Life on the Ridge
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waiting for jeanne

(from my handwritten journal: 25 September)

The tree in our front yard is twisting and swaying to the beat of the wind. Rain swirls, lifting and rising repeatedly before touching the ground. Our phone rings.

My mother-in-law has called to let us know their recently restored power had disappeared. She and my father-in-law are sitting in a dark, shuttered house watching their five-inch battery-operated black and white television.

At our house we can still watch television, play computer, cook... oh, everything we normally do except for looking out our windows. Kari and I sit outside our front door. The tinkling sounds of her GameBoy can be heard inbetween gusts of wind.

Brooks slams outside with his plastic tools wondering hwat he can fix with them. He tightens the screws holding the shutters over our doors' side-lights. He hammers the doorbell in the hopes that this will force the doorbell to work better. He attempts to prune a bush with plastic pliers.

Mother Nature exhales and forces my tree to bow to the East, then South, then North. I hold my breath and pray its limbs do not break, that its roots do not lose their grip on South Florida's sandy soil.

A lone bird attempts a fly by. It flaps and flaps, going a few inches before the wind slows. It cannonballs forward and then turns towards the sanctuary of the live oak hammock on the ridge.

Robert joins us. He ousts Kari from her chair. He leans back, props his feet on the low wall bordering our front walk and sips his Stewart's Grape Soda. Like Kari and me, he watches our tree's reactions to the changing winds.

I have forgotten to bring in the windchimes. They had been brought inside before Frances and remained inside when Ivan threatened. Earlier in the week I had rehung them. Now with Jeanne's winds, my chimes are stretched out from the tree's lowest limb, twisting and turning as a whole, not in part. My chimes have been rendered mute.

Brooks has not been. He babbles faster than the winds are blowing. He pretends to be Bob the Builder. When that gets boring, he brings out some track, a few trains and conducts Thomas the Tank Engine around our front porch. He wonders aloud if he can now eat those Poptarts in the hurricane supplies.

Hurricane food supplies always seem to be ninety-eight percent junk and two percent nutritious. Perhaps this is not the healthiest ratio, but in the short term, who cares? In South Florida's heat and humidity, food spoils quickly or it develops a new life. I can buy a sack of potatoes on Monday, and by Saturday healthy rots extend well past the skin. A ripe banana can find itself mush after a night on the kitchen counter. So hurricane food consists mostly of canned items -- foods that can be consumed without having to be heated -- and boxed or bagged junk.

Toby comes barreling out the front door dragging Rick behind him. Toby desperately wants to go for a walk and relieve himself on various bushes, but the rain brings him to an abrupt halt. Rick goes back inside for my umbrella. Together he and Toby trot off into the rain to the grass's edge. A gust blasts through and catches them unprepared. My umbrella isn't up to the stress. It turns inside-out and bends where the ribs attach to the pole. Now my umbrella is ready for the trashcan.

Robert always makes certain that we have a large box of trashbags in with our supplies. We have to have some way to contain all the debris after a storm. A pair of trashcans would never be adequate if we took a hard hit from any of these storms.

The rain begins to pound down in earnest. We can hear it coming up and over our house, see it cascading from the gutters and blowing around the tree. The tree's writhing branches fling the rain out in crazy patterns. Even scootching our chairs back up against the front doors doesn't keep us from getting wet. We battle to see we can get through the door first.

Now we wait inside.


up, down, up

This is one wild and wooly hurricane season. The last time 4 hurricanes hit Florida over a 6-week time span was in 1866. Yes, the meteorologists had to really dig for that statistic. Of course who is to say that those were actual hurricanes. It isn't as if the people had access to today's equipment.

Shutters went up the first week of September. Shutters came down this past tuesday. Shutters went back up yesterday. Robert is tightening screws and finishing the upper shutters right now.

Whole lot of banging going on. The birds are quiet. Dogs are quiet. At least we can assume they are. Nothing to hear but the clanging of shutters being moved from storage to over windows, drills and cursing.



from an email currently making the rounds...



