In Other News, It’s Back to Diapers…

Lord have mercy; it’s been awhile since I have entered a keystroke….

Time is flying by and I’m clearly not keeping up…

What have I to say for myself? Nothing particularly entertaining which is why I am considering ending keystrokes into this particular space on WP. I read other blogs and they are all so entertaining. Well crafted thoughts are lovely to read indeed– and very interesting too– so why on earth can’t I muster up the energy to do the same…to write more often?

Alas, I must apologize to my “four” dear readers. I do have a lazy streak –I have shared that challenge before somewhere in the basement of this here space– but add to this is what I perceive to be a general lack of talent though my beloved rocket-man adamantly says otherwise. Of course he would! He is my husband after all, my biggest fan. He thinks I all but walk on water.

I am one lucky woman in that regard!

In any event, during the last couple of months I have been busy navigating the world of doggie diapers, alternative canine pain management therapies (laser therapy) and who knew–there is acupuncture for dogs too! Then there are the walks with my poodle-love that have dramatically changed; they used to be easy and joy-filled but now have come to be painstakingly slow for him and angst-filled for me as I consider, literally during every hour of the day, the inevitability of what lies ahead. My poodle-love now has stage three –bordering on four–degenerative disc disease, the neurological effects of which have appreciably hindered his hind legs and his leg strength. I had no idea that poodles are among breeds susceptible to degenerative disc disease. Most mornings I have to lift him out of the bed and carry him to the door to go out. And, most mornings, he literally falls over–which makes me heart break–though he manages to get himself up and gets moving with encouragement. After a day of sleeping, late afternoons are better. He’ll drag and drag on the afternoon walk–and stumble along as he goes– but often, as soon as the “other” boss of the house comes home from work my poodle-love perks up and becomes playful as a puppy. Truth be told, there is usually cheese involved along with a therapeutic dip in the pool which energizes him for a spell.

Additionally, In his nearly fourteen years with us he has never had an accident in the house, that is, until some three months ago. It was then that accidents would occur once or twice a week and I thought little of the reason behind it other than perhaps I wasn’t being as attentive to his walking schedule as I should have been. Well, it sure did not take long to figure out that wasn’t the case. So now, something I did not foresee, I’m changing diapers once again! Instead of wiggly-worm infant legs I’m battling a long fluffy tail that isn’t too keen on being stuffed into a diaper hole the size of a quarter. But what is funnier still is that my beloved rocket-man, who never fathered children of his own–the very one who used to proudly boast as he raised his hands high into the air “these hands have never changed a diaper”— is now doing… what you ask?

Ah yes…he is changing diapers!

Seriously, well out of range of my poodle-love’s sensitive ears, I laugh myself silly over that!

Fortunately, there are lots of products to manage this new problem which made me breathe a huge sigh of relief. I still have images of my mother’s handsome miniature schnauzer pooping and peeing in my house on so many occasions when she lived with me decades ago because well…that dog NEVER was properly trained. My mother would dismiss the accidents casually, bristling at me and admonishing my “overreaction.” So when I began the requisite Google search on the topic of canine incontinence I was amazed and thrilled. I settled on two products from Pet Parents®: a belly band to manage leaks and a full on diaper for the rest! One could select from a nice assortment of colors and patterns but I chose solid black in an effort to preserve a modicum of dignity for my poodle-love. He is black after all and said diaper is nearly invisible on him.

Diapers may be a part of my world once again, but my poodle-love is still with me! He still begs for cheese, gets mildly excited over his favorite squeaky ball, and he still greets me when I come in the door.

Every moment that I have with my old man poodle-love is bitter-sweet and yes, there is bliss in that.

My Poodle-Love slumbering away before he gets his second wind….

Cold Stunned Love

Photo: CC. Last year, about this time…..

A year ago around this time we were under a second light blanket of snow in Northern Virginia. I’d put The Poodle’s smart Pendleton coat on for his obligatory morning and afternoon walk and of course I would don my own puffy down jacket, along with a wool scarf, wool hat and the warmest mittens I possessed. We’d walk in the freezing temps, tip-toeing ever so cautiously on ice and snow covered sidewalks, often with a wicked wind adding drama to the winter landscape, for as long as we could stand it, which wasn’t very long at all.

What a difference a year makes.

Though we woke to heavy morning fog a quick question to Alexa regarding the day’s forecast did not disappoint; the gloom would clear well before noon and no rain was expected. The Sunshine States’ winter season is infinitely more enjoyable than the frigid temperatures far up north and east of us. That said, even Florida experienced a couple of dramatic cold snaps this year. The most recent several weeks ago was part of a weather system that affected much of the east coast all the way up to Canada. Nor-Easters and heavy snow storms made headlines then. Florida too made headlines with some counties declaring a state of emergency because of temperatures at the freezing mark not to mention wildlife falling, seemingly, out of the sky.

