Well, we are off and running! We ran away from the rain, snow, and cold of Germany to sunny Florida to connect with friends I hadn’t seen in twenty-five years or more. FaceTime is great, but a physical hug is the greatest gift of all this season. Wouldn’t you know it, the day we caught the train to the airport, the sun came out!
First stop, Atlanta! We rented a car and drove down the coast to check out my old stomping grounds from my first life. Lutz was fascinated by the small towns along Highway 1. Actually, there is a lack of communities and an abundance of churches. Plus, he didn’t see one alligator, so we quickly headed for Highway 95 and landed in Jacksonville, Florida, with my longtime friends Jeet and Steve and their eldest daughter’s family, Hannah; what a great visit. It’s like we’d never been apart.
Memories of living together came to the surface of my forgetful mind, and it seemed like yesterday. Jeet and Steve and their two daughters, Hannah and Amber (Amber was in Atlanta at the time), lived with us in Arizona years ago and convinced us to head to Florida, so we shared their home for a time. It’s unbelievable how life can cement a relationship for so long. It was the perfect Thanksgiving!
Of course, we went to the beach, where I lived in Atlantic Beach in 1980. My son, Jarrod, would head to this beach and surf every chance he got while I sat on the coast and made hand signals to indicate where the sharks were: Ugg, a mother’s fears.
We enjoyed our Thanksgiving holiday with the family, and I was fortunate that most of Jeet’s grandchildren are gluten-free, so it was a perfect day and meal!
After two days of catching up and making plans for their visit to Germany, we headed out of town on A1A along the coast. I had to take a picture when we got to Ponte Vedra Elementary School. This was where I taught before my family moved to Lakeland, FL. Years ago!
While my son surfed, my daughter competed in gymnastics. She was a state and national champion. Our move to Lakeland and entering high school created a change for her. It was off to cheerleading competitions and a whole new group of friends. Yes, she made the best of friends and, to this day, still connects with them through FaceTime, emails, chats, and annual get-togethers. So, on our way to Tampa, it was my assignment to visit a couple of her dear friends and to make sure they were not up to any mischief. The next stop was St Augustine, FL, to check up on Megan. She is still the same, beautiful as always, and has succeeded in life as she runs the historical society for the town. And has raised three amazingly talented children.
Over the river and through the swamps, we arrived in Tampa at my dear friend Diane’s home. I fondly remember working with her at USF’s Florida Mental Health Institute. We had a lot of adventures together. Her daughter was so gracious to open her home for a lovely second Thanksgiving dinner with Bobby, a colleague who became a lifetime friend, and Linda, who has kept in touch over the years and has been to Germany to visit Lutz and me. She even joined us on Virus, our boat.
Diane was a great host for our two-day visit and took me to some of my old stomping grounds in Tampa. I was so fortunate to have found the greatest apartment on Davis Island while going through my divorce and completing my Ph.D. A peaceful island in the middle of Tampa. I had the whole top floor and a small patio off the back on Danube Street! I lived with Diane for a few weeks before I found this gem. She lived in the town of Lutz, FL. Hum, Danube, Lutz..maybe the universe was preparing me for Germany!
We even went to the River Walk. This is a new development for a very historic location. It runs along the Hillsborough River. What a beautiful day!
The holiday season has begun, and this place is ready to celebrate! It’s hard to believe it’s late November.
One last stop in one of my favorite spots in Tampa, Ybor City.
This place holds a lot of memories for me. My weekends here were filled with dancing, art, great beer, and concerts. I was fortunate to have seen Taj Mahal perform in a small cafe here years ago! If you come to Tampa, you must visit Ybor City at least once. Each venue has its own style, from country music to rock and blues.
Yubor has a deep historical influence and represents so many cultures. It was known for its cigar industry in 1887. Many of the original buildings have been restored.
With many hugs and more great memories made, We were off to Naples, Florida, to spend some time with Lutz’s cousin Axel. But before we headed down on Interstate 275, Lutz had to cross the bridge to St Petersburg. I also had to check up on Ashley, another of my daughter’s close friends. We connected for coffee, and the adventures with Ashley never end; we both went to the coffee shop with the same name…but at different locations. After finally meeting up with her, I was very impressed with how successful she had become as a realtor and how she still had that amazing smile and open heart; plus, she was raising two amazing little boys I had not met…this time!
I’m sorry I didn’t see Jericho’s other two friends, Julie in Orlando and Meridith in Kansas. Next time we fly to Florida, we will land in Kansas and connect to Orlando! Off we went to Naples and enjoyed the ride in the sun. We nicely settled into Axel (Lutz’s cousin) and Judy’s vacation condo. A trip to the beach was in order the next day!
With all the driving and sitting, it was also time for a walk on the windy beach!
The wind was blowing so strong the sea was not swimable. So, we went back to the condo and headed to the pool! Now, this is living.
We visited some of Naples’s local preserves to see animal habitats. There were plenty of trees and swamps, but most critters hid. We had hoped to see an alligator, but these preserves are in the center of town and not conducive to their lifestyle. Actually, the only living thing we encountered were mosquitos when Lutz left the beaten path to pee! They literally swarmed him, and I ran! They love my ankles.
We drove through the local neighborhood to check out human habitats and were astounded by some amazing shelters! The homes on the gulf had huge yards with a view of the sea!
And, no, that is not a condo! It is literally a single dwelling—most range from 5000 to 8000 sq ft with a price tag of $20,000,000 -$50,000,000.
And if your lot didn’t have enough full-grown trees, you could always buy one and have it delivered!
This month’s post is a follow-up to last month’s post, which stressed the importance of being ambitious about our friendships. I’m taking it seriously and making the time and effort to cultivate those friendships with those who have maintained contact with me over the years. Our travels have just begun, but the memories we’ve made so far run deep. Friends, family, and making the time and effort to see those who have made lasting impressions in your life are the keys to happiness. It just fills your soul.
We have more adventures ahead. I’m so excited to be going “home” to San Diego. My son just moved back to San Diego from South Carolina and has been living with my daughter and family until he is settled, which means my kids are in the same place after twenty years of living in different states. I can’t wait for this Christmas. We will also make a trip to Brookings, Oregon, to visit my sister, her husband, and my mom, who live there. Stay tuned!
For now, enjoy this yummy gluten-free Holiday recipe.
Fave Recipe: Avocado Pecan Fudge
Easy and quick to make. This is a must, but don’t tell anyone it has avocado. They will never know, and the best part is it’s a healthy treat!
Fave Resource: My Resource page is filled with interesting research, suggestions, and explorations of new trends.
Take a peek. Maybe you will find something that can help you or guide you to some answers for your health!