Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Flying

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it

I am really dreaming of France these days and wishing I could fly away across the Atlantic. 
This is what the screen in the seat back on the plane looks like as we get close to France.
I'm not crazy about flying, but I'm willing to do it to get to the country I love visiting. 
The smell of coffee brewing on the plane would wake me, and I'd open my eyes, slide open the window shade and see neat square fields of brown and cream and green below me. Then I'd know I was above France.

What are you dreaming of this week?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

One Innocent Question

I asked my 17-year-old one innocent question, "Whose glasses are these?"
I pointed to the black-framed glasses laying on the counter.
"They're my fake glasses," he said.
"Why do you need fake glasses?" I asked. He has real glasses that look very similar, but he usually wears his contacts.
"It was poker night," he said.
Was that supposed to make sense?
"That's why I shaved my beard and left my mustache last night. Then I wore the glasses for poker night."
I looked at his clean-shaven face. I'm not sure if the answers provided any more clarity.
Was it some sort of 70s poker night where they dressed in short-sleeved plaid shirts with pocket protectors, thick mustaches and glasses? Some sort of Will Farrell parody?
I'll never know.
"Did you win?" I asked.
"Oh, no. I lost bad," he said.
"Did you play for money?" I asked, suddenly worried.
"Nah, it was a dollar maximum. We played with chips."
And that was the night of a 17-year-old when his high school football team is not doing so well

Friday, September 27, 2013

Breakfast Test

Last night when I got home from work after 9, I found my 17-year-old sitting on the couch in the dark watching college football. I plopped down beside him for a few minutes to chat. Before he went to bed, I asked whether he'd like pancakes for breakfast.
"Yes," he replied.
"Scrambled eggs too?" I asked.
So he went to bed and when I woke up Friday morning, I realized I'd have to cut short my run in order to get back in time to cook breakfast for Tucker. That was fine.
I just ran a couple of miles and headed to the kitchen.
Pancake batter at the ready, eggs beaten, blueberry sauce simmering in the pot, I listened for the shower to turn off so I could cook the eggs and pancakes.
I scrambled the eggs, making sure to get them dry the way he liked. I carefully cooked the pancakes to be sure they were done, but not brown.
By the time Tucker moved to hang up his towel in the bathroom, dressed for the day, I called to him that his breakfast was ready.
I set the plate on a place mat and poured an oversized glass of milk, which is what he drinks most mornings.

As he walked into the dining room, he looked at the plate and said, "I don't have time to eat that. I need to leave."
I shrugged and didn't make eye contact. 
"What am I supposed to do? I can't possibly start eating now."
"Do what you have to do," I said. 
So he slipped his shoes on and approached me as I stood over the sink washing the skillet I used to cook the eggs. He bent down for me to kiss him on his bearded cheek.
"Thanks for the breakfast, Mom," he said.
Then he paused at the wooden cabinet and pulled out a pack of Pop Tarts before he closed the door behind him.
I stared at the plate. I hadn't been home from my run long enough to be hungry yet and I thought about being angry at my selfish teenager. But I think selfish teenager is redundant. 
Tucker spends a lot of evenings at home alone while I teach. Many evenings dinner is just pizza or something we pick up at Subway. 
I spend a lot of time juggling classes, talking to Grace or Spencer at college, spending time with my husband. Tucker may feel the need to test me, to see if I'll change my schedule to kowtow to his needs.
And this morning, I did. I passed his test. 
But because I didn't throw a fit about him skipping the breakfast I lovingly cooked, I'm pretty sure that guilt is nibbling at him somewhere. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To Friend or To Block