Cold Stunned Iguana. Photo: Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

I am not complaining. At the risk of offending anyone, I’m loving these “cold-stunned” days. Since winter officially began here I have worn my Ugg boots a total of ten times, which is about nine times more than I anticipated! Boy am I thankful that I resisted the impulse to donate them. Last week we had several 34-degree mornings in a row. We even had a thin layer of frost on the grass for all of one hour. I thought hard about subjecting The Poodle, once again, to his winter jacket (in the end, I cut him a reprieve). I actually didn’t mind the brief cold snap; I did not have to worry about being home-bound due to hazardous road conditions, and of course, I got to wear my Uggs.

Even better: No lizards! The cold has driven them somewhere–who knows where– which means I can leave our large lanai doors wide open and not worry about things skittering in! Just a bit south of us cold-blooded lizards and Iguanas were literally falling out of trees, and alligators (large and small) found themselves cold-stunned as hypothermia made them essentially immobile. While I haven’t seen any Iguanas (they reside further south of us) I learned that they too are not native to Florida and are considered an invasive species (Seriously; another one? What else doesn’t belong here?!). Anyhow, amazingly an Iguana can survive a 50 foot high fall from a tree (or building) unscathed. Animal loving folks need not worry however; as soon as the temps warm just a few degrees lizards, Iguanas and even the menacing looking gators become right as rain again, as it were.

Photo: CC. Hanging out at the local Bass Pro Shop, is one massive cold-stunned gator

The long walks in cooler temperatures have been lovely although truthfully, slightly boring at times. Oh for goodness sake; am I complaining?! Alas, seems so; Okay, okay…I will admit it: there was something to love about the gnarly, undulating paths in the old neighborhood. So yes, I chalk up my “meh”-tude to a lack of geodiversity; it is flatter than a pancake here for as far as the eyes can see.

Occasionally though, something really interesting catches the eye such as just the other day when walking along the length of one of the large neighborhood retention pond paths. An American Eagle sighting, likely the very same one that often sits atop the house across the street from us. He was literally a few yards away from me and he had me both awestruck and in stitches. In the blink of an eye the eagle swooped down to pluck a sizeable fish out of the water. He whizzed past me in a blur, fish wiggling in his talons, while an Anhinga in the water (a long-necked bird sometimes referred to as a water turkey) raised his head out of the water in a double-take manner as if to protest: Hey dude, that’s MY lunch!” In the split seconds that followed I was laughing too hard to react fast enough with the phone to capture the eagle flying off. Anthropomorphizing here, but that Anhinga sure looked mighty indignant although the nearby Pelicans, watching in stony silence, seemed unfazed by the brazen “theft”.

Photo: CC Pelicans are seemingly unruffled….

In a blink we will be heading into March and already I am steeling myself to the five month rainy season that typically begins in May. Thunder and lightning will traumatize The Poodle once again, and his faithful human (moi) will be pitching mini melt-downs to be sure about lizards and frogs and such. But for now, though I miss bringing my poodle love along with me on my morning walks (he simply cannot make it far these days), I’m truly savoring the gentle temps and easy breezy sunshine of my first Florida winter as much as possible. There is bliss in taking deep inhalations and long, slow exhales while watching the water meet the sand…there is bliss knowing that ice and snow won’t knock me on my keister! I’m loving this cold-stunned period of time.

Photo: CC Loving this first Florida Winter with a morning walk on the beach….

Popping The Cork for 2022

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Wowza it’s been a couple of weeks! I’m just now literally exhaling (e.g. relaxing) from the whirlwind of all the holiday activity.

The house was practically bursting at the seams with family and friends. It was truly lovely to have sis and family make the excruciatingly long drive from Northern Virginia for their first Florida visit. Though sis said it was to see us settled in our new home , I’d say (wink, wink) they visited (earlier than anticipated) to see their second grandchild who had entered the world just six weeks earlier. My brother-in-law was bowled over with love the second he laid eyes on his granddaughter and his radiating joy while holding her truly lit up the entire room. My daughter and her husband also made the trek, via airplane, from Chicago. The duo brought with them fabulous cheeses from Chicago’s Eataly for our noshing pleasure as well as cooked up a steam in my kitchen preparing delicious fare including from scratch Foccacia with fresh herbs and savory sweet potatoes Au gratin from our favorite Ottolenghi cookbook. Not to sit by idly, my nephew, who at thirteen is growing increasingly adept in the kitchen, whipped up a couple of pies (one Key Lime and one pumpkin), my sis made her delicious meat sauce for our meat lasagna, while I prepared Marcella Hazan’s fabulous vegetable lasagna. Later, the guys inaugurated our new outdoor grill–grilling a hefty sized eye of round to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

While our area–sorely lacking in good restaurants– did not particularly thrill my daughter, a three-hour sunset kayaking tour through mangroves did. We all had a Christmas Eve blast–as well as a good workout–navigating through a dense mangrove forest and a myriad of water trails on the Indian River that had us in a twist as to sense of direction. No siree-Bob… I was not (ahem) one bit afraid of the approaching blanket of complete darkness. Let’s just say ’twas a very good thing we had an excellent guide as I suspect we’d all still be trying to find our way out of the maze of waterways! Unfortunately, during our kayaking adventure we did not manage to see manatees as they opted for warmer locations on the Banana River, a thirty-one mile lagoon between Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. Nor were we lucky enough to spot dolphins that frolic in the area…however, watching the sun set over the water was spectacular!

