A Little Slice of Heaven

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February 19th 2007
Published: February 27th 2007
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January 25, 2007January 25, 2007January 25, 2007

This was just a good day for pictures.
I came to Sarasota to help my grandmother out for six weeks while my Aunt Sue was away. She went to Minnesota to help take care of her two and a half year old grandson Thad, who was having open heart surgery. Not your typical problem, but she is a nurse and could be there while Thad was recovering and his dad was at work.

I admit I was both nervous and looking forward to the time in Sarasota. Nervous because I would be in charge of making breakfasts, lunch, and dinners, something I haven't done in well over a year, but looking forward to spending some time with my grandma as well. I usually go to see her every summer at Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, but I missed it last year while I was traveling. I hadn't been to see her in her winter home in Sarasota in about 13 years or so, so it seemed about time. The timing was also great - my grandma needed me and I needed some time to readjust to being back in the states and start looking for a job. Perfect for both of us.

I arrived on Tuesday evening with my parents and nephew on the way back from Georgia. I decided to stay with them that night in a hotel but we met my aunt and grandma at the condo and then went out to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner. I very quickly remembered just how beautiful Siesta Key is. Siesta Key is the small island where my grandmother actually lives, a part of Sarasota with some of the best beaches in the country, and probably the world. Her condo is right on the beach and has a fantastic view down the beach. I also got the chance to get reacquainted with Annie, the West Highland terrier I would be taking care of as well. She really is a cute dog, all white and fluffy with hair that doesn't shed! The best.

That night in the hotel we watched some tv and then went to sleep - Cristian and my mom on the sofa bed and me and my stepfather each on our own double bed. I spent most of the night sleep deprived and going crazy listening to him snoring, trying to think of the best way to silence him. It was far worse than the hostel dorms and I was desperately wishing for some ear plugs at that point.

In the morning we headed back to Siesta Key and ventured down to the beach to show Cristian how beautiful it is. We spent some time collecting shells and even some sand for him to take home. The sand is white and powdery and the best sand I have ever seen anywhere. It is soft and never gets hot to the touch. They even host sand sculpture competitions here occasionally. After the time on the beach I said good bye to my parents and Cris and started my new "job". Mostly I spent the next two days walking the beach, taking pictures of sunsets, walking the dog. Sue did the cooking. Then all of a sudden it was Friday and she was leaving and I had responsibilities. My dad came to pick her up to take her to the Tampa airport. He tried to help me fix her bike in the process but we ran out of time for that. We said good-bye and then I started to learn how to do my job. I learned the times my grandma liked to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, how to make different kinds of sandwiches the way she liked them, etc. I learned when Annie had to go out, to take her to the office for treats, when to ignore her, etc.

I finally started to develop a rhythm that was taking the dog out, making breakfast, taking the dog out to the office and for a walk, making lunch, walking on the beach if it was warm or taking my grandmmother to appointments, taking the dog out, making dinner, photographing a good sunset, getting dessert and watching Jeopardy with my grandma, setting and rechecking the coffee maker for the next day, taking the dog out, and going to bed. In between those activities I would job hunt when time permitted. On weekends I allowed myself some time to lay on th beach when it was warm, for about the first two or three weeks. Then it got colder and no fun to lay out.

I had been there for about two weeks when I went for a walk on the beach after dinner on a Sunday night. Sundays we had breakfast out and then an early dinner, so it was still early and light enough out for a walk on the beach. I got as far as the public beach, maybe 15 minutes walk away, and heard drums. Curious, I headed in that direction and found the drum circle. I had read about it but forgot. Every Sunday people gather to play drums and belly dance or watch the festivities on the public beach. This struck me as a little funny since most of the people who live there or rent are loaded and not what you would think of as hippies. But hippies there were. I had my camera and got a few pics, but it was starting to get dark and harder to photograph. I ended up meeting my friend Mark in this way - I had to get in front of him for a picture. We started chatting and had a good conversation. He's lived in Sarasota almost six months, he works for the county writing environmental permits, he likes to travel, and is a budding surfer. I didn't stay long as I didn't want my grandma to worry about why I'd been gone so long, but we exchanged information and which started a friendship. By Tuesday I joined him at his
The CondoThe CondoThe Condo

From here, you can see my current home. Six floors up, second from the right.
ballroom dancing class, which is something I had always wanted to do but never found anyone to go with. That week there was a substitute teacher and not only were we learning moves to two dances - the rumba and east coast swing - but we had to change partners constantly, even more intimidating. But it was a lot of fun and I went each Tuesday after that. The hardest part was learning Argentine tango in the other classes, but I finally got the hang of it a bit. I think the secret was in the new cute shoes I got specifically for dancing. I'm not usually good in heels but these were cute and sturdy, a great combination.

