Friday, November 29, 2013

Newbies at Unity; A New Restaurant; Dutch Treat; Thanksgiving; Black Thursday? Frog-man; A Tight Fit

Suzanne had the opportunity to address a large group at Unity of The Villages recently, and about 90% of the attendees had never heard her speak. She gave a two hour talk on her background and how she had transitioned from a career naval officer to her new life as an intuitive, medium and spiritual teacher.  She then shared quite a few examples of the kind of hard-core evidence from the other side that has turned her and many others into believers in a greatly expanded reality. 

One of the surprises that day came when Suzanne noticed a lady holding a copy of her latest book, In the Silence, which we had only just received the day before. How did she get that book so fast? Evidently Amazon had them a few days before we received our shipment; what a shock!

There are lots of restaurants in The Villages, but when a new one opens up, we have to check it out. We were very happy on a recent visit to Mezza Luna, an upscale Italian eatery in Colony Plaza only 3 miles from our house. Our good friend Lynn Spence went with us; her husband Bailey had flown back to Virginia to be with their son Chad for surgery, but Lynn couldn’t travel because she was recovering from a knee operation. While we had a bit of a wait because of Mezza Luna’s popularity, a glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay made the wait quite tolerable. Our server, Mel (Melissa) took good care of us and we had a fabulous meal. Lynn had eggplant paremsan, Suzanne had Veal and Shrimp on angel hair pasta, and I had my favorite pizza (Italian sausage, pepperoni and spinach). The only trouble was that our bottle of Chardonnay evaporated far too quickly. It must have been the low humidity…

As we were finishing up our delicious dinner, we chatted with Mel, a Dutch-Italian beauty with runway model looks who plans on moving to California to continue her education. Meanwhile she is working hard at Mezza Luna, and if you’re heading there for some great Italian food, please ask for Mel. She is a delightful young woman and will take good care of you.

On Thanksgiving, we were invited (along with Suzanne’s Lovely Mom Ruthie) to Jan and Bob’s for a feast, along with Jan's mom and dad, Rita and Frank. They provided the turkey, stuffing, wine, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, asparagus, and three pies (pecan [MLB’s favorite] apple and pumpkin). Ruthie brought her Famous Baked Pineapple, and I made oyster dressing.
We tried to maintain some semblance of moderation at the feast, and apparently succeeded… no wheelbarrows were required to transport us home! (Although I have to disclose that MLB was mumbling in her sleep that night... something about "Can I please have another piece of pecan pie? Please, please, please?")

We had about 4 hours to let our food settle when My Lovely Bride said, “Mount up, Sailor, we’re going shopping!” I asked, “What are you talking about? It’s Thanksgiving!” “It’s a new tradition, Black Thursday! Move it!” So off we drove to Belk to get a new comforter set for The Coach. We arrived promptly at 2000 (8:00 PM) to find about 1,000 of our new best friends waiting for the doors to open. I have never been shopping on Black Friday, but I had heard of the mass hysteria, shouting, pushing and karate chops that American women thought was normal for the event. So I went prepared with my Darth Vader helmet, complete with loud wheezing. People seemed to avoid us for some reason… we were in and out in 15 minutes, and MLB got her new comforter at a great price. It was an experience…

Friday saw us preparing The Coach for a trip to MacDill Air Force Base on Tampa Bay. Suzanne was scheduled to do a book signing on Saturday and speak at First Unity of St. Petersburg on Sunday. We picked up The Coach from the storage area and took her home for loading. While packing books and audio-visual equipment in the belly, I noticed two stowaways – small frogs clinging to the door frames. They had apparently been transported the seven miles from Oxford to our house, and were looking pretty surprised by their new environs. I lifted one carefully and transported it to the yard, then picked up the second and called for Suzanne to grab the camera. Here he/she is on my wrist, just prior to making the leap to freedom in a new county.

Suzanne was giving a reading in the afternoon, so we didn’t get underway until 1600 (4:00 PM), arriving in Tampa just after dark. As we approached the MacDill AFB gate, only one of the four lanes was open (Lane One), and it was a narrow car lane. Normally, big RVs and trucks enter through much wider Lane Four. Suzanne said, “Don’t you want to go over to the far lane?” I replied, “Naahhh, that will cost us too much time, since they’ll have to lower the barrier and send a guard over there. We can make it… remember, I taught shiphandling and relative motion at the Naval Academy. This will be a piece of cake.” (This may not have been the brightest decision of my life…) As we approached, one airman jumped out of the guard shack saying loudly, “Oh my God!” The other gate guards (all armed) stood in silence as we rolled up with a line of cars behind us, with our side mirrors on both sides a scant two inches from mounted security lights on the guard shack and opposing wall. After checking our IDs, one airman said, “Sir, could you use the truck lane next time?” I replied cheerfully, “Why, certainly, that would be great!” Suzanne muttered, “That was a bit close, wasn’t it?” I replied, “Hey, we had six inches on each side… well, maybe four inches… okay, would you believe two inches?” I wanted to fist-pump and shout, “The Navy has arrived!” but decided that I’d better not press my luck with the junior birdmen.