A Merry Christmas Eve adventure looking for manatees and other creatures

We did have one surprising visitor that had us laughing in delight. Imagine our shock at finding Glorfindle-the-Christmas Elf hanging out in our pool just days before Christmas! Of course we were concerned that he’d forgotten sunscreen but that mattered not; he seemed to enjoy five days of pool time, each day in a different pool floatie and I’m certain he was happy not to have to wear a mask! Miraculously too he managed not to get eaten by The Poodle!

Glorfindle visits the free state of Florida!

After family left I’ll admit to feeling mighty blue for the day. The house was quiet once again and The Poodle was depressed too without his best friend Nica to pal around with. To get my head out of my heartache for a spell I cleaned like a fiend. Out the door went another three containers to the donation center! After all that work we popped the cork for 2022, making it ’til well past midnight, with sincere hopes to an end of mandates and other such madness happening around the world.

Finally, on New Year’s day after a scrumptiously delicious meal of Lentils and spicy sausage I took down the tree, shedding a nostalgic tear or two as I went about carefully packing away my prized tree ornaments. I couldn’t bring myself to pack away Flora the Flamingo that sis had brought us. She’ll sit in outside on the patio, at least for awhile longer, because…well….it brings a certain amount of bliss to my day.

And, speaking of bliss; for this new year, do something, no matter how big or small, that brings any amount of bliss to your day. I for one hope that a Rumi saying helps guide me even an inch forward this year. That would be something!

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love; It will not lead you astray

~Rumi

Health grade…..

I find myself saying “…we’re not in Kansas anymore!” at least once a month, or so it seems, since our move to the Sunshine state. Case in point the other day when trying to get through a “meet and greet” with a new family practitioner. In the good ole days one would call a doctor’s office with stated purpose (i.e. schedule a wellness checkup) and voilà…appointment scheduled and exam completed… in relatively short order time. Things are done a little differently now. First you must schedule a meeting (akin to a meet and greet) which will most likely not be with an actual M.D. but rather an APRN (advanced practice nurse practitioner) who will simply rapid-fire ask a boatload of questions and tersely request that you respond ever so briefly whereupon then you’ll undergo a three and a half minute–if that–“wellness” checkup. Mind you, I have no particular animosity with APRN’s…and, truthfully, I’m in (knock on wood) quite good health so meeting with the APRN is just fine with me.

When I moved to Alabama it took me nearly a year to find a family practitioner. As you may recall dear reader, my knickers got mighty twisted back then. Here I was at age 55 calling practice after practice, and before answering my question as to whether the doctor was accepting new patients I would be asked to state my date of birth. On one of those calls when I stated my birth year I was told that the doctor was not accepting new patients in the “Geriatric” category! Talk about a blue headspace day that turned out to be!

Finding a doc was much easier in Northern Virginia (and I liked her!) so I was hopeful that the process in my new state would be equally so.

Nope.

Here we go again.

That’s really the painful thing about moving: finding the right fit when it comes to a doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist, hair dresser, etc. So far, I’ve got the hair dresser and the dentist covered however the doctor search is still on.

Naturally I have been doing internet searches to find doctors in my area. I note the ones that state “accepting new patients” and then I perform a cursory search for additional information on the doctor’s background via Healthgrades or Vitals.com. Once I have narrowed my list down I call to make an appointment. Call after call yields disappointment. “We’re sorry, the doctor is not accepting new patients is the refrain. I’ll admit to a snap of the tongue after six calls on one particular morning; “Jeesh; how hard is it to update the damn website for goodness sake!”

But fear not dear reader. After a laborious search to find a doctor accepting new patients I finally get an appointment. I’ll admit I am not ecstatic about the doctor based on me being a tad picky about his background but the practice is less than five miles from my house and it is associated with the same health and wellness company from my previous state. This would certainly save time filling out forms and such given that most of my health information is in that shared system.

In a nutshell, my appointment goes like this:

APRN: [Without a scintilla of cheeriness]: Asks a bunch of questions regarding meds (I don’t take any), diet, exercise, family history, etc. You know the drill.

Me: I answer her rapid fire questions (and get mildly annoyed that she interrupts if I provide more than a four word response.)

APRN: Do you consume alcohol?

Me: Yes, a glass or two of red wine every day.

APRN: Everyday? For the first time she makes eye-contact and it seems to me, given her overall brusqueness, that she thoroughly disapproves.

Me: I do not drink hard liquor. I’m half-Italian and so I enjoy a chilled white wine on hot summer days and red wine with my dinner. I do realize the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer but I do not have the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations and while I know that doesn’t mean I am without risk I think my overall lifestyle is….

Holy Cow….she interrupts me …

APRN: Do you have a will?

