It finally happened!

Enough talk about my failing health!  I want to share a cool story with you…  A couple of years ago, I shared a story about my close encounter of the presidential kind.

Since it’s an election year, I thought it only fitting to recap that story and give you the more recent follow up…

In 1980, I was ten years old and in the sixth grade.  That year, the presidential election was between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Candidate Ronald Reagan.  In my Civics class, we had to draw campaign posters for our favorite candidate and write a speech that they might have used in a campaign debate.

I had an instant affinity for Jimmy Carter from the first time I saw him.  I don’t exactly know why, but I loved that he had the warmest, friendliest smile and I liked that he was a former peanut farmer.  (The fact that he was born in a mental hospital also didn’t hurt my affinity for the psychological thriller genre of which I write.)  I think I also liked him because his daughter, Amy, was only a couple of years older than me, and I thought it was so cool that she got to live in the White House.

So, on the campaign trail, President Carter was scheduled to come to my town to speak.  My school was on the corner of two main roads that led to the Civic Center, and back then, the newspaper always published the President’s motorcade route.  Imagine my surprise when, only hours after my grandparents read me the newspaper over breakfast and told me the President was coming to town, all the students of my small private school were called out of class that Halloween morning, and we lined up by the fence to wait so we could wave at him.  I was ecstatic!

At the time, I was a short kid, so the two boys on either side of me told me I should climb up on the fence so I could see better.  As the motorcade rounded the corner, the limo window went down, and the driver slowed.  President Carter grinned and waved as he rode slowly past us, and when he saw me standing on the fence, he pointed at me.  I was thrilled!

When I got home after school, I begged my grandparents to change their votes to Carter, then I sat right down and wrote President Carter a letter and asked for his autograph.

Less than two weeks later, I received a reply from The White House which said that the President was very busy and couldn’t accommodate all the people that personally asked for autographs, but they still sent me an autograph card as well as a booklet about The White House.  It didn’t matter to me that the autograph wasn’t official.  The man just lost an election, yet his office still had time to reply to a little girl.  I was overjoyed!

Looking back thorough an adult’s eyes, I appreciate this pseudo-autograph more than ever.  I mean, between a hectic schedule campaigning for re-election, and dealing with the hostage crisis (among other things), the staff at The White House had to have been crazy busy at the time, yet they still managed to reply to a little kid’s letter, and in such a timely manner, too.

So, the follow-up to my story is this:  I caught a fleeting glance of President and Mrs. Carter (along with the Secret Service) at Epcot on New Year’s Even in 1998.  Between that close encounter and my admiration of their work for Habitat for Humanity, my love for this former President only grew.

Fast forward a few years.  I’d heard that President Carter taught Sunday School classes that were open to the public.  At the time, I had two autistic kids at home, and with no child support, finances were tight, so I put that dream on the back burner.  But having learned more about the work of The Carter Center and how it affects the entire globe, I was even more impressed with this incredible, awesome man.

A few years later, my kids were close to grown, and I mentioned the Sunday School class to a trusted source.  The friend told me that President Carter didn’t do that anymore.  I was crushed that I’d missed my chance.

A couple more years passed.   President Carter was diagnosed with cancer, and, again, I was heartbroken.  But only a short time after that, I was elated to hear that he’d gone into remission.  In fact, I went out of my way to read more than the one news report I would have normally read, and that’s when I found a link to his church’s website along with the information that he never, in fact, stopped teaching his Sunday School class!

That was last December.  I wanted to go immediately, but President Carter didn’t teach every Sunday.  I then planned to go the following month, but then my own surgery was scheduled for the beginning of February, so I had to push things off again.

