Plague Diaries #11

It’s no secret that I’ve been dealing with major anxiety, so bad that for a while there it was all I could do to force myself out of bed in the morning, bed being the safest place on earth.

It’s also no secret that I took some medical leave from work to deal with getting my head back on straight. I am trying everyday to meditate, walk, knit, listen to podcasts, read, and do other kind things for myself so that I can relax enough to get my breathing back to a non-panicked state.  It’s been slow, but my mood is lifting and I am getting better.

The one sticking point is writing. Some asshole will probably point out that I’m writing this, but that’s not the same thing at all. Here is just a journal of thoughts, feelings and events. It isn’t creative, although some other asshole might argue that too.

But this is where things brighten. I have a friend who teaches at our local university, let’s call her LC. I’ve known LC for almost as long as I’ve been living in Florida which means we’ve been friends for over fifteen years. She’s always been a shining light in my life, even though I don’t get to see her often. But we have been talking a lot on the phone lately and she has been prodding me to get back to creativity.

We recently read together an essay, deconstructed it, and then each wrote our own homage to the formula and the brilliant writer. I like the first draft of my essay about goats (Greek goats, specifically), even though I was wheezing through the entire process of getting words down on the computer screen. I tweaked it a bit the next day and became more pleased with it, even though it isn’t nearly as poignant and heartbreaking  as the original. But it was good to be writing something again.

LC is great at giving feedback. Always starting with the positive and then moving gently to where things could be improved. She’s a brilliant writer herself and I can’t wait to read her version of the essay. (It’s her wedding anniversary today, so I’ll cut her some slack.) But the feeling of putting words together and making some interesting connections fired something in me that had been doused by a bucket of mood disorder.

Things will always happen that will try to keep my from writing. The death of my mother stoppered things for a good year. This pandemic has strafed me as well. And next year it will be something else. Maybe the murder hornets will set up shop in the gardenia bushes out my back door. I don’t know.

But no matter how much water is thrown on the fire, I’ll keep going. Nathan Hill, the amazing author of The Nix, and a local, wrote this essay recently that said much more succinctly than what I’m trying to do here. Read it here:  Postcard From the Pandemic: A Solid Little Feeling

I will get back to writing. After my mother died and nearly a year had gone by I started with smaller pieces, flash fiction and some essays. Some got published in online and literary reviews. Maybe if my goat essay gets polished enough I’ll try sending that out too.

Writing is the fire in my blood. I might slow down, I might stop altogether from time to time,  but it always comes back, no matter what catastrophe I face. And if I just tempted fate with that statement, so be it. Bring on the murder hornets.

 

What Is Your Word?

I had a text conversation with my friend Tammy last week. She asked me out of the blue the following question: If you could choose one word to set your intention for 2017 what would it be?

I had to think only a moment before I answered her: TENACITY. As in never, ever, ever give up. Never give up on what, you may ask? My writing most definitely, but it applies to all areas of my life – my career as a librarian, my marriage, my family, my friends, my spirituality, my creative endeavors in general. Writing a book and getting an agent has really taught me this lesson well and I can see it working in different ways that are surprising and wonderful to behold.

I thought it was a random thing to ask, but a very good question. Imagine my surprise when a week later I received a package in the mail containing this:

2017-02-05-09-03-50The bracelet comes from myintent.org. You can customize your bracelet to say any word that means something to you. It’s a really cool idea because every time I look at it I remember my determination to do the things I am passionate about. It also reminds me what an awesome person Tammy is.

My Kosta

Konstantine-George  Athanasios Karras

Konstantine-George Athanasios Karras

 

Twelve years ago this morning I met the guy above. It was my first day of work at the Naples Branch Library and my supervisor David introduced me to Kosta right by the CD racks. I still remember he wore a red-checked shirt and was very nice and funny.

Did I think immediately I was going to end up married to him? Good heavens, no.

But after about six months of working together we discovered we had things in common: we had both studied archaeology, we both loved to write, we both loved history and art and travel. When he suggested we go out for a beer to talk about writing some more I agreed. We went to McCabe’s and had a beer and talked and talked and talked. We were friends.