We arrived at the FamCamp in the dark, and while I disconnected the car and secured the towbar and electrical wires, My Lovely Bride recon’ed the Ville. Almost all of the full hookup sites were occupied, but she found one empty spot with all the amenities. The Snowbirds have definitely arrived. One neighbor, Bill from Michigan, is down for the whole winter. (Let’s see, in the U.P. that runs from Labor Day through Memorial Day, right?) He watched as MLB directed me on a walkie-talkie, and we backed smoothly into our space. Five minutes later electric and water were hooked up and I was pouring Cabernet into our new Indestructo stemless wine glasses, gifts from fellow Villagers Gayle and Bill Hancock. (I think Bill, a retired Navy three star admiral, would have approved of our arrival at the MacDill front gate. He was a hot shipdriver too.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Artsy-Fartsy; Lady Bugs; Stamens and Pistils; A Death Star? A Green Aura; Wrappers and Stampers; Going Postal

On Sunday, I received my semi-annual dose of culture, in the form of an arts and crafts show. Members of the Glass Fusion Club were showing off their creations at the Seabreeze Rec Center, and I had a special invitation from our friends Joyce and Sharon, shown here at their table. Unfortunately, Suzanne was giving a reading and couldn't make it, but I got to see the results of their artistry and creativity. I was also able to get a couple of really cool, beautiful Christmas presents.

If you haven't been to a Glass Fusion exhibition, you should go to their next exhibition in the Spring. Here is a close-up of one of their creations, a beautiful platter with lady-bugs that could be on exhibit in a museum. How cool is that!

We have a new plant/tree/something-or-other out front, a red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), also known as flor de Jamaica in Mexico and Honduras, that is blooming at the moment, at least until I manage to kill it accidentally by over-watering, under-watering, over-feeding, under-feeding, or whatever else People with Brown Thumbs do to poor plants in an ill-fated effort to raise flowers. One of the blooms was right at eye level, and as I gazed into its nether regions attempting to identify its stamen, pistils and other private parts, I thought I'd get out my camera and macro lens for a close-up - and was impressed by Mother Nature's creativity and perfect design...

I also decided to capture (visually) this mushroom on a neighbor's lawn before the landscape crew mowed it down later that day. It reminded me of the Death Star in Star Wars... okay, so I have a vivid imagination...

... but it didn't take much imagination to see that my friend Bob is a bit Goofy when he and his Lovely Princess Bride Jessica joined us for dinner recently. Bob is a retired US Air Force Reserve  Colonel who built his own private plane, an RV Flyer, and takes some well-deserved grief from the Navy; Jessica, on the other hand, is a former firearms instructor, and NOBODY gives her any lip! We had visited them in their mountain cabin in the Adirondacks a couple of years ago, during the brief two week-long period between massive snowfalls when roads were drivable. They are also Disney folks, and looking forward to their next visit to the Fort Wilderness campground.

Bob mentioned that he often hikes around The Villages at 0500 (5:00 AM for you lay-about civilians who are snug in their beds at that early hour). I thought I'd try it, and actually got started at 0430 for a 5 miler. (In truth, I couldn't sleep, and didn't want to keep Suzanne, Rudy and Gretchen awake with my tossing and turning.) Anyway, I soon found out that it is very dark indeed at 0430, and there isn't much going on until Starbucks opens at 0530. I was there when the door opened, along with several other night crawlers. After my coffee and hike, it was still dark! I had to wait until way past 7 to visit the ninth green at Amelia for this photo op. The sun looked surreal rising over the palm trees, creating an aura-like glow... does that make it a "green aura"?

My Lovely Bride's latest Sanaya Says book, In the Silence, is here! The FedEx Guy dropped off 300 copies the other day, and because we had over 125 advance orders, we held a Wrapping and Stamping party at our house. While Suzanne autographed, Jan wrapped, Bob and I stamped and Bev did Quality Control with her tablet spreadsheets. Elizabeth even joined us for moral support; I wanted her to bring 18 boxes of wrapped books and packages to the post office, but she evidently thought her Corvette was too small for the job.

