Category Archives: Florida Fun

The Good, the Bad, and the IRMA

The Good, the Bad, and the IRMA

I purchase my condo and move in the end of July. Less than six weeks later, on a Tuesday, my a/c stops working and has a weird smell. I turn it off before bed. In the morning, it’s working, but I still call a technician who comes out on Wednesday. The technician claims the actual unit is in good shape, but possibly the thermostat is bad. I decide to wait to see if it happens again. When it does, I place a phone call to my local handyman to see if he’d be available to change it out if necessary.  The answer is yes, but not until after he boards up someone’s home. There’s another handyman through a co-worker who could do it some evening after work. Or I could just do it myself.

While, out to sea, Category 5 Hurricane Irma, the largest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in forever, is bearing down on the entire state of Florida. My kids want me to evacuate and even offer to fly me out. It’s a lovely gesture and one that I wish I could accept.

Consider that I work for Hospice, and this week many patients need to be evacuated to inland nursing homes, ALFs, or the special needs shelter with enough medications and oxygen to get them through, plus transportation there and back. In making sure their paperwork is in order, the social worker in charge tries to keep track of each one and where they’re going, while the Patient Care Secretaries hope we don’t miss anything, all the while trying to expedite each one as the clock ticks towards zero hour. By 5:00 o’clock on Friday, we’ve all reached our limit, and we’ve done all we could do.

When I get home, spent, I still have no a/c, I still haven’t figured out if I’m staying at home or going to a friend’s, but for some reason I check my front windows for air leaks. And I find them: glass-meets-glass corner windows that actually push away from each other when I press. I phone a friend who advises me what kind of caulk to get and, after I run to Home Depot, talks me through the caulking process. He even offers to replace my thermostat! (I won’t share his suggestion for barter, so desperate that I actually consider it; suffice it to say it goes to character and lessons learned.)

Meanwhile, throughout the week, whenever possible, I buy bread and water, get cash, make ice, gas up my car, make sure I have batteries for my flashlight, and keep a keen eye on as many weather apps as I can find since I don’t have cable tv.

Saturday morning arrives and I decide that perhaps I can change the thermostat myself. Back to Home Depot, I return with the same brand, check FB and find that wonderful Mike from Michigan has given me the perfect YouTube link for the exact one that I purchased. It really wasn’t hard to do! I cross my fingers and turn it on.

Nothing.

After troubleshooting over the phone with Mike to no avail, I decide to put the old one back on hoping for a better result. Nothing. Another friend offers to help when he’s done with work. I never hear back from him or anyone else.

What is it in people that they feel they can hold out an offer to help and then simply not follow through with said offer?  Do they think that the offer of help without actually helping satisfies some moral code they own? It doesn’t. I’d much prefer honesty, hearing that they would if they could but they’re busy with ‘whatever.’  But to offer and ignore? I am far from impressed with these men.

Instead, I leave my mess where it is, leave a message with Arctic Breeze asking them to please call me after the hurricane, mix a stiff drink, then go to bed early. Sunday morning I take a shower, put my thermostat mess away, pack a few necessities, some food, some adult beverages, and eventually I head to Anita’s to wait out Irma while hoping when I return I’m not flooded or worse.

Irma, like the stereotypical female, keeps changing her mind about her direction. Ultimately she decides in our favor and ends up wreaking havoc on the Gulf side instead.

At Anita’s, we watch TV until we lose power around 9:30 p.m. We knit by candlelight, eat snacks, and get sleepy knowing the full wrath of Irma isn’t set to hit until around 2:00 a.m.  An attempt at sleep, no power, texts and messages to others in danger, and I’m finally up again in the wee hours only to find my hosts have beat me to it. The wind is howling, branches are banging on the wood covering the windows, and the wish for coffee finds Dean in his rain poncho outside braving the elements, boiling water on his propane grill at 3:00 a.m. Coffee never tasted so good!

