Talk About a Climbing Vine…..

Climbing Vine "invading" the Tree

Climbing Vine “invading” the Tree

As I have mentioned on other posts, recovering and tweaking the backyard was the first step we took when beginning the house remodeling project. All of you who actually know plant names, please bear with me because that’s another of those things that I haven’t managed to become as knowledgeable about as I would like to be. We had previously planted the pink Clematis (I think it is) and two other lovely flowering climbing vines in these wonderful planters that hubby built. Interestingly, of the three vines, only the pink one has year-round blooms. The other two cycle in and out, although the leaves are usually nice.

The tall slender trees were part of the new landscaping and what we we’re expecting was that the pink would shoot over and start climbing up the tree next to it. I was a bit concerned at first, but both plants appear to be doing okay and so I guess it isn’t anything to worry about. The pink also seems as if it might be trying to spread out to the next planter box where the climbing vine of chocolate raspberry (whatever the real name is) resides. I have a feeling that it won’t take as kindly to incursion as the tree has. I will keep an eye on it though because I don’t want to risk the other vine having problems.

Think About This…….

The famous Seven Mile Bridge of the Florida Keys near Marathon has been used in a number of different movies such as “True Lies”. The Overseas Highway that links the peninsula of Florida to the barrier islands of the Keys to end at Key West as the Southernmost point of the Continental United States was built in the 1940s and substantially rebuilt in the 1980s. Significantly abbreviating the actual history of what occurred, many portions of the highway were built over the previous right of way of the Overseas Railroad of the  Florida East Coast Railroad that Henry Flagler envisioned and brought to reality over a grueling period from 1904-1912. When Flagler announced that he would build the Key West Extension of approximately 127 miles over what was considered impossible terrain (mostly water), it was soon declared as Flagler’s Folly among other names. Did Flagler underestimate the project? Yes. Was it far more expensive and time-consuming and did it cost the lives of thousands of men? Sadly, yes. It did, however, then earn the term “Engineering Marvel” upon completion. There are 2-3 excellent books if you want to read the details of this extraordinary feat and of the men who made it happen.

With all of that said, the point of this post is that a recent Florida Department of Transportation Study is sounding the alarm about the conditions of bridges along the Overseas Highway with a whopping estimate of around $140 million for all the repairs. Of note is that “the 100 year old arches and structure are not the problem”; it is the more modern concrete and steel that require replacement and repair. Think about that for a few minutes. That task that was thought to be impossible was not only achieved, but portions of it are enduring 100 years later.

That Good News, Bad News Stuff……

Yesterday completely got away from me between an unplanned meeting and then an appointment that took much longer than it should have. On the other hand, the result of the appointment was more good news than bad. For those who have never dealt with it, I have now entered the group of millions of people with tinnitus. The good news part is that the high frequency hearing loss that probably triggered it is not bad and my “ear health” is fine. The discussion with the ENT doctor was informative and since it took me nearly three months to get through the initial and follow-up visit with my primary care physician and then the appointment with the specialist, I have been adapting to this new condition. I can’t say that I’m happy about it, although since I am knocking on the door of my 61st birthday, there are certainly many worse chronic problems that I could have.

We discussed options that I could try that are successful with some people and I might check into those. We also discussed the reality that hearing does often diminish with age and the signs to be alert for. In fact, the doctor made an interesting observation about how people who have problems seeing don’t mind going to an optometrist, but they’re willing to accept some hearing loss without seeking help.

That brought to mind the elderly relative who had significant hearing loss, was well aware of it, absolutely refused to do anything about it, and yes, she had worn glasses all her life and was quite faithful about getting her eyes examined and increasing her prescription whenever that was required. It is a bit curious, isn’t it?

Involving Yourself in a Character……

Characters are central to fiction, although you have main, supporting, and incidental characters. Some that are seemingly minor in the few number of appearances they make can turn out to be pivotal, and the “prize” for most authors is to have the character, if not the entire story, to endure through the ages. You say, “Holden Caulfield”, and head nods begin – “Scrooge” became a descriptor that has lasted for centuries, and who doesn’t occasionally use the phrase, “Achilles” heel”? All authors though seek to create characters that the reader identifies with and can care about for the story, or perhaps are engaging to the point of wanting a series.

Authors have different approaches and styles of course, and for me, I sometimes start a character as minor and in the process add an extra layer to her or him and then expand the importance or shift a scene to make that character more prominent. The reason for that is while I have all the main elements of a book mapped out before I begin, as the sequence of events build, new directions may be required to carry the plot and subplot/subplots where I want them to go. Or, at other times, as I create a character, I just decide that I like this one more than I expected to and therefore, I think that the reader might respond in the same way. It is an intriguing process when that occurs, and no, the characters don’t exactly “take control” of the story. There are also times when a reader will perceive a character in a manner that I had not intended, and that, too always intrigues me.

