Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Lockets

Jake was uncomfortable with emotions, his and others. Yet when he slid his thumbnail into the clasp and popped open the first locket, he fought back a lump in his throat. She was so beautiful, and they were a handsome couple. He eased open the locket and let it lay at the tips of his open hand as he filtered each memory that sprang from it. The memories were good in the early years, and gradually deteriorated to nothing, then less than nothing, then to contempt. He shook back into consciousness, and gently closed the locket, his thumb set firmly atop the engraved initials.

Strung on the same chain was the other locket. Jake tugged at his ear as he tried to recall where this one came from. He popped it open. It was empty. A quick glance on the outsides of the charm confirmed there were no engravings.

He tugged harder at his ear. He set the necklace down, leaned back in his seat and looked to the ceiling. She’d always worn it, he thought, and sent his thoughts back through time to when they first met. She wore a white knit sweater over her sun-lit, olive tanned body. He stayed in the memory looking hard to see into whether, or when, she wore the locket.

"Are you okay, Dad?” asked Mary Clare. Jake looked up and half smiled. “Oh I’m alright,” he replied, wiping his eyes. “Just sorting your mother’s jewelry for you girls.” “Are you okay, though?” she asked again. Jake stood up, put his arms around his older daughter and hugged her. He hadn’t hugged her in years. Mary Clare tensed. Dad hadn’t hugged her in years and this was weird. “Yeah, yeah. I’m okay, Snooks. You and your sister need to come by and go through this stuff.” “Okee Dokee,” Mary Clare responded, in a voice so like her dad’s.

Jake closed the lid to the jewelry box. He would not open it again. What is in there is for her daughters. What is in there is the magic their mother carried through their lives. What strength and kindness and compassion she carried is stored in those stones and metals. Perhaps what emptiness she carried is stored in that other locket, the one he’s sure she always wore.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Garden and other gazings

I'm quite proud of this young avocado plant grown from (commercial) seed. It took FOREVER to germinate. The leaves are healthy and beautiful. My guess is that I won't see fruit in my lifetime, but perhaps in my childrens'.

Here's Lillies in the Kitchen.

Unquestionably, the Pink Earth Cruiser. Stylin' and Profilin'...

New Avocado plant with ruler.... "so Big!.."

Mangos! I made a mango chutney some months ago, and put mango pits out to dry in the sun, and then stuck them in a pot of fertile soil, and quite frankly - forgot about them. Until one day I was gazing through my garden , and asked myself: "now what are these plants...?" and remembered!~ Look how big they've gotten!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Puppy Play

I am home for lunch. I am easily guilted out by leaving Gracie home alone while at work, so I have been "stretching" my lunch hours to give her more time out of her crate. She LOVES being outdoors. A few days ago, brother Ken installed a dog run that spans the vacant lot next door. She is in her glory! I am sitting in the kitchen, lunching on some California pizza (bbq chicken) (which, btw, imo is the BEST frozen pizza going) and I can hear her licenses jiggle, as she romps about. I also hear the passers-by. One kindly neighbor always coos at her - "oh sweet puppy yes you're a goooood booooy" [she's a girl.....]. Earlier, a couple was walking their little morsel of a dog, and stopped to pet her. I heard them say, "she's just a baby...what a sweetie." Another neighbor with a 100+ pound rottweiler named "Lucky" calls her "Lucky's puppy girl" and will bring Lucky by and let him "lick-er up" I have said many times that Gracie can't control her lick-er, but now she's getting Lucky getting licked. [She's 6 months now, time to get her spayed before Lucky gets lucky....] A fellow on the other side of the vacant lot has two small children that he has visit from time to time. Today, the kids are playing with Gracie. They are throwing her ball, petting her, bringing her a dish of water.... She's the happiest dog in the whole world!
And now, I have to go back to work. Will she still love me after all?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Alaska Thing

I have this Alaska thing. I have no guess why, but I have always been fascinated by Alaska. Seward’s Folly was one of the highlights of my school studies. As a young adult, I read books like “Going to Extremes” about survival in the Alaskan wilderness. Visiting Alaska is on my “bucket list” or wish list or “things to do with this life.”

