Solo Cruising: The Golden Love Boat!

The Golden Love Boat Experience!

Solo Cruising turned out to be awesome!

I want to pitch a new reality show: The Golden Bachelor/Bachelorette Meets The Love Boat. Or maybe “Love is Old” instead of “Love is Blind”?

Because you know what? Old is “in”! There were lots of attractive, fun people who were older than me on this cruise. I hope to some day be like my friend, Patsy, who’s gorgeous and sexy at age 90.

These days, we are aging like fine wine!

I’m still a young sexagenarian! (Gotta take advantage of that sexy sexagenarian label while it applies.) We’re the babies of the Baby Boomers.

Certainly there were sexy people, both younger and older than me in our solos group. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve redefined what “sexy” means to me.

Finding “Love” while Solo Cruising

Once I stopped looking for a husband, the singles scene became a lot less intimidating. I realized the “sexiest” people were the ones with the sweetest smiles, not the ones with the best bodies.

I’ve found so many loving friendships once I stopped focusing on romantic attraction. Everyone has a story. Whatever their age or gender, their race, religion or sexual orientation, who cares? If they’re different from me, they’re someone who can teach me a different perspective.

But I have to admit, it’s a special kind of fun to be around good-looking single men. I have so much baggage around “dating” that I’d pretty much given up on it. But definitely there’s an exciting energy when that spark of romantic interest hits.

Loving Lika

Yes, it was nice to have that “Wow! You’re super sexy!” feeling. Our young, female Solo coordinator, Lika, was sexy in every definition of the word. I think everyone was in love with her!

We all love Lika!

I was especially envious of Lika’s dance moves and tried to talk the group into doing a private song to the tune of “Moves Like Jagger.” I thought it would be fun for us all to try and do our “sexy moves” while we were singing:

I got the moves like Lika

I got the moo-oo-ooves like Lika

Loving the Solos

There also was a feeling of ‘group love’ for the new friendships, and an admiration for all who got out living life fully, regardless of any limitations! (That’s my whole “Carpe Diem” thing, ya know.)

I appreciated the younger solos, particularly Trish and Zach, who treated those of us who were much older, as peers, including on the dance floor.

Young Zach dances “When I’m 64” for my birthday

Trish shot this video of Zach dancing with me to my birthday song, “When I’m 64.” I was happily surprised at her “Carpe Diem” Birthday shout out to me as she was shooting this video.

As much as I loved dancing and the group dinners, I especially liked talking one-on-one and learning more about people. I heard a lot of “Carpe Diem Hero” stories – People who have been through huge hardships, but don’t let that stop them from smiling and living life fully.

Not all “solos” were “single.” Some had partners at home who couldn’t travel with them. That was another reason that the “solos” group was not nearly as awkward as the “singles” scene.

I knew I was hoping just to find people to sit with at meals….people to look out at the ocean with and say, “Isn’t that beautiful?”…People to laugh with, play with, and dance with.

There was no expectations for future communication, but I was happy that there was a sheet that was passed around on the last day for us to share contact information.

And (even though I really don’t like to share information about my dating life on this blog), I will let inquiring minds know that my favorite solo lives in Orlando and is taking me out for a birthday dinner on Saturday!

Loving the Locals and the Sloths!

Another “love story” I’ve been having fun with is my love of this adorable sloth.

Sloth Love
Sloth Love

In this blog post, I tell the story of Charlene Dilbert, a local tour guide who helped me with Spanish and gave me a little taste of how the locals live in Roatan, and introduced me to this sweet sloth.

It was such a fun experience to practice Spanish, hug a sloth, and make a new friend from Honduras!

Solo Cruising Summary

Cruising isn’t for everyone. There’s a lot of eating, drinking, and sunshine – all things I love, but should avoid in excess. Some friends think cruising is too inactive. That hasn’t been a problem for me. I get plenty of exercise dancing!

However, for me, the best thing about any trip or vacation is sharing it with people I love. That’s why it was so stressful for me to think about doing this vacation alone.

