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.

January/February

  • 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?

March

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.

April/May

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.

June/July

If you have been reading Jim’s blogs on Feiszli.net, 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.

August/September

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.

October/November/December

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.

Two steps forward, one step back

Happy New Year! And hoping that that this year will be MUCH better than 2022. So far, it has been two steps forward, one step back. Our journey to normalcy continues. At this writing, new countertops are installed, and we have sinks, appliances, and laundry facilities again. Imagine that – the luxury of sleeping, cooking, and doing laundry at home!

Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 28 as a Category 4 hurricane on Cayo Costa Island – exactly 30 miles due west of our home. It was the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935, causing 146 fatalities and damage estimated to be over $50 billion, much of it from a 10–16 ft. storm surge. Said surge was mostly south of where Ian made landfall – directly up the Caloosahatchee River, where we live. Perfectly situated for this storm, Lee County experienced damage to 52,514 buildings. The Sanibel Island causeway collapsed, cutting off vehicle access to Sanibel. The Matlacha Bridge, connecting Pine Island to the mainland, was washed out. Throughout Lee County strong winds resulted in a widespread downing of electrical poles, trees and tree limbs, road signs, and traffic signals. Cell service, electrical service, and water service were all destroyed. Falling debris blocked many roadways.

After re-emerging from our attic refuge, Michelle and I had 1) no electricity, 2) a boil water notice, 3) no cell service, and 4) no internet service. I thought it might be enlightening to show a timeline with photos of the entire IAN experience.

 

September 28, 2022

Ian moved onto shore, well away from our location miles up the river, the rainfall and winds began to make an impact. This view from our lanai is of the neighbor’s fence being blown down.

 

The rain was unrelenting as was the wind, but nothing overtly frightening was happening yet.

 

In a matter of minutes. Ian pushed a wall of water up the river condensing it into an increasingly tall wave as the river narrowed upstream where we live in a community of canals just off the river channel (home is the blue dot). Our entire area became one big lake. The water soon breached our lanai and we went into emergency mode, putting everything possible up to higher ground.

 

When the water began to come through the wall in our master bathroom from the garage, we knew that we had serious problems. The wind and rain were bad enough but the rising water was making it impossible to remain in the house. So, Michelle improvised a plan to move everyone (including three cats and a huge Doberman up into the attic. Such an action has dangers as well, because if the water reaches that level, then there is nowhere to go. And, of course, if the roof blows off, you’re also dead. But we did it anyway. Next time (assuming there is one), we evacuate. We spent a tense night there, listening to the wind howl, rain pound, and hearing reports on the emergency radio

September 29-30, 2022

The water began to drop at about 4:00am, having risen to about 27 inches inside the garage – enough to total the electrical systems of both the Miata and Mini and destroy tools, supplies, generator, and many other essentials.

Outside the garage door it had gotten even higher, about 40 inches – enough to total our Ford Fusion and dent the garage door by the force of the water against it

 

 

Inside the house the water level was lower, but even one inch is enough to ruin drywall. We emerged into a home filled with mucky residue and most all furnishings were ruined. Looking at some of these photos, the water level line is visible on the wall.

Drywall was soaked, appliances were toast, pool was muddy, pool pump was dead, and some pool cage screens were torn off. We were lucky. Many neighbors lost their entire pool cages – their estimated replacement date is sometime around July 2023…..

Our lanai pavers had been lifted off their base by the hurricane winds pushing against the pool screen.

Compared to others, we had very little roof damage. Our solar panels sailed through the storm magnificently. A few shingles that were not covered by the solar panels lifted but did come off. The amount of water flooding against the front of the house stripped stucco off the house, pushed a hedge apart, blew over a hibiscus, four lime trees, and three other trees. Our boat – which I had lashed to the lift and then the lift to the pilings – never moved, unlike most of our neighbors’ boats which ended up in yards, on shore, and in one spectacular instance, washed down the street taking out many mailboxes and shrubs along the way.

