I am going to enjoy life after 50 if it kills me!

Posts tagged ‘Florida’

This and That and Debby

I truly planned to post this Thursday, but my head got in the way and a two-hour nap ensued.  I’m okay with that.

My this and that for this week includes the following:

  • more rain in 3 days than I’d like to see again for the next 3 months
  • all the water sent ants into my kitchen in droves and a cockroach into my bedroom until his life was snuffed out by the woman who pays the rent around here.
  • the sun has returned and the grass is already looking dry again.
  • an alligator was spotted earlier this week crossing the street in the cross walk like a good, law-abiding citizen.


Just another week in sunny Florida.

A Tropically Stormy Weekend

Here in Florida, there are two things you can always count on – sunshine all year long, and rain in the summertime.

So for the first couple days, I didn’t really pay attention to all the rain.  Yes, it rained more than the typical afternoon showers we usually see this time of year, but whatever.

By yesterday, I was pretty much over it and just wanted the sun to come out and raise my saggy, soggy spirits.  That didn’t happen.  In fact the rain carried on all day and through the evening.  It wasn’t until last night that I realized this rain was being caused by Tropical Storm Debby out in the Gulf of Mexico.  And by the way, people, I prefer the -ie spelling over the -y spelling, but I was not consulted.

Today the wind picked up as the rain kept falling.  I ran a couple of errands because I needed dog food and something sweet.  Which I would probably go out in a Cat 5 hurricane to get, by the way.  Not until I sat down after dinner did I find out that in Hillsborough County north of me, there is a tornado warning just being lifted, along with a tornado watch in effect until tomorrow morning.  This little “rainy weekend” is turning into a dangerous storm.  According to the local news, one person has died as a result of a “possible tornado” touchdown today.

And yet, on Twitter, people are griping about having their TV shows interrupted for news of weather warnings and updates.  Sometimes I just want to smack people on the forehead with “I am an idiot” stickers, so we can all identify them from a distance and avoid them.

For those of you who are taking this storm seriously, stay dry and stay safe.

I Found My People

Last Saturday, despite the incredible amount of work and responsibilities pressing down on me, I got in my car and took off.

Well, to be honest, I had the GPS set.  I’m just not that spontaneous.  I headed north to meet my daughter in the little town of Barberville, Florida for a festival she was attending, volunteering for, and camping at.  I am butchering the name, I think, but it’s something like the Barberville Pioneer Festival of the Arts.

Barberville High School

I had originally agreed to camp with my child for the weekend.  However, the week leading up to the weekend was the most ridiculously exhausting of my school year.  Field trip, bus duty, workshop, tutoring, report card conference night – AARRGGHH!  So I promised my daughter I’d drive up for the day, not realizing at the time that it would take me almost three and a half hours to get there.  I am an idiot.

Had it not been for the fact that my child was waiting on me to bring her some much-needed stuff in the way of note taking supplies and a Coleman lantern, I probably would have backed out.  And that would have been a mistake.

The place was crawling with interesting characters.  The “folkies” who had their guitars, banjos, fiddles, washboards, and the like; the “period folks” dressed in old pioneer garb; the crafters, the beekeepers, the quilters, the weavers, and on and on.

My daughter volunteered in the musical “petting zoo”.  Instruments were available for anyone to pick up and shake, hit, or strum.

dulcimers waiting to be strummed

One of my favorite parts was listening to the jam sessions around the park. There were anywhere from 3 to a dozen or more musicians gathered here and there playing fiddle tunes and old folk songs.  The largest jam session included a man playing a washboard, an autoharp, and a bass in addition to fiddles, banjos, and guitars.

Hard to see, but this was part of the big jam.


I’ll leave you with a few more photos of this wonderful event.  I plan on attending next year for the weekend and hope to spend more time with the artisans and musicians who so graciously and unpretentiously shared their crafts.  I haven’t spent a day that relaxed and happy in a long time and I felt like I was finally among a group of people who shared my love for the simple, but most beautiful things in life – a pretty melody, a little history, and a thing of beauty made by human hands.  Many of those participating were my age and older, which reminded me that it is never too late to start doing that which fulfills you.  In fact, I met a lovely couple around my age who just starting playing a year ago.  Now they’re moving onward and upward!

boiling down sugar cane

beeswax candles

winding rope

A Little Rain?


So, we’re getting a little rain here in Florida.