Anita and I have done this before (remember Matthew?), and again we’re knitting to pass the time, only looking up when startled by a strong gust of howling wind, then looking at each other with round eyes. When daylight finally arrives, things are calmer, and neighbors begin to emerge to take stock of their surroundings. We all breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

After the noon curfew, I drive home through debris-laden streets where, oddly enough, many signal lights are operating. When I pull into my condo, I have to leave my car and move branches and limbs so I can park, then I clear a path to my door, praying all is well inside.

It is.

I know many people will decide they’ve had enough, they’re leaving for safer climates, they’ve given Florida a try, but it’s just not worth it. I understand that. I’m at my wit’s end with this one and currently find myself at the EconoLodge for sanity’s sake. But I’m not ready to bail just yet. I still love it here, and the ensuing months will only bring out the best northeast Florida has to offer. It’s kind of like I’ve paid my dues, and now I’m going to enjoy that payment. I own a little piece of it now; I’m part of it.

I’m staying; good, bad, or otherwise.

My “Condo de Sásamh”

My “Condo de Sásamh”

The last time I lived alone was in 1975, thanks to my friend Carol who was in charge of the resident apartments at college during the summer of that same year. And I loved it. I was never lonely, never bored. It didn’t hurt that a bunch of my guy friends lived upstairs just in case I got worried about some weird noise. I could always bang on the ceiling for help (unless, of course, the weird noise was coming from them).

Now, 40 years later, here I am, living alone and loving it.  I never get lonely, and I never get bored. I have to wonder if it’s because I grew up in such a large family where there was no such thing as privacy, much less being alone in the house (save for the one time two car loads left for church, each assuming I was in the other car; but that didn’t last long enough). Perhaps had I been an only child or in a much smaller family being alone might not seem so appealing.Erin-book-review-1111

I remember having horses when I was young.  And just to find somewhere quiet to read, I would go to the stable, climb on Clancy backward, lay on my tummy resting my book on his butt, and read to my heart’s content listening to him munch on hay while slowly moving around his stall. It is one of my most perfect memories.

I sort of feel like that now. I feel content.

And I look forward to sharing my little “condo of contentment” with whomever would like to visit.

T’was the season!

T’was the season!

What a great holiday season we had this year! I typically find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in Florida as there is no prompting from the white stuff that would normally cover the Michigan ground this time of year to remind me daily of the season ahead. And all the neighborhood houses lit up with colorful Christmas lights and their lawns with inflatable snowmen are a little amusing without the icicles hanging from the roof tops. But this year was different.

This year my Meg decided to spend Christmas here, the first time in 6 years any of the kids have been with us for any holiday. She arrived a week before, which I was so excited about, because I had a special gift in mind for her. (Read more about that here.) She has a way of making any event more fun with her contagious energy, and this Christmas was no exception. We shopped the flea market, enjoyed the holiday lights in St. Augustine, played Christmas music non-stop, and even opened the required night-before-Christmas presents (matching jammies!) Christmas day found us 05busy preparing a traditional Christmas dinner complete with turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, rolls, green bean casserole, and PIE! And then my sister Molly and her entire family joined us for a wonderful Christmas afternoon and evening, where we ate, laughed, got to the beach for a beautiful sunset, then went back to the house for a crazy game around the table. I was so pleased they stayed as late as they did, as they had a long drive back to their hotel in Kissimmee. It made me realize how much I missed these gatherings, and I was grateful for all the photos from all the phones that were shared with everyone.

Now the tree and decorations are down, slowly the neighborhood is getting back to normal. The sun is shining and temperatures are hovering in the high 60’s to 70’s. My mother is here out of the cold of the north for a couple months. I’m back to work, and life continues. But I do love looking back on that day, that visit from family and the laughter that reassured me that some things just never change. Thank God.

Expect the expected

Expect the expected

My Meg has been complaining for years that she’s never been to Disney. All her friends have been to Disney, but not her. Perhaps while watching a Disney movie or seeing a Disney sign, she’ll still say, “I can’t believe I’ve never been to Disney!” Never mind that she was raised in Michigan, over a thousand miles away, and never mind that we only took ONE real family vacation in all their growing up. Never mind that at 31 she’s well aware that a trip to Disney costs an arm, a leg, and several gold bars. That’s not the point.  She’s 31 years old, and she’s never been to Disney.

