beef, with an occasional pork or beef roast.  We  only used high oleic oils or good olive oil, almost all organic foods at home, lots of beans and veggies.  I made our own salad dressing using Apple Cider Vinegar, our own dips, used low fat healthy (really healthy not just things that said they were healthy)  milk products.  Jon usually declined the extra things like cheese, and went with more spices instead. 
 
So now I'm trying to refine our diet even more.  I've started using unsweetened Apple sauce instead of oil in many things and it's working great.  Today I made corn bread with apple sauce and it was great!  I couldn't tell the difference.  I haven't used oil or butter in anything I've cooked since Jon's been home.  I admit some things are dryer but that's ok- it pretty much all gets eaten up here anyhow!
 
Today I made ground chicken tacos with rice, black beans and fat free refried beans & the famous corn bread. 
 
If you use ground chicken make sure it's ground breast meat or you could still end up with a lot of fat.  The ground breast  chicken only has 2 grams of fat.  There is no fat when it is cooking so you have to stir it a lot and pay attention.  I use a "green" skillet, non stick. 
 
For the Black beans and the refried beans I buy either Publix brand or the organic Wal-Mart brand called " Wild Oats"  I am very careful to read the ingredients- many well known brands add OIL!  If you take the time to read labels, you will find many things with oil in the ingredients-that adds unnecessary fat.  The Wild Oats brand is great and is many areas of Wal-Mart. 
 
Wal-Mart also has the best taco shells!  Their store brand "Great Value" Taco Shells are the healthiest ones I could find.  I was shocked when I found them.  I always look for the ingredients and I like things that have a very short list like their Taco Shells.
 
I did use a rice mix, with no added butter or oil.  It was a healthy mix that had no bad ingredients in it.  And I made the corn bread from scratch.
 
Original recipe
I cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of Dixie Lily Corn Meal
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of melted shortening or cooking oil
 
Yvonne's recipe
1 cup of Spelt flour (whole grain)
1/8 cup of sugar
1 cup of Dixie Lily corn meal
1 egg (egg white)
1 cup of almond milk
1/4 cup of Applesauce!
(I added jalapenos peppers)
 
My recipe saved lots of calories and fat!  And despite my concerns, it tasted good!  The whole meal was under 10 grams of fat and no saturated fat at all!
 
After all the changes we've made over the years, I'm finding this change the hardest as I try and cut more fat out of our diets. 
 
Well after all the excitement we've had, I took myself in for blood work!  My cholesterol has gone down even further- it's well in the healthy range:)  The only thing a little off is my triglycerides are a few points too high (less than 10) and my "good cholesterol" is 3 points too low. But everything else is perfect including the test for diabetes A1C which is perfect.  Jon said it wasn't fair since I grew up eating fried food and pizza is my favorite other food!  But I don't eat like that much anymore.  However I know that blood tests only show some of what is going on with a person.  I looked up Jon's last blood work just a few months before the HA.... his total cholesterol was under 200 BUT his triglycerides were in the 300's.  It should have been 150 or lower. But it still wasn't high enough to cause major alarm.   Since that was the only part of his blood work not great, and his overall cholesterol was under 200- no one made a big deal about it.  Maybe for some people it would not have meant they had heart blockage building but it did for him. 
 
Anyhow I'm committed to exercising at least one hour a day.  I'm so thankful for our exercise bike-it's so much easier for me to exercise at home than try to go to the gym or even out to the cardiac walking area at our local hospital (where I went faithfully for years)  Since the first of the year, I've exercised 30- 60 minutes daily but now I've upped it to 60-90 minutes  daily.  I'm also doing an exercise routine that I found on You Tube for my upper arms which have hit the 50 year old flab!  My goal is to work through this twice a day
 
 
 
My goal is to get all my blood work at the right levels...of course then I'll get hit by a bus or something LOL
 
Well we have a few plans for the next couple of days before Jon goes back to work.  Tomorrow we are going to a nature park now that I found Sam a wheelchair!  I found it today when I was dropping some things off at my favorite thrift store.  Got it for $15!
Sam is too big for a stroller- we are in the process of getting him a wheelchair that will fit him better but this really will help.  He doesn't walk long distances so it's out of the question to try and go for a walk anymore with him.  Now we can!  This is a small adult one and in great shape.  After he finally gets a wheelchair of his own, we will save this one to have in the house for Sarah.  She has a fitted wheelchair that is great, but honestly it is very hard to get her in it.  So I can use this in the house when I can't carry her.  Sarah weighs about 60 pounds now and has never learned how to "help us carry her"  Most kids learn to lean into the parent not Sarah, she goes stiff so it's 60 pounds of dead weight and there are times when I can barely lift her.  She does take some steps on her own if we are supporting her but not when she is tired. 
 
