Monday, March 19, 2018
The Up Close and Personal workshop just finished here in The Villages, Florida, and about 180 very excited attendees were treated to an exciting two days with two fabulous mediums, My Lovely Bride Suzanne and Susanne Wilson, the Carefree Medium (she resides in Carefree, Arizona, near Scottsdale and Phoenix). Suzanne and Susanne met in Cave Creek, AZ, a couple of years ago, and found that they had a lot in common, both spiritually and personally. They will be giving their Up Close and Personal Workshop again on May 19 and 20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. See www.suzannegiesemann.com/events/ for more info.
Bev Garlipp, Suzanne's assistant, did most of the advance planning for the event. Diane Calderon, Susanne's assistant, flew in from AZ, and with Bev did all of the shopping for food and beverages, manned the registration table, etc. The weekend would not have been successful without their hard work. Thanks also to Meri Lynn for ensuring refreshments were always ready for the attendees and to Bob Vance for helping me with book and CD sales. (Regrets for not having gotten their photos...)
We enjoyed a delightful dinner with Bev, Susanne and Diane one evening. Susanne provided fresh shrimp from the Spanish Springs farmers' market - she lived in South Florida for 18 years, and finds the seafood here much more fresh and tasty than back in Arizona.
Suzanne's Lovely Mom Ruthie (aged 90!) joined the workshop for awhile and was a hit with the attendees, so many of whom have met her over the years Suzanne has been speaking at events here in The Villages!
It hasn't been all work - recently we went for a local hike at the Flat Island Preserve in Leesburg, FL. Surrounded by the Okahumpka Marsh, Flat Island (named because of the lack of 5,000 ft peaks?) provides a pleasant 4 mile loop trail and several side trails through lush hardwood hammocks. The term hammock describes slightly elevated land, often surrounded by marshes, that has humus-rich soil and hardwood trees such as live oaks, sweetgums, and hickories, as well as varieties of palms.
On a spur off the main trail, a boardwalk wound through the marsh/swamp. This reflection in the water of the trees and sky above was worth several minutes of study... fortunately, there were no mosquitoes or no-see-ums around to bother us.
For those readers living in the desert, look at what you're missing. This is a real Florida cypress swamp. Think of the neat creepy-crawlies living here... alligators, water moccasins, copperheads, snapping turtles, zillions of biting bugs, armadillos, raccoons, opossums, even black bears and Florida panthers. And often you don't see them until you step on them! What great fun!!!!
The frost damage I mentioned was the result of a February cold snap that brought 24F temps. One of the most damaged plants was this philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) - what a cool name! With some careful pruning and TLC, it is recovering, and the second photo looks much better than the first. (Yes, I do talk to plants!)
Our back yard is adjacent to a golf course. Recently we took a sunset stroll along the golf cart path. We always keep Rudy and Gretchen on very short leads -they are always looking for squirrels, but the pesky rodents must have been out at the acorn bar.
As the last rays of the setting sun were splashing through the massive live oak grove, Suzanne again displayed her enSuzyasm, saying with great glee, "We live here!" I echoed her happiness with a quiet, "Yes, and it's gotta be better than Boston with three feet of snow this week..."
My Lovely Bride recently called me up while she was shopping, and asked if I minded if she got a rather large angel statue for the garden. Being a sensitive, New Age-kinda guy, I thought about it for a moment and said gently, "Of course, My Sweet, you can get an angel statue... as long as I can get a statue of a pole dancer." There was a silence on the line, and then I heard, "We'll talk about it when I get home..." In any case, Angela now resides near the philodendron I mentioned previously.
Shortly thereafter, this cartoon appeared in our local newspaper... and I reminded MLB that I was still looking for just the right statue for my part of the yard, but when I found her, she would be called Angelique. I think that's a very tasteful name...
Finally, lest some women think that I am a total misogynist Neanderthal, I will have you know that I often get Suzanne surprise gifts (affectionately called "prezzies"). Why, just recently, I ordered her 40 of her favorite Pilot G-2 07 pens. (Hey, the diamond and sapphire bracelet I wanted to get her from Neiman Marcus was sold out.) Even I was amazed how grateful and excited she can get when I am truly thoughtful...
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 11:31 AM
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
February Activities; Chassahowitza River; Raccoons, Manatees and Vultures; Florida Trail Work; Mavis Pittilla; Gator Bites; Scrubbing Floors
Goodness, how time flies. Seems like just last week we returned from our 2017 Messages of Hope Summer Tour. Now it's only three weeks until we get underway for our 2018 voyage. Since I'm working on trip planning and taxes this week, I'll make this post short. Well, I promise to try...
The weather here in Florida has been very warm, so we got our kayaks out and visited a new stream, the Chassahowitza River. It is a beautiful river, but make sure you visit mid-week. Weekends are likely to be insane with hundreds of visitors in power boats, kayaks and canoes.
