Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Celebration of Wolf's Message

Sunday evening found us at Temple Shalom for a very special event, A Celebration of Wolf's Message, Suzanne's latest book. It was also a celebration of love, which was the heart of Wolf's Message to humanity.









 

Mike and Beth Pasakarnis flew down from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for the weekend. Mike wore a wolf tie as a reminder of his son, Mike, Jr., whose nickname was Wolf.














Wolf and our daughter Susan both died from lightning strikes - Wolf in Plymouth, Mass, and Susan at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. And both souls knew that they were going to transition to the other side. The remarkable evidence that Wolf provided before, during and after Suzanne's reading for Mike and Beth is detailed in Wolf's Message; it is a truly stunning account.










About 350 guests attended the event, which was a fundraiser for a nursing scholarship for a local single mom. Preliminary music was provided by pianist Michele Uss, musical director at Temple Shalom.













Suzanne presented a check to Brandi Stone, this year's scholarship recipient, for full tuition for her nursing program at Lake Technical College. Brandi is a hard-working student with a beautiful young daughter and is looking forward to one day becoming a certified nurse anesthetist.











Nashville songwriter/singers Karen Taylor Good and Stowe Daley sang their two popular songs, Messages of Hope and If Not For Love to an appreciative audience.












Suzanne enjoyed signing copies of Wolf's Message, and many people signed Mike and Beth's Memorial Journal to Wolf.











Many thanks to all the volunteers (parking, registration, snacks, drinks, flowers, music, sound and lights, book table, chair setup) who made this event possible, and to Diane Dean, a member of The Villages Photography Club, who took all the excellent photos you see on this page. Here is Diane transferring a memory stick with her photos to Your Faithful Correspondent.











My Lovely Bride is off to San Jose and Santa Barbara for nine days with several girlfriends, while I take care of some home projects and get in some hiking and biking. She also asked me to thank everyone who attended the Celebration of Wolf's Message for their love and support. It means so much to her.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Jungle Clearing; SANDS in San Jose and a FilmFest; Morning Light; A Cold Main Course; Amelia or Alexandria? Celebration of Wolf's Message; Not Calcutta...Cohutta


One of the tactical errors I made this year was not planning on the wettest summer this part of Florida has had for decades. I had arranged regular lawn care, so why was this an error? The first photo shows what the hedges looked like at the back of the house when we arrived home last week. Yes, there is a house behind those hedges, as you can see in the "after" photo below... after filling four large lawn clipping bags with hedge detritus... I think I learned my lesson.







Now, to an important matter -  food. One of the delights of living in the USA is being able to achieve instant gratification when an uncontrollable desire strikes. I'm not talking about a thick steak, fried oysters or even a juicy cheeseburger, but the main part of the meal, dessert. After dinner the other night, we adjourned with My Good Friend Bob and His Hysterically Funny Wife Jan to PeachWave, where we indulged in (small) buckets of frozen yogurt (and no kale or quinoa pellets, thank you very much).






I was walking the puppies the other morning at dawn when I glanced onto a nearby golf course. I was reminded of a scene from North Africa, such as when I took my ship to Alexandria, Egypt, back decades ago, but the Saharan sand dunes there were far more desolate than Amelia #2... and of course, we don't have camels here, except in the pockets of a few die-hards.









We are looking forward with great anticipation to this weekend. Mike and Beth Pasakarnis, Wolf's dad and step-mom, will be visiting The Villages for Sunday evening's Celebration of Wolf's Message at Temple Shalom. Tickets are still available on Suzanne's web site, www.LoveAtTheCenter.com. Hope you can make it, because there may be a surprise or two that no one is expecting...








