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Wish for the New Millennium:
May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to make you happy, and enough money to buy gifts!!


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Thought for 2018: 

"For travel to be delightful one must have a good place to leave and return to."

- Frederick B. Wilcox 

Sandie's Christmas Letter 2018

As you will recall, each year I attempt to let all my friends know who I am and what I’m thinking (as best I can express it). This year, in so many ways, has been a wild & crazy year: for me, for you, for America, and for the World.
The World lost many dear people this year, three of whom were friends of mine and I can still feel the holes their passing left in my present.
America lost the respect of many of the world’s people in several ways this year, but most troubling to me was with regard to the environment. It seems such a no-brainer that we need clean water and clean air. When we have those (worldwide) then we can tackle some of the other big problems but those two will take time and frankly we need to actually give a rat’s ass to get them done – the clock is ticking.
While the planet may be warming I think I am seeing a cold center growing in the hearts of individual people in general. Have we become numb to much of the suffering in the world (except perhaps that within our own little tribe)? We have become even more tribal and enclosed by fear & self-interest. We divide everything into extremes: good vs. bad, right vs. left, white vs. black (and other colors), red vs. blue, rich vs. poor.
We only to see the more subtle shades in our own little groups. I strive to reach outside of my tribe, see those shades and embrace those with whom I truly don’t agree, as best I can, but sometimes it isn’t easy. Personally, for me Life is still very good! My luck still holds. I try to overcome my faults as best I can – I try to help where I feel I can contribute. I pray for World Peace and prosperity. And I feel I am in a great position to wish you a Merry Christmas…
Christmas. A combination of two words from the Anglo-Saxon Cristemaesse or Christ + Mass or the ritual celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ 2,018 years ago.
I have a fondness for Jesus and his teachings and wish I and my fellow humans followed them more closely. We quote so much bible to prove some things wrong and seem to skim over the good stuff. Now I am a Pantheist, and I respect all the gods of all the religions (while finding my god in the universe itself) but at Christmas I think it is nice to dwell on some of Jesus’ sayings, and my favorite can be found in Matthew 25:31. Don’t look it up, it’s the one about
I came to you hungry and you gave me food I came to you thirsty and you gave me drink I was a stranger in a strange land and you bid me welcome I was naked and you clothed me I was sick and you visited me I was in prison and you came to me. “as you did it for one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it for me.”
These were the big issues Jesus singled out and they are still big today. People starve, people struggle to find clean water, people seek to immigrate and seek welcome in strange lands, people’s healthcare is a crisis in both America and the 3rd world, and prison reform is another ticking clock for our future. 2,018 years later these problems are still with us.
I hope each of you is able to know love in your life and to feel compassion for those less fortunate without reservation. I wish you good health & happiness with only enough sorrow to help you appreciate both.
So happy 2,018th birthday to Jesus, the Christ and to any other god celebrating the Winter Solstice Season, or as the Anglo-Saxon liked to say
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


November/ December
I spent November getting ready for the Holidays:  trying to drop a couple of pounds, cleaning and fixing up the guest quarters for Christmas, and then there was Thanksgiving dinner to cook.  The less said about Thanksgiving the better but it did prompt me to decide to volunteer at a food center next year!  December was filled with pain - I fell at my party of the 15th and hit my head hard on concrete, fortunately without any permanent damage that we know of; I pulled a hamstring just walking down the back stairs and I fractured a bone in my foot just walking around town.  Mary & Bob are my first visitors at Sunnyside Up - I am right to limit stays to 2 weeks... it has been nice having them but strange too.  Dion came for a long weekend - that is probably as much time with me as she can stand, but I enjoyed having her here... just wish I didn't bore her som badly.  Christmas was lovely with Tim & Randy & Ed.  And Pam got a new puppy, Alfie, so cute.

October - Finally I can see light at he end of the tunnel - the pavers went in the first week of October and they have just what I have been longing for to complete this phase of the reconstruction.  I have put the bath off until spring.  I thought I was handling it all pretty well, until I had a small out break of shingles!  Yes, I had the vaccination but I still got them.  My social life was fairly full, beginning with a party for Bill Fowler's birthday... then a tribute to Aretha Franklin, the annual POPs concert in Vinoy Park, a performance of The Fantastics at Free Fall and a dinner with BJ who I hadn't seen socially in years!  Junk shopping with Susan Hunt proved very successful and I found several item that I had been wanting and I picked up some interesting plants at the Garden Club plant sale.  I think I can now say that with only small exceptions, I need nothing more.  So, a successful month and no one I know died, either!

