Maples Friends Are the Best

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Neighbors / Social Life

I was working in my unofficial role of homeowner-sales assistant when I asked a question of a couple here on a first visit. It was a typical question that received an atypical answer.

I asked when they might be buying their new home and moving.

The wife answered: When I find what I’m looking for.

I asked: What is important to you?, expecting to hear about square footage, number of bedrooms, price, or other popular concerns.

Instead, she answered: We will be moving here knowing no one. I want to live where I can make friends and take part in social activities.

I’m sure a big smile spread across my face. I knew I could deliver what she wanted… and more. Our vibrant social life is one of our strongest points as a community.

On our way out to the models, I talked about our book club, monthly neighborhood coffees, potlucks, games club, and outings to nearby restaurants and attractions. A neighbor called a hello to me from her patio as we walked by. A car drove past and the driver waved at us.

I would like to say that the couple bought on the spot. But that didn’t happen. They liked the models and picked out a favorite. They asked to talk with Kelly, our “real” sales person. My job was done.


After they left, I went home and checked my email. There I found a message from a neighbor thanking me for thanking her and her husband for volunteering to take on a job in the community. She ended her message with these words:

“We are all so fortunate to have found our homes and friends here!”

I couldn’t agree more. As I reflected on our unique friendliness and volunteer spirit, I began looking through photos that reflect our social ties. Here are a few that I found:


Book club Christmas party

group3 fitz

fish boil in Genoa City, WI

walkers swimming

walking group cooling off after a hot walk


Maples friends at my book signing


impromptu gathering at the garden

using poles

working together to put up Christmas lights


I can’t end this post without thanking the Maples social committee, both present and past members. This hard-working group plans and runs our events. Without them, our social lives would not be nearly as full as they are.

Thank you from your neighbors!


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Mostly Musings

Hello, Perfectionism. My old nemesis. My worst enemy. My jailor. We meet again, though you have actually never been away.

You lurk within my mind and taint my feelings. You judge me, then convince me that I will never be good enough. Then to make it worse, you subvert my best efforts to forgive myself.

I don’t remember when you clawed your way into my psyche. I was probably too young to remember. And though I have tried to ignore you, override you, expel you, I never could. You roared back as soon as I had a weak moment.

I weep when I think of the opportunities I have passed up because of your lies. I look back at my life, and what do I see? Things I could have done and been, except that I let you convince me they were out of my reach. Why try at all if I wouldn’t be able to do something perfectly? And so, I didn’t try.

Yet, Perfectionism, you haven’t been perfectly successful yourself. Despite your sabotage, I have known love and friendship; I have accomplished things that make me proud. Best of all, I’m still alive, now armed with insights that can only come with aging.

Perfectionism, consider yourself kicked to the curb. From now on, I pledge to fill my heart with inspiration like this:



‘Thank You For Serving Our Country’

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Holidays / Mostly Musings


via Photo Challenge: Twisted

The twisted object I choose to share today is a simple one—yet one that carries a timely message. It is a handmade, braided bracelet stapled to a card by a child named Audrey. The words, Hears A Bracelet, in her printing, tell me that she is quite young.

Note the date—Valentine’s Day. The card is a love note to a veteran whom she has never met, and most likely never will. I was with the veteran who received Audrey’s card. I watched him smile as he read her message through teary eyes. “Look,” he said to me, “she has a dog. Please hold on to this for me.” I did. He still has it.

Audrey’s card, and many others, were delivered to her veteran on a plane flying home from Washington, D.C. It was an Honor Flight. The veterans on this trip spoke frequently of their comrades who did not return home, of those who never had a chance to grow old while enjoying the freedom they had fought for. It is those men and women whom we honor on this Memorial Day weekend.

Seeing this card again makes me happy. It reminds me that as long as we have people like Audrey, our soldiers, both living and dead, will not be forgotten.


Oh, Canada!

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Thank you to the readers who have asked to see more photos from my recent cruise. In my previous post (immediately below this one), I shared my pictures from our day in Old Quebec City.

Now we sail on to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. And while we do, this is a typical view from our ship, Holland America’s Veendam.



Our first stop is Prince Edward Island, which is the smallest of the provinces in both area and population. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm. Our port was Charlottetown. For me, the highlight of our visit was a tour of the city via horse-drawn trolley. It was a great overview and helped us choose places to walk to afterward for a longer, closer look. Here are a few of the sights.



The next day we sailed on to Nova Scotia, with stops in Sydney and, the following day, in Halifax. Unfortunately, the weather in Halifax could best be described as a cold monsoon, so I have no photos. But we had a wonderful day sightseeing in Sydney, which is located on Cape Breton Island.




While we were in the church above, St. George’s Anglican Church, a fellow tourist asked permission to play its vintage pipe organ. From the moment he settled on the bench and took out his phone to call up sheet music, it was obvious he was an accomplished organist. We visitors settled into the ancient wooden pews and were treated to an impromptu concert. The video below captures a bit of it.


I loved the days we spent in Canada. The country is similar enough to the U.S. that I feel comfortable, yet different enough that I know I’m in a foreign place. I hope to return soon for a longer visit.


Where They Don’t Talk in English

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As I took my first few steps on the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Quebec City, fragments of a quote popped into my head. I wanted to share it with my traveling companions, but I couldn’t retrieve the exact sentence of dialogue from Our Town. It had been too long since I had taught or seen the play. As soon as I reboarded our cruise ship, I looked up Thornton Wilder’s words:

Only it seems to me that once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to.

The quote didn’t fit my situation as neatly as I had hoped. In the play, Mrs. Gibbs yearned to visit France, not Quebec. And this would be my second time in a French-speaking city, not my only. Yet the character and I shared much the same emotion.

Months earlier, when researching itineraries for a cruise, I had been drawn to Quebec, a place with a language, culture, and history very different from my usual surroundings. A place not terribly far from home, a place that was foreign yet not threatening. A place where I had some familiarity with the language, thanks to a long-ago French minor in college.

I could not have been happier with my choice of Quebec. What I found was a joyful experience that I will long remember. Here are a random few of my favorite sights.



And it was not just the sights. They were enhanced by the sounds of the city. (You may want to turn up the volume on your device here.)


Have you ever touched stones that have been in place since the 1600s? I can now say that I have.



Of course, the people are a crucial part of the travel experience. If I would nearly bump into someone on the street, I would wonder if I should say I’m sorry or Pardonez-moi. Can you guess someone’s language by his or her appearance? Is there a clue in how she wears a scarf, the tilt of a head, or his stride?



After Quebec, we visited several other ports in Canada, which is officially a dual-language country. Most communication—from road signs to historic plaques to announcements made by flights attendants—is made in both English and French. Quebec was our only city where the French version came first. I was désappointé when we switched back to English as the primary language.