Jimmy Carter 2016But in March, I finally got to go to Plains, Georgia, and sit four rows from the front while President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School!  This was the thrill of a lifetime!  You have to get there early (and by early, I mean while it’s still dark outside) to line up.  My sister and I got there around 4:30 AM. (I know I didn’t want to discuss my failing health, but this 6 hour drive and no-sleep weekend, while exciting, was literally a spur of the moment decision as to the timing, and was meant to make me feel better after all my post-surgical woes. Mentally, it did wonders, though physically, those two days set me back about two weeks.)

Once they open the doors, you’re searched by Secret Service then escorted to your seat.  (If you’ve never been around the Secret Service, that’s exciting in itself.)  You’re allowed to take photos all during the introduction period, then you have to turn your cameras off during the lesson.  If you sit through the church service following the Sunday School lesson, you can then get a photo taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  WOW!  {The photos are very rushed, and you have to be in a group shot with everyone who rode in your vehicle, but, still, it’s so generous of the Carters to donate their time like that.  (As such, my photo is not good [we’re all blurry], and I won’t be sharing it, but I will be returning soon to try again.)}

Rosalynn Carter & Jimmy Carter, 2016As if that’s not enough, there’s a museum just down the road from the church.  In the museum is a bookstore that sells nearly thirty of the books that were written by either Jimmy or Rosalynn Carter.  The most amazing part of this journey is that if you purchase any of their books there (which are no more expensive than if you purchased them on Amazon), they give you a form to mail, along with the book and a SASE, and between four to six weeks later, you get President Carter’s autograph!  Yes, really!  (Have I mentioned yet how much I love Jimmy Carter?)

So, that’s exactly what I did.  I purchased two books and mailed them as soon as I got home, and close to five weeks later, I received them back, autographed by President Carter!  Only thirty-five and a half years after I first requested Jimmy Carter’s autograph, I got two of them!  SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  (For those who don’t know {as my sister didn’t}, squeeeeee is about ten times better than Woo Hoo, and about a hundred times better than YAY!)Jimmy Carter's books

Jimmy Carter's autograph

Let’s talk:  Have you ever seen a President or other world leader up close and live?  What’s the best autograph you’ve ever gotten?

My Presidential Encounter with the Great Beyond

Last month, my sister Michelle and I drove 1,100 miles to Pennsylvania for a funeral.  (More on that later.)  While we were there, I had strange and eerie experience that I think most of you will appreciate.  (I attempted to share my occurrence with a few friends after I got home, but sadly, they all just gave me the “DUH!” face, and it was evident they weren’t able to get the irony.)

On our way home, we stopped in Gettysburg at the Lincoln Diner.  (Don’t forget, Michelle’s a history major, so if anyone doesn’t know what relevance Gettysburg and Lincoln have, you’d better not voice it here or she’s likely to attack you in the comments section!)

Lincoln Diner, Gettysburg, PA

When we got to the diner, I used the restroom in the basement in the stall closest to the far wall.  We ate, then my sister used the restroom.  When she got back to the table, once more I went back to the basement and used the same stall that I’d used before, only this time, I found a heads-up penny on the floor.  (For my foreign friends, Abraham Lincoln is on our U.S. penny as well as on our five dollar bill.)  I told Michelle that the former president was trying to contact me from the Great Beyond, and since he knows I’m a writer, he probably wants me to add an addendum to his Gettysburg Address.

We laughed and proceeded to go check out the Gettysburg Train Depot that President Lincoln used when he went there in 1863.  The station was only in operation from 1850 through 1870.  We then went through the Gettysburg Battlefield, then headed home.

Gettysburg Train Station

(FYI: The sky in the actual photos was grey and dismal, so I Photoshopped in the blue sky and clouds.  The car really did just happen to pass as I snapped that photo, though I had to paint over a couple of people that were walking on the sidewalk across the street.)

Because were drinking tons of fresh apple cider (YUM!) as we drove, we broke my rule about stopping only every 250 miles for gas and a restroom, and we stopped at the Welcome Center in Maryland.  While I used the facilities, I found yet another heads-up penny!  I knew then that President Lincoln really was trying to contact me.