September was a rough month for me.  Three Friends died - Joan Byrnes, Sandra Bruen and Joseph Bacon.  Add to that the work on the kitchen kept me living in a construction zone well past mid month.  And add to that the temperatures in the mid to high 90's that made going outdoors an unpleasant chore and I was happy to see the month end.  There were some bright spots and strangely all involved people of color.  Louie Wesley called from DC just "to hear your voice", Debra Starr got back in touch after long years and updated me on her doings and Danny Lenoir came back to visit after almost 15 years - plus Nike picked Colin Kappernick as their Just Do It face - that last made me so happy I bought a new pair on Nikes!  The month ended on an up note with dinner for Jean & Peter Hynes on their wedding anniversary.

Danny Lenoir                                                                My dear Joan                                                            New Nikes                                                                    Kitchen Before & After

August - This was big month.  After much impatience on my part, the real work on the kitchen began on the 9th (finally!!) and for the next 3 weeks and more, I was camping in my dining room with all my kitchen stuff in boxes around me.  Not comfortable with men in the house all day and wanting the work to get done, I was alternately impatient for them to arrive and anxious for them to leave each day.  My contractor, Mike, was charming and exasperation all at the same time as well. Because the walls were left open I had a mouse issue and every night would wake up and photograph them in the kitchen. It took all month and spilled into September but I was correct that there had been a window in the wall and that the ceiling could be vaulted.  Meanwhile there were some nice occasions to get out to the house.  Musical of Musicals was one.  I found it to be extremely clever and entertaining evening out with T&R and Marcia & Bill.  Another nice evening was dinner at the Pearl with this same crew...  All the while my friend Joan continued her slow march to death.  But then she had a rally and 6 or 7 of us went to a brunch at her house... so very nice and she was such a heroine during the whole thing. Aleth and I got together for coffee at the Vinoy.  August 26th Mister Knightly turned 12 years old!  September this will all be over in the kitchen and I will again have my life back.

July - Home from my month long vacation, it was time to begin the kitchen remodel for real.  Since July 4th is a big sale weekend, I went shopping for the appliances.  Mike Bell is my contractor and he began leveling the back porch and installing new windows... then I had to meet the cabinet maker and work out what I wanted and where... the whole project will spill into August and early September but at least I was going to get it done on my budget. I also got quoted for the patio and the gutters.  Forth of July was rained out but the A&W gang and I had fun at the Vinoy anyway.  Just as well since I wasn't much in love with the USA this year.  The Kails were at St Pete Beach with the McCully's so i popped out to see them at Caddys.  Mid month, I went to Free Fall Theater to see Musical of Musicals with the gang and laughed my ass off.  Visited my girlfriends, Joan Byrnes, Sydni Sholenburger and Susan Hunt.  Joan is supposed to be dying but she hasn't gone yet so I go to see her when I can.  I also went out to dinner with the Mormino's to the new Mexican place (so-so).  Celebrated Jordan's birthday at the beach too.  Did some drawing while the house was filled with workmen and waited for August.

June - Susan & I took what may prove to be our last road trip together.  We went to St Petersburg, Russia to see the ballet and then on to Sweden so she could meet my Swedish family.  I took over 3000 photos and here are just a few


MAY - is the birthday month... May and August.  Practically everyone I know has a birthday in one or the other.  This month it is Bill, Tim, Diane, Amy,  Ed, and Randy!  So all month long there were little dinners, lunches and parties to celebrate.  May 4th was also the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Gary & Barbara Keller a bunch of us joined them for lunch at Harvey's.  The 4th was also a lovely dinner with my neighbors Lynn and Gary Mormino too, so it was a busy day.  Diane was in town for 10 days and it was great to have a buddy to hang out with... so many of my friends are serious home bodies, and I love to go out and listen to music.  This time we seemed to run into the band Bus Full of Monkeys where ever we went (well two places really) and we heard a Stevie Nicks tribute band (and Tommy said I looked better than Stevie Nicks which was a super compliment).  In addition, we found a nice French Restaurant out on the beach.  Food also figured in Randy's birthday as we went to Grazzi to celebrate with his parents and Valerie Straight.  This month has probably set records for rainfall and as a result my gutter installation was rained out - but earlier in the month I was able to complete the re-plumbing of both the house and the garage.  As I write this I still have a few things on my list before I fly away  - get my hair trimmed (cut off 2 inches) and go to Drag Queen Bingo to benefit the Shakespeare Festival.  perhaps I will come home with another photo

Left to Right: Randy & Valerie  -                           Ed, Randy, Amy & Tim (my cake)   -                    Diane & I   -                      Dave, Frank, Marie, Molly, Steve, Joan, Gary & Barbara  -          Drag Queen Bingo!

