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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Fall was in the air as the temperatures dropped for the first time yesterday. Bonnie, Rebecca and I headed to the country, to Biggar Antiques in Lake Alfred, Florida. A relaxing afternoon at their Halloween festival was just what we needed.

But first, we were hungry. It was after 2 p.m. and none of us had eaten lunch. A quick bite, and we’d hit the road. Quick, but charming, Bonnie and I requested, with good menu choices, no fast foods, but food fast, because the antique store would close by 5 p.m. and the shop was an hour away. Mimi’s fit the bill. We grabbed a table outside in the breeze and shade and ordered drinks from a waifish waitress with a whispering French accent. When we ordered, Rebecca asked if the French fries were good.

“I don’t know,” the waitress whispered, “I don’t eat here.”

Okay.

We made our choices and waited, and talked. Rebecca’s friends called and asked us to come over to Elephant Bar up the street and eat with them. They would have drinks waiting. It was tempting. We could see Elephant Bar from the patio where we sat, but our food would be there any minute.

At some point we realized Rebecca was now in the sun and 45 minutes had passed. We hailed the young man who showed us to our table and asked for our waitress. Shortly she, silently appeared with her order pad.

“Hello, what I can get for you?”

“How about the food we ordered 45 minutes ago?” Bonnie said.

The waif in black whispered something unintelligible and smiled.

“No, forget it. We are leaving. We have to be somewhere,” Rebecca said as we gathered our things and got up. And she was suddenly gone. We go in to tell them we are leaving and someone came out of the kitchen with food and asked if we wanted it to go. NO! Then she explained she was the regional manager on site for “coaching.”

“No charge, just let us bag the food for you.” Which she began to do.

Now we have only food, so stop at Albertsons’s for bottled drinks, hit I-4 and get on our way. The food is cold, and Rebecca is trying to eat and drive.

“My crotch is vibrating,” Rebecca says, and grabs her phone. Now she is eating, texting and driving. But we make it to Lake Alfred about 45 minutes before closing, having no time to enjoy the country scene after we leave I-4.

The shop is lovely as ever in the old downtown building. The gifts and antiques are tasteful and beautifully displayed. Best of all, the owner, Mrs. Biggar and her daughter-in-law Karen are there with Karen’s infant son, the one they waited ten years for. He was adorable.  We learned chaos preceded us. Mrs. Biggar had cut her arm and was bleeding badly. Karen shed her Halloween costume to take her to the hospital. They were back when we arrived and doing fine, but feeling a bit harried.

Bonnie found a LOT of stuff and I found the most beautifully crafted silver bracelet I could not leave there. Did I say their prices are unbelievably reasonable for such quality and good design whatever the product?

We decide to look for a coffee shop as we leave because that’s just what we need to relax us. We would have to hit I-4 to find one. Rebecca is talking to a friend on the phone when Bonnie points to the sky.

A “J,” she says, gazing into the sky. “E” . . . “S” . . . “U”. . . Bonnie recites as the miles tick on. Bonnie doesn’t take her eyes off the sky. Then she begins singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We join in. Rebecca’s friend on the phone asks if we have been drinking. If only.

Grandma, do you still have the tin full of buttons I used to play with when I was little?” Rebecca had her grandmother in South Dakota on the phone. Bonnie continued to watch the fading Jesus. The antique buttons in the store had brought back memories. The buttons Rebecca remembered would be waiting for her on Grandma’s demise, Grandma promised. They had a charming conversation over the next few miles.

“We’ve got to find a gas station,” Rebecca says.

“Got to be Shell or Mobile,” Bonnie said.

“Is the light about to come on?” I asked. I had missed earlier conversation due to road noise and sitting in the back.

“It’s been on since before Bonnie started seeing Jesus in the sky,” Rebecca said, “She wouldn’t pay attention to me. Now it’s almost to the end of the red.”

Jesus is fading.

I-4 is packed, no proper service station appears. I volunteer to buy gas at ANY station, but Rebecca decides we can make it to Altamonte exit. Did I mention Bonnie and I now have very queasy stomachs? We are car sick or have food poisoning from the restaurant, so a Coke and motion sickness pill (just in case) become as important as gas.

We arrived at the station on fumes, grab Cokes and head to drug store for motion sickness pills for Bonnie. A more normal feeling began to creep in our tummies after a few swigs of Coke and we made it home.

I wouldn’t take the world for my relaxing day in the country. I like the “things” in my life to have purpose or memories. Every time I look at my beautiful silver bracelet our incredible day will all come back to me and I mean “incredible” in the most literal way.

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Note: I have added a link to Sherry’s Salon web page in the last paragraph. I think you’ll find it is not your typical salon page.