Me: [taken aback by the brush off]….Excuse me? A will? I’ve never been asked that before.

APRN: [with growing impatience]: Well if you are going to have a primary care physician he needs to know if you have an advanced directive. And then, as if I’m dumb as a rock, she starts to tell me what an advanced directive is. I hold up my hand to stop her: I know exactly what an advanced directive is and why it is necessary to have one.

Me: Of course, yes I have an advanced directive. But again, really….I have never been asked that question before for a simple wellness checkup and I have been getting them every year for some four decades.

APRN: [condescendingly]: Most people carry a card in their purse or wallet with their advance directive wishes on it.

Me: My headspace isn’t into carrying it in my purse for say, another 10 years at least.

APRN: Do you own a gun?

Me: [Head pops]: Say what!! What the______! EXCUSE ME! What kind of question is that? Definitely no one has EVER asked that question I say, with considerably restrained ire I might add.

APRN: [There’s that terseness again] We just want to know if there are any firearms in your house.

Me: [Now I am the brusque one]: How is this whatsoever relevant to getting a wellness checkup?

APRN: She puts up in hands in a feigned attempt to appear simpatico. I’m not here to infringe on your second amendment rights and any information you provide is confidential…you know, the HIPPA laws.

I want to respond with something biting and wickedly clever but I am not good at either when it comes to retorts. I find it hilarious that she seriously expects me to believe information is confidential given the politicization of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.

Me: [as calm and matter-of-fact as possible]: It’s none of anyone’s business what I may or may not have in my house.

APRN: Well it is simply to have insight into the home environment if there is depression, and the like. It’s information for your mental health background.

Me: [A breath away from walking out]: I know what is in my health chart and there is absolutely nothing in it that remotely suggests mental health issues. (I could have replied that most folks can find any number of household items under their roofs that could potential cause harm, other than a gun, in the event of a mental health crisis but thought it best not to go there.)

APRN: Okay, well I’ve got enough information here for updating your chart.

She then takes my blood pressure.

142/80.

APRN: It’s a little high.

Me: [deadpan voice]YA THINK?! I’m quite positive it would have been lower if you would have taken it five minutes ago.

As I walked out of the building I make a mental note to tell my husband that this place rates a solid D health grade. It’s not even nine-thirty in the morning and my mind was swirling with stress over having to begin the search all over again. Still, while my “five minute” wellness visit was less than impressive I recognize how lucky I am just to have that. And while I gave that morning visit a “D” it could have been an “F” but the front desk person was rather pleasant. There is bliss in that…as well as the latte that I am going to enjoy to get me out of negative headspace.

Thankful

Somewhere, over the rainbow….skies are blue.

It’s hard to believe that another year is nearly behind us and that we are still fighting over masks and mandates as well as vilifying folks right and left for a whole host of reasons. It has been, to be sure, a challenging year. Given the growing alarm over rising inflation, supply chain issues, the overall state of our nation, and the constant vitriol so prevalent on social media it’s a wonder that I haven’t slid into a dark hole of depression. It is all so deeply worrisome.

Still, in spite of so many reasons to be depressed, there are far more things to be grateful for and somewhere over the rainbow, even the one in my back yard, skies are blue! In fact, I am thankful for too many things to count and I marvel over the awesomeness of that! For one, The (old man) Poodle is still with me! He turned thirteen early this month; he keeps me busy which truly helps my headspace. He’s starting to have incontinence issues (not exactly something to be thankful for!) however, it is not every day and it’s got me exploring the world of doggie diapers and such. As I type away he lays thoroughly relaxed at my feet and I’d like to think that he is thankful that the season of thunder and lightning is mostly over. We’re now enjoying delightfully cooler temperatures which also means that the lizards are moving much slower and, best of all, I’ve been able to wear my Ugg boots twice this month!

So yes…here I am headlong into my golden years and, dare I say finally, the simplest of things warm my heart. Like hubby risking life and limb on the ladder to hang Christmas lights just to see my eyes light up with joy. And what a love he was to surprise me with setting up the DVR to record the 2021 Hallmark Christmas movies. Ladies, that is, IMHO swoon-worthy!

While this Thanksgiving had me missing my sis and family and all the culinary traditions we shared around the holiday, I was able to keep head and heart relatively joyful. There were long walks in the Florida sunshine as well as afternoon sweets with coffee. I’ve got holiday music playing on the outdoor patio (Floridians call it a lanai although the term originated in Hawaii). There was a NASA rocket-launch sighting first thing in the morning while we were out cycling which stopped us in our tracks; what a thrill it was to watch! The huge Christmas tree in the outdoor shopping center is mighty impressive as are the Christmas lights going up in all the neighborhoods. My hibiscus is still blooming and just the other day my homemade pumpkin cake with orange cream frosting to celebrate hubby’s birthday was a deliciously decadent hit (though my hips are not thankful).

As this Thanksgiving holiday week inches to a close my heart swells with love for my husband who is quirky, geeky and stubborn too (but I cannot imagine life without any of it), for my family and friends near and far, for my Poodle-love (who chose me of all people)…and for you…my dear “four” readers.