Typed out an eloquent rant on how I hate hurricanes and my ISP disconnected me.

So not the same, but I don't feel like trying to recreate...

I do not like hurricanes.

I do not like them with strong winds.

I do not like them with hard rains.

I do not like hurricanes at all.

I do not like being cooped up in my house.

I do not like not seeing the sun.

I do not like these storms at all.

I do not like listening to Bill Kamal.

I do not like watching Bryan Norcross.

I do not like hearing the forecast for hours on end.

I do not like 24 hour coverage of these damn storms!

I am tired.

Fed up.

Sick of these storms!



Kari has to do 10 hours of community service this year. We are working hard to figure out what she could do that she would also enjoy. I suggested something like a walk-a-thon. Kari gave that idea a thumbs up.

I went searching for one that she might be interested in doing and pulled up information on the Race for the Cure sponsored by the Susan J. Komen foundation. Since Nana is a breast cancer survivor and my Aunt Mary and my great-grandmother died of breast cancer, Kari and I thought this would be a perfect fit. We'll be doing the 5K run.

So Kari will earn some community service hours and I will get a taste of what running with all those people will be like (preparation for a 10K), and we'll hopefully raise some money for breast cancer research.



There once was a runner who inhaled a gnat.
I don't know why she inhaled that gnat.

Do you think she'll gag?

(she definitely coughed and sputtered and tried to spit it out)


ummm, I don't know about this...

My brother is encouraging me to run. Me!? I love walking. Running? Haven't done it for years. Until Kirk challenged me to run a 10K with him and Gina in March. Now I'm out every morning slowly building up my distance and my muscles and lungs. This is going to be a long, arduous process.

Seriously long. Definitely arduous.

I don't want to post about it here. Instead I'll keep track over here. If I don't keep track of any of my walking and running, distance and time, I'll back off and have to walk that 10K in March.

Wouldn't that be embarassing?

Today I drove 10K... a circuitous path that starts and ends at my house. Totally shocked me just how far it is. I so do not know about this.



I have a love hate relationship with my hair. Most women do, I think. I haven't cut my hair since the last week of July, nor have I colored it since then. My hair has no life to it, is beyond dry and won't listen.

So I'm going to cut it. No longer will my hair be able to be pulled back into a sloppy ponytail. OH no, it will be short and sassy. Something easy for me to take care of and that doesn't require a hair dryer.

The dying will also stop. It's expensive, time-consuming and my hair has reached the point where it sees dye coming near it and it erects defenses. Yes, my hair doesn't take color evenly now and it does strange things to the color. Is my hair orange, brown, blonde or some weird red? Who knows!

Hopefully by Christmas my hair will have regained some semblance of health, it's true color. Hopefully I will fall back in love with the grey stuff.



My husband has been an air traffic controller for more than 15 years now. He absolutely loves his job. He rarely complains. He doesn't feel stressed by his job and cannot figure out why that shocks people.

We used to go eat lunch with him most Saturdays when Rick and Kari were little, but that was when he was at Tamiami Airport in Kendall. Now he is at MIA and the kids are busy on Saturdays doing various activities. Not that we could go eat lunch with Robert in the tower. Oh no. The terrorists' actions on 9/11 have ended fun family lunches at the airport.

I have never been to visit the tower at MIA. I've never stood up there and looked out between the controversial columns on either side of the windows. I've never watched the planes land and take-off from umpteen stories above the tarmac. I haven't gotten to listen to the chatter between controller and pilot in years.

Because of this, Robert took a picture for me. Enjoy the view!

And yes, that is the old tower that you see at the bottom of the photo.


little things

Kari is through the roof today. She is out riding. First time in a month. Between hurricanes, rain storms and my being in the hospital, she has missed out. She was greeted with excitement by those that were at the ranch ahead of us. As she pranced over to her friends, I noticed that her jeans were at least 3 inches too short.

