Saint Petersburg Pier

We took ourselves on a Field Trip earlier this week. The Pier in Saint Petersburg has been under construction for three years. We’ve watched with interest from our home, The Perch. Fortunately, we recently had a couple of cool days, so we wandered over to see how the project turned out. The Pier project cost $92 million dollars and covers 26 acres.

One of the most high profile additions to the pier is Janet Echelman’s Bending Arc, an aerial net sculpture. The Clearwater Audubon Society had concerns that local birds would get caught in the netting, however that seems not to have happened. The large net is installed over a family play area. It billows in the breeze, it’s gradient shades of blue supposed to give the effect of gazing at clouds. At night, it’s a whole different experience when LED colored lights in a palette of magentas and violets transform the sculptures physical color.

Pretty dramatic, right? But during the day, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, the net doesn’t evoke a feeling of gazing at clouds so much as a feeling of gazing at odd litter in the sky.

It was an interesting wander. I found myself thinking, “Why didn’t the Saint Petersburg Pier planners consult Chicago’s Millenium Park designers prior to breaking ground?”

Other interesting art installations are Nathan Mabry’s monumental red metal origami pelican sculpture near the pier’s entrance. Two realistic red statues of pelicans are perched on top of the sculpture, as well in other places along the pier.

From the pier, we could look back at the city skyline and see our home! I’ve labeled in here, but I see now the words look like wee-teeny ant-droppings. The left-hand building is where we live. The condo is small, but happily, the views are vast.

We took ourselves out to a late lunch. This was our first restaurant experience since the shut-down in late March. Our favorite waterfront restaurant, Fresco’s, has beautiful outdoor dining. The place was deserted, so we felt safe removing the masks and enjoying the breeze as well as the ceviche.

This restaurant is just next to the Pier entrance. Step out the door, take a right, and you’ll be gazing at the red origami pelican. It was delightful to feel somewhat “normal” again. This pandemic shut down has been difficult. Floridians have been at odds as to wearing masks and socially distancing. Mixed messages from leadership have created the tension.

Sadly, yesterday there was rioting along Beach Drive. What started out as a peaceful protest following the Breonna Taylor grand jury announcement that no police officers were charged with her death, turned ugly as diners suddenly found protesters sitting at their table and refusing to leave. Further, some protestors blocked traffic, and jumped on top of a Mercedes as well as throwing a skateboard at the car. Damage was done, but no charges were pressed.

Racial tensions are heartbreaking. I naively believed that upon electing an African American to the Oval office our country had turned a corner. I was wrong. I wonder what it will take? What I do know for sure is I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of white privilege. I hope, eventually, we will all realize human beings are all God’s children, regardless of the color of their skin. Call me a crazy optimist, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Enjoy this last weekend of September 2020!

Flat-Lining

I’ve been sitting here at the second-hand kitchen table that doubles as my desk, fingers poised over the keyboard, trying to come up with some blog-worthy thoughts. My exhausted brain is just laying in my skull, whimpering, “Help me, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Why is your brain fatigued, Alice?

This pan-damn-ic has it totally shut down. My mind is sad, miserable and out of sorts. I can’t seem to shake my intellect into action. I’m not alone in this ennui. My doctors tell me their practice has been treating more depression since March than ever before. Yes, they’ve seen a lot of people with the Covid19. However, lots more of their patients are visiting because extended isolation has left them feeling so low.

The practice, Doc’s Outside the Box, is a combo of Western and Eastern medicine. I love the care I get there and their unique approach. They don’t prescribe many pharmaceuticals. They do lean heavily on natural supplements.

For the many patients dealing with feeling so down, they are recommending plant-based magnesium called EZ Mg. I add it to my oh-so-delicious-nutritious (not) morning shakes.

The Docs also suggest magnesium capsules called Min-Chex. And they even offer magnesium IV drips. I’ve had two. They did lift my spirits temporarily.

Yum Yum. Yes, it looks like vomit.

I found this unique practice when Jim and I moved to Saint Petersburg.