This blue hole marks the outlet of a fresh water spring that delivers 72F water out of the underlying limestone, which is cut with underground channels and caverns like a block of Swiss cheese...
This photo shows My Lovely Bride (MLB) in her red fiberglass kayak, watching some locals patrol the waterfront...
This raccoon (Procyon lotor) family is out looking for lunch... there were four of them, but hard to catch in the same frame. We were only 15 feet away, and they must have been used to humans, because they didn't appear at all frightened of us.
As we finished up our paddling adventure, Suzanne had a Close Encounter of the Manatee Kind... there were several Florida manatees (Tritrechus manatus latirostrus) grazing on sea grasses near the kayak takeout.
This manatee decided to scratch his (her?) back on Suzanne's kayak. These docile mammals can live to 60 years of age.
A manatee mom was nursing her calf right alongside or kayaks... it was a tender moment, to be sure.
Manatees also nibble on marine algae that adheres to boat hulls, which cuts down the hull cleaning that we had to do after our paddle!
Back at home, Suzanne gave a talk to The Villages Energy Meditation Group, and had a standing room only crowd at Miona Rec Center.
We made a fun trip "off campus" to St. Petersburg to visit our great friends Anthony and Annette Baker aboard their recently acquired 1996 Kadey Krogen 42 trawler. A2 (their nickname) were previously sailors, having cruised their 1990 Morgan 42 sloop Magnolia up and down the East Coast and to the Bahamas for several years.
Then they sold their sailboat and "went to the dark side", and are now on a "stinkpot" - actually a beautiful power boat that they are restoring to perfect Bristol condition. We envy them their new ship and their lifestyle...
At home in The Villages, we often meet people with "interesting" pasts. This car's license plate caught my eye - one wonders whether the owner was a Russian spy or is named Kim or Kacey...
This time of year it's common to find hundreds of American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) in our ponds. They actually form lines (here we see a pelican phalanx) and herd small fish into the shallows where they are easy prey. In the summer, these beautiful birds can be found as far north as Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.
Recently, Suzanne's radio show, aired every Thursday afternoon and archived for those who miss it live (see https://www.suzannegiesemann.com/radioshow/) featured a discussion of finding the silver linings after a loved one's passing. When the show ended, we went outside to see this brilliantly illuminated cloud formation, and couldn't miss the significance of the timing. And speaking of good timing, Suzanne is taking advantage of having a special guest in town, medium Mavis Pittilla, to interview in person in this week's radio show episode ...
Over the past week we have been fortunate to have Suzanne's friend and colleague, Mavis Pittilla, and her partner Jean Else, visiting from Manchester, UK, to teach Mavis's popular mediumship class. As part of their Florida indoctrination, we took them to Gator Joe's, a lakeside restaurant (okay, a "dive") on Lake Weir.
The sunset view was stunning, but this seemingly serene photo belies the reality of the noise and music inside the restaurant.
We convinced Mavis and Jean that they had to try some gator bites (small pieces of deep-fried alligator tail) and hush puppies. The latter were better received than the former... but Mavis was impressed by the alligator jaws on a side table.
Our good friends Lois and Elaine joined us that evening, and have also been showing Mavis and Jean around the area. All the gals walked onto the beach for a photo op with this big gator (I assured them he was concrete, and everyone made it to the cars with all limbs intact...)
Finally, I have to thank our dear friend Irene Vouvalides, who was made famous in Suzanne's latest book, Still Right Here, for her daily cleaning of the boat decks by using her feet wrapped in washcloths. (Yes, Irene also does this at home, and has the cleanest floors in Hilton Head, SC!) We were having dinner guests over one night, and My Lovely Bride was getting her nails done and visiting Her Lovely Mom Ruthie, so I decided to scrub the floors. I took a note from Irene's playbook, and scrubbed and dried the floors using my feet! Spectacular results, and far less strain on my back than using the scrub brushes that MLB left for me to use. Whoops... I was just kidding... Smack!!!!
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 5:54 PM
Monday, February 12, 2018
January Activities; Roll Tide! Costa Rica! A Memorial Ylang-Ylang Tree; Terciopelo or Fer de Lance? Pickin' Cherries; Rakin' Beans
This post is being written in frigid weather (well, in Chicago, anyway, where My Lovely Bride Suzanne is speaking to the Chicago International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS). This was the view from her window on final approach into Midway Airport... the temp there at this moment is 22F. I hope she packed her woolies!
Contrast that picture with this one, taken a few minutes ago here in The Villages, FL, where the temp hit 90 briefly today. This is Your Trusty Correspondent with our "back yard" over his shoulder - not ours really, but the view from our patio and lanai. Readers in Minnesnowta may note that I am NOT wearing woolies, but rather a polo shirt (and shorts, to boot)!
