Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All Packed

Sunday night and Monday morning were rainy, rainy--perfect opportunity to get things packed up. We'll have a relaxing day today and take off early Wednesday morning, about 5:30 a.m. or so. I am not a morning person, so that is always a challenge for me. Mike is always determined to be past some city or another and all its morning rush hour traffic. I try to point out that if we started out after rush hour, he'd be in good shape...to no avail. We don't travel much beyond 4 in the afternoon because that's when Mike has his "turn into a pumpkin" hour. Since he does most of the driving, we would take a week to get home if we accommodated both our schedules.
We should be home by Friday. I'll have to spend most of Saturday catching up on Reader.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Transgender Fender Bender

When I get blogging block, it always helps to read someone else's post and steal their ideas. That happened to me today when I read Imagine. I was reminded of my first experience, in my late twenties, of coming face to face with a man in drag.

We were driving in the evening, not yet totally dark, in spring time. We were on a kind of rural road that wound its way along a river. As we approached a bridge from the south, we watched a southbound sedan shoot off the end of the bridge. It flew up into the air and then flipped, landing on the car roof. In those days, cars actually had some steel in them. You kind of felt like they were something heavy and substantial. It was astounding to watch that car flip through the air like a plastic toy thrown in a child's temper tantrum.

We stopped. My husband went running over to the car and I went running back down the road to a house where we might contact the police and an ambulance. (Remember the days before cell phones? Remember the days when you didn't think twice about knocking on a stranger's door to ask for help?) When I got back to our car another car had stopped and a woman was looking into the front passenger window of the overturned car while my husband was at the driver's side window. Later, my husband told me that the driver had greeted him with, "I'm okay. I'm fine. Just go!"

Then the woman who had stopped came running over and was yelling, "Ma,am! Ma'am! Are you okay? Help is on the way!"

She got a similar response from the driver, "I'm fine. Don't call anyone. Just go away!"

Well, obviously things were not fine, but my husband was thinking to himself, "Ma'am??" because, although the car was kind of flattened, he could clearly see the hairy, masculine hands of the driver and had already determined that there was only one person in the car.

The police came. They were also asked to go away, but they didn't. They were able to get the driver out of the car. Miraculously, he was not seriously hurt at all. He had a few minor scratches and a bump on the head. His nylon stockings were badly ripped and runny. His blond, curly wig was askew, and his skirt was twisted uncomfortably around his body. Clearly, he was incredibly embarrassed and I guess that explained his insistence that he needed no help--we should just leave him there, upside down, until his nightmare just went away.

I will say, the State police officers treated that man with dignity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I should clarify. The pictures yesterday were just buildings I found pretty to look at in the historic section of Venice. Some are private homes, some are public buildings. I never have really met anyone who lives in any of these places. All our snowbird friends have much more modest living arrangements--RVs, apartments or villas, or seasonal rental homes.
We were very lucky this year to have a very nicely equipped home, but the reason it is so homey is that the owners are retiring in a couple of months and will be down here themselves by next year. So we are leaving this year not really knowing where we will stay next year, but something will work out.
In the mean time, we have started to get things ready to pack up. We head home next Wednesday and will travel through springtime in reverse. I don't imagine we will see many signs of spring at all in Vermont until late in April. It's not unusual to get snow in April. In fact several years ago we left for a Memorial Day camping trip while snow was swirling. Wait a minute, Why are we going back next week?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

As seen on my walk

Venice really is a lovely little city to walk around. Typical of Florida development in some ways, it was planned in the 1920's and a construction boom was underway. Boom, then bust. At the end of that decade, Venice was left nearly a ghost town. Some nice places for ghosts to stay wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wine and Cheese...a little bread...

We had a small get together with two couples we have gotten to know here in town. Like us, they are snowbirds from the north who are quite grateful to be able to escape to the warmer Florida climate for a few months of the year.
I had a minor panic attack on Saturday afternoon after fixing the cheese plates and arranging fresh fruit platters--"We don't have enough food!!"
We had plenty of food and wine, plenty of good conversation. In all, a lovely time. We always enjoy these small kinds of get together with friends, but it's especially nice to do it here because we feel like we are part of a community even away from home.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Walk in Venice

Some of the sights around town...
Downtown Bandstand

Former Kansas Military Institute

Venice Beach

Banyon Tree

Banyon Inn

Monday, March 22, 2010


I am sure I will not be tuning in, but I'm wishing Kate (minus John and the eight) the best on her try at Dancing with the Stars. She's been without media attention for months now. It must be so hard for her.

Faux news reports that 75% of Americans are against health care. Really??? Even if I tend to over simplify, that's just hard to believe.

