coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wine Tasting Tour

I just returned from a long weekend in California's wine country (Napa and Sonoma). T and I went with my brother (Big D) and his wife, Vacation Sue; Baby Sister and her husband, Mikey; Big Sister C; and Little Sister (my youngest brother's wife). There were 8 of us. Big D was the master of ceremonies. He made all the arrangements, wrote up an itinerary, and drove us all around in a large Suburban. It was kind of like the clown car. Whenever we stopped, seemingly hundreds of us poured out of the vehicle, laughing and shouting all the way. 

In addition to visiting a number of wineries, we also spent a day being extremely touristy at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco where we ate at Scoma's, drank Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, and made a stop at the See's Candy store. It was fun, and also beautiful. Here are a few photos, sorry they are not in order:

The last of the convoy of ships that stormed Normandy beachheads in 1944


Golden Gate Bridge

I expected to see Popeye on one of these.

C and T in Fisherman's Wharf

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Woodturner's Dream

It is a woodturner’s dream down here in Florida. Piles of downed tree trunks and limbs have been hauled to the front of most yards since the hurricane. I have just such a friend in NYS who should really be down here with a truck driving from house to house, picking up the best pieces for future live oak bowls or platters. She would have raw material to last for years.

T is fixing our privacy fence, a key component for staying sane in these close Florida developments. Many fences came down in the high winds, so stacked fence panels also sit at the curb, waiting. I am happy our fence still stands. Sneaking a peak at our neighbors’ backyards this week seems almost indecent. I do NOT want them to see ours! We are on waiting lists for various repairs to roof and pool areas. We slowly wait for civilization to return our teeny part of the world to what passes as normal...for us.

We were lucky. Our neighborhood was only without power for one and a half days. Our daughter’s subdivision was without for nearly 5 days. There are still places in the county (and definitely the state) where households will be without electricity for weeks. T and I still don’t have internet or cable. First world problems…

Our daughter’s family chose to stay in their house during the dark days. They managed in a semi-camp mode with gas grill, candles, flashlights, and bottled water. They charged their phones sitting quietly in their cars, in the driveway. Our grandson, N, received a few Lego kits that kept him busy.

When we got electricity back our 13 year-old granddaughter opted to stay with us for a couple days. It was fun. We made jewelry and ate ice cream. Best of all, we had her all to ourselves for a while. As long as we live, none of us will forget this hurricane or our time together.

The worst hit us between 2 and 4 a.m., early Sunday morning. What a cruel time for a storm to hit! All you can do is lie in the dark, unable to see the direction of the wind or the damage wrought, but hearing it nonetheless. The wind was ferocious, absolutely petrifying in the fullness of terrible, destructive power. Sometimes it sounded like a train was coming straight towards us. We were ready for anything. Now I am tired. 

I think of refugees; how hard their lives must be. They are left with so little. How do their children pass the time? How is their food cooked? When will civilization bring hope and normalcy back to their lives? What IS normal, after you have suffered so much?

Palm trees surrendered some skin and fruit - made for a nice photo, I thought

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Great Bitch, Irma

We are trying to get ready for this monster hurricane. Irma will find her way to Central Florida on Sunday. We are trying to prepare both physically and mentally. We will likely lose power, for how long is anyone's guess. If you don't hear from me next week I am likely without electricity. Don't worry, I'm almost sure everything will be messy, but fine.

How do you prepare for a hurricane? Well, preparing is endless. Getting enough water stockpiled is hard when stores sold out a week ago. When a delivery arrives, people are waiting in line to get it and they buy it all up without a thought for others. Community spirit seems to kick in after a catastrophe hits. Before, everyone is desperately trying to protect their own.

I think we have enough bottled water to see us through a week without power, but I have taken to freezing tap water in gallon sized freezer bags just in case. If power goes out it should take them a while to melt, keeping the fridge cool a day or two longer. We have plenty of canned foods, cereal, and nuts in the pantry. Our extra batteries should arrive today via We have propane for the gas grill. T will drain the pool to accommodate torrential rain.

Gasoline is another scarce commodity. All gas tankers are going to South Florida so evacuees can have gas to travel north. Tom filled his car before the rush. My car is a little less than half full. We wasted gas driving around yesterday but could not find a gas station with any gasoline left.

