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Saturday, September 16, 2017

THE THREATENING MONSTER


When I unfolded my newspaper Saturday AM 9-9-17 it read:  STATE OF FEAR in all capital letters. I thought that was an understatement!  Irma a category 5 hurricane was headed directly toward us! A CAT 5 is a roof-ripper! Even if it weakened to a 4 it would still be catastrophic! I wondered if I would have a house remaining or even be alive on Monday.

I joked that if I survived I would be poor, homeless, & blind! But the joke was too close to reality to be funny. At least my house was insured although my body is not. And hurricane deductibles are high and I needed that money for my cataract surgery! This couldn't be happening at a worse time!

On the other hand, if I didn't survive it would solve all of my problems. However, there's a long list of people I do not want to be reunited with in the afterlife! So I had to get myself together!  

I tried to determine what I needed to save and what I was willing to sacrifice to the storm. I wasn't actually willing to sacrifice anything but I had no choice. And some of my choices I started to reconsider afterward, such as my bathing suit. Despite a thorough washing it still smelled of the Galapagos Islands from my trip 2 summers ago. I didn't want to part with it or any of my souvenirs from Thailand. None of these were Sophie's choices, but all of my things are precious to me.

Everything I wanted to save needed to be downstairs; even then I could still lose everything due to the category of this storm. By the end of the day every muscle in my body ached from lugging things down those stairs.

I put together a grab & go bag with all of my important papers, cash, and several changes of clothes in the event I had to evacuate to a FEMA trailer, later. However I was determined NOT to spend the storm in a shelter. Others I'd known who rode a hurricane out in one swore they'd never do it again. And these are people who enjoy the company of others. I am not one of those! At least in my home I'd only have to deal with hurricane drama without the added people drama too.

My safe room has always been the windowless downstairs bathroom. However, with a storm of this magnitude I was starting to rethink that. Should my cathedral ceiling be peeled back or the front door go flying away, I doubt the bathroom door would hold  once the storm was inside. And if the garage doors should bend, my car could be blown right thru the bathroom wall killing me inside! -- During hurricane David, a lesser hurricane back in Stuart, my father's car was blown from our carport and down the driveway.

I decided my new safe area would be the back hallway. It didn't have a door to close, but it was next to 2 rooms I could quickly escape into and hope at least one would hold.
 
Before I went to bed that night I planned to pull the mattress off the daybed in my guestroom and push it off the loft railing onto the carpet below rather than try to drag it down the stairs. I wondered if I'd ever feel the comfort of my own bed again.

Food was plentiful in my storm pantry. And besides my 2 huge plastic jugs & lots of empty milk bottles, I filled everything that would hold tap water, including waste baskets & tea kettles. My water was divided into 3 categories: drinking, washing, & flushing.

Earlier in the week, I called number after number in desperation trying to find someone to board my house. Mostly, I got answering machines. The few who picked-up told me they were too busy. One suggested I call a church! I felt they were telling me I didn't have a prayer!

Finally, one man phoned me back! He said he would be here noon Friday to board up my house.

Thursday afternoon, my neighbors across the street astounded me! After letting me twist-in-the -wind during 4 previous hurricanes they offered to board me! By now I had the only house in the neighborhood unprotected. I thanked them, but a man was coming noon the following day.

But then, Friday came and it was getting late in the afternoon and storm winds would be arriving Saturday. The man I hired was running way behind schedule still boarding other people. I was starting to panic! So I called my neighbors. But I could tell they were not happy about it.

They boarded-up my house and I'm grateful! But they made it clear they would NOT be unboarding. One even told me, "If you need anything else, knock on our door and then keep moving." -- Geez, tell me how you really feel!

The man I hired finally showed up around 5:00 PM Saturday. I must have been dead last on his list!!! I paid him to repair a board that came loose and was hanging from my chimney. Apparently, that previous workman I'd hired to replace rotting wood had missed more than a few places!

By Saturday afternoon, Irma had shifted farther west. We were out of the cone but due to the gigantic size of this storm we would still be in for a wild ride on Sunday!

Due to that shift in direction we were spared the worst of Irma, although Sunday became wild and wicked starting in late afternoon. I was praying my electricity would hold long enough to watch the season premiere of Outlander. -- What a difference a day makes!