Back Story:

I suffered from a skin rash for YEARS. I just perused my old posts and don’t see any mention of that. The Cliff Notes version: In about 2003 I got a rash. The rash got worse. And worse. Finally, it became so extensive I was covered head to toe and I was scratching until I bled. I ended up bouncing from Doctor to Doctor. I was seen at the University of Wisconsin Grand Rounds. About forty doctors (and a couple of random janitors), strolled past and gazed at me in my purple panties, took photos, shook their heads and ultimately they all concurred, “Bad Rash!” Their solution? Steroids.

I got a moon face. My hair fell out. It got so sparse I once decided to color my scalp with auburn colored markers. After I had finished my artwork I strolled across the street to show my friend Brookie my creative bald-head solution. She took one look, gasped, and asked, in horror, “Why do you have stitches off over your head?!” I had to admit, I did look a bit like an accident victim.

Shortly thereafter Brookie and I took a fine field trip to a wig shop. I ended up with a cute shaggy blond synthetic head of hair. My “stitches” no longer showed. But the miserable rash remained.

Next, it was recommended I see the dermatologists at the University of Chicago Hospital. I was told, “No steroids for a week before your visit.” By the time I was admitted my body was again head to toe flaming red itchy welts.

Upon my arrival, the dermatologists ripped up bed sheets, soaked them in some sort of solution, wrapped me like a mummy, administered IV steroids, loaded me up with Valium, and kept me for three nights to get the whole mess under control. Diagnosis? It was “the most profound rash” they had ever seen.

Treatment? More steroids, more moon-face, more misery.

Fast forward we moved to Florida and finally landed in Saint Petersburg. My good friend, Charki, swore that if anyone could fix me it would be Doc’s Outside the Box. Two Doctors–one a board-certified cardiologist, the other a practitioner of Eastern medicine. Their approach? They took a detailed history, studied my skin and my diet and my lifestyle. Then they put me on a protocol of specialized supplements.

It took about eight months of following their guidelines before I finally, for the first time in YEARS, shook the miserable rash.

I now trust these doctors implicitly. I even trusted them when they put me on an anti-viral (?) I was to take just before/during/after the full-moon. (Yes, it’s true. Jim tells me NOT to share that one with people. It sounds too wacky for his pedestrian approach to medicine.)

Now I’m trusting them to put Brain Dead me back together again. I swill my weird shakes, gobble Min Chex capsules, avoid watching the news (they noted my anxiety increases exponentially when I steep in daily miserable updates. When I get anxious, I sometimes get itchy.)

I know I’m not alone with these feelings. This heartbreaking pandemic has paralyzed the planet. I pray daily for a safe vaccine. And for sensible leadership, honest leadership, science based leadership.

(Uh Oh. Now I’m wandering down a mental path that threatens to cause more panic. I think I’ll go gobble a few Min-Chex and escape into a novel.)

Hopefully between now and next week my brain will rise like a phoenix! But with or without that wee exhausted pile of gray matter I will be here next week, pounding the keys and keeping my promise to myself.

You just rest, Brain. I got this.

9/11

“On this day… 19 years (September 10th) ago, 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their morning flights. 2,606 people went to sleep in preparation for work in the morning. 343 firefighters went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. 60 police officers went to sleep in preparation for morning patrol. 8 paramedics went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift. None of them saw past 10:00am Sept 11, 2001. In one single moment life may never be the same. As you live and enjoy the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to sleep in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle a little tighter, and never take one second of your life for granted.”
—Unknown

I had planned a different subject for today’s blog. Then, I looked at the calendar.

September 11. Nineteen years and a thousand lifetimes ago. We all remember where we were that tragic day. I was in the car, driving to the gym. I pulled over to listen to the radio. My heart still aches for the many families who endured heartbreaking losses.

My friends spent their careers as flight attendants. One of them, Charki, posted these photos today.

Imagine the horror felt by those in the air when this alert was posted.

The unknown author’s words bear repeating;

“As you live and enjoy the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to sleep in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle a little tighter, and never take one second of your life for granted.”

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Let the Writing Begin

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These books are the tip of my library “how to write”iceberg. I’d like to purchase more.  Except then I’d be reading instead of writing. And I have finally committed to getting my first book written.

Getting going has been spurred along by my niece, Megan Nilsen.  I have mentioned her before in this blog.  The post, dated October 20, 2017, tells about her family’s adoption journey, and also about how she wrote a book.  Yes, a whole book titled A Beautiful Exchange.  She managed this incredible feat in spite of having four young children, a husband, and a home to care for. Adoption. A Beautiful Exchange.

