Sunday, June 19, 2022

Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving truck within a little over three hours. Their fast work allowed us to get an early start. 

We drove until 10 p.m., stopping in Chattanooga, Tenn. The next day we stopped in Indianapolis and had a late lunch with my brother John and his wife (who are also packing up for a move to Ithaca, N.Y., to be near their son). We finally reached Marshall, Mich., late afternoon. 

There is something about the midwest that makes you feel at home. Or maybe it is just the fact that Indiana/Illinois are home. Florida was never home; it was a place where I lived. 

Katie was a good traveler. She didn't whine or cry. She mostly hunched over the divider between the two front seats and seemed to watch out the front window. Sometimes she would curl up in her bed and snooze. 

Traveling and temporarily staying in a hotel, at Rob's and now at Jennifer's has affected her eating habits, though. She is normally a secretive eater--preferring to daintily quaff her appetite out of view of anyone else. And she doesn't understand that food left in the bowl will be snarfed down by others.

That's what happened at Rob's house. His two dogs feasted. And now Jake likes to partake of Katie's untended meal. 

It's fun to see Jake and Katie together. Although he is a white labradoodle and she is a bichon,  he looks like her big brother, literally. He, of course, let her know (nicely) that this house was his turf. She hasn't minded that at all. Last night, though, she put her paw down: She and I had gone out for a reintroduction to White Castles. She didn't want any in the car, but when I was eating them at the house, she decided they might taste good. I gave her a bite; she gulped it down. I gave her another. Jake then decided he needed to investigate this food situation. He started toward her morsel. Katie growled; he turned away. Good for Katie! She asserted herself! Every female has to learn to do that!

Katie and I are headed to our new house this morning to paint my bedroom. Movers come on Wednesday.

Until later,

Your Reluctant Rover,


Sunday, June 12, 2022

All the boxes are packed...

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin'
It's early morn
The taxi's waitin'
He's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome
I could die
Yes, my bags are packed, and I'm ready to go. The movers will be here Wednesday. I'm going home.

Jim knew that moving back to the Midwest was always in my plans, if he passed away before me. I have nothing to keep me in Jacksonville. 

I had a good job. I did make a few good friends, including my cousin (who ironically lives in my neighborhood!). But I am lonesome for the company of my family, and they live 1,100 miles from here. 

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

Not going on a jet plane. My son and I are driving up north with my pup Katie. I do know, however, when I'll be back again...never. I have no desire to return to Jacksonville.

I came here because of work. Of all the places in the world--or even just in Florida--It is where I would voluntarily choose to live. I remember the first time we visited Jacksonville: It was to witness Jim's daughter-in-law's commission as a warrant officer in the U.S. Navy. As we left the city limits on the drive back to Palm Beach, I remarked that I wouldn't want to live in Jacksonville. Jim agreed.

Fate had other plans.

9-11 happened; the freelance work by which I was making a living dried up; I had to find another full-time position. When I began looking for a job in 2001, Jim said he would follow me anywhere. And he did. A great one was offered to me as editor of a business magazine, headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, just outside of Jacksonville. So I sold my house; packed it up; and moved to northeast Florida in January 2003. 

That first January exposed me to a Florida quite different from the one I had known since I moved to Palm Beach Gardens in April 1998: The temperature in Jacksonville actually dipped to 18 degrees! This was Florida? Not really. Despite the geographic boundaries, an argument could be made that northeast Florida is part of south Georgia, both in climate as well as in mentality. Ultra conservative in politics and religion, racist, and not really a great place to live. 

Except for our house.

We liked our house, situated on a quiet pond that welcomes turtles, ducks, and geese, in a nice subdivision. The location was perfect. The area developed: We watched road crews widen the main drag to four lanes, builders erect a set of business buildings, construction crews tear down two draw bridges and replace them with high bridges over the San Pablo River, and a Super Walmart and Super Target shopping centers appear where trees had grown. As the area grew, so did the value of the house. For that I am very  grateful. Even after buying another home in Schaumburg, Ill., I have a nest egg from its equity.

Despite how much we liked the house, we often talked about moving away from here. At one time we entertained relocating to The Villages in central Florida; we ultimately were glad we did not act on that urge. We also thought about moving to DeLand, a small city outside of Orlando. But we put that thought to the wayside, too, as we considered water shortages and sink holes in that part of the state. 