After that we went out once a week as friends. We laughed and drank beer and ate burgers and had a great time. We did this for about six months before I was brave enough to take things to the next level. So on January 6, 2006 I invited him over to my place for a home-cooked meal. I made spaghetti and garlic bread and he brought the wine. We watched The Thing from 1951 with James Arness as the monster. I don’t really remember anything about the movie at all because I was so nervous. When the credits rolled I leaned over and kissed him.

He didn’t run screaming, which I took as a good sign. It took him a while to figure out his mind though. At the time he was 49 years old and had pretty much decided he was going to be a permanent bachelor. He was concerned that there were eighteen years between us. But by President’s Day that year he had committed and we never looked back.

Now we write together. We talk about history and art. We travel as much as we can afford. We laugh every day. And yes, there are eighteen years between us but it doesn’t make one whit of difference. We are best friends and that is that.

The only thing I would change about my relationship with my husband would be that I had met him sooner.  I love you, honey. You’re the one for me.

Le Moulin des Landes

On the western coast of France, sort of halfway between Nantes and La Rochelle is a tiny community that is tacked on to the village of La Chapelle Achard. This collection of houses in the middle of farmland is where our good friends Danielle and Sylvain live with their four kids and menagerie of animals.

Stone farm house of Danielle and Sylvain.

Stone farm house of Danielle and Sylvain.

This is our second time visiting and we love the slow pace of country life mixed with the chaos of four kids, two cats, a dog, and three sheep. There is never a dull moment in this house, even though it looks sleepy and peaceful from this angle.

Indi the English Pointer

Indi the English Pointer

This is Indi, quite possibly the sweetest English Pointer that ever pointed. He’s still quite young, only three, and is full of pep and energy. I’ve been told when he is out on the hunt everyone calls him “The White Bomb” because he tears across the fields with incredible speed. When he’s home, he thinks he’s tiny because he will try to crawl into your lap for a belly rub. He is not tiny. Nor is he fixed, and his plums are often the source of mirth in the house because they are so… well, plummy.

Who's a good boy?

Who’s a good boy?

Pan the sheep

Pan the sheep

This is Pan. He has a wife named Grovey, and a son named Lamb Chop. All three had just been shorn shortly before this picture was taken. Pan looks delirious with relief her, mostly because we had just been through a heat wave and I am sure he was feeling the burn.

Danielle's hydrangeas

Danielle’s hydrangeas

Danielle has incredible hydrangeas growing next to the garage right on the road. Tourists stop to take pictures of them. This tourist stopped to take pictures of them. They are truly splendid.

Well hello, my deer.

Well hello, my deer.

Sylvain is a part owner in a deer farm. There are three types: Sica, Red, and Fallow deer. These are the red deer. We went to visit them all and bring them lunch, which Mr. Himself is munching on here.

 

Our hosts, Danielle and Sylvain in Nuremburg.

Our hosts, Danielle and Sylvain in Nuremburg.

And this post wouldn’t be complete without Danielle and Sylvain themselves. We found we traveled very well together. They are wonderful friends and Kosta and I love them both very much. It would be nice if we could see each other more than every few years. But (!) they want to visit Greece with us in 2018. It is ON.

Note: I didn’t post any pictures of the kidlets because I haven’t asked permission from their parents yet. If they say okay, I’ll tell you about all four of them in turn. They’re pretty fantastic, as far as kids go.

Back at it…

It was my first day back at work after a month of vacation. It wasn’t so bad, there were some good things and some not so good things that happened while I was gone, but nothing out of the ordinary. Manageable.

I meant to do more live blogging from the trip but it was very hard. We were running all day and at night I was so tired it was hard to put two thoughts together. A coherent blog post? Not in the cards, not in the stars, not in my brain.

I got a suntan, spent time with great friends, ate some delicious food, and took a couple thousand pictures. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing these with you as I look back on my trip. I hope you’ll stop back and see the photos.

For now, I am going to leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip. It isn’t of a famous landmark, work of art, or anything much. I just thought it was lovely when I saw it for the first time. I hope you do too.

Field of wheat - Vendee, France

Field of wheat – Vendee, France

 

P.S. My Dad came through his surgery beautifully and is recovering by leaps and bounds.

Unexpected Events

Things have been great on vacation. We met up with our friends in Munich, and spent several days visiting Nuremberg, Würzburg, Bamberg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We were treated to such views as this:

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn't it?