Are we becoming England? I mean that in the best way. I think of the English as animal lovers, almost to obsession. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I am seeing the U.S. moving even more in that direction. Take one simple hour in my life today.

My hairdresser is located at a marina. Beautiful views of the harbor and the St. Johns River are right out the window. Even better is waiting for your appointment on the deck overlooking the river. But water ways with fish are magnets for stray animals. One poor pregnant cat showed up one day and gave birth in the shop (but that’s a secret). The kittens were quickly placed with customers from the shop and the diner next door. Mama kitty was spayed and was snoozing on the deck today.

Her pictures are displayed all over the shop. Today there was another picture, a digital frame flashing photos of a tiny squirrel and another cat. The shop owner took me through the story of his life beginning with the day her cat brought the tiny newborn through the cat door. That was over a year ago. The frame chronicles his move to the screened porch and finally to the outdoors, where today he has tiki bar, porch swing, picnic table with corn to share with his friends. There is even a whirligig to shoo away the hawks.

I had hardly begun my personal beautification when a guy walked in with his two-month old shitz shu puppy. We oo-ed and aw-ed over him, then talked of spiders and bats we have known in Florida.

I used to avoid going to “beauty parlors” because I felt so uneasy with the gossip and one-upmanship going on around me. You won’t find that at Sherry’s in Sanford, Florida http://www.sherryturnersalon.com/ , but you had better love animals.

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As Hurricane Alex was swirling into Texas I had a vision from my childhood. In it Daddy is stepping up his pace, with focus showing in the set of his jaw and his shoulders. He climbs into his yellow Texas Highway Department pick-up truck heads into the storm. He’ll check for washouts at bridges and flooded spots in the roads. He’ll put up barriers and flares before anyone can drive off a bridge or into washed out pavement. And he likely won’t be back until the storm has passed.

I am aware he is getting a real adrenaline rush from being able to do something in a crisis, and actually enjoying his role. But Mother? She’s getting a different kind of rush. Now she is alone with three kids in a house she is certain will be either blown away or struck by lightening. For us kids the biggest fear is the embarrassment of Mother following through on her repeated threats to move us to the courthouse for safe shelter. No one ever invites us to go to the courthouse as far as I remember, but Mother feels welcome there just the same. Her courthouse vision kinda reminds me of the farm Lennie was always going to in “Of Mice and Men,” except the courthouse is real — stone and marble fortress real.

I don’t know it, but I am receiving good training for my future in Florida during hurricane seasons. From Daddy I am learning to take the bull by the horns, to prepare and help avert tragedies.  From Mother I learn situations are seldom as bad as imagined. To Mother’s consternation, my siblings and I also learn how funny over-reaction can be. It’s a wonder we aren’t sitcom writers.

I have a vision of a particular storm that shouldn’t be treated with gales of laughter, but is. This time Mother tells us we’ll be safer in our car with rubber tires to protect us from lightening strikes. She is even more afraid of lightening than the wind, but we suspect she has ulterior motives. So we run to the detached garage and pile in our ‘39 Chevy. We are thinking: This is it! We are on the way to the courthouse where workers will stare at us and point and laugh. If that is her intention, the Gods interfere. As we crank the windows up and lock the doors we hear a crack and the ground shakes as the mesquite tree crashes across the driveway behind us. We aren’t going anywhere.  Who needs canned laughter?

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When the freeze warnings hit Florida I knew the location of two Monarch chrysalises, which created a dilemma. The last time this situation came up the freeze was shortlived, and most important, I had my husband and granddaughters in the house that night. That was important because, as some of you know, I would be scared silly (yes, silly) with butterflies flitting around in my house. No worry as long as I had someone to take the Monarch out if it hatched overnight. It did. The broken branch was in a vase in my closed office so the cats would not harm it. That morning I opened to door to find him hanging onto the opened chrysalis. I quickly woke H-1 and she grabbed the branch and ran it outside to finish drying and fly away. We did not know where it was in this process. It was not far from flight as it turned out.

So back to the present. Not only did I not have aid, the freeze was to last almost two weeks. Releasing a fresh hatchling into that kind of temperature would probably have been sure death anyway. That fact salved my conscience as I covered the plants and reconciled the butterflies’ plight with nature.

Over the course of a week, I peeked at the one bright green womb with the brilliant gold crown. It had darkened and continued to darken long past it’s due date. Nature had taken care of the situation. Or so I thought. . .

This morning I spot a bright flutter in the driveway. It couldn’t be. It was. The Monarch was still wet from birth and the rain that had just stopped, but was trying to dry out. He looked fully formed and perfect. I was shocked. The sun was shining and wind blowing strong, so he would do just fine.