Suzanne is preparing for a trip to California next week to attend the Science and Non-Duality (SANDS) Conference in San Jose and the Awakened World Film Festival in Santa Barbara, where the Messages of Hope documentary, produced by Rochester, NY, filmmaker Chris Lavelle, is being screened. She is very excited about both events, and suggested that while she is in California, I find something interesting to do. I was reading a book when I heard her say, "Ty, why don't you go to Calcutta?" I thought to myself, "Self, why is she suggesting that I fly to Calcutta, India for a week?" It's not on my Bucket List, that's for sure, although I do like Indian food, and I've always wanted to see the Himalayas. I asked her slowly and diplomatically, "My Darling, why would I want to go to Calcutta without you?" She guffawed and said, "Ty, Dearest, I was thinking about your backpacking in the Cohutta Wilderness north of Atlanta, Georgia, not Calcutta, India." Thank goodness she clarified that; it makes packing much easier. (But then, maybe I'll just sneak on a flight to Santa Barbara, one of my favorite cities in the US... it's also known as America's Riviera... who knows?)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

BSR Marietta; Suzy and Ruthie; Home, Sweet Home; Hunting Geckos; A Clean Coach; Walking Sticks; A Fishy Gift

Before departing Dobbins AFB, we were able to get a run in, and while on the trail, I admired these marsh grasses and the purple berries below on some plant-like green thing. (Remember, I'm a sailor, not a horticulturist.)












We put Marietta, GA, in our wake, and had a long day's drive heading south on I-75, arriving for our last night on the road at another Air Force campground outside Valdosta, GA, just a miles north of the Florida state line. As anxious as we were to get home, we didn't want to arrive late at night and face unloading the Coach when we were tired from a long day's drive. The puppies were also anxious to get one last squirrel chase in before going home to our street (which lacks the furry little rodents), but we were disappointed and found only mosquitoes. 


One last half-day's drive and we arrived back in The Villages! But before driving to the house, we visited Suzanne's Lovely Mom Ruthie, who had recently downsized her home and moved into new digs nearby in Oxford, FL, at Steeplechase. It was great seeing Ruthie again - I owe her about a dozen chicken enchilada dinners after being gone all summer. Fortunately Suzanne was able to visit her for a week over their shared birthday, but they were both ecstatic to be back together for the rest of the year.






Our little hunter, Rudy, is also happy to be back home. We may not have squirrels on the street, but he has been going crazy chasing geckos. I think the score stands at Rudy 4, Geckos 0. Unfortunately, he must have eaten one, and it didn't settle well. I'll leave the description at that... yuck! As for little Gretchen, she just watches her big brother Rudy for a few minutes and then goes to sit next to Suzanne.








I spent this morning washing The Coach, and it was getting hot and humid, and I was tired. Then as I was just finishing up, My Good Friend Bob came over and said, "Looks pretty good, but you're going to dry it off, right?" For a moment I debated spraying Bob with my still-charged garden hose, but thought better of it to maintain good neighborly relations. "No, Bob, but I can hand you a chamois if you'd like to spend a few hours drying it off..." RV owners across the galaxy will be impressed by the high gloss finish I achieved. Trouble is, it only takes a few miles on the road before the bugs splatter up the front windshield and dirt and dust speckle the sides down low. In any case, she looks pretty good for the moment, eh?




Speaking of bugs, I had forgotten about this photo, taken outside Wichita Falls, Texas. I hope My Good Friend John can identify the grasshopper in this photo; I won't even ask him to try to I.D. the "walking stick" (Phasmotedea), because he's one of those "specialists" that looks down on bugs other than grasshoppers... In fact, the walking stick is a highly adaptable insect that has amazing capabilities to mimic other insects (like scorpions), to camouflage itself (to look like a twig or a swaying leaf), feign death (thanotosis), or to secrete stinging chemicals that irritate a predator. Like their distant relatives the grasshoppers, walking sticks can also discharge the contents of their stomachs through vomiting when harassed, a fluid considered inedible by many predators.


Speaking of animals, when we arrived back home we discovered a "gift" from our neighbor and friend, Jan Blythe (Bob's Lovely but Occasionally Smarty-Pants Bride). Last year when we returned, I found a tiny fishing rod charcoal starter hanging on the pantry door, purportedly to match the teeny tiny fish that Jan and Bob had accused me of catching. This year they hung a fishy hot pad on that tiny rod and reel. I may just leave the next few fish I catch under the hood of Jan's car... (Yes, Jan, I hear you: "That's not much of a threat!") Well, we shall see....