 And so for her Christmas present this year, since she was going to be spending the holiday with us, I decided to take her to Disney. I’d heard about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a party inside the party that is already Magic Kingdom, and there’s limited tickets that cost slightly less than a regular park admission. But the park stays open until midnight, including rides, food, and all the extra fun.

 I was ridiculously excited while planning and anticipating the surprise. She would arrive in Florida the night of December the 17th, and the last day for the MVMCP (as it’s referred to online) was the 19th. Thankfully there were tickets still available, so I bought two (Thom declined the invite) and then started planning HOW to tell her. My thoughts were filled with those TV commercials where the kids are presented with their surprise and the little girl breaks down in a puddle of happy tears. I couldn’t WAIT!

 She finally arrived and the intervening day was filled with plans to go to the flea market, the beach, St. Augustine and more. I convincingly agreed to whatever she wanted to do, knowing in my mind that THE SURPRISE awaited! And then I started to question my plan to tell her.

 I’m very much like my mother when it comes to surprises or any kind of good news. She and I are the ones who jump around screaming when we learn of a new baby, a surprise visit, or any other joyful occasion. We get JOYFUL!  And I know she, like me, can’t seem to help it, and to try and stifle it is like trying to stifle a sneeze.  Similarly, at scary movies with ‘jump’ scenes, I’m in the fetal position and have, on occasion, strained muscles when startled. I guess I feel things a bit more intensely than the average Moe, much to the enjoyment of my boys.

 Meg isn’t like that. And I know that. And if I forget that, I have people to remind me, because invariably I will be disappointed in her very calm reaction to what I think is a great surprise. And so instead of waiting for her to get up the morning of the 19th and say to her, “Get dressed! We’re going to Disney!” and expecting that puddle…instead of that, I decided to use social media to surprise her.  And so I enlisted the help of SnapChat, a cute little app I’m not all that familiar with but that I figured would get her attention. I worked on it in the wee hours of the morning while laying in bed too excited to sleep. You only get a 10-second video, so there were several trials and mostly errors.  Finally on the morning of the 19th I went into her room, woke her up by climbing into bed with her and said, “Hey, I sent you my first SnapChat video. Check it out.”  The video went something like this,

                 “Meg!  Wake up! We’re going to DISNEY!!!  ♫ Merrrrry Christmaaas! ♫”

 Her slightly sluggish response was, “Why are we going to Disney?”  

  smiley

 

 

Singin’ in the rain! Not!

Singin’ in the rain! Not!

I’ll apologize in advance for the second post on the weather here, but this was a pretty unusual September for Florida. The only thing that was predictable this past month was that if the sun was shining when you walked into the store, odds were, if you didn’t grab your umbrella, there would be torrential rain when you were ready to leave. Rain became a subject of conversation for everyone you encountered. Normally we exclaim daily about the warmth and the sunshine here in the ‘sunshine state.” But not last month. Last month was the gloomiest on record with a total of 151 severe weather reports causing the weather radio to “Blare!” “Blare!” “Blare!” and then repeat over and over the latest alert. Areas around Miami, Palm Coast (Jacksonville) and Tampa were especially hard hit with torrential rains keeping beach-goers indoors and umbrella sales at an all-time high.

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My friend Anita was making her way home from work one afternoon going through quite a downpour in the 18-mile drive. When she entered her subdivision, she found she couldn’t make the first turn towards home due to flooded streets. She tried another direction only to learn that the further into the sub she ventured, the deeper the water was over the road. She finally left her car in someone’s driveway and began wading through the knee-deep water hoping to NOT encounter any weird, scary critters in the murky flood waters.daily rainfall recs

Summer is typically the rainy season, and I always enjoy the daily afternoon showers that might last about 15-30 minutes and be very isolated; when they come in over the ocean, they create tremendous photo ops. But enough is enough. We’ve broken the record for the most rain in one month, and I’ve learned my lesson: If a hurricane creates this kind of rain along with 100+ mph winds, we’re outta here!

Now let’s get back to the sunshine!