If you don’t know this exquisite song by Cyndi Lauper, it was released in 1984 and speaks to no matter how much time passes, the singer will always love the person they’re singing to. One of the best renditions was done by Eva Cassidy (Time After Time – YouTube). Michelle arranged an acapella version of it for my fiftieth birthday which was performed by both Dakota Voices and the (now-defunct) SDSMT Master Chorale – more on that later.
Right now, the song speaks to us because we have made the decision to leave this home which was supposed to be our “forever” home.
When Category 4 Hurricane Idalia came into the Gulf of Mexico this August we again watched the water rise in the canal behind our house. We packed up, prepped the house for flooding, and waited anxiously for high tide to pass. Another two feet higher and the water would have again been into our garage and pool. Yet, 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. While we made 4112 Wildflower a beautiful place –so much that it sold within 18 hours of being placed on the market (See left, Zillow is still using the photos from when we lived there), it was always a placeholder for the future. 13480 Marquette was supposed to be our last home, a place for us to grow old and be happy. In 2022, Hurricane Ian changed all of that.
While Michelle has always been open about the trauma she retains from Ian, I had suppressed it. It was not until last week that I experienced my PTSD moment. I was searching for the manuscripts of music from my career – transcribed arrangements, published editions, reference pages about Isaac, many vocal and brass arrangements. They had been in a plastic tote, categorized and labelled: music for brass choir, music for vocal ensemble, music relating to decades of Isaac research – most of it in my handwriting prior to digital music notation.
I frantically searched through everything in my office closet. I searched the attic and every other closet in the house, becoming more and more agitated. Michelle did her best to calm me down, but I was devastated that the material was missing. Finally, after several hours, Michelle (my resident mental health counselor) explained that it had been exactly one year since we came back into the house and began to assess the losses. One of those losses was that tote. OMG. I had blocked out the fact that much of my life had been erased which caused me to experience the same sense of loss TWICE!
It was a defining moment. We had created our dream home in Florida, but now recognized on the anniversary of Ian that we had to let it go and begin again. We love this home and feel terrible about leaving it. But:
- Climate change is real. The storms will continue to become stronger and more frequent. We were lucky for four years. But, we very easily could have gotten hit again this year (and still might … hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30th) ).
- We would not be living at this address had I not been hell-bent on having a boat and being able to access the Gulf. Four blocks further away from the river than us, homes were not flooded. However, EVERYBODY lost power for at least three weeks while Florida Power and Light repaired downed power lines and such. That’s not as devastating as being flooded but is still an issue that will not go away.
- We cannot ignore the fact that we are getting older. At some point, we will not be able to continue as we are now. We’re sure we could not handle another flooding in this house. The yardwork in the endless Florida summer is becoming a chore rather than a pleasure. Michelle’s two hours of daily driving is very wearing. So, we need to find another forever home.
You may be asking, “What if Michelle changes jobs?” About that. After stepping down from team leader to clinician and taking a lengthy leave of absence to spend as much time in Rapid City as possible prior to Jennifer’s passing, Michelle came back to the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) unsure of what her status would be. Michelle had been doing double-duty, acting as team leader for TWO teams, supervising a total of 12 clinicians and had stepped down from that to spend time with family. During her leave of absence, they finally hired another team leader for the other team of 6 clinicians. She was immediately reinstated as a team leader for the other group, supervising 6 clinicians and one clinical assistant. So, her job duties were reduced for about a minute. Three weeks later, the Clinical Director came to inform her the FCCC Executive Management Group had chosen her to fill the newly opened Assistant Clinical Director position, and would she be interested? Short story: She went through the cursory hiring process and is now in charge of 5 team leaders, 14 clinical therapists, 5 clinical assistants, 4 recreation therapists, the vocational specialist, and the education specialist; all of whom serve nearly 600 residents. Her boss, the Clinical Director, handles the legal and political aspects of the FCCC and Michelle oversees the in-the-trenches clinical work. In five years, she has moved into one of the four top administrative roles in her facility. So, that answers the question that began this paragraph. She is unlikely to cease her work at the FCCC anytime soon.
Enter Babcock Ranch. Babcock Ranch is an area of immense size, encompassing both Charlotte and Lee Counties. The Google map image to the right gives one an idea of the enormity of the whole Babcock system. Michelle’s icon is where we presently live. Approximately ninety percent of Babcock Ranch’s total land will always remain undeveloped as a nature preserve, including more than half of the area owned by the community developers. The following bullet points are from the community’s PR flyers:
- More than 90% of development is located on previous pasture, farm, and mined land.
- The town layout utilizes best water management practices and filter marshes for water quality, setting a new standard for watershed protection, flood control and demand reduction.
- All landscaping uses native trees and plants and 100% use of reclaimed water for irrigation.
It gets better:
- Babcock Ranch is the nation’s first town utilizing on-site solar generation facilities to produce more clean, renewable energy than it consumes. State of the art solar facilities supply the town and the broader region with clean, renewable, integrated power.
- Two 75-megawatt Solar Energy Centers with battery storage make Babcock the largest solar/storage project operating in the U.S.
- Solar panels on commercial rooftops throughout the community further expand generating capacity. Even the exercise machines in the fitness centers are hooked to the grid to generate electricity as people exercise!
Babcock is a self-sufficient town with grocery stores, hardware stores, doctors, rehabilitation, and veterinary clinics. It has its own school system, police force, and each community has its own community center with tennis and pickle ball courts, swimming pools, and clubhouses. When Ian came through, Babcock went on as if nothing had happened. No electrical outages, no flooding. Business as usual.
