Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma Journal Part 2

* PART 2: Hurricane Irma journal. *
I have never experienced a hurricane, only the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake, which pales in comparison, although no less frightening or devastating. The aftermath of Irma was more destruction than I could have ever imagined. There was an eerie stillness to each day, whether it be morning or evening. No singing birds, splashing fish or the familiar croak of the tree frogs. Streets once humming with cars, pedestrians and four legged friends were unrecognizable as they sat alone in the unmoving air. It was a deserted feeling as if we were the only humans here.
Where to begin was overwhelming, so we jumped in, first cleaning the foyer ripping out wet and moldy carpet then clearing debris from the yard hauling it to the street. The small group of us who either stayed and weathered the storm or returned the minute we were able, became bonded in a way that can only be described as family. Working together under conditions we would never wish on anyone, yet knowing we couldn’t stop until each was taken care of, felt safe.
It was easy to get side tracked, as I often did, picking up something along the way to or from the garbage, trying to find the missing match to items scattered in the yard, moving and clearing paths around the house and street, an urgency in my mind about how it should look, but no way to move fast enough or with enough strength to accomplish this goal. “Baby steps,” as Scott would say. Picking one area to clean and seeing it through like taking a chainsaw to the fallen trees or pulling bait pens from the canal.
Helping our neighborhood, our friends and family who were more adversely affected, became not a question of “Do you think they need help,” but rather, “How fast can I work and move on to the next project.” Cleaning out refrigerators, shoveling gray mud out of houses, combing through debris to gather valuables all the while wondering, “Will life ever feel normal?”
Every conversation and greeting became, “How did your house make out? What can I do to help?” skipping the salutation and going straight in for a hug. Assuring each other with the unspoken words, “You’re not alone.” If nothing else, I hoped to be an ear, someone others could blow off steam to, yet I still felt helpless, unable to fix the bigger issues such as lack of housing or work.
September 20, 2017 – Jonathan spent the morning cleaning out the water meter boxes for each house on the block as we’d heard water service may be turned on for us today and sure enough, it was! The boil water advisory was still in effect, but without power we couldn’t, so relied heavily on bottled water.
Daily trips to Big Pine for ice and water became the norm as did cold showers since our hot water heater was found in the canal. It was quite refreshing as the heat and humidity in the house was overbearing. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time indoors the first week back or the second or third. You get the idea.
I will never forget the day the Red Cross arrived. Perhaps I speak for others as well when I say the generosity brought me to tears on many occasion. The outpouring of assistance in the form of tools, cleaning supplies, food, clothing and more was beyond anything I could have imagined. They drove through neighborhoods delivering meals as well as set-up tents throughout the Keys giving residents cash cards.
I wish I could remember and thank all of the companies and relief organizations who came and spent time in the keys. Geico provided water while assessing auto damage on the spot, Verizon brought a satellite truck and provided free phones and WIFI inside their air conditioned tent, The Army Corps of Engineers applied blue tarps to those whose roofs were missing or leaking, The National Guard cleaned and hauled debris, Mormon Helping Hands also provided debris removal in teams of thirty or more people moving from street to street in selfless service, Billy Graham Ministries as well as Baptist relief organizations provided food, water, ice and more, The United Way provided gift cards for gasoline and building supplies plus many more.
We were also blessed with strangers who drove from the mainland and delivered supplies door-to-door through the neighborhoods stopping to ask what we needed and how they could help. We directed them to elderly neighbors or those we knew had lost their homes feeling fortunate to have a place to lay our heads each night.
That’s when I listened for the familiar sound of the tree frogs, yet without their favorite trees standing I knew it might be awhile before the familiar high pitched calls would make me sit up in the middle of the night and wonder, “Are they talking?”
Until then, I’ll wait.🌸

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma Journal Part 1

* PART 1: Hurricane Irma journal. *

Well, it’s been one amazing ride these past five weeks! Irma gave us a run for our money, but followed us to Naples where we were hit hard as well, including the shattering of my car’s rear window. Without power, water or Internet service and zero to “spotty” cell service, I gave up on posting to social media focusing instead on how to get a text to friends and family members relying on them to relay what was happening in the outside world while wondering what, if anything, we may have left to return to in the Keys. We stayed a week relying on the kindness of friends waiting to see when US 1 would reopen to residents, but realized it would be awhile as the devastation was indescribable. Without services, we headed to Miami to spend a few days with a new friend, the man we adopted our dog from, Bert. Scott was able to use Internet to fulfill online orders and remain in good standing with the outlets hosting his online stores before turning them off again as we loaded up and headed for home.

