Florida in Autumn

The seasons in Florida are very different than those in the north. It’s even different from Arizona, based on my hazy memories from the early 1980s.

We notice that the days are becoming less hot, with temperatures barely reaching the 90s. The mornings and evenings are noticeably cooler. Nights are much cooler, with temperatures dropping into the 70s. The humidity remains high –  not surprising when one lives on a peninsula surrounded by water! Frankly, we embrace the humidity.  It’s one of the things we like about Florida. There is the absence of things, such as the fall colors as leaves change. But, on the flip side, we get to grow things throughout the year. I now have two raised bed gardens; one in the back of our yard by the canal that sits in shade most of the day, and the second in front of the house that receives full sun from sun-up until sundown all winter long.

The bed on the left receives little more than four hours of direct sunlight. Back by the canal, it is our “summer” garden because in the heat of the summer, little will grow.  However, during what passes for winter in southwest Florida, herbs love this spot. Shade from the neighbor’s tree covers this bed in the afternoon. We have basil, sage, thyme, chives, oregano, and green onions. They will produce until May or later, depending on the weather. When the days become longer and the sun shifts, it becomes too hot and humid for most of these guys to survive. The African blue basil behind this bed (that thing that looks like a bush) can’t be killed by anything. More pungent and fibrous than Genovese basil, it is still edible and attracts swarms of bees.

The bed on the right is in the front of the house and in full sun all day long – important as the days become so short. I tried an experiment this summer to see if anything could survive out there. Yes, chili and jalapeño peppers do. Bell peppers, no. So, right now I have seven tomato and three pepper plants out there.  Stay tuned.

Animals are all OK. Dusty, the eldest and largest cat has developed diabetes and we have to give him insulin twice daily. Loki remains sweet and high-strung. He is aptly-named. The dog of mischief who is anything BUT low-key. Tiger distains him. Taco hates him. Dusty tells him to get lost whenever Loki gets near. The photos below are typical mornings around the house when I’m home.

I’ve been back at work for about a month. Still trying to work through the weakness in my right shoulder and not overwork my left shoulder. Just had my annual Medicare Wellness review. Doctor tells me no one should be this healthy at my age. I think to myself, “Well, you ought to feel what I feel when I get up every morning.” But, lab work all looks great, I’ve lost weight, blood pressure and cholesterol are both lower (thanks to running with Loki 3-4 times a week).

I (finally) finished writing the first draft of the CD liner notes for the upcoming release of Heinrich Isaac motets from the Choralis Constantinus as performed by Markus Utz and his ensembles cantissimo. This is the first ever professional CD recording of my Isaac editions. I have heard most of the recordings so far and Markus and his group actualize what I have always heard in my head but never had the resources to create. Very excited for the eventual release.

Michelle is still adjusting to the demands and hassles of her new leadership role. There are good days and bad days.  Her health is vastly improved even though she’s had to endure at least three primary care physicians bailing on her during the Covid crisis. She looks and feels better than she has for several years.

We’ve purchased tickets  to go to Ohio and see my family for Thanksgiving. Haven’t been back there since my father died in 2014. Entire generations have been born that I have not seen.

Otherwise all continues as before. Older, no wiser, but trying to find that elusive life balance. Hope everyone reading this is happy and healthy.

La, la, la, la, Life goes on ….

Daily, Michelle and I remark how much we enjoy being here in the life we have created for ourselves. Despite the idiot governor (would SD be better?) and some rednecky neighbors, we love what we have created here.

So much has changed in these last four years. While surrounded by remembrances of our past lives, neither of us are performing music. I am still involved with my Isaac research, largely thanks to Markus Utz (Münsterorganist Markus Utz) and his ensemble cantissimo ; but other than that, we have found other interests.

I inherited much of my grandfather’s family genealogy work but have advanced due to modern technology and sites such as ancestry.com, myheritage.com, and familysearch.org. After my father’s death in 2014, I received many of the family records and have been slowly working my way through them. Doesn’t help that I changed my system of file organization in the process, causing me to now having to go back through and relabel files and delete duplicates.  I am in the process of creating a shared cloud drive wherein my family can all have access to photos, documents, records, and other memorabilia in which they might have interest. Maybe I’m wasting my time and no one will care, but I hope that perhaps my late brother’s children might have some interest in being able to access their father’s senior recital from college, etc.  I guess we’ll see.

