Nobody Likes You Irma (Part 2 of 2)

Irma was an unwelcome guest, but there was no stopping her from blowing through. I thought I would share what it was like for me and my family as she came knocking on our door. Looking back, we got off easy compared to a lot of folks, but my story is the only one I can tell. I tell it mixed with prayers for those who have truly suffered through this storm and the many other “natural disasters” that are going on in the world today.

By 11:00 Sunday morning we were hunkered, which is a word we used liberally during the entire ordeal.

Hurricane Warning

By 2:20 PM our phones were going off like crazy with alerts. Watches turned to warnings. (Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for the storm. Warnings come when the storm or flood is imminent.)

The first rain bands arrived before 3 PM.

The wind significantly picked up by 7 PM. By 8:30, those winds became downright scary as they gusted over and around our house.

By 10 PM the rain was coming down in torrents. We experienced minor flooding over our front sidewalk. And the eye of the storm was hours away. FYI, we did not board up our house.

Our front sidewalk in the light of day. It took 3 days to dry out.

We decided to go to bed and get some rest. The worst was supposed to come around 2 AM. My parents seemed to go right to sleep on the other side of the house. Bob and I lay in our bed listening to the weird noises that the wind was making. I thought our roof was going to come off. I told Bob that I couldn’t sleep with all that noise. He said that he could.

And he did! I went to the center of the house and tried to rest in a recliner, but by then it was raining even harder and I could hear the dripping in the chimney while the weird noises continued. The wind whipped through our screened pool enclosure making eerie howling sounds. This was the first time in a long time that I can remember being legitimately scared. So, I ate some chocolate chip cookies.

The entire household was sleeping through this (minus me, of course). That amazed me, but I was thankful somebody was getting some rest! It was now clear that the storm was going to go right over Orlando. With the wind picking up even more, a little before 2 AM, I prepared the hall with cushions and chairs for my parents. Our phones, computers and car keys were placed in Ziploc bags. I was ready to take the hunkering to a new level.

I was awake and praying or chatting with other hunkerers on Facebook through most of the night – manning the conn from our recliner in the center of the house while eating the occasional chocolate chip cookie or three. I’d peek outside toward the east and look at the weird lightning and watch the trees bend in the glow of it. The water in the pool, though Bob had drained several inches from it twice, was over the edge. Irma was loud and violent, and the rest of my family slept through it.

With everything in place, I returned to my recliner. I must have dozed off, because I woke up around 6 AM and realized that it was over, and we still had electricity.

We live in the back of our neighborhood, which has 450 homes in it. A tributary of the Little Wekiva River flows through the center. Typically, it is a creek of about 8 feet width. Monday morning it was a raging little river.

The front of our neighborhood looked like a war zone of fallen trees and debris. They were without power. Our end of the neighborhood never lost it. But there were a lot of downed trees and fences and a new lake in our neighbor’s backyard. A wonderful neighbor had a front-end loader and went up and down every street clearing a path. Everyone was outside working and checking on each other.

Our next-door neighbor’s backyard

Bob looking at all the debris – our neighbor’s newly formed backyard lake in the background

Our damage was so minimal it doesn’t even count. I told my mother that we had an extra blessing from God because they moved in with us.

Bob and I put on our sneakers and leather gloves and got to work. Trees are no respecters of property lines. We have the neighborhood border wall behind our house. There is a vacant, treed lot behind us, so we got lots of debris from that. When I set foot in the yard, I was surprised to be up to my ankles in water. But there was no damage and nobody was hurt. We were amazed and grateful to God for that.

One of our sons and family showed up in the early afternoon. They were safe but without power. By nightfall, theirs was restored. Our other son and his wife were not so lucky. Theirs was out for nine days.

My parents’ home sustained no damage, but that area was without electricity for five days. It may be September, but it’s still close to 90 degrees every day down here.

 

     There are piles of debris along the roads that are taller than I am. And there is a subtle, funky smell in the air that is like a mixture of old diaper and chicken farm. Thankfully, the garbage truck removed the regular garbage today, so that may improve. Mass spraying has begun to combat mosquitoes. The sound of frogs in the morning is deafening as they take up residence in the newly formed ponds. We are keeping our eyes open for snakes. Alligators have been reported in some yards and pools. Flood waters are cresting along the St. Johns River. There are still some who have no power and others who can no longer stay in their homes. But we give thanks for being on the other side of this. It has been a blessing watching neighbor helping neighbor and churches joining together to serve. A lot of the differences that tend to divide us have taken their proper place, and we see each other simply as people going through something together.