I have only two of those things–a husband and a home to care for.  The husband is retired and helps a lot.  The home is small, 1465 square feet, plus we have a cleaning guy every other week. Danny, bless his heart.  When our building shut down for the pan-damn-ick I curled up in a fetal position and mourned the loss of Danny for a week. Then we jumped on Amazon Prime and purchased a replacement for our old robotic vacuum.  We now have Hazel.  She keeps up with the house between Danny’s visits.

As an outgrowth of her book, Megan has launched a new business as a “Spiritual Discernment Coach.”  You can find out more about her at http://www.meganbnilsen.com.

A few weeks ago I was tumbling down Facebook rabbit-holes when I came upon Megan speaking about what was up with her new direction.  It hit me that I NEEDED to work with her.  I’ve been stuck, nailed to the floor by fear, and unable to get my writing off the ground.

“Fear of what, Alice?”

As Joan Rivers famously said, “OH GROW UP!”  Fear of FAILURE, of course!

Fear of spending a year pounding the keyboard only to find I have nothing to say, and no talent for saying it.  But just like that! Here was my answer!  I needed a coach.  A cheerleader.  A sounding board.  I immediately texted Megan and asked her to take me on.  “But,” I cautioned, “I’m not a Bible person.  Just want to work on blasting me out of the terror zone.”

I told her the Bible stuff wouldn’t “take” with me.  I explained how I had cut Sunday school as a kid.  How I once did a Bible study. The other seven people in the group looked at me as if I needed to have a stake driven through my blasphemous heart.

In spite of my shortcomings, Megan took me on.  She has been all the things I had hoped for, and so much more.  We’ve had six sessions.  Here’s what has transpired.

1) I’ve added the YouVersion Bible app to my phone.

2) I’ve purchased a Bible.  I asked Megan to suggest “Bible 101” Mostly I just read parts of the New Testament.  I tell Megan I don’t like the Old Testament God.   She assures me they are the same God, but you coulda’ fooled me.  That Old Testament guy is cranky.

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3)  BEST OF ALL, I’m writing!  On two fronts.  This blog and my novel.

Megan and I talked about how much training it takes to do a marathon. At this point, I’m just tying on my walking shoes.  I’ll keep plodding along, shooting for 1000 words a day until I get it done.

My novel?  It’s going to be a time travel story.

I LOVE time travel.  Remember the movie “The Time Machine”?

As described on Wikipedia:

Scientist H. George Wells (Rod Taylor) builds a time machine, and despite the warning from his friend David (Alan Young) against “tempting the laws of providence,” decides to visit the future. Jumping ahead 14 years, he observes changes in women’s fashion. Jumping ahead 40, he meets David’s son (also Young) amid a terrible war. Finally, he travels thousands of years ahead to discover a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by humanoid Eloi and the monstrous Morlocks that feed on them.
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I probably need to watch it again.  Rod Taylor was a cutie, and his time machine was so creative.
My time travel vehicle came to me in a dream.  An outhouse!  I woke up thinking, “THIS IS THE BEST EVER TIME MACHINE IN THE WORLD!  I will call the book “Outhouser”.
Once the cobwebs cleared I realized the outhouse transportation was a shitty idea. (see what I just did there?  Outhouse?  Shitty?  Yup, I’m a punny rocket scientist writer.)
Fortunately, more recent dreams have led to less stinky conveyances.
Today I met with Megan. She was glad to hear the outhouse is OUT.
Megan and I talked about training for a marathon.  You don’t just start running the race.   You train.  For months and months.  At this point, I’m simply tying on my running shoes, stretching, and getting prepared.  If I focus on writing at the pace of 1000 words a day, eventually I will come up with the 50,000 to 75,000 needed for a YA novel.
Then it will take time to edit.  And on and on it goes.   But that’s all putting the cart before the writing.
She asked how I plan to keep my work in order.
 “I have no idea,”  I said. “How to keep this all sorted out is puzzling.”
She suggested an application called Scrivener.  It can help me organize my writing/research/random bits of flotsam and jetsom.  I’ve downloaded it and will begin studying the why’s and wherefore’s of it tomorrow. When Danny is cleaning the house! Yay for Danny Day!
As I’ve perused my earlier blog posts I realize I might, in fact, be kinda’ a Bible-ish person after all.  Or at least a believer that accessing a higher power kicks down doors.
It’s now Friday morning.  I have our little home all to myself.  Jim is off to a doctor’s appointment.  And Danny called to postpone his visit.  He is concerned he has been exposed to the virus.  He is off to have his third Covid19 test.  We appreciate his caution.  I promised him I’d save our dirt for another week so he has something to look forward to.
😉
Stay Healthy, everyone.  Now, I’m going to dig into my free trial of Scrivener.