The beach was littered with huge moon jelly fish and a sea hare today. Sea hares look like a plastic baggie filled with blue dye and the end tied into a vaguely rabbit-like face. Seeing things washed up from the sea makes me really, really question the concept of intelligent design.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Today's Story

Today's post is found on the Elder Storytelling Place. I can't seem to make it work, but here's the link:
Give it a try.
I can assure everyone that my cooking and attentional skills did improve with time. My parenting skills...Well I did the best I could.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Learning to Teach

Most of what I learned about teaching that was useful and immediately applicable to the classroom, I learned from my students over the years.
When I brought out that Frog and Toad (last post) story, it was inevitably greeted by loud moans. Bear in mind I worked in a middle school; everything was greeted by loud moans. But they did actually listen to the story and appreciate the simple humor of it. It was easy, then, to get into a discussion of the school's requirement that they write all assignments in a school provided day tracker and have it signed by a parent each night. For some, this worked just fine; for others, it was a struggle; for a few it was about as doable as an assignment to read War and Peace over the weekend. So some kids needed a check to see they had the assignment and the necessary materials. Some kids came to an after school homework club (How fun is that? But it saved some wear and tear on busy parents and anxious kinds of students). Some kids found a system of color coded folders for individual subjects more helpful. Some kids got by with e-mailing a parent the assignments. There were always one or two who just declined any efforts to get them to do their homework (and honestly and sadly, most of those kids had way bigger worries).
And then there was Charlie. (Charlie is not his real name. I can't even remember ever having a student named Charlie.) Remember Pig Pen in the "Peanuts" cartoon strip? Charlie was not a pig pen, but his backpack sure was. That wasn't so unusual in itself. Lot's of kids crammed three cubic feet of stuff into the black holes of their one cubic foot capacity backpacks. What set Charlie apart was his absolute resistance to any and every effort to help him organize.
I have also worked with a couple of students with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is not fun or funny. It's a very hard thing to live with for the sufferers and those around them. I know I don't have OCD, and those kids knew it too. They could sense I "got it" though, and I could get a good working relationship going with them. Well, Charlie could sense my strong preference for neatness and order, too. He just decided he would use it against me.
Charlie didn't talk a whole lot, but the withering "leave me alone" looks I got from him spoke volumes enough. I thought, though. that we were evenly matched for stubbornness so I kept right on trying to get him to admit his lack of a "system" wasn't working and we should try to find one that would work. Study skills, like a twelve-step program, are predicated on the personal desire to change. My role was guidance and support. So for the last fifteen minutes of a 90 minute class session, other students checked their assignment books or arranged their folders, or otherwise packed themselves up for the day, using my precious "organizing time" and all the motivating encouragement I could dish out. Charlie would just stare out the window. After a while, the withering looks or complete ignoring subsided. Then, my efforts were greeted with, "This really bothers you, doesn't it?" and an inscrutable grin. I would have to admit that, indeed, it made me very nervous to even be around so much clutter in one tiny spot but I just knew I was right about there being a better way. Charlie started watching me like a cat toying with a mouse.
Finally, after a couple of weeks of this stand off, I came to the class armed with lists of missing assignments from all other classes and a challenge for everyone to come up with a plan for taking care of that business. Charlie's list was staggering of course. He had yet to hand in a single assignment for any of his academic classes. Heaven help me, I was gleeful as I slapped down his list. "Here! Proof your way is not working for you!" I got the look that wished my nagging presence out of his way, but he took the list. He proceeded to pull out at least 90% of the missing assignments, lining them up across several desk tops. They were sorry looking. On the other hand, he pulled them out with an absolute minimum of rummaging and no sending of extraneous stuff into the air, almost like he knew exactly where everything he needed was located.
What could I say? "Would you like me to find an iron before you hand those in?" At least I got a genuine smile with his "No, thanks" reply.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Making a List

I am a list maker. I carry a small notebook and a pen in which I make lists:
1. Errands to run
2. Books I want to read
3. Books I have already read
4. Things I need at the drug store
5. Gift ideas for the family
6. Web sites I want to check out
7. Writing topic ideas
8. Urgent household or yard tasks
9. Sewing and knitting pattern notes, with materials needed
10. Ever changing sizes for grand children clothing
11. Groceries (developed from the comprehensive pantry list I keep in the kitchen with my cookbooks)
12. Clothes shopping (developed from the complete list of my wardrobe items with notes about what needs replacement, kept in my closet)