October 1-15 – Clean-up and Recovery

Everyone was in shock. But no one could remain there long because things had to happen if we were to recover. We had to quickly decide what was salvageable and what had to go. Almost everything had been swamped by river/sewer water and had to be thrown out. The pool was flooded with that same water, and our walls were now infested as well.

Luckily, we have excellent resources/contacts. Our pool screen guy had our screen repaired within one day. A day later, the pool had been drained, acid washed, and re-filled. A few days later we had a new pool pump installed.

Our original realtor [shout-out to Stacey Bohannen] was invaluable in connecting us with QSP Build to begin our demolition and reconstruction. Demo and bio-wash were costly and terrible to watch. We saw our home stripped down to bones, dried out, and rebuilt.

The demo pile outside the house kept getting bigger and bigger (killing the lawn in the process). Even through that, some of us managed to keep our sense of humor.

Meanwhile we bought a camper and Ford F-150 pickup truck through Michelle’s relatives in South Dakota and paid for them to drive it down to Florida so we had a place to sleep and a vehicle to drive while we dealt with the reconstruction. Kudos to Michelle’s parents, uncle, and brother-in-law, who sacrificed their time and energy to help us with this.

Of course, we screwed ourselves in the process. FEMA provides housing to those who need it. We withdrew funds from retirement to pay for the camper, pickup, expenses for relatives here and back, and additional supplies. FEMA evidently considers that if we have the resources to do that, we do not need assistance. Meanwhile, neighbors all around us held out and received as much as $45,000 in FEMA housing assistance <sigh>. So much for being pro-active. Anyway, now that we’re back in the house, we’re recouping some of our losses by selling the truck and placing the camper on a consignment lot. It was a strange, sad feeling to move forward with these sales. The truck and camper were our safety and security after losing so much. We’re thankful to have had them.

November 2022/now – Recovery

We had to rebuild. It wasn’t an option. As with every challenge Michelle and I have faced, we met it head on and decided to upgrade what we could within the parameters of what the insurance would cover. We would have liked to pull up all the tile floors and replace them. The adjustor, who was forthright and open, told us that the insurance company would not pay for that, nor would they pay for replacing granite countertops – unless they were broken during the demolition, which some were.

There were always things about our kitchen we did not like. Michelle’s creativity came to the fore. She designed a kitchen that works far better than what we had. Where a microwave was hung over the cooktop, now there is a hood that vents to the outside (no more setting off fire alarms!), a microwave drawer (really expensive), and beautiful, sleek countertops and cabinetry. The countertop is far more user-friendly and the overall look is very modern European. Below see the former and current versions.

We celebrated Christmas Eve by moving back into the house – with one working sink, one working toilet, no kitchen appliances, and no living room furniture. The weather was really cold during this time – 40 degrees! – so we were glad we were out of the camper and back in the house.

As of this writing:

  • Our kitchen is complete and functional.
  • Michelle’s tub in the master bathroom is useable but my walk-in shower needs to be re-grouted and broken tile needs to be repaired.
  • We still have no interior doors. We have baseboards but no doors or doorframes. There will be much touching up to make this place OK.
  • We await final flood insurance payments currently in the hands of the mortgage company, which has been dragging its feet to release the funds. After getting feisty with them yesterday on the phone, I believe I may have resolved the Gordian knot of paperwork.
  • We’ve sold the truck and are selling the boat and camper to offset the retirement losses.
  • There are many items that still need to be fixed but we await the insurance settlement to address those: exterior stucco sealing/painting, landscape repair (resodding, replanting), garage repairs (door, cabinetry, storage).

One reads about disaster areas taking years to recover. That is reality. The sound of circular saws and hammers is prevalent throughout our neighborhood every day. We had our last piles of rubbish on the sides of the street picked up on January 31st). And our neighborhood is hardly the worst in Fort Myers.

