Posted in Florida Fun

Labor Day 2020

It’s a lot different celebrating Labor Day when you’re retired. When you’re working, Labor Day means NOT doing the normal labor of your work week. But when you’re retired, it’s more about doing sort of the same things, but with more people and with a ‘reason.’ This is my second non-labor Labor Day celebration. Meg flew in from Richmond, we met up with friends Donna and Mark and Kevanna and family, but we missed our friend Q since she decided to labor instead and make lots of extra money.

We went to what David likes to call ‘Wedding Beach,’ since that’s where we were married. But it’s actually called Bay Drive Park, and it’s really lovely with a pavilion, bathrooms, and lots of less-crowded beach than at Flagler Beach. With canopies up, chairs perched, warm temps and a slight breeze, the ocean beckoned with her 80-degree temps, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A cookout later at our place with burgers and dogs then cards and a movie completed our celebration, and we all went to bed too tired and a just little sunkissed.

Posted in Florida Fun

This was a BLAST!

I love Florida. There are just so many opportunities to do things that you can’t do anywhere else. This time it involved the Kennedy Space Center and an event they called, “Launch and a Movie.” Like the name implies, for 50 bucks a car, you can attend a rocket launch at pretty close proximity compared to most other ways to see one, then they will show a movie about the Hubble telescope. As soon as it came into my email I jumped at it. Our friends Donna and Mark were also interested, so after the first attempt was scrubbed, we made our way down there on Sunday afternoon, had a nice dinner, and found ourselves in a great spot for viewing. With chairs set up, we waited for the countdown, not exactly sure where to look but with a pretty good idea.

I’ve seen the rockets go up from our home. The contrail is visible and exciting to recognize. But this was a whole different experience. I wasn’t really prepared for the sound. We were told that if you could somehow withstand the heat of liftoff, if close enough, the sound waves would actually kill you. As that behemoth lifted off, there came a low rumble, then a louder one, and finally, when it was at neck-craning height, the noise resounded through my body. I could actually feel it! Such a THRILL!

Eight minutes later, we witnessed the first stage booster come screaming towards earth. These brilliant astro scientists actually programmed this thing to return to earth and land on an X!

What??

Shortly after it disappeared behind the trees, we heard two sonic booms. Wow.

I wish the videos could give you the sounds we heard. If you have earbuds or headphones on, you can hear it. I can’t wait to do it again. You do have to do some waiting around, but the 15-minutes of sheer awe are absolutely worth it. It was a total BLAST.

The fourth picture below shows a satellite view of our location at the Space Center. We’re the blue dot. The top red circle is where liftoff was. The bottom red circle is the ‘X’ where the first stage booster landed.

Posted in Family, Florida Fun

A Different Disney Magic

When the magic of Disney and the magic of the Christmas season blend together, it can create the most wonderful time of the year in more ways than one.

This year I was lucky enough to be together with all my kids just a few days before Christmas. My Oklahoma son Drew and his family would be spending Christmas week at Disney World with his in-laws, probably the best people with which to ever experience Disney, and they had arranged for an altogether brunch at Raglan Road in Disney Springs the weekend before Christmas Day.

It was everything I could have hoped for. I’d brought the OK (but great) kids some small gifts recommended by their parents, and they all seemed to be a hit. Seeing my kids together with their kids, the interaction between cousins, aunts and uncles not often experienced, gave me such pleasure.

When I was a younger adult, 30’s to 40’s, whenever our huge family was together, my mom would say how she loved just watching us. She didn’t need to get involved; she simply got joy from watching her kids.

I’d have to agree, that is a magic all its own.

Posted in Childhood, Family, Florida Fun

Seasons Change, and So Do I

11/28/19. Thanksgiving Day. This will be my eighth holiday season in Florida, which is hard to believe. And of those eight, several of them were spent on my own in my own place doing my own thing, such as it was.

The holidays bring so many memories reaching all the way to when I was a kid. Our family would either host or attend the many get-togethers surrounding the season, and I would eventually come to understand the significance and the importance of tradition.

Weather permitting, the kids would come prepared for the outdoors and would play outside until called in for dinner. It was always potluck style with everyone bringing a little something to the table. There was loads of help, with the kitchen as the center, the adults milling around, prepping the buffet for the long line of hungry eaters. Afterwards, tables were cleared, games were set up, and the fun and laughter would go well into the evening.

It’s difficult to let that go, but life happens; loved ones pass on, kids grow up and move on, and the only constant, it seems, is change. I know in some families it stays the same generation after generation. But in a family as large as ours, there’s bound to be lots of change, welcome and unwelcome.

And so it goes. This Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season that eases our way into 2020 and another year. Family and friends surround us helping create new memories. We slowly establish new traditions while thinking back to the ones that formed us. Seasons change, times change, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Posted in Florida Fun, Us

Long Creek and Ol’ Black Water

This little gem sits right outside our back door. Seen from the air, this creek winds its way like a maze on its way to the Intracoastal, just six short switchback miles. It’s influenced by the tide and current. We’ve learned by doing that it’s easier to navigate when it’s deep, and lately it’s been plenty deep. The last couple months, the very high tides here have been a cumulative result of something called king tides plus full moons plus high onshore winds. And I love it!

Today David surprised me with an invitation to kayak. I immediately said yes, gathered my hat and my phone (for photos), and went to the creek on this beautiful sunny Florida day. He was already in and waiting, so I dragged my kayak to the shore and stepped in. I realized too late that this method, while it works well for him, does not work for me.

As my kayak slowly slid away from the bank, I found myself in the somewhat awkward position of doing the splits, dreading but knowing that I was not going to be able to pull myself back to shore. The struggle was real but fruitless. I ended up butt-in-creek; muddy, yukky creek; until I could finally get myself up onto the bank again. Ewwwww!

I plodded back into the house, stripped the muddy pants off, quickly rinsed where I could, then found some shorts and headed back out determined not to let it ruin my day.

And it didn’t!

Posted in Family & Friends, Florida Fun

Knot Fast

We got a boat. A cute li’l red pontoon boat for floating down the ICW. I used to have one, back in Michigan. It was great for floating around Otsego Lake, enjoying the sunsets, knitting, relaxing. There’s a big difference between a freshwater lake and the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida.

I don’t know that David has ever had a pontoon boat, but I don’t think so. The learning curve on this thing on the ICW … well, suffice it to say, every time we go out, we learn something new, usually the hard way.

David, Donner, and Mark

First, being this close to the Atlantic, there’s always a breeze; typically a pretty good one. With the sun down here, it’s prudent to keep the bimini up, but we learned it also acts as a bit of a sail when we’re trying to steer through the marina and park in the slip. Something else that was never a concern is the tide. Sometimes the canals are deeper than others, and it’s always good to know what’s going on with that. A marine battery is also a great idea, one we learned about the hard way after tooling up and down the river listening to the alarm going off and the voltage meter near zero. More than once we wondered if we were going to make it back, and one particular time it died just as we were attempting to park in the slip. Thank God the current moved us to another dock where we tied up until we could move it the next day. Oh, yes; the current. Between the current and the wind in the bimini top, there’s no such thing as always getting to the spot you’re aiming for. I actually don’t enjoy myself until we’re on the river, preferably where it’s deep.

We’ve taken it to different restaurants on the water, docked it in Flagler Beach and walked into town, seen manatees, dolphins, and even, sadly, a dead deer that didn’t make the crossing. We love taking friends and family to see Old Florida from another angle, enjoying their enjoyment of this beautiful area we love.

Posted in Florida Fun

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.

Posted in Florida Fun, Moving forward

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

We had 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.