Not Able to Return To The “Old You”….

Serious content alert! With the talk of depression being on lots of people’s minds at the moment, I was watching the movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, yesterday. It’s another of those movies that I know well enough to have it on the TV while I’m working and know when to pause and watch my favorite scenes. I don’t know enough about golf to have a clue as to how well that it portrayed, but it is nicely crafted from a period piece perspective (early 1930s) in Savannah and it has a great cast. The foundation of the movie is a special golf tournament between the legendary Bobby Jones, Walter Hagan (they were real people), and the fictional Rannulph Junuh, a once-phenomenal young golfer and romantic interest of Adele who has put together the tournament. Junuh went to WWI and returned home as a broken man who withdraws into drink and is finally persuaded to enter the tournament. The mysterious Bagger Vance appears just prior to the tournament and offers to caddy for him. Directed by Robert Redford, there are elements similar to “The Natural”, and the demons that haunt Junuh are never far from him.

Bagger, in trying to lead Junuh from his darkness, makes a number of observations, and one of them is, “You thought you could just go back to being the old Junuh and that isn’t going to happen,” or words to that effect. For many people, tragic events or circumstances can occur that affect them so profoundly, they are altered in a way that impacts them for quite possibly the rest of their lives. And that impact can be so gripping that it entangles them in a manner that can seem unbreakable. There are different successful ways to extricate oneself from such a situation, but all require the recognition that you won’t be “your old self”. The person that emerges is also likely to need time to regain his or her strength. These struggles are never easy and very often, it is the help and understanding of someone who cares deeply that can begin the healing process.

Odd Things When Walking…..

Duck and ducklings crossing four lanes of road.

Duck and ducklings crossing four lanes of road.

One of the things about walking around here that I have commented on before is the wonderful bird life that we have. I routinely see green parrots, egrets, herons, often see ibis, sometimes hawks and ospreys and then sometimes birds that I can’t identify. We also have a lot of ducks. While there might be some unusual ones, they all seem rather ordinary to me. Day before yesterday though as I was coming back toward the house, a duck came through a slight hole in the fence and was turned toward the road which is two lanes one way, a tree-lined median with two lanes the opposite direction and the golf course on the other side. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but still, it seemed to me that the duck might have problems and so I thought I would just intercept it in a few steps and encourage it to go back into the little pond on our side of the road.

As I approached, I realized it had several ducklings and was for whatever reason, planning to cross the four lanes of traffic. What does one do? If I tried to get it turned around would it confuse the ducklings? That was my concern and thus I found myself being traffic guard. I know, I know. The duck and ducklings were able to make it across the first lane and cars coming were far enough away that I stood on the sidewalk, waving the two on-coming to move into the clear lane. In actuality, both cars stopped to let the parade cross and then it was two cyclists whipping up the other lanes. I went into the medium to repeat my actions. The two cyclists were talking, “What do you think she wants?”, until they were close enough to see the situation. They also slowed until the duck family was safe. I’m not sure this process would have worked had there been more traffic, and I do hope that Mother Duck found happiness on the other side of the road.


An Interesing Pennsylvania Transplant…..

Beer TapsThere are Floridians that count themselves as four to six generations worth, but in general in talking to people, you hear distinct accents of New York, New Jersey, Chicago, the flatter tones of the Midwest, lots that originally called Colorado and other places home before moving here. For us, it was the scuba diving and the stories that brought people vary greatly. In any group that is gathered, however, if you about those from Pennsylvania, you’re likely to get a show of hands. That seems to translate into Yeungling beer as a standard for most places that serve alcohol. The particular array of beer taps in the photo doesn’t show Yeungling as it was on the second set of taps and I didn’t think about doing this post until later as I was pondering it.

According to their web site (, they are the oldest American brewery still in existence, having been established originally in 1829 as the Eagle Brewery by David G. Yeungling. Like most Baby Boomers who drank beer, I grew up with the big brewers and not disparaging them, when I went to Germany for my first overseas assignment, my view of beers was significantly enhanced. The revival in craft beers in this country and what has become a proliferation of small and regional breweries has been great, but as Yeungling points out, they have been at it for a long time. We were initially surprised to find it as standard in all the bars and stores, but at that point we were not aware of how many residents and visitors claimed Pennsylvania as their place of birth. It is an enjoyable beer and I do often default to it with its rich tone and depth of flavor.


Kind of UFO-Looking…..