I remain ever thankful for all the bliss that life offers, even the smallest morsel of it. Challenges abound, and still…Life is good.

A Different Kind of Autumn

When living for nearly eight years in Southern California, at the beach that is, I would lament at the absence of Autumn colors. Years spent living in places such as Colorado, Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Alabama had me pining for that carpet of fall colors, you know…the ones that evoke oohs and aahs on the east coast, such as in the coastal plains, the Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions of Virginia or in the west, up in the majestic Rocky Mountains, or even along the picturesque Appalachian trail.

I know that life at the beach means one is not going to find Aspen trees with their stunningly vibrant yellow-gold leaves dancing in barely a whisper of a breeze, nor will there be a profusion of red and orange on maple trees (nor heaps of their leaves needing to be raked from lawns and sidewalks), or deep scarlet reds from dogwoods or sourwoods to be admired during even the routine drive to the grocery store. And oh how I miss that brilliant blood red of the lovely dwarf Japanese maple that literally filled the front window at my last house in Virginia. So lovely it was I chose not to put window coverings in that room.

But while I sigh with a certain longing for what once was, I am not oblivious to what is.

On my morning walk I couldn’t help but notice that even here in my little neck of the woods …in Florida, on what is called the Space Coast, just a stone’s throw from the world of Disney (and NASA too) with temperatures still in the eighties, I can see– though barely evident– a seasonal shift in the landscape. There is some color to enjoy as October nears its end and we head closer to “winter” at the beach.

For example, there are some types of landscape sea grass (I have yet to learn the proper names) that are no longer a vibrant green.

This landscape grass in my neighborhood is as close to that characteristic fall foliage color of the east I’m likely to see.
And, here, these hints of purple swaying in the breeze gave me pause to enjoy during my early morning walk.

And though the palm trees here don’t change color, there are still plenty of flowers amongst the pumpkins and all the fun Halloween decor providing color to brighten one’s day, and some are even in my yard.

My happy hibiscus is still popping out blooms on the patio….
And the Blue Daze is spilling over it’s terracotta pot, also on my patio….
And there is this eye-catching beauty; I have no idea what it is called, but it adorns the front yard of our neighbor who must be “seasonal” because…well…we have yet to meet them.
And who wouldn’t smile spying Beach sunflowers?

So, my dear “four” readers, while I don’t hear the crunch of dried autumn leaves beneath my feet, nor am I raking leaves during crisp-cold mornings with The Poodle sunning himself nearby…nor, as in years past, am I spell-bound by an array of spectacular fall foliage… I am trying–with some success– to enjoy this different kind of autumn.

There is bliss in that.

Frazzle du jour

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

This aging gracefully thing is such a…&#%! mess.

STOP! [take a long breath Missy] STOP before spewing a string of expletives. After all, wasn’t it on the list last year–or the year before last–the resolution to curb the use of expletives (even those unspoken) because, if for nothing else, the prolific use of the F-word by your own daughter makes you bristle every time. Right? Right.

So what’s the frazzle du jour you might ask?

I seem to be getting ever more forgetful a year out from official medicare status. Having just passed another year around the sun I am asking myself: Am I All Right In The Head? Case in point was my frazzled morning just the other day. Having been in my new state for not quite five months I had received a jury duty summons. When I received it some weeks back I was incredulous. Seriously? I’ve barely unpacked all the boxes and still have more runs to the donation center to make and I’ve already made the jury duty list? Wow. That was lightning fast and honestly, I thought it odd given all the places I have lived.

Still, It’s my duty and fulfill it I must, though I’d rather spend my day with my senior dog snoring on my lap.

As soon as I received the summons I created a calendar entry with a reminder to check in the day before, as per the instructions. And like a good girl, I called the day before and sure enough, the recording stated I still had to report. The Instructions from both the recording and the summons stated, (in bold red ink I might add): You must bring this jury summons with you when you report.

So, the night before I prepared my backpack for a day on jury duty: notebook, reading material, a bottle of water and a couple of protein bars. I also put the jury summons in one of the books I had placed in the bag to insure I would not forget it. The next morning, I left for the courthouse which, conveniently, is literally eight minutes away from my house. I felt rather pleased with myself that I was ensuring plenty of time to find a place to park and navigate the unfamiliar halls of the courthouse.

I park. I get out of the car. I get my bag from the back seat. I go to retrieve the jury summons…

and….

it is not there.

Hmm, that’s strange.

I rummage around the bag. It is not there. I dump out the contents of the bag. It is not there. I flip through the pages of all the books, even shaking them vigorously. It is not there.

Breath by breath a panic takes hold. (Yes I know dear reader; in retrospect, it seems all too silly!)

I then remember that before my morning espresso (in other words, with one eye open) I had decided that the backpack needed pared down. I did not need three books; two should suffice I reasoned. So, I removed one book.

Aha. That had to have been the book in which I had placed the jury summons!