I’ve come pretty close to the bottom of my “things to do with this life” list, until I add more. I have the way and means, now, to achieve that goal; to visit Alaska. Most folks I know that have visited Alaska (from now on to be known as [vA] ) recommend traveling by cruise ship. I have never been on a cruise ship and have no strong desire to be on one. The thought of a hotel at sea doesn’t appeal to me. Cruises punish those of us who travel solo, by adding premiums (the reasoning being that they can’t sell twice the drinks, gifts, tips, etc.; single travelers (unless willling to ‘double up”… no I said) are penalized.).

In an instant messession with my most dear California friend, he suggested I consult a travel agent. Wow! What forward thinking!! I plugged in some info on a site, , outlining my dream trip. I received responses from several travel agents. I also stumbled on, which is a wealth of information.

The ‘cruise advocates” fell away quickly. One travel agent surfaced, and had a real good understanding of my desired trip. He began putting together an itinerary for me which was most appealing. After several e-mail exchanges we arranged a phone conference and it worked well. We worked up a nice itinerary, but when I realized the cost didn’t include airfare, I began to whittle it down. When I questioned why the airfare wasn’t booked, I didn’t get a straight answer. I asked rather “btw; once we settle on an itinerary, what’s the procedure for deposits, etc.?” He answered, “100% in full up front at time of booking.”

We were talking a cost upward of $4,000.00. “Since when,” I asked myself, “would such monies be expected in full, up front!?”

I began some investigations. I won’t mention the company for which this agent worked, because I don’t want to defame this company. He/They/It may be well established, and well situated. I didn’t find any record of them through my exhaustive e-mail and telephone searches for all regulatory agencies in the State of their Headquarters, as well as the Federal Trade Commission. Frankly, I found no record of them at all: neither good or bad. About this time, I asked for corporate references. The response I got was a, “can we talk?”.
I listened to my “gutt” and stopped correspondences.

Well, so, now…..

I have this Alaska thing.

Lily and Gracie





Monday, February 16, 2009

A Play Day or a peddle and a paddle

The best part of my three day weekend, was that it was a three day weekend. One day I did chores, one day I did shopping, and one day I did recreation. Guess which was the fun day!!?!!

That was today!!

I took a nice bike ride this morning, without Gracie, confident and comfortable that she was OK being without me. I rode South on the sidewalk for a few miles, and then thought that the wind was at my back, and I didn' t want to get so far south that the return trip into the wind would be exhausting. I turned around, and at one point chose to cross the boulevard to the beach.

Oh My God, I said. Today is a beautiful beach day! The gulf laid down like a pool. The sun was warm, the water clear. I should take my kayak out!

I peddled back home and locked up the bike and unlocked the kayak. I pumped up the tires on the 2-wheel carrier, rinsed off the racoon paw prints from the kayak, put the seat in, the paddle, and the plug. I grabbed my waterproof bag and dropped in a cellphone, camera, I.D., towel and thermos of ice water.

I put on my swimsuit, donned the life vest and my water shoes, put Gracie in "Gracie's bed" and headed toward the beach. It's been a while since I kayaked, and oh boy did it feel good! Even the strain on the muscles in my hands and arms to pull the kayak to the beach and through the sand felt good.

I launched effortlessly. It was good to be back on the water. When I put in, I take into consideration the tides and the wind. However, being a 7-mile barrier island, often times a decision has to be made whether to go north or south considering the traffic as well as the tides.

It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, and the tide was coming in. The wind was out of the east, which kept the gulf calm. However, to go north would take me past the DiamondHead Resort, the Lani Kai and the Pier. All high traffic, very busy areas. I'd be dodging parasailers and weekend warriors. I chose south.

I paddled along perpindicular to the shore, although the incoming tides tended to knock me sideways. I noticed that my kayak speed was about the same as the two people walking along the shore. It's been awhile since I'd been out, so either I was out of shape or the kayak was taking on water. So paranoia began setting in. I decided to come to shore and check the hull to see if there was water. The tide managed to scoot me to shore needing only to use the paddle as a rudder. Some kids on the beach were waving at me - well! That adorable young lady in the red swim suit was my daughter, Sarah!

