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A Birthday and a Funeral

First off--Happy New Year to you--let's hope it's a good one without any tears! So, we'll get to the title shortly, but if you'll allow me, I'd like to back up a few days. Every day seems to have been so action packed that it's hard to know where to begin.

You may recall that Matt, Tom and I went to Gatorland last week to show Tom something he'd never seen before. Alligators and crocodiles are most definitely in short supply in England. He was awestruck at the sight of them to say the least. Love can make a man do surprising things don't you think? In this case, Matt, a devout vegan, suggested we might want to watch the Gator Jumparoo. For those who've yet to experience the wonders of Gatorland, this is when the trainers stand amongst a large number of alligators, holding whole chickens (from the grocery store) high in the air above the gators, thus they allegedly jump up to grab said chickens. I've yet to see it myself, but apparently they normally do just that, however, on our visit, instead the gators headed for the water!
There are a few exotic birds around the park that are great fun to photograph:
Love the light on this one don't you? Wonder what the purpose of the feathers covering part of the beak is--maybe a warming thing? It was indeed chilly that morning, but with a bright blue sky and warm sun, it wasn't long before we were very comfortable.

December 26th we were invited to not one, but two open houses. We made a short stop at Kelly's house first, and then on to Steve and Kirsten's home. Annually they throw this huge party with the most scrumptious food you can imagine. Here's a look at the beautiful serving area:
You can tell what a gifted hostess Kirsten is because at least 100 people gather at times around that table each year!

On Wednesday the 29th we took advantage of the cold weather, driving to Blue Springs to see the manatees, another creature in short supply in England. Because we've had such an unusual number of cold winter days the last few years, Bruce and I have visited several times seeing loads of manatees trying to stay warm in the springs. This visit, however, was our best because not only were there lots of the graceful creatures swimming along the run, they were playful in a way we'd never seen before. As well, lots of mother manatees had babies either swimming beside them or nursing:
Matt took over my camera for a bit and got this wonderful shot! Afterwards we headed to DeLand for a nice stroll through their cute downtown and a yummy lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Woodland Street.

Thursday morning, bright and early, Bruce handled the airport duties, sadly saying goodbye to Matt and Tom for who knows how long. To say that the holidays were wonderful does not do it justice. 

Back to life--back to reality:
Although I don't make lists with any regularity, Thursday, I knew that without one, I would be overwhelmed with what needed doing! I made good progress thank you very much.

So now to the title.....

December 31 arrived and so did my 57th birthday. Very low key, with Nancy's help I took down the Christmas tree after attending a very, very unusual funeral/memorial service for our neighbor one house away. Answering the call from his wife a few days ago, I was surprised she sounded downright cheerful about her husband's passing. Now I know why! Surrounded by home owners in their 80's, Dave Crowson was no exception. He was an odd man, however, we all are are in our own way. Well.....arriving at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, the place of our wedding, I had no idea what was to come. Really, no one could have guessed that after the minister and two contemporaries of Dave extolled his virtues, his eldest son would stand at the podium, proclaiming his nervousness. Believe me, he should have been nervous!

He began by talking about all types of relationships, family, friends, co-workers, etc. It wasn't long before he launched into discussing destructive relationships. For at least 15 minutes he basically told the gathered souls that his father was a monster who used words like a knife to belittle both his wife, and children. Imagine being the minister who had to conclude a service like that! Seriously, I was stunned! Bruce has been nursing a sore knee for a few days and decided to let me represent the family, however, after hearing my story, he was sorry he missed it! Almost all the neighbors were there including Herb and Corrine from across the street. When I visited them later in the day to get their take on it, turns out neither one of them heard it well. Hearing aid problems. I told Corrine a bit about it while Herb was messing with his aids in the kitchen. She shouted out to him, "Herb, Gail tells me Dave's son basically was saying he was an asshole!" Truth, my friends, is always stranger than fiction.

For my birthday I was blessed with beautiful weather, good company, and warm greetings, however, the best gift was saved for last. The Seminoles won! The Seminoles won! The Seminoles won!
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