img_0015it’s a warm, cloudy day here in Florida, a Saturday, and that means my weekly writing pen is itching to get started. The pen is, me, not so much. After a while it seems to get more difficult to get excited about what I am about to put on paper. Actually, I am not using a pen right now, my index finger is busily putting the letters on my IPad screen. Although I have always typed a lot, now I can go just about as accurately and fast with my finger. Who would have thought after all of the years of correcting mistakes with white correcting ink that now I do it with the same finger! Anyhow, here it goes!
We, my brother and sister in law, my two sisters plus brothers in law, My husband and I are all meeting for our annual luncheon at our home in Florida. Each couple takes their turn at it, and this time it’s ours. So we are counting our silverware, bringing out the paper plates and everyone is contributing some kind of food. We’ve had to rustle up eight chairs, two card tables, and hopefully the weather will continue to be beautiful. Tomorrow, Sunday, Bob will bake his famous baked beans and I will make a Cherry Dump cake. I’m looking around at what I need to put away so that everything looks neat and clean.
So you ask, what is the blessing? Families get together all the time. No big deal. But this luncheon is special for all of us. We are scattered about the country for most of the year. And the really big deal is that we are all in our 70’s and 80’s, but we, my brother Larry, sisters, Eileen and Janice, and me, Verlie, are the original four in our family, born of Truman and Marjorie Strong, and we are still all together. Larry and Betty, Eileen and Bob, Janice and Ray, all are still together with their original partners. Bob and Verlie have been married 26 years. Between us all we have so many children, grandchildren, and great grand children that we can hardly count them all. My father, Truman, died at 51. I often wonder what he would have thought of this huge congregation. He was so proud of his family.
We will sit and talk and bring everybody up to date on all the news. I am going to read this to all of them to show how happy we are together. We will bring out all of the IPhones, and click away. And on FB our families will read my article and smile, knowing that their parents are enjoying themselves in a warm and beautiful place. Now what could be more wonderful than this? Everyone of these eight people knows that they can count on each other, no matter what, and that has always been our strength.
So thank you, Mother and Dad, for giving us the foundation of a good and happy life. The blessing is also that we had you.




IMG_0488On Nov 9, 1991, on my way to the Farmers Market in Muskegon, Michigan, the sun was shining so brightly that ever after that I remembered what a wonderful day it was. It was the birthday of my oldest son, he was 37 and I called to wish him a great day. I could always remember because he was born when I was 20 years old, followed by three more brothers in the next few years. I had been widowed three years before, and it had taken some time for my life to become joyful again. But I had found new friends at my church, Unity of Muskegon, and a special one, Loyce Tapken, had sent me on my errand today. She had been at the market and a friendly farmer had given her an apple to try, a Mutsu.
So she said to me, “Verlie, you have got to get some of these apples! They are so good!” The following weekend I followed her advice and headed for the market. When I got there I parked very close to the stall and strolled over to look at the marvelous display of apples of every color you can imagine. My favorite had always been been Macintosh because they made such great pies. With four boys and a husband I had always made pies three at a time and there were never any leftovers. But immediately there was the smiling face and outstretched hand of a farmer offering me an apple. We talked and talked, and then I bought my bag of apples. He offered to carry them over to my car and then he spied my Colorado license plate.
And THEN he said to me, “I always wanted to travel, but I haven’t got anyone to go with.” Bingo! I heard the message loud and clear. “Neither have I as I have been widowed.” I said. When you are single a message like this rings a bell very quickly.
So we talked a little more and then I left for home, 16 miles away. By the next Saturday I had given most of the apples to my daughter in law, Tammy, and so of course I had to go back and get some more! When I walked up to the stall he continued our conversation as if I had never left. By the time I had left, with more apples of course, I had given him my card and phone number. A few days later he called and I invited him to come over for a home cooked meal.
And he did come over on a Saturday night, he got lost on the way, and had to call from the gas station. This was before cell phones, of course. And he invited me to come up to his fruit farm the next day and I accepted.
We drove all around his six hundred acres the next day, row by row, tree by tree. He knew every one of them intimately and told me all about it. By the time I left I was so impressed with the knowledge, determination and wisdom of this man, Bob Rider, his work efforts, that I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Later he talked to me of the rough time the farm had been having and how he needed a partner, and I said to him, “You don’t need to worry about that. I’m a bookkeeper.”
This was November. By Feb we had decided to get married, but he said it wouldn’t work out until after Apple season. Little did I know what that meant, but I sure learned. Living on a full time farm with over thirty seasonal workers, actually growing, spraying, picking the fruit, and going to the market three days a week from July to Dec. left little time for a wedding.
Our children, my four and Bobs three, were all happy that we wanted to take care of each other. It was a big relief to all of them, I think. As time has gone by it has proved to be the best thing that could have ever happened to us. Our families have bonded well together over the years. Never thought I would be the mother of seven children but here we are, and life is good.
It has been 26 plus years since we had a church wedding, and that is amazing. When Bob gave Loyce the apple, just look what came out of all of it! It must have been fate, for a generous man to give part of his heart away to end up with me.



