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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.


C-Weeks: Connections and Companionship

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

Carpe C’em!

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: 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.

A-Weeks: 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.

Project 2023: A Year of Learning in Retirement

AARP offers a huge variety of free classes!

My Year of Learning in Retirement

Every year I like to have a “project” such as my 60 until 60 project or my Year of Microadventures. In 2023, my project was all about Learning in Retirement. Each month, I’d pick a new topic that I wanted to learn more about. I’d find online classes and resources, podcasts, and books and set a goal related to the topic. At the end of the month, I’d write about the experience.

Here are the twelve resulting blog posts for my Year of Learning in Retirement:

  1. January: Learning about Purpose
  2. February: Learning about Blogging
  3. March: Learning about Taxes
  4. April: Learning about Memory
  5. May: AARP Benefits Badass Contest and Videography
  6. June: Improving my Poker Skills
  7. July: Trying Psilocybin
  8. August: AI and ChatGPT
  9. September: Improving Improv
  10. October: Hacking Exercise
  11. November: iPhone Photography
  12. December: Lucid Dreaming

What worked well

I love learning in retirement! There are so many resources, most of them free! Unlike university days, there’s no pressure, and any homework or exams are optional (at least in all the classes I took.)

It’s amazing that podcasts, forums, and communities are available for every topic under the sun. The level of engagement is entirely up to you! I feel so lucky to live in an age when we can instantly connect with experts, thought-leaders, and others who are learning any topic whatsoever!

What Could Have Been Better

The biggest thing that could have been better with my project is my own commitment level. It’s important to be self-motivated when no one is holding you accountable. Though I’m typically a disciplined person, I was not as committed or engaged in these classes, knowing there would be no grades or accountability.

I, especially, wish I had taken the time to engage more with the forums and communities of the various online classes. I also think it would have been better for me to take at least one in-person class, where I might have met some new friends. Because I travel so much, online classes are much more convenient, but it’s much harder to feel the connection to others that you can get from in-person classes.

Summary

Retirement is a wonderful time to learn! There’s no pressure and there are so many free (or low cost) resources available to us – YouTube videos, podcasts, online classes, and best of all, people!

In my Year of Learning, it was fun to dig deeper into topics that I hadn’t even known about before the year began: ChatGPT and Psilocybin, for example! The world continues to change and if we want to stay relevant, we need to change, too – using new technologies to access the wide range of information that’s available.

2023 is over, but learning will continue throughout life! What do you want to learn in 2024? The options are endless!

December Learning: Lucid Dreaming in Retirement

This reminds me of my recurring dream of having lots of unknown babies

Lucid Dreaming – The Final Topic in my 2023 Year of Learning in Retirement

In the final month of my 2023 Year of Learning in Retirement, I picked Lucid Dreaming as the topic I’d take a deeper dive into.

To be honest, I’ve been super-busy and distracted and hadn’t even picked a December learning topic when my friend, Chris, sent me a link to the Lucid Dreaming online class.  Chris, who lives in Bali, is an avid meditator, and goal-setter, himself.  He’d just completed The Mindful Guide to Lucid Dreaming class, which was available through the Insight Timer app.

I’d just arrived in Bradenton, Florida and had tested positive for Covid, upsetting my plans to visit both Chris and his mother, who was turning 90, in St. Augustine.

Since those plans were completely disrupted and I had a week of isolation and bed-rest in front of me, it turned out to be the perfect time to learn about Lucid Dreaming.

What is Lucid Dreaming?

Though I can’t be certain I’ve truly experienced it (even after having taken the class) it sounds like Lucid Dreaming is the ability to have an awareness and control your actions while dreaming.

I’ve experienced the awareness piece on occasion, but not the second half – taking conscious action during a dream.

How does the class teach you to Lucid Dream?

First, the class helps you enhance your mindfulness and your ability to control what you’re thinking.  This part was very similar to what I learned when studying meditation. (Makes sense since Insight Timer is an app that includes guidance on Mindful Meditation.)

Many of the exercises began with breathing exercises and an awareness of your conscious thoughts, including when you transition to a sleep and dream state.  It was very handy for me to be listening to this class and doing these exercises while I was feverish and in a half-asleep state already.