I’m not saying it’s easy to find romantic love from solo cruising, but if you are intentional about reaching out, you will find people to love. Not to mention, adorable sloths!

Best Roatan Experience Ever: Spanish and Sloths!

Sloth Love
Sloth Love

If you’re learning Spanish and like cute, cuddly animals, I highly recommend adding this Roatan experience to your bucket list!

Speaking Spanish with a Local

For the past 5 years, I’ve been learning Spanish and wanting to practice in a Spanish-speaking country by taking an annual winter trip. Even though I feel very empowered and independent when I go alone, I’m lonely… and also scared about venturing out by myself. I’m clueless and very directionally challenged even in the States, so… I thought this year I’d get my “speak Spanish with natives” goal accomplished via a cruise excursion.

When I checked the cruise ship options for excursions in Honduras, none of them included “speak Spanish with locals.” They also were very “touristy” and high-priced.

I decided to see if I could find an option myself and asked a port-side vendor (Victor Bodden Tours) if a driver could help me with my Spanish while giving me a driving tour of the “real” Roatan. He told me it would cost $80 and the driver would take me wherever I wanted to go for as long as I wanted.

“I’ll take it!” I said. A private tour and Spanish tutor for $80 for as long as I want? That’s better than any of those high-priced excursions from the ship!

Mi Maestra y Amiga Nueva: Charlene Dilbert

CD - Charlene Dilbert
Ask for Charlene Dilbert for a personal driver and Spanish tutor.

The taxi-driver’s name was Charlene Dilbert with a CD on her business card! Is that a Carpe Diem sign or what? I’m all about the CD!

Charlene (“Charlie”) was an excellent Spanish teacher. She spoke slowly and didn’t constantly correct my many mistakes. Instead she made sure I understood and if I didn’t, she repeated slowly or used easier vocabulary.

She also gently encouraged me to speak in Spanish. If I lapsed into English, she’d say, “En Español?” with a smile on her face.

Charlie with her Aunt
Tia y Charlie

Charlie told me about herself and her family as we drove. She introduced me to her Aunt and showed me the oldest school in Roatan.

She showed me the houses that were up in the hills that Americans and expats lived in as well as where the locals lived.

Charlie is a single mother and I asked her about the economy, tourism, and her job. She admitted that she had a long commute and some days she didn’t get any work.

I told her that some of the people on the cruise ship warned against taking anything but the cruise excursions, saying they might be dangerous for a single woman. She was frustrated by that, telling me that while some parts of the country are dangerous, tourists are safe. The tourism business is extremely important to the economy, so they don’t need to worry when using a reputable vendor like Victor Bodden Tours.

I asked her if the locals ever did the tourist activities.

Charlie: “Oh no. Those activities are way too expensive.”

Me: “Do locals want to do any of the tourist activities?”

Charlie: “Well, it would be a dream to show my son the dolphins, but that costs $100 and there are more important things to spend $100 on.”

Me (very excited): “Oh, if you take me to an ATM, I can give you a $100 tip and then you can take your son to see the dolphins!”

Charlie (visibly surprised): “Are you sure? You would do that?”

Me: “Yes! This private tutoring session and tour is absolutely worth it. You’re a very high-value teacher!”

So, our next stop was the ATM, which was a bit of an adventure in itself. It was a good thing Charlie was with me or else I think I would have been stuck with much more Honduran Lempira than I wanted. I also couldn’t figure out how to get out of the ATM booth! Embarrassing!

Charlie said she wanted to wait until it was off-season to see the dolphins, and, of course, I don’t mind how she spends the money. It felt so good to make her happy.

I told her I’d spread the word about her wonderful service. If you’re reading this, help me pass it on. Charlene Dilbert is the taxi-driver to ask for!

Victor’s Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary!

We still had plenty of time before I needed to be back on the cruise ship, and Charlie asked if I wanted to go to a park where I could see the sloths and monkeys.

I’d been to a park in Costa Rica where there were monkeys, so I imagined it would be like that. It ended up being much better! These were animals we could actually interact with!

