tilt shift photography of cherry blossoms

Photo by Skitterphoto on

The next time you are feeling a little blue I want you to remember my little story today.
It is Sunday morning in Michigan, and a spring morning at that. Words can hardly describe how beautiful it was when I decided to take my Rollerator out for a walk to the mailbox on our rural country road. 66 degrees sounded wonderful to me after a weeks session of colder and wetter weather. The trees are beginning their leafy season, the grass is very green, and I can see the forsythia is a fantastic bright yellow.
After checking the box I crossed back on my side of the road and started pushing the cart again. Suddenly I heard a car coming up behind me and immediately I became very cautious, knowing that usually the cars come barreling over a small hill 60 miles an hour or better. This is a narrow country road and walking on it is not for the faint hearted. Especially when you are pushing a four wheeled cart.
But no! The car was slowing way down. I looked over my shoulder and there was an older car stopped, the window rolled down, and a young man smiled, and said “Where are you going?”
“Right over there, “ I said, pointing to our distant drive. “Good,” he said. “We just thought you might need a ride.” An older lady was driving, probably his mother. They both smiled at me, I thanked them profusely, and they went on their way, leaving me with such a profound sense of gratitude for the lesson I had just been given.
Sometimes it is the people with the least amount of material goods that are the quickest to share what they do have with people who might be in need. I need to remember that in my own personal life.



photo of man sitting on a cave

Photo by Marius Venter on

Almost time to go! It’s Saturday morning, the 30th of March, it’s warm and beautiful, and I know that an inner yearning is stirring for us to get on the road again. In my minds eye, and on my FB photo pages, the familiar scenes of Michigan, our number one abode, are beginning to slide past my everyday vision. The sights, sounds, and even odors of life in another atmosphere are invading my mind, reminding me of another place, one that I love, that I haven’t seen for months. To be sure, I really haven’t thought about it very much this past winter, other than to commiserate with my northern neighbors in their hour of need. I know that they had a rough time of it this past year, but the snow is finally melting. Now the days are a combination of rain, snow, ice, wind, sun, and mud. The county has put weight limits on, and everyone tries to avoid the gravel and dirt roads. I remember the many times when we couldn’t even get in and out of our road unless you had a four wheeled truck. March and April often still look like that. And the mud tracked into the house by all of the little feet no matter how much you scolded, I also remember.
After all of this reminiscing I am losing my sense of readiness to go North so quickly. I see that the sun has started shining occasionally tho, and what a welcome sight it is! By the time we get there the grass will be starting to green up, the crocuses and daffodils will bring smiles, and life will look pretty darned good!
Of course there is usually at least one more snowstorm after we get there, and we grumble and say we will wait longer next year, but the cycle continues without any encouragement from us at all. We look at the lawn full of leaves, the flower beds, the grape vines waiting to be trimmed, and we rejoice to be home again.
It is a time of adjustment tho. Different stores, different tv channels, new numbers, faster life style, and it usually takes a few days to get back in the old routine. When I walk into the gas station or post office maybe someone will notice we have come back, but then again, maybe no one will. Life continues at a rapid pace, no matter where we are. Everyone is busy and that is just the way it is. I will miss my southern home, and most of all I will miss my writing class. Bob will miss his pinochle games and his long walks here in the park.
We will enjoy Michigan immensely and the time will fly by with lots of yard work and long rides about the countryside. We’ll visit Lake Michigan and watch all of the fruit trees go thru their cycles of growing and producing the best apples, peaches, plums and apricots to be found anywhere. As I write this I am regaining my sense of “it’s almost time to go again!”
Wishing you all The Best of Two Worlds in your retirement years.



IMG_0185.jpgfor the past few weeks I have been mulling over all of the sections that my life seems to have evolved into. The small baby that started out being cared for by parents who loved me and wanted only the best for me has long disappeared. There is no one who even remembers that long ago time. I was the oldest of four children so none of them remember me in that form. Both parents and grandparents have gone on to their own destinys and reside only in my memories. The first decade of my life was mostly about school, church, playing outdoors with neighborhood friends, and reading, reading. During the second decade junior and senior high school were added, boys, piano lessons, choir, baby sitting, and eventually my first jobs. During the third decade marriage, motherhood, four children, gardening, PTA, were added to the already full mix. By the fourth decade I was overwhelmed, but still working, both at home and in the workplace. During this time there were a lot of changes made in my personal life, but life and motherhood and work still went on. By the end of the decade I was living out West and devoting my time to a different lifestyle than I had ever done before. The fifth decade was filled with travel and work and it passed so quickly. Then life took on a different direction in the sixth decade and I had to return to my roots in Michigan. By the end of the sixth decade there was a terrific office job, a farmer in my life, and a residence on a fruit farm. New responsibilities abounded in my days, new interest in writing, a farmer’s market to go to, and best of all more children to become good friends with. The seventh and eighth decades seemed to fly by with more changes for all of us, but still immeshed in my life has been the same interests, family, writing, winters in a warm climate, and reading, reading.
So here we are in the ninth decade. Amazing, isn’t it? Family, old and new friends, music, books, writing, and I can’t leave out my iPad, can I? My spiritual life has never been stronger, my family life is of great comfort, and I am so thankful for all of the years that I have been blessed with.