Given how close I am to home, I decide to run home to get it. I now have seven minutes to check in for jury duty. So I get back into the car to return home and as I am leaving the parking area I place a call to the courthouse, the number being included in my calendar entry. I get a recording but I say, with that edge of panic in my voice–as if, I’d imagine, one would make in a 911 call–“Hi…I am Mrs. so-and-so at [phone number] and I was getting ready to enter the courthouse but noted that I forgot my summons so I am returning home to retrieve it and therefore will be about ten minutes late but please know that I will absolutely report!”

I get to the house, leave the car running, and high-tail it inside. Ah. A sigh of relief! There, on the kitchen table, was the book I had taken out of the backpack. All is well with the world I think as I quickly flip through the pages only to discover, yes, you guessed it…

IT IS NOT THERE. What the hell? Where on earth could it be?

Expletives are flying right and left as I all but tore the house apart in an attempt to retrace my nighttime and early morning steps in search of the jury summons. All the while, The Poodle, is so damned excited, jumping on me and howling with happiness to see me because after all, I was gone (for all of seven minutes) and then I came back and he expected, rightfully so, that his exuberant love for me be met with equally excited acknowledgement and, yes, belly rubs.

“No time for that,” I yell as I run through the house….

Now I am nearly spinning out of my mind. I imagine the $100 fine for not showing up for jury duty in a timely manner AND without summons in hand as instructed. All I can do is return to the courthouse and beg for mercy. I get in the car and call my husband nearly sobbing to relay what was happening. “I’m already nearly twenty minutes late,” I cry. “…and, I left the house looking like a cyclone had hit. For the life of me I don’t know what happened to the summons.” The courthouse is in sight when I slam on the brakes as the traffic light turns red. My purse in the passenger seat goes flying onto the floor. I bend to pick it up off the car floor when my eyes spy something between the seat and center console.

Yep. You guessed it.

How in heaven had it gotten there…and how did I miss it as I searched the car??

I convey the news to hubby as I slap my forehead in exasperation. “I’m losing it,” I tell him. Of course he soothes by saying that I just have a lot on my mind.

The light turns green and off I go. Two minutes later I am masking up as I run into the courthouse. I am now dripping with sweat and I feel my makeup sliding off my face as well as my hair frizzing into the next county. I quite possibly look like some crazed lunatic. I am stopped at security for a body scan/wand-waving moment and truthfully, given my flustered state, I’m surprised the sheriff didn’t pull me aside for questioning. Twenty-three some minutes late for jury duty I arrive at the door to the check-in room whereupon a very nice lady with a thick middle and a thick southern accent stationed behind a panel of glass stops me before entering and asks that I please step back into the hallway.

I’m apologizing right and left as she checks for my name from her clipboard.

“Ah yes…here you are,” she says cheerily as she highlights my name in neon yellow.

“You’re number 41 to report,” she says looking at me. “Due to COVID restrictions, the room only accommodates 40 people… which means you can go,”

“Excuse me,” I reply with visible confusion. Did I hear that correctly?

“You can go home,” she reiterates.

Again I feel compelled to apologize for being late, explaining that I had forgotten the requisite summons. In addition, I was concerned that I would be fined as a no-show.

“Oh no, it’s all good sweetie,” she drawled with a bright smile. “You go on now and enjoy breakfast somewhere. You will be marked as having reported for jury duty.”

Awash with relief, I thanked her profusely and proceeded to walk slowly out of the building. As I get outside, I removed my mask and start laughing in honest disbelief. I’m still laughing when I call my husband to tell him what happened. “Who knew there was a comical silver lining or sorts to COVID restrictions I tell him as he laughs along with me. “What an idiot I was to get so discombobulated about the whole thing,” I tell him. “But, I’ve never been late to something of serious law-abiding importance.”

“Are you Okay now?” he asks. I tell him yes, though I feel somehow like I failed in my civic duty.

“Go treat yourself to some coffee at Starbucks and enjoy sitting out in the fresh air.” he says.

Instead, I return home to the comfort of my reading chair. I’ve got a book and a happy poodle in my lap.

The question; “Are You Okay” will have me wondering just that the very next day when I could not find my car keys. Oh for heavens sake, here we go again. Another senior moment. Somehow, I had left them in the car (which fortunately was secure in the garage).

Lord have mercy. Aging —this process of maturing gracefully into the sunset, is not necessarily a thing of bliss. But I suppose that a frazzle du jour is better than the alternative….not having one at all!

Okay…there is bliss in that.

Mighty Minty in the Hood

Green Anole Lizard (https://wildlifeinformer.com/most-common-lizards-in-florida/)

The morning began with a single shriek. Mine. Followed by an expletive (okay, more than one expletive)…also mine.

Let me be clear dear reader; a day beginning in such a way, before the sun has barely made it above the roof tops, is not an optimal way to start one’s day.