Dear Relatives and Faraway Friends,
I'm so happy to be your friend on Facebook. Now, even though we live apart from each other, I can keep up with your activities, see your fun pics, watch your baby grow, laugh at your puppy pictures. Facebook gives us a chance to be closer.
 I can see the nursery you've prepared for the baby or like your child's senior picture. I can cheer for you on a run or a bike ride. It makes me feel less lonely for all my relatives while I'm here in Central Ohio and you are spread from other areas in Ohio to Florida to Virginia to Texas and California.
But, even though it's not an election, you've started to "like" things that drive me crazy. Political things. Things like bombs and guns and self-centered politicians who don't really care about making our country better. And then, I have to block you.
 Because it drives me crazy.
 I bite my tongue and sit on my hands so I don't respond.
 I want to ply people with knowledge, but a recent survey shows that, whether liberal or conservative, people are not influenced by logic when it comes to politics. That means that liberals are convinced that President George Bush banned all stem cell research, even though he allowed research to continue with already identified stem cell lines, and conservatives when shone a graph that had a line going up with the number of jobs under President Obama refused to see it as an increase in jobs. That same graph when showing shoe sales, they could read as an increase in shoe sales.
Okay, I'm not going to convince you and you're not going to convince me.
I admit to being guilty of liking one thing political on Facebook. It was a law that passed and an old high school friend who I hadn't talked to in years brought it up the minute we exchanged messages. And we didn't friend each other.
Since then, I have avoided liking anything political. So how bout we avoid politics on Facebook?
That way we can still be friends, and I won't have to block you. So you don't drive me crazy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Autumn Skies

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Autumn is my favorite time of year.
I know people say that autumn makes people ready to start something new -- a new school year or a return to the job. For me, I really long for France in Autumn. I've had two terrific vacations in France in the fall. 
So here are a couple of photos of Autumn in France.

This one was taken in Normandy. I know the sky is clearer and bluer in the fall. That's definitely true here with the fading leaves in the foreground.
And here's a square in Aix en Provence with the sun and shadows making pictures on the buildings. 
Shall I meet you at the cafe there and we'll have a glass of wine and enjoy the sunshine?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Many Happy Returns

I've really been a lax blogger recently, and I apologize. I seem to be racing from one seeming emergency to the next and in between, I just collapse. No real emergencies, just everyday life of teaching college and raising teenagers.
People are emailing to say things like, "Are you going to post that review?" and "Weren't you going to send me a copy of your book?" or "Did you ever manage to download that thing I sent you?" and I realize that my to-do list may have fallen by the wayside.
However, the weekends offer a respite and I plan to take advantage, especially now that my husband has limped home, I mean returned triumphantly, from his camping/hiking/canoeing trip. I'm sure he'll have pictures that I can share once he's awake. For now, he's sleeping in a real bed and maybe remembering that camping in  your 50s isn't as much fun as camping in your 30s.
He got home sometime after 2, so I was in bed obviously. He came in to kiss me goodnight, ran into the desk chair in the hallway and bent over very stiffly to tell me he was home. Then he headed straight for the television to check "the scores." By that, he means baseball because he is a St. Louis Cardinals fan and they are in a tight race to get in .... something that could lead to the World Series.
When he came to bed later, I groggily mumbled, "Is your back hurt?"
"Shoulder," he responded. All that canoeing from lake to lake in Canada aggravated an old football injury that used to pop his shoulder out of place and they'd simply pop it back in and send him into the game again. He has a huge railroad track scar above his collar bone where the cigar-chomping surgeon worked on the shoulder injury.
I'm sure I'll hear many fun camping stories once he is up and I return from work.
Meanwhile, here's a photo that a friend just put on Facebook of me and Earl at a New Year's Eve party. Always fun to find a decent photo.
Have a happy Thursday.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Wine

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Wine is another one of those items we always bring home from France. Our friend Michel usually accompanies Earl to a wine store, a magasin de vin, and they pick out six bottles for us to take home, three in each of our suitcases. Some time in our travels we determined this was the allowable amount and we never declare them, although now I read that we are only allowed one liter of wine per person without paying customs charges of 3%. Oops.
Good wine is so much less expensive in France.
Earlier this year, I was thrilled to find a wine I liked at Trader Joe's. I'm a sweet wine drinker and the Moscato d'Asti was sweet and sparkling and cost about $10 per bottle. That made me happy until our anniversary in June. That's when Earl went to the basement and brought up a bottle of our French wine. It was a dessert wine, so it was sweet too, and so much richer than the Moscato d'Asti.
Here's a comparison between the bottle I
bought this weekend and a regular bottle.
 Later in the week when I tried to go back to the moscato, it tasted like sparkling Kool Aid. I looked at the bottle and realized the alcohol content was only 4.5%. The French anniversary wine had an alcohol content of 13.4%.
This weekend, as I stood in front of the wine section at Trader Joe's, I decided to splurge a little. Earl was leaving for a week-long camping trip, so I picked up a tiny bottle of Sauternes wine for $20.
I also threw in a bouquet of flowers to enjoy this week too, giving myself a little stay-cation.
Grace was home briefly this afternoon and I decided that we should open the wine.
I probably used an entirely wrong kind of wine glass, but I thought these shorter glasses went well with the tiny bottle of wine.

