Tag Archives: Emerald Coast

Thoughts on the 10-15 Panhandle Focus…

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 11.05.41 PMI just finished the fifth issue of the Panhandle Focus and it will be up on the website at some point today. This is the best issue yet.

The first papers were hurried affairs as I tried to adjust myself to the craziness I had started. I had new email to check while my personal email is usually more than enough to manage alone.

I started the paper and my once-a-month story publishing schedule at the same time. I fought with myself and my computer until I figured out how to publish the Square² paperbacks and lay out a design for the Focus.

During this time I managed to attend most of the local poetry slams, jams and a good deal of other events (Crestview Library, I will be there one day soon!) and work a new job. I have a patient family that I tried not to ignore too much and a dog who did miss a few walks—but never more then two a week.

It was a solo adventure in the beginning, but a solid team has been building steadily around this publication with every issue. The support from readers and the community has been far beyond what I had hoped for. I have been awed by the kindness and patience extended to me on this project, and the past few months.

I won’t lie. Most of the time I was afraid all of this was going to swamp me. Where I once felt calm and confident, the past few months have left me feeling flustered. I’ve missed a few appointments, been late to more than I’d like to admit and in general, have gone insane.

As I adjust, organize and prioritize I feel like this careening train is starting to stick to the track and move smoother. The core team that has formed around the Focus has been patient, kind and forgiving. Their support has has made the difference between collapse and progress. Thank you, you are appreciated.

There are four more issues for this year and I look forward to seeing the Panhandle Focus move from being the small paper it is now to being a genuine asset to our community. It’s a publication all about the good stuff we do—celebrating our creative endeavors, our giving spirits and our adventurous natures.

It’s October, the month for being spooked, and I find myself for the first time since I began this, not afraid. Looking forward!

Broken tech? Call Sarge!

My hero!

My hero!

Anyone in the Emerald Coast area looking for an iPad and cell phone repair shop – try Sarge’s Cellular in Valparaiso.

Awhile back I mentioned that my beloved iPad, gift from my daughter, had been dropped and was caput.  I kept it around for months, entombed in its box, trying to find someone to fix it.

Then I ran into Sarge’s Cellular Repair.  The guy behind the counter was professional and friendly.  We had a chat and he told me all sorts of helpful information about my iPad and cell phones in general.  I left it there for him to fix.

Within a few hours I had my iPad back looking like new and was charged less than anyone else had quoted me.  Months later, it’s still working fine.  You will not going to regret taking your tech to Sarge.

Sarge’s Cellular Service

33 N John Sims Pkwy, Valparaiso, FL 32580

Or call them at 389-4301

Remembering the BP Oil Spill One Year Later

The Emerald Coast, once considered one of the best beaches on the North American continent, now sits in ruin one year after the BP disaster.  Like oil on the waves, memories ride on the surface of our minds, coloring our vision of the new way of life facing those that remain.

Of those that remain, I’m not one.  I was laid off from my job last year when the school I worked for thought they better cut back in the uncertain times that followed in the wake of the spill.  The oil remains along with the pain, a hint of it colors the surface while the bulk of it lies thick in the depths, killing the soul of the coast.

Today I want to step back and give the floor to those that have remained over the past year.  I thank Janice Brown for taking the time to share her experiences and thoughts on this, the first anniversary of the day the ocean started dying.  I’d also like to thank the talented photographer, H. Teasdale, for allowing me to use her photo to accompany this story.  To me the lost bear, forgotten in the sand, epitomizes the spirit of what’s left; the emerald coast has lost it’s innocence and there’s no more time for play.  Thank you to both of you for lending your talents and experiences in memory of our lost ocean playground.

Reflections of Life After BP by Janice Brown

I live at the edge of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. A beachfront condo on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico was my home from April through December of 2010. At the time, I didn’t know that my sojourn would leave me with a hoard of unhappy ailments that threaten my body and my mind. Fear of sickness and never feeling normal again try to crowd out my “living a long happy life” thoughts.

It all begins one crystal clear day in April, the 20th to be exact, the day the gulf dies and leaves a permanent mark on many of its nearby residents. We just don’t know it yet.

In the panhandle of Florida, tar balls and oil finally show up on land in June 2010. For only a few days out of the summer the water turns brown and glassy, swelling with toxic sludge. The sand is mostly snow white. I take pictures of the sunsets almost every day. They all look like just another idyllic day in paradise, except for the occasional paper-suit clad worker walking up and down the sand, picking up gooey reminders that everything is not as perfect as it seems.

I run a lot this summer- four miles round trip to the end of the island and back, trekking over the beach or on the road. It’s my daily feel good therapy. A couple of days I smell fuel. In July, I think I have a cold and then I have two gushing nosebleeds about a week apart. My nose never bleeds. My arms start going numb in my sleep most nights. Maybe I am sleeping on them wrong I’m thinking.

