Wanted by the FEPPC

12/1/2020

Fall has finally arrived to central Florida. It’s a chilly 48 degrees at midday and expected to be 38 degrees tonight. These temps will only last a few days; by Friday it will be back up to the high 70’s. So, even though it’s nice and sunny out, I’m content to snug up here on the sofa with my pup, Ralphie, and a cup of coffee mixed with coquito. If you’re unfamiliar with the aforementioned concoction, I will explain. Coquito is often referred to as Puerto Rican eggnog. It’s easy to make – no eggs involved – just canned sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, evaporated milk, and cinnamon. And rum. There are several variations, but those are the main ingredients and it’s so tasty! Along with the chilly weather, I’m feeling somewhat festive. It may be the rum.

As the temperature started to drop yesterday afternoon, I donned a sweatshirt and took Ralphie for a walk. (donned – a fun word, right?) Just north of my neighborhood, if you bear right, the road becomes dirt and leads into the woods. Parts of the woods are swampy but there are a few houses scattered around, so the road is maintained and makes for a pleasant walk.

Florida in November is not much different to the untrained eye than, say, Florida in March or July. The few ragged wildflowers that were colorful in September are now brown but the fern, palmetto, and the oaks remain green all year. I passed a large patch of coralberry that was turning red just in time for the holidays. With it’s red berries and shiny dark green leaves, it makes a good substitute for holly. I have a bush in my backyard that I use for Christmas greenery.

I looked it up in Wikipedia just now so I could sound more knowledgeable here.

QUOTE: “Ardisia Crenata, sometimes called Christmas berry, is an invasive species in the southeastern US, escaping captivity in wooded areas in Florida in 1982. The invasive cultivar in this region is originally from Japan. It is classified as a Category 1 pest by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FEPPC).”

Ha! This made me almost spit out my rum laden coffee. How do they know it “escaped” in 1982 exactly? Are agents from the FEPPC looking for it? Is it armed and dangerous? Who knew there was a FEPPC anyway? I also have two poinsettia bushes in the back that are starting to sprout their famous red leaves. I was thinking of moving them to the front. Are they wanted by the FEPPC as well? Should I keep them in hiding? I just checked and it appears not. Although they are not native and hail from Central America, they are not a Category 1 pest. Whew!

I don’t mean to disrespect the work of the FEPPC. I understand how some non-native plants get out of control. Large swaths of south Florida are overrun with Brazilian Pepper that was once touted and sold as Florida Holly in the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s just that the more I research the plants in my yard, the more I find that I’m really good at growing invasive species. A real green thumb!

Coralberry, a.k.a Christmas berry

Smiley Face

11/19/2020

Well, I did it. Something I’ve been wanting to do for quite sometime but had never looked into it. I signed up for clear teeth aligners, i.e. clear braces. I’m in the middle of the process and it’s quite the process! I chose Smile Direct after a bit of research and speaking to a friend who had gone through the Invisalign process and had a few issues. So far, I’m impressed. These people have the “communication with the customer” thing down. I’m getting emails and texts and every question I’ve had has been answered without my asking. (This is not a commercial for Smile Direct, just my experience.)

I didn’t have braces as a kid but it wasn’t because I didn’t need them. It was because I lied to my mother after a dental appointment when I was 13.

I grew up in a small North Carolina town. Dr. Graham may not have been the only dentist in town but he was the one that everyone we knew went to. We had no local orthodontist, so, if you needed braces, it meant driving to a bigger town 30 miles away. Both my older sisters had had braces and I had heard my parents at times complain about the expense and the drive. I remember examining my teeth one day and deciding they looked just fine, so when my mother sent me off on my bike for my regular check-up and told me to ask Dr. Graham about braces, I thought I had nothing to worry about – for me or my hard working parents.

I asked him. “Mom wants to know if I need braces.” As he poked around in my mouth he said, “Well, this tooth and this tooth will have to come out to make room. We can do that here before I send you to Dr. Walker.” What I heard was, “I’m going to pull out two perfectly good teeth.”

When I got home I told mom that Dr. Graham said my teeth looked fine and I wouldn’t need braces, “Well, that’s a relief, ” she said. I was sure I had done the right thing.

Years later, while I was away at college, Dr. Graham spoke to my mom after church one Sunday and asked her why she had never sent me to Dr. Walker. Busted! She wasn’t very happy with me that day and called to tell me about it. I said I was sorry for lying but that I still didn’t think I needed them. So what if my eye teeth were somewhat prominent?

Over the years my teeth have moved around a bit and my eye teeth are more prominent then ever. In a recent photo, I really noticed it and so did Joe. He rarely notices things like that, or if he does he doesn’t comment, so when he did I paid attention.