Monkeying around

Macaws
I love this cuddly sloth!

I asked Charlie to join me in the park and she, once again, was pleased, telling me no other clients had ever invited her to join them. “Necesito mi maestra!” I assured her!

I’d never realized how adorable and cuddly sloths are! It’s like they have a permanent smile on their faces. I was instantly in love with this baby.

(I wanted to take him home, but my friends warned me the interspecies relationship would never be accepted. So true.)

Bucket List-Worthy Goals

Even though I’ve pretty much done everything I’d planned on my bucket-list, I did two unplanned things that I’d encourage anyone one to consider:

  1. Hug a Sloth
  2. Make Friends with a Local When Visiting a Foreign Country

Carpe Diem!

Carpe ‘D’em Days: Dollar Tree, Death, and Dance

My Carpe Diem Logo

It’s a Coincidental Delight that in this Alphabet Inspired Year, C and D-Weeks fall in February when we celebrate Carpe Diem Day. I was going to try and have this whole blog post be full of CD stuff, like Corn Dogs, Carbon Dioxide, Compact Discs and Cognitive Decline. But those were the only CD phrases I Could Drum up, so I Decided to Double Down on D’s which is this week’s Designated letter after all.

D-Weeks: Dollar Tree

Decorations

Since this week was Valentine’s Day, I Deliberately Drove to Dollar Tree, where I had no Doubt that there’d be Dozens of Deals. The Decorations were Dizzying.

DIY Supplies

Next I visited the DIY aisle where I believe I might have Drooled at all the DooDads on Display. Just Dreaming about the Dates I’d get after Delivering my DIY Valentines filled me with Desire. (Do you Detect Delusion?)

Delicious Deals

Delicious Deals were on Display, tempting me like the Devil! Delectable Desserts and Delicacies just waiting to be Devoured.

D-Weeks: Death

I Don’t know if it’s too Dark to Drag Death into this D-Post. I admit, I’ve been Down in the Dumps at the Death of a Dear friend. It feels Disrespectful to Disregard the Depth of Depression that comes with such loss, Dallying with D’s.

Though it’s a bit Dotty, it’s also Distracting to Do this Drill. My Carpe Diem Superhero friend, would Discourage me from Denying the Dork Deep within. “Don’t ‘Delay! Do the ‘Dee’d for D-Weeks,” she’d Declare!

D-Weeks: Dance

Disco Dancing

We have one more week to Demonstrate Dedication to the letter D. I will be Departing on Sunday for a 7-Day Cruise. It’s Disappointing that none of the Designated ports start with the letter ‘D’ (On second thought, who would want to get D-ported?)

We Don’t need to Decry Defeat, because I plan to Dance to Demonstrate my Devotion to the letter D! In fact, I’m posting a Disco Dance vi’Dee’o that I made During CoviD. In fact, I’d like to Declare it a CoviDeo.

I’ll Depart with one of my favorite Carpe Diem songs: Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance… I hope you dance.

Carpe Diem Superhero: Ursula Dahnelt

Carpe Diem Superhero: Ursula Dahnelt

This year, Ursula Dahnelt wins my Carpe Diem Superhero award for her incredible strength and perseverance in her battle with ovarian cancer.

I learned yesterday of Ursula’s passing. Though I’ve known for several years about her cancer, it still is such a sad shock to know she’s no longer with us.

She certainly didn’t look like what we’d all imagine the stereotypical cancer patient would look like. During the summer, she and I had a weekly hiking date. She lived in Boulder, walking distance to the beautiful trails around NCAR, so we’d meet at her house, and she’d play ‘trail guide’ leading us through a variety of different trails. Sometimes we’d take the car and venture further out. There are no shortage of trails to explore in Colorado.

Weekly hiking date with Ursula

Superhero Strength!

I was always amazed that despite being 5 years older than me and undergoing chemotherapy, she still was incredibly strong and fit, usually leading the way up hills at a fast clip as I tried to keep up. She had a strength-building coach who she met with twice a week and she allowed me a selfie on each hike to share with her coach.