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn’t it?

We have had a wonderful time reconnecting with our friends Danielle and Sylvain, and we have discovered a few things about German culture.

  1. They like cash. I think I only used my credit card to pay for the hotel and the rental car. Cash everywhere else.
  2. Sparkling water is called Sprudelwasser.
  3. The Germans are crazy for pork and cabbage:

    That's a lot of sauerkraut.

    That’s a lot of sauerkraut.

Seriously. I ate so much pork I thought I was going to sprout a curly tail. Pork at every meal. Cabbage hiding under the lettuce of your salad and of course the ubiquitous sauerkraut. We went to the grocery store and they had an entire Wall O’ Pork. They are totally serious about their pig food products.

We are now comfortably ensconced in our friends’ old stone farmhouse in Western France. And it was good to be surrounded by friends because the totally unexpected happened.

The other day I got a text from my Mom saying Dad had been having chest pains. They went to the ER, ran some tests, and the upshot was Dad had to have triple bypass surgery. It happened today and went extremely well. He is in recovery and all signs point to a good recovery. But the fact that I wasn’t with my mother to sit there and hold her hand while her husband of 46 years had open heart surgery left me a quivering mess.

But my wonderful friend Danielle helped me through with Reiki. If you don’t know what Reiki is, I invite you to read about it here. Basically, it is healing energy from the Divine that a practitioner can channel into another being: human, animal or plant. I’ve been a practitioner for several years now and Danielle is the Reiki Master who has taught me. Together we created a flow of Reiki that was sent directly to my father, thousands of miles away. It was proactive and left me feeling more in control of my emotions and hopeful of a positive outcome. I held it together.

Dad will probably be in the hospital for five or six days. Kosta and I debated over what to do. In the end, (mostly because we can’t afford to change our plane tickets) we are going to continue with our vacation. Trust me when I say it was not an easy decision to make. Most of me is longing to be home with my family. Everyone seems to be coping reasonably well. Mom has been so brave and capable and I am proud of her for surviving an extremely difficult situation.

The last couple of days have been rough, for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much on a vacation before. But Dad has survived his ordeal, Mom is coping with hers, and Kosta and I will deal with ours.

Perplexed and a little frightened...

Perplexed and a little frightened…

 

 

Randomly on a weekend…

Kosta and I had the day off yesterday, and it was lovely. We started the morning, as usual, with the Friday Breakfast Club. Afterwards we went home and relaxed, read, and there may have been a nap involved. After a killer day at the library Thursday, it was a balm to my soul.

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My flight from R to L: Liquid Sunshine, Triple C, Rojo Especial, Keewaydin Crusher, Good Goat. My faves were the Triple C and Good Goat.

 

We met friends at the Naples Beach Brewery that evening. The beer was really good, and the company great, but the place was nowhere near the beach, nor did they have air conditioning. Yesterday it was 92 degrees and extremely humid and the brewery is in a warehouse. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it immensely and look forward to returning, perhaps in November when it cools off again. Except for the lack of cool air, the place was damn near perfect and had a great vibe.

Drink like a local...sweaty!

Drink like a local…sweaty!

This morning we got up early and went to the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market. We each got a ham, egg, and cheese crepe from the madame at Chez Boët and a cup of coffee from Black Tulip. Truly, there has never been a smoother, more delicious coffee than what these folks make. I even went back for a second cup of their cold brew.

While we were downtown we ran into a friend of ours and his son. Tim owns a restaurant down there and we saw the son, Wolf, first. He was standing guard by a traffic cone in the parking lot behind the restaurant.  When Tim came by he told us that he and Wolf were fixing a hole in the blacktop. There is an abandoned propane tank under the street that has an access panel that was covered in concrete. But when the delivery trucks come through they bust it up with their weight. So Tim took it upon himself to fill the hole again so no one would have an accident. Kosta said: “But that’s not your problem is it? You don’t own the parking lot.” To which Tim replied, “I’ve been looking at it for three days and figured I should fix it before someone has an accident.”

Nice guy, that Tim.

Nice guy, that Tim.

And today is Kosta’s name day. In Greece, the name day of your patron saint is just as important as your birthday. And May 21st is the feast day of Saint Constantine and Helena. I am baking him a cake for dessert tonight: a four-layer Devil’s food with chocolate buttercream frosting.