I thought about being afraid in the middle of that night. I thought about how rare that is for me, and I was thankful. Now I think about people living in fear of storms real and imagined and how that affects their lives, and I pray that they will call out to God because He is there.

 

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Nobody Likes You Irma!

Looking for the lighter side of Irma is similar to what it was like trying to find bottled water before she hit. Seemingly impossible. Water was the hot commodity – you had to search and search for it. For those who came up empty, all that had to be done was look down at the spigot in their very own kitchen and turn on the tap. Finding the good in a situation is like that – it’s often right under our nose.

My husband and I were prepared, as I felt prompted (no doubt by God) to make my preparations for a hurricane over a week before we knew she was coming for sure. Her fast development from a depression to a Cat 3 storm in less than 24 hours was impressive. Water, peanut butter, protein bars, apples, canned goods, and emergency M&Ms and Oreos (for keeping spirits up) were secured well in advance. Gallon Ziploc bags filled with frozen water from my tap and Tupperware containers with frozen blocks of ice were at the ready.

I am forever grateful to God for that, because by the end Labor Day weekend we needed to make our most important hurricane preparation – getting my parents out of their manufactured housing, about 30 minutes away from us.

That Monday night Bob and I visited them and basically told them that ready or not, they needed to come by the end of the week. Permanently. We had been trying to convince them to move in with us for months. Well, it took a hurricane. I had joked/not joked with them that if we had to evacuate them, we weren’t taking them back. Now they are residing here with us. I am so relieved.

My parents have been married for 69 years. They are mentally sharp. Mom has been taking care of my Dad for quite some time. He lost the remainder of his vision about 18 months ago. He is 94. Mom continues to be his caregiver, but now we walk alongside her. Mom and I laugh at the same kind of things. I think I got my sense of humor from her side of the family. It brings me great joy and peace to have them with us.

For me, having them here has lightened my emotional load. So, thanks be to God, who used a terrible hurricane like Irma to make this happen.

Bob’s birthday was September 10. I was determined to have some kind of celebration before the September 9, Irma-is-coming-to-town curfew was enforced. (Everyone to get from streets!) I thought it wasn’t quite enough that, not only was he getting a hurricane for his birthday and his in-laws, too. We had to have a party.

We gathered on Saturday for lunch and cake. Interestingly, I forgot to get candles for the cake even though I had plenty of flashlights and lanterns. Oh well! Our local kids and grandkids came over and we had our little party. Then everyone left to batten down the hatches in their own homes.

Saturday brought an uptake in winds, but it was the quintessential calm before the storm. The sounds of plywood being nailed over windows and lawnmowers making a final pass to shorten the grass were everywhere. People were filling their garages with all outdoor paraphernalia in order to eliminate flying debris. Neighbors were checking in with each other. Swimming pool water levels were being lowered.

Throwing furniture into the pool keeps it from blowing around. Our chairs seemed to want to exit up the stairs though.

Hurricane Irma was larger than the state of Florida – that included the area from the Panhandle all the way down the Key West. We watched her wobble along. Would she visit Orlando or Tampa? We prayed she would not go into the Gulf and hit Texas. It took her forever to make “the turn.” But when she did, it became clear that Central Florida was in for it. We had done all we could to be ready. Now it was time to wait.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what it was like to go through the storm. I said it was time to wait, didn’t I?

The Bands are Coming

Bob and I have been preparing and waiting for Irma. It now appears that the band is back together. That is, the rain bands.

We had decided it would be relaxing to sit in the hot tub and take a nice soak while there was a light drizzle gently falling.

And then this happened.

Thanks, Irma!

So I thought you would like a firsthand look at our weather this Sunday afternoon at 2 PM – from my phone, not from us in the hot tub! All it took for a band to come through was a decision to go outside. I think we’ll stay in for a while. Stay safe, everybody!