I’m committing to wearing the aligners for 22 hours a day for 6 months. It’s a good time to do this since I have nothing on my schedule, no big Thanksgiving, no Christmas plans, no parties, no luncheons, no fun ahead at all. Damn the pandemic. Hopefully, after 6 months we will all be out and about again and I’ll be all smiles!

World Weary

11/11/20

How are you holding up? I feel exhausted by the election and this post-election week. It’s emotional exhaustion. The relief I felt after the election was finally called lasted only a few hours, barely enough time to pop a bottle of Champaign before the drama resumed. That was predictable, of course. Trump made his intention not to accept defeat very vocal. Still, it’s so tiring.

I used to think being a journalist would be an ideal job. Exciting, smart people, always in the know, but 2020 has just been too much. I wonder how many of my favorite reporters and magazine writers just want to bury their heads under the covers and sleep for the next two months. I do. Even the good news of a Biden/Harris win comes with so many caveats that I’m still doomscrolling every morning to find out “now what the fuck.” (The one bright spot was Rudy Giuliani and the Four Seasons Total Landscaping SNAFU. I’m still laughing.)

And COVID! Our governor has taken the herd immunity strategy to heart and has offered up Florida as the nation’s guinea pig for the “let’s just ignore it and see what happens” experiment. People are getting sick and dying at an alarming rate, that’s what. My teacher friends are frustrated and scared by the lack of transparency in reporting from the state and the school district. Because of privacy issues, schools must rely on parents to self-report when a child gets sick and this results in little or no effort to contact trace or in preventative quarantining. It’s often too late for those measures to be effective.

I spoke with my niece who is an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) in Georgia. A new student from Iran was told by letter he needed to quarantine for 10 days before returning to school. He came to her in a panic because he thought he had COVID. No one from the school had explained to him or his parents it was because the girl he sat next to in class had tested positive. Unsurprisingly, no one from the school in her small town spoke Farsi. “Miss, Miss, am I going to die?” he asked her. She assured him as well as she could that he wouldn’t die but said he didn’t seem convinced. How sad. As ill equipped as states are to deal with this worsening pandemic, schools are even less so.

Although I’m frustrated at having to stay home, exhausted by the happenings in the outside world and furious at people who seem to think mask wearing is not imperative, I thank my lucky stars that I retired this year and can stay at home. A retired friend of mine said to me the other day, “I’m going to be really pissed if, after 8 months of being really careful, I die because some asshole refuses to wear a mask.” I had to agree.

Experts wonder and warn: Is Florida the nation’s test case for COVID-19 herd immunity? – Miami Herald

Waiting is Hard

11/05/20

I keep refreshing the NYTimes election map but it always tells me the same thing – Biden at 253 electoral votes. I go outside and clear a patch of jungle, come back to check and it’s still the same. I vacuum the living room then refresh the page – nothing new. I make a salad, we have lunch and refresh – same, same. This is hard. I’m running out of ways to occupy myself while waiting for the little gray states on the screen to turn blue.

I have high hopes for Georgia. Unrealistic according to the pundits, but how awesome would it be if the black vote there decided the election? Like the man in Detroit when asked about the vote counting going on amid protests said, “We’ve gone from picking cotton to picking presidents.” What he didn’t say was “deal with it,” but that’s what I heard and I applaud it.

We now know Michigan went to Biden and his chances of hitting 270 sometime in the near future are looking much better. I’m disgusted with my own state, Florida. They are blaming the people that went with Obama twice of being scared of Trump’s “socialism” propaganda. One of the GOP talking points in Florida was that Harris was a Marxist. Come on! She was a prosecutor, a top cop for the government, a law and order gal, so, obviously, a ridiculous claim. Can that really be the reason? That the Latino communities were convinced Biden was a socialist? I’m afraid the truth is more worrisome than that.

It’s not just Latinos are that voting for Trump in FL. Many white voters are just not buying what the Democrats are selling – racial justice, equality, and a level playing field when it comes to opportunities. These values are not selling points for people who believe in nationalism and white supremacy. That’s the worrisome thing. And it’s not just Florida. Trump got 48% of the national vote (!) so even if Biden pulls it out, we will still be dealing with “Trumpism” for a long time to come. To quote a Trump strategist, “The winner of the 2024 Republican primary will either be President Trump or the candidate who most closely resembles him.” That, indeed, is worrisome.

Fever Pitch

11/01/2020

Two more days of election frenzy and I’m about to jump out of my skin. I’ve tried several strategies to keep myself sane, with varying degrees of success. One is by exhausting myself with yardwork.