As I watched the show, I listened to the fierce howling winds outside and the heavy rains besieging the house; I heard the exploding of power going out in the next neighborhood over. I held my breath.

At 11:00 PM when I went to bed, I was so confident of not losing power that I left both my flashlight & hurricane lamp downstairs. It was something I came to regret! The power went out at midnight!

The next morning I would not be enjoying the large celebration breakfast I planned on preparing. My electricity would not be restored until around 5:30 PM. But I was still without TV, Internet, and a phone. The small battery-operated pad I'd purchased for my trips refused to connect. It told me what to do, but offered no direction as to how. I wanted to smash it on the floor!

I remember going thru hurricane Della when I was 14 and David when I was 28. Both times, when the power was restored EVERYTHING came back at once! And our landlines worked even during hurricanes! In fact, my phones still worked during and after hurricanes right up until I subscribed to the bundle in 2010. So there's something to be said for the good old days. Della & David were Stuart hurricanes.

After moving to Vero Beach came Irene, Frances, Jeane, and Wilma! The place my father swore never got hit by hurricanes due to its angle on the map! I knew better, but you couldn't tell him anything.

Tuesday, became my outside clean-up day, starting early and still sore; I picked up branches in my yard and raked leaves. My hands & feet became cut, blistered and bug-bitten. My clothes were soaked in sweat. This is Florida after all and it's still summer. Around mid- afternoon I'd had enough and decided to save the rest for my yard man. But plenty of work was still awaiting me inside.

Thankfully, there was no damage to the house itself.

Wednesday, unable to reach me, my friend Rose, fearing I was dead or injured drove over. I was still without phone, internet, or TV. We used her cell phone to report the problem to ATT. They told us they were aware of the issue, but didn't seem optimistic about resolving it anytime soon. But at least I had light and air-conditioning which many in Florida were still without.

If not for my daily newspaper I would have no idea what was going on in the outside world! Friday was a joyous day when everything was at last restored! However my boards are remaining up until hurricane season ends in November!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

FLASHING WARNING LIGHTS


Not long ago, I watched a movie on my DVR titled: Would You Rather. The premise: A sadistic billionaire holds a contest and he pays the survivor's bills for the duration of their life. Of course I was rooting for the young and pretty vegetarian with the sickly brother.

The contest consisted of a series of choices all of them unpleasant to say the least. Choices such as would you rather have all your fingernails yanked out by pliers or your head held under in a barrel of urine for two minutes? Next question, do you choose to have a nail hammered thru your tongue or receive a major electric shock to your privates, and on and on.

Just recently, I had an eye exam at Sears. My right eye was by far the worst. I joked that I needed a monocle.  But the Optometrist was concerned about the pin prick flashes of light I kept seeing. He strongly suggested that I schedule an appointment at the Florida Eye Institute.

"If those lights become streaks or resemble lightning seek medical attention immediately," he told me.

Two nights later, I got up to use the bathroom and both times I saw all kinds of streaks and lights in my right eye! Alarmed, I was unable to go back to sleep.

First thing the following AM, I set up an appointment with the Eye Institute. Then I phoned Sears and told them to put my order for the 3 pairs of glasses on hold. If cataract surgery was upcoming my prescription would change.

Suddenly I could relate to the movie dilemmas above. I was faced with the choice of a tremendous hit to my already low savings or going blind! And there is no billionaire in this picture except for that piece of human excrement in the White House, the one who promised affordable health care for everyone. I didn't vote for him because I knew there was no way this pompous buffoon could ever deliver. His current political party fought tooth & nail against it. I'll never forget those hollers of "Let them die!" followed by laughter during a previous election season.

I contacted a Medical Tourism site online. Tijuana was the cheapest, however that's a border town with a reputation and I'd fear for my life! The next was Cancun, this sounded better, like a vacation without fun.

However, my friend Marie, who has been to Mexico, more recently than I have, said even Cancun is not safe anymore. Back in the 1970's, Acapulco was a beautiful (although swelteringly hot) tourist spot. I was there, twice. Now it has become so crime ridden and dangerous the tourists avoid it! Still Cancun might be my only affordable option.

