Tell me a Story: December 2020

I am sitting writing my blog with my rescue Quaker Parakeet, Houdini, on my shoulder trying to eat my lunch out of my spoon. Or rather just the rice. He’s already eaten egg. I am smiling to myself, I have so much to be grateful for. He really is a pain in the you know what and he bites sore when he is in a mood, but on the days when he is in a good mood, he dances and bops and even has this screechy kind of singing or he will say words to me and talk up a storm, and it is in moments like that which I smile and appreciate the positive. This month I wanted to look back on the year and remind myself what I am grateful for.

2020 did not go according to plan, yet I am grateful for all of the positive things that came out of it.

2020 we had big plans to travel.  We saved our vacation, taking none because we knew that in August and September we were going to be on the plane to Macedonia to meet our son-in-law’s family.  Amy & Daniel planned a wedding celebration for his family and friends.  We had added to the itinerary a plan to travel with Daniel’s mom to Croatia.  From Croatia Richard and I would fly back to Berlin to spend a couple of days exploring east Berlin.  I had worked hard on an itinerary.  I had lots of ideas.  I had them all written down. One idea was even to venture into Bulgaria, while traveling in Croatia. There were what looked like some amazing waterfalls 30 minutes into Bulgaria.

2020 and Covid definitely put a dent in those plans.  The reception venue had to be canceled.  We, and Daniel’s mom and family, were disappointed.  Daniel really wanted to see his mom.  He has not seen her to hug her for 2 years.  And I know that feeling, having gone down the emigration route myself. In addition to the covid issue, Europe did not want any American landing on their shores.  We did not go.

2020 and Covid changed our lifestyles.  Suddenly there were restrictions.  Some restrictions made sense others did not.  Some I wish were stronger.  Living in the USA we found ourselves on less restrictive actions than the rest of the world.  Both my brother and his family in South Africa and my in-laws in Australia went into very strict lock down for months on end. We did not have that. I was grateful that we could still see family, but I was also cognizant of the fact I have a daughter in law who is immune compromised.  I am also immune compromised but less seriously.  Both Richard and I had a requirement to stay healthy from a work point of view.  I work with medical staff, and Richard is a director for a large medical company and oversees the warehouse and all the it entails.  We both decided to go to ground so to speak. Suddenly enjoying the sunset out back became a priority.

In March we abruptly found ourselves shifting from an office to a home environment.   I am extremely grateful that both my company, and his, chose that option.  While our clinics still remained open, we had to stagger staff on duty making sure that there were protocols in place to protect all staff working and any clients coming in.  Richard’s office had a rotation of staff system, staggering staff who were working so that there were minimum staff in the office at any given time.  A new norm began for us. For me, working from home is not a problem.  The bigger problem for me, and for Richard as well, is probably not knowing when to stop working.  Neither of us shut down.  I am grateful that my boss would remind me “it’s the weekend” you don’t need to work. However, both of us are of the opinion that when things are urgent and you have work to do, you do it.

The shift home worked for me, I simply rearranged my “home office” to become a personal and work environment.  I brought home my computers, and a large filing cabinet and all my current paperwork.  I set up the different work stations.  I saved on my time of travel by 2 hours each day, for which I am extremely grateful, and of course mileage and gas.

The whole scenario had us looking at how we were doing things at work, changing up procedures, researching new methods, shifting client visits from in person to virtual.  All of that was a major learning curve for me.  I am grateful for Zoom, and the constant upgrades they are making to make things more secure and HIPAA compliant.  They helped make our lives at lot easier.  I am grateful for the learning curve and how it has enabled me to make the work environment better for our staff. PPE became the standard for work and home. Each and everyone had to learn to accept change and move forward with it.

While I can work happily from home, Richard does not like it.  He felt like he needed to be in the office.  He was antsy. Added to that the weekends came around and there was no sport, we could not go anywhere or do anything.  For me, a book or a tv show or taking my camera outside worked.  The biggest struggle was not being able to go to some of the locations I would normally visit to take photographs.  In the later part of the year that opened up again but with restrictions, like masks, which for me make a whole lot of sense. 

I am grateful for my blog groups that kept me accountable and doing whatever I needed to do to stay on track each month.  I will be honest and say that there were weeks I did not want to pick up my camera.  Days I did not want to sit and edit images. When you are managing groups that makes it hard. However, I have made a commitment to these groups and I want to continue to be there for them each week and each month depending on the groups.  They encourage me to look at each day and find the beauty in it. I was very grateful that the National park area up the road from me did not close like the smaller wetlands did. I could still go out on some days and catch the sunset. And yes, some did not social distance, but I did.