We couldn’t stay away from the place we love so much, even after considering a temporary move until things were back to “normal.” It was as if the islands were calling us, waiting for help, hoping friendly faces would return, so we did. Putting our decision to leave the keys for northern ground aside, we loaded the rental van, re-taped the shower curtain over my rear window, loaded up a spunky 9 year-old and two hurricane hounds and set a course for Cudjoe Key.

September 18, 2017 – US 1 had finally reopened to lower keys residents and our anticipation grew with every mile traveled. Loading up on supplies in Homestead, we chased the late afternoon sun trying to beat the curfew and a possible camp out in the van.

A wave of relief came over me as we entered the 18 mile stretch, the familiar blue barriers feeling like open outstretched arms. Then came Key Largo and the signs, “Welcome home lower keys residents, You can’t drown a conch!” brought tears to my eyes. To the sign maker’s, who ever you are, thank you!
Every mile closer to home made my adrenaline rise. We knew what we were facing as family and friends had been sending photos of our place, taking care to empty refrigerators, remove trash, open windows to allow air flow, remove debris so we could park our vehicles and so much more! Thank you Chachi, John, Ginger, Tim, Ron, Charles Fricke, Ken and Tom Fricke!

As the sky turned to dusk, we arrived at our home, the few palms left standing in a mournful state looking over their fallen friends, some hanging over power lines. The beloved mango tree, which had produced the most delicious fruit two times this spring, was leaning almost to the ground its roots half exposed, every leaf brown and brittle. The sapodilla tree in the backyard was entirely uprooted and laying across the fence, its branches entangled in the mango tree as holding one another’s leafy hands in hopes of surviving the storm.

Entering the house we were welcomed by a wave of heat and gray mud in the downstairs foyer. The smell was likened to a mix of sewage and sea grass, but we gladly climbed the stairs to our familiar space. Assessing the damage: shattered window, sagging sheet rock in the living room and sea grass debris, we quickly set-up a space in the living room in which to “camp.”
We’d purchased our own generator and brought twenty-five gallons of gas with us to power fans, the refrigerator and a lamp. The hum of this tiny machine is a sound I will never forget. The neighborhood was filled with this same music, the song of survival.

New York Central Park in November

Memom and the Leaves of Love

I haven’t tried to write a poem in a long time, but I’m sitting here making a video of my grandmother, we called her Memom, and wondering if I can write something remotely descent to go with a picture I drew with my son yesterday.

I asked him if he’d like to draw a picture for Memom and explained she had died and was with God. He asked, “How do you be with God?” I could only think to reply, “being with God is when you feel the warmest, most loved, happiest.” He replied, “like in the pool?” I said, “sure, like in the pool.” I’m sure my explanation leaves much to the imagination. I know it does to mine.

Bees and Me, Photo 2

I took a walk in my grandmother’s backyard and was surprised to hear the buzzing of bees in her Macadamia Nut tree. It was so loud I thought, “There must be a hive up there.” So, I ducked under the branches and hanging blossoms looking high above me, but I couldn’t see anything that looked remotely similar to a hive. Couldn’t see much really, except a lot of branches. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, she’s dumb.” Rest assured, I do know bees sting when guarding their hive I just wasn’t afraid at that moment. Go figure.

Anyway, bees were flying all around me, but were too concerned with the tiny blossoms on the tree to sting me. Good thing because I think I’m allergic to bees. Can’t remember. (Again, not dumb just not afraid.) The bees landed with such precision on the blossoms. There were thousands of them, all over the tree, some open others still closed and tiny! The tiniest blossoms I’ve ever seen. So pretty!

I finally talked a few bees into posing for me, which was great because I was tired of seeing “abdomen” in all of the shots, if you know what I mean. I had to be fast because they were so busy. They hardly ever stopped moving!