After a thorough exam at the Florida Eye Institute, I was hit with the news that cataract surgery was required on BOTH eyes!!! I don't have Insurance and despite my age I don't qualify for Medicare due to my history. And I don't qualify for Medicaid because I'm just poor, not destitute.

The Florida Eye Institute is lenient with low income people as to prevent them from going blind. They will perform the surgery at their rock bottom price. But even that is sky high to someone like me! Plus I just had lots of expensive major repairs to the outside of my home! But I budgeted for those and cut-back and went without. This is a tremendous out-of-the-blue expense!

And now because it's TWO eyes rather than one, this makes Mexico less of a bargain. Only one eye can be operated on at a time. This means I'd have to hang around Cancun longer. Besides the cost of airfare, there's the hotel fee, meals, taxis, etc...Also I'd be away from my home during peak hurricane season. I need to stay for damage control.

So I will probably have the surgery here. I just hope there are no complications to further run up the price.

I'm only 66, I thought it would be another 10 years at least before I'd be faced with the health issues I'm now experiencing. My legs feel as if they've been shot with Novocain from the knees down due to Peripheral Neuropathy. Fortunately, there is no pain now, just numbness. Unlike my Diverticulitis!  According to Google the frequent burning sensation in my left arm is nerve damage. And then this!

Suddenly I'm feeling elderly.

And now a major hurricane, Irma is poised to strike and turn our beautiful Treasure Coast into a junk yard.  Oh no!!! That's all I need!!!

Friday, September 1, 2017

A HUNDRED ACRES OF HEAVEN


Early summer 1958 my family moved from Hobe Sound, (a place tantamount to paradise in my mind) back up the coast to Stuart.  My father had just landed a high paying job there and understandably wanted a shorter drive to work. Still I was quite unhappy about moving. I loved our rental home on the Intracoastal Waterway and its proximity to the ocean. Nothing could top that, I thought!

But I was wrong! We moved into a sprawling house in the middle of a hundred acres. A private lake graced the front and several small ponds were scattered in the back, along with a fresh water spring.

The lake was beautiful! It formed in a lopsided figure eight with a little arched white bridge over the narrowest part. We frequently fished there. Also we had a small blue row boat. Wild ducks lived on the lake and later my grandfather added tame ones, too. On the south side was a mango grove and all around was an abundance of beautiful nature. It was just like living in a private park! To enter the property, one had to drive thru huge white gates.

The house was by far the largest and best one ever! Visitors often asked if we got lost. My favorite room was the spacious library. It featured a fireplace, a beautiful Oriental carpet, and a big picture window overlooking the lake. This adjoined a large family room with high glass windows on 3 sides that half overlooked the lake and half overlooked the mango grove. The home had long halls on opposite sides. At the end of one stood a spot that could be transformed into a room surrounded by nothing but a circle of doors. My friends and I used to sit in the middle with a candle and tell ghost stories. The house even featured a special room to enjoy coffee and dessert overlooking the lake. This place was nothing short of amazing!

As before, we were only renters, but my parents assured me that we would not be moving again. The owner was a German with a "VON" in front of his last name. How cool was that! These truly were days of splendor.

Only months after moving there, my father bought me my heart's desire, a horse! Suddenly, I became quite the popular little girl! Now, lots of kids wanted to visit and ride it. They also enjoyed the rowboat, plus we swam in the big front lake and the back pond closest to the house. Of course we had to be wary of alligators, (a real problem in Florida) but the element of danger added to the fun! Friends invited other friends, even older kids now wanted to know me. I reveled in my good fortune and thought it would last forever, but sadly life doesn't work that way.

My glorious childhood was soon to end.

One day, the owner came to visit and noticed the horse. Suddenly our rent went up! My parents grumbled, but paid. But it was quickly raised again, and again! My folks were livid; we were maintaining these vast acres at our own expense! But apparently the guy didn't want a horse on his property.

Yes, the horse was temperamental and did some damage, but it was repaired at our expense.

One afternoon I came home from school and the horse was gone. He'd been sold! I was sad, but not surprised. My parents felt he was dangerous and had become a potential lawsuit as well as a rent issue.

Then one autumn evening as my family sat around watching the nightly news, my brother asked our mother, "Do you want to start taking stuff over to the new house, tomorrow?"

"New house!!!" I exclaimed. "What new house???"