After spending the last third of my life intimately involved with the working and knowledge of a farmers market, it really rang a bell when the subject of one was suggested at my writing group this week. Surely I would have a lot of memories of something that took over my life for such a long period of time. I can remember vividly what it was like to sort apples, peaches, pears, cherries, plums, and especially apricots. When it came to apples, we raised 25 different varieties over the season. At most any time we would have 8-10 kinds on our tables. And they were all carefully placed in quart boxes and half peck, peck, or half bushel baskets. As the people came pouring thru the market buying them, we would try to quickly refill the containers all the while waiting on other customers. We brought about 250 half bushels in to the market in our reconditioned older beer truck. But before they got there I had already been sorting many of them from huge 20 bushel boxes at home the day before. Bob picked apples in half bushel baskets with a picking strap every other day. Also he picked the many other fruits. We were a busy family, three days at the market, three and a half on the farm. There were also many pickers picking in 20 bushel boxes for the local growers who processed them for the national market.
One of the things we were famous for is that we graded all of the fruit very carefully so consequently we would have quite a bit of “seconds” to sell at reduced prices. One of our special helpers, Carol, took over that department. People flocked to her for advice on how to cook everything. They would wait in line to talk to her when she was busy. A retired nurse, she was an expert at helping people. All of our nine workers felt it was their job to please our customers in every way they could. To this day I believe that our great success was a direct result of all of our helpers working as a family.
Bobs family and he had been going to the market in Muskegon since 1936. After Bob was married, his children often went to market with their grandpa and sold fruit themselves. Later on our grandchildren took turns working on the farm and going to market. Our son Gary worked with us for many years. It was a very productive life and only when life interfered and we became older did things have to change for all of us.
But I have very fond memories of it. And some that I put away safely in the back of my mind. The mornings in November and December when we arrived in the dark so early in the morning. The gloves that we were wearing as we were sorting the cold apples, the wind blowing off of Muskegon Lake, the lack of customers on a cold and rainy day, and yet, there we were with the fruit we had promised. The coveralls, boots, gloves, hats, raincoats, all a necessary part of our days.
And the beautiful sunshiny warm days when 5000 people would show up, exchanging smiles and hugs with people who were so happy to see us. That made it all worthwhile. Going home with an empty big truck, after having taken in extra fruit in both the pickup and the car. All of it seems like a dream now, but it is a happy dream. We went to the Farmers Market, we made people smile, and what could be more satisfying than that!



IMG_0547Its a cool January morning, cool for Florida, that is, and I am curled up with my IPad. So I decide that I might as well go thru my normal routine, play a few games, just to keep my brain in working order. I have this theory that if I play some word games like Sudoku or Solitaire each day that I will manipulate my thoughts into believing that I am just as sharp as I ever was. I prided myself upon a fantastic memory when I was in my 20’s and 30’s and I actually would run tests upon myself to prove how good at it I was. My children got the benefit of my memory of their misdeeds as they grew up.
Alas, enter the later stages of my life. The children are grown and gone, in fact so are their children. I now am in the stage of my life where I play games of all descriptions. This morning I decided to redownload a game of Candy Crush with Friends, one that I hadn’t played in several years. I had gotten bored with my regular puzzles and wanted something different. Well, I found something different alright. I was playing it thru Facebook, and guess what! Now I know what all of my friends are playing – Candy Crush. I saw my sisters names, my brother and sister in laws, my cousins, my nieces and nephews, my grandchildren, friends from my writing group, friends from church and the neighborhood, in fact it seems like practically every one I ever knew.
That does it! Here I had been feeling guilty because I was using my precious time playing some silly games! Now that I know that we are all just working on improving our memory and mind, I feel a lot better. You see, these players weren’t all just seniors, they are all ages. We are all getting smarter together. Isn’t that great? I do love my IPad!