As the summers kept getting hotter and more humid, Jim would often come in from the outside and complain that we had to move to the mountains in North Carolina or Georgia. Cooler temperatures in the altitudes, he said. I resisted, because I knew we had to be close to good doctors and hospitals. The rural areas he longed for did not have them. One of Jacksonville's few assets is an abundance of good medical care.

So here we stayed. But no more.

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time
Let me kiss you
Then close your eyes
And I'll be on my way
Dream about the days to come
When I won't have to leave alone
About the times, I won't have to say

I've been dreaming about the days to come. I just purchased a three bedroom/two bath manor home (two-story condo) in northern Illinois just a few miles and minutes from my daughter. Living in a complex will be an adjustment, for both my dog and me, but I am looking forward to it. Katie (who is really stressed out by having her surroundings being boxed up) will have new smells to explore, and I've already been thinking about ways to meet new friends...perhaps getting back into golfing again. Attending the Unitarian Church (where I met Jim!). Maybe even pickleball. It will be nice to have my family over for dinner occasionally. And maybe not have to spend the holidays alone. 

Come Wednesday afternoon, I'll close my eyes and be on my way. I don't know if I will dream about this place, this house, but I know I will occasionally think about it. 

In spite of Jacksonville's (and Florida's) shortcomings, I had good times here. I had a good job; I made a few good friends. I enjoyed my swim-spa (I had always wanted a pool, ever since I was a little girl). Jim and I had bought and sold five RVs and traveled the country. I saw more of Florida than most people do, and I enjoyed it. I even caught a few fish. 

My most important memory, of course, is that of my wedding. On July 31, 2004, Jim and I were married under the shade of a willow tree in our backyard, with the pond in the background, and immediate family as witnesses to our love. So whenever I look at our wedding pictures, I will remember the life Jim and I had together here. 

We loved; we lived. He died. And now I am going home.

But, I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I (don't) hate to go

My thanks and apologies to John Denver. 

Until next time, if ever,

Your Reluctant Rover

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Remembering Jim

Three weeks ago today, I said my final “I love you” to the man who, for the last 21 years, sometimes made me angry, sometimes made me cry, but more often made me happy. He made me a better person.

I miss him.


I met Jim on July 2, 2000, at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of North Palm Beach, where I was a member. A woman acquaintance was the day’s greeter. When Jim walked in, she recognized him as someone she had met once before, and introduced us. After saying hello, he went into the sanctuary, and a few minutes later, I followed, only to find that he was sitting in the row where I usually sat. I saw no reason to change my habit, and sat next to him.

Halfway through the service conducted by a guest speaker, I decided to leave. Jim made the same choice a minute later. I am usually shy and don’t initiate conversations with strangers, but for some reason, I drove around to his car and said, “You didn’t care for the talk, either, I guess.” Agreeing, he laughed, and then asked if I would like to have coffee.

Two hours and several cups of coffee later, we said good-bye, but with a date to walk on the beach that evening.

What a walk it was! The waves softly washed at our feet as a soft breeze wafted the sounds of the ocean to our ears. It seemed we walked for miles, just talking, and eventually holding hands. When we finally returned to our cars, he touched my chin and gently kissed me. I still remember the softness of his lips, his gentle touch. It was the best kiss I had ever had.


In the months that followed, we slowly became a couple and went to events together. 

We became a couple

I recall two memorable Halloween parties. At the first, we won a prize for the ugliest couple: Jim wore a wig and one of my dresses. He was the bearded lady. I wore my short hair slicked back, painted on a mustache, padded my tummy with a pillow, and wore a man’s suit and tie. We were, indeed, an ugly couple.

The ugly couple

At the second Halloween party, we were going to go as a cat (Jim) and mouse (me). After taking a shower and starting to put on my house makeup, the phone rang. Running to answer it, I slipped and twisted my knee. Ouch! When Jim got home, he wanted to take me to the ER, but I insisted I would be OK, if I used crutches. (We had some.) So, we went to the party. Everyone thought the crutches were part of my costume! Unfortunately, the pain finally forced me to go to the ER. (No permanent damage.)