Ursula was incredibly independent and proud of how much she could do, in spite of the cancer. She took control of her care, doing research on treatments around the world. She often would talk about the need for patients to be their own advocates and to recognize that each body is unique and going to respond differently, so not to trust any ‘one-size-fits-all’ regimens.

Past Carpe Diem Superheros

The original “Carpe Diem Superhero,” the man who inspired “Carpe Diem Day” was Craig Dunham, my friend who died in 2010 from ALS. Last year was my friend, Dee O’Malley (who lives on at age 91!), and before that it was Lee MacIvor, who honored the memory of her late husband.

As I wrote last year:

Each of these three Carpe Diem Superheroes have earned admiration from me, not just because of living life fully, but because they do so (or did so), despite challenge, grief, and hardships.

Now, I’m adding Ursula to my list as a Carpe Diem Superhero.

Ursula didn’t think of herself as a “Superhero.” She certainly didn’t want any special treatment or even mention of her cancer diagnosis. She absolutely did not want pity or sympathy.

There were times, of course, when she was sick and struggled. I don’t mean to imply that anyone who is diagnosed with cancer would be able to hike or maintain the fitness and attitude that Ursula managed.

She outlived all the other women in her ovarian cancer support group. She beat the odds with long periods of healthy living, often by discovering treatments on her own.

Ursula’s strength and courage will inspire me, alongside the other Superheroes I’m meeting on this emotional journey called life. I’m grateful to have had her as a friend and honored to have been part of her own journey.

Carpe Diem Experience: Solomon’s Castle

Solomon’s Castle exterior is made from aluminum printing plates.

Solomon's Castle
Solomon’s Castle is the perfect Carpe Diem experience

The Humor of Howard Solomon

“A visit to Solomon’s Castle may be the most unique experience of your life,” touts the brochure. The visit didn’t disappoint. I’m a lover of Whimsy and puns, and visiting Solomon’s Castle provided both in spades… and hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Yes, I know. I’m such a card.

You know who was a bigger Joker? Howard Solomon! The King of this unusual castle.

Howard Solomon had more than a sense of humor. He was a very talented artist. He made his dreams a reality by building his fantasy workshop and home and sharing it with the world.

Photos weren’t allowed within the castle. That was lucky! I would’ve wanted to photograph everything and I would’ve been too busy taking photos rather than just enjoying the art, along with the funny tour script.

This must be a newer rule, though, since I found this blog post from 2017 which includes pictures of several of the quirky art pieces and their titles.

Betsy Ford, our tour guide, told us that before Howard died, he’d written the long script, riddled with one-liners and Dad jokes. While the barrage of puns might be groan-worthy in a comedy club, the timing and delivery from Ms. Ford was perfect. She proudly (with a hint of apology?) told us that Howard had written and requested all the tour guides learn the script and that we should “imagine an 80-something-year-old man” giving the tour.

I, of course, loved every joke, and felt an immediate bond with Howard Solomon. As a pun-lover myself, I found his script clever and endearing.

“Fencing” around the castle

The Art of Solomon’s Castle

Of course, his art was his true genius. Every piece was amazingly creative and unique. Art pieces were made from recycled or scrapped materials which added to their charm. For example there were animal sculptures made entirely out of coat hangers.

The outside of the castle is made with aluminum printing plates. There are more than 80 stained glass windows, many in thematic sets. As we passed through the studios into the living quarters, the lights streaming from above through one of the stained glass windows created a ethereal brilliant glow.

The Castle exterior is made from aluminum printing plates

Just beyond the castle, guests can enjoy a restaurant called “The Boat on the Moat” with indoor and outdoor seating. There’s a Light House, a Pavilion, a Gift Shop and even the opportunity to sleep at the castle!

The Boat in the Moat

Whimsical and unique, Solomon’s Castle, in Ona, FL. is right up my alley. It was the perfect Carpe Diem adventure that I wouldn’t have even known about, had I not met a new thoughtful friend last week, Sue Ellen. But that’s a story for another blog post.

Bottom line? GO!

