Florida Fun · Moving forward · Us

Am I ready for a retirement community?

After years of raising a family, a career as a freelance court reporter, and trying my hand at different jobs, the end of my marriage prompted a move to Florida. During a five-year stint at a job I loved, I met my last love. He was retired and wanted me retired, too. I was 63.

As a younger version of myself, I always had a difficult time picturing myself in my 50s, much less my 60s. But I was blessed with good genes and a quick metabolism, so aside from three pregnancies, I was able to pretty much maintain my weight and thus my activity level. I have never felt myself age. It just happened. Kinda suddenly, in fact.

A couple years ago, after I bit the bullet and left hospice, my LL and I took a day trip to The Villages south of Ocala, Florida. Coming from my experience with online dating, I’d heard all the horror stories about the high incidences of STDs at The Villages. Not really knowing what to expect – were people running around with boils? – I have to admit I was truly blown away by everything we saw at this retirement community so often read about. These people didn’t seem old. They were golfing, walking, dancing, socializing, enjoying adult beverages and laughing with each other. Rather than a retirement community, it seemed like one big outdoor party, and I wanted to get invited!

Friends of ours recently moved there. We’re hoping to visit for maybe a long weekend come spring. We know we like the atmosphere. Whether or not we could afford to live there is another thing. Plus, we have grandkids here now, and it’s a couple hour drive away. But should that stop us? They moved all the way down here to be by family, and then we move? I get it. But, hey, we’re retired. We should be able to come and go as we please at this stage. On the other hand, I would miss the kids terribly, miss seeing the grands grow, miss the whole ‘family’ thing, too. We’d only be a couple hours away, but it’s not the same, and I know it.

Even thinking about it I’m plagued with Catholic guilt (see previous post). Though I know my kids only want us to be happy, I’m not sure they want us happy that far away. When all is said and done, if I just think about what I would like and what would be good for us as a couple, if I’m going to be retired, that’s the retirement community I’d choose.

Family · Florida Fun · Mom

A salute to flying.

I was 19, working at a securities firm and wondering what to do with my life. I felt no driving force urging me towards a particular career. I worked every day and spent less and less time with my dead-end boyfriend. I still lived at home with eight of my ten siblings. My best friend had moved on with my older brother, and I felt driftless.

Driving around in what was then rural southeast Michigan, I would sometimes come across a sign saying, ‘Airplane rides, $5.” (Yes, it was a long time ago.) Whenever I did, I’d stop and go flying just for the fun of it. It was typically a small four-seater, and the pilot, always a guy, would offer to let me ‘fly’ it. One evening I was talking about it at the dinner table while my aunt and uncle were visiting. My uncle mentioned there was a flight school in Traverse City and said there was only ONE girl in the program. ‘You should look into it,’ he said. Never in a million years did I dare to dream that particular dream.

But look into it, I did. I went and toured the school and discovered they offered a two-year flight program that would earn me an Associate of Science degree in aviation. I applied for FAFSA, saved as much as I could, and the following August I moved myself into the dorms at NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) with the unbelievable anticipation of learning to fly!

It took me three years rather than two, but I eventually earned my commercial/instrument ratings through the FAA. Being one of only two girls in the program, it’s no surprise I eventually married a fellow pilot. A seaplane crash the summer before the wedding caused me to become ground shy and put an end to any hopes of my own flying career. But it turned out for the best as we ended up following my then-husband’s very successful career as a 747 captain.

I wouldn’t trade those college memories for anything in the world. I barely remember any of my academic classes I so thoroughly enjoyed flight school. Every aspect of flying both by myself and with others was always a thrill. Circling over the family home watching everyone run outside waving towels and racing to the car to come to the airport and pick me up; flying ‘formation’ with fellow students over to Interlochen’s grass strip or sneaking my boyfriend up to Mackinac Island; learning aerobatics, getting checked out in a taildragger, soaring with a friend and even flying into Oshkosh for their annual airshow; these memories are all tucked away to be pulled out frequently and enjoyed.

I do miss it. I was young. I was invulnerable. I knew no fear when it came to flying. I trusted my fellow pilots, my little airplane, and myself.

Mom’s cousin Rene, long-deceased, had been a pilot, himself, and she talked of him often as she shared his daredevil flying stories. Not long ago I surprised my then 89-year-old mom with a ride in an open-cockpit Waco bi-plane over St. Augustine, Florida. Mom has always been up for anything, and I knew she’d love it. Mike, our pilot in the back seat, was pretty pumped about taking his oldest passenger flying, extending the usual 20-minute flight to 45 minutes. I’ll never forget Mom’s face mirroring my own check-to-cheek grin as we took off feeling the wind and the power of that Waco. Over the oldest city, circling this way and that, out over the Atlantic we flew entirely thrilled. Turning towards shore, I leaned over to my mom and said, ‘Let’s tip our hats to Rene!’ And with a smile on our faces and sheer joy in our hearts, we saluted the sky.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.