It’s time to move on to the next guest room. I found a room to rent with a lively nurse named Linda Jo (“L.J.” for short) who lives on Crown Pointe Blvd in Naples. LJ was a state champion baton twirler in her day and when she wanted to join high school band but didn’t have any musical talent, the band instructor had her play the triangle. The triangle! I have to admit, I secretly always wanted to play the triangle but I was second chair flute and piccolo so I was in the woodwind section. I like her a lot. The only trouble is, I need AC and she doesn’t. She’s been here a long time. The Florida heat and humidity doesn’t even phase her. I still drop to my knees after hauling five boxes from here to there and without AC, I am fanning myself, mopping my face, neck, back and everything else to keep from fainting dead away.
I will miss my cousin’s condo in the Moorings Area of Naples, where ocean breezes blow, rainbows shine after a storm, and the white sands beach is only minutes away. I had set up “shop” in her kitchen, my iMac and all the accompanying electronics fit neatly on the kitchen table, with a window overlooking the pathway outside. Mockingbirds, jays, cardinals, sparrows, lizards and black snakes carried on their life dramas just inches away while I worked.
One night, I came home and a black snake slithered out to within a few feet of me. I ran for my life! Back home in Minnesota, I might have recognized a garter snake or bull snake and known what to do but this was an unknown menace. Was it poisonous? I had no idea. I jumped inside the front door and slammed it shut. I emailed my cousin, “What are the black snakes prowling around here?” She replied, “Harmless Black Racers. They’re usually after the geckos and anoles.” Whew. Now I know and I will be glad they’re around to keep the boundless anoles and centipedes in check.
It has been an adventure living here in the Moorings area of Naples. So many nice homes, so many shops, so many critters to learn about and observe. I can’t tell you my delight when I spotted the first northern cardinals arriving here in September. “Oh good! “My people” “My birds” are here.
And of course, I can’t see a single cardinal without thinking of my neighbor Audrey and knowing she is with me here on this new leg of my journey. I think she’d be proud of me. She had the monopoly on birds nesting in her bushes just across the driveway from me for 14 years. Not one bird came to my bushes. But they all nested in hers. She told me it was because her rent was cheaper and she offered them a bidet. Dang. Why didn’t I think of that? But I know this. She loved Garrett. She kept a watchful eye out for him, winter, spring, summer and fall. He was as much her child as he was mine. She was already the parent of a disabled child so her eyes would well with tears when she saw Garrett tracking along with his cane trying to board the special ed bus.
She brought fresh-baked goodies to our door: banana bread, lemon bread, cranberrry bread, Norwegian Klub. She would ring the doorbell, and Garrett learned to just open his arms when he heard her voice at the front door. She laughed and laughed at that. Did Garrett and I ever know that one day she would not be there anymore? We couldn’t imagine it. She would always laugh. She would be outside sunning herself in front of her house, and I would make my son, Garrett go out and sun himself in front of ours because he had to get Vitamin D. He would sit outside and cough, and across the way, she would be sitting outside and coughing. They would both hear each other cough! This is how my son grew up with me…in the Minnetonka School District with the best teachers around, and then in the Eden Prairie School District, with more of the best teachers around, with the best uncles, aunties, cousins, friends, and neighbors anyone could ask for!!! How could I have ever asked to raise my son in a more perfect environment?
But the year she died, in early spring, the cardinals came and built a nest in my bushes for the first time. I cried. Oh, how I missed Audrey. It was a comfort to me that the cardinals came to my bushes that spring. It’s like they knew…she was no longer here, but she still has business to do. “Keep Sheryl busy. She needs help!”
So I find myself moving again. Thank God, I don’t have a two-story town home to move this time, but there is still plenty of “stuff” and I’m getting sick of hauling it around. Time to kick in the creativity. How to downsize even further whilst still being able to work? I still need a desk and chest of drawers though.