Michelle and I decided to investigate what it would take to get a home in Babcock. We discovered that a 55+ community was just starting up and so went to visit the model homes that the builder had opened. Being among the first to visit, we were able to select a prime lot for a two-car garage home. We called Stacey Bohannan, the realtor with whom we have worked since coming to Fort Myers. The question was whether our house might sell for enough to build at Babcock without too much backsliding financially. Turns out, she firmly believes that we can pull the whole thing off. Gulf access homes are still greatly desired – indeed nearly everyone on our block and the surrounding streets have simply restored their homes and don’t seem to share our fear of being flooded again.
We took the plunge. We must look to the future and so signed a contract to begin building a new home. At Babcock, we’ll be within walking distance of the 55+ clubhouse. All lawn care is provided by the community (HOA fees will be offset by the fact we won’t have to carry flood insurance anymore). Medical facilities are onsite, geared toward the 55+ crowd. This location will eliminate 20-25 minutes of Michelle’s drive each way. Jim is further from Total Wine but there is another store in Port Charlotte that will be the same distance, so there are options.
It’s frightening and exciting. A whole lot of balls in the air are being juggled. I am again spending all my spare time getting this house ready to be placed on the market. Stacey’s target date is January 1st. If history is any indication and the house sells for our asking price quickly, we may then need to move to temporary lodgings until our new house is finished. So, once again, we are living in uncertain times. Sheesh. Pray for us poor fools.
So the headlines are Michelle’s promotion and our impending and somewhat insane move. In other news we have the following:
Our wonderful 14-year-old tomcat, Dusty, began visibly declining rapidly in September and was diagnosed with cancer. Rachel Francis (now 26 years old) discovered him under a snow shovel on her way home from West Middle School in sixth grade, a little abandoned stray covered in frostbite and ear mites. He grew into a 22 lb. monster who was the gentlest lover of a cat. After moving to Florida, Dusty developed diabetes but with two injections of insulin daily, it was being managed. Meanwhile cancer crept up on him. He was fine until suddenly he stopped moving, looking painful every time he had to eat or drink. It was a very sad but right decision to have him euthanized to end his suffering. Cancer sucks. It was so sudden. Everyone here is still missing him. Tiger and Loki have suddenly become best friends. Taco has become more of a recluse because Dusty was her big brother. It’s a big emptiness.
The boat is sold. Michelle is not an avid boater and has little time to just relax at home. Loki hates the water. He thinks water is OK for drinking and not much else. I can get him into the wading shelf of the pool by throwing his ball in it, but if it goes beyond that shallow area, Loki will whine and stare at it. Get on the dock? No way. Boating by myself has gotten old. So, good-bye to the SeaRay. Our neighbors across the street are snowbirds and wanted a boat to tool around in down here, so they took it off our hands (sniffle).
I had my annual review at Total Wine. Guess they’re gonna keep me. Hey, a $.25/hour raise! That’s about an extra $1.50 a day. Gotta love American corporate greed. I support the UAW, just so you know. At least I got to take home a free $100 bottle of wine (2018 Levendi Stagecoach vineyard Cabernet) and a free $100 bottle of spirits (25 year old Barrowman blended Scotch). Glad we don’t need my salary to eat.
Finally, to tie it all together, doing a Google search a few weeks ago, the SDSMT music department popped up. Intrigued, I began to read what was happening. It turns out that there is no longer a Master Chorale at SDSMT. Instead, there is an ensemble named “The Singing Engineers”. Hmm. OK.
Besides the fact that said name seems to disenfranchise the many science majors at the institution, the most interesting part is that the description of this music ensemble remains the same as that of the former Master Chorale. The official SDSMT website describes the “Singing Engineers” thusly:
The Singing Engineers is South Dakota Mines premiere vocal ensemble. An award-winning group, all members must be outstanding vocal musicians and in either University Choir or Concert Choir. The choir performs everything from Gregorian chant to vocal pop music, and makes appearances at professional music conferences, alumni chapter events, and prestigious venues in the US and in Europe.
Let’s forget for a moment that I was the author of those words probably ten-twelve years ago. More outrageous, it can be safely stated that no vocal ensemble named “The Singing Engineers” ever won an award, ever sang Gregorian chant, ever appeared at any professional music conference, or in Europe. This is false advertising at its most egregious.
The problem is, like my tote of music manuscripts, a great history has been erased. The work of hundreds of SDSMT students who were proud of being part of something unique has disappeared. The Master Chorale represented SDSMT in Anaheim, California in 1986 as an example of non-music-major vocal ensembles at the national convention of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME -then called the Music Educators National Conference). The SDSMT Master Chorale sang at numerous state conventions of both the American Choral Directors Association and NAfME. The Master Chorale won awards at international competitions in Ireland and Germany. Wow, as I typed this, Sting’s “King of Pain” came on my Pandora feed. Coincidence? The Master Chorale sang an arrangement of that piece at the Association of Irish Musical Societies gala concert in 2006. There is no “Singing Engineers” listed on that program nor is that name printed on the trophies that the ensemble won at that competition. And, right after that, Coldplay’s “Fix You” began playing. Master Chorale arranged that and sang it as well. It is painful that the legacy of these SDSMT students has simply disappeared, just like my music manuscripts.
It also appears that the Interdisciplinary Sciences degree at SDSMT is now defunct. When I was Humanities Department chair, there were 22 fulltime and parttime faculty just in Humanities. Social Sciences had about 12-15 faculty members. The IS program was one of the largest programs on campus under the leadership of the late Dean Bryson. What a loss. Why not just close it all down and let Black Hills State do all the non-science and engineering courses at the University Center? End of rant.
Glad I’m retired. Total Wine has pressed me about being a manager. Sorry, I’m out. I like dogs, gardening, and a few people. Hope you are all well and happy. Michelle and I are. Even while addressing our new challenges. Looking at our pool lights in the evening and having a nightcap. Be well.