It’s a small world

I got a surprise IM from a colleague today asking me a familiar question. “Do you have any family in the area?”

My last name is pretty uncommon – under 1000 people in the US with my Surname and I’m related to all of them one way or another – some much more distantly than others.

So, of course, my answer was, “Yes. Who do you know?”

I always expect it to be some cousin. It almost always is some cousin or other. “I don’t remember the woman’s name, but her husband was Kenneth and she lives near Twin Pines.”

“That would be Mama and Daddy.”

Aunt Net & Mom
This is one of the few pictures I have of Mama. Her sister, my Aunt Net, is on the left and Mama is on the right.

I don’t know the full story from either side. My mother, I know, lost a significant bit of cash around Christmas – significant enough that not having it would have made huge impact in what she could do in December. My understanding is that it wouldn’t have just impacted Christmas, but the finances for whole month. I have no idea why she was carrying that much cash.

Whether it was in her wallet or with some other identifying data, I don’t know. What I do know is that a kind person returned it to her. I didn’t think I would get to thank the kind person, but I did. Today. As it turns out, my colleague had an experience that touched her emotionally around Christmas. Apparently she found a significant bit of cash and was able to return it to the rightful owner – my mama.

I know that there are lots of horrible things going on in the world, but there are also small kindnesses everywhere and they really do change the world. Every day we are presented with opportunities to make the world a better place, one small kindness at a time.

This is what aphasia feels like

I know lots of words. I use words like arcane, esoteric, and recondite in everyday speech. I have indeed told someone they would rue the day they decided to cheat on me (which is its own story.)

Under normal circumstances, I am the person who actually talks like that. Words have meanings and generally speaking there is a precise word that means what you’d like to say, if you only know what it is.

Migraine has a way of changing that, though. It’s called aphasia. It’s a fairly common migraine symptom. I hate it.

Stay warm, little flappers, and find lots of plant eggs!
For me, this is exactly what aphasia feels like.

It’s frustrating. I work with words, at least in my spare time. I used to do it for a living, when I was selling my soul for rent. (I gave that up because they ran out of work about the same time that I ran out of soul I could sell because the marketing website writing job was scraping off soul faster than I could grow more.)

Often when I’m hovering at the edge of a migraine episode, almost always when I’m actually having a migraine episode, and sometimes when everything is just fine, I lose the words for things. Simple things, like cat, spoon, or milk. Oh, I know what it is, and when I’m very lucky I can describe it in a way that other people can recognize, “The domesticated quadruped that eats mice,” “The little bowl on a stick that we use to eat soup.”

Most times, though, I get only semi intelligible descriptions, like “Cow juice, not milk,” (beef broth) or “closed sleeve for the end of your legs” (socks). AJ has gotten pretty good at guessing over the years, but that doesn’t end the frustration of knowing there is a word for something but not being able to find that word.

Sometimes, though, it’s as if there’s no spare words in the world to work with. Sometimes it’s because the entire world is turned up to 11. There are no words because all I can do is lay in bed in a cool, dark room with an ice pack on the base of my skull and a cold cloth on my forehead and pray for the world to please stop now so the pain it’s inflicting will end.

Sometimes there is no pain, just everything else that goes with migraine: the nausea, the vomiting, the wall that keeps out the words, the feeling that colors are shouting and sounds are slapping against your skin and knowing there are things called words, and if you could find some of them, you could ask for someone to help you.

That doesn’t happen. I’m lucky in that I can still read.

I keep a draft of a letter called “Out of Office” for work on those days, days that start like this morning did, with no words for my mouth and none for my hands. I can still read and I can still press send, and that’s something.

Do I need to compose one for if I have worse than usual problems? Break glass in case of emergency? I have it in my medical alert data, but is that enough? I don’t know. What I do know is that while it’s sometimes leads to saying things that are humorous after the fact (“We need to get some worm looking things to eat with tomato sauce.”) it’s also sometimes terrifying  not to be able to make words and not to be able to make sense when you need to.

Opportunity Missed

So, today AJ and I went out do Saturday errands together, and among the errands was a trip to Kohls on our side of town so AJ could pick up some new underwear and I could get a new pair of pants for work.