"We've moving," Mom replied in a casual tone. "We bought a house on the St. Lucie River."

This was a major shock! I wasn't aware they had been even shopping for a house!

"But I love it here!" I protested.

"Oh, but you'll like this new house much better!" my grandfather replied.

Well I HATED it from the moment I saw it! It was less than half the size of the lake house and the inside had a weird clinical feel. It stood on barely one acre with noisy and intrusive neighbors around us. I felt closed in. Nothing about it felt like home to me!

Perhaps it was bad Feng shiu, strangely our lives all seemed to quickly unravel and go downhill after moving there.

My brother was drafted into the army. He was later honorably discharged due to medical issues, but became a different person after discovering alcohol, there. My grandfather died a year after our move. We quickly went from a family of five to a family of three. My mother's unhinged nature emerged and expanded 10 fold. The toxic fallout landed fully on me. Five years later my father lost his job thru no fault of his own. Our lives continued on that downward path with many far worse things yet to come.

Living there, I felt as if I was treading water with sharks in the distance circling closer, while at the same time struggling not to drown. That feeling has never gone away.

My father finally sold that place in 1998 and I was delighted. We moved to Vero Beach in January of 99.

Our river house was hardly cheap, by 1960 standards the price was considered high end. However, we were actually paying for the mile wide river view and the 150 ft dock, below. This is what my mother fell in love with and why we bought that house.

She imagined living there would be like heaven, she told me later, but instead experienced only misery. Well, the previous place had felt like heaven to me!

For decades to come, not one single day would pass when I did not think of the lake house. I often dreamed of buying it. My heart would sink whenever we drove past the property.

In my late 30's, I heard the property had been sold to a developer. I was horrified to learn the lake and all the ponds had been filled killing everything in them. And the wild ducks would no longer have a home there. Also the mango grove had been bulldozed. My father said all of this was done to create ground to build more houses.

This threw me deeper into darker depths of depression during an already wretched period. I'm thankful every day those times are gone.

Our lives are made up of not just chapters, but many entirely different books and I'm not ready for this one to end. My current home is the one that restored my happiness.

Each day is filled with an assortment of joys and victories and I savor all of my small creature comforts. They make it worth living. But if I had the power, I would return to being eight years old again and freeze that time forever! My world felt almost magical then! Money or health worries were as remote as the constellation Cassiopeia. It was a period consisting of pure joy and peace of mind, now gone forever.

Friday, August 25, 2017

UGH, NOOO, GLASSES AGAIN!


A miracle occurred after Vero Beach was hit with the back-to-back hurricanes of 2004! My far-sighted vision was magically restored! I had been near-sighted since the age of 16. Now once again miraculously I could see the detail on leaves in neighbor's yards and much, much more! Of course my near-sighted vision was now completely gone, but this was way better!

"You have second sight," the optometrist told me.

"Well, I have had many experiences that fall under the supernatural category since my father's death," I replied.

"No, no, no," she said. "It has nothing to do with dead people!"

The more I think about it, actually it does!  It's one of those milestones on the march toward death after age 50.

Also she warned this blessing was only temporary and not to become too fond of it.

But I felt liberated! Now I was able to drive, go to movies, attend live shows, and watch TV without glasses and actually be able to see! It was a wondrous sensation!

Also I conquered my fear of public speaking at Business Networking events, I could see faces clearly now without being self-conscious about wearing glasses or dealing with the bother and discomfort of contact lenses. I hated those things!  Life was beautiful now.

Fast forward to the present! Recently, I noticed I was having difficulty seeing things on my large screen TV. My first thought was to buy an even bigger screen; however those are expense, so I just moved my chair up closer.

Then I noticed the print online, in newspapers, and magazines was becoming blurred and faint. I bought the strongest pair of Dollar Store glasses available, they helped some, but not enough. I found myself continually switching back and forth between pairs depending on the print before me. Also I could no longer see the time on my kitchen clock from the living room.

Suddenly it was as if a curse had fallen upon me. I ended up having to purchase 3 pairs of glasses; one for computer, one for TV, and a pair of sunglasses for driving. And worse the optometrist said in a year I'd probably need an entirely new trio because I'd reached the age where my vision would be rapidly changing.