It is so hard to remember anything for my college classes. I’m a mostly “A” student. Why am I struggling so hard to come up with B’s? I’m still feeling blessed to be staying in a beachfront condo all summer because no one else wants to. My underarms and breasts hurt! I just ignore it, maybe it will go away. August rolls into December. Then, the New Year 2011 is here and it’s time to leave the beach. Symptoms are piling up but I am adept at ignoring them, comfortably ensconced in my tough, Superwoman persona.

February 2011, running is a lot harder than it used to be. I am still pushing myself, but just the thought of a three mile easy run exhausts me. March 2011 I’ve stopped running. I’m just too damn tired, and out of breath. I don’t sleep much at night because of the growing pain in the joints of my hands and the numbness and tingling in my arms. I think one day I am going to wake up and my arms are going to be on the floor across the room waving at me. Is that ringing my phone? No, it’s just the constant ringing in my ears I can’t get away from. I’m thinking menopause must have hit me really hard because hot flashes take a hold of me almost every thirty minutes like an alien invading my body. After that the chills usually show up like a Jehovah’s Witness at my door and won’t leave…until the next hot flash. I googled all my symptoms at once and the fifth hit happened to be something on the after effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska- weird I think.

It’s March 2011 and I’ve had to soap up my hands to pry the rings off of my fingers, because they seem to grow and swell by the minute…and hurt. I talk to a friend who worked on beach cleanup last summer for BP along with her boyfriend. We compare health notes and I finally realize I’m not, crazy, old, arthritic and forgetful after all! I’m toxic! Is this good news? Does this mean there is an end to this?

I look at a health symptom questionnaire from a law firm involving the oil spill. My symptoms are all there, lined up neatly in boxes waiting for checkmarks.

Today is April 17, 2011. I went to a medical doctor a few weeks ago. She did blood tests for hormones, thyroid, CBC, but not for toxic chemicals or heavy metals. She patted me on the head, figuratively speaking, and prescribed me some sleeping pills. Huh? I don’t want to sleep through my arms falling off, I want to get well! I ignore the prescription and buy a bottle of booze instead. At least I already know the side effects of that. The internet is my medical friend so I start searching for something to help…French clay baths? Weird, but I already have some clay at home for facial masks so I try it…it helps some. My hands don’t hurt so much. I still have all the other symptoms, but not quite as bad.

So now my road to recovery is leading me to holistic doctors who don’t think I’m just going through menopause or maybe I just need more sleeping pills. The sad truth is that lots of people are sick. Many are much sicker than me. Many, like me, don’t have money for expensive medical treatments. Many have not yet connected their health issues to the oil spill. Many more will become sick and possibly die from some sort of cancer due to a big corporation who is still spraying toxic chemicals on top of toxic crude oil to hide their toxic waste dump at the bottom of the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Virtual Art Exhibit: H. Teasdale is Our Jewel on the Coast

Art mimics life, enhances it and defines our experiences.  It is completely fitting, therefore, to present art in a format that mimics life.

I am pleased to announce the opening of our first virtual exhibit at House of SilverJinx.  The artist, H. Teasdale, works with a variety of medium, but has brought her focus to photography in recent years.  We’re glad she has so that we can offer her beautiful work in this collection entitled Jewel on the Coast.

Ms. Teasdale lives by the sea and tirelessly combs her natural environment to capture it for her fans.  Her work invokes a respect for the natural world around us, telling us each to take a moment and breathe in the gift of life that surrounds everything.  Like chicken soup for the eyes, Ms. Teasdale brings us a moment of peace with each frame… a peace that soothes us and energizes our soul.

The collection consists of 10 pieces, displayed in an exhibit hall specially built on to our regular shop.  We are so happy to have the opportunity to share this artist’s work with you, and hope you will take the time to get to know this amazing lady, and the world as she sees it.  Comments on Ms. Teasdale’s work can be left in a box in the entrance, and will be forwarded on to her.

When I Committed Suicide – A Short Story

“Hey…haven’t seen you lately. How’s life?”
I just looked at my neighbor, sitting there with no cares in the world except whether his bar-b-que was going to burn and could think of only one answer.

“Cruel. Always cruel.” I answered smiling the best smile I could under the circumstances and enjoyed the dismayed look playing across his face before walking on. That was dramatic, a good final statement for him to remember me by….a good way to begin an end. Now it was time to kill myself.

Walking down the road with a short length of rope wrapped around my arm I contemplated how much my life sucked. I was lonely, had a stagnant internet business, a recent divorce, a failed attempt to quit smoking and now I had just found out I wasn’t even good enough to work at a second rate tacky gift shop in the mall. Life sucked indeed, and I was getting out.

A small voice in the back of my head was trying to squeak out some new age crap about things being the darkest before dawn and how kids in third world countries didn’t get two meals a week but I told it to shut up. I didn’t care anymore. I never get a dawn, things are always just dark. People say I’m lucky because I always wind up getting what I need at just the right time, but I don’t feel lucky. Anything I ever really want never happens.

So I trudged on, stifling happy thoughts and trying to be as bitter as possible. When one is about to commit suicide it’s best not to have happy thoughts. Why I even had any to stifle was really pissing me off. I couldn’t even be depressed and angsty properly. I should have worn black. I even failed at being emo. That’s as bad as it gets.

Coming up on the empty lot I trudged my way through the clods of dirt and broken glass left over from a recent demolition job. If only I could have been in the house when they tore it down, bulldozers running over me and crushing me in a wreckage of splintered wood.

But then I wouldn’t have found out that I was worthless at finding a job and I probably would have tried to save myself because I would naively think there was still some hope left for me. That wouldn’t have made a very good suicide. Plus the thought of splintered wood turning me into a living shish kabob didn’t sound appealing. My plan was much better.

Coming up on the dock I stopped for a second and looked out over the water. A pod of dolphins were frolicking in the smooth surface, springing magically from the bay to shower each other in glittering spray. I could hear the breath escape from their breathing holes as they arced back down to vanish beneath the cool water, smiling faces that seemed alive and wise.

“Stupid dolphins.” I muttered, and I turned away to find my rock. A pile of broken concrete lay heaped near the dock, leftovers from whatever patio had once graced the former house. I imagined people like my neighbor sitting there watching the dolphins, cold beer and a smoking grill the jewel in the crown of their life. Now all that remained was a pile of rubble lying like leftover carnage from a giant’s rampage.

Surveying the pile, I selected a big chunk of concrete with plenty of ridges to keep the rope from slipping. I uncoiled my bit of rope and lay it flat on the ground and rolled the concrete awkwardly onto it. Kneeling down to wrap it I felt the rough ground bite into my bare knees. What idiot wears a sun dress to kill themselves? I really should have worn black. I was going to look really stupid floating under the water dead in a sun dress.

Concrete tied up tight at last I struggled to pick it up. I had picked a good heavy piece; no way I wasn’t going to the bottom attached to that. Grunting and ignoring the dirt that was sticking to my sweaty chest I carried my prize to the dock and stepped on. My footsteps had a hollow sound as I waddled to the end, the dirty weight I cradled slipping lower and lower against my body until I half dropped, half rolled it to the end. The chunk hit the dock with a loud thud.

Panting I sat next to it and started wrapping my ankle in the loose end of the rope. Double knotting and then a second wrap and knot. No way was that coming loose. I shoved the concrete to the very edge of the wood leaving white trails of dust ground into the boards and stood next to it. Looking over the edge, the water was black and empty; my face peered back at me equally empty. Taking my final look at the day, I prepared for my demise.

One last time I thought of how pathetic my life was, and how much better it would be for the world to be rid of me. The dolphins continued to play in the waveless bay, oblivious to the mortal drama that was unfolding so close to them. Ignorant and uncaring of my pain, the fact that my bruised heart would soon stop beating leaving a hole in the world where I once was.

“Stupid fish! I hope you all end up in a tuna can!” I shouted and with that last defiant line I shoved the concrete off the end of the dock and ended my life. The chunk of patio hit the water with a splash and I had an instant to acknowledge the cold, wet slap against my feet as I saw the rope slide off over the edge and become taut. In the next second my foot was jerked out from under me and I hit the wood hard, slamming the wind from my lungs.

Over the edge my legs went, jerking me to the water like a helpless puppet slung by its strings. My head knocked the edge of the dock with a ringing thunk as I went completely over to vanish in the water, mind dazed from the unexpected impact. I gasped and sucked in briny bay, flailing out my arms and legs and briefly wondered if it would hurt to die.

Suddenly I was back in the air, the bright sun flashing off the water and blinding me as I thrashed in the waves. Survival instinct took over and my flailing limbs began to work against my intent and struggled to keep contact with the air. I sputtered and choked, blinking against the salt sting. Automatically I began to tread water as I looked around confused. Why was I still breathing air?

Head bobbing above the surface, I pulled at my tied leg experimentally. The rope was still there, pulling my leg straight and making staying afloat difficult. Comprehension dawned suddenly; my concrete chunk hadn’t sunk as deep as I thought. I had tossed it into a shallow spot.

“I hate this world!” I yelled frustrated. “I can’t even kill myself right.” Pinned in the water, chin deep I wondered what to do now. I couldn’t just float here forever like a cork on a string. I tried to bend down to undo the rope holding my ankle, but buoyancy and my own knots defeated my efforts.

“Hey! Do you need help?” My bar-b-que eating neighbor was standing above me on the dock looking confused. “Um…I fell in and… got tangled in something.” I muttered, feeling stupid. “I’ll get you loose.” He said and he slid over the side into the water. Dunking beneath the surface I could feel hands move down my leg to grope at the rope on my ankle. After a half minute he came up for air.

“Dang…you got tangled good!” he gasped. “I’ve got a knife…gimme a sec.” and he vanished again. Once again I could feel his hands grope down my leg to the rope, and then the vibrations on my ankle as the rope was being cut. Suddenly my leg was free and it fell into time with my other extremities to keep me afloat. Dogpaddling towards the shore grimly I wondered what my neighbor would say.

I waded my way up onto the little beach and turned around to face him, sullen and dripping. He followed to stand next to me, panting and pocketing a folding knife. “Good thing I heard you yelling.” He said, looking at my ankle. I just stood there feeling foolish. “Looks like someone tied that.”

I just looked back, not really knowing what to say. The whole situation suddenly seemed so ludicrous. “Well…you know…” and my voice trailed off. “Thanks.” He looked from my incriminating ankle to me for a long moment and said nothing. I looked away to see the pod of dolphins far up on the bay now, still leaping joyously.

“I got a few steaks on the grill. Want a beer?” I looked back at him, smiling at me and wondered what he was thinking, and then realized I didn’t care.

“Yea, sure.” I said and couldn’t help grinning. The whole thing suddenly seemed comical and both of us laughed before picking our way back through the gutted house to his patio.

NOTE: Tonight we’re breaking away from the usual fare with a short story. I wrote it in one of those depressed moods we all go through at times, and in the middle of my funk I realized how funny my pathetic-ness was. This story is the result.

Disasters Teach Us The Truth About Money

Awhile back I experienced my first hurricane.  While the actual storm was pretty frightening, it was the aftermath that was the truly scary experience.  I had never been in a situation before where basic things such as fresh water and electricity were unavailable.  In my reality, when you flipped a switch, the lights came on and a cool drink of clean water was available everywhere.

Suddenly the items we took for granted became things to hoard.  The lines to get gas were hours long, and several fights and at least one shooting occurred.  People waited all day to get bags of ice from the red cross, the few grocery stores open were quickly cleaned out and the radio stations stopped the usual stream of top 40 hits to advertise medical emergencies.  Of the entire experience, one small conversation stands out like a beacon to me, at the time altering the way I think and view life.

I was talking to a friend that lived in beach front property, usually the most desirable locations, but after the hurricane they were devastated.  Once living in an exclusive condo with a view to die for, now he was temporarily homeless and practically begging for hand outs.  The only difference between him and your everyday panhandler is that he had plenty of money sitting in his bank account. 

He was describing to me the situation on the island, how the hurricane had packed the ground floor condos full of sand up to the ceilings.  All the trappings of success were now buried and worthless.  People with triple digit incomes staggered about starving.  He told me, “Right now if you had a tuna sandwich, you could sell it for $100 down there.”  A light bulb went off in my head at that moment and I realized an important truth.

No, it wasn’t to go take advantage of people by selling sandwiches at exorbitant prices.  It was the sudden realization that money only represents goods we need, and if those goods are not available, it is worthless.  The real value is in the actual goods.

I once read a book as a child about money, and I remember the book stating that money was invented as a way of making trade easier.  If I had a chicken you wanted, but you didn’t have anything I wanted, you’d give me something to represent that trade.  I could take that item, and trade it with someone else that did have something I wanted.  The real value was in the actual goods.

Now we usually think of the accumulation of money as a fail safe means of security.  If you have a fat bank account you are assured of having your basic needs satisfied.  But as we are repeatedly seeing with all the recent natural disasters playing out across the globe, money is worth as much as kindling when the stores are gone.

A few days ago I was in my bank when I overheard a woman next to me putting all her assets into gold, saying that after “witnessing Japan” she wanted to make sure “she was covered”.  I almost turned and asked her what she was going to do with all that gold locked away if we were suddenly hit by a catastrophic disaster.  Would it really alleviate the hunger pains to know you were rich on paper?  Somehow I don’t think so.

The idea of wealth would take a dramatic transformation, and value would transfer quickly to mundane things like gardens and chickens.  The truly rich would be those with the knowledge and ability to produce goods.

In the best of times, money is a worthy asset to strive for.  I am all for being thrifty, buying things to enhance your enjoyment of life and saving/investing.  My hurricane experience, however, taught me that a truly balanced portfolio is one that takes all scenarios into account, and money is not the end all asset.  Invest in self sustainability and you have a truly diversified portfolio, and any investment advisor will tell you that diversity is good.