 
Well that was quite the disjointed catch up wasn't it???  Everything from our new dog to our new way of eating and the new/used wheelchair......
 
Hope you all are having a great week!!!
 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Our Neighbor









This man lives in my neighborhood. His house is the first one I pass once I  turn down our country road.  When he is home, he is often outside in his cut off jeans, with a beer in hand......waving to everyone who passes. I cannot tell you how many times he has made me smile and just feel better about the world in general.

We first noticed him when the work started on our house.  At first I just kinda ignored him.  Jon started waving first- I felt awkward.  Then I noticed Steve always waved at him then I started waving at him.  Then if we went by and he wasn't out there, we'd feel a little let down.  There was a time when we didn't see him for a week or so, and we all ask if the other one had seen him....we got worried!  This is a guy we'd never ever spoken to but his friendly gesture made us feel close to him.  We were so glad when we started seeing him again.

Then when Jon was in the hospital, my drive by times seem to coincide with his schedule & every day he'd make me smile by waving at me. 

He had absolutely no idea what all was going on in our lives but his simple gesture lifted the load just a little.

The other day I decided I was going to stop and meet him and just let him know how much his friendliness meant to us.  He was as nice as I expected him to be and just said he liked to be friendly to folks.  I told him I make it a point to wave at our neighbors more now because I know what a simple wave can mean to a person. 

His kindness just warms my heart.  He reminds me of an age gone by when folks waved at their neighbors and were friendly to each other.... 

It's funny but this man with his beer in hand has lifted my spirits more than many sermons I've had to sit through.....(not counting my husband's LOL)  I'm thankful we have someone like him in our neighborhood.


This is his wind chime....120 beer cans.  He told me he'd make me a Pepsi wind chime but I had to have 120 cans.  I might just do that!  He's made me resolve to be more friendly to the folks in my neighborhood, a smile and a wave cost nothing but mean so much!

 
 
 
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Update on Jon
 
He's doing good.  He saw the cardiologist this past week and he tweaked his meds some.  According to a study, Jon's Lipitor has been raised and his blood pressure meds too (not that he had BP issues but it helps his heart not to work too hard)   With both meds higher, the study claims that not only can it stop heart disease and blockage but it can be reversed.  So we are hopeful that he won't have any issues with the meds and that it will work on him.  I know that statins have issues but at this point we don't have any other options that are proven to help.  When it's genetic like Jon, it seems that only meds can help
 
He goes for an xray tomorrow to see how he is healing inside.  I'm hoping when we see the surgeon on Monday he'll be released to drive again.  He's always been a busy guy- enjoying going and doing things, he's handled staying at home but I know he is ready to be able to drive!
 
Our insurance denied cardiac rehab for him!  I'm trying to get something else set up for him but he has been riding our exercise bike daily and that seems to be helping him.  He loves to exercise. 
 
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We had a big anniversary- 4 years since we met the girls....
 
 
Sarah was happy about it!  See her standing so good!
 
 
 
We also welcomed a new dog to our family.  We've missed Brownie so much.  We had accepted one dog that a friend had found last summer during our move but she was a runner (which is probably why she came up to my friends') and ran away during our move. So we weren't sure how this girl would do as she is younger and we will keep her outside.  But so far so good.  We heard about her on a FB page- her family had moved into a small trailer with no yard so they had to find a home for her.  We were really looking for an older dog but we thought we'd give her a try and so far so good.  She's a sweet dog and very compliant for her age.  She's been raised as an outdoor dog and loves being outside. Our yard is perfect for a dog and we have a big carport that she can sleep under.   ( if I get any silly messages about dogs should be inside....I will delete and block.  Not going through that crazy argument ever again!  There is no way I'd trust a dog around my little people and I can't be three places at one time.  I love animals but I love my people more!)   The family had named her Midnight but I want to call her Madea after my favorite actress:)  She's a Lab....something mix
 

Aren't her ears adorable?


 
We've been offered an older Lab also and will meet her this weekend and she if they fit together.  If so that would be really nice for them to have each other.  Her family is moving to Hawaii and can't take her with them.  I'd love it for the two of them to get along and have each other to pal around with
 
 
Well hope you all have a great weekend!
 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Photos

We have a library of photo albums, plastic bins filled with extra pictures, boxes under the bed filled with studio pictures, CD & DVDs of pictures, computers with pictures saved on them and thumb drives with even more pictures on them.  I love pictures but when I look back, even on happy times I feel very sad that that time has passed, never to be the same again. 

This being Thursday is TBT on FB and a childhood friend started it by posting a couple of pictures that I don't even remember....
 