img_0562Decisions! Decisions! Lately it seems like it takes forever in order to make up my mind about what I am going to do about my everyday choices. Some change comes creeping into my life and all of a sudden there it is. I am going to have to make a choice about whether I go off with the old or on with the new. For years I was known for jumping into the new, even tho it didn’t always work out as well as it should. I would look at a situation, think about how to fix it and then I would just go ahead and do it. Usually it worked out pretty well or least I could make do with the results.
But now! It’s like a dog with a bone. Last Monday my watch quit! That is to say that the battery finally died. I think that this is the third or fourth time this has happened with this particular watch. And each time I would head off to Walmart where an obliging clerk would replace it for me. I liked that! So I have had this watch for a few years now. I still like it, it runs well, has a clear and readable face, and will probably last as long as I will. But I had just been to Walmart so I decided to wait for a few days. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at my wrist this week. Just couldn’t get out of the habit. But I just kept thinking that maybe it was time to get a new watch, a better one, or a prettier one, even tho there is absolutely nothing wrong with this one. Bob just said “Get a new one, you can afford it “. I knew that. It is just that maybe it was time for a change, so I decided to wait until today, Saturday, and look at the new ones. But I just kept on thinking about all of the pros and cons, driving myself crazy.
This morning I ended up at the jewelry counter, looked at the large display of watches, and deliberated in my mind. And guess what, I didn’t see any I liked better than my good old standby. “I need to have a new battery put in” I said to the clerk, and five minutes later it had been done. I had survived the debate in my head again and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, I don’t have to think about that again for a while” I thought. Decisions, decisions, they can be hard on a gal!
And my grandmother used to always say, “Waste not, want not”.



IMG_0555. This picture pulled at my heartstrings when I first came upon it. Mountains, mountains! Somewhere in my faraway past there must have always been mountains to inspire me and give me the warm feeling of being in the right place at the right time. It brings back the memories of reading the book, “Heidi” when I first started going to the library each week. And later when there were movies about Heidi and her grandfather in the Swiss Alps I would sit enthralled in the movie theaters. Eventually I watched the beautiful scenes on my IPad and felt the closeness that always comes to me when mountains appear. Knowing that I always feel comforted by the magnificence of the world that we have been placed in I have taken every opportunity that I could to travel to the Shining Mountains. It has always been where I could go to my quiet place and know that we are never really alone. Why this is I truly do not know. It seems to be where I find my inner spirit, my knowing that all is well, there really is a plan for us, no matter how uncertain the future may be. But relaxing, closing my eyes, picturing the mountains as I last saw them, brings forth the feeling of contentment, the knowing that somehow things will work out, no matter what.
Life can be and usually is a challenge for all of us at one time or another. We lose friends or relatives and it is hard for us to know the reasoning why. Children are taken from us before we are ready to let them go, and we don’t want to relinquish our parents. But sometimes we have to, and when that happens we need to have something to hold on to. For me the Shining Mountains have been and continue to be the thoughts that I hold in my mind, that there is a better place for us, there is a plan and I can close my eyes and feel the warmth and the love of it.



img_0532It’s a warm and muggy day in Florida today, partly cloudy, actually hot if I put the right word to it. It’s all a matter of perspective depending upon where you are today, Feb 24, because if you are in Michigan or Maine or New York today, you are probably glad that it is Sunday afternoon and you can stay home. By my IPad I see that my northern home is engulfed in 29 to 32 MPH winds driving a slanted snowstorm. When I go online I see that my friends seem to have become rather immune to it because it has been a long hard winter. How long can you actually complain about it? Instead I see that several writers have begun to think about seeds, and planting, and a new variety of tomatoes they might try out! Maple syrup heralds a new season. The one thing that we can remember as we survive those long winters is that spring will eventually show up, the crocuses will thrust their little heads, and we will be digging and raking again.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my internet friends. It is surprising how many of them I have never met physically, yet I know what they look like. I can surmise very easily what they think about, how they spend their days, their opinions on life in general, and what is most important to them. Sometimes I notice that they seem to have some type of problem going on and I feel empathy from afar, remembering what it was like so many years ago, the push and shove of daily living. The urgency of trying to get everything done just right while still taking time to breathe.
Still, I feel a closeness to many of them and you may be one of the friends reading this. You will know that you are, because we are all united one with each other in our thoughts and our memories. Anyone that you have met in your lifetime no matter how long ago, resides somewhere in your mind even if you think that you have forgotten. How often do we see someone in a crowd and at first we are really reminded of someone from the past.
So, friends, enjoy your day today no matter where you are, and know that your friends are remembering you also, and wishing good thoughts for you.



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!