Surviving Sixty-Nine

The name of my blog is not relative to my life anymore. I’m no longer Loving Sixty-Five.  Now I’m lucky to be Surviving Sixty-Nine.  Tragically too many have not survived this strange and frightening virus.

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We’re in Florida.  Too many Floridians played fast and loose with precautions.  Our home is in a high-rise, and there have been several cases in our building.  As well as one death.

It’s hard to “social distance” in an elevator.  While our building management has taken excellent steps to make sure we are disinfected, coronavirus has crept in.  Masks are mandatory in our building, and residents push elevator buttons with an elbow or a disinfectant wipe.  Some tenants must have decided elbows and wipes weren’t cautious enough.  Shortly after lockdown signs were posted by elevator entrances stating “Please don’t use your feet to press the buttons.”

Feet? Impressive that could be possible given the average age of our residents.  Balancing on one foot while attempting to lift the other high enough to reach the buttons? Hard to picture, but it must have happened.

We’ve spent our six-month Virus Vacation entertaining ourselves with Libby and Hoopla books, writing letters (me), doing crossword puzzles in ink (Jim), the occasional game of Scrabble, and watching Netflix/Amazon television every night.  Plus I get regular FaceTime calls from Tate who is now four and a half.

He’ll call and ask me if I want to color.  Or play with our action figures.  I didn’t have any action figures the first time he made this request.  I did, however, have my little plastic Saint Joseph who was so helpful in selling our last home.  He made a decent action guy in a pinch.  Plus the wooden duck decoy swam in and out of camera range now and again.

Joseph and Duck are now retired from Action Figure duty since I made two sock puppets.  Sharkey and Nana.  Joseph spends his retirement on the windowsill watching boats bobbing the Tampa Bay.  Duck is settled in on an antique trunk, back to the view.  I guess he had enough of aquatic life.

I named Sharkey for obvious reasons, the fin on his back.  Tate named Nana, which is also what he calls me.  Hmmm.  Does Tate think I resemble that stunning lady on the left?  Maybe it’s my purple hair?

All things considered, we are very lucky.

The people we ache for are those who have lost their loved ones.  Not being with your loved one when they are so very ill. Or picture enduring that heartbreak alone?   Tethered to a hospital bed, saying goodbye to your spouse when the nurse holds the phone up to your face so you can gasp a last farewell?  Tragic.

I think a lot about health care workers.  My daughter is a Covid19 unit nurse in Chicago.  She doesn’t talk about it a whole lot.  And I don’t ask.  I figure she may prefer not rehashing the grim hospital realities.

She did call one-day crying happy tears!  One of the patients she had admitted actually got to GO HOME.  Going home after COVID is the exception, not the rule.  Her unit plays a few bars of “Here comes the Sun” when a patient is released.  Mo heard the music and was thrilled. She said for the first time in months she felt that maybe, just maybe, her work was making a difference.

A friend sent me an article titled “What COVID Nurses Know.”

Nurses were interviewed.  Just short snippets.  All very sobering.

“I took care of a patient who was in their mid-30s and came in with shortness of breath.  He was admitted, and after three days got worse. When he went down to the ICU, he basically knew that once he got on the ventilator, there was the potential of never coming off of it.  The last call he made was to his mother, and it was heartbreaking to hear him say, “I hope I see you again.”  He ended up passing away.”

I remember early on having a patient who was middle-aged and having some trouble breathing.  We were trying to decide whether or not to intubate him and decided to hold off.  With a sense of panic, he asked to call his wife.  I said, “Yes, let’s call her.”  But then he said, “You know what? Let’s not call because I’m struggling to breathe, and I don’t want her to hear me that way.”  And then it probably wasn’t more than 20 minutes, he passed away.”