Before we get into our big January adventure, I would like to honor the Alabama Crimson Tide and our dear friends Judson and Donna Jo Emens in Tuscumbia, Alabama, for their favorite team's whoopin' of the Georgia Bulldogs for the college National Championship. This, of course, was Bama's fifth national title in 9 years, a record to be proud of. "Roll, Tide, Roll!"
The road up into the mountains is rugged - four wheel drive is definitely required. There were places where the road had been completely washed out and repaired, almost completely with manual labor.
We arrived at the lodge that Mike and Bill had built a few years before. It is the only two story building for at least an hour's drive in any direction. There are four bedrooms and a kitchen on the top floor, and an office and bunk rooms for workers and pickers on the ground floor. There is also a detached kitchen for workers/pickers with gas and wood stoves/open fires.
After getting settled, Mike brewed up our first pot of Potenciana Geisha coffee - it was superb; Geisha is the best coffee bean you can grow, smooth and with low acidity.
Suzanne made time every day to meditate - the view over the mountains to the Pacific Ocean was spectacular. We quickly understood why Bill and Mike picked this site for their little bit of heaven.
Mike took us on several hikes around the area - this stream marks the eastern boundary of the farm. Since we were in the dry season, the water level was relatively low. In the wet season, it is a raging torrent.
As we hiked up this lovely stream to several small waterfalls, we were on the lookout for one of the local residents, the fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper), one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Called the terciopelo (translated as "velvet") in Costa Rica, it is regarded as irritable and aggressive, and can raise up to strike above the knee. Observant readers may note that My Lovely Bride is armed with a 20 inch long machete, which Mike thoughtfully arranged for each of us to be fitted with before our hike. I asked Suzanne to lead the way in this part of the jungle... thankfully, the jaguars were nocturnal, but the terciopelo were often found sunning themselves on rocks near streams...
This is what a coffee "cherry" looks like close up - the fruit actually has a sweet taste, but it's too small to be worth separating. There are two beans in every cherry...
One of the very special highlights of our trip was the dedication of a Ylang-Ylang tree (Cananga odorata) in memory of our Marine Corps daughter Susan, who was six months pregnant with her first child when she was struck by lightning and died. Bill and Mike thoughtfully offered a tree in their memorial grove in her honor. Susan would love this tree - it is also called the perfume tree in the South Pacific, and its flowers smell like Chanel No. 5.
The next day, Suzanne decided she wanted a ride with Mike on the farm's ATV. She had fun, but said that my getting one to use at home in The Villages was not in the cards. (She can be such a spoilsport!)
We got to pick coffee cherries one Sunday afternoon when the real pickers were off work. Let me tell you, there is a reason that Costa Ricans don't do this work, but rather hire Nicaraguans to pick... it's hard work!
In 15 minutes we had picked about the same amount of cherries that a professional picks in 30 seconds... okay, maybe not quite that many. In any case, it proved to us that we would starve pretty quickly without lots of experience!
On a drive to the local schools, we encountered a farmer and his wife and several of their cows on the road. The road was so narrow that we had to stop and wait until they passed.
This was the schoolhouse that is closest to Cafe Potenciana - on average, six or eight students of all grades through high school attend this one-room school. Bill and Mike have sponsored several successful initiatives to improve this school, but there is still more work to be done.
The school in the next village down the mountain, however, needs a lot more work, and will hopefully be getting some needed improvements this year, thanks to support from Bill and Mike's foundation, Saplingsinc.com. We had brought down a suitcase-sized box of school supplies, but when we saw what the kids had, we wished that we could have sent a ship-load. Even though Suzanne and I have each traveled to 50 or 60 countries, being reminded of the difference in school facilities world-wide was a humbling experience.
On the way to San Jose (Gee, that sounds like a good song title!), we stopped at a coffee processing plant, Beneficio el Diamante in the town of Arenas. After the coffee beans are shipped here, they are dried in the sunshine for a day. Here we see MLB being put to work with a rake turning the beans over to help in the drying process.
The entire process of turning fresh beans into dried and roasted beans takes weeks, if not months, depending on how long the beans are aged. Our tour guide walked us through the entire process, and we have a new appreciation for the long process of growing, harvesting, and processing coffee before it ever gets to our cups.
Our thanks go out to Bill and Mike for their planning and hospitality for our trip, to Alex and Barbara for making us feel at home like real Ticos (and of course for Barbara's amazing cooking!), to their son Omar who was always quick with a smile, and to the citizens and children of Potenciana, whose lives are improving due in large part to Los Dos Locos Gringos. (This is the Potenciana Class of 2018.) You can help by visiting their web site, www.SaplingsInc.com; donations of any amount are most gratefully appreciated.
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 7:14 PM