Suzanne and her indentured servant (Moi) drove to the Fruitland Park Post Office where a very kind lady helped us process our mountain of book packages. Here MLB gets her upper body workout. When we were done, the Nice Postal Lady asked Suzanne if this would be a regular event... maybe we'll go to Oxford with the next batch...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bro Beer; Broadway Songs; BJ; Myakka River; Spoonbills, Gators and Vultures? Two Spiritual Communities

This week my brothers-in-law Brent and Allan were playing the championship course at Amelia, whose #2 fairway is behind our house. Allan, who is visiting from West Chester, PA, had texted me that they would be in our vicinity about 1340 (1:40 PM) for a beer break. Brent, who lives here in The Villages, hit his tee shot at our house on purpose, because he had been driving his shots to the right, and aiming left should have brought the ball into the center of the fairway. Alas, his tee shot went as straight as an arrow into some tall grass behind our next-door neighbor's house. For some reason he didn't want to reach under the thick grass looking for his ball... something about snakes... As they drove up, I proffered two frosty Coronas, which were happily accepted.

Allan's tee shot went into the bunker right behind our house, so he was safe from nasty, biting wiggly creatures. After a brief but fruitless search for Brent's errant Titleist, Allan proceeded to set up with his sand wedge. In this photo, his form looks pretty good, but did he make the shot or just spray sand all over the place?

Well, it looks like Allan's happy with his shot, and he even made par on this hole, probably due to the relaxing effects of the Corona.

Suzanne's lovely sister Janice is a marketing director at an assisted living facility in Wilmington, Delaware, but she has another passion: singing. And she is really, really good! She performed at Mission Hills on her last trip here, and she was invited back, so on Monday afternoon we drove over to hear her sing a set of Broadway musical songs from big hits like Cats and Chorus Line and other shows.

It was a great performance, and much appreciated by the residents. Janice was asked to return any time she's back in the area.

I recently met an interesting FedEx driver who was dropping off a package at our house. "BJ" is a father of three who used to be a welder and travelled a lot, but changed careers to spend more time with his family. We talked about our motor coach, which was out front when he came by. One of his relatives is about to retire from the military and travel around in his RV. "BJ" is thinking that he needs one like it to attend his kids' football games when they get to college. He is a hard working, personable guy, and I am sure that all his plans will work out just fine. See you on the road, "BJ"!

We spent the past three days making a trip down to Sarasota for Suzanne to give two presentations. But first we had to find a place to stay. We selected Myakka River State Park, a lush, semi-tropical paradise with large camping sites, beautiful palm and oak forests, a slow-moving river, and lots of wildlife. Alligators and many species of birds were everywhere, but especially impressive was a group of roseate spoonbills (Platalela ajaja). This lovely bird's color results from its diet -  crustaceans, frogs, newts and small fish.

I decided not to go swimming here. Someone else had this stretch of water reserved, and I didn't want to be on his dinner menu...

My favorite critter was this little frog, only a couple of inches long, that I met sitting on the rail of the restroom facility. (The frog was sitting on the rail, not I...)

Following a delightful dinner hosted by four gracious members of the Sarasota Vista Spiritual Group, Bob, Ginny, Lisa and Forrest, we proceeded to the Bayfront Community Center. Suzanne's presentation, Making the Connection, was very well received. (I hope I don't get any grief from My Lovely Bride for putting her photo just after that lovely frog...)

The next morning, we went for a run down the park's main road. With almost no traffic, this was a delightful place to exercise and lose oneself in Nature's beauty. The road itself is only a foot or so above the marsh and swamp on either side of the road...

Myakka River State Park is also very prone to flooding. This swampy section is probably crawling (literally) with frogs, bugs and snakes, but there were hardly any mosquitoes.

There were some flying pests, however, in the form of dozens of turkey vultures, possibly the most revolting looking birds on the planet. This sign indicates that they may have been hired by a local automobile repair shop to bring in business...