Soon to be a death by chocolate.

Soon to be death by chocolate.

I also got a pedicure today. Nothing like getting your toes done to make you feel fabulous.

Sandal ready!

Sandal ready! And my apologies to Julia, who hates feet.

V is for…


V
Vendée

France is divided into regions, sort of like we have states, only less autonomous, I believe. The Vendée is where my dear friend Danielle lives in a tiny hamlet called Le Moulin des Landes, which is near the village of La Chapelle Achard. Kosta and I visited in 2013 and stayed with Danielle and her family for a couple of weeks. It was a wonderful experience. Not only do we adore the entire family, but they live in a 180 year old stone farm-house. They keep sheep and chickens and are slowly restoring the place.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

The Vendée is on the Atlantic coast and Danielle and her family live just a fifteen minute ride from Les Sables-d’Olonne, which is a beautiful seaside town with spectacular beaches. I am very excited because we are going back there this summer for a week to see the family and hang out before we go on to Bavaria and Austria. I am hoping we can plan a side trip up north to Mont St. Michel in Brittany. It’s a few hours drive, but I’ve been dying to see it.

Les Sables d'Olonnes

The beach at Les Sables d’Olonnes

 

My rainbow girl

imageThis is my friend Tammy. She is a total nut and I love her dearly. I recently knit her a pair of socks. You can see them on her hands here. The reason I chose to make rainbow socks was because Tammy reminds me of a rainbow: bright, beautiful, positive, and something I am always glad to see.

I think she likes them. She was also presented with a matching rainbow sweater vest from our friends Ingrid and Tara.

You go, Rainbow Girl.

Ramblin’ Palates at the Bubble Room

The Bubble Room is an institution on Captiva Island, just of the coast of Southwest Florida. I know its been a while, but look at all the fun we had on December 6. True, there were only 4 of us (we were missing Cary and Di!) but we had a blast. Observe:

The Bubble Room

It doesn’t look like much outside, but inside you’ll find a wonderland of themes rooms most of them adorned with toys from the 20’s to the 40’s.

Lunch is served!

I don’t remember what everyone had, but I had a Pita Fonda. All the items on the menu were bad puns on old time movie stars.

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Me and my Pita Fonda. It was quite delicious.

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My husband peering around his Turk Douglass.

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Tammerooni with her scrumptious lunch.

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I texted this one to Di–who is married to Tammy. I asked her if we should be worried. She said she was on her way home.

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All the waitstaff dressed in kitschy scout uniforms. This is our waitress presenting another table with the dessert offerings.

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Oh baby. I only ate half my Pita Fonda in anticipation of this platter of diabetic coma.

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Just had throw this in here. My husband isn’t a self-proclaimed happy jackass for nothing.

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Kosta and I shared this. And even though I say we shared it, we did not manage to finish it. This was the orange crunch cake which is the signature dessert at the Bubble Room. I cannot begin to describe how outstanding it was.

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After lunch we explored the restaurant a bit more, as we were encouraged to do. Here is sweet Val waiting for her prince charming to join her in the Tunnel of Love.

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Of course there was more fun to be had outside. Tammy doesn’t even need to be hopped up on sugar.

 

2015-12-06 14.07.27

See? She’s so shy. I wish there was some way we could coax her out of her shell.

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There was a Bubble Room git shop next door. Look at my handsome prince!

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I didn’t get a lot of good pictures of Val, but I think this one shows her good side. What do you think?

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But hold on, the party ain’t over yet. On the way back across Sanibel Island (the only way in and out of Captiva) Tammy saw a sign and turned sharpish into a parking lot. We had just stumbled upon a new Bennett’s Fresh Roast. These folks roast their own coffee and make their own donughts on site. So what if we already consumed 5000 calories each? Dooughnuts are not a foodstuff to be taken lightly.

2015-12-06 15.30.25

See what I frickin’ mean? The plain glazed belonged to Kosta. I had the other one — the almond frosted coconut.

I don’t know what this is. Maybe we need to get her evaluated.

That was our day: sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, goofiness, and then a wicked case of the hiccups on the way home for me.

It was totally worth every one.