April - Another big month on the social calendar... Welders and house painters descended on us the net result being that I am now a woman with girders supporting the back deck and a lovely house with a delightful front yard.  I went to the Blues Fest at Vinoy Park with the gang and Went to see a terrific production of Daddy Long Legs at Free Fall.  Conan & Mike flew down for the shortest visit in history and Marcia reshuffled her guest list for her music party and it was lovely.  I volunteered to work for the Shakespeare in the Park group, went to see a ballet of Peter Pan and attended Main Sail Art Show (not that great this year).  I was given tickets to hear the Shubert at the Palladium and was blown away by my Christmas gift of a ticket to see The Producers at Demons Landing... the Kails even popped by for a little visit. So another great month

March - What a jam-packed month this was!!  Lena and Karin arrived on the 3rd for a whirlwind week's visit.  We went to an Oscar party at Aleth's, Sunset Therapy with Ed and his clan, The Gulfport Market and out to dinner Tuesday, Wednesday we shopped and then met Tim & Randy for dinner at Caddy's, Thursday was boating with the Hunts, Friday was more shopping and a show at the A&W with the gang and Saturday we got VIP treatment at the Gran Prix plus a visit with the Hunts at 3 Daughters.  The weather was nice and the girls got lots of sun.  The following week i went to a concert with Gary & Barb Keller and Joan Stephenson in Clearwater.  My neighbor, Rick, installed irrigation in the front yard and I went to see Romeo & Juliet in Williams Park.  I cancelled the kitchen work with Dan C. and set about a more a la carte approach to the whole project.  I met a new plumber, and a couple of new contractors before going to another Dave Bromberg concert with Doug - but David "phoned it in" this year and I don't think I will go again.  On the 24th we colored eggs at Joan's and then did brunch before Art In Bloom for Palm Sunday.  i managed to locate the cocoons of several monarchs and one emerged on Easter, how special!... but there I am getting ahead of myself.

February - Short & Sweet!  Despite the crappy kitchen I threw a party , a Super Bowl party.  Turn out was good, halftime was a yawn and the game was fabulous!  It made me feel very good about prospects for this as a party house.  The following week Willow Parsons and I went to The Magic Flute.  It is good to have a friend who enjoys opera and she had sung a part in this one in school, so she was a big fan.  Tommy Blat turned 65 and I was invited to the celebration, caught a ride with Doug, Bill & Letty and had a great time.  The next week was filled with meetings:  Dan Christofel and I discussed the coming remodel; Tim & I went to IKEA which was a virgin experience for me; and I met with the neighbors to discuss a local historic designation for our section of the hood.  I will need to be careful about this last one as I can be a bit pushy.  On the weekend it was time to enjoy one of my birthday gifts to the gang to see an Elvis impersonator.  They loved it!  We had a light supper here first and off to the Palladium for the show.  I had bagged great seats and so while I am not an Elvis fan and though he ended the show with a rousing version of Dixie, which I hated, overall it was a lovely evening.  Brennan and I worked on the front yard the next week.  He did the work and I put up the $$.  It was a win-win as I had budgeted $5k for the work and it came in at $2.5K and even so, he made money on it all.  Bees and butterflies are already in profusion so I got it all.  My darling Joan B. was turning 89 the next week and I baked a gluten free vanilla cream cake with ice cream and watermelon lemonade and invited Joan S. Betty and Kathy over - we surprised her!  I think she liked it, I think they all did.  Al Griffin came and replaced the stairs too before the month's end.  Now as I write I am preparing for the arrival of Lena & Karin.

January - We had a good deal of cold weather in January and the first two weeks I had the flu that is going around.  While I hated having the flu the whole illness was made far worse by not having a sofa to nest on during the day... instead I spent my days in a chaise lounge which was definitely not the same.  After a great deal of nagging my new sofa finally arrived and also my bookcase... These additions made everything tolerable for me.  I spent a lot of money on the garage apartment but it is going to be a great place to welcome families as guests and should be complete next month except for the new tile shower which is coming in April.  The new roof went on the last days of the month, it was a mess, but it is done now, so all is well.  I celebrated my 71st with Diane at The Pearl and then went dancing at Ricky t's... lots of fun dancing with a guy named Mario from Philly who was about half my age... I'd had a few and it felt good to be held in his arms.  Susan H and I went junking and found so items that were perfect for the garage.  The Kails came by for a visit and were the first to use my guest room.  And then Mary & Vassilis called to say they were in town and we went out to dinner.  As the month ended I was feeling pretty good about the house and knew I was going to be very happy here.