*Notice that in the spirit of an artistic representation of the final sentence above, I’m including a green “Bottom line” to this blog post. Though this may not seem like “art,” it took me much longer than I thought it would to figure out how to do this.


Carpe C-em: Connections and Companionship

C’zing the Day with Costumes at Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy in Sarasota.

There are plenty of C-Words to Celebrate C-Weeks and two of my favorites are Connections and Companionship. This week I had the opportunity to C’s the Days Completely!

Last week, on our weekend Call, Scotty told me he was going to be in Cape Canaveral on a business trip on the upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s only a 3-hour drive from Bradenton, so I was able to meet him out there Wednesday night and spend the rest of the week with him! What a fun, unexpected visit with my up-for-anything youngest Child!

Cape Canaveral

Connect Four and Chai at Cape Canaveral Cafe

Scotty was my original Companion 20 years ago when I had my year of Alphabet Adventures, now resurrected in 2024. I’ve been Considering whether or not I want to Continue, but with Scotty being in Cape Canaveral during C-Weeks… Well, that’s no Coincidence. It was the Universe telling me to Commit to an alphabet inspired C-quel.

Cape Canaveral Space Force Museum

Scotty serves as a Guardian in the newest military branch, the US Space Force. He’s an engineer working with satellites. The Sands Space History Museum (part of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Museum) provided the history, artifacts and displays of each Launch Complex.

C-inspired Cuisine

Chicken Curry with Carrots and Cauliflower Rice

One of Scotty’s favorite things to do is to eat! We’re both trying to avoid sugar so that meant Candy and Chocolate were out. (Usually, we both over-indulge when we’re Celebrating but we resisted.)

We had plenty of healthy Choices, and settled on Curry Chicken with Carrots and Cauliflower rice with Cashews on the side. Creating Clever Cuisine using the Celebrated letter is part of the game.

CluedUpp

CluedUpp Alice in Wonderland in Sarasota

Last September, Scotty and I, along with my daughter, Megan, won the best group Costume award for our participation in the Beauty and the Beast CluedUpp game. The prize was a free membership to another game. We decided to take advantage of this play any time City Quest: Alice in Wonderland Sarasota game.

This was my third CluedUpp game and I’m enjoying them more each time I play one. You solve riddles and get Clues that are given to you by Characters. For example, in this game, the Cheshire Cat gave us many Clues that were meant to help us solve an overall mystery of finding where the Queen had hidden Alice.

We wandered through downtown Sarasota where virtual Characters would show up in the mobile app. Even though the app didn’t give us any kind of tour of the iconic sites of downtown Sarasota, sometimes the riddle might be related to our physical location.

For example the riddle: “I’m the same at the beginning and at the end and you are in the middle. Look around to find me.” In front of us stood the answer: CHURCH.

Community 5K

I Heart My Community 5K
Palmetto HS Key Club and Girl’s Cross Country Team Host a local 5K
February 5K in Palmetto: I Heart Community

Our next activity was to participate in the Palmetto HS I Heart Community 5K Fun Run! One of my other “repeat projects” is to participate in a costumed 5K each month.

This was the perfect local 5K to participate in! Scotty is still recovering from knee surgery, but is at a point in his physical therapy where he can walk fast and jog a little, so that was the perfect non-Competitive pace for me.

I loved the Camaraderie and effort that that went into Coordinating the Community event. It was also very Cool that the event supported the Palmetto High School’s girls Cross Country team and Key Club!

Costumes

Costumes at Marietta Museum of Whimsy

One of my favorite places in Sarasota is the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy. Oh my goodness, there are so many Creative and Cool Collections in this museum.

The Costume booth, Complete with plenty of props and a volunteer photographer is a Carpe Diem opportunity!

Connections and Companionship

“Caddy Corner” Collectable jigsaw puzzle

Continuing our C-Week Celebration, we visited the local Good Will to find a jigsaw puzzle we Could Complete during Scotty’s visit. This 500-piece Collectable Called “Caddy Corner” with a Cadillac Convertible was Classic.