The roofers did a commendable job on the new roof (yay!) but completely trampled the front and side yard. The pine cone ginger, the leatherback fern, and the pagoda plants were all flattened to the point of no resurrection, so I’ve spent the last 3 days cutting back everything from the house to the flagstone paths down to the ground. Thankfully, the weather had cooled a bit but now it’s back up to the usual humid 85 degrees and I’m sore from all the bending and squatting, so I’m taking a break today.

These plants will all regenerate in a few months with no help from me and I normally cut back the pagoda plants after they finish blooming, so I’m not crying about it. The leatherback fern will come back a brighter spring green and I never know where the ginger will pop up, (it seems to travel around the yard), but right now it looks pretty sad out there.

These are all gone now but will be back.

Another strategy that helped me deal with the stress of the pending election was to DO SOMETHING about it. The election, I mean. I joined Joe and stood by the highway waving signs for Biden. Joe has been involved with a local group and has been doing this everyday for the last week as well as text banking, and I felt that I needed to join him in doing something other than passively tweeting and retweeting in my echo chamber of a Twitter account. I’m not there to change minds; I just find comfort in knowing others are as worried, outraged, and obsessed with the political news as I am.

The sign waving was fun and it was good to get out of the house and make some new friends. There was a lot of support in the form of honking and thumbs up and only a few middle fingers. One woman stopped her car and cursed us but we just waved our signs more furiously at her (and I might have danced a little) so, all in all, it was uplifting.

Me with signs and banners

Today, I’ve joined a few friends in vowing not to take in any more news until election day, or maybe even Wednesday if I can hold out. (I doubt I can, but it feels brave just saying it.) I’m going to spend the next two days cooking, writing, calling family and friends, and generally pretending that we are not on the brink of disaster. If anyone is reading this, I invite you to join me. Peace out.

I should hate Facebook…

…and ideologically, I do. I hate the power and influence that Zuckerberg and his company have in our culture. I hate that FB has “algorithms” that control what I see in my newsfeed. I hate that I can’t outwit the algorithms to see a more honest version of what people are talking about. I hate that if I click on a pair of shoes while surfing the web, an identical pair of shoes pops up on my newsfeed.

Of course, Zuckerberg is not all to blame. He, like Trump, has hundreds of minions and enablers doing his bidding. I have no doubt he is arrogant, self absorbed, insufferable, and no fun at a party. That describes so many very rich, self-important white males, doesn’t it? Why should he be any different? But I had hoped that he would be different. I had hoped that because he was young, smart, possibly hip, that he would be benevolent, woke, and use his power for good. So much power and money could do so much good! How naïve of me.

So, why don’t I quite Facebook? I’ve certainly thought about it – quitting in protest over his political manipulations and his algorithms- yet I can’t give it up. Here’s a recent example why: I had a chat group of 3 people in Messenger. All 3 were from my small hometown in NC and we had gone to high school together. We all left for college and moved on in life. We originally started chatting about a casual reunion that was being planned and even though not all of us attended, we stayed together on FB. We “reacted” and commented on each others post, maybe out of a feeling of hometown loyalty, but we soon discovered we had similar views of the world and even though we had not stayed face-to-face friends, we were friends. Old friends.

Then Trump was elected and people’s political views became evident on FB. Mine sure did. I began culling out my friends list and the 3 of us chatted more often, sharing articles, outrages, and clever memes. Soon our group grew to 6 as we added more hometown peeps that we knew agreed with us. We are all over the map; I’m in Florida, Steve is in Tennessee, Laura’s in NC, Carla & Will are in Colorado, and Claire is in NYC. We haven’t been in the same room together since we graduated in the early 70’s, yet we now have been in the same chat room for every presidential debate of 2020, making comments, groaning at Trump’s lies and just generally being snarky together.

During the last debate, Carla posted, “An oldie but goodie, ‘I am the least racist person in the room.'”

“I keep laughing out loud. What is wrong with me?” Claire replied.

“You have a brain,” from Laura. Steve posted a clown face.

What fun! The miracle of social media! There is a bond that I don’t have with more recent like-minded friends because of growing up together.

At the end of last night’s debate, Carla invited us all to Colorado for a visit as soon as the pandemic allows. “That would be heaven.” Claire texted. We all thought, yes, that would be wonderful, but, as much as I would love for it to happen, I don’t think it will. I may be wrong – Carla loves to organize these things – but we will always have our Messenger group and the 2020 debates and I’m sticking with Facebook.

This is not us but the right time period.