Mmmmmm. It lived up to my expectations.
Sweet and rich, with 14% alcohol, so it didn't remind me of Kool Aid or pop.
I still think the wine is a little expensive, but I suppose it's less expensive than flying to France to buy some more wine. Although I'd prefer, to fly over and pick out my own.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Out of the Loop

My youngest son, Tucker, claims we never tell him anything. He says he never knows what is going on in our house or our family. This summer, my daughter Grace starred in a production at the high school -- the high school where Tucker goes. The play was Emma and Grace was playing Emma. Apparently, Tucker missed the fact that Grace went to rehearsal every night and posters of her face were plastered around the city and in the newspaper. The newspapers lay on the dining room table for several days. The first night of the play, one of his friends said to Tucker, "Isn't your sister starring in that play?" And Tucker said, "I don't know." That's when the friend pointed out the poster. I don't think we, as a family, keep information from Tucker. I think he's in his own little world, playing video games or on the computer or hanging out with his friends or listening to music with his earbuds in. That's how he misses all the conversations. But, just to prove him wrong, I've been making an effort to make announcements to Tucker -- things like, we're going to Florida Labor Day weekend to take Spencer back to school, so he doesn't wake up one morning and wonder where everyone went. Today, when Tucker got home from school, my husband was stacking his camping gear in the corner of the dining room. I took one look at Tucker's face and rea
lized he didn't know Earl was going on a trip. "Dad's going camping in the morning," I told him. So he trundled across the dining room to give his Dad a hug before we left to buy new shoes and he headed out into the world that is a Friday night senior year of high school. Maybe Tucker doesn't need to know what's going on with our family all the time. Maybe it's just his way of starting to separate from us in preparation for his journey to college next year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World War II Saga Plus Giveaway

I love to hear from authors who want me to read their books. I suppose someday I might get tired of it, but not when I receive a book like The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein.
Truthfully, from the title and the description, it's not a book I might have picked up, but I'm so glad I did.
From the very beginning, the writing is beautiful. Ahh, so this is a well-written literary novel, I thought. Not one that tries to impress people with its words, but one that lets the story slowly unfurl as the reader connects to each character.
The author is obviously someone who loves Japan as much as I love France. The details about Japanese homes, culture, and customs are definitely intriguing.
The novel begins, both in New York and Tokyo in 1935, introducing us to characters who are not yet affected by the coming war. The saga continues through the midst of the war, focusing on attempted attacks and the devastation in Japan. Most of us probably know the results of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I was unaware that Tokyo was firebombed and largely destroyed along with thousands of residents killed.
But that isn't what this book is about either. It's about the people and how they survive and whether love can grow in spite of evil deeds.
I can't possibly explain why I loved this book, so let me share a couple of passages. Anton, an architect who lived in Japan for more than a decade was asked to help the U.S. government figure out how to best bomb Tokyo. He built a Japanese village using authentic materials. When he couldn't get the floor mats the Japanese used, the U.S. government supplied them from an unknown source.
Anton had tried not to think about the mats'"lenders" as he inspected each of the units individually. Like the ghosts of his flaming oboji, though, they came to him anyway, their former lives whispered from the scars and nicks etched into the rough weave: dents from a low table, laden with food or books. Nail varnish from a careless pedicure. A sickle-moon scuff mark, the approximate shape of a toddler's sandaled heel. They haunted him, these small marks left by lives upended. But as Anton repeatedly reminded himself, he had taken the job. He had to agree to the rules.  