“If you hate wearing a mask, trust me, you’re going to hate the ventilator way more.”

I thought about that last one earlier this week.  There was an unmasked woman stalled in the middle of the grocery store aisle, taking her time choosing pasta.  I couldn’t get past her without getting too close. Possibly she was hearing impaired, because she didn’t respond when I said, “Please excuse me.” Faced with this small dilemma I turned and drove my cart the wrong way down a one-way aisle.

And finally this;

“We had a 86-year-old patient who said, “Who cares?  I’m 86!  If I die, it’s my time.”  And that’s fair, she had lived her life.  I’m happy about that.  But the doctor told her, “You don’t want to die like this.”

Mo said it’s a terrible, lonely death.  She had one terrified, dying woman whose sisters called to reassure her she would be “fine.”  The poor woman needed comfort, not platitudes.  Sadly, she died hearing false cheer.

So gentle readers. Wear your masks.  Wash your hands.  Stay home if possible.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.

For upcoming blog posts I promise something more upbeat.  FYI: My goal is to publish once a week.  Probably on Friday afternoons.  So if you aren’t interested in what I have to say, that’s a good day to go grab a drive-through cup of coffee.

Christmas is coming, and I’m back!

Over a year ago, when we moved to our wee-teeny condominium, we found storage space was limited at best.  Therefore I purged our colorful gift wrapping lovelies in favor of Home Depot brown paper rolls–the sort used by workmen to keep dirt off the floor.

Practical, yes.

Pretty? Not so much.

I’m hoping the Costco ribbon makes up for the ho hum paper.

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Since I was wrapping piles of presents and doing so much of the heavy lifting, I begged Jim to put up and trim the tree.

He grudgingly took the elevator down twenty floors, unlocked our vast forty inch by forty inch storage cage, unearthed all of our holiday decor and lugged it back upstairs.  He finished trimming the tree and now the poor little old elf is “spent” (Jim’s word for exhaustion.)

We plan to pile our grandson Tate’s gifts beneath this enormous tree.  I hope the poor child will be able to find them.  They may be dwarfed by the giant, flocked, ornament laden branches.

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Hope your holidays are happy and that 2020 brings all good things to you and  yours.

As for me, I look forward to dusting off the keyboard and resurrecting my much neglected blog.  Yay!

Cuba and other tidbits

The last time I wrote was January 7th.  You know that feeling you get when you haven’t spoken with a friend for a very long time and there is so much to say you simply can’t cram it in?  So instead of attempting to communicate, you mumble, “I’m fine.  All good.  How about you?”

That’s how I’m feeling now.  So here I go with a brief, probably tedious, synopsis of my life since I gave away my shrunken wool.

We got our car back from the repair shop.  Nearly all the damage done by the 200 pound wild boar is behind us.  Only problems remaining are cruise control, backup and front sensors don’t work, and the back seat seatbelts are still frozen. We need those fixed before company comes in April.  We are plopping friends into our car and sending them on their merry way.  They will need seat belts in the event the boar has suicidal family members romping the streets of St. Petersburg.

I visited the chiropractor several times,  Bronson went to the vet, Jim has been back and forth to the VA (more about that in a future post), our windows were cleaned, and I started going to two new doctors.

Doc’s Outside the Box.  They combine both Western and Eastern modalities.  I am now taking boatloads of supplements each day, recording my food intake and drinking a “delicious” green beverage each morning for breakfast.  It involves ice, almond milk, pink salt, coconut oil, a bit of stevia to mask the flavor, and three scoops of mystery powders.  This concoction is whipped through the blender until it’s a thick monkey vomit green smoothie.  Yum Yum.  You’re envying me right now, aren’t you?

Plus our friends got a puppy, so we get to experience the puppy joy without actually having to train it.  It’s a bit like being grandparents–teach it to be bad then send it home.  Her name is Saylor.

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I saw this in the local liquor store–that was exciting.

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And we got an “I miss you” letter from our cute former neighbor, Erika. She hoped to shame us into moving back to the  ‘burbs.  It didn’t work but the letter made me smile.

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A real highlight of the past two months was a cruise to, among other places, Havana.  That was interesting.  Here are a few photos.  We always like to take a photo of the room before we trash it.

