Auld Lang Syne

Greetings from southwest Florida. 2023 was a strange year.

 We began the year just having gotten back into our home after having it flooded by Hurricane Ian’s wind-driven Caloosahatchee water. Much of the year was spent assessing, repairing, remodeling, and dealing with contractors and insurance companies.

Meanwhile, Michelle’s sister Jennifer was continuing her fight with pancreatic cancer in South Dakota. Michelle took almost all of her allotted time-off from her job at the Florida Civil Commitment Center to go back to Rapid City to spend as much time with Jennifer as possible.

Thirdly, 2023 marked Jim’s seventieth year on the planet, a significant event for anyone’s life – a marker where one begins to reflect on what is no longer to be and what is possible in the future.


  • Michelle flew to South Dakota to visit Jennifer, our kids Jackson and Rachel, and her parents.
  • During that same week, Jim was visited by Bob Colaner, one of his best friends from college days, who was down with his wife Barb and friends. He spent a day driving him around Fort Myers. Good times remembered and fun seeing him again.
  • Throughout January and February, much time was spent dealing with insurance companies, mortgage companies, repairmen and other entities relating to putting our home back into service. We had numerous workers in the house to complete restoration from Ian damages.
  • Jim had his annual review and got a whopping $.25/hour raise (Gotta love capitalism) BUT was allowed to take a $100 bottle of wine and a $100 bottle of spirits home. Must always look at the bright side, right?


Jennifer and her daughter Elizabeth arrived on February 28th for a week’s visit. It was a glorious week because everything seemed to work out in Jennifer’s favor. Fantastic weather the whole week.

We went to Busch Gardens –  roller coasters, cheetahs running, giraffes eating out of our hands, and many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The next day we traveled north to Crystal River to experience a personal manatee adventure with River Ventures. The three girls got into wetsuits, joined by a personal tour guide who took them snorkeling. Jim stayed on the boat with the captain and talked boating. The previous few weeks had seen a dry spell with no manatees seen. But on this day, there were manatees aplenty, along with a wild dolphin hunting fish. One momma wanted to present her baby to Jennifer. Hours were spent interacting with dozens of manatees who wanted to say hello. 

The following day, we toured Fort Myers Beach, still recovering from Hurricane Ian. Homes and churches still destroyed; piles of debris still being collected. We drove south to Bonita Beach, where the destruction was no less terrible. On the way back home, we remarked how southwest Florida would never be the same. Well-funded developers are buying up destroyed properties and rebuilding them into upscale properties. The middle class will likely disappear from this area.

On Jennifer’s bucket list was to see the Atlantic Ocean. So, the next day, we drove across Florida to Jensen Beach, a peninsula jutting out into the ocean. Had lunch at a restaurant right on the beach. We then walked along the beach and it didn’t take long for Jennifer and Elizabeth to begin playing in the surf. We returned home late that night tired, but with great memories.  We are happy that Jennifer had that time with us. Good meals, shared experiences, and treasured moments.


Jim’s sister Sue and husband Rand came to Florida to spend their annual time-share vacation in Sarasota. They drove down to Fort Myers and we had some fun running around together, as well as visiting the Fort Myers Beach devastation (again). Later that week Michelle and I drove up to Sarasota to spend another day with Sue and Rand. Good times just walking the beaches, talking, and eating good food.

We learned in May that Markus and his ensemble cantissimo were planning a series of concerts performing the music from the Choralis Constantinus edited by Jim for the CD that came out in March 2022. One of these concerts was to be in Konstanz June 14th on his seventieth birthday! We had been reluctant to make any plans to leave the country due to Jennifer’s condition, but after her visit here in March she seemed to be holding her own. Michelle went back to SD over Mother’s Day (May 14th) weekend to spend time with Jennifer, her mom, and the kids. At Jennifer’s insistence we bought tickets for Konstanz to celebrate Jim’s birthday, hear this concert, and visit old friends and haunts.

Before, after, and in between these visits, we continued our efforts to recover from Hurricane Ian:  selling the camper and truck bought after the hurricane, replacing furniture and appliances, repairing damaged things we decided to keep, getting the tile floors cleaned inside and paving stones outside. One of the last pieces was to restore our shower tile in the master bathroom to make the shower useable again. We made many decisions in our crisis mode after Ian which cost us dearly. In retrospect, we should have done much of the work ourselves because we would have done it better. We’ve actually had to redo much of what we paid to have done. But we have learned some things and have decided to move forward even in these uncertain times.


If you have been reading Jim’s blogs on, you know how June went. We were set to leave for Konstanz on Friday, June 9th. We packed on Thursday, only to get a call from Jennifer’s doctor telling us to come to Rapid City quickly. Jennifer’s cancer spread. She made the decision to stop all chemotherapy treatments, developed a systemic infection, and had entered into hospice care. We quickly booked one-way tickets to Rapid City because we had no idea when we would be returning. Jennifer was barely responsive when we got there. She passed away in the early minutes of Monday morning, surrounded by family and friends. The next week was spent with funeral arrangements and family matters. We returned home on June 20th.