Two packages of Jockey for Her and 1 pair of pants later, we’re both in line. AJ checks out and waives off the cashier. “No bag, please.”

The cashier looks at her, aghast, but hands her the receipt and the packages of underwear.

I step up and put down my new slacks and the cashier, a pleasantly round brunette who is obviously younger than I am says in a moderately hushed voice. “I can’t believe she didn’t want a sack.”

“Save the earth, man,” I reply.

“I know. But she had underwear.”

“They’re just panties,” I replied. “She’ll tuck them under her arm. It’s no big deal. Everyone wears them. Hell, with as skinny as she is, it’s not like there’s much in the way of panties to see.”

The young woman looked aghast. “I just wouldn’t show underwear in public.”

She began automatically shoving my new pants into a bag while I boggled at the prudishness of this young woman. I mean, come on. Jockey for Her has a subtle blue & white package. It wasn’t like AJ was running through the parking lot with a fist full of undergarments held aloft like a trophy screaming “PANTIES!!!”

Though I kind of wish she would have. That would have been hilarious.

I snapped out of my imaginings in time to say “No bag please. Save the earth, man.”

“I can understand you not wanting a bag. I mean, they’re just pants. But I don’t get not having a bag for underwear.”

“Meh. They’re panties. Whatever.” I walked over to join up with AJ, who was waiting for me, and who I know had to have heard the whole thing.

“I kept waiting for you to put your hands in the air and start running through the parking lot screaming ‘PANTIES!’ You showed more restraint than I would have.”

AJ grinned. “If you’d said it, I would have done it.”

Damn. Opportunity missed. On the other hand, we have a new battle cry now.

Things I learned on my last day in the Keys

This is the final post in a series of observational posts I wrote on vacation.

1. Unless you are leaving at 5:00 am, waking up at 5:00 am on departure day is just a little pointless.
2. Gladys is the tastiest of the three of us, at least according to an informal survey of the local biting insects.
3. Maybe it’s just that I give up and go inside sooner.
4. There is no maybe to observation 3.
5. Sometimes it is a good thing that one of the side effects of meclizine is slowing the intestinal tract. Especially if your stomach is running fast and you need to be able to travel in a car for 3 and a half hours without stopping every half hour for :nature breaks.”
6. I really wanted bacon for breakfast. I had toast. It is not the same thing as bacon at all, but it was free and available without leaving the condo and not likely to upset my stomach further, so that made it the superior choice.
7. In the above, superior = easiest, safest, and cheapest, not tastiest.
8. I have had the song Key Largo stuck in my head since we got here. I will be glad to get it out when we leave.

Rum cake from the Bubble Room, which is on Captiva Island, and not in the Keys. It was very yummy and worth the side trip on the way to the hotel we stayed at in Fort Myers the night before we returned.

9. Convertibles are only pleasant with the top down when you’re travelling under 55 miles per hour. Even then, bangs and convertibles are not a pleasant combination. Headbands or scarves are strongly recommended. Travelling with the top up is even more strongly recommended.
10. If you have to ask “Are we there yet?” you’re not.
11. Especially if you haven’t left yet.
12. It is the little things that mean the most in life. Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea. You just have to bother to make the effort.

Things I learned on my fifth day in the Keys

This is the fifth in a series of observational posts I wrote on vacation.

1. I am usually the first one awake. I hate being the first one awake when I am not at home.
2. When planning a trip, think about how long you want the trip to be once you hit your destination and then subtract two or three days to keep the trip from hitting the “I want to go home” stage before the actual end of the trip.
3. This means that if we had planned the trip to those numbers we would be flying home today or tomorrow, and not Monday January 5.
4. I sing in the morning. It is not pleasant, but it is true. My repertoire includes such hits as “Where is my Hairbrush?”  and “Where, oh where has my deodorant gone?” and the popular tune(less)  “Pants Dance.”  I apologize for any inconvenience my insane urge to sing may cause.
5. I need minions. Especially Dave and Kevin. Maybe they could find my deodorant.

An aligator statue in the condo’s little garden. It was the only aligator I saw on this trip.