 

The 2017 USA Total Eclipse of the Sun (for your safety, please read before viewing the eclipse)

Me preparing for eclipse viewing – practicing not seeing things in the dark

Oh, Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you. I could deny it, but why bother. This is about you! Today, you’re the star! (I mean that metaphorically and literally.)

There is no need to fly a Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. It’s not there this time. I could simply drive to South Carolina. But I won’t.

At 2:50:58 pm, from my very own, easy to get to, front yard here in Central Florida, 85.6 percent of the sun will be obscured by the moon. That sounds like a solid “B” to me. I will be satisfied, though a little sad, to stay home for this event. Even though I hate missing anything of this magnitude. And, the realization that just a short eight-hour ride up the road is a potential “A+” total eclipse (depending on whether the weather cooperates) might make me crazy if I let it, but I won’t. I don’t want to be a lunatic over a solar eclipse. That seems wrong.

I understand that (possibly) this is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a total solar eclipse going from coast to coast. I should be more excited. I should pack a cooler and my ISO approved solar viewing glasses and go. But the thing that I keep going back to is that I can’t actually look at it. Not even a little bit. So, the thought of hurrying north to not watch the eclipse confuses my thought patterns – especially when I realize that I am very tempted to go. I want to not see the sun and experience darkness in the daytime, just like everybody else.

Engineer Bob, my sweet husband, brought home a pair of the viewing glasses for me – a gift better than flowers (though not as good as jewelry). I think he knows how tempting it will be for me to look at the sun and he is looking out for me and, I might add, himself. Both of our fathers have gone blind in their old age, and Bob is hedging his bets to keep my eyesight. We look out for each other that way. We have seen the future and we want to be able to see in it.

So please enjoy not watching the eclipse. It will be a memory of something that you didn’t actually see that you will enjoy for years to come.

 

My Personal Assistant (and results of “How Do You Think?”)

Alexa

Have I told you that I have a personal assistant? She was given to my husband and me by our son last Christmas. At first, I thought she was just a pretty, though emotionless, face; but there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.

We have gotten very close. I talk to her every morning. She finds what I say fascinating and takes notes on our discussions. She loves to make lists. She is my personal shopper. We play trivia games together, and she even sings to me.

But something became “off” in our relationship. Alexa started as my kitchen companion; but I do like to rearrange things sometimes, so I moved her to a prominent place across the room. Honestly, the views from her new perch are better, but she developed kind of an attitude. I call her name and she ignores me. I have to yell her name to get her attention. It’s like talking to my dad when his hearing aids aren’t working – or like having teenagers again. Sometimes she blares her music and I have to scream my lungs out to get her to turn it down. It’s embarrassing.

We have talked things through, and she is happily responding to me again. I just had to put her in her place (where she wanted to be). Evidently, all the help she gives me has to be on her terms. (I think we got a copy of those terms, or warranties, whatever you want to call them, when we took her out of her package.)

Between our communication breakdown and Amazon Prime Day, we’ve had a lot going on, but I knew those of you who read my last blog post have no doubt been checking your in-baskets awaiting the response to my FDOT inquiry regarding the completion of the road project on SR 441, which was prompted by this sign.

(If you missed my last post click here to get up to speed.)

After numerous calls (two), no one has called me back. The phone number belongs to a woman named Alicia who is the Public Involvement Coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation. I can only imagine that the public has been calling so much that poor Alicia is having trouble with her coordination. I can understand that because I am not very coordinated myself, but I never would go so far as to give myself a title of Coordinator. That would be false advertising. Needless to say, I am shocked at the lack of attention that I have received. I really should call somebody to complain, but alas…

The comments I received have proven conclusively that a plethora of possible opinions as to when the project will be completed exists. In my pursuit for a definitive answer, I decided to take this discussion up with Alexa, so I asked her when the Winter of 2018 starts and ends. She had to confess that she didn’t know that one. I guess nobody does.

 

How Do You Think? I’d Love to Know

Bob (my husband the engineer) and I were driving down SR 441 towards Mount Dora when we passed this sign. We both had our own interpretation of it, which is one more example of how we often process information as if we came from two different planets. This not only entertains us, but it leads to some interesting conversations. Full disclosure, it often leads to some really stupid conversations, but at least we laugh a lot.