What details. What a way to delve into this character's ghosts as he helped fight war against a people and architecture he loved.
 Here's a passage from a lunch betweem Anton and Hana, another main character who is a glamorous Japanese woman raised in Great Britain.
"I can't eat when I'm nervous."
She exhaled a lazy plume of smoke, studying him as though trying to decide something. Finally, she said: "Certain people -- certain men -- have that effect on me."
At first Anton wasn't sure he'd heard correctly: she'd said it in the same way she might casually bring up a food allergy. When he did register her meaning there was a moment of disorientation. She's not well, he thought, as he had two weeks earlier. It occurred to him that it might be a good time to reemphasize the fact of his marriage.

In spite of loving the writing in this book, something happened, a plot twist in the third chapter, that almost made me put it down. Even now that I'm finished, I see so many possible ways the plot could have been changed so that readers wouldn't have that jarring, book dropping occasion. And that occurrence does taint my view of the novel. I'm very intolerant of violence and cruelty. Still, the rest of the war atrocities throughout the book didn't affect me as deeply as this one event, which I'm not revealing because it would be a spoiler.

I would probably give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I hope you'll give it a try.

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Interview with Jennifer Cody Epstein

Visiting today is author Jennifer Cody Epstein, who wrote The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, a truly lovely novel. You can see my review of her novel here. Hope you enjoy her insights.
Jennifer Cody Epstein
Here's a picture of the author that I stole from her website.
Hope she doesn't mind.
Q. How would you sum up The Gods of Heavenly Punishment for those who haven’t read it yet?
 Tough to do in a few words, as I've been learning! But essentially, it's an exploration of a key (but often overlooked) moment of the Pacific War: the firebombing of Tokyo, which killed 100,000 civilians in a few hours. I approach the subject from both sides of the conflict as well as from both the years leading up to it and those in its wake. It's also a meditation on war in general--what we lose, but also what we gain in the aftermath of enormous tragedy. 

Q. What idea or event inspired you to write your novel? 
 I've always been fascinated by Japan, and by America's evolving relationship with it. I lived there for five years, and while I'd heard much from my grandmother about how hated and feared the Japanese were during the war (like most in her generation she was pretty thoroughly propagandized, I think, and was alternately fascinated and slightly shocked by my decision to study there as a student) I could never comprehend how our two nations had descended to such levels of deep, mutual hatred--and then emerged from the war's wake as such strong allies. Then my husband came across a mention of the firebombing in an interview he was conducting (he's a filmmaker and has been making a documentary about a war crime in Iraq), and he came back and asked me what I knew about it...which, I realized abruptly, was pretty much nothing. So I looked it up online--and was flabbergasted that an event of such enormous human cost and complex ethics seems to have been left out of the story of World War II for most of us. I wanted to fill in that gap for myself--and (hopefully) for readers. 

Q. As an author, how much research is required for a book like this? Do you research from home or does it include travel?
I researched a lot--which for me isn't as onerous as it might sound because I actually find researching much easier than writing (!) Most of it was through books (both fiction and nonfiction) written reports, online documents and images etc--but I also travelled back to Japan in  2009 and interviewed three extraordinary women who had lived through the firebombing and very much wanted their stories about it to be passed along to the next generation. 

Q. Which character do you relate most to in The Gods of Heavenly Punishment? Do you share traits with any of the characters?
 I think I'm a combination between Yoshi and her mother Hana. I share Yoshi's fascination with language and her sort of introverted, meditative view of the world--but also I relate to her mother's fear of rejection and her perpetual sense of not fitting in--as well as her alternating tendencies to both embrace her (perceived) eccentricities and suffer because of them.  

Q. Please share your writing story. How did you begin and what helped you succeed?
 I've always loved to write, and I've always loved books. When I was very small one of my favorite pastimes was to staple together sheaths of paper to make "noves" that I'd then fill with pictures and stories, and as I got older I was almost always deep into a real novel no matter what I was supposed to be doing (I used to hide them on my lap when I was theoretically doing my homework, and prop them on the piano when I was supposed to be practicing!). I think in part it's that passion that helped me finally become a "real" writer--it was pretty much all I ever really wanted to do. That said, I also think that community was essential for my development as a writer. Working on my own, I started dozens of projects but really only ever finished a few short stories between the ages of 18 and 28. It was only when I went to graduate school, and found myself surrounded by fellow writers who would not only motivate me to keep going but would challenge me to do it better that I wrote anything worth finishing--not to mention worth publishing! That experience taught me how crucial feedback and support is to the writing process--and as a result, I've continued to work with writing groups since graduating. 