Below, the lady in the upper left picture was a store clerk.  She was vexed we were taking so much time choosing Jim’s Havana T-Shirt. Plus we were short on cash. The stores only accept cash. We ran out. The ATM’s do not respond to US debit cards.

It might not have been a bad thing running out of money….saved us from bringing home a bunch of souvenirs.  You know, those impulsive buys we all make on vacation and later think, “What was I smokin’ when I decided I needed THIS?”

Everywhere are old cars chugging along.  Some have been turned into taxi-cabs. Lots of the residents dress up in native costumes and heckle tourists to have their photos taken, for a fee.

One tourist in our group attempted to sneak a picture of a tall 1950’s costume-clad man.  He (the native, not the tourist) was wearing a fedora, bow tie, striped silk vest, and a white linen suit.  He wasn’t fooled by the attempt and immediately following the “click” of the camera, held out his fedora and demanded, in no uncertain terms, “PAY ME.”  The tourist did.

There are feral cats and snoozing dogs in every courtyard.  Jim stepped in a caca pile.

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Our tour of Old Havana was led by a nice Cuban guy named Juan.  He spoke great English.  I think. But I don’t have great hearing so possibly I’m wrong.  At one point I asked him about all the dogs and cats.  “Are these pets?”

He replied, “Cubans don’t like cats as pets.  They like ducks.”

Ducks?  The only ducks I ever saw that were kinda’ pet like are the ones living at the Peabody Hotel.  They were made famous by the children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings.”    We once witnessed them waddle-march from the elevator, splash in the large restaurant fountain, then toddle back to the elevator.  Those ducks reside on the roof of the hotel.  They are retired after several months at which point they go to live on a farm.  My fluffy aqua colored chick, given to me by the Easter Bunny when I was five, went to “live on a farm” too.  Possibly with a bunch of retired Peabody ducks.

The pet duck scenario had been planted in my brain.  I spent at least half an hour mulling over how one would care for a pet duck.  Do you buy a small turtle wading pool and allow it to spend its days swimming in tight little circles?   Do you walk it on a leash or with a harness?  Can you litter train a duck?  I once had a client with a pet bunny.  The bunny was an adorable black and white floppy eared miniature.   It was litter trained.  So maybe ducks can be too.

After pondering this, and missing a large portion of the tour, I finally approached Juan and inquired, “About these ducks.  How does one care for a pet duck?”

“What ducks?”

“The pet ducks.  You said Cubans like pet ducks.”

He waited for a beat then replied, “I said DOGS.”

Wow!  That was half an hour spent working through a non-existent problem.

Other thrilling stuff has happened since January 7th too.  But I’ll save those adventures for my next scintillating blog post.

Go forth and get a duck.

Wooly Bully

I’ve had fun with my purse making project.  It’s been an interesting creative outlet and learning experience.  I used felted wool to construct my one-of-a-kind weirdly wondrous little bags.  The bags were then embellished with vintage buttons and baubles.

Felting is a process of boiling wool so it won’t ravel or fray.   To felt my wool I loaded it into old pillowcases tied tight with string.  The fabric needed to be contained so the wooly bits don’t end up ruining the washing machine.  It was a mad scientist procedure. A cute yellow cashmere vest would go into the laundry a size 8, and come out wee-teeny enough to fit an American Girl doll.

I spent hours combing eBay for $1 merino vests, angora sweaters, and mohair scarves.  I’d be thrilled if I ran across something unique like a leopard cashmere cardigan or bright blue argyle pullover. Friends and family donated old woolens to the cause.  My sister sent her cool 1969 brown, orange and white ski sweater. Likely she could have eBayed that for some serious money.  In gratitude, I made her a purse.

Neighbors dug through their button boxes and gifted me with fabulous vintage buttons, all sorts of old cufflinks and tie tacks, and fancy collars and trim.  Those I won’t give up.  I love them.  Collecting them is a hobby of sorts.  It gives me an excuse to visit antique and collectible stores.  Below is a snippet of the hundreds of fasteners and frills I’ve gathered.

Since downsizing I haven’t had any interest in sewing.  Friends suggested I wait a full year before liquidating my materials.  We’ve only been here four months. But suddenly 2019 felt like the right time to move on to other imaginative projects.