Another thing that really bugs me is that I can no longer wear lots of cute sunglasses to match my outfits. Now I'm back to one boring, neutral pair that must go with everything! I'll admit this is a big kick in my vanity! I may be a fossil, but otherwise I'm a magnificent and dang well preserved one!

I just wish I didn't loathe the taste of carrots! Perhaps then, I wouldn't be saddled with glasses again. Also I'm seeing pin prick flashes of light in my right eye.

Guess I should be grateful that my second sight lasted thru my exploratory adventures to Ecuador and Thailand. Those trips were amazing! However I won't be expatriating to either.

But the worst news of all is the cataract surgery in my future according to the optometrist. Guess I should start researching Third World countries that can perform this procedure at a price I can afford since I lack Insurance and am ineligible for Medicare.

I want to continue my foreign travels, but I hoped it would be as a tourist and not a patient.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A SONG & DANCE & A FEW BUGS, TOO!


I will always remember that day almost 10 years ago when everything seemed to be going wrong. For the first time in years I broke down in sobs at the foot of my stairs. And that night something strange happened. I experienced a vivid dream. One that I could have sworn was real!

In it, I was awakened by a frantic scratching on my bedroom door. It wouldn't cease no matter how hard I tried to ignore it and it disturbed, even frightened me! Also it seemed to be growing stronger! Something was desperate to get inside! I was beginning to panic.
 
Suddenly the door flew open! I was terrified! But nothing was there. Then, I felt something jump onto my bed!

I peeked over the covers and saw my dog Coco who had been dead for several years. But here she was, tail wagging wildly as she trotted towards me. I felt relieved and happy. She licked my face as I petted her. Then she curled up beside me with my arms over her and we fell asleep together.

The next morning she was gone. But I knew she had been there! I found it mystifying that with all the people I'd lost to death, it was my dog who came to comfort me. And I thought it odd that I didn't smell her. I could always tell when my deceased father was visiting because I could smell him. He had a distinctive body aroma.

I used to spray her with Lollipup (do they still make it?) for fleas. It made her smell like Tootsie Pops.

In fact I made up a little number I used to sing to her and I choreographed it, too. The cat enjoyed my show as well!  Since I don't read or write music, you're going to have to imagine my tune in your head. Or perhaps one day I'll have to go on YouTube to perform these little pieces of mine.  --- NOT!!! Don't hold your breath.

This is in memory of Coco.

  

COCO THE DOG DITTY:
 

(Swing your hips and clap high to one side.)

Fleas on my bum!

Fleas on my bum!
 
(Skip around in a circle with your hands on your hips.)

My name is Coco and I've fleas on my bum

So stick around and pet me cause I'd love to give you some!
 
(Now skip again flapping your arms alternating with jazz hands raised wide!)

Grin like a monkey when you start to smelling funky

Pick the lice from your hair

And your filthy underwear
 
(Sway side to side & clapping your hands while singing.)

Mosquitoes and fleas!

Mosquitoes and fleas!

People have mosquitoes and dogs have fleas
 
(The next steps are freeform and all up to you!)

Dance the bugs that bite you boogie woogie

Dance the bugs that bite you boogie woogie.

  
Sometimes, I find myself still singing this! If you know me at all, you know I like to get silly.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

BUGS ARE SWARMING IN THE GLOBAL WARMING


Again, it's the summer of the ants! They're descending upon me like a biblical scourge. Carpenter ants are gigantic in comparison to other ants, and worse they fly! They appear immediately after dark like vampires. Their favorite landing spots are my TV screen and my body. My hand vacuum has become my best friend!

This reminds me of the scene from War of the Worlds where the aliens vacuum up people. The following morning I'm always surprised to find them still alive as I empty my vacuum in the garbage. But they don't stay that way for long, heh heh heh!

And like those humans, these ants fight back! While seated in my recliner and trying to watch TV I've had them fly straight for my eye more than once. They're attacking me methodically! I swear insects will one day rule the planet!  They're just waiting for our species to blown itself up!

Carpenter ants are the opposite of butterflies and similar to fallen angels. They start out with wings, eventually lose them and end up living underground. Often I find their wings shed on my furniture and carpets.

This isn't my first rodeo with these critters! They show up when rotting wood on the outside my house needs replacing. Well, I've recently had it replaced, yet the problem persists. Professional help is required and a man is arriving today. It appears they're getting in thru the top of my Cathedral ceiling. I sure hope the guy has a high ladder!