Brooks is amusing us by wearing his Harry Potter costume. He waves his wand and we stick out our tongues in response. He falls to the floor from the giggles.

Frog sat on my shoulder this morning and nuzzled ear. His enthusiastic purring has quite deafened me. Sometimes he is so affectionate that I get annoyed, but he is a sweetheart and puts up quite nicely with my ridiculousness.


moving meditation

My morning and evening walks are my favourite times of the day. I can sort out the mess in my brain and breathe easily.

My fingers reach out to touch the palm fronds that dangle over the sidewalk. I have a staring contest with a squirrel who is convinced my goal in life is to steal his acorns. An ibis poses on top of the cocoplums and demands respect of all who pass by. The scent of growing grass and decaying leaves tickles my nose.

That's the walk. Then there is the run. I'm in training for a 10K run in March. After running a half marathon my brother decided that I must also take up running. Now I find myself missing the good stuff as I run/walk my quarter-mile intervals. I find myself sprinting to finish, just so I can walk and gaze around.

After my run today I spotted a Carolina chickadee, Parus carolinensis. He was sitting on a fence post at the edge of the Ridge. He stayed still, head cocked, as I approached. I greeted him with words. He greeted me with song.

Exercise is wonderful and has its place. Walking and "smelling the roses" does too. One is good for the body. The other is good for the soul.



Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that someone who looks so sweet and who can be such a goof can cause so many headaches.

Today I called him on plagiarizing. Yes, plagiarizing. He tried to wiggle out of it, but when shown the proof, he shrugged and said he didn't know why he did it. Shrugged! As if plagiarizing is not a big deal. As if plagiarizing is not stealing another's words and claiming they are one's own.

He was also called out on the floor today for setting up a program to snatch our passwords. See, Rick has been sneaking online in the middle of the night, something definitely forbidden. We changed the sign-on password. Kari said Rick threw a huge hissy when he discovered this. Last night we allowed him online for 30 minutes, which is when he set up the program to catch our password.

No computer for the rest of the week. No martial arts. He's pissed and blaming me for all that has gone wrong. Man, he is far off-base there. He knows the rules. He knowingly broke them.


random spots of blue

Ordered my gi tonight. Had to go down a size which totally threw me. No gi required classes for me until it arrives. Oh well. Mon ordered a royal blue one for herself too. We'll be stylin'.

A hint of sky peeked through the cloud cover today. Totally shocked my eyes. Eyes that were already reeling from sunlight pouring through recently unshuttered windows.

Brooks stood on his hands for quite a while. He couldn't figure out how to right himself to a normal standing position. He fell over, crashed into the door and is now sporting a nice bruise on his back.

Tomorrow I plan on wearing my painting t-shirt. You can barely make out the DUKE emblazoned across the chest. Hopefully this one will amuse my neighbor who cannot believe the number of Duke t-shirts that I own. My dad is having to run out and buy me some new ones. Variety is important in any t-shirt collection -- especially if all have the same theme.


bite me!

Currently I am toxic to all trolls and those who like to play God. So please, go ahead and bite me!


consecutive sentences

First we have to put up our shutters due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Frances. Now we have to leave them up, because Hurricane Ivan hasn't decided where he wants to go: South America, Central America, Texas, Louisiana or Florida. Heck, he thinks they all look good.

We, however, are very tired of this blocked view of the world. we don't know whether it is day or night. We can't see anything out of our windows other than the backside of the shutters. When we do get to go outside into the summer shower season that Florida is currently in, we see house after house after house with shutters up. We feel as if we need to check in with our parole officers at the Hurricane Center to make sure it is okay, that our ankle monitors won't alert someone (like Ivan) that we dared to step foot outside.

There had better not be another storm whose projected path cone falls across my section of Florida! I can't take this much longer! Ack! Ack! Ack!


a sign?