The East Coast has had 3 – 5 inches of rain today.  Here on the Gulf Coast, the rain has just hit this evening.  It’s amazing what a pesky tropical storm out in the Atlantic can do as it passes by on its way north.

The dog took two steps outside this evening, pulled a tight u-turn and trotted right back into the house.  She is not a fan of getting wet.  I personally love getting cozy with a cup of tea and a good book when it rains like this.  It’s the closest thing to snuggling under the covers during a snowstorm that I’m ever going to get in Florida.

The best part is, it’s bed time so the rain and wind can do their thing outside.  Ava, the wonder dog, and I will be snug as a bug in a rug.

Florida Friday – State Symbolic Trivia

I’ve learned many things about Florida since moving here fifteen years ago.  Some are inspiring, some things are historical, scientific, and some are just plain trivial.  Trivia is what I’m into this evening!

Obvious Trivia…

The state reptile is… the alligator.  That’s a no brainer!

The state marine mammal is the manatee.  Again, pretty obvious.

How about the state butterfly?  Yes, we have one of those and it’s the zebra longwing.  This is new info for me, too.

The state tree is the sabal palm.  They’re everywhere and quite stately lining a street.

The state drink is – you guessed it – orange juice, and the state flower is the orange blossom, which smells heavenly!

Here are a few Florida symbols I was unaware of.

The state play is “Cross and Sword“, which dramatizes the Spanish colonization of St. Augustine.

The state soil is sand, of course.  But not just any sand – Myakka fine sand, which is unique to Florida, apparently.

And last, but not least, here is the state gem of Florida…   the moonstone, which is not native to Florida or the moon, but it’s the whole NASA, trips to the moon thing.  Moonstone is actually a type of mineral feldspar.

Information and the images for this post come from The Florida Division of Historic Resources.  I got my information from the “kids” section, but there is a wealth of information on the rest of the site as well!

FCAT – Where Children Are Most Certainly Left Behind

We have, I believe, twelve instructional days until our high stakes testing begins – the FCAT here in Florida.  I have nothing in particular against this test.  I think it is a fairly good indicator of where a student is academically and sets rigorous standards for instruction.

Here’s the thing.  Achievement testing, back in the day, was a useful tool to diagnose strengths and deficiencies in a child’s learning.  That lead to appropriate remediation or acceleration for that child.  It also let teachers and parents know how their child was doing compared to the general population of students.

Ah, the good old days.  Now, a child’s test score indicates whether that child will pass or fail.  Whether they have a good teacher or not, whether the entire school is performing well or is a “low performing school”, and by 2014, in the state of Florida, whether a teacher deserves a raise or even his or her job.

Well, shouldn’t teachers be accountable?  Shouldn’t principals have ultimate responsibility for their schools?  Yes and yes.  But I wish legislators had any kind of a tiny clue as to how to accomplish this.  They know data.  They get data.  Numbers are simple and easy to figure out.  A test score is a piece of data.  From one test, given one day.  So far, the use of a single series of tests given over two weeks in March is the only tool our state and federal governments seem to know how to use to evaluate an entire year in a child’s academic life.

I have had students take the FCAT days after a grandparent died.  We’ve had kids who’ve come to school so sick they’ve thrown up on their tests (which invalidates their scores, by the way).  Right now, I have two students whose brother and uncle were just arrested and charged with racketeering.  These young men are looking at 30 year prison sentences and my two students are dealing with the emotional fallout from this.  I have a homeless student who is being given a room at a neighborhood church.  One of my students fell apart on me two days ago and told me his mother had tried to commit suicide.    How do you think their little pieces of data are going to look twelve days from now?

This is not to say I should not be responsible for their learning.  But could we perhaps look at their growth over the course of an entire school year?  I had students come into reading on a second grade level.  If I get them to a fourth grade level, they’ve made two years growth in one, but the data shows they are not performing on grade level.  So am I a hero or a failure?  Are they?  On the flip side, if I have a student who comes in reading on a 6th grade level and leaves on a 6th grade level, I feel like I failed him or her, but according to the data, I did a good job.  Did I?  Did the child?

Both these hypothetical children will be left behind, one way or another.

Florida Friday ~ Ca’d’zan

The winner in my “where should I soak up some Florida culture” is…


Translated from an Italian dialect – “The House of John”.  This John was John Ringling, who with his brothers owned “The Greatest Show on Earth”.  He was a smart investor and became quite wealthy, especially for a circus owner!  He and his wife Mabel owned a home up north, but loved Sarasota, Florida and built an opulent mansion on the waters of Sarasota Bay.