In all of this Simba, our street rescue cat, needed to have a tooth removed, and that started the worst part of 2020 for me. While intubating him the doc heard the sound of fluid in his lungs. After a couple of X-rays (which are not cheap I might add), Simba went onto a steriod for a period of time. Between the antibiotic and the steriod he definitely seemed to have perked up, but I noticed the other day that he is a little off his food again. So a new appointment has been set up for another X-ray. I am hoping that the steriod helped and that we can get the tooth out because I feel like it may be contributing to the problem. In the meantime, I am grateful for this little man who cuddles with me each day and sneaks into bed at night. He loves his scratches and his belly rubbed. He has my heart, and I am so thankful we agreed to keep him when Amy asked us to.

Meantime Moo, the other rescue cat, has got brave enough to cuddle in the mornings with me when I am drinking my tea. She is such a sweetie but a real scaredy cat. I keep telling her she has to get a little bit more courage each day. While she is not as friendly as Simba, she is getting there and I am love the moments when she reaches out to me, and wants to hang out.

In August Key West opened back up and Richard and I decided to do a quick two night trip down there. Richard really needed to get out and I was grateful that there were not many people in Key West. It was mask mandatory and social distancing and we by passed on the sunset cruise we would normally do and just relaxed on our hotel balcony and watched the setting sun both days.

Most of all I was grateful for my family.  The covid restrictions did not make a whole lot of difference to our family lifestyle.  There are only 6 of us (family that is) living in the USA.  Not having family visit was not a big problem for us. We have always been able to gather as a group of 6. Since we did not go overseas this year, I suggested that we book a cabin in the Georgia mountains and take some time away together.  I am super grateful that we were able to do that. When I say mountains, we traveled up this long single track road to the very last house at the top. Talk about social distancing.

Time together with family, for me, is precious.  I am very aware that the 6 of us is all we have living in the US, and I want to be together with them.  The time in the mountains was a time to explore and do some hiking and some off roading for Kathryn’s wheelchair. Richard got to see Yonah mountain. I got to go to the wine farm of my choice, which I will add was the highlight for me. We got to see some beautiful waterfalls, and just relax together back at the cabin.

Cody is Kathryn’s service dog, and I was grateful for his role in the vacation as well. At some points Kathryn’s wheelchair could not go any further, or in some cases getting back downhill was a little risky in the wheelchair and Cody was there as her support system. He is an amazing dog, and does so much to help her. Sometimes he pulls her uphill, sometimes he paces alongside her and acts as a support brace, other times he fetches her water or helps her to find things. I am grateful that he can be an additional support for Kathryn besides Cameron.

I even organized a painting party for all of us, which was a whole lot of fun. We may or may not be talented but there was a whole lot of laughter, and grumbles and groaning. Wine does help. I would certainly do it again. Obviously I kept my camera away from all the paint and cellphone pics are not the same but we had fun and that is all that matters in the end.

I asked Cameron to bring up games and he brought along Pictionary, Sequence, Rumikub, Boggle and I took along Jenga. We ended off our time there with a game of Jenga. That just rounded off the  evening with lots of laughter and some serious breath holding as the tower got more and more precarious. It’s those moments when we are all connecting that are special for me. It is those moments that I give thanks for.

Quality time with family is always what I seek to have.  It does not always work out that way but that is always my goal.  I am grateful for my husband, my children, and their spouses.  Each one makes up our very small family unit and time with them is more precious than I can ever explain. It is those bonds that tie us together.

Looking back on 2020, I realize that there were a lot of challenges, but in amongst all of those challenges were so many positives to be grateful for. Gratitude goes a long way to taking you out of a bad place and into a better frame of mind.

2021 looks like it is going to be a lot like 2020.  Life is not going to go back to normal overnight.  Yes there is a vaccine, but like most I am keeping a low profile and waiting to see what the side effects may be.  I know that I will keep wearing a mask, despite how hot it gets in South Florida.  I know that I will be limiting my immediate group of people to the minimal.  I know that until they get a handle on this virus, things are going to be the very much the same as 2020.  Some days may be roses and some days may be thistles. However, I can look for the positives and be grateful for each one.   