At right is the only known photograph of my great-great grandfather/grandmother. Johannes Feissli came to the USA with his father Abraham and family as a pre-teen in the years just before the Civil War. Johannes (who became John Feiszli) married Louisa Mary Fankhouser and they had a family of eight, the oldest of whom was my great-grandfather John Frederick Feiszli. Some of Johannes’ siblings changed their surnames to Feisley and that name is still prominent in southern Ohio and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, Michelle continues her upward trajectory in her new career as a mental health counselor specializing in the treatment of sexual offenders (I know, right? But, she’s really good at it and is making this world a safer place). She is still trying to come to grips with being the leader of a team of counselors while simultaneously going through some tumult in the leadership of the entire facility – something with which I am familiar. She is, I believe, poised to go to higher positions of responsibility in the company should she choose to do so, but she is currently weighing (as I did way back in about 1994) the choices between doing what you love vs. doing what advances you in your career. I chose poorly – should have gone full-bore administration – but Michelle is in a good place and can choose to do what fulfills her most. Her most beloved administrator is leaving because she chose career over personal life and Michelle sees the value in life balance. I will support her whatever she does.  So will Loki.

Loki continues his growth into being a young dog. By that, I mean he is VERY reminiscent of a teenager. He expects you to pay attention to him when he wants it. He believes his opinion matters. He is jealous when either one of us pays attention to another creature (or each other). We hate kids. Loki is a very sweet dog, but he is far more than we expected.  As Michelle often says, “It’s a good thing he’s cute. It’s the only thing keeping him alive.” LOL

We won’t trade him in for another. But we really wish he’d learn that the cats are higher on the totem pole than he is.

I’m back at work, although still visiting the physical therapist once a week. I think she’s ready to discharge me. The orthopedic surgeon saw me two weeks ago and proclaimed me cured. I am doing everything I used to do with little discomfort and only a little caution. 

Summer is ending, so I am preparing our gardens for planting. Still hard to get used to the reverse gardening seasons here. And, regardless of weather, we still get less light during the winter months, so I have created two garden beds – one for with partial shade (herbs during the winter) and one with full sun (tomatoes and other veggies during the winter). They’ll both operate during the summer as much as the heat and wet weather allows them to.

We’re going full-blown solar. It will be expensive to do so at first, but over the course of the next 20 years it will prove to be the best option. Our electric company rates are already set to rise and interest rates for solar installation are at an all-time low. I’m getting a .99% loan for the installation. I will basically lock in my electric bill for the next 15 years after which I get free electricity. The solar system is warranteed for 25 years. And we’re installing a system that will provide 104% of our current usage, allowing for rise in usage due to climate change, etc.

Other than that, not much to report. Time marches on. Some of you reading this may know and already be aware of the passing of Alan Stanga, former choral director at Sioux Falls Lincoln high school and co-founder of the South Dakota Honors Choir. Another reminder, along with the passing of Olaf Malmin (former choral director at Augustana College in Sioux Falls), that life is fleeting. I sometimes wonder whether I did enough or worked hard enough to create a legacy, but these days spend more time creating joy in each day.

Be well, Stay safe.

Final Lap

My rehab from rotator cuff surgery goes well. My physical therapist is constantly amazed at my progress. Her comment this past visit was, “You continue to destroy all boundaries.” – meaning that I am progressing beyond what she expects from those rehabbing from my surgery. Had a post-op checkup with my orthopedic surgeon on Thursday and he said pretty much the same thing.

I mowed the lawn Thursday (yes, I have a self-propelled mower).  Did my PT exercises afterwards and my feet hurt worse than my shoulder after cooling down in the pool and icing the shoulder. Hate not being 100% but it gets better every day. Took the boat out yesterday down to downtown Fort Myers. It needed the exercise. Ditto for the Miata convertible, which I drove the other day for the first time in eight weeks.