And now to check the freeze browned plant for signs of life in the leaves. There were a few green ones left at the bottom, but the real sign of life was another chrysalis, darkened and ready to soon release another butterfly. This is long past their normal gestation. I can only surmise that nature held onto the little creatures until the weather was hospitable. Now the challenge is for them to find a proper plant to live on. That is going to be a challenge for sure, but they have gotten this far so I have to think they’ll make it.

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My granddaughters, daughter-in-law and I were having a girly day in Sanford, FL today, browsing and having lunch. Just as we passed a bar on a side street a tall, massive policeman in blue came loudly stumbling out the door. “Don’t bother coming here,” he slurred, “the place is closed, closed for the day.” We looked over our shoulders as he slapped the door shut hard, and said, “You didn’t see me here, didn’t see a thing.”

“No, nothing, “I said, “and take a look at our license plate. I’m sure you’ll not want to stop us anytime, will you?”

The cop carried on with his ruse until we all broke out in laughter. You gotta love small towns.

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Tis the season I don’t have time for 2,000 words, so their equivalent will help me touch base. This is what is  going on in my wildlife garden right now. At least six Monarch caterpillars have hatched on the broad leaf Monarch plant that grows as high as the eves out front. It’s a caterpillar condo with the finest acomodations. These guys hatch on the leaves, then start munching them for sustenance. The ones with finer tastes take a table by the beautiful blooms and have a regular luau.

One has already begun his new cycle. He’s formed a “J” and will soon create a beautiful, gold crowned crysalis, after which he’ll emerge in a week or ten days as a Monarch butterfly to start the cycle over again. I could not resist taking the Jesus candy cane off my lapel to hang beside him. The similarity smacked me in the face.

A glance up the well lit street and my house looks pretty bare of decorations, but then on closer look, nature has added trim no store could match.

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Let’s put two myths to bed right off.

  • Writers are loners. Sure we work alone because writing is a one-person job unless you are part of a writing team for TV, but “loners” does not describe us. At the Florida Writers Association (www.floridawriters.net)annual conference in Lake Mary, Florida last weekend most attendees did indeed come alone it seemed, but there was a reason, if we can trust my limited “survey.” Those I spoke with did so for the same reason I did. Okay, we don’t have any friends, but besides that, the purpose was to meet as many other writers as possible in a short time. The best way to do that was not to pair up with someone you knew. And it worked. I met so many kindred souls my head is spinning. I’ll touch on a few in a minute.
  • Conference or banquet food is old TV dinners from the days of Sid Caesar and Howdy Doody, scraped from the tin trays and plopped before you, probably cold. You people have obviously never attended a conference at the Marriott in Lake Mary. I heard a perfect description of the creative breakfasts, lunches, breaks and dinners served us: “I feel like I’m on a cruise ship.” That sums it up. Of course, we will all need to work off the extra pounds as we do after a cruise, too. If you need further convincing, how about this? During the conference there was only one standing ovation—it was for the chef.

This was my first time attending a major conference, so I paid for one day (the second) in case it was not beneficial. I came back for the final day and wished I had attended the first, too. (Note to self for next year.)

The first workshop attended was for those farther along and ready to publish and promote, but things picked up when I heard young fantasy writer M.B. Weston, author of Elysian Chronicles . Her presentation on plot and structure was spirited and aimed right at my sore spot, conflict avoidance. She has a hard time doing bad things to her protagonist, too, but had tricks to help. Thank you. Thank you.

The first workshop after lunch was Crafting Commercial Memoir and presented by Brandi Bowles, an agent with Morhaim Literary Agency (www.morhaimliterary.com) whose job it is to buy memoirs. You can’t get advice more straight from the mouth than that. We left there seeing we had to target our audience and basically begin promotion of our book before we even write it. It’s a commercial world out there, kids. Techniques for stringing individual stories together with a narrative thread are the most challenging for me. Ms Bowles gave us several ways to accomplish that goal. Now the work begins.

After a hearty lunch, my next workshop was with Margie Lawson, psychologist, writer, international presenter (http://margielawson.com/, who spoke on Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist. I have no doubt everyone in that workshop will soon be pouring over every work they have written to measure effectiveness against Margie Lawson’s criteria.

In the final workshop Sunday, James O. Born, author of five police thrillers, the latest “Escape Clause” (http://jamesoborn.com/titled his workshop Realism & What Drives Readers Crazy. He also writes science fiction under the pseudonym James O’Neal. Born, a DEA agent in “real life,” pulled one weapon after another from his duffle bag and kept us laughing while learning. Think: Carrot Top’s trunk with lethal weapons. No one got handcuffed (luckily) because he forgot the keys, but he turned my weapon against me when I asked advice on the police style (Surefire) defensive flashlight I carry.

This post has gone on long enough. I’ll be back to introduce you to some of the amazing writers I met and the visual treat we all had from the party next door, an Indian engagement party.

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