A string of decorative lights for the back.

A string of decorative lights for the back.

Despite the fact that we actually re-did the back yard as one of the first steps in the re-model, there are a few things remaining that we plan to add and then a few things that just sort of “crop up”. When we initially moved into this house, the covered terrace only extended two-thirds across. We wanted the rest covered as well, but since that was also where the bay window was, that section had to be tied in at a slightly lower level than the other. The thing though was that as nicely as it turned out, the pitch of the new section wouldn’t allow for a ceiling fan as we had in the original part. Hubby’s grill fit perfectly as did the bar that he designed and built.

For reasons that I do not recall, I ran across this great looking black wrought iron kind of a “wagon wheel” that would work on the ceiling and we had these nice miniature battery powered lanterns that hung from it to give not much light, but a nice ambience. In the, “Oh, forgot about that” mode, the cute little lanterns were graded for exterior use, although not for the harsh environment we have here and they fell victim to rust. In looking around for a replacement, I saw this string of lights that I thought could work and ordered them. They are white when not turned on and they not only show color when lighted – they also cycle though different colors. The photo doesn’t really do them justice, and I was also surprised to see that I had overlooked the fact that they were solar-powered. Hubby was able to position the little solar panel with no big problem and so far, we’re enjoying them. We’ll see how they stand up.

And About Lobster Mini-Season……

Spiny Lobsters caught during 2012 Mini-Season

Spiny Lobsters caught during Mini-Season

Okay, a moderately embarrassing admission. Despite having lived here since late 2004, this is the first year I obtained a lobster license. Actually, I don’t ever think I can be successful at “bug hunting”, but I can spot and who knows, perhaps there will be a few really slow ones out there. Anyway, my point is that this was my first year to go into the water for lobster during mini-season. For those not familiar with it, in Florida a 2-day mini-season precedes the opening of the 8 month regular season.  Mini- season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July and in the Keys, that includes a restriction of stopping one hour after sunset if you are physically in the water catching (or attempting to catch) lobster. Make it easy and say 9:00 p.m. each of those days.

Thousands of additional people flock to the Keys for these two days and that includes people who don’t dive at other times of the year, or perhaps who have not been diving for a while, but decide this will be it for them. Each dive shop has its own policy for how to handle mini-season, and some choose to not participate at all. The fact is that people can also exercise really poor judgment during mini-season or ignore the rules, and there is almost always one or more deaths that occur during the two-day period. Like most people, I heard the reports in the past about a death or injury and wondered, “How could someone get so intent on catching a lobster that he or she ignored warning signs of problems underwater?”. You see, the death or injury is often linked directly to violating one or more basic safety rules in diving.

So, as hubby and I were in pursuit of this one particular lobster, it was determined not to be caught. Having passed on some that were “short” and therefore not legal to take, hubby was equally determined to capture this one. We had plenty of air and were shallow, but as the “bug” shot from rock pile to rock pile, I realized how someone could become fixated to the point of either not watching their air or depth, or over-exerting, and getting into a dire situation that then spun out of control. It was not an issue for us and the lobster did wind up on the grill the next evening. I do, however, now grasp the concept of how someone could lose sight of safety precautions. It’s one of those “sad, but true” things.

Art As Memories……

Rainbow Eucalyptus by Marcia Maynard

Rainbow Eucalyptus by Marcia Maynard

During our military careers, hubby and I moved on average every two years. That was the pattern we had when we were each single and it didn’t change much after we met and married. My first overseas assignment was to Germany and like most Americans, I came back with crystal and decorated beer steins, beautiful carved candles, and that sort of thing. I also bought my first two oil paintings. A few years later, I made the decision that instead of the “standard souvenirs”, I would buy a piece of local art by a local artist in the places that I lived and traveled. After my husband and I were married, he agreed that was a good approach. The end result is an interesting collection of a variety of mediums, although as we spent more time in tropical climates, we tilted toward ocean themes and colors.

My sister once told me that she always enjoyed visiting me in different places because she liked to see how I would arrange things depending on what sort of house or apartment we had at the time. Now that we have settled in a place and with all that we have collected over the years, a lack of wall space has significantly reduced the amount of art that we can buy. In one sense that’s a shame since there are so many wonderful artists in South Florida. In fact, the painting in this post was done not long ago by a friend and as soon as I saw it, I knew it would go well with three other pieces that we had. However, we were also going into the remodel project and I wasn’t sure how we would arrange everything once that was done. We did have the perfect spot for it though and so last week, the Rainbow Eucalyptus came from being framed and hung on the wall. The three other paintings in that particular grouping are also by women artists, one of which was a going away present from a friend.