The cider was absolutely phenomenal, and it really gave our bladders a workout.  So at the Virginia Welcome Center, once again we made a pit stop…  And you guess it, I found a heads-up penny!  I had no doubt that the former president wanted to send me a message, but my sister was still skeptical.  So to convince her, I suggested that the next place we stopped, I should find a five dollar bill.  She agreed that if that happened, she’d be a believer.

Well, we stopped in North Carolina.  Only instead of finding any money, I found a sign on the restroom mirror telling us that human trafficking was prevalent there and we should beware!    (Yes, really!  I would’ve taken a photo, only I left my phone in the car, and after that warning, I was afraid to run out and go back in the restroom!  Plus the big homeless woman who was talking to her dog in the bathroom and kept trying to approach us scared us a bit.)

In South Carolina, we found that the Welcome Center was not welcoming at all!  There were bars over the vending machines  with signs telling us it was unsafe there, so we should reach through the bars!  The Welcome Center was locked at only around 9:00 PM, and the door said it locked the doors each day at 5:00!  There were no signs directing us to the outside restrooms, so we had to walk all the way around the building in the dark with four big, scary men walking around outside digging through the garbage!  When we did find the restrooms, the men’s and the ladies’ side were through one entrance, and there was no door in the doorway.  So needless to say, we were pretty freaked out and hurried to get out of there and back to our car.

I was afraid that my rendezvous with President Lincoln had come to an end, but when we finally got home (thankfully in one piece!), I actually found a fourth heads-up penny on the floor of my very own living room!  (The same living room that was cleaned before I left.)

Lincoln Pennies

Unfortunately, I had to go back to work the next day, though I felt like sleeping for a week, so if President Lincoln was indeed trying to send me a message, I was too tired to receive it.

Let’s talk:  Were you hopeful that I’d actually find a five dollar bill?  Has a dead president ever tried to contact you before?  How cool was it that that old car drove in front of the railroad station while I was taking photos?

I Like Mike

From Antananarivo, Madagascar
To Stockholm, Sweden,
There’s no rhymester better
Than the poet Mike Steeden.

His lovely wife Shirley
Is his best friend and muse;
She’s also on his book’s cover –
Now that’s exciting news!

The humor in his book
Will truly make you convulse;
So go pick up a copy of
Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse!

Not only is it amusing, but
Its brilliance will make you think;
To purchase it, just click below
On the Internet hyperlink.

I got to help Mike with his cover
And formatting for publication;
It was so much fun, I wish I could
Make that my life’s vocation.

It’s a good gift for the holidays,
And looks great in gift wrap;
And I promise you it’s far better
Than this, my own rhyming crap.

(As promised, here’s that internet hyperlink: http://www.amazon.com/Gentlemen-Prefer-Pulse-Poetry-Lunacy/dp/1517436478/ref=la_B015WAUW8C_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1446143038&sr=1-1)

Okay, so as the poem said, I was honored to recently assist my buddy and yours, Mike Steeden, in getting his first book of poetry, Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse, published.  It comes in both Kindle and paperback versions, and features over one hundred magnificent poems by his highness, Sir Mike.  As you can imagine, the poems are not unlike those on his blog… filed with brilliance, lunacy, humor, wit, and WOW!

Of course, Mike did all the really hard work by writing it, but I contributed a teeny-tiny bit by designing the cover and formatting the paperback version.  We searched high and low for a photo that I could manipulate for the cover art, but when we selected the perfect photo, we couldn’t authenticate its owner to request permission to use it.  (A few sources said it was a French postcard circa 1920, but we couldn’t be sure.)  So finally, Mike was able to dig up a photo of his lovely wife, Shirley, taken on the Cob at Lyme Regis (the same spot they used in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman).

Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse

When I saw this, I fell in love with the scene, and just knew it would be perfect.  So I did a little Photoshop magic, and voila!

Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse

So to conclude, GO BUY THE BOOK!  (You won’t regret it.)

A Picture’s Worth…

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words…  I hope that’s true, because for today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ve got nothin’!  Actually, I’m so busy at work, I’ve barely had time to breathe, much less do anything fun.  If any of you have noticed me missing on the Blogfront, that’s why.  (I promise to be back soon and catch up reading and commenting on all of your blogs, as well as my own.)  But in the meantime, for today’s TBT, presented for your approval are some old and not-so-old photos I took them with the thought of doing something with them someday…  I guess today’s that day, and this is the something…

Time to talk:  Which photo do you like the best and why?

The Gator at Sam’s Club

Can you believe how North Carolina had eight (severe) shark attacks in just three short weeks?  I’ve been going to the beach regularly my whole life, but this makes me seriously reconsider my pastime.

I think the thing that is really frightening is that all of these attacks were in shallow water.  I mean, who’d have ever thought that a shark large enough to sever a limb would – or even could – be swimming in three feet of water?

So, with all these shark attacks in the news, it got me thinking about other creatures with big, sharp teeth that lurk in water, and of course, my mind came to alligators.

Today’s Throwback Thursday tale won’t be from the Way-Back Vault, but rather, it’s something that happened not too long ago.  Remember last month when I told you about What Happens in Florida Stays in Florida, and in that post, I mentioned my recent sighting of the alligator at Sam’s Club?  I told you then that that was a story for another day… and today’s the day.

Now, in case you didn’t realize it, Florida is actually a giant swamp.  (Yes, really.)  A lot of the state used to be under water (even in my lifetime), until engineers devised a way to fill in the water holes and build on them.  Unfortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have so many sinkholes here.  So, per our state’s law, when someone builds a structure on what used to be swampland, they must provide a certain square footage of watershed on the property.  As such, we have watersheds in front of just about every commercial property I can think of.  (Some people might refer to a watershed as a retention pond.)

A couple of years ago, I dropped my sister off at Walmart then I drove around the parking lot until she was ready.  During the few minutes she was inside, I drove by a ditch (which was not their official watershed) that had filled with rainwater, and I noticed something moving.  Now, keep in mind that this ditch was three feet away from the parking lot!  Well, if you guessed the thing I saw was a gator, you’d be correct.  A small alligator, about five feet long, crawled out of the ditch and walked in front of my car!

(That’s where my friends up North usually gasp in horror, but it’s actually not that uncommon.)  I sped back to the front of the store to pick up my sister so she could see, but by the time we got back, we just saw his tail as he was going back into the water.  Unfortunately, it was nighttime, so the photo I took didn’t turn out.

Anyway, my point is that when I have friends visit from somewhere other than Florida, if they want to see an alligator, I generally point them to Walmart or Sam’s Club where I see them most often.  Which brings us to today’s story…

Sam’s Club & Watershed

A couple of months ago, Michelle and I were at Sam’s Club.  As we pulled in the parking lot and past the watershed, we spied a large alligator (about 13 feet long).  I thought it would be cool to blog about it if I could get a decent photo, so we parked and started walking to the watershed for a closer look.  (Don’t worry, it was fenced in.)  As we crossed the aisle in the parking lot, the gator was sunning himself on the far bank.  He was quite handsome and regal with the sun glinting off his fangs back.  I was so excited to be able to get a good photo of such a large reptile.

Can you see him in the water?So as we neared the fence, the sun was shining something fierce.  It just so happened that we both looked down for only a split second because it was so blindingly bright, and when we both looked back up, our gator was gone!  Not only had he run quite a distance to get back into the safety of his watery home, but there weren’t even any ripples in the water where he entered!

How about now?Seriously, it wasn’t more than two seconds that we each looked down, and he had to have traveled 30 feet to get to the water’s edge!  I was of course overcome with disappointment that I couldn’t get a good photo, but more than that, I was amazed at how quickly and stealthily he moved!  It sure made me appreciate that chain link fence between us that much more!