I’ve hit all the the thrift stores on the 41/Central Ave/1st Ave area of Naples and they are good thrift stores. Really nice pieces! But my budget has dropped to pennies on the dollar now that I’ve had to fork out over more than $1,000 to the Florida DMV for new drivers license, plates, registration, beach pass, and more than $1500 on car repairs since I got here. Seems the rust and ocean air wreaks havoc with your brakes and everything else. I have vague memories of this happening when I lived in Hawaii, too. Anytime you live near the ocean, you’re going to get a boatload of salt beyond any of your Minnesota DOT road salting in the winter. This is a constant breeze of salt, corroding, leaking, critters climbing in your vehicles causing trouble, rusting, braking, grinding, leaking. It’s a whole ‘nother level of vehicle maintenance required. I remember telling Garrett in my phone conversation with him, “My car has turned into a BEACH CAR!”
My first order of business this week was at AAA Auto insurance to transfer my auto insurance from Minnesota to Florida. I’m glad I did that. They gave me all kinds of tips on how the Florida DMV treats people whose insurance has lapsed. NO GRACE PERIOD. If you lose a day, you lose your license and then you’re in a world of trouble. So I got my new auto insurance all set up that day, automatically deducted from my bank account. Next Stop, the Naples DMV.
The day at the Naples DMV was interesting to say the least. Outside were parked Bentleys, Audis, BMWs, Porsches, and I puttered in with my little Red Jetta. I had come prepared. They told me as a Minnesota resident, I needed to bring my birth certificate, passport, license, and everything but my mother to the DMV to get my license. The first part went off without a hitch, except I forgot my glasses. I had my prescription sunglasses, but could not find my regular glasses anywhere. So I dipped my eyes into the viewfinders and could only read the right side of the eye test. I dug through my purse, “Dang, I thought I had my glasses in here somewhere. Where are they?” No glasses. I was restricted to an outside left and right rear view mirror. No problem. Who wants to drive without those anyway?
Later, I found my glasses in the car under the dashboard, but it was too late. I had already been issued my Florida drivers license with restrictions. Next stop, the car registration for new license plates. Oops. I didn’t bring my title with me. Third drive home to get that and back to the DMV.
There are several DMV places to go. My “inside people” had told me to go to the Orange Blossom Ranch DMV. There they had Halloween costumes and decorations everywhere. There were witches hanging from brooms, grinning Jack O’ Lanterns, and various stuffed animals brought by workers to their own work stations.
I remarked, “Well, this is certainly more interesting than the Hennepin County DMV where absolutely nothing is allowed to be on the walls!” They were cheerful. They had to greet a multitude of “immigrants” and “exports and imports” every day and they handled it with grace. My own guy at the Florida Driver’s License application part was a trainee. He was an army veteran and a really nice guy. He gave me grace and laughter and I was more than appreciative.
After a whole day and more than $1,000 spent, I walked out armed with a Florida drivers license, a new set of plates, new auto insurance and a beach pass, and I felt like a real Floridian. I had to drive to Frank’s Pure Automotive again because my Minnesota plates were so rusted on they had to bring out the guns to get the old ones off and put the new ones on. When they were done, they patted me on the back and said, “Welcome to Florida.” Well, thank you. And I will keep you guys close to my belt. (My timing belt, my serpentine belt, my money belt, and whatever the heck other unknown belts come rusted and corroded down the pike.)
So now comes the part about moving out of my cousin’s condo (my cousin’s coming down next week!) and finding a new place to live. I met a nurse named LJ who’s a barrel of fun and a lively person, but she’s a long-timer down here in Florida and air conditioning doesn’t mean much after October 1st. Yikes. I’m still roasting. It’s still 90 degrees with 67 percent humidity. In my neck of the woods in Minnesota when it’s that hot, we keep the air on. Here, they shut it off.
The jury is still out as to how LJ and I are going to work out our temperature differences. It would be one thing if I was just living there and hanging out. But I’m bringing my computers, my graphic design paraphernalia, and many heat-producing devices into her house. Some compromise has to be made. I hope she can understand my dilemma. If I cannot work, I cannot live there and pay her rent! She needs the rent, and we truly enjoy each other’s company.
If she can stave off living “like a Mexican” as she calls it, for at least a couple more months, and let me live in AC so my computer will work—so I can work and pay her rent, we’ll all be happy campers. The other idea is to buy a portable “swamp cooler” for my room. I know nothing about these contraptions but I’ll be grateful if I can keep the temperature below 80 degrees in my room!