Not Feeling It

10/18/2020

It’s hard to feel the spirit of the holidays that are approaching when the weather here is a reliable 85 degrees everyday. The turning of the seasons in Florida only happens in the gift shops. The rare exception is the Golden Rain Tree. We don’t have one in our yard but there is a beautiful one up the street and several around town. It’s an unnoticeable green most of the year, but in September it blooms a brilliant yellow, and in October those yellow blooms are replaced with brownish-orange seed pods. When the seed pods dry and a breeze comes along the tree makes a noise similar to the patter of a soft rainfall. If you’ve ever turned a rain stick upside down you know the sound. They’re not native and are considered invasive so nurseries no longer sell them but you can see them growing all over Florida this time of year.

So the Rain Trees have turned their orange-brown and I have dutifully climbed up into the attic, brought down the fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations and hung the pumpkin wreaths on the front door. I’m just not feeling it this year. I have a dear friend in North Carolina who goes all out for Halloween. Her collection of quirky, artsy, handcrafted decorations that fill her house are a delight to see. My collection is not curated and mostly acquired while the girls were of trick-or-treat age but I do have a nice white ceramic pumpkin and some big orange candles.

I grew up in North Carolina, and, though, after 30 years, I have adapted to Florida, I still miss the seasons and, especially, the NC mountains in the fall. Normally, I would make the trip in October or November, but these are not normal times. I guess that’s why I lack the enthusiasm for decorating this year. It seems rather pointless when it’s just the two of us, but I’ll light up the jack-o-lantern and hand out candy on Halloween to any trick-or-treaters that may come around this year. At least they will see my pumpkin wreaths.

Joe suggested I hand down the Christmas decorations while I was in the attic but I declined. It’s looking less likely, with COVID numbers spiking again, that the girls will be coming home for Christmas. If that’s the case, I’ll have to come up with ideas to keep my spirits up. Something other than vodka.

Golden Rain Tree
Rain Tree seed pods

Going Gray

10/15/2020

Best decision I’ve made in a long time. I’d been contemplating letting my hair go gray for several years, ever since turning 60, I guess. My hairdresser of 15 years kept discouraging it. “You’ll look 10 years older.” she said. Well, no one wants that.

Looking back at past decades, I loved my 50s. Other than my 20s, it is my favorite decade. My first daughter was born when I was 32 and my second at 37. Don’t get me wrong; I loved being a mom, but those years were stressful. Joe and I were both working and juggling child care. We had a mortgage, student loan debt, car payments, etc. I remember those days as busy and bittersweet.

Once the girls were older and Joe and I both were making a little more money (a teacher and a journalist, so very little more), I could finally do some things just for me. I became yoga certified, I took a writing class and joined a writing group, and even took a couple of exotic vacations. Life was not extravagant, but pretty fabulous, nonetheless. It was also during that decade that Joe and I took a hard look at our marriage. There were some dark days, but, luckily, we came out on the other end of that still together and better for it.

Then 60 hit. My 60s feel different. Friends started retiring, a high school classmate passed away, my hairdresser retired and I saw the light at the end of my career tunnel. Three months before my retirement, I sent out a Facebook appeal. “Can someone recommend a hairdresser that can help me go gray gracefully?” I got several responses and picked the one who contacted me personally. I walked into her salon a blond with gray roots and came out totally white. That was last February, a month before lockdown. I haven’t been back to a salon since. Had I not gone gray when I did, I would look like a buckskin saddle oxford by now, half blond, half white. So, good timing.

And, yes, Linda, you were right, I do look older. I totally look like my mom or rather a not-so-favorite aunt. It’s sometimes sobering and humbling to look in the mirror but I’m OK with it. Joe actually said I looked beautiful the other day. (Probably because I had bothered to dress like we were going somewhere rather that my usual lockdown wardrobe. But, still.) It’s not glamourous (not like in the picture because I can’t replicate the hairdresser’s work), but it’s natural and in some ways, freeing. Plus, it’s nice not spending $200.00 to cover roots every 6 or 8 weeks. I’m getting comfortable in my old lady skin and hair. As soon as this virus allows, I plan on another exotic vacation with my two gray-haired best friends, so, watch out for us! As Cindy Joseph says (on every YouTube ad and spam mail directed at the over 60 crowd) “be pro-age, not anti-age”, a baby boomer rallying cry!

That’s me at the salon.