We also play the New York Times game, Connections, daily and share results over a group Chat with Matt, my other son, and his wife, Stella. That’s a good way of staying Connected, even when we’re not physically together.

I’m so grateful for the Companionship and Connection I have with Scotty. The book we listened to during the Car ride between Cape Canaveral and Bradenton was Called: “How to Know A Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen” by David Brooks. It’s an excellent book.

I’m so lucky that I got to ‘C’ and Connect with my Comical, Cool, and Clever son, Scotty.

Clearly a Carpe C’em Celebration!

B-Weeks Bring us Bradenton Beach, Belonging and Being

To B or not to B: that is the question:

Whether ’tis Bolder of the Brain to Blog

And Brag of Beauty with Bountiful Beat

Or to Break free from this Bewildering Banter

That Bothers readers with Boring Buzz?

But were the Bard here to Bewitch and Blend

Blues with Brights, Bonds with Braids

Bitter made Benevolent, Bear made Bull

Being is Beautiful, Bard or Blab

Let us B

Today marks the final day of B-Weeks as we end Week 4 of 2024. I have mixed feelings about whether or not to continue with an Alphabet Inspired Year. I know it Borders on Babyish, But since I’m in Bradenton, it Behooves me to not Back out yet.

Bradenton Beach

One of the Best things about my Bradenton condo is it’s just a 10-minute drive to the Beach. I love to take early morning walks By the Beach, watch the Birds and gaze out at the ocean’s vast Beauty. Colorful shops line historic Bridge Street where Breakfast or Brunch Bistros are Bountiful. Back Alley is one of my favorite places, Both for a Bite and to Browse or Buy.

Beach Birds and a Blue, Blue Sky at Bradenton Beach
Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach
Back Alley is one of my favorite Bistros
Browsing the whimsical clocks in Back Alley. Can you guess which one I Bought?

Belonging

At the Beginning of the year, I was a Bit Bummed, feeling lonely and Blue. But now, I’ve Begun to make more local area Buddies. Even though I’m only here for the winter season, I’m starting to feel a sense of Belonging. I even got invited to play DJ Bingo with a neighbor and had a Blast!

DJ Bingo Card

My Best Buddy, Becky Burns, has Been very Busy. But tonight, she made the time to Bring herself and her doggies over for a wonderful visit.

Beautiful BB, Yogi and Meditator, is an expert in “Being”

Besides BB and other Bradenton Buddies, I also feel Blessed by my Big virtual network.

The Carpe Diem Connections FaceBook group has posted some Beautiful pictures of Birds and Beaches and talk about Books and Best Buddies. I love the creativity and variety of posts and pictures.

Being OK with Being

Self-help literature talks about “Being” vs. “Doing.” I think the idea is that we often can Be so Busy with our task lists and Being productive, that we forget to just BE. To savor the precious moments of life.

I admit, I feel more comfortable with checking items off of my “to do lists” than I do with simply “Being.” I tried to honor B-weeks By Being more present and, of course, By obsessing over all things B. You can’t get more Be-ing than that!

Bye-Bye B-Weeks! C you next week!

Luau 5K with US Road Running Race Club

Luau 5K at Heritage Harbor Park in Bradenton, FL

Today I ran the Luau 5K, decked out in my Hawaiian finest!

I know a 5K is not a very impressive distance, but it’s exciting for me since I’d thought my running days were over.

My Running Buddy, Bonnie

I used to run a lot. My main running buddy was my neighbor, Bonnie. We ran so many races together over the past 20 years. These included several Bolder Boulder 10Ks, the famed Bay to Breakers in California, the Denver Rock’n’Roll Marathon, the Horsetooth Half-Marathon, and countless 5Ks. In fact, in 2013, we ran a 5K every month in costume.

A year of costumed 5Ks

Running Again After Bone Density Improvement

Then, 5 years ago, I had some major back problems, including osteoporosis.

I was at risk for a vertebra fracture, so the doctors recommended against high-intensity sports like running.