So to conclude, I apologize that I didn’t get any good photos of my friend, but so that I don’t leave you empty handed,  I’ll instead share a photo of a creature I took at Blue Springs a couple of years ago:

At Blue Springs

Let’s talk:  Would you be comfortable with only a fence between you and a 13 foot long reptile in the wild?  Do large creatures reside outside your Walmart?  Did you have a clue alligators could move so quickly?

SCARED!

A couple of weeks ago, I had a scare…  (Thankfully it wasn’t the kind of scare I had in my younger days… you know, one that involved the calendar.)  This scare involved something like the blue screen of death. I was working at home and was in the middle of searching for a graphic for my job when I clicked on a site and my entire computer locked up and turned blue.  I was petrified that I’d suddenly gotten one of those viruses that force you to restart, and when you do, it eats your hard drive, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I do back up my computer regularly.  About three times a year, I burn the entire hard drive to roughly twenty DVDs.  And at least once a week, usually more often, I put only the latest versions of the important stuff (documents, recipes, and most importantly, my manuscripts!) to cloud storage.  But the thing that takes up so much space… the thing that’s too large to put on (free) cloud storage, is my massive collection of photos.

A few years ago, my son Jeremy asked how he could get access to “every photo that was ever taken of him.”  Challenge accepted!  He soon forgot all about his request, but I did not.  I made it my mission to scan in every photo every taken of him.  I started by making year folders for every year since I was pregnant with him…

Then within each year’s folder, I made a folder for each month…

But I didn’t limit my scans to only include photos, I also added school work, report cards, etc…

(By the way, I’m not insane with the desire to be über-organized… It took me nearly a year to complete Jeremy’s project!)  When I was done with Jeremy’s photos, I copied his folders to my daughter, Stefani’s file, and deleted any photos that she was not in, then I added her photos.  (Because I had a lot of hers scanned in where she was in the photo with her brother, hers only took me about five months.)  That seemed like the best way to organize my children’s memories, and even though some months have empty folders, it’s kind of neat how sometimes they get filled this many years later.  For example, my daughter’s former stepmom recently put an old picture of both my kids on her Facebook wall.  I’d never seen the photo before, and it was so cool to add that to my “collection.”  (Of course I copied it twice, once for each kid.)  And recently, I was at my birth mom’s house and we found an envelope of pictures my Grandma took of my kids when they were little that she’d never shown me.  It feels almost like finding buried treasure when this happens.

Of course, after I started my children’s projects, I wanted to scan in my grandparents’ photos.  However, unlike my kids, I had no desire to attempt to organize each of them by month and year…  (Grandma was never one to write dates on the back, so that would have been impossible.)

So for each of them, I made folders such as Grandma Alone, Grandma & Her Siblings, Grandma & Her Children, Grandma & Her Grandchildren, Grandma & Her Great-Grandchildren, Grandma & Friends/Other Family, Grandma & Granddaddy’s Wartime Correspondence (yes, I scanned in their letters to each other. Okay, actually, I photographed them on a black blanket because that was faster than scanning them.), and Grandma’s Cool Stuff…

“Cool Stuff” includes just about anything that isn’t a photo, and it’s also stuff that my birth mom, uncle, cousins, or my own children might want copies of.  For example, I photographed Granddaddy’s track letterman’s letters and his trophies and ribbons.  For Grandma, I added her high school diploma and a short story that I recently found which she apparently wrote shortly after she was married in the 1940s.  (How cool that she, too, fancied herself a writer… a well-kept secret that neither of her children or I ever knew!)

So these days, unless I get the rare treat of one of my kids allowing me to do a photo shoot of them, I mainly add to the “collection” when I find a new photo (generally a selfie they post on their Facebook, which, with me being a professional photographer, makes me cringe!)..  And that’s the main reason I panicked when I clicked on that bad website and thought I got a fatal hard drive virus.