During Jennifer’s illness, Michelle had been a “show up when I can” employee at the Florida Civil Commitment Center and elected to step-down as a team leader, returning to a primarily clinical role. As a team leader, she had been responsible for two teams of clinicians – running both teams in the absence of an appointment for her original position. She was apprehensive when she returned. “Are they going to still want me here?” “Do they consider me reliable?”  Evidently, they missed her.

Shortly after returning, she was asked to consider becoming the Assistant Clinical Director – one of the top four administrative positions in the facility. She now supervises the clinical team leaders and clinicians; the vocational, educational, and recreational departments; provides supervision for licensure for new clinicians.  It is a huge step forward in her career and a great compliment to her work. Here is the announcement of her appointment:

Michelle Feiszli has accepted the role of Assistant Clinical Director. Ms. Feiszli has been a valued member of the Clinical Department and FCCC team since 2018, bringing with her years of relevant experience and clinical expertise. Throughout her time at FCCC, she has impressed in her roles as a clinical therapist across multiple treatment tracks, as a member of the assessment team, and in leadership roles with the Conventional and Corrective Thinking teams. Ms. Feiszli’s dedication to her work and our mission at FCCC are evident in all that she does and has earned her the respect of her supervisees, her peers, and administration.

In July, Jim got back into teaching when he was asked to step in on short notice to teach a course on Old World Wines at the Naples Total Wine store. He enjoyed being in front of a classroom again – especially one in which the students were eager to learn about the subject matter. The store manager told him he was welcome back anytime.


After Jennifer’s passing, we decided that we should cease putting off all the things we planned to do “someday”. In early August we traveled up to Tampa to attend a concert by Pentatonix – a little mini-vacation Thursday through Saturday. We stayed at the Tampa Riverwalk Marriot totally enjoying the concert on Thursday night. Friday, we went to the Florida Aquarium on a rainy day and saw some amazing things. We ate great meals, Ubering all over town, and came home late Saturday evening.

Late August brought another hurricane scare. Category Three Idalia came roaring up the west coast of Florida almost duplicating the path of Ian. We watched aghast as the water once again crept up the banks of our canal almost reaching the pool wall. The water stopped there but the PTSD was real. Another two feet higher and the water would have again been into our garage and pool. Even before Idalia, we had expressed to each other how this house no longer felt the same. It had become much like our last home in Rapid City – a bookmark holding our place until the next major event. Enough. In early September we visited Babcock Ranch, found a 55+ community just being built, and decided to start over. Jim’s last blog details what Babcock is and why we made such a drastic decision. Read it if you haven’t.

In late September in a matter of two weeks we lost our oldest cat, Dusty, to cancer. It was fast, too fast. We still miss him.

The following Monday, Michelle traveled to Denver with her two bosses to attend a professional conference staying until Thursday. Upon her return, we went straight from the airport to dinner and then to the Seminole Casino in Immokalee to hear Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin perform live in an intimate setting. Returned home late but was worth it.


The last three months of 2023 have been a blur.

  • Multiple meetings with the builders of our new home, choosing colors, appliances, flooring.
  • Making plans to put this house on the market which include such things as renting a storage unit to clear out much of the house, contracting with movers, getting anything and everything wrong with this house fixed, painted, and gardened.
  • Meeting with the pool builder to plan the pool for the house (we’re not living without a pool!)

Michelle’s mom, Diana, came down to spend two weeks in November. It was nice for them to spend a lot of time together. She got the grand tours of Fort Myers Beach, the model of our new house and the homesite, Pine Island, downtown Fort Myers, and a trip to Arcadia, where Michelle works. Much sitting by the pool and talking. Diana and Loki bonded almost immediately. He missed her when she left.

We are both working quite a bit. Michelle’s new position requires her to be at the facility often to extinguish emergencies. And Total Wine is never closed. Thanksgiving to New Years are the busiest weeks. So, we both worked Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.

To punctuate the lessons learned in 2023, we had a dear friend in Konstanz pass away unexpectedly on December 29th. Axel Zweidinger was the second Konstanzer that Michelle met when Jim first took her to Europe. A huge bear of a man, he was funny, smart, loved toying with the latest gadgets, and we would have almost certainly spent some time with him had we gotten to Konstanz in June. Now we won’t see him again.

Jim remarked the other day that we haven’t really had a routine since October 1st, 2022 when Ian turned our world upside down. Ian was really the gift (?) that keeps giving, lol. We hope that everyone who reads this had a much more pleasant and rewarding 2023 than we have had. But we are healthy, we love each other, and we love living in Florida. We look forward to 2024 to start the next chapter of our lives.

Reach out, stay in touch with loved ones and those who have made an impact in your lives. Wishing everyone a blessed New Year with health, love, and opportunities.

One thought on “Auld Lang Syne

  1. I miss you guys! You were both a big part of my growing years and I still truly believe that Jim, you are the best conductor in the world and Michelle is the best voice ever! I am and will always be in awe of you both. Even more so, the jokes between you and dad and Dwight are treasured in my heart! Love you both so much!!

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