In case you wondered, Tropical Storm Elsa was no big deal. We got rain. No wind, No storm surge. We did get got storm-prepared, and that’s a good thing. Now we have propane, gasoline reserves, generator backup, and supplies. We’re ready if something actually happens. But we seem to be in a good location for tropical weather. One of my neighbors, who has been here 30 years, commented that Irma was the worst he’d ever seen … and he lost power for about an hour.

Have been catching up on a lot of family genealogy, digitizing photos and documents. I also prepared dozens of Isaac motet editions for a recording session by Markus Utz and his Ensemble Cantissimo for an upcoming CD release for which I have to write the program notes. Hmm, better get started on that.

I go back to work after August 8th with no restrictions from the doctor. Looking forward to it, actually. Bored. As my shoulder has gotten more cooperative, I have slowly begun to catch up on all the household chores that fell by the wayside. I still have to hire out the hedge trimming and major lanai cleaning such as screen enclosures and fans.

Michelle just got promoted to a leadership position at the Florida Civil Commitment Center. She is now in charge of 7-9 other clinicians and is making the switch from being “one of the team” to being the leader of the team. Proud of her, but it will be some time before she gets a handle on balancing the work load and expectations and her own personal space.

I discovered that many of you have been sending emails to my email at this website. No problem, except that I thought I had set up a forwarding mechanism so all my email came to the same place. Nope.  So, I apologize for not responding to many of you for months because I did not see the emails. Mea maxima culpa…..

It appears that Florida is now the USA home of the Covid-Delta infection. Yes, I’m wearing a mask inside public places even though I’m fully vaccinated. Hope you all stay healthy. I fear we’re about to see a resurgence in this country, thanks to those who for political reasons have foregone taking precautions. Idiots. Smallpox and polio would still be here if this mentality had held sway in the twentieth century.

Best wishes from southwest Florida. We still love being here.

Light at the end of the Tunnel

I got a call from the Orthopedic Surgeon’s office today. They told me I could stop wearing the sling on Monday, the 28th. Hallelujah! This thing is like wearing a sweater – in Florida, … in summer. I am looking very forward to Monday. Physical therapy is going exceedingly well. I am regaining mobility in the shoulder and the therapist just told me to cut back to one visit a week until July, when we’ll be done with stretching and launch into strengthening (Oh boy….)

Meanwhile, this weekend Michelle and I are going on a daytrip to Miami to the immersive Van Gogh exhibit at the Olympia Theatre in downtown Miami. It’s probably hokey, but it’s an excuse for us to take advantage of what Florida has to offer. They limit the audience, so we are scheduled to be there at noon for a 90 minute event. We’ll get up Saturday morning and drop Loki off at the doggie daycare for play and overnight boarding and then drive I-75 south to Naples and then east (Alligator Alley) to Miami, getting there about 11:00 so we have plenty of time to find parking and stroll around the heart of Miami. After the exhibit we have reservations at one of the better restaurants downtown. We should be back on the road by 4:00 and home by 7:30pm.

We love living here in paradise.

 

Hope you are all happy and healthy. Stay in touch.

 

I’ll be boating again soon!!! 

On the Mend

For those who have asked, I am doing well. Computing is a challenge as I cannot use both hands – mouse is verboten. This text is laboriously being typed (with many bad words spoken aloud) with one-fingered left hand. My physical therapist is impressed with my progress and has cleared me to drive sparingly with one hand while keeping myself in my shoulder brace. This driving does NOT include my manual transmission convertible (!). At any rate, I do not intend to push my limits.

I’ve been incommunicado because at almost the same time I had surgery, Markus Utz received funding and green light for a series of concerts and recording sessions for my editions of Heinrich Isaac’s Choralis Constantinus motets, which have been my life’s work ever since 1982. He sent a list of motets that he wishes to perform and record and, of course, many were not in final form according to my latest standards. So I have been sitting at the computer with a track ball on top of a pillow (so my shoulder does not move) trying to work Finale with my left hand. Much profanity ensues….