Watching their nectar gathering made me think how bees (and all other insects/animals) have a task by nature. They do what they’re supposed to do, constantly. They don’t take a break or ditch out on their bee buddies to watch TV then make excuses later. I realized I need to take a lesson from the bees and keep doing what I do, writing. Whether it’s my nature or not is debatable, but I have to believe it is or it becomes just a hobby. Will I produce a product as sweet as the bees? I can only hope! 🙂

Bee sucking nectar from Macadamia Nut blossom

Conversation With Wool


W: Knock, knock
H: Who’s there?
W: Your wool sweater.
H: *cracks door* You’ve got the wrong door.
W: *stops door closing with cuff* What do you not understand about ‘Dry Clean Only’?
H: *squints eyes at sweater* Is that you?
W: HALF of me.
H: Geez…see I’ve been sick, ran out of clean socks thought I’d do some laundry.
W: Is that your excuse?
H: *digs toe in carpet*
W: What did I ever do to you?
H: Well, you ARE a turtleneck. You know what that does to my cheeks? *puffs cheeks out like a chipmunk*
W: Hey! I was born this way!
H: No need to bring the sheep into this.
W: Low blow.
H: Can we go back to knock, knock so I can NOT answer?
W: Fine, I’m leaving.
H: Where are you going?
W: I’m donating myself to the little people down the street.
H: Wait, maybe I could start a new trend, half sweaters.
W: *looks H up and down* Don’t kid yourself. Besides, given my shrunken state, I might strangle you. On accident, of course.
H: Of course.
W: Well, thanks for the memories.
H: Thanks for the warmth, even if I did look like a giant lint ball.
W: Your smart remarks just never end.
H: Sorry. *tries to look remorseful* Hey! Someone said I looked like a ski bunny once!
W: Yeah, you kinda got those rabbit teeth.
H: *narrows eyes at sweater* Is that so?
W: Well, if we’re bein’ honest.
H: Aren’t you late for the Goodwill truck?
W: Bite me.
H: *slams door*
W: Hey! My cuff! It’s in the door! Hey! Hey!

Ode To My Hair

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted long hair. Doesn’t every girl? However, it was easier for my mother to manage short hair until I was ‘old enough to take care of it myself.’ As soon as I understood what that meant I became Jose Eber. Anything that had to be done with my hair I learned including the use of a curling iron when I was six so I could look like Dorothy Hamill.

It became my personal mission never to have short again at least not as short as a man’s, which is one horrifying memory from second grade. I’ve grown my hair long and had it cut or ‘styled’ about every two or three years until three years ago when I made the mistake of visiting Fantastic Sams. I brought photo after photo of hairstyle I wanted, but the stylist kept saying things like, ‘Those bangs won’t look good on you,’ ‘Your hair is too curly for that style,’ or, my personal favorite, ‘You want that? Well, okay,’ the stylist’s face looking as though I’d just asked for a Beehive, on fire. It’s just layers and bangs! Come on already!

So began my journey to Rapunzel. Not that I intended it to be such, but I wasn’t giving it much attention until I found the perfect hairstylist. Until, one day, I just got tired of the way it made me look – old, hanging in my face making my forehead look ten times bigger, not to mention sitting on it at every turn (imagine that). I mainly wore it in a braid down my back, which was also getting tiring. So, I found an holistic salon made an appointment and SNIP! It was gone.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I feel like a different person, maybe look like one too. It kind of reminds me of writing in a sense that my first draft goes on and on and on. Even though I know I won’t keep a lot of the information I just keep writing, letting the words come out as I see and hear them in my head. Then, when I’m finished, I start cutting and shaping the story adding highlights and low lights, blowing out the junk and applying a final spray of adjectives before sending it off to a real editor. So, to thank my hair and all it’s ‘time served’ I wrote a little poem. Enjoy!

Ode To My Hair

Long, thick and kinda frizzy
Thank you hair for keeping me busy
Washing, brushing, drying maybe a braid, but always tying you
Out of my face because, it seems, you were every place.
You kept me warm, probably woulda saved me from a swarm
Of bees, but, alas, I must confess, you mostly made me look a mess,
Not to mention out of date and just plain old.
So with a breath I mustered bold and had you cut with shears of gold.
Waiting on my desk, so beautiful, soon will come the day you go on Ebay
Where you will be sold.