As we move into 2021, I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year. I hope, like everyone else, that this virus will be contained and that we can move towards a more normal life. Life like we used to know it. When the days get tough, I would encourage you to look for the positives. Instead of focusing on all the negatives, look to the moments that speak good thoughts to you, that brighten up your day. Make the phone call to encourage someone. Share positive posts on social media instead of complaints. Our lives are that which we make it and we can continue to lift it up if we try.

In closing I am reminded of a small sliver of my heritage, the Irish side of the family and their sayings:

May the road rise up to meet you. 

May the wind always be at your back. 

May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again, 

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Thank you for joining me this month.  This is a small group of bloggers so when one or two are out it seems like it is a quiet month for blogs however, this is a circle blog.  Take some time to view what the other artist has for you this month. My friend Lupji Photography is up next. I look forward to reading what he has to share.

Sunsets are my favorite time of day: December 2020

Mornings are not my time of day. I will confess that I am a night owl. I read late, and hate to wake up. The whole change in our lives, as a result of Covid, has saved me a 1 hour work drive. That means 1 hour extra of sleep time. Now if I could just get the cats on board with my story I would be over the moon. No they want their food at 6am. Seriously Dudes!!

However on the flip side I love the evenings, especially now in the winter time zone. It gets darker earlier, so I don’t feel like half my evening time is gone by the time I have got my photographs and got back home.

Recently I got a message from a friend saying that she was heading out to Loxahatchee Everglades National Park to watch the sunset, so I decided to join her. It’s always nice when there are a few other people around as it can get quite lonely when it is dark.

I always stop at at pond first to see what is happening, and whether I feel like I will get a decent image across the water, before heading up to the canal that edges the slow moving river that floats through the Florida Everglades

While chatting to my friends, I spotted a local gator hanging out in the water. This guy will come out to play a little later on.

One of my favorite things to watch is the murmurations of the Grackle as they head to the national park in the evening. some evenings there are hundreds of them flying across the sky. It is such a beautiful sight to see and such a musical dance in the sky.

We also get the single fly by’s. You will hear someone say “bird” and all camera’s go up to capture the bird, This night we had a few random birds fly by.

I had taken a couple of different lens with me and this is my wide angle. I just loved the swirls of the clouds.

As I mentioned earlier this alligator would appear again. It was moseying along the water when I spotted it in the sunlight. Suddenly it started swimming a bit faster and changed direction. It was swimming towards the reeds. On the edge of the reeds swimming obliviously along were two Moorhens, squawking like they normally do. Then very next thing we heard was a loud squawk and one Moorhen flew into the bushes and the other walked on water. A little fast for me to capture it as well as I would have liked to.

Walking back to the car I happened to turn around and found the perfect silhouette of the night. Watching the sunset is a great way to spend a bit of time.

Thanks for stopping by. If you don’t do it often, now is the time with the social distancing to just be quiet. To go to places where few others go. To enjoy the beauty of our creation.

Please continue to stay safe, healthy and keeping a low profile. This too shall pass. If I do not blog again before Christmas. Please have a wonderful festive season even if it is just a small group. Fortunately for us we have no family in the US and so celebrating in a small group is not unusual. If you are not celebrating Christmas but rather something else, I hope you have a blessed time.

Look out for another post at the end of the month, if not before.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: December 2020: Story Telling

Oops, this is not my comfort zone. I don’t have littles, I am not quite sure how to adequately embrace the theme {Story Telling}, chosen by Ceri Herd Photography, this month. My story telling will be words as well as images and will be more than 6 images just a heads up. I don’t want to break up this days trip.

In August, when we realized that we would not be doing our European trip, we decided to rent a cabin in the mountains of Georgia. If you have read my blogs before you will remember that I am a bit of a planner. So I did my home work and discovered there were some wine farms near the cabin. I looked a most of them with the idea of going and doing some wine tasting and eating some lunch. Of course, as a photographer, I look at all the images and I eventually landed on a wine farm a lot further away from the cabin than the local farms.

The day we planned to go to the vineyard we had done a hike to Anna Ruby Falls, and then headed to Brasstown Bald. By the time we we ready to travel to the vineyard it really was too late for lunch. Richard wanted to hike the next day, but most of us were all hiked out. I had booked a trout fishing morning for them thinking that it would be something fun. The ladies stayed in bed and the men & I headed out early on the Wednesday morning, with the idea that we would spend a couple of hours fishing and then drive the hour to the wine farm. The men were fishing and I was along to document this momentous moment. More about the fishing in another blog. The fishing was interesting but the scenery and colors of fall were more enjoyable for me.