We also did a few other cool things together. That weekend we headed down to a pre-1840s encampment, but that's a different blog. We also went to two more drum circles, a show (ironically) called DRUM! at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, the Myakka River State Park (also it's own blog), and Circus Sarasota with my friend Jen. Jen had come up from Ft. Myers the previous Friday to have dinner with me and my grandma. It was great to see her and catch up after all the time I had been away. We are friends from Boston but she has been living in Florida for a couple years now. She had to get home that night to her dogs, but we agreed that after my time in Sarasota I would come to stay with her for a week or so. On my own I visited the Ringling Museum one day (also a blog). I was mostly interested in the art museum on the grounds, but became enamored of the circus museum and decided I must get to see a circus quickly. Fortunately, it was the right month to see Circus Sarasota and Jen decided to come up for that as well. After the performance, we had to get going as she had to get back to her dogs. Mark also needed to go - he was leaving the following evening for Ft Lauderdale for a cruise he was taking with his college buddies. So we said our good-byes and had to rush off.

The circus itself was a lot of fun. It is a smaller, one ring circus, with a lot of cool acts. I bought the tickets the day before and was worried about which seats to get. Luckily when I voiced my concerns and poverty, the women selling the tickets told me that the cheap seats in the back (the bleachers) were just as good as the official seats, and with my coupon would only be $5 each! So I got those with the idea that we would be squished in with all the children but we would get there early enough to beat them out of the way for the good seats. As it turned out, the bleachers stayed mostly empty and were indeed just as good. The show itself was a lot of fun, starting with the trapeze artists. Very cool. Now I really regret not taking circus as a PE class in college - FSU actually had a circus and I should have done it. Damn time-consuming science degree. There was also an amazing juggler, Arabian horses, poodles doing crazy tricks, acrobats, a woman who was a contortionist and incredible strong, and more. It really was entertaining and I'm so glad we all went.

I also had the opportunity to see two musicals while staying with my grandma. She
Watch where you stepWatch where you stepWatch where you step

Smattering of shells that wash up everyday.
had tickets for Spamalot in Tampa and My Fair Lady at a dinner theater in Ft. Myers. Both shows were amazing. Spamalot was hilarious. It's based on Monty Python and is freaking funny. My Fair Lady was also really well done. Both were done as a tour group. We just had to drive to the right location to meet the bus and then they did all the work of getting us to the restaurant and theaters. I also noticed fairly quickly that I was the youngest one in attendance by about 30-40 years. But it turns out I get along well with that age group. Maybe because we have so much in common - retirement. But that will change for me one day soon, alas.

Finally my six weeks were over and Aunt Sue was coming home. We were planning to go to my dad's house near Tampa for a bbq that day, after he picked her up from the airport. My sisters and nephew were also coming, so it would be a big party. That and it was Sue's birthday, even better. Unfortunately, my sisters canceled for various reasons and we recheduled it for a later date. Instead,
Sea turtle?Sea turtle?Sea turtle?

Turns out it's made of sand, people. This is a beach made of amazing white powdery sand where sand sculpture competitions are sometimes held. This wasn't part of that.
my dad and stepmother Vilma picked her up and brought her to the condo. We spent some time chatting and then it was time for an early dinner. Back to Longhorn Steakhouse for a birthday dinner and then back to the house for chocolate cake.

It's hard to believe my time there is already up. But I did have a great time bonding with my grandma, cooking some simple meals and eating a lot of yummy turtle pie with her. I also made several friends in the condo office when I would take Annie in for her daily treats. Amie, Sue, Scott and Bobby were all fun and great to talk to.

Now I'm off to Ft. Myers to stay with my friend Jen for a week. Stay tuned!

Additional photos below
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This is how I see the worldThis is how I see the world
This is how I see the world

No wonder I don't drink.

Here's an idea of my new unfortunate haircut. I'm working with it.

1st March 2007

Those shoes ROCK! Don't you love how out of everything, THAT'S what I comment on? You know me...shoe-aholic.

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