However, after 5 years of AlgaeCal, my bone density improved and I’m no longer osteoporotic! (I’ll probably write some other blog post about Algaecal and my success story with that, but I don’t want to get too far off topic.)

Last Fall, I was walking with Bonnie, and told her that my back was better and I was thinking I’d be able to run 5Ks again. We remembered how much fun we’d had with our Year of Costumed 5Ks and agreed that we wanted to do something like that again.

However, I spend winters in Florida, so we couldn’t physically do a monthly event together. Bonnie suggested we each do a challenge of our choice and share photos.

US Road Running Race Club

I was excited about the idea of running again. When I searched for 5K races in Bradenton, Florida, I discovered the US Road Running Race Club! They host monthly races and (here’s the best part) they have theme-based costume contests!

Welcome Gift from the US Road Running Race Club

The club sent an unexpected Welcome card (so sweet!) and T-shirt. Race entrance fees are 50% off when you join the club and they even offer the ability to do virtual races and submit pictures on their Facebook page!

Today’s race had a theme of “Luau.” Since I didn’t bring my wide array of costumes with me from Colorado, I ordered a pink hula skirt and matching leis. It wasn’t the most creative of costumes, but I was happy with it.

And guess what? I won the costume contest!

Of course, I’m pretty sure I was the only runner who came to the event wearing a costume. My fine-tuned strategy when it comes to winning contests is to be the soul contestant.

The volunteers and workers at the race were handing out leis. (Another gold star for US Road Running Race Club!) I think the person who was in charge of the picking the winner of the costume contest was a little worried until she saw me, just before the race start.

She immediately told me I’d won the contest, gave me my medal, and took a picture of me at the front of the pack at the starting line. Instant celebrity!

Even though other people think it would be embarrassing to be the only one in costume, I embrace my inner-child.

I admit, it IS embarrassing to be the only adult in competition with kids. Luckily there were no kids who were dressed up.

It’s also awkward and embarrassing when the costume contest is settled by audience applause. Go ahead, cute little kids, steal the show!

But blissfully, I was the soul contestant and scored an easy win!

High-quality medals!

I came home with two high-quality medals – one for the Best Costume and one for finishing the Luau race.

The weather was perfect and running felt really good! The low altitude and flat terrain (along with my slow pace) made it an easy race. Five years ago I thought I’d never be able to run again. I thought I might be in constant pain. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m so grateful for today.

This was one of the highlights of the month for me and a wonderful way to start 2024.

Thank you US Road Running Race Club! Looking forward to more!

Volunteering in Retirement: Manatee Literacy Council

Manatee Literacy!

Volunteering in Retirement with the Manatee Literacy Council

When I first announced on Facebook that I was volunteering for the Manatee Literacy Council, one of my friends joked, “Are you helping manatees learn to read?”

I thought that was pretty funny! The Manatee Literacy Council, based in Manatee County, Florida, helps promote literacy. The services are available for anyone who wants to improve their literacy skills. It is limited to human learners, though. Manatees will have to wait.

Conversation Classes, private tutoring, and a variety of resources and activities are available that empower learners, including the many who are not native English speakers.

As a lover of languages, I’m learning a lot, too! There are so many weird things about the English language – pronunciation oddities, unusual slang terms and expressions, grammatical inconsistencies – what a difficult language to learn!

I’ve been learning Spanish, myself (Duolingo streak is currently at 1777 days!) Now that I see how flaky English pronunciation can be, I’m very grateful that Spanish pronunciation is so much more consistent!

Why Volunteering in Retirement is Important

I’ve been somewhat obsessive about healthy aging since retiring. All the reports stress the importance of keeping our minds active and socializing to ward off dementia and mental health issues.

Research has found that volunteering can prevent cognitive decline, provide purpose and community.

I was surprised to find that I’d had a more difficult time finding volunteer opportunities that were a good fit for me since I retired than when I was working. I thought with so much extra time, it would be easy to find fulfilling opportunities.

The problem ended up being my very inconsistent schedule! With so much traveling, it was difficult for me to commit to a volunteer position that would allow me to really connect with the community. This became even more complicated when I fulfilled my snowbird dream and now have two different residences.