Finally, thanks to all the new friends we met on this summer's Messages of Hope Tour, and to all the old friends back in The Villages whom we're looking forward to getting reacquainted with now that we're home. It was a long trip, 166 days and 12,039 miles, covering 26 states and 2 provinces. We will take a break from now until April 1st 2015, when we will head out on our 200 day, 15,000 mile 2015 Tour, heading from Florida out to California then to Boston and back to Florida... with lots of stops in between! But the Most Special Thanks go to Bev Garlipp, Suzanne's assistant here in Florida who makes our Summer Tours possible. Her hard work scheduling and publicizing events across the country while we are on the road makes it all happen. Thank you, Bev!!! (This was on our departure day, April 23rd, with Elizabeth Magee, MLB and Bev.)



I will be continuing this blog through the winter, so stay tuned! Our next event will be a Celebration of Wolf's Message, set for Sunday October 19th, 7:00-9:00 PM. It will be a fundraiser for a scholarship fund that will help several young single moms complete their practical nursing programs here in Central Florida. Suzanne is reviewing the applications as I type this blog post. We hope you can join us; details are on Suzanne's web site at www.LoveAtTheCenter.com.






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Chatt and Nooga; Riverpark; The Delta Queen; Almost Flying; Dam! Kudzu with Your Kale? Georgia on My Mind


Lest you think the lead title of this post is a misspelling, let me set you straight. Some locals use two abbreviations for this charming, vibrant city: "Chatt" and "Nooga". We saw the Nooga Paws Pet Store and the Chatt Tri Club (for triathlon athletes). It's also the home of the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo", originally recorded in 1942 by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. RCA awarded him the world's first gold record award for selling 1,200,000 copies of that song.








We knew we were lucky to be in Chattanooga when we were unable to fit The Coach in Unity of Chattanooga's parking lot due to some overhanging branches. That sounds very strange, but I'll explain... near UofC is an industrial area with seven or eight large buildings and some decent (read "almost flat") parking lots. Thinking like a true Aide-de-Camp, My Lovely Bride jumped out of her seat and went door to door until she found an Angel-in-the-Flesh named Elaine, at The Tile Store, who contacted the owners and granted us permission to "dry camp" right next to their building since they would be closed for the weekend. While we had no electricity, water or sewer hookups, for a few nights that is not an issue, and we were only a two minute walk from Unity. "All was in perfect order!" (Even better, there was no Grumplestiltsken to harass me...)



After Friday night's successful showing of the Messages of Hope documentary at Unity of Chattanooga, we wanted to see more of this scenic city. We awoke to a chilly 41 degrees, a cold front having gone through while we slept. After breakfast, we decided to ride the city's famous Tennessee Riverpark Trail, which stretches 8.5 miles from the Chickamauga Dam to Downtown. Crossing the Tennessee River gave us a panoramic view of the city.  That's the famous Delta Queen behind My Lovely Bride; built in 1927, she is moored at Coolidge Park, and is a floating hotel for the moment, although there is a serious effort to get her back cruising the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. She has logged over 2 million miles and 500,000 passengers to date. As a kid, I rode her in New Orleans for the day.







The Riverpark trail was the best maintained and most scenic urban trail I've ever ridden. Spotlessly clean, we passed scores of runners and walkers and a few bicyclists, but we deduced that most bike riders were waiting for warmer afternoon temperatures before venturing out into the 50 degree cold and brisk northwesterly winds, made raw as they blew from the river onto the trail.





I had the opportunity to take a short flight while on our ride. This over-sized mosquito hawk (AKA a dragonfly) graciously offered me a tour of the playground area. But just as we were about to take off, a City Park vehicle approached; Suzanne suggested that I might be arrested if we didn't get on our bikes and vamoose...