Items unrelated to Hurricane IAN

In the first week of January, Michelle and I took leaves of absence from work so that we could move back into the house. It was a great opportunity to reorganize and regroup. Except that I began to feel unwell about two days into that week. After two days of feeling poorly, I took a Covid test. Positive. That triggered a ten-day leave of absence from work. Of course, by the time I took the test, I had begun feeling better. Doesn’t matter. Rules are rules. Meanwhile Michelle and I were selling things from the house that we no longer needed – range/oven, microwave, utility sink. In the process of getting the range into a buyer’s pickup, I fractured my left middle finger. I left it for a week hoping it would get better, but finally had it x-rayed. Yep. Broke the upper joint. Sheesh. So, Covid and now this. Splint it and go back to work.

I spent the enforced Covid time off studying for the Total Wine Spirits Professional exam. 😊 On January 17th, I took the TSP exam and passed. I have now achieved the highest level possible in both wine and spirits in the store. There is only one other person who has done that in southwest Florida and he, the store wine manager, remains my mentor. None of the spirits team – manager, supervisor, team members – have passed this exam. So, the store had to order me new shirts with the new logo. I am quick to state that although I know spirits, I cannot find that stuff on the shelf or talk about it like the spirits guys can. So, there is that.

One of the first friends I made in college at Mount Union was Robert Colaner. Bob has had a successful career by any set of standards. He worked for years in parochial schools and became quite adept at arranging well-known choral pieces for the changing male voice. He came to Fort Myers for a week on vacation and reached out to me so that we could spend a few hours together. We had lunch at a restaurant on the river catching up on old times.

So glad we did.

In summary:

  • We still love Florida, cannot envision living elsewhere, but are feeling rather unsettled and probably will for another few months.
  • We’re making it work until the insurance money shows up or we get all our vehicles sold.
  • Michelle is amazing and excels at her job but is overworked and exhausted much of the time – supervising ten masters-level clinicians and responsible for over 400 adult male formerly-incarcerated residents. She is working to balance her work and life, especially since this hurricane made us realize what is really important to us.
  • I am good at a part-time job which has little impact on our real life, but am having fun at it.

We are working to get back to who we are and why we came here. Stay tuned. As always, we are here if you wish to contact us. We welcome your calls, emails, and visits.

Well, well ….

Apologies for an earlier post with this title. I had some glitches with my website and computer and the title published prematurely.

OK, so it happened. Everything everyone warned us about moving to Florida came to fruition at the end of September when Hurricane Ian, a storm of epic proportions, came roaring up the Caloosahatchee River perfectly aimed to deliver a storm surge with its Category Five winds.

We live far up the Caloosahatchee in a community of canals connected to the river (see map at right). Neighbors who have been here for 30 years through multiple hurricanes have never seen water levels threaten their property. Ian’s winds created a fifteen-foot surge that was focused on the river channel.

We prepared. Michelle came home early on Tuesday and moved the lanai plants to the garage. By the time I came home from work, she had already emptied the lanai of plants and secured the furniture from wind by moving them to the garage or against the house and locked to the ground with the weighted base pieces of the patio umbrella. We had supplies and a generator. I lashed the boat securely to the lift, and the lift to the pilings. We went to bed Tuesday believing we’d be OK.

Wednesday September 28th, we watched in awe as the hurricane approached. Every projection got worse. The storm veered into the Caloosahatchee channel. Miles upriver from the Gulf, the water kept rising. We watched the canal rise behind the house and kept thinking, “It doesn’t look too bad yet.”

Within 30 minutes, the water took over. It rose to the level of our pool deck, swarmed over the edge with its muddy brown/brackish water, and entered the pool. We improvised: created sandbags from pillowcases and cat litter to block the patio doors. We placed our mattress on five 30-inch-tall metal plantstands to create a safe island in the master suite for cats, dog, and us. Six inches to go and it kept rising.

 

Then, suddenly, we realized that we were facing the wrong direction! Water began coming in from the canal across the street. Larger and deeper than ours, that canal had overflown and was surging into the front of our house. We had lost the battle. Had to go into survival mode. Thank God for Michelle and her quick thinking. Within five minutes she had improvised a plan for us all to go into the attic (only accessible through the garage) to get above the water.