It seems like I am rubbing your nose in it for me to write about walking again for the second time in a row. Sorry about that, I just can’t resist.
We just got back from a walk around one of our favorite ponds. The weather has cooled off a bit and it is only 72 degrees at 2PM. The sun is shining, the paths in the park are filled with walkers of all descriptions, many of them walking their dogs, still others giving them rides in the golf carts. Everyone seems very friendly today, with waves and smiles galore. Out on the golf course we can see players swinging their clubs in every direction.
But the main thing is, getting to enjoy the many birds everywhere. Such a variety of ducks, egrets, swans, even blackbirds, all lying in the sun, preening themselves, keeping a sharp eye in each direction. I couldn’t resist taking so many pictures, knowing I can delete some of them later. The birds are not afraid of us, although some are more cautious than others. We have had a lot of rain lately and the ponds are full. To watch the birds swimming and diving gives me such pleasure, and I am thankful again that we can live in this beautiful place.
Thanks again for reading. Hope your day is filled with thankfulness for our amazing world, no matter where you are.



Saturday night, here in the park, seems like it is the Fourth of July. But it’s not, of course, it’s December 29th, on a warm and muggy day all right just like the song was in Chicago or New York. We’re waiting a little while to take our evening walk, at least after the needle drops below 80 degrees. And of course, we are here in Florida. We’ve had a cooler and wetter December this year and I’ve heard lots of grumbles about that, so now it is time for the smiles to reappear.
When we went last night there were bicycles darting around us, and of course the golf carts were in full force. We are one of the few people who don’t have one, and every once in a while I think about how much fun it would be to ride about the park. Then Bob reminds me that if we did get one it would become so easy to overlook our daily walks. And we both need to walk and we know that. So we don’t get one but still the thoughts seem to persist. Many people take their dogs for a ride every night also and they often stop to show them off. I have this feeling that they think we are just old fogies, and they are probably right.
It’s cooled down a bit while I’ve been writing so I guess it is time to walk. It’s dark now and there are many distinctive Christmas lights on our streets for us to enjoy. I wish you were all in a nice warm place walking too, but relax, your time will come eventually. In the meantime, enjoy your wintertime and we will see you soon.





photo of man sitting on a cave

Photo by Marius Venter on

Sometimes we get a suggestion from our writing class that sends sparks flying into our fingers and bringing forth new ideas that just seem to fit perfectly. That is what happened to me this morning.
How about when our roles as a parent just seem to become reversed with our adult children? It seems to be ingrained into our very being that we ourselves are the one who gives advice, who knows just what needs to be done, and after all, we have been practicing on our kids for many years. We hope that we have taught them the difference between right and wrong, the need to be fair in their dealings, yet show empathy for people in need, and we feel that we have generally tried our best. But we are not always around them in their daily lives, and so we really just hope for the best as they go forward. “Train a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it.”

But we don’t always know for sure. It takes a special situation to come up in order for us to stop, listen, and realize that our fears have been for nothing, that the children have exceeded our hopes, and now it is our turn to listen and watch as they begin to play the new roles with their children and their working lives. While I once played the role of the parent trying to take care of them, now it has been reversed, and they are showing me that we have been successful and they have learned that it is their turn to show affection and caring to others.

There is nothing that could please a parent more than to know that it is their turn to be the object of someone’s affection. To hear your adult child as he or she accepts the mantle of adulthood for themselves and for others is to know that you have done your job to the best you knew how at the time. When the child now wants to know how you are, instead of the other way around, you know that the rules have changed. You have relinquished the reins of parenthood to your family, in a small way, and they are willing and happy to take them up for you.
So relax, enjoy it. You have earned it over the many years when you had those sleepless nights when they came home way too late, or forgot to call instead. You have the living proof of grown adults, loving you and concerned for your wellbeing, but also busy making life happy for their own families. After all, that is what you wanted to accomplish and you have actually done it.