While I was still working, making my "to do" list was always on my list of things "to do." I kept a pad of sticky notes next to my bed so that I could jot down things if they woke me up in the middle of the night. I kept a pad of sticky notes in my car so that I could leave myself reminders and make note of anything that might pop into my head at the stop lights on the trip to or from work. Actually, I still have pads of sticky notes in the car and around the house, but I find I don't need to use them quite as much.
Being such a believer in list making, it was something I was always trying to get my students into under the guise of "study skills." At the same time, I could appreciate that the list making thing was a bit of an obsession that could easily turn into something counter productive. I developed lessons on list making as an organizing tool. However, I did introduce those lessons over the years with a reading from the beginner reader Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel : "A List." In the story, Toad makes a list of things to do but it is blown away in a stiff wind. He is rendered useless for lack of that list and spends the entire day looking for it. His pal, Frog, who chases around after the list with him finally says he's tired and has to go home to go to bed. Toad remembers that "Go to bed," was the last item on his list so he writes that in the sand with a stick, crosses it out and goes promptly to sleep.
I may be a tad on the obsessive side, I know, but at least I can take myself not so seriously sometimes. Sometimes I believe it is possible to organize myself right into disorganization and chaos.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I admit it. I am addicted to these puzzles.
Nothing gets done on an average morning until I have poured myself a generous mug of coffee, sat down with the newspaper and completed the crossword and the sudoku puzzles. Of course, they both get harder as the week goes on, so don't call me until noon on Friday.
Mike rolls his eyes when I start a puzzle. Really, it's that he cannot do them himself. He says he was never good at math and I say that it's not math, it's logic. Now, Mike is an intelligent guy, well-read and successful in his business ventures. If the task involves visual reasoning and creative problem solving, he is all over it. He just cannot do the if-then kind of logical thinking, and sees not point in exercises like sudoku.
I, on the other hand, cannot let them go until they are completed--just like a dog with a bone. I guess it doesn't really accomplish much. Still, I justify the time spent as exercise for the brain.
So I guess we are somewhat like the Mother Goose rhyme:
Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between the two of them,
They licked the platter clean.
Mike goes for the weather, the obituaries, and the financial pages while I go for the classifieds, the store adverts, the puzzles, and my horoscope. And so,I now see clearly, it's a good thing I get some exercise for my brain.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Beer Making My Mind Wander

Do you ever hit the "Next Blog" tab? It fascinates me. I don't know, but I'm thinking it must pick up on tags from your blog and match with other sites--in which case I guess I really need to get better at tagging my posts. I mean, sometimes, I discover a new and interesting blog, but most times I am left wondering, "Where did this come from?"

Today "Next Blog," sent me to My Mother's Blog and head in the clouds, feet on the gas--both of which I found interesting. Then it went into a whole series of blogs about beer and home brewing. Why? (Oh, yeah...I did write about going out to hear a bar band last week-end.)

I seldom drink beer and I certainly have no desire to take up brewing as a new hobby. My husband likes the dark kinds of beer that you have to chew before swallowing. Give me a Corona, preferably one that comes in those cute little 7 ounce bottles cause otherwise I won't finish it, if it is a really, really hot and humid day or maybe if we are eating Mexican.

My brother-in-law was into home brewing beer for some time. (My sister was once thrilled to learn that one of her children announced to his first grade teacher that he had spent the week-end helping his dad bottle beer.) He went on to making his own wine. That was really good. Home made wine seems to be kinder and gentler--way less likely to give you one of those red wine headaches.

We have friends coming over for wine and cheese next week, so Ill have to make a visit to the local wine and cheese shop. I haven't been in once this year, but Mike is reminding me of the budget limitations. Sooo, I'll make two shopping trips--doubling the budget by staying within it twice. Funny that I can never get my darling husband to appreciate my economic theories.

I can't wait to play with the "Next Blog" button next Saturday morning.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Time to Update the Kitchen