The big problem was that the garage sits 18 inches lower than the house. Every time we opened the door from the house to the garage we were met with a wave of water since the garage was filling up to a level higher than the house. It took about 16 trips to get three cats, supplies, emergency radio, us, and a dog up into a 6×12 foot space (BTW, if you ever want an exercise in craziness, try getting a 100lb Dobermann Pinscher up a ladder where he does not wish to go). During those trips, we waded through knee-high to waist-deep water, dodging floating debris that included our possessions and valuables. We watched as the water flowed into our vehicles, causing their electrical systems to go berserk and then shut down. We dodged floating propane tanks, 5-gallon gas containers, and bifold closet doors that floated off their hinges. We sat in the attic all night, with the wind howling rain thundering against the roof, listening to emergency radio reports.

By about 4:00am the worst had passed. I had kept looking down the ladder into the garage, marking the height of the water and noticed that it seemed to be decreasing. By 5:00am, it was no longer over the headlights of my beloved Miata. By 6:00am it had dropped enough that I wanted to assess what was below. Against Michelle’s wishes, I climbed down the ladder.

Chaos. 12-15 inches of floodwater in the house and 24-30 inches in the garage. For four hours our entire neighborhood became one big lake – all those canals simply joined together. We have neighbors who have lived here for over 25 years, through multiple hurricanes. They’ve never seen water levels threaten their property. This storm was different. Its winds created a fifteen-foot surge that was exacerbated by the wind-driven waves.

We lost three autos, all appliances, and all furniture that was touched by flood waters. The water soaked into the walls of the house, which means that it would have to be torn out and replaced. The doors were disintegrating from the water infusion. The floors were covered in brown muck. The good news? My boat was untouched. Of course, leaves and junk were blown into it, but other boats on the block were blown off their lifts, stranded in backyards across the canals, and their lifts were twisted like pretzels. My boat sat there untouched. All praise and thanks to Michelle’s dad, Tom Regan. His emergency response mechanisms went into overdrive. In South Dakota, he procured a new 29-foot camper and Ford F150 crew cabin (tow package) pickup truck; loaded it and his own crew-cab pickup with things like water, shop vac, cleaning supplies, extra gasoline; recruited Michelle’s brother-in-law Jeremiah (who took unpaid time off work) and her uncle Chuck – and they all drove from Rapid City, South Dakota to Fort Myers, Florida to back this camper into our driveway and leave us with a working vehicle and needed supplies. We’re not wealthy in things, but we are certainly wealthy in people. After such an event, many question whether living here is worth it. One of the benefits of working at Total Wine is that I talk to people from around this area about living (or visiting) here. Michelle and I, of course, had the same conversation that many couples had after such a catastrophic event about whether we wanted to stay here.

In response, I have one observation and one question: “We’ve had five wonderful years and one REALLY bad day.” and “Where would we move to?” The photo in the left was taken about a week before IAN showed up.  I’ve spoken to at least three customers who lost their homes in Hurricane Ian. Some are rebuilding, some are not. One, who is not, has leukemia and is 82; but his philosophy was similar: “We had 28 years of gorgeous sunsets and sunrises living on the beach. I would not trade that despite this storm.” He was buying wine to give as gifts to friends who were allowing him and his wife stay in their condominium. Another couple lost the first floor of their beach home, a brand new 36-foot boat, and were also condo-surfing. They bought about $1500 of wine. His comment: “I have a new appreciation for enjoying today, rather than waiting for tomorrow.”

We’re struggling financially and realize we have not been very responsive lately, but our daily routine is putting out wildfires: dealing with insurance companies, contractors, bankers, etc. It’s all a juggling act with the money. Insurance companies never lose money and always make it difficult to receive that for which you have been paying premiums. Friday I (finally) received a long-awaited advance from the flood insurance folks. Two checks, one for contents ($10000) and a second for structure ($15000). The problem was that the second was made out to me AND the mortgage company, meaning I could not deposit it without their signature. Thank God, the mortgage company is on this and had set up a local office where one can go to get the check validated and another online site where future checks can be validated. But I had to drive north for an hour to Punta Gorda to get the check signed and by then the bank was closed (Veterans Day). OK, so I drove to the bank today to deposit it, only to be told by the bank that they’ll have to hold it for seven days before I can access the money because they have to make certain it clears.