Jim managed a travel agency when I met him. He made me an honorary employee and got me membership into the International Airlines Travel Agency Network. The membership allowed us to travel on “spec” tours free or at reduced rates. One of these was a two-day sailing on a cruise line (I did not like it); another was a week’s vacation on a sailing ship.

What a trip that was! The ship was a true sailing vessel and only entertained a couple hundred guests, unlike the big cruise liners that were small at-sea cities. We sailed out of Granada in the Caribbean, in late September.

The problem with a late-September excursion in that part of the world is hurricanes. One was lurking at sea. The captain of the ship tried to skirt the worst of the storm, but the waves actually covered our porthole, as the ship bobbed in the angry waters. That night, items were had stowed in the bathroom (tooth brushes, combs, etc.) literally flew out of the door. We had to sleep crosswise on the bed, else we would have rolled off. The next morning, the sea was quieter (but not calm), and Jim arose to go to the mandatory life-boat meeting. I sat up, felt the nausea from the still rolling ship grow, and told him they could throw me off the boat, but I staying in bed, flat on my back.

Nobody tossed me into the sea, and I recovered without throwing up. That evening, though, seas continued to be rough, and as we sat down for our meal, there was a sudden lunge. Chairs slid over the dining room deck. 

The next day, all was calm and I was finally being able to snorkel and we strolled in villages on St. Lucie and elsewhere, I never became a fan of any kind of sailing, however.


Just prior to 9-11, I had left my place of employment as an editor and began working as a freelance editor/writer. The attack on the World Trade Center changed America’s business outlook. As my freelancing opportunities started to fade, I began to look for another full-time position.

I was given an opportunity to join a publishing company in Pennsylvania. I needed a job, but I didn’t want to move to Pennsylvania. So, I continued to look. A month later, I was offered a position in the Jacksonville area. Of course, that meant moving and leaving Jim.

But Jim had a solution to that weighty problem. “I’ll follow you anywhere,” he vowed.

And he did.


When Jim and I decided--four years after meeting and living together--that we should get married, we looked all over Jacksonville for a venue to exchange vows. One evening, while soaking in the swim-spa, we again debated the merits/demerits of the various sites. Suddenly, as we looked out over our backyard “lake” (really a pond), we realized that we had the ideal wedding site­--under the weeping willow, with the pond in the background. It was the loveliest wedding I had ever been to. Under clear skies, surrounded by our families, we pledged our love and friendship forever.


Travel had never been a high to-do on my bucket list, probably because I never wanted to travel alone but also because I never had the money for such a luxury. After Jim's mother (who lived with us for about six or seven years) passed away, Jim began teasing me with the idea of buying a recreational vehicle. It took awhile for me to come around; I thought the expense wouldn’t be justified. But Jim finally prevailed, and with the proviso that I would not have to drive it, we bought our first RV. (We eventually bought and sold a total of five RVs. The first was the best, however.)

I admit that I went into RVing “kicking and screaming.” My doubts about RVing gave birth to the Reluctant Rover blog, which served as the foundation for my book, Don’t Back into the Palm Tree.  But long before we sold our last RV (a luxurious and commodious truck camper), I found Jim’s love for camping catching. I was no longer the Reluctant RoVer; I was the Enthusiastic RoVer. In fact, after we adopted our dog Katie and then Lex Luthor (a kitten), we came close to buying a small travel trailer, so that we could travel to state parks and fish. (I am grateful we did not buy one.)


Prior to meeting Jim, I was an avid golfer. It was something I could do by myself, as well as with friends. When I moved to Jacksonville, I stopped golfing for awhile. After several years, though, I caught the fever again and introduced Jim to this sport, something he never saw himself doing. Then he caught golf fever. We loved to try out new courses once or twice a week. Golfing, however, was put aside after he had his near-fatal accident (falling off the roof of our RV) in 2013.  As a substitute leisure-time activity, we began fishing.

What a joy! We traveled to an assortment of state parks to cast our lines. We never caught many fish, but we spent peaceful hours by the water and on the beach.

We bought a used bass boat, but sold it when we realized a 10-foot boat was too small to travel safely on the St. John’s River to get to the marshes. We sold it and then purchased a 14-foot Porta-Bote (a fold-up boat), which we could take with us when we went camping. We used it a few times, until we admitted that although we could carry it on the truck we towed behind our RV, it was not as convenient as we’d thought it would be for an octogenarian and a septuagenarian to launch.