I had just finished my first cup of espresso and was mulling over what I needed to accomplish for the day as I puttered around the kitchen. Then, before donning shoes and such to walk The Poodle I stepped into our cozy little living room area to pull back the shades of the long sliding glass door. There on my new sofa, was a small brown lizard. Amazingly my shriek did not budge the thing, nor The Poodle for that manner, who remained blissfully unaware, curled in his bed.

Rocket-man came to the rescue, as it were, picking up the sofa cushion to relocate the unexpected visitor to the front yard. It clearly did not want to leave the comforts of the cushion as hubby had to firmly shake it off. (I was later told that most likely the invader did not frighten away quickly– as usually happens– because it was probably dehydrated.)

Oh Lord, the things I am learning. Sigh.

This Florida adventure so far has a few downsides and the gazillion of lizards skittering about is just one of them. We’ve got green Anoles and brown ones too. We’ve got tiny house geckos and apparently iguanas (but thankfully I have yet to spot those larger non-natives in my yard). Later, when recounting the morning’s event with the neighbor, it didn’t help my head one bit that she shared she’s found lizards in her bed. “Yep…there was one in my bed just the other day,” she said brightly.

“Oh my God, really?” I replied trying to stifle my horror.

“Oh, I wasn’t fazed one bit,” she said in her peppy southern drawl. “I think they are cute as all get out,” she added.

Seriously? Well, maybe the gecko in the Geico commercials is cute, but still, it’s a reptile for goodness sake.

I wanted to say: Well bless your sweet little ole heart. Instead I opted for a more neighborly reply: “Well yes…they sure are, um cute, except not in one’s bed!”

Nor on the sofa for that matter.

So, this whole lizard thing makes it a tad difficult to relax when out on the back patio as The Poodle tries to chase them down and came awfully close to getting one in his mouth. As it is entirely certain that lizards carry salmonella they are not something I want my old dog snacking on. So, in a fit of frustration I looked into options for deterring lizards. Of course a quick internet search provided something to try that was a natural, pet-friendly alternative as I certainly did not want to use chemicals to kill the lizards (I just wanted to get them to move somewhere else.)

And there it was. Peppermint to the rescue! That sounds entirely lovely, right?

After searching high and low for a peppermint plant I resorted to plan B: I took to looking on The Land of All Things as my sister calls it (otherwise known as Amazon). Sure enough, there were several lizard deterrent products containing peppermint oil. I chose a lizard product that garnered hundreds of positive reviews. Buoyed by all the good reviews, and given my heightened anxiety over a future lizard home invasion, I went full guns ordering the gallon size. Besides, it was touted to help with deterring spiders, ants, and even rodents. Two days later my Mighty Mint insect and pest control order was delivered and I wasted not a moment opening it. After a quick read of the directions, I was hopeful, excited and ready to spray away.

And spray I did!

Yowza! The peppermint smell—though not entirely obnoxious—was ridiculously strong and after awhile somewhat nauseating. Still, I sprayed…and sprayed…and sprayed! And then, I watched and waited…and for good measure, I followed the same steps the following morning.

Well, my dear “four” readers, I know you are on the edge of your seats, waiting with baited breath to know: Did it work? Did the lizards, green ones and brown ones….big ones and tiny ones….skitter away to other parts of the hood?

Drum roll please

Unequivocally….

No.

Not sure I can wrap my head around my Home Sweet Home now being “home” for lizards. And yes, you’ve guessed it: I shake the bed covers each night like a crazy woman.

Sigh. In this moment, there is no bliss in doing that. 😬

Morning Sounds…

I’m out on my morning walk dragging The Poodle and trying to beat the rain. I lost that race just yesterday when out on my solo four mile walk. A brief but heavy rain shower seemed to appear out of nowhere and soaked me pretty good before it ended almost as quickly as it began. I enjoyed the rain actually but was worried about rain ruining the iPhone.

In any event just as I was preparing to give my sis a call to sing her Happy Birthday, I was momentarily jolted by the strangest–and loudest–sound. I looked over just across the street to see two Sandhill Cranes, one of whom was prancing around while the other seemed rather chilled. Given that we are in such new territory, we refer to these extraordinarily large birds with red foreheads, white cheeks and long pointed bills as the “deer” of the neighborhood (although, apparently there are actual deer sightings in these parts as well). This was really the first time since moving here that I’ve heard these cranes “talking” and witnessed “dancing” too. Normally they are busy eating with their very long bills seemingly stuck in that rather awful, thick and spongy St. Augustine grass.

Naturally, curiosity piqued, I decided to Google up some information on these creatures. Firstly, it’s difficult to tell males and females apart; they are nearly identical. Males are generally slightly larger. In addition, I learned the display I had witnessed was most likely mating (or mated ) pairs engaging in “unison calling.” And here I thought they were having a heated argument over worms, berries or whether or not to fly over to the next retention pond. Although I do suppose such squabbles come later in the relationship (cracking myself up here) it is a certain bliss to learn that these birds are monogamous and stay together for life. And, mom and pop both share in the incubation duties. Isn’t that just lovely?! Of course, on the flip side, if one should get too close to eggs or babies (either accidentally or purposefully) one or both parents will feel threatened and will come after the unfortunate soul aggressively and are apt to assault with a kick and/or stab with their long bill, which is apparently sharp enough to pierce the skull of a small carnivore. Yikes.