As you slip into this dream state and see or experience something that wouldn’t be possible, your conscious mind that’s still half there is able to register, “This is a dream. I am not really pregnant again.”  (One of my recurring dreams is that I’m pregnant yet again. In these dreams, I have lots of babies which I don’t remember having. These are undoubtedly the children resulting from all the other pregnancy dreams.)

OK, back to reality. Next time, I’ll be able to realize that that back pain is NOT about pregnancy!

Recording Your Dreams

So…what you’re supposed to do when you’re conscious enough to remember your dream is this: grab a notebook that you keep by your bed and write down your dream.  If you wait until you’re fully awake, there’s a good chance you won’t remember the dream.

When I listened to this part of the class, I thought to myself: “I’m too sick to even want to move to take the much-needed Tylenol that’s sitting on that bedside table. This will have to wait.”

A couple of weeks later, when I wasn’t so sick, I was having a not-very-interesting dream about my girlfriend group. I also had to pee. I thought, “Since I’m up anyway, I should write down my dream.”  

However, I’ve struggled with insomnia my whole life.  Even though I had to get up to pee, I was still sleepy enough that I went right back to sleep without a problem.  If I had taken the time to write my dream down in a journal, I think it would have made it difficult for me to drift back to sleep. Bottom line: I’m not doing the journaling thing.

Why learn about Lucid Dreaming?

I thought the final few lectures were the most insightful about the benefits of Lucid Dreaming.  Often we dream about things that are bothering us in real life.  If we can interpret and dig into the meaning of our dreams, we might be able to rewrite our ‘dream story.’  This, of course, might be especially useful if our dreams (or nightmares) are related to an anxiety that we need to address.

One of the most difficult times of my life was in 1997 after my brother (another ‘Chris’) died in a car accident. I had dreams every night where he was alive. Then I’d wake up and re-experience the grief of his death.  (The opposite has also happened…. Dreaming that someone has died, and the huge relief in waking up, knowing it was just a dream.)

However, when I was having the nightly dreams that my brother was alive, it became so common that in my dream, I realized it was a dream, and would think, “I don’t want to wake up. If I wake up, Chris will be dead.”

As anyone who’s been through grief knows, it can be a time of deep depression and despair.  Every morning when I’d wake up, again to the realization that Chris was dead, I would sob uncontrollably.

But one night, the dream was different. Chris was there and told me he was OK. He was his typical carefree, full of happy energy self, telling me to stop worrying.  He was so real that it felt like I was really communicating with him in the afterlife. Even after I woke up, it didn’t feel like I’d just had a dream.

Was my experience “Lucid Dreaming”?

I don’t think that experience was “lucid dreaming” because it didn’t feel like a dream.  It could have been my subconscious.  However, the experience was vivid enough that I had a different feeling going forward.  I was still sad that Chris was dead, but I had a sense of peace and a belief that he had been able to communicate with me and reassure me that he was OK. (I just wish he’d have given me a little more information about the ‘after-life’!)

Since that whole experience happened before I knew anything about “lucid dreaming,” I don’t know if it would serve as an example of how we can rewrite our dreams.  However, if you have a recurring dream that upsets you, I think the idea is to ‘day dream’ a different outcome..  maybe one that you overcome the challenge you’re facing. The next time you have the dream, your lucid dreaming skills will help you rewrite your dream to a more positive outcome.  Doing this in your dream (even in your day dream) may change your mindset and feelings while you’re awake.

Summary – Learning about Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming, like meditation, helps us develop more awareness of our minds and our consciousness. 

Dreams can give us insights into our minds.  By having a deeper awareness about our dreams, we may learn how to change the outcomes, not just of our dreams, but of our waking lives.

While I don’t intend to keep a dream journal or work much more on trying to develop my lucid dreaming skills, I’m glad I learned about this unique mind-control skill.

November Learning: iPhone Photography

For the 11th month in my Year of Learning, I decided that iPhone photography would be the topic of my deeper dive.

Learning photography was one of my goals from my 60 until 60 project. This time, I invested in a class by Emil Pakarklis.

My biggest problem is that I had a hard time focusing! And I’m not talking about the camera, but my attention span! Yes, this is the first month that I only executed half the class.