On Wednesday afternoon, Suzanne gave a reading in The Coach, and then we prepared for our next event. Torrential rains arrived before we left, and we drove to Sarasota past several serious accidents along I-75. Fortunately, we arrived safely at the Sarasota Center of Light where we met Reverend Drew, Reverend Lisa and their delightful spiritual community, many of whom we had met last year on a previous visit. Suzanne presented "Heart Gifts", the story of a very special young man named Wolf. The audience was spellbound by this story, and if you haven't heard it yet, it's a "must attend". Our visit back to Sarasota ended on a high note, and we look forward to returning again and spending more time getting to know the area better. Thanks to both the Vista and Center of Light communities for your hospitality!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where are the giraffes? No Hippos Here; A New Book in Hand; An Early Thanksgiving; Prizes!

Suzanne's good friend Elizabeth just returned yesterday from a three week trip to Africa. Of course it was a real adventure, but that's not the basis of this story. When she got back home, there was a painting awaiting her, one that she had commissioned from Portland, Oregon spiritual artist Barry Mack. (See Elizabeth called us over to enjoy the opening and hanging (gee, that sounds kind of ominous, doesn't it?).

After the painting was hung on the wall, Joseph asked, "What the heck does that have to do with Africa?" We were all taken aback, until we found out that Elizabeth hadn't told Joseph about the painting. When it arrived hours after she returned from her trip, Joseph thought that she had had it shipped from Cape Town, South Africa, her last stop. (Nope, there sure aren't any elephants, lions or giraffes in that painting.)

This photo wasn't taken in Africa, but it felt like being on the Congo River as we paddled up the Withlacoochee River near Inverness the other day. (I let Suzanne take the lead in case there were crocs along the bank or hippos about to surface under us... oh, heck, I hope she doesn't read that!)

 Just in case you are a member of PETA and think the hippopotamus, Greek for "river horse"  (Hippopotamus amphibius) are cuddly, friendly creatures, they are actually one of the most aggressive and dangerous animals on the planet. (There is a resemblance to a certain governor of a state south of New York and east of Pennsylvania, but I digress...)

Your Intrepid Correspondent is here shown with a steely look designed to strike fear into any attacking hippo, croc or cannibal. Fortunately I was not required to defend our convoy against anything more aggressive than a few mosquitoes.

We paddled up the river past cypress trees and hardwoods full of Spanish moss, with only turtles, a brace of alligators, egrets, herons, anhinga, and a solitary kingfisher to admire, until a noisy air boat came hurtling down river, sounding like a plane taking off. Fortunately it did not return upriver to spoil our return paddle, which was completed in the silence.

Speaking of "In the Silence", My Lovely Bride received the proof copy of her latest book of that name Tuesday evening as we were leaving for a neighborhood Thanksgiving dinner. Isn't that a beautiful cover? In fact, it was designed by My Lovely Daughter Elisabeth!

She only had a few minutes to look at her new book before we arrived at Coconut Cove Rec Center and sat down to a great feast prepared by two of our Mallory neighbors, Pat Rinaudo (at right) and Kathy James (at left) with their husbands Frank (munching down) and Jim (laughing). Thanks, Ladies, for a fabulous dinner!

Other friends at our table were Yoga Lady Diane Green and her husband Russ the Tennis Terror. Here Frank Rinaudo (a Sinatra fanatic and diehard Dallas Cowboys fan - what a combination!) has taken a break from his dessert to smile for the camera. I think he was still recovering from Sunday's drubbing that Dallas got from the New Orleans Saints, my home town team.

Not only was the food delicious, but Team Giesemann won a prize (a box of Oscar chocolates from Athens, Greece) for the most words - 104, to be exact - created from the phrase "Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends". We would have gotten more, but we were time-limited. It helps having an author on your team! Russ also won a prize for coming closest to guessing the number of pieces of candy corn in a bag. The prize was - yep, you guessed it, the bag of candy corn - and he doesn't even like candy corn, the poor guy.

Speaking of prizes, the winner of last week's photo caption prize is Dale Hilliard, of La Otto, Indiana. Dale's caption, "Lo-feet-a, if we just stand here we're not walking, I guess that should be alright." was selected from thousands of entries. Dale and His Lovely Bride Becky win dinner with us aboard The Coach when we return to La Otto next summer. (Dale was my shipmate aboard the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) back in 1985-87.)