And yes, when The Poodle caught sight of the pair this morning he stopped dead still and was actually rendered bark-less for a change! In fact, I’m positive I saw his jaw drop in amazement as if to express: Jeez mom, we’re definitely not in “Kansas” anymore.

Indeed my sweet four-legged love. “Just you wait,” I said as I caressed his head and moved us along towards home. “There are more adventures to come old man…and you haven’t even caught sight of your first gator.”

Trying to impress are we? Ah, yes…I am impressed.

An Observation or Two…

The Sunshine state has been “home” for just over two months now. As you’d imagine dear readers, I have already made a few observations in-between opening boxes and runs to the donation center. Nothing overly keen mind you, nevertheless such observations can be added to my portfolio—if you will—of observations and opines attesting to years of living in many different places, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Firstly, I can attest that Floridians are genuinely nice folks, at least those I have encountered so far. Every person we meet is generally cheerful, friendly, helpful, respectful, and, at first blush anyway, non-judgmental. Folks here seem to have the “You do you and I’ll do me” approach to life. Add to that a refreshingly relaxed pace of life.

That is, until they get behind the wheel.

Which brings me to observation number two (and this is not an opine): Floridians are AWFUL drivers! And no, it is not because there is an eighty-year-old behind the wheel. Yes, I am now In a state that is heavily populated by senior citizens but I can affirm that many of the people driving dangerously are clearly younger by a decade or two more than I.

First of all, they DO NOT abide by the posted speed limit, whether on the freeway or on surface roads. I’ve no problem with no more than five miles over the limit; it’s often my practice on major highways I’ll confess (this coming from a gal who has never had a speeding ticket in over forty plus years of driving). But Lord have mercy, I’m talking about people flying past me going at least twenty miles over the limit. And, passing on the right? an overday occurrence, as well as ignoring stop signs and even red lights! Just last week I witnessed an SUV run a red light literally in front of a sheriff’s vehicle!

“Surely you saw that?” I all but screamed out the window.

Apparently not.

And, do not get me started on traffic circles (also called roundabouts). We have three roundabouts in our new neighborhood. I should not be surprised really as roundabouts have been gaining in popularity for several decades now as a measure to smooth traffic flow and reduce cars idling at traffic light, which may well help to reduce pollution, among other things. The real estate agent that handled our house-hunting refers to them as “death traps.” At first I scoffed at her reference, being none too pleased at the suggestion being planted, as in, you will absolutely become the victim of an accident in a roundabout.

Just one of the roundabouts in our neck-of-the-woods

Gee, thanks for planting that little nugget.

In all fairness, she doesn’t know that I have experienced enough of them when living in Europe. Though I do not know the entire history of this traffic “delight” I know they have been around on the other side of the pond for centuries. France has over 30,000 of them, far more than Spain, the UK or Germany. Even in the chaos of the huge traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris people generally know what to do (full disclosure, I did NOT attempt navigating through that insane traffic circle but I’ve handled tamer ones in Germany and even managed several in Scotland while cycling).

Sadly, It happens that our agent may indeed have a point. Folks in my new neighborhood do not seem to have a clue as to how to properly navigate a two-lane roundabout even with a huge, highly visible, painted symbol on the pavement, along with road signs, just before entering the roundabout clearly indicating how traffic must flow! It is also crazy that too many drive well above the posted speed limit as if they are on the Daytona speedway. It really is a bumper car game free-for-all just trying to get through it.

Though it was in 2017, I am not surprised of one survey conducted by SmartAsset, a personal-finance company, which rated Florida as the number one state for the most unsafe drivers, not one, but two years in a row! Remarkably, Florida did not make the top five worst state for drivers in a Car Insurance Comparison study conducted in 2019. I am not sure I believe it given my observations in just these two months! One explanation I recently heard when commenting on my observation was that since Florida is flat, as in flat-as-a-pancake, one can drive for long stretches without nary an obstacle but when one suddenly “appears”, the zoned-out driver becomes befuddled and is thus caught off-guard. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out the ramifications.

Still, in my humble opinion, seems like a lame explanation. Clearly folks need better education.

And so, I have observed in myself that Florida has made me more of a worrier with respect to my rocket-man (more than usual let’s say.). Though he is not quite the Mario Andretti, he can tend towards the zoom-zoom mentality when getting behind the wheel. This has prompted me to to add to my requisite good-bye kiss when he leaves the house: I literally take him by the shoulders and look steadily into his lovely blue eyes. “Practice defensive driving and absolutely no zoom-zooming!!”

“Yes, my love” is his reply as he plants a kiss on my forehead.

So, until my next observation, and there is sure to be one, mind the rules of the road dear reader, in whatever State your wheels take you. And don’t forget the kiss and “I love you” for your most treasured dear ones as you leave the house.

There is bliss in that.