 

Meanwhile I have contractors waiting to be paid so they can put my house back together.

Bottom line? We’ve cashed in $200,000 of my retirement to pay back Tom and get the house renovations moving. We’re trying to build back better (thanks, Joe). If all the cash juggling works out, maybe we’ll be able to put most of the retirement back in before it counts as income.

Now that the election is over, maybe congress will pass a bill that allows one in a declared disaster area to take retirement money out to rebuild without a tax hit. That certainly wasn’t going to happen pre-election because you know the winners want to take credit for it.

We have about $17,750 of deductibles to eat

Hurricane Ian arrived on September 29th. As I write this on the evening of November 15th, it seems like it just happened. Yes, things have changed since then. The debris piles on our street have diminished (although not gone completely). Our house; ahead of most in the neighborhood; has been stripped down to studs, bio-washed, had new drywall installed, textured, primed, and painted. Next is hardwood baseboards and doors. I’ve scheduled tile and grout cleaning for November 25th. The kitchen/bath/laundry cabinets and countertops will be installed the following week. We have every intention of being back into our home before December 7th.

So, what about Hurricane Nicole? Wind and rain here. I’m certain Nicole impacted other parts of Florida like Ian did us. Mind you, since we’re sleeping in a camper in our driveway, I did ask some camper-savvy neighbors if we needed to worry about 40 mph winds and they scoffed it off, so……

Will we come out smelling like roses? Unlikely. But we’ll do what Michelle and I have always done – create something out of nothing. When I arrived at SDSMT in 1983 the music program at SDSMT consisted of one room with a piano and three extracurricular ensembles. When I left there was a music building, curricular music offerings including four vocal ensembles, orchestra, band, brass choir, jazz band, pep band, and two fulltime and one parttime music instructors and a secretary. Before Michelle there was no music studio in South Dakota like what she created with Musikhaus – fifty award-winning students – some of them now achieving things like Broadway shows and one the reigning Miss South Dakota.

We do appreciate those who checked in on us to see how we were doing. Michelle and I observed our 21st anniversary on November 3rd in the midst of this recovery.

Michelle continues to work extra hours to gain time off, so she can fly to South Dakota to visit her family. She is an amazing individual whose standards never waver.

October 31st  I took my last examination for the Total Wine Professional certification. I scored 94%. I am now only the 2nd individual in the Fort Myers store (and one of few in all southwest Florida) to have achieved this milestone. The district manager visited the store last week and made a point of coming to congratulate me.

We’re OK. Struggling and cautious, but OK. We hope to be back in our house by Christmas. Hope all is well with all of you.

Musikhaus happenings

Summer in Florida …

That usually means two or three things:

Rainy Season

  • Morning begins clear and beautiful. No clouds in the sky with brilliant sunrises and scenery
  • Mid-day, the humidity has increased, and brings clouds. People come into Total Wine and complain about the heat. I’m like, “And you live, where…?” 
  • Late afternoon/early evening. Thunderstorms release the tension created by humidity and heat. Lasting five-ten minutes, they chase my fierce Doberman Pinscher (big baby) into his kennel. I sit on the lanai watching the rain evoke my childhood memories of Sandusky, OH – on the porch watching the rain flll the gutters.

Hurricane preparation

  • Until Thanksgiving, the National Hurricane Center website is checked daily for potential threats. The generator is ready in case of power outages. An evacuation plan is in place.
  • So far, we’ve been lucky. No major storms have arrived since before we came here. Our home was built to the most rigorous hurricane standards. But we are prepared.