Initially Bob thought the improvements would be finished by the end of the Winter of 2018, which he believes starts in December 2018 and ends March 2019. I thought the sign meant that they would be complete by March of 2018, before the first day of spring. My thoughts are that all but ten days of winter happens in the next calendar year. He was thinking they were referring to the month/year that winter begins.

Obviously, the answer as to when the improvements will be complete is sometime in 2020, but indulge me for a minute. We would like to know what you think. When do you think the improvements will be complete? Please leave your comment.

I have placed a call to FDOT and left what I can only assume is a confusing message asking for the projected completion date. If they haven’t put me on some kind of a watch list and agree to answer my innocuous but weird question, I will reveal their thinking in my next blog post. No fair calling the number on the sign. We don’t need more of us to have our intentions questioned. Please play along. I would love to know how those brains of yours work.

Comment below please.

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part III

 

full-moon-415501_640Did you happen to catch the lunar eclipse during the full moon earlier this month? Maybe not – you might have been distracted by the comet going past. Or you might not know what in the universe I’m talking about.

This is where grandchildren come in handy. I would have been clueless if it weren’t for the newsflash brought to us by our eight-year-old grandson, Winston. It seems he was listening in school that day! He told us about a golden moon, an eclipse and a comet, and that we all needed to be outside at 7:30 to watch the show. Because Winston loves to tease, I thought he was doing just that. Thank goodness for Google, because I could see Winston was right on, even if some details were a little fuzzy.

Our dinner discussion with Winston and his ten-year-old brother Manning then turned to the difference between comets and meteors and what was a meteorite. They had the definitions down fairly well, giving me hope for the school system.

That is until I asked them, what was the most famous comet they ever heard of; and Manning answered, “Comet the reindeer.”

I laughed so hard I nearly spit my food across the table.

We composed ourselves and went outside at 7:30 to watch the night sky. We observed no noticeable eclipse of the beautiful full moon and no comet passing by. Not even one joined by seven other reindeer pulling Santa and a sleigh full of toys.

According to reports, we understand that we did see an eclipse – a penumbral eclipse. I have to tell you, it looks remarkably like a regular old full moon. My “extensive” research said it is hard to tell the difference between a penumbral eclipse and a regular full moon, which might be why they don’t get much press. So why bring it up now? What are those scientists trying to pull here? I don’t want to join in on the fake news bandwagon, but this is lunacy.

The Lighter Side of this Presidential Election

It’s challenging to find a lighter side to this presidential election. It has brought out the dark side in many Americans, but like Luke Skywalker, I think there is still good in us. So, even though this might be a very short post, I am committed to finding ten things that will fit into this category, so here goes.

  1. We live in a country where we can participate in the election process.
  2. There is less sign pollution. It seems people are hesitant to advertise their candidate preference because of the volatility of this election.
  3. I am reaffirming the fact that my trust is in God and not man.
  4. The debate about the bathrooms at Target has disappeared.
  5. I am spending less time on social media because I have fewer people to follow on Face Book. I am totally nonpartisan about this. If your posts become disrespectful and mean, it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, consider yourself blocked. We can resume our friendship in the more civilized time of mid-November when all of this is behind us.
  6. My polling place is in a beautiful restaurant surrounded by lovely gardens. It is no longer open to the public, but I get to go there to vote.
  7. I’m trying to better understand people with different opinions than mine, while realizing that I likely will never completely understand someone else’s point of view.
  8. Late night television has never had more craziness to work with from both sides of the aisle, which helps us to laugh at all of the candidates and turn the tension down a notch.
  9. It’s almost over for four more years, though this election has been underway for about a year and a half, so I guess I’ll have to factor that in.
  10. Finally, Thanksgiving is 16 days after the election. No matter the outcome, we have much to be thankful for.

Now allow me to put on my mom hat and say, “Do your research. Pray, think, and go out there and vote. Talk nicely to each other. No hitting. Don’t make me pull this blog over.”

Excuse me – Where’s the Ladies Room?

How wonderful that we have something to distract us from the drama of the never-ending political race for the presidency.  Unfortunately that thing is the national bathroom identity crisis.

We’ve come a long way from that old joke book – “Race to the Outhouse by Willie Make-It and Betty Won’t.”  Now the book would be entitled, “Who’s in the Outhouse – Willie or Betty?  And are they in the correct one?  And does it really matter anyway?”