Fantasy Indictment League

10/08/2020

Image for post

I started listening to the Mueller She Wrote podcast sometime in 2017 when we were all pining our hopes on the Mueller report to uncover the misdeeds of Trump and his gang. I was sure that most patriotic Republicans would be as outraged by his obsequious behavior toward Putin as the Dems and much of the media. I believed that the rule of law and dedication to country over party would prevail. Sure, there were despicable characters that I knew would kick, scream and deny anything Mueller would discover – Devin Nunes, Tom Cotton, Jim Jordon come to mind. But, I mean we ALL saw his confession to Lester Holt that he had fired Jim Comey because of the “Russia thing”. We ALL heard him say be believed Putin over his own intelligence community. There was just so much proof out in the open.

What I didn’t count on, no one did, was Bill Barr’s distortions and mendacity and how the GOP would fall in line. Looking back, how naïve we were. (I suppose I should speak for myself here. I have some politically savvy friends as well as some very jaded ones who were not surprised.)

The girls on the podcast reported and commented on the doings of Trump’s admin and the various connections to Russia, Trump’s businesses and his many conflicts of interests. They started a weekly Fantasy Indictment League where they each picked 5 people they speculated would be indicted for various illegal activities.

I played along at home, shuffling my list based on headlines. It was satisfying even if it rarely happened. Roger Stone, Don Jr., Tom Barrack (Trump Inaugural Committee and the missing 107 million), Scott Pruitt (and the dismantling of the EPA), and Elliot Broidy, (just eww) were a few of my top picks. Some have faced indictments or lawsuits and, hopefully, all will eventually pay for their crimes, including Trump.

Today my list has changed with the news. Top of my list is Stephen Miller for his crimes against humanity. The young children he took from their mothers, including infants, will be damaged for life. If American justice doesn’t punish him, universal justice will. He has COVID, that’s a start.

Second on my list is William Barr. I don’t know what specific crimes he will someday be charged with (perjury? treason?) but his misuse of the DOJ must include a variety. Obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, abuse of power, something!

Third on my list is Mitch McConnell. He has single-handedly destroyed the legislative branch of government by not doing his job and sitting on every bill that lands on his desk unless it benefits his wealthy donors, including the Russians. Fourth is Jared Kushner. He and Ivanka have been involved in so many shady dealings, but he is largely responsible for Trump’s dismal failure managing the corona virus. He thought they could turn the COVID-19 deaths in the blue states to Trump’s political advantage by blaming the governors. How short-sighted to think the virus wouldn’t spread to red states. A new documentary telling this story, “Totally Under Control”, is slated for release on October 13th.

Last on my list of most desired forthcoming indictments is Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General. He is literally trying to disrupt the election by hampering the USPO’s ability to handle mail-in ballots in the middle of a pandemic. This has to be the ultimate voter suppression tactic ever devised in American politics.

So I will be rooting for my team to be indicted, hopefully in the near future, but the list is fluid and some may be replaced by others depending on the flood of never-ending bad news. I would love to hear who’s on your team.

Dark Days Ahead

9/25/2020

I haven’t written about the state of emergency America has found herself in but it certainly occupies my thoughts. Obsessively. The first thing I do each morning after pouring myself a cup of coffee is check Twitter to see what awful thing Trump has done (doomscrolling) or if my prayers have been answered and he has resigned or otherwise been struck down.

I can honestly say that I consider anyone who still supports Trump at this point to be a racist. I don’t say that lightly. There can be no other conclusion. He has no policy, has achieved nothing other than sow discord, and has totally bungled the pandemic response, so there can be no other reason to vote for him. (Unless, of course, you’re a billionaire or imagine yourself to be.) He makes no secret of his racism and encourages it in his followers. He has shown himself to be a true tyrant. If people don’t see that now it’s because they don’t want to. Dark days ahead, for sure.

But it’s been dark days for the last 4 years. The morning after he was elected, I cried all the way to work. It was the morning of our annual Principals’ Breakfast and all the district’s media specialists were meeting at the very fancy Orlando Country Club to honor their principals. The real purpose of the event is to remind principals that school libraries need their support. (I won’t miss having to appear at these events at 6:00 in the morning!) I remember thinking how can these people not realize that something horrible has occurred. How can they act so normal? And then realizing that a good percentage had most likely voted for him. I can only hope that a good percentage now have reconsidered and will vote for Biden.

Something horrible had occurred and for 4 years we have been living through every horrible day of it. I wish I could time travel 50 years into the future and see what historians say about his presidency. Alexander Vindman said he was a “useful idiot” and was Putin’s “free chicken” (haha), but he is much worse than that. He is an extremely dangerous idiot and a threat to our democracy, which has always been tenuous at best.

I dread the coming months but I will do what I can, keep my head down and keep on keeping on. Today is my oldest daughter’s 34th birthday. How can that be?

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