In 2002 we ran away from Illinois where we were born and raised, and started a new life in SW Florida. This blog is about me (an eccentric old artist), ROM (my Real Old Man), Isabella (our neurotic Standard Poodle) and Emmy (our crazy snake killing Jack Russell Terrier). Oh- and the neighborhood old people. Life is good in Florida!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Unlike Paula Deen, I Remember The Last Time I Used The N Word-

When I first read about Paula Dean's recent deposition for the lawsuit she has pending against her, I was shocked. Not just that she is a racist, but because as a business woman and a celebrity I would think she'd  have the good sense to keep her racism and insensitivity on the down low. Evidently Paula is not just racist but also incredibly stupid.  During her deposition she said she had no way of knowing what would be offensive to others- bullshit! She'd have to be living under a rock not to know the n word is offensive to many people of any color. She released a video today begging for forgiveness for her "mistake". Holding racist beliefs and uttering racial slurs is not a mistake- it's a mind set. She also has blamed the fact that she's over 60 and was raised in the south. I know many people over 60 who have lived their entire lives in the south but aren't the least bit racist. And it's not like Paula has lived in isolation- she travels all over and interacts with all kinds of people. Paula's excuses for her ugly words and shockingly insensitive remarks prove that she just doesn't get it. Her apologies and pleas for forgiveness aren't because she realizes her racism is morally repulsive, it's because she's terrified her business empire is going to collapse. Here is the video of her apology...

Paula has been quoted as saying she can't remember exactly the last time she used the n word which I think means she still uses it. I have a vivid memory of the last time I used that word...

Let me start with some background. My parents and step parents were all racist, there's no denying it. Black people were always referred to as the n word when I was a child. It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that they stopped using the n word, and even then it wasn't because they had become enlightened. It was merely because it was no longer socially acceptable, not because of a change in their hearts.

In the early years of my childhood we lived in a very small rural town in the Midwest. It was an all white community. Not only was everyone who lived there white, there were not even visitors who were another race. The only black people we ever saw were on our TV and even that wasn't often. I was probably 7 or 8 the first time I heard a serious discussion about race and it was in church. The minister gave a sermon on compassion and tolerance for people of other races. And it didn't go over well with the congregation. My mother stood up in that church and announced "I would rather see my daughter dead than to grow up to be with a nigger". Sorry for using that word but I wanted you to know exactly what she said. I'll never forget it.

I was around 10 the last time I used the n word. We had gone to visit my uncle and his family who were stationed at an Air Force base in upper Michigan. My little brother, who was 4 years younger than me, and I took a walk around the neighborhood, looking for chipmunks that our cousins told us about. I wanted to catch one to take home as a pet (I caught two on that trip). While on our search for chipmunks we stumbled upon the back yard of a black family. The mom and dad were out there sitting in lawn chairs as their two little kids were happily playing on a swing set. The parents said hello to us and gave us big smiles. Then suddenly my little brother excitedly and very loudly said " Look! There's n-----s!". I was looking at the parents getting ready to say hello back to them when my brother's words had burst out of him. I saw the smiles disappear from their faces and they exchanged a look of profound sadness. As long as I live I will never forget the look on their faces, it is etched in my mind forever. It's the day I realized what a hurtful ugly word that was and I never used it again.

I hurriedly apologized and tried to excuse my little brother by saying he was a stupid little kid. But I knew there was nothing I could say that would take that hurt look off their faces and make them smile at us again. I grabbed him by the arm and headed back to my uncle's house. When we got back to the house I burst into tears as I  told my parents and uncle what had happened. Even though the adults laughed it off and told me to stop crying and that everything was okay, I knew they were wrong. Very very wrong. I had seen those peoples' faces, there was nothing okay about it. So unlike Paula Dean, I remember exactly the day I decided to never use that word again.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Neighborhood Geranium Heist...

It was just another peaceful Sunday morning in the neighborhood.  Three of the homes on my block belong to snowbirds and the other four homes belong to quiet homebodies who never bother anyone. As I glanced outside Sunday morning I noticed one of my neighbors working in the flowerbed of one of the snowbirds. Every spring before he goes back home somewhere in the north, the gentleman fills the area with geraniums. Last year it was a bed of bright red geraniums and this year he planted pretty pink ones. I assumed my neighbor was being kind and weeding out the snowbird's flowerbed. since they aren't here to tend to them. She's like that- always helping others and doing things for people that they can't do for themselves. But as I watched I realized she wasn't weeding, she was yanking out entire plants and putting them in a white garbage bag. WTH??? When she was done there was nothing but dirt in that flowerbed. I couldn't believe what I was seeing so I called ROM over and told him what I had just witnessed. We were laughing hysterically as we watched her gather up the bag of geraniums and walked back across the street to her house. Where the geraniums are now, I haven't a clue. Of course stealing isn't funny, but this was so bizarre and unexpected we couldn't help but laugh at such a crazy act.