Sarah was at the beach with her roommate, Kelly, and Kelly's friend Brendon and Lola, Kelly's chocolate lab pup. Brendon was immediately interested in my kayak, so I offered him to take it out which he quickly accepted. It's a tandem, so he and Kelly hopped in, and Lola wasn't going to be left behind! They paddled around while Sarah and I caught up on what's new.

It was approaching 4:00 and the tide was coming in stronger. The wind changed, and the gulf chopped up. Paddling back into the wind and against the tide was going to be brutal. "It'll only get worse as the evening comes." Sarah correctly stated. The air was cooling, as well. I noticed Sarah's bicycle, and had an idea: "Sare, would you ride your bike up to the Chapel Street beach access, and pick up my wheels (that are padlocked to the trash can)?" My plan was to cart the kayak over Estero Boulevard and paddle home in the back bay (sure to be calmer than the gulf).

I walked up to Connecticut Street, and down to the Mound House on the bay. I launched at the kayak landing, bungee-ing the wheels to the bow and headed home. Coming around Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve, the bay opened up and the wind was strong, giving me a run for my money. I kicked into high gear, leaning forward, and paddling in strong even strokes. I was "in the zone."

It was exhausting, yet refreshing. Every muscle in my body had gotten its workout. I put my toys away, played with my dog, enjoyed a hot shower and a light dinner of bow tie pasta with spinach and cheese. I climbed into my bed, pleased with my day, and ready to enjoy sweet dreams.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Advice from the Government

It's late fall, and the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets.

When he looked at the sky, he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But, being a practical leader, after several days, he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?" "It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold" the meteorologist at the weather service responded.

So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?" "Yes" the man at the National Weather Service again replied, "It is going to be a very cold winter." The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.

Two weeks passed and again the chief called the National Weather Service. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?" "Absolutely" came the reply, "It's looking more and more lke it is going to be one of the coldest winters we've ever seen." "How can you be so sure?" the chief asked. The weatherman replied, "The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


It's been nearly a week since my last post! Bizzy bizzy bizzy. I have company again, so spent a good bit of the weekend preparing the spare room, cleaning, grocery shopping, etcetera, etcetera etcetera.

About a week ago I bought Gracie a new crate. This one is full size, and all wire. When I first got Gracie, I bought a crate intended for housebreaking, but not needing it to adult size. After three months, it became obvious that she cannot be "at large" when I'm not home (she is easily bored and quite the gnawer). Plus, she absolutely HATED the old crate - it was molded plastic and very restrictive viewing. This new crate is for dogs up to 110 lbs! I put it in my bedroom, in front of the window. It has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD!! It's like I have a new dog! She hasn't had an "accident" once, she sleeps through the night, and even goes in to her crate on her own!! WOOOOO HOOOO! Success!!!

I BOUGHT A NEW BIKE!! It's a Jamis Earth Cruiser 2.. I absolutely love it. Plus, it's PINK! I'll be sure to post a photo - just as soon as my daughter returns my camera!

We're gearing up for spring break, here on our little beach. Truly silly season. We had President Obama come to our little corner of the world the other day - I didn't get tickets! LOL.

As I said earlier, BIZZY BIZZY BIZZY!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My bed felt so gooood last night. I crawled in early, feeling poorly from sore knees, sore eyes and a full and disjointed day of work. Temperatures outside were falling, the wind was howling rattling the jalousy windows. I lit the rose scented candles that added a soft glow to the indian peach painted walls, pulled back the down comforter and slid into the 660-thread count sheets. I intended to finish reading an article in (Nov. 2008) National Geographic, "The End of Night; Why we Need Darkness" but fell asleep even before turning the pages.

I dreamt about horses and dogs. Over the past few weeks, my dreams have included animals - mostly horses and dogs, with a grizzly bear in one and a cougar in another. Perhaps it's my "primal nature" showing itself. I have also been dreaming of family. In one dream, my father hugged and kissed me. Last night my sister Kathleen was dressed beautifully and was dancing and singing. It was delightful - particularly since when I last saw her, she was far from singing and dancing.