 
At my friend's house probably calling some boy LOL


Speak to the hand cause I just got a perm do LOL







 Fun times at Wakulla Springs
 
 
 
 
College Friends




 
 

 
 
 




Me and my childhood friend and her crazy brother Photo bombing us!  I adored him:)






A rare picture of me and my biological siblings.  My two brothers are on the left, and my sister is the  little girl on the right side.  I'm blowing a balloon- it was my 2nd bday  The other boy is a "cousin" and the older girl is a neighborhood girl who helped out with me.  



Flower girl



Me and my roommate after college
 
6th grade class
 





Jon and his mom and their dog Molly



Jon and his dad



Jon in elementary




Jon's mom, Jon and his younger brother at St Augustine  





College age Jon
 
 



Old School- Sunday School 1960
 
My aunt was on the left side front row with the little head covering. 
 


 

So I love looking at these pictures but they make me sad too.  I think of the fun I had at my friend's house and laughing with her parents, now they are gone, the house we spent so much time in is sold, as is my old house.  Actually my old house has been torn down, we were neighbors...

My college years were so fun, but that's all over now, we're all grown and have had to face LIFE...all of us have some scars from Life now.....

The picture of me and my siblings....that's just such a sad story.  Our father & mother made terrible life choices that affected the four of us in many ways.  Now the gulf is too wide between us.....

Jon's parents have passed away ..... along with all the old ladies from that Sunday School class.  Ironically two people in my 6th grade class have also passed away....so sad

Over the past year I've become a huge Harry Potter fan.  I had never watched it or read the books when they came out because of "witchcraft". Then I happened onto one of the movies on TV and watched it for a bit and saw it was no more witchcraft than all those famous Christian sanctioned movies like "Lord of the Rings" or "Narnia".....anyhow..... when Harry looks at pictures of his parents and they are smiling and waving in them, not knowing what lies ahead.....that just hits me.  I think that's how I view pictures, that they are just a moment in time and the subjects don't know what may lay ahead for them. 

You never knew I was so melodramatic did you?  I hide it good most of the time. 

We have so many videos of mainly Steve when he was little, I can't watch them without crying.  But I love them, I'm just sad that I can't go back!

I'm very nostalgic.  All kinds of things take my memory back.... there's a certain color in the sky of brightest blue that takes me back to the fall back home, football time, cold weather coming, fires burning.....   There is a smell that was used to clean our dorms in college, it's probably full of chemicals, but every now and then I'll smell it in some commercial building....and I'm right back as a freshman in Bethany dorm.   There's a feel to the air when it's nippy cold that takes me back to Christmas time back home in north Florida.  The smell of hot sun on a pine tree.....that takes me right back home too....   Our property is ringed with pine trees and the other day, it was quite warm, I was outside and I smelled IT.....that took me home for an instant. 

The past is very dear to me, I hold onto some memories very close.  Often I look at a picture and just wish I could take myself back to that moment for a little while at least & be with the people in it!  But I can't....

When I was young, I had no big dreams for my future.  I was in some ways a sad child, not that I didn't have fun but not having my own family, and as I grew older, very little support, it was hard.  By the time I was in my middle teens, my dream was to get away on my own ASAP! 

We lived near a train track and in the summertime I slept in our front bedroom that had  8 windows in it.  We had huge azalea bushes planted outside and while azaleas don't have a strong smell when there are so many of them they have a pleasant smell, that smell reminds me of that bedroom.   We didn't have air conditioning so when the train would go by, it would always wake me up.  After reading so many Agatha Christie books I'd wonder where the train was going (in reality it was probably going or coming from the paper mill LOL) but in my mind I'd think about traveling away from my home town and pursuing an education and doing ministry.

Back then I looked forward to the future......now I tend to look more longingly at the past.....  Maybe that's because the past doesn't hold any surprises for me.  Who knows what the future might hold?  The last few months have held enough surprises for me to last a few years between mine & Jon's health scares. 

Maybe as you grow older, the past is dearer to you because you begin to lose people and then they only belong to your past, not to your future.....

Life is made up of memories....good and bad.  Memories are what connect us to each other.  Memories are the cornerstones of our lives. 




Four years ago right now, Jon, Steve, Sam and I were flying over Europe on our way to Kiev Ukraine to start the adoption of Sarah and Selah.   So much has changed for our family since that day, so much has changed for the precious friends we met in Ukraine since that day and so much has changed for the country of Ukraine since that day.   One of my friends was a huge supporter of our adoption and who met us when we arrived back in the states recently passed away.  Our facilatior in Ukraine is battling a serious health issue, we've had all kinds of things happen in the past 4 years that we never dreamed of back then that's for sure!  And the poor country of Ukraine has now been in civil war for two years and has suffered so much. 

Personally I am glad I can not see what lies ahead....I'd be paralyzed with fear! 

All I can say is I'm glad God walks with us through life.....