Okay, so the gods didn't give us a rainbow or even a dove. Oh no. To let us know that Hurricane Frances was past, they gave us Ivan. Ivan the Terrible. Ivan who is growing ever stronger and is obviously looking to pound someone.


But then on one of my walks -- between the bouts of rain -- I saw this...

How bad can life be when there are butterflies flitting around?


skies of blue

Isn't it pretty how the sky changes? All pictures were taken from my front yard... facing east... maybe a tad to the south. This was done over the course of an hour.

Currently we have sustained winds at 24 mph.


bad picture, but...

Now that we are fairly certain Frances will be kind enough to not hit us directly, we are being told to be prepared for flooding. South Florida is not exactly high ground, and most of the tip of the peninsula used to be Everglades, but enterprising men of the early 20th century filled the glades in for future development.

Thus when it rains, we get a nice river, lake, canal, moat in our backyard. Normally this area is grassy. (or for those of you who have heard me rant -- planted in corn)

The meteorologists are saying we could have anywhere from 5 to 15 inches of rain. This is what happened the last time we had hard rains and our total wasn't but 3 inches or so.

Pretty, huh?

No mosquitoes need apply for tenancy. YUCK!


tales from the cone

I'm standing in the checkout lane at Target with my DVD and candy (I already have my hurricane supplies, so now I'm buying silly stuff). The lady in front of me has her cart piled high with fans. FANS.

cashier: Why are you buying all these fans?
lady: Well, when the power goes out, my a/c won't be working anymore, so I'll have these fans to keep me cool.

i check out the boxes thinking that these are battery operated fans. NOPE!

cashier: Are you sure you want to buy these fans?
lady: Yes! When the power goes out, I'll just plug these in.
cashier: one more time Are you sure?
lady: very snappish Yes!

On top of this, when walking through the grocers, I noticed certain items were sold down or gone -- like microwavable only foods. What is with this?


up go the shutters

Rick installing over kitchen window
across the street
preparing to install


in the red

At 10:48 am EDT, we were put under a hurricane warning. According to one sight, the projected land fall is a touch south of where it was this morning at 5:00. Not what I wanted to hear.

Our cats are freaking out from all the noise of shutters going up. Admittedly they were freaking out this morning. Both were cuddled as close to me as they could. Binky is hiding under the covers. Frog is following me around. When I go outside to check on the shuttering progress, I have to hand him off to Kari.

The strange thing that I've noticed over the past 2 mornings is the action of the birds. Yesterday morning they were screeching at each other. Normally, they are chirping and whistling, but yesterday they were screeching. Birds were starting to flock -- something that we don't usually see for another month. This morning, the birds were just as noisy, but instead of seeing migrating birds gathering, it was the parrots and the ibis -- the birds that are here year round.

The neighborhood armadillos are nowhere to be seen. David, our next door neighbor, said he thinks it's safely tucked away in its burrow under his house. I hope so. The armadillo is a cute little fella.


hurricane tracking site

Check this out, Sally. To give you an idea as to where I am located, scroll down that page to the "Model Forecast courtesy of South Florida Water Management District". If you follow the dotted black line (the path the hurricane would take if it stayed on its current course), where that line intersects with the coast is approximately where I live.


in the pink

As of 5 am EDT this morning, the majority of Florida's eastern coastline was put under Hurricane Watch. What the heck does this mean? What it means is that we could be seeing a hurricane in the next 36 hours.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

I'm getting ready to head out to take pictures of our neighborhood. Supposedly Frances is going to our north, and I hope she does, but it doesn't hurt to take before pictures... especially if we have to take after ones. Frances is currently projected to pass over my inlaws' hometown, so they are going to take a few before and after pictures too.

Are you ready, Sally?



While I spent my weekend in the hospital, my grandmother spent hers fretting. She and my mother had gone out shopping. Mom went down one aisle, while Nana went down another. Mom went back to meet up with Nana and discovered her to be having some difficulties. They waited for the moment to pass and then left.