Life slows down

  • We live in a much more populous area than Rapid City, SD. But advantages available to us here in SWFL outweigh the disadvantages.
  • We can take a day trip to Miami or Key West or Orlando or Tampa. We don’t much. Why? We have our own resort right here. We have a private pool and spa. Our boat can take us to downtown Fort Myers, the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers Beach, or Pine Island. We have a convertible to take a jaunt to the countryside or beach.
  • We have at least a three-day weekend together (more on that below) and were thinking, let’s do something. We decided that “something” would be floating in the pool, cooking meals, drinking good wine, and being together. What else is there?
The Feiszli Resort

Today I passed the third of seven examinations towards the Total Wine Professional certificate. Italy was extremely challenging. I began my exploration of wine around 1993 to prepare to take a group to Italy in 1996, figuring I ought to know more about the culture.  

That trip was memorable. We spent time in Venice, Siena, Florence, and Milan. I only wish I had known then what I know now regarding Italian wine because, as I studied for this test, I became aware of how many important places we visited in regard to wine culture. Ah, well.

Next up, I get to revisit France. My second TWP exam was only over Bordeaux – a significant place for French wine – but only one of about seven major French wine regions. The next exam covers ALL the rest of them. I am particularly aware of my lack of knowledge regarding Burgundy. History? Sure. Wine culture? Not so much. Oh well, time to put on the graduate school mentality. Looking forward to it, actually.

 

 

Considerable time and effort was expended working on this website over the last month in order to make all the scores to the music of the Choralis Constantinus 1508 available as free PDF downloads.  One can now go to:

CC-Music

and click on a title of a specific motet to obtain the music. A form must be filled out, since we wish to track how many scores and which scores are being requested and where they are going.  If you wish a score and have issues getting one, just drop me a note and I’ll get it to you.

Michelle and I are contemplating a return to Konstanz in 2023 to celebrate my seventieth birthday. We wish to revisit the city before all our friends retire.  Missing the Hafenhallenteller,  the Franz Fritz Weinkellerei, Reichenau, and everything and everyone there. 

Other News

  • I go in for cataract surgery tomorrow. It’s normal, I guess, for people my age, but I’m still not thrilled about it. The second eye will get surgery on July 15th.  Evidently, they’ll fix my astigmatism, allowing me to go without glasses for the first time since fifth grade. And Michelle will take time off from work to drive me there and back. So, we have some enforced together time for a few days.
  • Michelle’s been promoted (again). The administration came to her to ask her to take over a team that had been in disarray from an ineffective team leader. She wrote her terms for the switch and, now currently supervises eleven(!) clinicians, overseeing about 400 residents … at least until they hire someone to replace her on her old team. Proud of her. I always believed in her. Glad she has finally been able to spread her wings.
  • Loki is gradually becoming the dog we want him to be. He is stubborn and has some inbreeding character flaws, but my work with him is slowly paying off. I have only two main goals for him now: a) Stop terrorizing our beautiful calico cat Taco and learn that when she runs from him, it is not an invitation to chase her and, b) bicycles are not a threat. The latter goal is closer to achievement than the former.
  • We had a fantastic visit from my sister Sue and brother-in-law Rand in early April, followed by a visit from three old friends from Arizona State University days (40 years ago now!). I was able to gift Rand some Blanton’s bourbon and also share some other rare bourbons he can’t get in Ohio. Claire, Marie, and Sharon are as lovely and fun as they always have been. I had forgotten how much fun they were together. It was a treat for us to host all of them here in such a short time span.
  • I sent complimentary CDs of the Heinrich Isaac music to four former professors – all of whom I consider formative to my growth as a musician and as a human being. The fantastic side effect was to receive phone calls and emails from them thanking me for remembering them. It made me feel good that I was able to share with them the good that they had engendered by influencing me. Thank you, Lewis Phelps, Carl H. Kandel, John MacDonald, and Robert D. Reynolds.
  • Growing season here is coming to an end. My last tomato was eaten last week. The herbs need to be replanted in the shadier of the two beds and the winter bed (in direct sun) will go fallow until October.

As Garrison used to say, “..and that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”  Free feel to check in. We’re always glad to hear from you