The turn-around of the trail was at the base of the Chickamauga Dam, a Tennessee Valley Authority hydroelectric dam that impounds 36,000 acre Chickamauga Lake. Construction by the US Army Corps of Engineers began in 1936, and 903 families and 24 cemeteries had to be relocated. The dam produces 160 megawatts of electricity, and is 5,800 feet long and 129 feet high. 18 spillway bays allow a maximum discharge of 470,000 cubic feet of water per second.(That's more than I use in the shower!)





The trail passes through marshland and past some industrial areas, but it is well-landscaped, and clear of almost all vehicular traffic except at a few small road crossings, so it is a very safe place to ride. These marsh grasses made for a nice contrast against the cloudy azure sky...











I'm not sure, but I suspect that the vines covering these trees and bushes are kudzu (Pueraria montana), which grows so quickly that it kills trees and shrubs by heavy shading. Kudzu is edible, and is used in hangover medicine and herbal teas; there are reports that kale- and quinoa-eaters find kudzu quite yummy. (MLB knows not to serve me any of those three vegetables/plants.)









In the downtown area, high on a bluff overlooking the river, we found the Hunter Museum of American Art, with its classical revival Faxon-Thomas Mansion and modern extensions of the museum. Regrettably, we ran out of time, and had to postpone our museum visit to a future date.











After our bike ride, we took Rudy and Gretchen into the trendy North Shore area for a walk. They saw a huge squirrel under this bridge near Renaissance Park, and enjoyed a brief chase until the chubby rodent ran up this trestle.









Our last event on this summer's tour was Suzanne giving the Sunday message and her Making the Connection presentation at Unity of Chattanooga. A large, very enthusiastic crowd "topped the charts" and the energy was spectacular. We were also honored that the editor-in-chief of Unity Magazine, Katy Koontz, even drove in from Knoxville for the event. We definitely want to return to Chattanooga and see the Unity congregation again! Special appreciation goes to the Unity Volunteers - musicians, singers, audio visual techies, and those wonderful people who provided a full lunch for all of the congregation... and of course to Penny Werth, whose idea it was to invite us to Chattanooga in the first place!




I managed to get one more PT in before we left, a five mile run down from Unity to the Tennessee Riverpark. I even ran into an old college girlfriend there... at least she looked very familiar, but she's aged just a bit and turned green...











We got underway after our final Unity event, headed south for home. We wanted to miss Monday morning rush hour traffic in Chattanooga, and only drove until dark, arriving at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia where we again are dry camping, as the campground was full by the time we arrived. We still have a two day drive home, but the checkered flag is in sight on our GPS...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Making Tracks; Cheap Diesel; No Thai for Ty; Fried Bologna and Velveeta! Southern Hospitality

We departed Barksdale AFB and Bossier City heading east on Interstate 20 through Louisiana and Mississippi. We made a brief stop for sleep in Marion, MS, not even unhooking the car in a pull-through spot in an RV park, and then early the next morning continued east through Alabama and into Georgia, where we stopped in the southern suburbs of Chattanooga, Tennessee, the site of our last event before heading home to central Florida. For the first time in ages, we traveled completely on an Interstate highway, driving at a steady 65 mph. The miles just rolled by, and diesel fuel got cheaper as the days passed. By the time we arrived in Chattanooga, a gallon was only costing $3.319, as compared to the $3.919 per gallon high in Estes Park, Colorado. I refused to buy $4.50/gal diesel in Canada (I will not willingly support socialism - sorry, Vancouver and Calgary friends) and made sure we had full tanks when we crossed the border. Frankly, I would do the same in the People's Republic of California. (No apologies whatsoever to Governor Moonbeam.)

I had one embarrassing geographic moment when, having made a reservation at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama, I realized to my horror and chagrin that we were passing well north of that Fair City, through Birmingham instead, and I had to canx the reservation the following day. I will put that error down to a minor senior moment rather than to any serious navigational challenges. At least I discovered it myself, and wasn't told, "Hey, Dummie, we're not going anywhere near Montgomery!" by My Lovely Bride. The really sad part of the error was that we would miss a great dinner at a Thai restaurant favored by Suzanne's brother Brent and HLB Cheryl. Sigh...