Mom called Nana's doctor about the incident. Seems Nana had a TIA...her second in the past month. This is Nana's nightmare come to life. The looming loss of her independence. The possible loss of her sense of self with a full-blown stroke.

Papa, Nana's husband, died of ARDS in 1994 after a series of TIAs. Mama, Nana's mother, died after a series of strokes.

warning signs of stroke


are you prepared?

I'm constantly amazed at how many people have to run out and buy all their hurricane supplies when a storm is threatening. Umm, hello? Do you not remember Andrew? The lines of people purchasing plywood to board up their windows or generators is unbelievable. The lines of people returning these items next week will be just as unbelievable.

So what should a person do to prepare for a hurricane?

Start with the outside of your house first. Keep trees pruned. You don't want dead limbs snapping off and becoming deadly projectiles. You also don't want to lose a tree because you loved the free form of it so much that you allowed the tree to become dangerously top heavy. Bring inside any tables, chairs, flower pots, bird feeders, wind chimes... anything that is loose and could be tossed by storm winds. Do NOT place items in the bottom of your pool. You really don't want to have to get your pool resurfaced due to scratching from your patio table. Do not empty your pool either. I'm still trying to figure out why people even think this is necessary.

Have hurricane shutters installed. Go with the ones you know you can install when a storm threatens. If you are physically weak, frail, have no one to help you with putting them up and have lots of money... go for the rolladen ones or the accordian shutters. The majority of the shutters a person will see here in South Florida are the storm panel shutters. Then there are the homemade plywood shutters. *shudder*. I was thankful for the storm shutters during Andrew. If you could have seen the dents in the ones that covered the window of the room I was sleeping in during Andrew, you would understand why.

Don't neglect your pantry. You will want to eat after the storm passes by, but you most likely will not have power. Oh no! Whatever will you do? There's also the horrid lack of potable water. Stock up on items that can go from can to cookpot without requiring the addition of water. We have cans of chicken, tuna, spaghettios and soups, not to mention fruits and veggies. Crackers, cookies, nuts, fresh fruits and veggies are definitely good ideas too! We buy the individual juices for drinking.

What about bottled water? Now come on, people. Must you really spend $$$ on bottled water? Head to Walmart or some place that carries camping supplies. Look for expandable water containers. They generally cost between $5 and $10 and will hold about 5 gallons of water. Have one of these for each person in your family. Believe me, you'll be glad you have them. If you simply must buy the bottled water, use it to fill up space in your freezer. Just make sure that the bottles are only 3/4 full. This will help with keeping items in your freezer cold longer and will provide you with the occasional sip of ice water.

All those personal papers! Make copies of important papers: insurance papers, bank account information, drivers license, SS card, birth certificates, wedding certificates. Put in a plastic bag and keep with you! If you have photos that are important to you, put these in plastic bags and then a sealed box.

Don't forget your pets! Your pets are not going to be happy about the storm either. Make sure you have plenty of food and water for them. Yes, perhaps you should have a water container just for them -- or at least some of that bottled water. If they have favorite toys, make sure you put these with your important items. Vaccination papers on your pets should be considered important papers!

Other good things to do to prepare: your family car -- fill up the tank, make sure you have a decent spare tire, jack, shovel (to dig out of mud) and any items necessary for quick repairs. Let people know what your plan is for after the storm -- email your contact numbers to your friends and family members, let them all know who to contact about your safety (after all, you will be lucky to get through after a storm and will most likely only be able to call one person) and whether you will be staying in the storm damaged area or heading elsewhere. Have heavy plastic sheeting -- such as what is used for landscaping -- to cover any holes in your home's roof or walls. Have a good supply of batteries, a battery-operated radio, refills of necessary medications, candles and matches (although battery operated lanterns are safer!!!) and a first-aid kit.

But most of all, remember your physical safety is more important than making sure your car doesn't get scratched.

"Earth laughs in flowers." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson