WordPress Meet and Greet – All Bloggers Welcome

Well this is the third post I have done like this so far and I have seen some great connections. I’ll keep doing these off and on and I think they provide a great way for “active bloggers” to network. This post now has over 2,000 active bloggers waiting to connect in it. I encourage anyone looking for new blogs to view or people to converse with to browse through the comment section and network.

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I feel a little melancholy today.

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Credit: Luke Chueh: “Feeling Blue”

The only bad thing about vacations is having to return to reality.  I leave for home early tomorrow and will be driving all day.   I like the road trip, but I still feel a little sad that I have to go, and then return to work on Monday.  😦

I *could* stay until Sunday morning and drive home then, but returning home late and then having to be up for work the next day would shock my system too much.  I need Sunday to just relax at home, catch up on things, and ease into the work work.

I’ll enjoy today anyway (we leave for lunch in a little bit), but it’s still hard.

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August.

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August is the month when most therapists go on vacation and trigger their patients’ abandonment issues.  In my case, it was the opposite, at least this week.  Last night when I’d normally be sitting in my therapist’s office, I was floating peacefully in the Gulf of Mexico, about to watch a gorgeous sunset and get a fist-bump from Spiderman.  I doubt my therapist is losing his shit over my absence, but I sure am looking forward to seeing him again this week.  In any case, this week of beach-therapy was just as good as real therapy (and a lot more fun) so I’m not complaining.

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A fun day in Clearwater Beach.

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Every day of this week in Florida has been amazing, but I think today was definitely the most fun (and also the most expensive!)

My son was finally off work for a day (as a shift manager, he practically lives at the store) and the weather was looking good, so we drove south about 20 miles to Clearwater Beach.  There’s a reason (actually a lot of reasons) why Clearwater is one of the most famous and popular beaches in America.    It’s probably the prettiest beach I’ve ever been on, and there are tons of things to do there.   I definitely got that “I’m on vacation and enjoying every second of it” feeling today.

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Clearwater is touristy, but in a good way.   The snowbirds haven’t arrived yet and it’s past the peak of the summer season so it wasn’t that crowded.   The beach and surrounding area are very clean and well maintained, and the merchants are all friendly.   Parking is a bit of a pain, but it wasn’t too bad.   We paid $16 for the day because we got an $8 discount for buying drinks in the Surf shop.    It would have been $24 if we hadn’t bought the drinks so it was a good deal.

The beach itself is gorgeous.  The sand is pure white, almost as white as snow, and a bit blinding until you get used to it (or put on sunglasses).  The water is the closest to a Carribbean aqua I’ve ever seen in person.   Today the water was a very clear pale green.  Someone told me normally it’s more aqua, but there’s a hurricane or tropical storm brewing somewhere in the Gulf which is causing more wave action, making the water cloudier than usual.   I still thought it looked different than beaches farther north, the water a lot paler and clearer, and I could actually see the bottom when I was up to my neck in water.   It’s also quite warm, much warmer than beaches off the Atlantic.

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The water felt so nice I didn’t want to get out of it.  Besides, it was way too hot to sit there on the beach and cook.    My son stayed in the water too,  and we had a long conversation out there treading water.     There were waves but they weren’t very big–just big enough that they bobbed you up and down very pleasantly.   There were three people near us–two men and a woman–who had driven all the way from Michigan, and the poor woman was having a panic attack.  It turned out she had never been in the ocean before.   The two guys tried to coax her into going in further and she wouldn’t, but after awhile she seemed to be more relaxed and even enjoying herself.

Someone near our spot on the beach had left a bag of chips open, and the seagulls descended like vultures.   People kept trying to shoo them away, but the birds kept coming back, trying to get at those chips.   They certainly aren’t afraid of people!  I love this photo I got before the owners came back and put the food away.

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My son and I ate dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the beach called Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, which serves seafood and things like burgers.   The food is very tasty (and you get a lot of it) but it isn’t exactly cheap.   Fortunately I hadn’t spent much money this week, so I was able to afford to buy us dinner.  Our tab came to $62 but it was worth it.  We skipped dessert there and went to an ice cream place instead and ate it outside.

We browsed around the surf shop and I bought a small souvenir mason jar which I filled with some of the white sand and a few tiny shells I’d found–a nice keepsake to bring home and remember this day.

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Just after sunset there are performances out on the pier.   It was a bit of a walk to get there, but along the way, we saw a postcard-perfect tropical sunset so of course I took pictures.   There were a lot of boats too, including a pirate ship.  I liked the way the post-sunset clouds still reflecting the sun looked behind it in this photo.

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There were all kinds of performers on the pier, including a guy dressed like Spiderman who gave us fist-bumps and another guy dressed like a Transformer with glowing electric eyes.    There was also a performer dressed like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and he pulled me out of the crowd and made me fake-dance with him!  I was so embarrassed but it was fun too.  My son was in hysterics the whole time!

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The first of the two main attractions were a father and son escape-artist team.  The son was wrapped up in a straitjacket and then two other guys picked at random out of the crowd wrapped him in heavy chains but he still managed to free himself.   The other main attraction were husband and wife acrobats.  They were very good, but the husband was also extremely funny.  He’s 41 years old and I told my son that when he got too old for acrobatics, he could turn to comedy.

This will probably be the last of the vacation posts.   Tomorrow is my last day before I start the long drive home on Saturday,  and it will probably be a fairly quiet day.  I’ll probably go over to Rees Park again for an hour or two, then my son is taking me out to lunch (he just got paid).  After that, I’ll probably just relax by the pool and do a small load of laundry so I don’t have to bring dirty clothes and towels home with me.

It’s been a fantastic week. This was the first real vacation I’ve had in eight years (the last one was to Myrtle Beach in 2008). If I’d known this trip (including gas) would be so inexpensive I wouldn’t have waited this long. I’m planning a shorter trip there in late March (hopefully things won’t be too crowded with the spring-breakers) and I’ll be bringing my daughter with me. I’m seriously considering moving to Florida at some point when I figure out how to make that a reality. Until then, visiting isn’t nearly as daunting as I’d expected.

I hope all of you are having a great week too.  I really needed this time away and to be with my son.

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Don’t judge me.

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Tarpon Springs: the sponge capital of the world.

This afternoon, my son and I drove to a cute little town about 12 miles south of here, called Tarpon Springs. The town has an interesting history. It was founded as a fishing settlement by Greek settlers, so there is a large Greek population and many Greek restaurants and bakeries. Unfortunately we didn’t eat out (he’s cooking at home tonight to save money but I know whatever he cooks will be great) but we did spend about an hour and a half just walking around, window shopping and looking at the boats on the dock.  Most of the boats have Greek names, sport the Greek flag, or refer to Greece in some way.

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Most of the gift shops specialize in seashells from the local area and gifts made from seashells, and sponges. Lots and lots of sponges. The Greek fishermen who settled here specialized in sponge fishing, so to this day, that’s the town’s bread and butter. After the sponges, there’s a lot of handmade soap, and even a store that specializes in handmade scented soaps of every scent you can imagine. I picked up a bar of eucalyptus goat milk soap.

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I did pick up a few small gifts to bring home to my daughter, and a hematite necklace for me.

Tonight after dinner and maybe a swim in the pool, I think we’re just going to watch a movie here at the apartment. Just a nice, quiet, relaxing evening. It’s incredible how little money I’ve actually spent since coming here (most of the things we’ve been doing are free or nearly free), and how cheap it even was to drive here. I’ll actually have most of the money I’d saved for this trip left over! Guess I’ll be visiting more often.

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Surrounded by beauty.

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I went back to the beach this morning (I finally got up early), and the tide was the lowest I’ve seen it, and it was still going out. Sandbars stretched pretty far into what was covered over by water the day before yesterday, leaving bathwater-hot tidal pools filled with small tan fish (probably minnows), skeins of green-brown seaweed, and tiny hermit crabs. I put my things down on the dry part of the beach and waded out, deliberately stepping in the warm pools and feeling the soft silty sand along the way. Dragonflies flitted back and forth, probably looking for mosquitoes for brunch. The only annoying thing was the many biting sand-flies, which tried to eat up my legs (why didn’t the dragonflies go after those?) But as soon as I’d waded far enough where no more sand was exposed, the biting flies disappeared.

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I found a nice spot that wasn’t too mushy (some of the sand here is VERY soft, reminding me of quicksand, so I had to be mindful of that) and fairly free of seaweed. I settled into the slightly cooler water there, which only came up to my waist when I sat down in it.

At first there was no one else but me on the beach. I felt like I was the only person on earth. The sky was a bright blue dome, darkening to almost indigo toward its center, with white puffy cumulus clouds lining the edges against the horizon like lace trim. The water was clear and reflected the blue of the sky. I had waded so far out that I was surrounded on every side by barely moving but ever-changing water. I could tell the tide was still going out by the direction of the tiny ripples, and I kept having to move farther in to stay immersed. I looked back at where I’d laid my things on the beach and could barely see them anymore. I was very far out! I decided not to go any further because I didn’t want to lose sight of my things, even though it looked like the very shallow water went out quite a ways. I also didn’t want to be stuck any farther out if the tide suddenly came in.

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I laid down in the water and dug my toes into the wonderful fine sand. I put my hands behind my head and let my elbows rest in the sand, propping my head up so I could see. It was clouding up just a little, and they looked so close overhead I felt like I could reach out and touch them. I heard gulls overhead and way in the distance, I could hear the rumble of a motorboat. I stretched out my arms and legs and just let myself float, tempted to shout to the sky about how great God is and what an incredible gift this trip has been for me, and how blessed I am to be in this healing place right now.

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Mindful of my things on the beach and not wanting to drift too far away, I got myself back in a seated position and played with the sand again, rubbing it all over me the way I did two days ago. I decided to give myself a facial (that’s how soft this sand is!) so I plastered some of it on my face, let it dry a little, and then washed it off in the slightly salty water (Gulf water is less salty than ocean water). A few other people were visible here and there now, wading in the tidal pools or sitting in the shallow water. A young couple obviously in love embraced not too far away. Maybe they were on their honeymoon. I hoped things worked out for them.

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It was getting hotter and there were more people now, including some kids with plastic buckets and shovels collecting shells and hermit crabs. These kids and their equipment triggered a memory of myself as a mosquito-bitten, golden-tanned and skinny 8 year old, exploring a similar beach much farther north where my parents had rented a vacation cottage for two weeks. That beach was off Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, where I remembered the sandbars had stretched out even further into the distance–so far that the deeper water was only a thin dark blue line against the horizon. I remembered playing out there for hours, collecting hermit crabs in my orange plastic bucket and then setting them free, and how fast the incoming tide had moved–so fast my friends and I used to try to race it in. I recalled sunsets seen from our screened in porch, painting the tidal pools pink and orange, and the smell of citronella and the sound of the bug zapper as the armies of mosquitoes dodged into it. Memories of that distant summer fused with the here and now, and time itself seemed to stop. I was still that child, yes–more wounded and damaged, but still essentially intact under my armor born of pain; still curious about everything and still in love with the wonders of the natural world. A child who still possessed the ability to give and receive love.  I always wanted to go back to that place; now I’m here instead.

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Sandbars off Cape Cod Bay, Brewster, Massachusetts

I had no idea how long I remained out there. It seemed like a very long time. I could have stayed in that heavenly spot all day, but being so fair skinned, I knew I should probably head back to the car before I got too sunburned.

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Gone fishing!

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I got up pretty late again today, and while my son slept (he got home from work around 7 AM) I went to Wal-mart and picked up a few things we needed, including bug spray, and then went down to the apartment complex’s pool for about an hour.   By the time I returned, my son was up and it was nearing 5:00.

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So far, the only damper  on this vacation was what my son told me about my mother.  On the way to pick up his friend Tal (who got my son into fishing),  we talked about her.   Seems she’s been attempting to triangulate against me. Fortunately he’s not in any danger of becoming a flying monkey because he doesn’t like her or the way she talks about people, especially me (he’s very protective of his mama, bless him!)  But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t try!  He said she is very condescending toward him, much like she always was with me. He said she’s negative and judgmental, which is absolutely true.  Apparently she had told him she didn’t like the idea of me visiting him (MY OWN SON!) because I would be a “bad influence” (huh, what?) and tried to get him to tell me not to come.    She also told him he was making bad life choices (he’s doing very well, in fact and is making great choices that make him happy) and should have become a journalist (he’s a good writer, but he doesn’t enjoy it).   She was always on me too about all the bad choices I supposedly made. Now she thinks I’m going to “infect” him with my “loser-ness” or something.  She’s also telling everyone I’m still with my ex and that I’m as bad as he is! These are all just lies. Oh, and she asked him if I was still “writing that thing” (referring to my blog).  Why would she even need to ask him since she can easily get the answer to that question herself?  She stalks my blog.  Welp, that’s narcissist “logic” for you.