On Wednesday, we arrived at our destination just after 1800, when the local campground office closed. We had disconnected the Toad (our Honda CR-V automobile that we tow behind The Coach) when we fueled, and were proceeding separately down narrow two lane country roads. After becoming separated, MLB got lost, and called me on the cell phone and chided me for telling her to ignore the GPS and follow my obviously inadequate directions... it was not a good afternoon, and to make matters even worse, we had just crossed into Eastern Time, losing an hour, it was past our normal dinnertime, we were both hungry, and I needed a glass of wine somethin' fierce. I arrived at our campground (to remain unidentified to protect my personal safety) 15 mins before MLB, where I had to deal with Grumpelstiltskin, the lady in the office, who would have much preferred to be home boiling neighbor children in a cauldron. (The reviews of this campground almost unanimously noted her disagreeable temperament.) When I described to MLB our less than favorable interaction, she showed almost no sympathy, merely stating that "Well, she seemed very sweet and nice on the phone to me..."  Like, Ty, if you weren't such a dunce, she would have been delightfully pleasant to you and probably would have baked you a cake. (Yeah, maybe one laced with strychnine or ground glass... some days you should just stay in bed...)


Speaking of food, one of the signs we saw on the road was at a Hardee's restaurant. "Fried bologna and Velveeta cheese biscuit" (includes a fluffy fried egg)... can you guess the fat and cholesterol content? (1,858 cals and 65 g fat). The mind reels... sort of like deep fried Twinkies...






On Thursday, we got settled in Chattanooga and did some sightseeing, including a hike in Chickamauga National Battlefield Park, just across the state line in northern Georgia.. This is one of several "Civil War" battlefields that I've wanted to visit for many years. (Historical note: quotes are used in the previous sentence because where I grew up, it was called "The War of Northern Aggression", since it wasn't very civil at all, particularly if you were in the path of that rotten Sherman's march to the sea. Because I am married to a Pennsylvanian, AKA "A Yankee", I have to be somewhat circumspect in my writing. In fact, I was a bit worried that she might pull the lanyard on this field piece while I was taking the picture...)


The battle of Chickamauga was fought in 1863, and was a Confederate victory, although the Union army escaped, withdrawing to the heights of Chattanooga where they dug in for good. This photo shows the Texas monument. Each state has one or more monuments to the 125,000 men (and probably more than a few women disguised as men - that wasn't so uncommon back then) who fought here - 4,000 soldiers died and 24,000 were wounded in two days of fighting. Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle in the war, after Gettysburg. By the way, the battle was named after Chickamauga Creek, which in Cherokee means the "river of death".






The leaves are starting to turn here, and I was a bit taken aback to see brightly colored leaves on this pine tree, until I realized that they were attached to a clinging vine.












After our hike, we stopped at a Georgia winery. We chatted with a delightful Chickamauga resident named Bradley, who presented us with one of the bottles of local wine that he had just purchased. Thanks, Bradley, for your gracious hospitality and recommendations for sightseeing and restaurants!












Today we moved up to Chattanooga, where we would be showing the Messages of Hope documentary. We were met by Penny Werth, our coordinator at Unity of Chattanooga, who took us to lunch at a local deli. We continue to be impressed by the gracious hospitality of everyone here in Tennessee and Georgia!






Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Young Hero; Unity of Dallas; Is That Marzipan? Handcuffs? Beautiful Music; Cypress, Crawfish and Gumbo


Every now and then I meet a young person who breaks all of the stereotypes. Logan Wilson, a recent high school graduate in Colorado Springs, impressed us as we arrived almost at closing time at Chick-fil-A for our traditional post-event cookies and cream milkshake. He was busy mopping the floor (swabbing the deck in Navy terms) with a big smile on his face. We asked if it was okay to sit in the area he had completed, and with an even bigger smile, he said, "Oh, please, sit wherever you'd like. Thanks for coming to dine with us tonight." While I got our milkshake, Suzanne chatted with Logan, and discovered that not only does he work full time, but he also teaches a School of Honor for young men and boys, providing Christian-based lessons in honor, chivalry, civility, and lessons of heroes from the past. I looked him up on line and found rave reviews from a home schooling mother whose two sons had attended his classes. Logan is just out of high school, and is already making a positive contribution to our society that many 30 and 40 year olds should be emulating. Well done, Logan!





Suzanne's most recent event was held at Unity of Dallas, Texas. The nearest campgrounds were a bit of a hike, so we parked in their big back lot (yes, everything in Texas is big), and "dry-camped". Daytime temps were in the high 80s/low 90s, so we had to run our generator for air conditioning.








Suzanne spoke at Unity's Sunday service and followed with her Making the Connection presentation, which was very well received. The youngest member of the Unity Congregation, Keelin, was a real cutie, and after church was on her way with her credit card to a boutique to pick out a christening gown for next week's ceremony. Watch out, Nieman Marcus! Thanks to Laura Sutherland for her warm Texas hospitality and coordination for these events. We are already looking forward to our return to Unity of Dallas.







After the event, we went out to dinner at a nearby grill for fish tacos (MLB) and fish and chips (Moi). Dessert was bread pudding, and herein lies a funny story. We were about to take our first bites, and Suzanne asked me, "What's that white thing on top?" I replied, "I dunno, maybe marzipan?" (We didn't think to put on our reading glasses...) It took a bite to realize that it was a chunk of banana...  another senior moment... sigh. 








Speaking of scrumptious-looking goodies, while walking to the car, I noted this poster in the window of a high-end cosmetics store. I made the mistake of commenting to My Lovely Bride that perhaps in my spare time I could work with selected criminals to help them become model citizens... Smack! "You won't have any spare time, buster!"  (No intended good deed goes unpunished.)















With my head still ringing, we got ready to get underway. Before pulling in the slideouts, Suzanne noticed that our jacks had sunk into the asphalt, which had become very soft due to the 90 degree heat and our coach's 23 ton gross weight. Fortunately they retracted easily, and we were soon on our way east... (The photo shows the imprint with the jack six inches above it)






 

On our way out of Dallas, we stopped at a studio for Suzanne to make a meditation recording. She will provide more info on her web site, but here she is with her sound guy, Matt, preparing for the recording session.












And here is MLB at the microphone, about to start the recording with spiritual composer Jim Oliver's beautiful music...













Then on to Bossier City, just east of Shreveport in northwest Louisiana. This would only be an overnight stop, and our campsite was at Barksdale Air Force Base. We went for a bike ride and discovered Clear Lake, in just a bit different setting than the high mountain lakes we'd been enjoying for the past couple of months. Those are bald cypress trees growing out in the lake, by the way. The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a hardy tree able to grow in lakes and ponds, and its heartwood is extremely rot and termite-resistant. However, older cypress are susceptible to Pecky Rot fungus (Stereum taxodii), which is not related to the term "peckerwood". In fact, that term is an inversion of "woodpecker", and is used to describe certain backwoods Southerners since the red-bellied woodpecker also has a red patch on its neck, and therefore a peckerwood is also a redneck. I do not use these terms in a derogatory sense, since I grew up in Louisiana... it's simply part of the culture and language here, especially in the northern part of the state.


Finally, back to food. Since we were back in my home state, Suzanne graciously suggested that we should go out for some Louisiana cooking. On the recommendation of our good friend Reve Norman back in The Villages, we dined at Ralph and Kacoo's near her former home, and enjoyed hush puppies and homemade bread, duck and sausage gumbo, and sea bass with crawfish, shrimp and lump crabmeat. If you haven't been to Louisiana for its fabulous and unique cuisine, you should think twice about where you spend your next vacation.