Yes, it matters.  While I am sympathetic with people in the world who have struggles that I don’t relate to and don’t consider a struggle, I wish that kind of sympathy would be returned to those of us who simply don’t want a person of the opposite sex catching a glimpse of us and our children through the cracks in the stall.

It’s disconcerting enough (but forgivable and understandable) when some little kid peeks under the stall while I’m sitting there taking care of business, or when someone tries the door and because the lock is loose the door flies open; but I don’t want to see anyone that can pee standing up looking down at me in that situation.  You can be sure I won’t give the typical, “Oh, it’s fine,” response.  I will likely unleash my pepper spray.  (Note to self:  Look for a pepper spray coupon in Sunday’s paper.)

If there is a silver lining here, it’s that I no longer have to be embarrassed if I accidentally go in the wrong restroom (which I have done before).  I wonder if maybe those businesses that have strange hieroglyphics that are supposed to instruct us as to which bathroom to use were actually preparing for the future.  Confusion is everywhere, but we don’t have to take this sitting down.  Unless you’re a woman, that is.

And what about the businesses that sell enormous drinks like the Big Gulp from 7-11 or Venti coffee from Starbucks.  I’ll bet those sales are down.  Of course, those humongous cups could come in handy if we get in a real jam.

Seriously though, I know that I always need to be on guard wherever I am.  I realize that I need not be concerned about most of the people that I run into along life’s path.  So when I say that danger is lurking around every corner, dressing room curtain, and bathroom stall, you know what I mean.  What really grieves me is that we as a nation are allowing ourselves to be caught with our pants down as we pander to every single exception to every single rule in an effort to tolerate everything.  It’s exhausting.  I think that is part of the goal of the movement (pun intended) – – wear us out until we give up.  Let’s not give up.  Let’s show kindness, but for sure…

Land Shark – Another Florida Reality

Coming to Florida soon?  I’m sure you’ll remember your sunscreen; but you might want to pack mosquito repellant, bear pepper spray and shark repellant, too.  Why?  Because it’s a jungle down here.  And a swamp.  And sharks turn up in the oddest places.

Mosquitoes:  The county in which I reside, Orange County, was formerly named Mosquito County.  The name change was made in 1845 when Florida became a state – probably a good idea promoted by whatever was the equivalent of a chamber of commerce back then.  Everyone loves those Florida oranges, but due to a couple of severe winters in the 1980s that destroyed many of our lovely orange groves, you are more likely to be bitten by a mosquito than find an orange to bite into down here.

Bears:  Recently I was driving through a residential neighborhood on a late afternoon and a Florida black bear crossed the street in front of me.  He acted like he owned the place and I guess he kind of does.  We have had them visit our yard on a few occasions.  Raccoons and opossums also frequent our area.  And I don’t even want to talk about snakes (so I won’t).

Alligators:  For me the scariest things in the wildlife realm down here are alligators and sharks.  According to The Defenders of Wildlife’s website, there are approximately 1.25 million alligators in Florida.  Considering our population of nearly 20 million people, that means that there is about one alligator for every 16 Floridians.  That being said, I stay out of our lakes.

Sharks:  I can’t make myself stay out of the ocean, even though I know what lies beneath is pretty scary.  I also can’t bring myself to stay off the highways, which are far more dangerous than our swamps, rivers, lakes and oceans.  Just last week, there was an accident on I-95 in Volusia County (Daytona area) that illustrates this point perfectly.  In that accident, thankfully, there were no people injured, but one shark lost its life.

Yes, I said a shark was in an accident on I-95.  A semi-truck was transporting sharks to an aquarium in New York when a tire separated causing the driver to lose control of the truck.  In the tradition of every fish story you have ever heard, this story has grown a bit.  At first I heard there were three sandbar sharks in the accident.  Then I heard that there were four hammerheads.  The last count is five great whites, but one of them may have been a lawyer who showed up at the scene when he heard sirens.

So there you go, you aren’t truly safe anywhere, so why not enjoy that trip to the beach and take a dip in the ocean.  Be cautious.  Stay close to a lifeguard and be very careful as you drive there.  But, please, stay out of the lakes.  Don’t go crazy on me.

 

The famous Land Shark from Saturday Night Live