Now that it is getting close to going home time, I'm learning that it is pretty universal that the snow bird wives are going to be making "to do" lists as they travel back north. (So get over it, Mike. It's not a peculiarity of mine alone.)
Two years ago I went home and completely reorganized my laundry room and painted the kitchen. Last year, I organized myself a sewing space, put a fence around the front garden, and expanded a garden in the back yard. Mike was recruited to help with the 2009 projects.
Now for this year, I'm thinking about some interior painting to the upstairs of our raised ranch house...but really...only in the thinking stage. It might take a year or two to accomplish.
The thing is, I can get all these fairly recent home magazines at the Venice library in the Friends of the Library used book store and I do like to watch HGTV (although I think it is no where near as good as it used to be a few years ago, and that's another blog for some day). I get ideas. The recent seeds of ideas, though, are all about technology.
Someday, we will have to replace the faucet in out kitchen sink. I do like those faucets where you can pull out a hose and spray the corners of the sink instead of those fairly useless separate sink sprayers. But I am so behind the times. Now you can get a faucet that will turn on with just a glance from a pinky finger, or better yet, your elbow--so if you have been handling, say, raw chicken you won't contaminate the faucet handle with your germ infested hands. (Do you ever wonder how the human race has survived as long as it has?) Don't get me wrong, I am a frequent hand washer, but I do not yet own a "no touch" hand soap dispenser with built in motion detector technology. I thought the soap pumps were kind of neat, but now I realize the pumps are germ magnets.
I believe I have mentioned digital recipe readers before. When they are no longer $300, I would consider having one of those. I don't have room in my small kitchen for a computer and my cook books do take up so much valuable space on my counters. I print out recipes--apologies to the trees for being so wasteful.
I also do like the idea of the digital scale and measuring cup. How precise for baking needs! It even converts weight to volume in case you inherited a bunch of really old or European cookbooks--ones not available on the internet or your handy digital recipe reader. Not prohibitively expensive either, although they are not yet available at the dollar store where I purchase most of my kitchen utensils.
AND this is really cool--a grocery list app for the iphone. You point the phone's camera at the bar code of the item you're running short on and it adds to a list, organized by your favorite supermarkets and even the aisles therein. Obviously, I am not the only person in the world sans iphone because there is available for purchase a single function gizmo that will organize your grocery list. It uses voice recognition technology and will organize by category and print out a list to take to the grocery store. Those magnet enhanced note pads on your refrigerator, pencils--so yesterday.
So decision time is drawing near. Should I go with the cosmetic application of new paint or the life altering upgrades in technology?
I do know that whatever ideas I am jotting down as we head home--They'll be making Mike nervous.

Mocking Bird

As I was eating breakfast this morning, I noticed a mockingbird standing at the sliding glass door leading out to the patio. He was spreading his wings and flapping in a kind of threatening manner, making an "ack" noise like I'd never heard before. I realize that he was probably attempting to ward off his own reflection in the glass. He probably didn't even see me sitting there, coffee mug half way to my mouth. Still, I could not help the feeling that I was being mocked by a mockingbird.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

5 AM, Off to the Airport...

Grand daughter number one is in the air on her way back to South Carolina. She can say she went to Florida for spring break, Venice, Florida. This area does not have much to offer an 18 year old, but she was gracious about spending a few days with the old folks, even going so far as to stop the texting to engage in actual conversations with us. It was a good to get to know her better as a person in her own right.

She is a Southern girl. I believe she almost thought she was in a foreign country. I told her that once you go south of the Florida panhandle, you are no longer in The South. She did say a number of times, "It's so different here," and I wasn't always sure exactly what she meant. One time, though, a waitress told her she'd have to stir sugar into her iced tea if she wanted it sweetened. That cracked me up, but she was not so amused. If I ever write a fractured history of the United States, it will include an argument that the Civil War was really all about iced tea versus sweet tea.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Garden TIme

It's garden planting time in Florida. There are seminars offered at the library, articles in the papers, advice and instruction on local TV stations. It's gotten those juices flowing and I am day dreaming about what I will do in the garden this year.
Of course, for a Vermonter, gardening at this time of year means looking at the seed catalogs and web sites. It is reflecting on what has worked in the past, what didn't work but might be worth trying again, and what to just let go. As the years go by, garden fantasies become tempered by the realities of experience. I expanded my garden last spring, but at the same time vastly simplified it.

One of the things I love about Florida in the winter is the chance to see green plants and flowers in their fragrant bloom. I am fascinated by the "certified" Florida gardens and appreciate the efforts to get rid of some of the invasive species. Strangely, it has given me more of an appreciation for and desire to sustain a Vermont flavor in my own gardens at home--although If someone certifies Vermont gardens, I don't know about it.

Still, my own gardening efforts are right on track. I am in the dreaming stage. I may not see snow when I look out the window. I may not need those seed catalogs quite as desperately as a glimmer of hope that winter will end. But they do turn my thoughts to home.

Garden time in Vermont is still several months away. It's not unheard of that we could have snow in April and even May. But we'll be home in time to see the crocus bravely push through frozen ground, and then the bright yellow faces of daffodils grace our yard. That's the free show. After that everything that grows requires taking care of and work.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Night Life (?)