Jim decided that to get to the best local fishing spots, we should join a local boat club. As usual, he had to cajole me before I finally gave in.

He really enjoyed driving the various fishing boats; I did not. In fact, I was never comfortable out on the water, despite always wearing my life jacket and being a good swimmer. I did enjoy fishing, however. After about a year of membership, we decided the monthly fees were not worth the cost of membership, especially since the boats were not in the best repair. We had fun while it lasted, even though we didn’t catch many fish. (The fish we caught were the best-tasting ever!)


These anecdotes I have written about only highlight the many good times we had and how Jim changed me--and perhaps how I changed Jim. I became more tolerant, (I hope) more loving, and more flexible. I experienced new things with him—not only fishing and camping—but also things like enjoying going to the symphony and relishing the tastes of a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. 

Oh, we had challenging times, too. But I don’t want to dwell on them. I want to remember the good times, the loving and intimate times, which were there right up to the end and will live in my heart forever.

Sometimes I sit on the back porch. Just outside the door are some wind chimes Jim recently restrung. He loved wind chimes; I usually thought they were annoying, although when I saw them in stores, I couldn't help but help them to ring. 

These chimes I think are special: They softly ring in the gentle breeze. And when they do, I choose to believe that my husband is still near me, saying, “Listen! Aren't they beautiful!” And perhaps whispering in their notes “I love you.”

Your Reluctant ROVER,




Sunday, November 7, 2021

Katie knows

 They know. "They" as in dogs.

It has been three weeks since Jim left the house never to return. Katie misses him.

Like most couples, Jim and I each had a chair we almost always sat in--one on the back porch, and an easy chair in the living room. Until yesterday, Katie had avoided jumping into either of Jim's chairs.

But yesterday, as I was taking a break outside, she decided to check out his chair on the porch. She sniffed, and sniffed, and sniffed. She could smell Jim's scent. Finally, she jumped up and nested in his seat. She looked sad as she sat there.

She did the same with his recliner in the living room. I cannot smell his scent, but she can; she has a really sensitive super-nose.  (If she could talk, she could probably tell you the name of every dog in the neighborhood and when they last passed by on the sidewalk.)  Just as she had sniffed the outdoor chair, she did the same for Jim's easy chair. She finally jumped up into it. She wanted to sit in his lap; she had to be content to sit in his chair.

We both miss him.

Your Reluctant ROVER,


Friday, October 15, 2021

Nurse Katie

In 1979, when I bought a house in Indianapolis, I promised the kids I would get them a dog. Shortly before we were scheduled to make the move to our "new" little house on the northside, we went into a pet store to get some medication for the kids' hampsters. Enclosed in a small pen was a wee little puppy, so tiny! He was a poodle-chihuahua mix, and he cost $15. (I'm sure today he would be considered a designer dog and the price tag would be in the hundreds!)

We took him home and named him Poochi. 

My little Poochi

My little Katie reminds me so much of Poochi, except she is a lot smarter (most of the time).

One thing I remember about Poochi is that whenever I got sick, he took care of me. He would cuddle; he would not demand. He was patient for me to let him out and to feed him. He always made me feel better. 

Fast forward to now...

For almost three weeks, I have been suffering from a horrible ear infection. The ENT thinks it is viral (possibly shingles, although I have had a shingles vaccine), combined with a bacterial infection. The pain at first was utterly debilitating. It finally subsided, but not before I lost my sense of balance to the point of having to use a cane to walk around the house. I went deaf in my right ear; slowly my hearing is returning (as well as balance). The medication (or the illness) caused me to lose my appetite and taste. That is not all bad, because I have lost 13 pounds since September 21. (Now, to keep it off!)

During this time of convalescence, I have not been able to walk Katie. She knows that something is wrong with her mama. 

When Jim puts the drops in my ears, she hops onto the bed and smells my ear (before the drops). She then cuddles up to comfort me. The other night, she had to go out to potty. But instead of licking or woofing me awake (a rare thing to do, incidentally), she jumped on the bed, cuddled and nuzzled. I finally got up, let her out, and she promptly pottied, then went back to her place under the bed (near me). 

Nurse Katie comforts me while Jim puts in my ear drops

Katie is a good nurse. 