Thankfully, after I rebooted, I ran a virus and malware scan, and haven’t had any problems since.

Time to talk:  Do you keep your photos well organized?  Do you scan your old photos that were not digital?  Do you regularly back up the photos on your phone and camera?  When was the last time you had a computer virus?

What Makes Me Smile…

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m going to share a photo that always brings a smile to my face.  As a professional photographer, I always get a kick out of those Facebook posts where adult siblings have recreated their childhood photos into a calendar for their parents (such as in the following links):

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/brothers-recreate-childhood-photos-gift-mom/story?id=28611425

http://twentytwowords.com/adult-siblings-meticulously-recreate-childhood-photos-as-a-gift-for-their-parents-12-pictures/

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/childhood-photos-recreated/

I always wish (out loud) that my kids would be inspired to do the same for me, but alas, they just aren’t that thoughtful.  *SIGH*

Anyway, one of my favorite photos of my son when he was little was one Easter morning when the Easter Bunny brought him a straw that was in the shape of eye glasses.  About ten years later, the Easter Bunny found a similar straw, and I was able to get the same photo again.  Now I can love it twice as much.  I hope the Easter Bunny is able to find this straw again by the time Jeremy nears the end of his twenties.  (Now, if only I can get my kids together to pose for eleven more photos, I can finally have that damn calendar!)

Time to talk:  Have you ever recreated a childhood photo?  Have you ever made your kids recreate a childhood photo?  Would you, too, love a calendar of recreated photos from your children’s youth?

Where Cats Hide

Have you ever seen the pet food commercial where the big dogs all think they are small dogs?

My daughter actually has a tiny dog that she carries around in a purse.  Her dog, Snowflake, is a cutie-patootie and is super smart as well.

However, that commercial reminds me of my cat, Dakota a/k/a Stewie.  Though Stewie is the youngest of my brood, he is far from being the smallest.  In fact, he weighs more than all but one of my five cat-kiddos.

Even so, Stewie considers himself to be a petite man, and he likes to think he can hide anywhere.  One of his favorite places to hide is in grocery bags.

Or if we have visitors who carry large handbags, he will sneak into them as well.

He doesn’t care that the bags don’t belong to his people.  He makes himself right at home.

Let’s talk:  Do you prefer a large purse or a small handbag?  Have you ever lost your pet in another person’s belongings?  What would you do if you found someone else’s pet in your purse after you left their house?

My New Friend

The town where I live, the town where I was born, is Lakeland, and it’s named for its many lakes.  In fact, our city’s symbol is the swan.  When I was a kid, I loved to go to one of our many lakes and feed the ducks.  I loved the ducks… the swans, not so much!   Swans are huge and aggressive, they hiss like dogs, and they bite!  And believe it or not, they do have teeth.

By the time I was a teenager, feeding the ducks was a thing of the past because it was lame.  Only the very young and the very old could appreciate feeding a bunch of birds.

Well, as it happens, a few months ago, I had a surplus of old bread, so I decided to take it to the lake and feed the ducks… and I loved it!  It was so relaxing, and it definitely made me forget my life’s troubles for the hour or so that I was there.  Since then, I’ve been collecting all the bird food I can, and I try to go feed them every week.  (So, I guess I’m now among the very old and lame.)

Anyway, the last time I fed the ducks, a handsome, grey goose wandered up to me to beg for some food.  The funny thing was, after I fed him, he stuck around and “posed” until I took his picture.

After that, he obviously wanted to check the camera and see how his portrait turned out.

Time to talk:  Have you ever gone to a lake for no other reason but to feed birds?  Have you ever had a wild animal latch onto you and try to be your new best friend?

January 18, 1977

Alright!  For the past several months, I’ve been hearing all you people to the north of me complain about your snow.  Well, I just want you to know that just because I’m here in Florida where it’s been a steady 90+ degrees these past few weeks doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to your plight.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I will share with you the story of the first time I ever saw (and fell in love with) snow.