All the fabric used for production was taking up much-needed closet space.  I reckoned it was time to get the wool out of the guest room wardrobe.  Our only designated storage area is a 2nd floor 36″ by 48″ wire cage.  We live on 29th floor.  We have to travel down 26 floors to just get to our miniscule coop.  (And yes, I have the math right.  There is no floor 13.)   Allowing stuff I was finished using to monopolize an entire closet didn’t make sense.  The Wooly Bully needed to go.

But what to do with all my wool?

I didn’t want to shove it down the trash chute.  It seemed wasteful to dump it.  It may seem like a pile of rejects to the casual observer, but to me, it was creative gold.

I was lamenting how to dispense of it when Terry, our fabulous painter, suggested I post it “Free” on Craigslist.

My posting read

“Free to a Good (or merely mediocre) Home”

I didn’t hold out much hope anyone would be interested in a huge pile of scrap fabric. I was amazed when, right away, I got an email from a local named Virginia. She asked 1) Is the material still available?  2) If so, what is your address?

I gave her the info and–poof— Virginia disappeared into cyberspace.  Maybe my home was too long a drive from hers?  Perhaps the neighborhood scared her?  Possibly Virginia realized even for free it was still just a mountain of shrunken cashmere coats and lumpy fisherman sweaters, chopped into remnants.

Next, I got an email from Michelle.  She asked two things.  1) Is the material still available?  2) If so, what is your address?

Yes!  Still available.

Michelle promised to send her sister Susan over the following morning to take away my treasure.

I shoved it all into giant lawn and leaf bags.  (Why we moved those bags to our condo is a mystery, since we no longer need to fuss with either lawns or leaves.)  These photos represent a small portion of my inventory.

The next morning at 9 a.m. sister Susan arrived in her small Toyota Corolla.  Riding shotgun was Woodrow the black lab, aka Woody.  Woody had eaten the better part of her center console, and both pleather front seats, revealing foam rubber beneath. For the record,  he didn’t appear a bit guilty.

While Woody dined on the car, Susan and I managed to fill her small trunk with the enormous bags.  I asked what Michelle had in mind for the wool.  It turns out Michelle does arts and crafts with children at a local homeless shelter.  Hooray.  My cherished wool will be well and creatively used.

I got an email the following afternoon from a delighted Michelle.  She thanked me profusely and said the first project planned is to make “Valentine Monsters”.   I’ve no idea what a Valentine Monster is, but I’m sure those homeless kids creatures will be made of soft, cozy, colorful felted cashmere.

Christmas

I’ve started this post several times.  I first began when our Christmas experience was fresh in my mind and then again after New Year’s Eve.  I finally figured out why I couldn’t get going.  I was looking to find “funny”.  But our Christmas 2018 experience wasn’t funny.  It was frightening.

It started out fine.  The kids, Mo, Stephen, and Tate, arrived from Chicago on Saturday the 22nd.  Sunday we piled into the car and drove three hours across the state to Port St. Lucie.  Stephen’s parents recently moved there. They sold their Garden City, New York home and are now in Florida permanently.

If you’ve never driven across Florida I will fill you in on the sights.  Ugly.  Nothing but palm trees, orange groves, cows.  And more cows.  Mostly black.  Occasionally brown.  I have a friend, JR, who owns cows.  He could have identified them.  To me, they were simply black and brown.

Tate slept for three hours.  I read.  Mo, in spite of being in the back seat, didn’t puke.  It was a fine uneventful trip.  Palm trees, orange groves, cows, sleeping baby, no puke.

When we got to Port St. Lucie we were greeted by Stephen’s family.  Parents John and Jane.  Sister Kelly, her husband, and three children. We dined on pizza, watched the kids play, then to went to our hotel.

Christmas Eve day we climbed into cars again, this time for the hour drive to Palm Beach.  Stephens eldest sister and her family have a home there.  Palm Beach is where the ugly ends.

Stephen drove us by Mar-a-Lago and past lots of fancy mansions attempting to hide behind tall hedges.

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Hung around with Christine and her family for a short while then back to Port St. Lucie and Christmas Eve dinner.  Delicious beef tenderloin.  Christmas day more great food, lots of gifts, watched the little boys tool up and down the street on bright green scooters while the older girls made batches of slime.

