Fishing as Debby rolls in

Summer on the island could be divided in two halves: BEFORE DEBBY – calm, breezy, beautiful, plenty of nice kids for my nice kids to play with. AFTER DEBBY: hot, sticky, muddy, not enough kids for my kids to play with.

Then, there was DURING DEBBY. It was predicted to rain a little and go toward Texas, right? RIGHT. We played cards with this great family while the rain poured down and the power flickered on and off, just riding it out. We made pina colodas and nachos and had a blast. All good. THEN, I left the island on Sunday to pick up Mom at the Sarasota airport. Small craft advisory X1. Choppy water, decided I couldn’t get Mom and the kids back over in that water, decided to stay in Sarasota over night. Wise decision because DEBBY sat down and chose to VISIT. You have to hand it to Mom. She is the only person I know to have ever spent two days in France and have a migraine the entire time she was there. She has the worst travel luck. So, this time, she flew into a tropical storm that is being called, in retrospect, a disorganizedstorm, reminiscent of the 1985 Hurricane Elena because it sat around for so long before moving. While hovering, it messed up the power on the island. Three days in a one-room hotel with three kids and mom complaining about our musty-smelling boat ponchos. Thanks for the memories, DEBBY. On day three, there was a rumor that power had been restored to the island, so we braved the white caps in our flats boat, got soaked and trudged five days worth of groceries across to find there was still no power due to two snapped power poles. Sounded serious. Helicopters would be needed to fix this one. Our fridge had been without power for THREE days. Our house smelled like the fish we had in the freezer. Mom was exhausted. Kids super cranky, un-enthused about leaving the island again and all the take-out food was not agreeing with our tummies. In addition, the water on the island was not working, either. We shuffled bags, grabbed the two lap-tops still in the house, emptied fridge and freezer and set out to cross the white caps again.

Me to Hubs in text: “There is NO power on the island until Sunday. I NEED a Residence Inn near the beach please. Trashing smelly stuff from fridge. Managing people. Have diarrhea. Top torn off boat. Made it across okay but half island under water. Have to go back to mainland with six bags of trash. Boat tossed & turned everywhere.” On the way back, due to the waves being so high, the motor got flooded and cut out on me three times in Charlotte Harbor, but we made it back to the marina – white knuckles and all. Come to find out the ferry had quit running because the waves were so rough. Oh, well. Some things have to be done, whether there is a small craft advisory or not.

Text to hubs: “Motor cut out 3X. But we are here. Still have diarrhea. I am woman hear me roar.”

He got me a condo. On the beach.

Ahem.

So, now that brings us to the wave that almost killed me. I am privileged to be the mother of a 14 year old boy which means he only does things if there is an element of slacking, humor or danger involved. So, a few days later when the gulf died down to a hyper-up Atlantic state/ Pacific coast-on-acid style waves, my son decided it was time for us to body surf. I, wanting ANY quality time with him, foolishly accepted, obviously having forgotten our latest saltwater cowgirl experience with previously stated small craft advisory and whitecaps. I go into the gulf. And he follows. We’re knocked down within five seconds, proving that this is going to be fantastic. We give each other a grin, one of those – oh, yeah – one of us is losing a bathing suit and it isn’t going to be me – grins. We try to walk out past the breakers, but every time we take a step another waves knocks our feet out from under us.

The thing about a storm like Debby is, it doesn’t just mess with the water, it moves the sand, too. So, when you step, sometimes the ocean floor is solid, but every few feet or so, you step into a deep hole, maybe three feet deeper than where you just stood. If you are hit by a wave, it can push you in and out of one of those, toss you and you don’t know up from down. I grew up on the Atlantic at New Smyrna Beach riding waves with my dad. This gulf stuff is nothing, unless there’s a storm. We finally get out past the breakers and wait for the pull of the waves to tell us whether they’re good enough to ride or not. And they are. Very good. They take you all the way in, past the deep holes, over the rough shells. The waves push you all the way to the little tide pool and scrape you knees on the scallop shells. We catch a few. The ones we don’t catch, push us to the bottom, flip us over and push sand into the crevices of our behinds, then pop us out and roar, “NEXT.”

The particular waves that takes me under gets me as I am trying to stand, from a previous wave where my feet had come out of the water over my head and I had said to my son, “Okay, one more and that’s it. I’m tired.” DEMON WAVE hits me in the side of the head, flips me over, skids my head along the bottom one-two-three like Fred Flinstone dragging Wilma. My feet scramble to find the bottom. One thing I taught my kids is that when a wave knocks you down, stand up as fast as you can because there’s always another one coming.