Finally we were back home, the smell of fish washed away and we are all ready to head out. One of the criteria of the trip for me, was to try and catch some fall colors and to rest after a few days of hiking.

Interestingly we ended up traveling the same route as the previous day for at least half the trip. We headed towards the Lakes area of Macedonia, Hiawassee, and Young Harris.

After turning a number of corners we finally arrived at our destination vineyard – Crane Creek Vineyard. I can certainly say, if you are in the area, make this place a stop on your drive. The vineyard is picturesque, the fall colors were beautiful. I fell in love. Welcome to this beautiful destination.

Aside from the beauty of this vineyard, I wanted a place where we could sit down outside and eat. Our daughter in law is immune compromised and has a number of food allergies. Once I discovered the vineyard and read more about it, I discovered that they had a beautiful restaurant on site. Being South African, I was drawn to the fact that the chef was from Mauritius. Added to that my husbands grandparents emigrated to South Africa from Mauritius.

Kathryn contacted the owners of the restaurant Paris & Company and asked about the menu and whether they would be able to accommodate her requirements. Nina was so encouraging and just asked us to give her a days notice so that she could plan for Kathryn’s needs. We booked a time for lunch and were excited to get there and enjoy the beautiful menu.

We were seated out on the patio, in the corner away from other quests. Nina personally came out and spoke with Kathryn to see what she could eat. We all ordered something different, along with a bottle of white wine named Enotah. The wine is “100% Chardonel (a Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc hybrid). Aged in oak barrels for 10-12 months. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, apples and toasty butter.” I got that directly from their website. Credit to Crane Creek Vineyards. The wine was amazing and paired well with our lunch.

I snapped two cellphone pics of the food as I did not want to pull out the big old camera and annoy the rest of the family. The food, in case you were wondering, was excellent. I chose a lobster and crab salad, as seen above, tossed in a tangy sauce, served on a croissant, along with a potato salad side. Daniel, who was seated next to me, chose the Ultimate Philly Cheesesteak with caramelized onions, green peppers and swiss cheese, with a side of fries. There were six of us and I did not take photos of each persons food but it will definitely give you an idea of the options. I definitely recommend having lunch there.

Leaving the restaurant we meandered across the grass admiring the view. Beautiful homes set in the rows of vines. So picturesque in its beauty.

Bursts of color can be found in this scenic view, leaves coat the grass and the smell of fall is a sweet aroma to my senses.

Due to Covid the wine tasting has been shifted outdoors . Beyond the tree below is a patio are where you can sit and taste your wine or you can walk back to the grass area and find a few chairs and relax and enjoy the view. We did do some wine tasting outside overlooking the lake and the vines.

Tranquility is a word I would use to describe the beauty of this scene. Quiet reigns and you can just sit back and enjoy, sipping on your wine.

I had asked prior to traveling if we were able to walk around the wine farm and the answer was yes. So we walked down the sand road towards the lake. Lining the edge of the wines and the road are beautiful rose bushes. Walking down the road we arrived at the lake on our left and looked over a beautiful wedding perfect scene.

In every direction there is a vibrancy fulfilling my desire to see the colors of fall. Contrasting colors, bright colors, muted colors. I decided I love fall colors.

This vineyard was a balm to my soul, color to my imagination, quiet to the noise of life. Time to stop and gather my senses again. And I will add, to rest my feet after days of hiking.

Today I felt like I made a connection with the beauty of nature. I am grateful for the hard work the owners of this beautiful vineyard have put in to making this a place to visit. I would encourage you, if you haven’t been there and you are in the area, add a visit to your bucket list.

Thank you for joining me for this month’s Share Six blog post.  This is a circle blog.  The sneak peaks that are shared are stunning. I can say that because they all come to me prior to the posts going live. The challenges always stretch us just a little bit further. I blog with an incredibly talented group of ladies.  Please take time to visit my friend and very creative artist Lynne from Lynne Grant Photography who always amazes me with her images to see what she has for you this month. To view her  Facebook page click here and her Instagram page here.

Keep following the circle to see what the other photographers have shared this month. Don’t forget to leave a little love on their page as well.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_storytelling