I was a sheltered kid.  My grandparents raised me.  My grandma didn’t drive, and my grandfather suffered from a deep depression after he retired so he slept most of the time.  As such, I didn’t get to go anywhere very often.  Furthermore, I never even left the state of Florida until I was thirteen years old!

However, shortly after I turned seven, I vividly remember being woken up in what seemed like the middle of the night.  My granddaddy shook me awake and told me to put on my pajama bottoms, my slippers, and my robe so I could go outside and see a surprise.  While I did indeed love surprises, I also loved my sleep, and I didn’t want to get out of bed!  I whined a bit while Grandma found my clothes, then we went outside in the dark to find Granddaddy standing by the car with his camera.

Surprise!  It had snowed here in Central Florida!  It was so exciting, I was literally speechless.  I remember thinking – This is a lot colder than I ever imagined it would be.  I wanted to play in it right then, but that’s when they burst my bubble and told me that it was still nighttime and I’d have to go back to bed.  They only woke me in case it melted before I woke up.

I was crushed.  I wanted so badly to build a snowman and make snow angels and throw snowballs.  (I had no idea that we didn’t have nearly enough snow for all that fun.)  When I got back to bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I was certain that if I fell asleep, all that beautiful, white goodness would be gone when I woke.

Surprise!  When I woke up, it was still there!  We took more pictures by the car, and Grandma didn’t even wear shoes!  (She loved the cold just like I do now…  However at the time, I was freezing and I have no idea why she didn’t make me put on a coat!)  Even my dog, Duchess, got to join in the fun.  I figured I could stay home and play in it, but my grandparents made me go to school.  (Nope, we don’t get snow days here in Florida, even on the rare occasions we do get snow.)

However, when I got to school, my disappointment soon faded when I learned that we were immediately taking an unplanned fieldtrip to the nearest overpass.  We took the kindergarteners’ blue and red vinyl nap mats, and we parked at the bottom.  Then we all climbed up the side of the overpass, and we slid down the snowy cement on the mats.  (For those of you wondering why, we don’t have hills here in Florida, either.)  We “sledded” down the side of that overpass for hours!

It was lunchtime before we had to go back to school, and by then, the snow started to melt.  By the time school let out, when I got outside, there was no evidence at all that it had been a day unlike any other here in the Sunshine State.  I was sad that we didn’t have any more snow, but it had been a great day.

So imagine my surprise when I got home and Granddaddy had indeed built me a snowman with the snow he could scrape off the car.  He only had enough for the body, and he had to pick an orange off one of our trees for the head.  He used the lid to my favorite clown cup for the hat, and his own real pipe (that he didn’t smoke, but was a gift from someone in the Japanese government when he was there for the reconstruction).  Sure, it was small, but sure enough, I had my own personal Frosty the Snowman there to greet me when I got home!  And after I saw him, Grandma recycled his body and mixed him with sugar to make me a homemade snow cone served in a cup with no actual cone.  (As a kid, I thought it was so delicious… As an adult, I think it was SO gross that she fed me snow that had been scraped off a dirty car!  Ewww!)

But all in all, I think waking me up in the middle of the night so I didn’t miss the snow was one of the coolest things my grandparents ever did for me.  And that was indeed one of the best and most memorable days of my childhood.

(As an addendum, I’ve seen snow here in Central Florida three other times that I can think of since then, however, each of those times, it melted as soon as it touched the ground.  I’ve never again seen it stick like that around here.  So perhaps now you can appreciate why when I moved to New York for a few years, I absolutely loved the snow and still do.)

Let’s talk:  Have you ever sledded down the side of an overpass on a nap mat?  Did your parents ever wake you up in the middle of the night to see something?  Do you remember the first time you saw snow?  Would you ever ingest anything that was scraped off a car and could not first be washed?