By now you are wondering, “What is frightening about any of this?  Other than the slime and ghastly proximity to Mar-a-Lago.”

Here’s what.  We didn’t start driving home until after sunset.  Three hours.  Tate didn’t sleep because he’d had a long nap.  I didn’t read because it was dark.  Mo didn’t puke because we got lucky.  Yay that.

Stephen was at the wheel. We were on the back roads because things were slow going on the bigger highway.  We saw nothing.  No palm trees, no cows, no orange groves.  Only rarely did we see another car.

Suddenly BANG!  The car filled with smoke, Mo and I were tossed forward against our seat belts, Tate burst into tears, and the guys slammed into airbags.

We’d hit something.  I assumed it was a deer.  Stephen managed to pull the car well off the roadway, Jim turned on the emergency flashers, Mo climbed out with her shrieking child and rocked him in the tall weeds.  My brain immediately screamed, “rattlers and gators and crocs–Oh My!”

Stephen figured out our location and called 911.  The guys assessed the damage and we all settled back into the car to wait for help.  The nearest gas station was thirty miles away.  Would we need to be towed?  We couldn’t use our seatbelts. They freeze when airbags deploy.  I didn’t know that.  We later learned that police will yank on them following a burst airbag accident.  If the belts move they can tell you weren’t wearing them and issue (too-bad-so-sad-about-your-accident) tickets.

As we waited, discussing our options, a white pickup truck passed slowly,  then pulled over in front of us.  My first thought was, “Yay, Good Samaritan.”  That thought was immediately followed by, “Oh No–this is FLORIDA!”  Half the population of this state is toting handguns.  The other half carries Colt Automatic machine guns.  Our “good samaritan” could turn out to be whacked out Christmas killer.

We learned he had hit the “deer” shortly after we did.  The “deer” turned out to be a giant female wild boar.*  She was either pregnant or recently had babies.  He noticed her full udders as he dragged her off the road.  Once he saw we were all okay he left the scene.

     *upon completing this post, Jim read it.  He pointed out that boars are male. Sows are female.  He’s such a show-off know-it-all:  doing crossword puzzles in ink, making three-syllable words in Scrabble and now this.  Knowing wild pig information.

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While waiting for the policeman we had a pow-wow.   Should we attempt to drive home without wearing seat belts?  Mo and Stephen are of the generation that never rode belt-free.  And, after all, belts and bags had just saved our lives.  Did we want to risk another hour on the road without them?  Possibly Ms. Wild Boar’s mate was at large and angry, hoping to avenge his wife’s murder.

I told Jim we would settle the discussion democratically–we’d vote.  The kids and I voted for towing.  Jim, not so much, but he accepted our point of view.

At long last, a cop arrived.  If he yanked on our seatbelts I don’t remember.  What was decided is that he would follow us to the county line to be sure the car was safely driveable.

Once we reached Pinella’s county Jim asked for another vote.  All of us agreed to head for home.  We arrived here at 1 a.m.  Alive, well, exhausted and very grateful no one was hurt.

Except for the pig and the car.

But Floridian pigs are an expendable nuisance.  And cars can be repaired.

Fortunately, we live within walking distance of everything.  Plus our generous neighbors loaned us their cute convertible.

So all is well that ends well.

In case you ever have a similar experience, here is what to expect your automobile to look like.

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We met the tow truck across the street in a parking lot.  It was too enormous to go into our parking garage.

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Windy City

Nope, not Chicago.  Right here in Saint Petersburg, on the 29th floor, I watched as our furniture danced along the balcony.  I raced out there, attempted to grab the chair on the corner and I darn near blew over the railing.  I shrieked, turned on my heel and bounded back inside.

This furniture is heavy.  I am heavy.  We were at risk out there.  Meanwhile, as the wind screams past our floor to ceiling windows my husband, the gifted sleeper that he is, snoozes blissfully.  Little does he know his wife, clutching a cast aluminum swivel chair, almost blasted into the Tampa Bay.

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That giant bowl weighs 512 pounds.  Right now it’s filled with ballpoint pens (Jim uses them for his daily crossword) and rainwater.  Pens and rainwater are swirling violently, counterclockwise.   On whitecaps.

Exciting in a terrifying way.