6. I like to read. Don’t get me wrong. I really like to read, but there comes a point where I want to do something. Anything.
7. Yes, it’s not even noon here yet, and I am packed and ready to leave for tomorrow. It was something to do.
8. Yes, that does include laying out clothes for tomorrow.
9. No. I do not want to write or read another book or watch a movie.
10. I wonder if I run around the condo screaming if anyone would notice something is amiss?
11. Nope. Not really.
12. I am really going to be glad to be home soon. I am totally over traveling.

Things I learned on my fourth day in the Keys

This is the fourth in a series of observational posts I wrote on vacation.

1. Posiden hates me. He demands an offering every time I get on a boat of any sort.
2. Parrot fish are my favorite fish.
3. Finding Nemo has forever made Blue Tangs “Dory fish.”
4. I didn’t find Nemo. I didn’t expect to, either. It was not the right kind of reef.
5. If you don’t give Posiden his offering, expect to be seasick the rest of the afternoon.

A pelican carving in the little pavilion outside the condo, where we liked to read in the morning. Also where I rested waiting to get over the seasickness from the morning’s snorkeling.

6. Just because a restaurant is award-winning does not mean that it is good.
7. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to try to eat.
8. Yes, I took my motion sickness meds. No, they did not help.
9. A hot shower cures a multitude of ailments. Just not motion sickness.
10. No one likes clammy, wet shoes.
11. Remember, seasickness is fleeting, but the memory of seeing schools of tropical fish in their native habitat is for the rest of your life.
12. Naps still rock.

Things I learned on my third day in the Keys

This is the third in a series of observational posts I wrote on vacation.

1. Unless you advertise your restaurant/food cart as horror themed, I will not eat there no matter how hungry I am if you play creepy music on the grounds you might poison me.
2. I am currently watching my roommate for signs of poisoning because she ate there.
3. I missed out on an amazing fish sammy. I got more of the really yummy homemade salsa, so I’m okay with that.
4. Honeycrisp apples in Florida are like mangoes in Iowa: good, but not nearly the same thing as when you have them where they belong.
5. I often joke that the ancestors traveled 3000 miles to find a place just as crummy as home. There is a reason the ancestors did this: Swedes are not a tropical people.
6. That hasn’t stopped me from trying. I does explain some of my failure as a tropical person.

Coconuts, from the tree just outside the condo.

7. Florida charges for everything. I’m used to state parks being free for day trippers and charges only applying in campgrounds for overnight campers. Florida currently has a $2.50 fee per person for walkers. Prices go up for bike riders and people with vehicles. I am happy to pay state tax back home as long as part of the money keeps our state parks free to the public.
8. This is the longest I have spent in Florida at one time. We had an opportunity to move here at one point, but it didn’t work out. I was disappointed at the time. I am happy this is just a visit.
9. Company makes a trip. I am glad I have great company.
10. I really should have packed knitting. I am going a little crazy without it.
11.   I need puppy and kitty snuggles on a daily basis. The local semi feral cat population is not helping.
12. No matter where I go, I still mostly sit at the kitchen table to write. I think this is a habit from my school days, when I would do my homework at lunch.

Things I learned on my second day in the Keys

This is the second in a series of observational posts I wrote on vacation.

1. I am seriously crabby when I don’t sleep.
2. Waffle House Pecan Waffles make up for a multitude of sleep deprivation sins.
3. Key West is the tourist equivalent of the roach motel by Raid. I kept checking my shoes for glue stuck to them.
4. Despite 3 (above) there are some nice places in Key West. I loved the quiet at Fort Zachary Taylor and the architecture of the Hemingway House.
5. The journey is often the best part of the trip. Driving Highway 1 down and back was amazing.
6. It is possible to get cold at 88 degrees F when you’re in the back seat of a convertible with the top down cruising at highway speeds.
A view from the beach by Fort Zachary Taylor

7. There is nothing wrong with taking 15 minutes to comb your bangs if you have been cruising at highway speeds for two hours in a convertible.
8. Under the right conditions, polar fleece is perfectly acceptable attire in 80+ degrees. Those conditions are cruising at highway speeds in a convertible for more than 15 minutes.
9. Do something you don’t want to do once in a while simply because a friend wants to do it. You may have a great time, and even if you don’t, you were still a good friend. (For the record, I had a great time.)
10. While it is still a joy to be able to cook for myself on vacation, saying ‘Boil, motherfucker’ does not make an electric stove get hot faster.
11. Strongbow does not improve my patience, but it sure tastes good.
12. Given enough time, my roommate will eventually come stealth the cooking duties from me, especially if I am finishing a blog post.