The sand bag distribution center has a multiple hour wait, with cars lined up to the moon and back. Wasting precious gasoline to get sand bags! It's a conundrum.
Consequently, our sandbox for little N has been raided; the sand turned into sandbags to keep all that water out of the house.

Highways are filled with people from South Florida trying to escape Irma at her worst. I worry they will run out of gas and be forced to endure Irma on the side of the highway in cars with kids, animals, and important papers. It happens. Can you imagine? We have not been told to evacuate, but schools are closed. I imagine if evacuation becomes mandatory, the gas tankers will begin stopping in Central Florida again? However, I hope once she makes landfall that bitch will settle down a little. I would be grateful for a Cat 2 storm. I really don't want to hit the road.

Our important papers and pills are in plastic freezer bags, too. I've moved many things off the ground in case of flooding. We have lots of toilet paper! Wine, too... Any potential outside projectiles (potted plants, deck furniture, pool cleaning implements, toys) will be moved to the shed or the garage. No basements in Florida! I'll move my computer away from my office window. Bathtubs will be filled with tap water for cleaning up and flushing toilets. Unfortunately, we do not have plywood to cover windows. That is also long gone in the stores. We will buy some afterwards for next time. For now, we take our chances. 

There is the added worry that our daughter and her family aren't preparing well enough. They are, they will, but still my mother/grandmother's heart is sore and stretched for miles. If I worry enough, will it ward off water and wind?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Grandma Told Stories

The last Grandma story (for now):

Grandma was a fundamentalist Protestant and a Pentecostal charismatic who talked in tongues when the spirit moved her. This was quite different than the European Catholicism of my mother's people, which was the way I was raised. However, loving someone with a different religion was my first clue that mysticism and goodness belong to all religions, and all (or none) are valid paths. She also retained many old Appalachian mores, superstitions, and beliefs.

She often told me ghost stories about events that happened in the family over the years.  One of my favorite stories was the one about "The Three White Horses.”

The Three White Horses
Grandma’s paternal grandmother, Luella,
lived on a farm in Pickett County, Tennessee with her husband, Ewell. She was sitting on her front porch on 1 Jun 1919, when unbeknownst to her, their son Thomas (my great grandfather) died. Luella told Ewell that she saw three white horses running in the fields by their house that day. He just laughed at her and told her she was seeing things. Three months to the day, she went into the cornfield to fill her apron with ripe corn for dinner. There she had a stroke and died on 1 September 1919.   

Grandma also told me she once heard a strong, decisive knock on the front door to her house.  When she opened the door no one was there.  Later she discovered that a relative had died at the exact moment she heard the knock. These stories scared me half to death, and I had trouble sleeping for many nights after hearing that one.  Still, I was fascinated and could not stop asking for more.

My father died in 1995, and Grandma was bereft at losing her son. I came into town for the funeral, and I was dropped off at Grandma's house a couple hours before with the understanding I was to keep Grandma company until my mother came to pick us both up. It never occurred to me that Grandma hadn't been told I would be coming. She answered the door red eyed and with tears streaming down her face. It killed me to see her that way. She said she didn't want company right then, something I had never heard her say before. I felt so bad for intruding. I apologized and hugged her and said I'd walk to my Mom's house (probably only about a 15 minutes walk - no big deal). When Grandma realized I didn't have a car she refused to let me leave. 

Then I had to make it right somehow, you know what I mean? It was super awkward and one of those moments you will always remember. I realized it couldn't be Grandma who made it right, she was a 90 year old woman beside herself with grief. I had to do or say something that would change the tone, but still honor the feelings of that day. The best I could come up with was (in a small voice) "Grandma, could you tell me the story of the three white horses?"

She look at me out of the corner of her eyes for one long moment (as if to say, "Are ya kiddin' me, Colette?). Then her eyes crinkled up and she laughed out loud, a most welcome sound. She patted my knee, and proceeded to tell me the story. She was the grandmother, I was the grandchild, and we both knew how that worked. 

This brooch belonged to Grandma.  Not three WHITE horses, but still...