Tiny sugar ants were also invading my kitchen and pantry. Terro failed to attract them this time. Apparently the stuff has a brief shelf life! Vinegar & Baking Soda which are supposed to work don’t do a damn thing! (I learned this previously, even blogged about it.) Insecticide always works, but I'm probably shortening my own life every time I spray.

The first cool spell always solves my ant problems, but this is August and I live in Florida!!!

Insects have a habit of taking up residence on the outside of my home, too! Upon my front door was a large sunburst decoration and hidden just underneath was a large nest of hornets. Anyone knocking on my door was in for an unpleasant surprise! However, it happened to be election season with lots of unwelcome political campaigners, so I let it be. The hornets also took care of Jehovah’s Witnesses, too. Of course I was stung a few times myself, but the pain was worth it!

The summer monsoons had taken their toll last year. After Hurricane Matthew, my house was pressure cleaned to remove mold. The cleaner summoned me outside. He pointed up! Directly under the high peak of my 2 story roof was a giant mutant mushroom from outer space! At least that's what it looked like to me! We didn't know what it was! It also resembled the Opera House in Australia's Sydney Harbor and was nearly as huge.

A neighbor said it was a beehive. Well that explained a lot! Frequently, I'd been removing bees from the inside of my home. One even went down my blouse. I was left with a sting that made me appear to have grown another nipple! Thank goodness I'm not allergic or I'd be dead, now!

The beehive was in the exact spot where bats infested my wall and bred 10 years ago. And like bats, bees are an endangered species. But my house was scheduled to be painted and rotting wood replaced, so they needed to be gone. I tried to do the right thing and have the hive relocated, rather than destroyed.

A professional beekeeper was summoned. He said relocating was impossible, but the hive was nearing the end of its cycle anyway. I watched him put on his protective gear and climb to the high peak of my home. He sprayed the hive with insecticide and then tore it down. I felt a little sick inside watching.

I gave him the bat house which I went to much trouble and expense to order and erect. But the thing had proved ineffectual and ended up stashed in my garage. It had been taking up space for years now.

I love my home, but if I could go back in time, I'd never want one constructed of wood. It's the worst material for Florida! However both my father and I fell in love immediately with the architecture and layout. Even today, after all these years when I step thru the door, this place still takes my breath away!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

FINISHED, BUT FAR FROM DONE


My first ghostwriting assignment has been completed. After I turned the manuscript over to my client, I felt like a surrogate turning my baby over to its other mother. And I don't know what, if any changes my client will make. This was her concept from the start.

We had more than a few creative differences along the way. I gave the plot a sinister twist and took it darker places than she wanted to go. I watered down my writing in several places to suit her tastes. No creative person likes doing this. I had to keep reminding myself that I was performing a service. I was being paid to write and step away. She owned the cake, I was merely the oven.

Among her complaints was that her characters were no longer likable. I find people with flaws more interesting to write about. Also she wanted to keep the betrayed wife a victim. I chose to empower her and bring out the strength I saw in this character along with her dark side.

I assured my client that many of these characters would become more likable in the end. The survivors all learn their lesson becoming better people for it.

My client is an excellent writer herself, but not of fiction. She admitted that she could never have come up with all the twists and turns I threw into this story.

But one mistake I kept making was that I automatically wrote everything in the present tense because it was live to me. In my mind I saw the story unfolding in the moment as I typed. Of course I corrected this during editing, but I overlooked it in some places. I'm not a perfect writer. That's why another pair of eyes is always necessary! The more pairs of eyes the better!

The novel is paperback length. I don't write anything that doesn't advance the plot. This was also easier on my client's wallet. I could have added lots of filler and kept this thing going for another 6 months. Many authors who don't ghost write do this with their own novels. But these are books I don't enjoy reading. I want to see the story unfold at a brisk pace.

My client plans to self-publish.

Next, I will be given several chapters of a children's novel to finish. This time, my client insists that I keep the initial chapters intact and continue on from there. I'm not thrilled about this restriction, it's going to tie my hands more than a bit. I could do a better job if given carte blanche from the start as with the previous job. But I'm up for the challenge!