Things I have learned on my first day in the Keys

This is one in a series of observational posts I wrote while on vacation.

1. Everything sucks at 1:00 AM after spending the entire previous day traveling. Nothing should be judged at that point.
2. Sleep improves everything.
3. You can sleep in until 9:00 AM or even later if you don’t have cats. Tea is still good without cats, but it is improved by a cat in your lap.
4. Grocery shopping is better with friends.
5. Florida has too many additional taxes, which you cannot pay up front.
6. I miss my 16oz tea cup.
7. Morning naps on the lanai are wonderful.
8. You should stop to really look at things or you might miss the wee fishies.

If you look, you can see the wee fishies.

9. Afternoon naps are AMAZING. I should have one every day.
10. I am obsessed with eating seafood.
11. An Arby’s that runs out of roast beef and curly fries has serious problems.
12. 76 degrees after sundown is a great temperature in December. Certainly better than the 11 degrees they’re got back home. I will still be happy to return home.

The side trip

I have to admit that when my co-worker told me about The Bubble Room, I was skeptical. I like her, but I’ve never eaten with her and I don’t know that much about whether or not she’s got good taste in food. I put it as a highly recommended possibility either for arrival day or the last day of the trip, with the idea that if it didn’t work out we could cut it from the agenda without feeling too bad about it.

After all, we had no expectations either way about it.

Arrival day didn’t work out. Our flight was delayed four and a half hours and by the time we got in, we decided to just drive straight through because it was going to be 1am before we made it to our condo. I really didn’t think about it again until we started talking about what to do on our final day of the trip. We needed something to do that could be done on a flexible time table because we had several hours to kill before we could check into our hotel room for the last night of the trip. Besides, everyone needs to eat eventually and it was close enough to Fort Myers to make an easy side trip, so why not?

The thing is that for me anyway, the trip had been a little bit of a disappointement. Key Largo and Key West weren’t at all like I expected. The natural areas seemed to barely be fending off encrochment and over-exploitation by the local population and tourists alike. Everything seemed tired and overpopulated and so far removed from anything that they might have been when Hemmingway was writing there that I don’t know if he would have recognized them. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was another Tiki bar or a sign proclaiming “Live Nude Girls” or a Tiki bar with Live Nude Girls. The condo was something of a haven from the tourist trap feeling, but with the barking dogs and daily garbage trucks, it wasn’t exactly the vacation I’d been envisioning, either.

By the time we hit coming back, I just wanted to go to the hotel and try to check in early. I was done with the whole thing, but I wasn’t the one driving and we’d agreed to a late lunch at the Bubble Room as the activity of the day. I was just along for the ride.

The Bubble Room Napkin

The Bubble Room Napkin

I’m so glad we did this. I enjoyed the drive for the actual change of scenery as much as for the mental change of scenery that I felt there. For as tired as the Keys struck me, Sanibel and Captiva seemed lush and green and full of energy and people who respected the beauty there. The side trip that was almost abandoned turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire vacation.


A chandlier lit with Christmas Bubble Lights

There were Christmas lights and the heyday of Hollywood everywhere. Outside there was an amazing cypress tree, one of so many more than I could count everywhere I looked.


A cypress tree and Gladys’ hands. She doesn’t like photographic evidence of herself.

The side trip that we might not have taken turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. It’s funny how much of life turns out that way. The things we plan aren’t what they think they’ll be and the real treasures are the side trips along the way.

Oh, and the food was fabulous. Some of the best seafood I had on the whole trip and I got lightly verschnickered on a slice of Rum Cake the size of my head that I had for desert.