Q. What authors or books influenced you? 
 So many! But I'd say for this book in particular Sarah Waters' The Night Watch and Ian McEwan's Atonement were particularly important--both for the way they handled war's devastation and the skill with which they intertwine very different perspectives into a single narrative. 

Q. Are you working on a new project now that we can look forward to?
 I have started several and am only now deciding which one to go ahead on--but I think it will be another look at World War II, this time from the European angle. But it will also be an exploration of female friendship--how it shapes us, and also how it can both fail and redeem us. I'll keep you posted! 

Hmm, I wonder if Jennifer has read my novel with its take on a moment in World War II. Maybe, like me, she realizes how quickly people who remember those wars are fading from our lives.

Thanks to Jennifer for your interview and for sharing  your novel. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Apartments in France

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Does anyone else ever watch House Hunters International on HGTV? We love when they feature a house in France, even though my husband grows highly agitated when they complain about not having an elevator or inadequate bathrooms.  
Sunday night, I saw an edition of House Hunters International set in Nantes, France, which is where our friends live. I even saw a shot of their apartment building which is just across the street from the Chateau de Nantes (Chateau des ducs de Bretagne).
Our friends have lived in a few different apartments in Nantes, but the current one is on the top floor, which is the fourth floor. They walk up those many flights of stairs every day and have beautiful views.
Don't you just love the rooftops in France. I don't know what the deal is with all those upside down flowerpots, but they say France to me. 
Last time we were there, we stayed in the master bedroom and this is the view of the chateau out the window.

On the other side of the apartment, the view is of the Nantes cathedral. 
I think I'd be willing to walk up all those stairs everyday for views like this, but I'd probably be better at planning my outings to minimize the number of trips up and down the stairs. 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Sunrise

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme, post a photo that you (or a friend of family member) have taken. Then leave a direct link to your post on West Metro Mommy. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
I get up early to run, and when I visited my parents in Florida, I had to make sure I ran before the sun got very high or it would be too hot to run. (It really was too hot to run even before the sun came up even.)
But I did get a chance to snap a picture of the sun rising over the lake near my parents' house.

Hope it is sunny where you are.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Calm of September?

I say throughout my life that things will calm down soon. And they should.
Many things on my plate have slid off, if you will.
Two kids back in college.
Revisions to my novel completed and off to be edited.
Classes begun at both colleges where I teach.
I should now fall into the rhythm of a nearly empty-nest life. My 17-year-old is a senior in high school, and he asks for very little, except enough junk food in the house to keep him full. And it suddenly seems very important to him that I attend things like "back to school" night.
I begin my mornings with luxurious runs that I actually look forward to. I think I'm finally back in shape so I don't dread it.
This morning, after five miles, I decided I'd run to Starbucks to get coffee for me and Tucker. So I ran that 6th mile along a busy road, feeling strong and hopefully looking peppy in case anyone I knew should drive past.
The run this morning convinced me that I've recovered from my running attempts in Florida, which is just too hot and humid for summer runs. No wonder I never ran while we lived there.
Driving 1000 miles to drop Spencer off at school last Thursday and driving 1000 miles back on Monday took its toll. But it was nice to meet his friends and see the hole that is a dorm room where he will live for the year. His roommate is a stand-up guy named Christian who comes from Atlanta, Georgia and spends a lot of time volunteering. I'm hoping that rubs off on Spencer who has already investigated volunteering at a nearby state park along the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. He just has to figure out how to get there since he doesn't have a car.
Grace's life has changed greatly since she started college three years ago as a biology major at a college 10 hours away in north country New York. Then she changed to a language major, learning French, Italian and German. Now she has switched again, landing only about 20 minutes away from home and majoring in theater.
She's a dance minor because when she auditioned, the professors decided she'd be a perfect Rockette. They dragged her down to the office of a professor who once worked as a Rockette and that professor agreed. Grace now starts her mornings each week day with a dance class: ballet, modern or tap.
But the professors had another suggestion that she major in theater with an emphasis in opera, so that happened. She loves opera and credits years of opera camp for giving her the love of languages that she has.
In addition to a new college and new majors, she also was cast in a show that runs the first three weeks of October. She plays a 25-year-old secretary who has an affair with her boss and gets pregnant, but that's not the main conflict, just one of many in this original play called "Coming Out." They hope to move the play to off-Broadway next. Will Grace go with them?
At this point, I can only hold on for the ride.
Did I say things were calm in September? I'd better enjoy this sunny afternoon and try not to think about it.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Chateau for the Holiday