My concern is that if DEMON WAVE did this to 150 lb, 5’8″ me, what has it done to my 90 lb, 5’4″ son? My arms are flying around, but all I feel is water, except my head which is still skidding along the bottom every now and then, burning like crazy. I kick my leg and break the surface. Flipping my self over, I stand up, looking for my son. He’s standing right next to me. His hair isn’t wet. Not recently anyway. “What happened to you?” he asks, as I gasp for breath, thankful he is standing. “You were down for like, EVER. I think two waves hit you or something. You didn’t stand up like you were supposed to.” In my recounting of the story, I tell him I think I lost some hair to DEMON WAVE. I actually do have a spot on my head that stayed swollen for two or three days which concerned my mom. (Thanks, Mom.)

We get out of the water, much to my son’s chagrin, but I was dizzy, rubbing the lump on my head. That wave made me feel completely paranoid, especially when my younger kids started saying, “Why does HE get to go out and WE don’t?” Yeah, there’s no way I could keep up with all three of them when I was getting spun around like that.

I haven’t been taken down like that in twenty years. Quite a wave. I stuck by the pool, where there was clear water and a large, grumpy woman from Illinois who fussed if my kids splashed her Cooking Light magazine. There was once a beer commercial (Anheuser Busch) called “Know when to say when”. I believe after that wave hit me, I had reached that point with Debby. Because once the waves died down, Debby brought in seaweed with nasty jelly fish just to prove one more time she was still in charge.

The water wasn’t the same for about two weeks and I am an island girl, believe me, I love the gulf. But Debby, she ruled those weeks and it has been nothing but a hot mess since. Nothing but rain mixed with the smell of dead coquinas and no fish and mud and down pours every day and I surrender, Girl.

But I would still rather be no where else.

Hey, all! Greetings from the land of Spanish Moss and fiddler crabs. I have been on the island a week now, pounding out my revisions, going from the beach to the bay, handing out snacks, balancing the mother thing with the writer thing and becoming what my friends refer to as ISLAND MISTY. This is my favorite version of myself, my alter ego, my alias, in a place where there is no school, somewhere over the rainbow (cue the music and dancing Muppets) As I was saying, there is no school, other than the naturally occurring daily – sometimes three and four times!! – science lessons.  Yesterday science was a skeleton of a lizard and trying to figure out what kind of bird greets us every morning, and the ever changing loosening and tightening of the boat ropes due to tide water. I did, after all, earn a science degree, so this stuff never fails to fascinate me.  GEEK MOM.

Of course, there are some drawbacks.

I have mentioned before that this is no picnic. We do have water and electricity, but there are no stores on the island, so when I need groceries, it’s the golf cart (no cars on the island) to the boat, boat to the marina, get in the car and so on.
But- there is no practice or lesson of any kind for us to rush to. The only thing we try to beat is heavy rain and lightening.
We swim, we run, we bike, we tube, we hike. We meet dogs on the beach and miss ours that passed away.
We talk about the new dog we’ll have and how we’ll enjoy it. We make new friends, eat another snack.
When we’re tired, we sleep.

So far, the only bummers we’ve had are bummer batteries. One dead golf cart battery and two dead boat batteries, but we got it all fixed and we’re rolling now. Except that my aloe plant is dying.
This is summer. This is my island family.

Forgive my absence.

Image

I am not dead. But, if you can’t read the poster well enough, it reads – PARENTHOOD: It could happen to you.

Although I would have loved to sail the Caribbean for the past few months while the American South warmed it’s tail, I have been swamped with – are you ready? – the ever glamorous life that I lead as chauffeur to Oompah-loompahs who can’t drive themselves and forget half their stuff.

Okay, 75% of their stuff.

Yes, I am that woman –  hear me roar. No, seriously, you can probably hear me, like all the way across town. Because there are three of them and one of me and those odds have been plain scary lately – when the coffee maker breaks and Baby Girl sprained her ankle, then one of them lost a tooth on the way to school and there’s blood everywhere and I’m out of tissues because the pollen makes Baby Girl sneeze like she’s allergic to LIFE and the 10 year old leaves the check for the field trip somewhere between the car and his classroom and calls me to tell ME that I FORGOT to send it in and my mother calls on the other line in her bright and cheery voice to wish me happy-birthday-dear.

It is spring. These poor teachers are cramming as much info into these kids’ heads as they can before the kids check-out for the summer. The kids? Oh, no I think the parents have checked out for the summer. We have been over-Science project-ed, over-book report-ed, we have grown plants from little seeds in Styrofoam cups and watched them die. Just, as I’m sure, have so many families across the country this spring. Parents everywhere-  all commiserating.

“Soccer practice for two of them, lacrosse, track, robotics.”

“It’s like the beginning of school all over again.”

On Mondays, the parents say, “It was a great weekend, we did NOTHING. We sure needed the rest.”

By Thursday, we don’t even talk to one another, we just lift our chin. Don’t even get out of the car.

On sports nights, it’s a crazy thought to get a decent meal. You can eat at four in the after noon, like the senior citizens, or around nine o’clock. The other choice is food from a bag, you know what I’m saying. I’ve often wondered about taking that computer charger of my husband’s and seeing if it would work on my crock pot, but the idea of the mess lost out to the convenience of Chick-Fil-A. Unfortunately, this car-as-kitchen arrangement has me using the vacuum at Katy’s car wash quite a bit.That’s a workout, folks. I don’t care how limber you think you are, but I do some serious Yoga moves sucking french fries from under the car seats of my Suburban.

So, it gets better. The week of Spring Break my husband has the boys skiing in Colorado, one sprains his wrist and the other falls and gets a concussion. Two visits to the emergency room in TWO DAYS. You know me, I’m in Florida. And might I just say, that while Baby Girl was with me, the worst thing that happened to her was that she scraped her nose on the pool because she decided to swim with her eyes closed. Although, she is the one who jumped off her playhouse two years ago and broke her arm, had to have two surgeries and seven casts, SO. If anyone in our family is likely to say, “Hey y’all watch this!” It’s probably her.

These are just the highlights of my last few months. I believe this may be the third or fourth time I’ve even opened my computer. But, all that said, I have some good news!!!

According to BelleBridge Books, I’m going to have a short story published in their anthology SWEETER THAN TEA, coming out close to Mother’s Day. I’ll let you know the exact date when I know more. It will be available – like everything under the sun- on Amazon.

It starts small.

Like a breeze in the fold of your mind as the snow clouds gather.

“I need something cool and fruity. Let’s stop by Whole Foods. I heard they have Costa Rican pineapple this week.”

Hmm. You wonder what the weather is like in Costa Rica. You check the Travel Channel. Nice. A catalog with a preview for Spring Clothes  ARRIVES IN YOUR MAILBOX.

You’re not the cruising type, but isn’t that water pretty and clear? You can see all manner of sea life, Honey. And my, what a blue sky.

Jimmy Buffett comes on the radio. He’s in Margaritaville, which you know is fictional, yet consistent with the sandals on page 34 of the catalog. You schedule a pedicure and consider songwriting.

Other people – those that enjoy cold weather and believe snow is an opportunity, make plans for skiing and snowboarding.

But not you. You debate the difference between Chilly and Downright Unnecessarily Freaky Cold. You fill your bath tub and pretend you’re in Aruba.

Your significant other inquires after your thyroid. Perhaps you need to have it checked. The red flags for low thyroid are Extreme sensitivity to cold and Lethargy. It sounds like you, but you know what would fix all of this… Salt Water. Buckets of it.

You decide that you next article, short story, etc, has a warm locale. In fact, a trip will be written off on the research & time spent near the equator. It’s not Europe, but hey, look at Randy Wayne White,  Gabriel García Márquez and even Mark Twain. Research under the new electric blanket is not the same.

Freelancing jobs can be scarce. You buy more pineapple. More listening to Jack Johnson. More Jimmy Buffett. You grill out in the freezing rain and laugh at the absurdity.

You check the internet for deals.

Soon enough,You have your story outlined, more or less, about a heart broken girl, unhappy with her life in _(cold environment)__ who finds satisfaction in _(warm environment)_ through _(discovering her life-long dream/herself)_ after her conflict with _(her psychotic mother, neglectful father, faithless boyfriend/husband)_.

Blah, blah, throw in some history that ties into the subplot and the internal journey and “HONEY! Don’t we have some Sky miles somewhere??!! I have to go to BRAZIL.”

“Brazil?”

“Or maybeArgentina,” you say, throwing back the electric blanket and ripping open you dresser. “Where is my bikini? I have a story to write!”

He frowns as if something is wrong with you. Like the winter is just doing it’s NORMAL thing. Like this happens every year.

“Did you make the appointment to get your thyroid checked?”

Nothing is wrong with your thyroid. You simply hate winter from the bottom of your soul. Snow is for looking at. In a picture. And for the life of you, you don’t understand why people have paintings of snow scenes hung on their walls, just looking at those makes you cold. If seasons are metaphors for life, and winter is death, why would anybody hang that on their wall? Might as well be a picture of a casket.

So, with that incredibly sane argument, a trip is made. Because you threatened never to make pound cake again. Because you love one another and have something to celebrate. Because he’s tired of hearing it. Because you’ve both been working hard and need to reconnect.

And quite suddenly, you feel better about the world. The story will be killer because you already lived it.

If just for one cold January afternoon.

Nana fishing

The fisherman comes up
Puts his two poles in the sand
Stares out at the sea
Just exactly like me
But I’ve got a book in my hand
We will have caught on to something
By the end of the day
But mostly we think about
The one that got away

Indigo Girls ~ Fleet of Hope

This is my maternal grandmother, Dottie Kalb, but at first glance, friends think it’s me. Something about the weather turning cold, makes me miss her. Is it simply that the holidays are approaching and I have no time to spend at the island? Winter is a time for reflection, right? I have  no idea which Florida coast she’s on, but I’ve treasured this picture since I discovered it. I have her hair, curling wildly in humidity, her nose, her mouth, and cheeks. We even wait on our fish, pondering the water similarly.

When I spent the most time with her, she and my grandfather lived in a mobile home park for retirees in central Florida, about an hour away from me. I spent weeks with them in the summer and they took me to good old Florida hot spots like Weeki Wachee Springs to see the mermaids, Crystal River to swim with the manatees (more like manatee poop!), Silver Springs for the glass-bottom boats, Cypress Gardens for the water ski show (now Lego Land). But our afternoons were spent at the pool with her friends, listening to gossip or sitting on someone’s porch doing puzzles and playing cards until Jeopardy! came on.

I remember going through her costume jewelry and seeing pictures of her dressed up, but she always wore shorts and t-shirts and drug me to flea markets for ‘finds’. She loved the beach and the garden and never minded getting dirty or wet.

I think this ache of missing her began when Hubs and I showed the DVD of our wedding to the kids last weekend. At first they groaned, but when they started recognizing people (“Uncle Tim had HAIR?!”) it got exciting. My grandmother was in a wheelchair at my wedding, was very shaky and needed help moving into the pew. My kids never knew her because she died six weeks after my wedding.

My dad’s mom always says the same thing about my Nana, “Dottie was a great lady. She behaved the same around everybody. Comfortable with the highest of the high and the lowest of the low.”

Every memory I have of her has to do with water or treasure. My brain knows she lived in Virginia and Georgia and elsewhere, but to me, she will always be Florida and mermaids and holidays and whispering secrets and “Honey, this is what we’re going to do…”

Nantahala
Class III rapids Nantahala

“ALL FORWARD!!”

In Nantahala River Guide talk, that means – you guessed it – “All paddles in the water and paddle forward until I tell you to stop!”

“Right Forward. Left back.”  – Is terrific!! Spinning in circles while going down rapids is a great way to spend the morning.

Apologies to readers who are more advanced rafters. My first trip was down the family-friendly dammed-controlled Nantahala in North Carolina, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hubs and I decided that after 17 years of marriage we’d take on some Class I – Class III rapids. As promised, the Nantahala’s “eight miles of bouncy waves and lively current”,made it a white water rafting “delight for all ages”. Yep. We weren’t the youngest or the oldest people in the boat.

We chose to sit in the front so we could see. Later, we learned this marked us as candidates most willing to be thrown overboard.

Hubs had his turn first at The Whirlpool, one of the most fun spots on the entire river. The river makes a turn to the right and creates a giant “eddy” (another name for a whirlpool- you look that up for a more technical description)  from the left bank to the center of the river.

The current pushes rafts to the right, but it’s fun to charge left and crash the eddy, which often spins kayaks and rafts. The side tubes of the raft will dip deep into the water. The dipping is what tossed Hubs out. Our raft guide says he’s been throwing people over and swimming there and no one has ever been able to touch the bottom.

I’d been teasing our guide, Kyle, that my side of the boat always got wet once my shorts got dry.

“Really?” he asked. “I thought I had you (going over) when your husband went.”

“My shorts weren’t dry yet.”

Thanks to Kyle and my inability to keep my mouth shut –

I got tossed at Surfing Rapid. A much rockier and less glamorous place to be in the water.

Keep in mind, the water is in the 50’s ALL year ’round. But… you don’t notice so much that you’re wet and cold and floating and not in the boat when Hubs is saying, “Hand me your paddle. Hand me your paddle. Hand me your paddle.”

I handed him the paddle and was pulled back into the boat without knocking myself on every rock imaginable. Honestly, the whole thing was over before it began.

“Wet now?” Kyle chuckled. “Cold?”

“Not so much.”

“Weird, isn’t it?”

(Keep in mind, he’s the sleeveless one in the back of the boat. I had to at least pretend. The dad and son behind us were in wet suits.)

The last rapids are the Class III. Hubs saw them coming, let go of his paddle, and grabbed my arm. You can see it in the pic.

“I’m good,” I said, wanting to remind him who went over first.

“Which river do we go to from here?” he asked. “What’s next?”

“I’m all for it, but let’s ask when we get to the bottom.”

I’ll let you know what we decided. Because that has to do with my WIP…

When it’s warmer.

And my shorts are dry.