Volunteering with MLC: A Perfect Fit

Volunteering with the Manatee Literacy Council has ended up being the perfect fit for me. There is so much flexibility for volunteers. We can work as tutors, one-on-one with learners, in person or on Zoom. We can help in the online Conversation Classes that are offered 5 days a week or serve in various capacities to help the organization.

This flexibility allows me to continue volunteering during the summer months when I’m back in Colorado as well as meeting up with my learners in person when I’m in Bradenton.

MLC also holds events to foster community. Last weekend was the annual MLC picnic… and I hear, this year, a second one will be held in April!

MLC Potluck Picnic at GT Bray Park in Bradenton, FL

I love the diversity of people at these events! There are people from all over the world, interested in improving their communication and literacy skills.

Whether fellow-volunteers or motivated learners, every person has an interesting story!

Another benefit for me: I’m finding more friends who can help me learn Spanish. I requested that my “private learners” be native Spanish speakers and they have fun helping me learn, too!

Summary

Volunteering, particularly in retirement, is a great way to keep your brain healthy. If you’re a language-lover, check out your local literacy council to find out about volunteer opportunities. If you’re in Manatee County, Florida, come join us at the Manatee Literacy Council. And if you’re a manatee, well… impressive that you can read this blog post!

Email info@manatee-literacy.org to find out more.

Alphabet Assists

Annual Accountability

An Annual Activity of mine is to come up with some kind of yearly theme to help inspire my blog posts. In 2022, it was A Year of Microadventures and in 2023, it was A Year of Learning. These themes and blog posts help me stay Accountable to whatever goals I’m trying to Achieve for the year.

One of my favorite projects was my 2004 Alphabet Year of Adventures. It was the year after my divorce, and Scotty, my 9-year-old, was All Aboard! We had so many Adventures, created an Awesome Album and the fun helped transform An Awful year into something Absolutely Amazing.

I tried to recreate the magic in 2012 with my “Alphabet Dating” project. As the Boulder Dating Advisor writing for Examiner.Com, I Authored each Article with Adept Alliteration.

(Alas, All Examiner.Com Articles were lost when Examiner.Com went bankrupt.)

St. Augustine Adventure

Here we are in 2024, 20 years after my original Alphabet Adventure Year, and I thought it might be fun to try it Again. Especially since my initial Adventure was to St. Augustine.

Amiga Eva in St. Augustine
Abbey and Amazing Patsy (Age 90!)

Alphabet Assists As Prompts

Using the letters of the Alphabet are good prompts for Almost Any Art.

Find An ‘A’ in nature

Another Activity I found Amusing was to Accumulate An Assortment of A-Foods.

Assortment of A-Foods

Additionally, I Assembled A-ingredients for An Ambrosial Apple Appetizer

Allouette and Aged Swiss, Apples, and blue Agave

I was Able to make some Adjustments to the original Apple Appetizer recipe to optimize the A-ingredients.

Assembling

I like trying out new cafés and coffee shops and I discovered Atria Cafe in neighboring Lakewood Ranch, thanks to the A-prompt.

Discovering Atria Cafe

Additionally, I used Alphabet Prompts in my Carpe Diem Connections Facebook Group, Asking subscribers to post pictures of Animals, Arts, and Adventures.

Assessment

I wish I could say this experiment earned an A, but it did not. Awwww.

Although this Assignment was Amusing, there was a feeling of Already been there, Already done that. I enjoyed the Activities but my heart Ached in doing them Alone. I suppose being an Adult with no Animated child Along takes away a lot of the Allure.

The Alliteration seems to be more of An Annoying Attribute than an Attractive one. I think we can say Adios to Alphabet-Inspired Alliterated Blog Posts.

I probably most enjoyed seeing the Facebook posts of Adventures, Animals, Arts And “Anything” (A reminder from a Subscriber that “Anything” Goes!)

I’ll probably continue using the Alphabet to Assist in Facebook Audience participation Anyway. Anything is Always better when shared.