The home, which was budgeted for somewhere around $150,000, ended up costing over a million dollars, what with all the Italian art and furniture, the tapestries, the pipe organ, etc., etc.  Mabel had a love of beautiful things, which was evident in her rose garden.  (My daughter took beautiful photos of some of the roses, but is having technical difficulties sending them to me, so I have no visual proof of the exquisite blooms.  Ya gotta trust me on this one for now.)  At one time, the rose garden had been all but forgotten, so most of the plants are much newer than those Mrs. Ringling would have had, but the statues, the gazebo, and the pathways are all reminders of  Mabel’s influence on her home.  In addition, she was the first president of the Sarasota Gardening Club.

Mr. Ringling’s influences are evident as well.  The dining room is formal and dark – very masculine.  In the breakfast room, which overlooks the bay, John would seat guests he liked and thought of as prospective investors next to him facing the large windows overlooking the water.  If he wasn’t so keen on a guest, they got a seat with their back to the windows facing a rather ugly painting involving animals eating other animals if I remember the docent correctly!

Sadly, the Ringlings had only “wintered” in their mansion for a few years when Mabel died from complications of diabetes.  John did keep the home and return to it for several years.  The estate was given to the state of Florida, however the property was expensive to maintain.  I visited Ca’d’zan as a child when my family vacationed in Florida.  I have distinct memories of traveling the upstairs hall overlooking the main room and looking up to see the ceiling had been painted intricately.  When moving to Florida in 1995, I was sad to learn that the estate had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being lost.  Fortunately, the estate was saved, restored, and is now a flourishing tourist attraction again.  Also included is an amazing art museum started by the Ringlings themselves, who were lovers of Italian art.  A circus museum is also open on the property.

If you get to the Sarasota area, make a point to peek into the lives of one of the famous Ringling Brothers!

Ringling Estate


It’s a Honking Cacophony!

For the past hour or so, my home has been filled with the sounds of Canada geese.  Seems the biggest gander and his mate are not happy about the three other pairs swimming onto his pond.  The six geese gliding onto the main part of the pond argued back relentlessly, while King Goose and his queen stood on the shore honking up a storm.

This went on so long, I was able to tell which goose was honking – King Goose had a long honk.  Goose One had a low, deep honk.  His mate had a higher pitched short honk which she blasted off in twos or threes.   The others filled in any lulls with their own honking blasts.  At one point the six interlopers waddled up on shore near King and Queen Goose.  Holy cow!  I thought a brawl was going to break out at any moment, but the Band of Six backed off and into the water.

Then all the noise stopped.  All of them, including His and Her Majesty, have left.

It’s nice and quiet now.  But definitely not as entertaining.

Florida Friday – Mansions and More

This week has been my Spring Break.  Five glorious days to do with as I wish!  My daughter, also a teacher, and I decided to trek up to St. Petersburg to see the Dali Museum, which celebrates the work of Salvador Dali who is probably most famous for his melting clock painting, “The Persistence of Memory”.  There is so much more to his life’s work, however, and he was a pretty unusual guy, even for an artist!  The museum just reopened in a new location, and we tentatively made plans to visit.


Then, over dinner Tuesday evening, we began talking with friends about  Ca’d’zan, the luxurious mansion built by John and Mabel Ringling, of the famous Ringling Brothers circus.  It’s located in Sarasota, right on the Gulf of Mexico.  The more we talked, the more we were sure THAT is what we wanted to see instead.


This led into discussions of Key West, St. Augustine, ghost tours, and I think the Henry Flagler mansion may have been thrown in at some point.  My daughter mused, “You know Mom, you always talk about how much there is to do up in New York, but there’s just as much to see and do here.  We just don’t do it.”  She’s smart, that girl of mine.

I’ll let you know which adventure we chose to take.  I’m writing this ahead of time because on Friday she and I will be at the South Florida Museum seeing Cross Creek, a movie about Marjorie Kinnen Rawlings, the author of The Yearling and Cross Creek, among others.  I’ll be too busy enjoying Florida to sit down and write about it!

Florida Friday – February

This will be short and to the point.  I am sitting on my patio typing this.  It is sunset, I am barefoot and in short sleeves.  The fountain in the pond is spouting water illuminated by a golden light from its base.  My candles are lit and smell of hazelnut, with a hint of maple.  It is February 18th.


This evening is one of the things I love best about Florida.

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