We were able to award another belated prize on Wednesday to Lynn and Bailey Spence for her correct answer to a now-forgotten quiz from this past summer. Here we are at Waffle House, which Lynn has never visited (in spite of the fact that she claims to be a Southerner, and even has a Southern accent - its authenticity has yet to be determined). Suzanne tried to describe the WH Code for breakfast orders: pull one bacon, drop 2, mark one... but its details still remain a mystery. Our favorite item, hash browns scattered and smothered, were, as always, fantastic, and I have not been able to replicate them at home, sad to say.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trips and More Trips! Heart Gifts - An Amazing Wolf; A New Book! A Babe Magnet

Suzanne returned from her retreat at Unity Village on Monday night. She took a brief respite to catch her breath, and then we loaded up The Coach for a two day trip to Citrus County, Florida (vicinity of the towns of Lecanto, Homosassa, Crystal River, Beverly Hills and Hernando). A quick get-a-way vacation, you ask? Au contraire - it was for a channeling session (Sanaya) and a Tapping Into the Grid presentation for the Homosassa New Age Thinkers (NATs), held at the Citrus County Unity Church in Lecanto.

The events with the New Age Thinkers group were organized by Donna Scarpello, seen here with Suzanne following her talk. This community has been very welcoming to Suzanne and her messages of hope and love, and this was our third annual trip to Citrus County.

In between events, Rudy and Gretchen got to walk around our campground at Rock Crusher Canyon (what a great name, and a very scenic RV park). There were oak trees everywhere, and each one had its resident squirrels (the eastern gray variety, Sciurus carolinensis). For those members of PETA or SPCA who may be concerned about our puppies reducing the squirrel population, have no fear - they are kept on lead, so when they chase the little rodents Your Intrepid Correspondent is being pulled around like a sled, giving the squirrels more than a fair chance of survival. In fact, no squirrels have been killed, maimed, injured during our chases. (In fact, they usually look down from safety in high branches and go 'Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!' at Rudy and Gretchen...)

Suzanne also introduced her latest book, In the Silence, a follow-on to Love Beyond Words, which provides 365 daily inspirational messages from Sanaya. Thanks to Bev Garlipp, who was instrumental in compiling the books' pages and who is now helping to coordinate advance orders. This, Suzanne's 10th book, will be available before Thanksgiving, and advance orders can be made through her web site,

Hardly pausing to catch our breaths, we returned to The Villages Saturday evening for a Sunday event at Lake Miona Recreation Center, where Suzanne gave her new Heart Gifts presentation for the first time in Florida. Its big debut was in Crete, Greece, during the A Healing Journey: Life, Death and Beyond conference, where she presented along with Dr Eben Alexander, MD (author of Proof of Heaven) and several other speakers.

Suzanne asked Bev Garlipp to introduce her at this event. Bev has been Suzanne's indispensable right hand for the past two years, doing all the background planning for every event on the road and here in The Villages.

Sunday's event was Standing Room Only, with about 360 attendees present to hear her story about a most remarkable young man, Wolf, who transitioned to the other side when struck by lightning, like our daughter Susan. The synchronicities she experienced and the messages that she received from Wolf are nothing short of astounding with ramifications for us all.

How Suzanne came to know Wolf and his loving parents, Mike and Beth, is a long, amazing story that I cannot recount here. I suggest you attend her Heart Gifts presentation in person, and be prepared for a most remarkable experience. (You can find out when she'll be presenting it next by checking the Calendar page under events on her website).

After her Heart Gifts presentation, we opened up The Coach for tours and book sales, including advance orders for In the Silence. We had a great response, and several requests to ride with us on our 2014 summer tour. One young lady even offered to swap her house for our coach, and she sounded serious... sorry, but we are committed to land cruising for the next few years.

As many of you know, Rudy is kind of a ham. He knows he is very photogenic, and after he was a co-star in the Messages of Hope documentary, he became accustomed to having a make-up girl and hair stylist prepare him for his scenes. Well, I'm neither a make-up person nor a stylist, but I drew the short straw for his grooming appointment. Afterwards we went into town, and after a long walk and lots of "Oh, isn't he cute!", Rudy asked, "Dog-Dad, what's a Babe Magnet?" "Shush, Rudy, Dog Mom and Gretchen might hear you!"

We are back in The Villages for a few days before Suzanne's Lovely Sister Janice and her husband Allan visit for a few days from West Chester, PA, and then we are heading south to Sarasota, Florida for two events. The first is on Tuesday 19 November at the Vista Spiritual Center, part of the Sarasota Bayfront Community Center (Making the Connection - Learning to Attune to Higher Consciousness) and the second on Wednesday 20 November at the Sarasota Center of Light (Heart Gifts Workshop). Both events are from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM, and you can get more details at Suzanne's web site,  (I think My Lovely Bride may have misled me when she said that we would be returning to The Villages and getting some rest after our 10,000 mile summer coach trip. It's like living with the Energizer Bunny!)