The wind picks up as the storm clouds move in.

Now I’m convinced she really is malignant.  Malignant narcissists like my mother love to keep the scapegoat (me in this case) isolated from the rest of the family, even from their own children if they can get away with it.    I felt hurt by the things he told me but he’s on my side and doesn’t want anything to do with her either.   It’s also not as if any of this is news–I already knew she badmouths me to everyone who will listen, but hearing about her attempts to keep me from visiting my own son just really bugged me.    At that point I told him I’d heard enough and I just wanted to have a good time fishing.   He was sympathetic.  My son is definitely not a narcissist!  As an aside though, he told me he was tested recently for personality disorders and he does in fact have one–Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (not the same as OCD). In fact, he scored very low in both narcissism and antisocial traits.

We picked up Tal, stopped at a bait and tackle shop and picked up some bait.  Then headed off to the mangrove park with a fishing area and nice view of the Gulf at the end.

It was rocky, and very buggy, so I was glad we brought the bug spray.  I got bit in a few places anyway.   It was also cloudy and we could hear thunder in the far distance.  Tal’s a weather buff and he said we wouldn’t have to worry about any storms for about 2 hours, so there was plenty of time to fish.   He showed me how to bait the line, and how to operate it, and then had me practice casting without bait for awhile.  The last time I ever fished was when I was at summer camp in the ’70s and we went deep sea fishing.    I caught onto casting pretty quickly, so maybe a part of me remembered how to do it from when I was at camp.

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Practicing casting a line.

It was getting darker, not just because night was coming, but also because the storm seemed to be getting pretty close.  Tal said it was still about a half hour away.   I started throwing some lines with small pieces of shrimp.  Once I got my line caught in a tree, and a few times I threw my line too far over to the right, getting it caught with my son’s and Tal’s.    I didn’t catch any fish (though I almost caught a small pinfish but he let go).  After awhile gave I gave up and decided to sit down ( we had our stuff laid out on a picnic table) and watch them instead.   They weren’t catching anything either.   A piece of shrimp I’d left on the table from earlier was already covered with ants.  it was gross but kind of cool at the same time, so I took a picture of it.

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After watching them for awhile, I noticed the sky had turned a fiery red and decided to walk to the end of the park overlooking the Gulf.  There I saw the most incredible sunset I think I’ve ever seen.  I started taking pictures like a crazy person, before the rain started.

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The storm was moving in fast from behind me.    When it rains in Florida, it REALLY rains.  I shoved my phone back into my purse before it got soaked and ran back to the car as fast as I could get there. There, my son was grinning like a maniac and holding up a fairly big catfish!    I got a quick picture of that.  I asked him where Tal was and he said he was still fishing.  “In this weather?” I asked.  “Oh, yeah, he never lets any kind of weather stop him,” my son said.

A few minutes later, Tal came back with a catfish of his own.   They both decided to release the fish because these weren’t good for eating, apparently.

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Finally the rain died down enough for me to go back and get one last picture of the sunset over the Gulf before dusk fell.

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A mural I saw in the hipster part of Port Richey, FL

Tonight my son, me, and his two housemates all went to a Mexican restaurant in the hipster, arty part of town.   The food was excellent.    But what was really unforgettable and made me laugh was this mural that was painted on the side of the building.   It was in 2 sections.

This is NOT a part of town where the wealthy live, so it was probably meant to be ironic or something.

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Rescuing a baby squirrel.

My son’s partner and roommate is an animal lover and works with abandoned, orphaned, and wounded animals.   Today he received a call from a friend who had an emergency situation involving an orphaned baby squirrel.    He’s always available on call, so the friend brought the squirrel over.

What happened was the little squirrel had actually come up to the woman, which is very unusual for any wild animal (if it’s an adult, you have to be careful with any sort of unusual behavior because it could mean the animal has rabies).   She said the squirrel seemed hungry, and realized it had somehow become separated from its mother but was far too young to take care of itself.  The baby seems healthy enough, but needs to be fostered until it can be released back into the wild.   Here is a photo I got.  The rest were too blurry to post (the baby was moving so much it was hard to get a good photo).

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