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.

Monday is a holiday in the United States, and what I would really like to do is visit a nice chateau in France. That probably seems incongruous since the holiday we celebrate is Labor Day, and a castle definitely does not celebrate the rights of labor.
Since I can't go to visit a castle anyway, here's a photo of the back side of Chateau de Chambord.
This was obviously one of those perfect days with a piercing blue sky and a straight path to assymetrical perfection.
Hope you have a lovely Monday dreaming of France, whether you have a holiday or not.

Nature at Your Door

Sometimes my husband and I get sentimental about the years we lived in Florida. We met down here as young reporters for The Tampa Tribune then married and moved north to raise our family. We'll wax nostalgic about gathering at beach hang outs and driving in my convertible or the charming houses in old St. Pete.
But nothing takes the curb off those fantasies like a visit to Florida in August. A morning run alone is enough to remind me why I never ran in Florida. The thermometer may say 70, but the sheer humidity turns a run into more of a swim.
Sandhill Cranes stalk the neighborhood yards.
After a run, I jump into the pool at Mom and Dad's house to cool off. I float on a raft talking to Mom while she sits at the side. I see her eyes move toward the end of the raft and when I turn my head, a little black frog jumps from the raft into the water.
"You were just going to let him jump on me and not tell me," I accuse her.
Along with frogs and fire ants, daytime dragon flies buzz past floating on the waves of heat. Fist-sized spiders build webs both inside and out.
Birds as big as me stalk through backyards and refuse to leave golf holes.
The day we took Spencer over to school in St. Petersburg, Mom had a run-in with a wasp nest inside the rolled up hose. The wasp sting swelled her hand and her entire arm.
Mom's stories alone should have reminded me that nature is just too close in Florida.
Last week, she told me about finding a snake in her garage after she had pulled her golf cart in. She's had snakes in the garage before and she was determined not to let this one hide somewhere. So she took a blunt-nosed shovel, a spade and dug it into the snake in the corner of the garage. But she wasn't strong enough to cut through it. Instead, she had to steadily increase the pressure of the spade as the snake wriggled trying to get free. Mom estimates the time at about 10 minutes before her spade finally hit the concrete of the garage floor.
Huge spiders build webs inside and out.
She pulled the dead snake out into the driveway for my dad to see when he got home from golfing. When he came home, she learned that the snake, which she figured for a non-poisonous water snake from the nearby lake, was actually a cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin. Poisonous.
Later that same week, Mom told me about a trip to the emergency room because of another run-in with nature. This time, it was a beetle. On the golf course, she saw a beetle flying straight at her. She turned her head quickly and the bug flew straight into her ear. Instead of retreating though, the bug decided to persevere to the other side. It dug in. The pain became so great that Mom abandoned her golf game and called Dad to meet her at home. They went to the doctor, who sent them to the emergency room, who sent them to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist. As the bug dug into Mom's ear, blood spurted out covering her outer ear and the collar of her shirt.
The doctor said the bug was about dead by the time he finally squirted some antiseptic in there and extracted it.
So wasps, snakes, beetles, spiders, sand-hill cranes ("They will peck your eyes out," my mom warned when Earl scoffed at the big birds.), and we haven't even got to alligators, and someone here in Central Florida had a black bear in their front yard the other day.
If the heat isn't enough to remind me why I don't live in Florida, the wildlife is. I miss my parents and now my son in college who stay in Florida throughout the year, but I'll take Ohio with its tamer outdoor creatures.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...