I'll have to meander over for a visit with her in a couple days, warn her there are geranium thieves roaming the neighborhood, and see if the stolen geraniums are now living in her back yard. I told ROM I wish I had some yellow police crime scene tape- I'd go out at night and put it around the snowbird's now empty flower bed.  When I told this story on Twitter yesterday some of my tweet friends had hilarious suggestions:

@teb22696    After dark, you should go over & replant the same type of geraniums. Then watch the thief's expression the next day. lol
@marywilkinson57  "make posters to post on utility poles, pic of geranium thief, reward, have you seen?"
@LuvToLoveU  "I think late tonight u should go & dig up the stolen plants & replant them at stolen neighbors house." 

On a more serious note another person in our community, this time a street over from us, was the victim of a home invasion. Evidently the thief was watching her because when she stepped out into her laundry room he broke in her screen door and grabbed her purse. All she saw was a figure running out of the house as she walked back in. Though it's not unusual for empty snowbird homes to get robbed in the summer months, it is unusual for thieves to break into occupied homes in our neighborhood. The police said we have to assume this person is armed and willing to risk a confrontation. Rotten bastard. I hate giving in to fear, but I guess I won't be sitting on my lanai at night until this person is caught or moves on to another senior community. We activated our motion detector lights even though I hate those things because they are so sensitive- even the wind can set them off, and of course we lock up tight at night.  And the ever diligent Isabella is on duty- waiting for any little thing to freak out over...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Ugly Side Of Florida- Rampant Crime...

Though I often sing the praises of the land of sunshine and share photos of the beautiful things I see in my little corner of La Florida ("Flowery Land" as Ponce de Leon named Florida), there is a price to pay for living in paradise. And I'm not talking about hurricanes, fire ants and alligators. It's crime, so much crime. Coming from a rural community in the Midwest where we didn't even lock our doors when we went on vacation, the amount of crime in Florida has been a shock. Within two weeks of moving here we had the stereo stolen from our car, which taught us the value of locking the doors of our vehicles. Every day there are crimes committed- home invasions, road rage shootings and stabbings, burglaries, robberies, murders, child molestation and abuse, elder abuse, car thefts- and we can't forget the random face eating incident in Miami. I no longer carry a purse when I'm out alone  because there have been too many local purse snatchings, sometimes the snatchers are in cars and drag old ladies across parking lots. In the local mall people have had necklaces jerked right off their necks. Often people are robbed of their medications after they leave drug stores. Home break-ins are so common we're told to keep our drapes and blinds closed so would be burglars can't see that we have laptops, tablets, and flat screen HD TVs. 

Evidently Florida leaders have decided the best way to fight crime is to have very loose gun regulations and encourage people to take the law into their own hands by issuing concealed weapon  permits in record numbers, and then there's the Stand Your Ground nonsense. Protecting yourself in your own home and on your own property is one thing, but Stand Your Ground allows you to kill someone in public places if you feel they intend to do you serious personal harm (and if there are conveniently no live witnesses to contradict you). Though George Zimmerman has yet to use the SYG defense it's been speculated that he will.  

Not long after the killing of Trayvon Martin, 17 year old  Jordan Davis was gunned down for playing his music too loud by 46 yr. old Michael Dunn. According to an article by Rolling Stones, Mr. Dunn told police "They defied my orders. What was I supposed to do if they wouldn't listen? " and he invoked the SYG law as his defense.

Another tool used against crime is the popular Neighborhood Watch program which we have in the senior community where I live. George Zimmerman identified himself as captain of his neighborhood watch group, but according to an online news article "a statement released by the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) — the parent organization of USAonWatch-Neighborhood Watch — it has been revealed that Zimmerman was not a member of any group recognized by the organization. Zimmerman violated the central tenets of Neighborhood Watch by following Martin, confronting him and carrying a concealed weapon." Evidently Zimmerman's HOA had their own private neighborhood watch and they have already made financial settlement with the Martin family for the wrongful death of Trayvon. Which leaves me wondering if I, as a member of our HOA, can be held liable for the actions of  our old coots who ride around the neighborhood at night in their golf carts looking for evil doers. 