I woke some time around 4:00 AM with a full bladder. I figured I'd let Gracie out, too. It was painfully cold, so I just opened the door and let her out on her own. She came back in, I put her in Lauren's room, and I went back to bed. Just as I was wallowing in how cozy my bed was, I heard Gracie wimpering. I opened Lauren's bedroom door, and knew immediately what was wrong: She had pooped...apparently it was too cold outside - or who knows what. The bigger problem was that she had stepped in it, then proceeded to run away from me...leaving poopy paw prints throughout the house. {GRRRRRRRRR}

I put Gracie in her crate, cleaned up the mess and managed to settle back in to the warmth of my bed. I dozed lightly, listening to the wind whistle in the windows, while the dawning lite filtered into the morning sky. I snoozed the alarm in fifteen minute increments until I finally got up about 7:30.

It was 32 degrees out. (how much farther south can I go!!?!!) {BRRRRRRRRR}. I so do not do cold well. It was very hard getting out of bed, but I did and dressed quickly, putting on black slacks, a black blouse and a black cardigan sweater. Perhaps it was my subconscious revolt against the weather.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"off the record..."

Charlie's retiring. Charlie Loucks is the "key" reporter for the Ft. Myers Beach Observer. Charlie started writing for the Observer in 1999. For awhile in 2008, he worked as Editor, a promotion that he accepted, and then subsequently declined in ordor to return to reporting.

I had been a beach resident years before 1999, but only came to work for the Town in 2000. That's when my interaction with Charlie began. Back then, I was Marsha's assistant, and Charlie and I had occasional interaction.

Back then, the town manager was the town clerk. As the assistant to the town manager, I was assistant to the town clerk, and assumed those duties . Those duties included responding to public records requests. As a reporter, Charlie made frequent records' requests, to which I responded.

In May, 2006, I became the town clerk, and Charlie and my relationship enhanced.

One of the beauties of dealing with Charlie was the way he protected his sources. If he can teach anything to his succesor, or pass along any of his successes, it would be how he protected his sources. He would call with a bite, and ask for a bite. "How do you know?" I would ask. "You know I can't say!" he would respond. I tested him, and he never failed me. Marks of a Damned Good News Hound.

Yesterday, in a public meeting, the Town Council recognized Charlie with a proclamation, and a plaque in appreciation for his ten years of dedication. It brought him close to tears. (We should have pushed him to tears! lol!)

Tomorrow is his retirement gathering. It's at the local office, from 3:00-5:00 pm. It has been said that Charlie is one of two people who 'knows where the bodies are buried.' I intend to arrive early, and offer to Charlie, a bare bones, "off the record" honest answer to any one question. ONE QUESTION, AND ONE ANSWER!!!
What would you like to ask me, Charlie??

I chuckle to myself thinking of those days and those conversations: "

Re: Cracker

Hi Michelle,
I appreciate your blog entry about Florida Crackers.
Believe me, it takes a lot more to be a Cracker besides being born in Florida.
Did you know that William Shakespeare coined the term "Crackers", describing Celtic people and their sense of humor? Hence the term 'wise-cracking'.
It is a way of life, a culture that is getting close to extinction; a people that live and have lived, by all the values, ethics and honesty that are missing in today's society and that everybody, deep inside their heart, is longing for.
I am fortunate enough to have had the chance to meet some of these incredible, hardworking people.
We are currently, (for the first time ever), making a full length documentary movie about the Cracker culture.
For more information, movie clips and pictures, please visit our website:
Uli Degwert

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I have heard the term, "cracker" in reference to people who are native Floridians. The term comes from cattle prods that when used, would make a 'crack'ing sound. How Florida cracker comes to mean native I"m not sure, but it's rather common knowledge that a cracker is a [florida ] native. My daughters - 21 and 19 - are both crackers. It shouldn't have been a surprise to me to hear Sarah telling about her trip to Georgia and North Carolina this past week, she just returned last night. She was telling me that she was driving along the highway with her boyfriend - also a cracker - and she was puzzled by what was in the air. She asked, "What are they, no see-ums?" then she said, "wait...isn't it too cold for bugs?" and then she realized that what she was seeing was snow flurries.