But, Markus begins rehearsing this weekend and needed some music that I had not even begun. Then, he also got funding to add instrumentalists, so I am in the process of generating instrumental parts for the 22 motets in the queue.

The first recording session is early July. I would have liked to attend, but it is too soon after the surgery. Markus assures me that the process with extend into the fall and next year, so I am hopeful I can attend either a concert or a recording session. Meanwhile, he tells me that I am writing the CD liner notes (!). No pressure there.

Needless to say, I have done little else other than focus on Isaac. Poor Michelle has had to be my chauffeur until yesterday. Loki doesn’t get much exercise and the house is pretty dirty. I am (kinda) keeping up with laundry, but have had to hire out the yardwork.

Despite all that, the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. 11 more days in the sling. PT continues and I am scheduled to go back to work on August 8.  Michelle and I have managed to grab a few moments for fun. We went together for haircuts last weekend (I needed something that would not require using two hands. Check see the result at the right.) Then we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall place next door to the hair salon for supper because it was pouring rain (Thank God, we need rain). King’s Kitchen, Fort Myers. Amazing service, amazing food. 

Next weekend we’re heading to Miami for an immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Drop off Loki at the kennel in the morning and take the 2.5 hour drive to downtown Miami. We’ll  take in the exhibit at noon and have reservations at a great restaurant for an early dinner and then drive back to Fort Myers and be home by 6:30pm. We LOVE living here.

So, Thanks to all of you who expressed birthday wishes. I’m older and no more wiser. Always happy to hear from you.

Summer Doldrums

In many ways, I am no longer the person I was. I was a visionary, administrator, choral conductor, and teacher. Now I am a budding sommelier, wine retailer, genealogist, and amateur musicologist who is dealing with the onset of old age.

Arthritis is a gift from both my parents, who I never realized were working through a lot of daily pain. Before I left South Dakota arthritic conditions showed up in spinal stenosis – for which I had surgery in 2017 – and also in the knuckle joints of my hands, probably the result of years of pounding the piano during choral rehearsals.

Monday I go into surgery for a rotator cuff repair. At this moment I cannot lift my right arm more than to a horizontal plane (I never realized how ridiculously right-handed I was until now). I could not conduct nor teach conducting at this moment if my life depended on it.

This condition can be blamed on many factors – 1) my work at Total Wine, which entails lifting/pushing many cases of wine; 2) my own yardwork/housework, which is quite strenuous, 3) working and playing with the Doberdork, which is active and arduous, although one would never know that from the image to the right, and 4) from degenerative arthritis growth in my shoulder.

It has been almost three months that my shoulder has not been right. I have not been able to do things without tremendous pain. And after the surgery I am likely to be even less that person until physical rehabilitation is completed. Those of you who know me will understand that this situation is not something with which I will happily comply. I will not be able  to  1) drive my sports car, 2) pilot my boat, 3) work at Total Wine, 3) do yardwork and gardening, 4) clean the house and do laundry, 5) go to the store, etc., etc.  I am hopeful that my desk can be configured in such a way that I can at least access the computer and work on such things as my wine professional study, Isaac motets, website, and genealogy. I will be in a sling that immobilizes my shoulder.

Ah well, perhaps God is telling me to take some downtime. It’ll make me appreciate what I do have.  It is annoying that it happens as the summer begins. It is the time of year when all the speed restrictions on the Caloosahatchee River are lifted because the manatees are far out in the Gulf. That means we can easily go by boat to downtown Ft. Myers (35 minutes) or all the way down to the Gulf, Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva, St. James City and other cool spots within 90 minutes. <sigh> Maybe Michelle will finally consent to learn how to pilot the boat (ha!) Can’t wait to see her reaction when she reads this.

Seriously, this will place a huge burden on Michelle because she leaves for her job around 6:30-7:00am and gets home about 6:30pm. And she’ll have to do many of the things around here that I usually do in addition to driving me to physical therapy. Here’s hoping that I recover quickly and can at least drive the automatic transmission car within a short period. It will be a fun experiment learning to do things with my left arm.

Here’s hoping you’re all doing well. Drop me a line or a call if you get a chance. I’ll probably be available!  🙂