I don't know what the answer is to crime (well, I have some ideas but that would take a major over haul of our judicial system and department of corrections, plus well funded education and diversion programs but we'd rather spend our tax dollars locking people up which is a whole 'nother discussion). I get that people are scared. Hell, I'm scared! We've been the victim of several minor crimes since we moved to Florida. Our home has even been hit by random gun fire. I'm very aware and afraid of crime, but I don't think carrying a concealed weapon and using the SYG law is going to make me feel or be any safer. In fact, I'm even more afraid of people like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn who are carrying concealed weapons. 

Just last weekend my next door neighbor's home was broke into and robbed as he was sleeping. Right next door! Snowbirds'  empty homes are always a target in the summer months but my neighbor's home wasn't empty- his car was in the driveway, lights were on both inside and out. Someone brazenly broke into his home even though it was obvious he was there. Now that's scary. I'm just glad he slept through it and didn't have an encounter with the intruder. My advice to him was to get a dog. Even though poor neurotic Isabella would be no protection, she would bark her damn head off at anyone who tried to climb through one of our windows. With that in mind I made a little flyer that I taped to my lanai door-

No, that isn't really me, I don't have that gun, and that isn't Bella. I tried to get her to snarl for a photo but she just doesn't have it in her. All I could get her to do is cock her head to the side and wag her tail which doesn't look all that menacing. But the bad guys don't need to know I'm a petite old lady only armed with pepper spray, or that my neurotic dog is so fearful she takes Xanax for her anxieties.

Monday, June 10, 2013

If Life Rains On You, Eat Ice Cream

Tropical Storm Andrea visited us on June 6th and ushered in our rainy season... it's rained every day since. Saturday was a complete wash out, but Sunday started off sunny and clear so we headed to the beach. A nice sea breeze and the sunny sky promised a beautiful day...  

We weren't there 30 minutes when the sea breeze started dying and clouds from inland started inching closer to the beach...

As clouds started building behind us people began to gather up their things...

And soon the clouds blocked out the sun...

We had just gotten in the car and headed home when the rain started...

To console ourselves for getting rained out, we stopped and had two scoops of the best ice cream in SW Florida. Walter and Bertha were happy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2013 Summer Sailstice ( I Was Jimmy Buffett's Winter Sailing Lover)

ROM and I had a bucket list of things we wanted to do when we moved to SW Florida. We've done some of the things on our list like parsailing. If you ever get a chance to parasail, do it! It was amazing and not the least bit scary. One thing on our list that we haven't done is go sailing. Neither of us have ever stepped foot on a sail boat but I had many fantasies about it during the long cold snowy Illinois winters.  In the dead of winter when snow was ass deep and it was snot freezing cold, I'd close the drapes, enjoy a margarita, put some Jimmy Buffett music on and crawl into my tanning bed. Jimmy would whisk me away to warm exotic places- where we sailed over turquoise waters with bright blue skies and a warm yellow sun above us. Jimmy, margaritas, my tanning bed and a vivid imagination got me through the long winters and kept my seasonal depression at bay. I'm now much too old and lazy to learn how to sail, but there are chartered sailing trips that sound like a lot of fun. We need to move this up on our bucket list and do it. 

I recently received an email about an event I had never heard of before- Summer Sailstice. A blurb from their website explains this annual event:

"Summer Sailstice is the global sailing holiday celebrated on the weekend closest to the summer solstice. This international event was founded in 2001 to connect the global sailing community in a fun, creative, multifaceted, multi-location sailing holiday.  Every year, Summer Sailstice connects over 19,000 sailors all over the world—cruisers, racers and recreational—to celebrate and showcase life under sail.  It has expanded to include participants from Asia, across the Americas and Europe."

Doesn't this sound like a wonderful weekend?  I love that it's a world event. We need more things like this to unite people across the world instead of dividing us the way war does.

Though we won't be sailing, I'm hoping to watch the boats leave and get some great photos. If you want to know more about Summer Sailstice please visit their website. And if you want to participate or just watch the boats, you can look for an event near you on their map of events.

One more thing I have to mention is how much I love the art on their Summer Sailstice poster! The art was created by Brad Reynolds and the poster itself by Michael Brown at the Pirates Lair company.

And I will leave you with this video of Ray Charles singing the Beach Boys "Sail On, Sail On, Sailor"