Last night we went out "for a night on the town," which is something that rarely happens any more unless our friend Mark is involved. We went to the Aces Lounge to hear his blues band, The Nighthawks, play. Mark comes down from the Washington, D.C. area for the antique motorcycle meet (that's the connection with my husband). His wife's family has a vacation home in Vermont. We go to hear the band in March and we go out to dinner with them sometime in the fall when they visit in Vermont.
Two nights out a year--what an exciting life!
This morning, we got the call at 8A.M. that Elizabeth had gotten on plane in Atlanta and was on her way to Fort Myers, scheduled to land at 10, so we had to gulp down some coffee and head out for the airport about 70 miles or so south of here.
Napping seems to be the big plan for this afternoon. E. left her house at 4:30 this morning and Mike and I stayed up past our bedtime. Sweet dreams to all of us.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Break

We haven't had any visitors from the north this year. Health and money issues have plagued our families this year, and this has been kind of sad. But yesterday we got a call from Mike's daughter. Our oldest grand child, in her first year of college, is flying down from South Carolina to visit for a few days. Venice is hardly a spring break destination, but at least she can say she went to Florida, and it will be amusing for us to spend some time with a young adult. Wish us luck!

The big news here today was about a man in his nineties out for his morning walk. He was attacked by an otter, of all things. He ended up in the hospital and the otter ended up dead. It has since been determined that the otter was rabid. A sobering reminder as the beach we go to south of here is rural and is home to a selection of Florida's wildlife. It is such a treat to see animals in the wild, but I guess it is really best to remember it is their territory.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Four Pigs

These guys are looking for hand outs, not shells or fossilized sharks' teeth.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Some Bad Choices

"What We Eat When We Eat Alone" by Deborah Madison in this month's AARP magazine was an unwise choice of breakfast table reading material this morning. Bread soaked in margarita mix. Toasted rye bread with cheddar and marmalade. A mixture of American cheese, Miracle Whip and pimento. OOOOOOOOh, the stomach flips and flops.

It might not have been quite so bad if I hadn't made another unwise choice Monday afternoon. Mike wanted to stop at a nearby ice cream shop for a sundae. If you're ever in Nokomis, Florida and have the yen for ice cream, check out Bentley's.

Now I love ice cream. When I was very little my Aunt Stacia and Uncle Linus inherited his family's dairy farm and my aunt opened up dairy bar featuring home made ice cream and milk shakes--dream relatives for a kid. Long car trips with my family as I was growing up--always a stop along the way for an ice cream cone break. When Ben and Jerry opened their first little scoop shop in an old gas station in downtown Burlington, VT--it didn't happen often, but it did happen that we would take our grown up selves on a 70 mile one way trip just to get ice cream.

See, I love ice cream. Unfortunately, these days it does not love me back. Being such a loving and dutiful wife, though, I couldn't deny my poor lactose tolerating husband a rare treat. I said, "Sure. I'll get a small scoop of mango-peach sherbet." It's good, but it wasn't calling to me quite as loudly as the Kahlua chip ice cream. I made an unwise decision, and this morning--no need for TMI, but I really, really regret it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


It appears that March is coming in like a lion. The wind is really picking up and gale force winds are predicted for tonight through tomorrow. It is already pretty dramatic--hope I never get to experience a hurricane force wind.
There have been all kinds of attempts to build reefs and import sand to protect the beaches here, but it's obvious that we are not going to win when Mother Nature is our competition.
I'm in a sad state about the earthquake in Chile. Our family has a connection there as Mike's sister and her husband adopted their son there and were able to travel back with him to visit a few years ago.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I just finished reading a book of short stories entitled A Blind Man
Can See How Much I Love You
by Amy Bloom. I picked it up simply
because I loved that title. And then there were the tidbits like:
I sometimes think that my mother's true purpose in life, the thing that gives
her days meaning and her heart ease, is her ability to torture me in a
manner as ancient and genteelly elaborate as lace making.

from "The Gates are Closing"

Sometimes a writer's ability to turn a phrase just grabs me and I am filled with both admiration and envy.


On the subject of seeing:

I received a denial of payment for my visit to the eye doctor a few weeks ago. I had an increase in the "floaters" drifting across my line of vision and then lightening-like flashes, which were new and worrisome. I called my eye doctor in Vermont and he advised seeing someone, "preferably a retinal specialist" right away. I was able to get an appointment and I thought I was doing the prudent thing. According to my insurance carrier, when in Florida, I should go to an emergency room, which would be covered. If the doctor at the ER then referred me to a retinal specialist, that would be covered. Going directly any doctor "outside of network" is not covered. Seems wasteful, but I am not going to complain too much. The representative at my insurance company has a heart and I will be reimbursed this one time and from now on I will know better.

In the meantime, I am thankfully past the high risk period for a detached retina. The light shows and dancing shadows--cheap entertainment that I will have to live with for who knows how long.


Spectacular full moon last night and gorgeous sunset as I am writing this...