However, thanks to AI, I can give you a quick overview of each of the 5 units:

Emil’s iPhone Photo Academy Highlights:

  1. Cracking the Composition Code: Emil kicked things off by reshaping my perspective on framing shots. Suddenly, the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing weren’t just jargon—they were the secret sauce to transforming my photos from meh to mesmerizing.
  2. Playing with Light and Shadows: Lighting, my friends, is the unsung hero of photography. Emil spilled the beans on how to use natural light like a pro, whether I was chasing the golden hour glow or dabbling in shadows for a touch of drama.
  3. Editing Secrets Unleashed: Post-processing might sound fancy, but Emil made it feel like a walk in the park. Armed with his editing wisdom, I dove into apps, tweaking colors, adjusting exposure, and making my photos pop like they were on the cover of a fancy magazine.
  4. Flipping Perspectives Like a Pro: Emil dared me to break free from the norm. Forget the standard angles—this guy had me crawling, crouching, and bending like a gymnast to snag shots from unexpected perspectives. It was like seeing the world through a whole new lens.
  5. Joining the Photography Party: Emil’s course came with a built-in VIP pass to a photography community. Sharing tips, getting feedback, and connecting with other photo enthusiasts added a social flair to my learning journey.

Conclusion:

Emil Pakarklis and his iPhone Photo Academy have left me wanting to learn more. My casual snaps are becoming works of art, and I’m pumped about the possibilities that lie ahead in my perpetual journey as an iPhone photographer.

Here’s to Emil, November learnings, and the magic of capturing life, one iPhone pic at a time! 📸✨

An Epic Thanksgiving Gathering

Highlights of the Mesa/Moab Thankgiving Trip

An Epic Thanksgiving Gathering

I’ve always been enamored by big family gatherings. And what’s the holiday that’s most known for big family gatherings? Thanksgiving, of course!

This year, the Thanksgiving dinner attendance was a record 26-people with representation from every decade. We had the babies, the kids, the teens, the young adults, the parents, and (the category that I fell into), the “elders.”

My son-in-law’s mother, Lynn, and her sister, Rebecca (aka “Lolly”) skillfully planned this extended family 4-day outing. They even created a multi-page brochure describing our luxury retreat accommodations, activities, and hiking options!

Rebecca (Lolly) and David (Pops) hosted the traditional feast on Thanksgiving Day at their gorgeous Mesa home. On Friday, the crowd went on to Moab, UT for the weekend for more hiking, feasting, and family bonding.

When I was a kid, I always envisioned being the matriarch of big holiday dinners. As it turns out, it is SO much less stressful to be a guest, rather than the host!

The years that I did host it was usually for 8 people for an afternoon, not 26 people for 4 days! I was so busy worrying about cooking and helping everyone find whatever they needed, that I barely had time to just enjoy myself.

In this case, the whole adventure was extremely well-planned and executed! The fact that it seemed seamless and smooth tells me just how much work was being done by a lot of unsung heroes. The planners worked hard at preparing all the meals and making sure everyone was happy and comfortable.

There was a lot of laughter, games, eating, playing, and family bonding as if everyone all jumped out of a Norman Rockwell scene.

Since I’ve retired, I’ve become much more aware of the importance of social connection. Between the Covid years and the family moves and changes, family gatherings are something I especially treasure.

Thanksgiving Gratitude

I know it was a lot of work to create such a successful weekend and I’m so appreciative to all of those who worked so hard. Though I’m sure there are a lot of people I’m not mentioning, here are some of the people and things I’m grateful for:

  • Scotty, for making the trip from Virginia to join us and be my hiking buddy.
  • Lolly and Lynn, for planning such an extraordinary holiday.
  • Lolly and Pops for opening up their home to all of us and providing so much food, warmth, and love.
  • Whitney, for all the food planning and preparing many of the meals throughout the weekend.
  • Megan and Chris, for inviting Scotty and me, and sharing rooms with us.
  • The gorgeous scenery we all enjoyed while hiking.
  • The way so many people pitched in with food preparation, clean-up, and helping each other.
  • The thoughtful conversations and the chance to get to know each other on a deeper level.
    • The fun of being around babies and little children.
    • Being with my grandchildren and seeing them interact with their cousins and extended family.
    • Reneya’s creative Turkey Cupcakes.
    • The glow-stick dance party!
    • Steve’s expertly prepared cafe lattes each morning.
    • Scotty’s driving throughout the weekend.
    • Everyone in attendance for their friendliness and thoughtfulness.

This will definitely be a Thanksgiving to remember!