Jim has been taking her for walks, but she is often reluctant to leave. And often, once they start, she virtually runs around the block, to get home fast. This a.m., though I was feeling well enough to go on a regular (not a short) walk. When I sat down to put her leash on, she was a happy gal.

There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.

Until later,

Your Reluctant Rover,


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Play time!

You just can’t help smiling. 

When we brought Katie home from the dog adoption agency, she was a trembling mess of curls. So scared. No social skills. She didn’t even know how to walk on a leash. Interaction with other animals, including dogs? Nada

All of that is changing, thanks to the addition of her feline “brother,” a black kitten named Lex Luthor.

Lex Luthor

The playing skills Lex intuitively knows, Katie is learning. Whether by emulation or by having something triggered in her canine subconscious, Katie is coming out of her pre-adoptive shell, and it is so much fun to watch. 

Since we brought Lex home from the Human Society a few weeks ago, Katie has tolerated his cavorting. She has not minded him swatting at her face, grabbing her tail, and attempting to jump on her back. She tentatively even started to reciprocate. 

This week, however, Katie did something new: She started to initiate playtime with Lex from chasing after him in and out of the bedroom, under the bed, around the dining room, through the living room…again and again to urging him to carouse with her: She gets up close to Lex, nudges him with her nose, and tries to (harmlessly) nip at him. She even makes noises at him if he does not respond. But usually he does, and they go at it until they get tired. 

At bedtime, Katie likes to get up on the bed with me and be rubbed. She turns over on her back and starts “running” in place with her two front legs, begging for attention. But the last couple of nights, her play time with Lex has been extended to this "bed" time. Instead of turning toward me for a rubbing, she turns toward him, flops over on her back, and begins her “run,” as a way of begging him to play with her some more. He always obliges. 

I think Katie is a bit confused about feline behavior, though. When we go on walks and she spies a cat, she tries to approach it, thinking it will play with her just as Lex does. Of course, most adult cats don’t want anything to do with dogs. Katie will just have to get used to the rejection. 

 Until next time, 

Your Reluctant ROVER, 


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Have clippers, will cut

 Katie needed a haircut.

About two months ago, we took Katie to the PetSmart grooming salon, where she was pampered with a bath, haircut, and pedicure. Cost for seniors? $46. We wouldn’t go the poorhouse spending that much every two months, but it would be nice if we didn’t have that expense. We thought we would try grooming her ourselves.

Years ago  I would periodically shear my little poodle-Chihuahua mix, Poochi. His face resembled a poodle, with curly hair on top. The sides of his body with more Chihuahua-like, soft and long. He did not shed. I confess that it never occurred to me to take him to a groomer. Instead, I would plop him on the floor and take out my scissors and trim him. He was my beloved little Benjie-dog.

Yes, that is a picture of me, holding Poochi, around 1986. 

Poochi really was a Benji-dog. He needed a trim here.

When we decided to adopt Katie, we knew she would need regular grooming. We thought we would take her to a professional the first time and then see if we could do it ourselves. As you know, we are big on DIYing.

Unsure how our grooming experiment would turn out—whether she would be patient with us and if we (Jim) were adept with the clippers—we decided initially to use the equipment we had on hand. Jim rigged up a stand to hold a leash on his potting bench, and we got out the electric hair clippers I use to cut Jim’s hair.

This was the start of our Great Experiment. Jim rigged up a leash by his potting table.

The first phase of our experiment went well: Katie was patient, and Jim was mastering the cutting technique. However, we quickly saw that our Gerry-rigged leash stand needed to be improved, and we should get cordless (and quieter) grooming shears. After one clipping along Katie’s backside and a bit along her legs, the hot sun got the better of us, and we decided to postpone the rest of the grooming until after we purchased better equipment.

Fast forward one week: Amazon delivered our new equipment and we were ready to try it out.

Success! I can’t say Katie was particularly pleased with the leash stand (we finished the pedicure and face-grooming on the ground), but she was good. And the clippers! Wow. It was like shearing a sheep, the way the fur came off.

We are pleased with the results of our grooming experiment. I don’t think we will go into the grooming business, but we will recoup the cost of the equipment with the next haircutting we give her.

Such a pretty girl!

Until next time,


Your Reluctant ROVER,


Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving tru...