Jim and Michelle in future kitchen

It’s About Time

It’s been almost six months since my last post, Auld Lang Syne. That post was a 2023 review and, thus, written in a neutral tone. This post is just Jim, giving a quick update on the status of Michelle’s and my life. The reason for the lengthy span between posts is that there just wasn’t much to report that was new. Previous posts, especially this one, detailed our intention to build a new home and leave our forever home on Marquette Boulevard.

We visited Rapid City in January for a late Christmas with Michelle’s family. Never again in January. It was somewhere around -10F the entire time we were there. Unfortunately, I still have cold weather to look forward to this year since I have a niece getting married in Cleveland in late October AND I’ve been asked to guest-conduct the Parma Symphony in early December. So….

After returning from Rapid City and thawing out, we readied our home to place it on the market for sale. The worst time to sell our home. High interest rates, rising insurance rates, over-population, and an increasingly rabid right-wing political scene; have combined to make Florida a less desirable permanent home for many.

But we had no choice. We rented a storage unit to declutter. We fixed and painted-up. We began to live like renters in our own home. Every three days (on average) we had strangers traipsing through. Excruciating. For four months! We received several offers, some of them insulting. We were under contract several times, only to have contingency deals fall through or other issues stop the sale. Finally, as we approached June, we received an offer from someone who really wanted the property. The bottom line was far less than we had hoped for, but the market forces were against us. We accepted, just to have closure and move forward.

In many ways, we have felt displaced and unsettled since September 28th, 2022. The hurricane, Michelle’s sister’s death, rebuilding, clearing a path through the ensuing finances; have all created a sense of displacement. We are always thinking “what next?” In late July we will leave Marquette for a two-month rental home in Cape Coral, hoping that our Babcock home will be completed by mid-September.

There are many, MANY mixed feelings. We don’t wish to leave but feel compelled to do so. We’ll so miss the canal – even though it carries the threat of flooding. As recently as May 1st we were visited by a pod of manatees who spent close to an hour outside our back door. We leave behind the Key Lime tree planted in December of 2018 – it has never stopped producing fruit.

This all seems gloomy, but it really isn’t. There are wonderful things.

The morning sunrises and evening sunsets continue to be spectacular. The sky has a particular color of blue that is unique to this place. When it rains, it is still warm. Everything is green, and flowers are always blooming. Our lanai looks like a jungle as the plants just keep growing. We have a rosemary bush that is at least four feet wide and four feet high. The bougainvillea are always flowering. Michelle gets to see baby calves running around every day she drives to work since cows calve all year round.

We’ve watched in awe as our new home rises from the ground. It was well on pace to be finished by July, but everything has ground to a halt for the last month as they await flooring tile. Everything that can be accomplished while waiting has been done, but now the builders are at the mercy of the suppliers. We have thousands of photos, far more than can be posted here, but here are a few that document the process.

Our daughter Rachel is moving to Florida! She and her boyfriend Parker are moving to an apartment complex in Punta Gorda, just north of Fort Myers. They’re excited to begin a new chapter in their lives, and we are happy that they will be closer to us.

Michelle’s job as the Assistant Clinical Director at the Florida Civil Commitment Center continues to challenge and gratify her. Michelle is changing the ways things have been done to make better clinical work. She is reducing clinician work stress, corporate liability, and resident failure. Proud of her. Still working too hard, but hopefully, there will come a time of better balance.


At Total Wine, I am mentoring two other colleagues as they attempt to pass the examinations for the Total Wine Professional program. There are several areas of the store that have become my responsibility: Burgundy, Alsace, Rhone, Germany, Austria, Tuscany, Piedmont are among them. I also have the joy of maintaining what I refer to as “the Black Hole”, otherwise known as the Highly Rated section. This is what people first see when they walk in the store and consists of selections that have earned high ratings from various reviewers at Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Vinous, etc. Many customers rarely venture any further into the store than that. I can spend an entire shift finding items to stock there, only to have a customer come in and fill up their entire cart, leaving my shelves bare.

Photo courtesy of Jamal Carter, Asst. Manager, Fort Myers Total Wine


I’ve also begun to study for the Cicerone certification. What’s that, you ask? Beer, of course. This is an independently issued certification, not one administered by Total Wine. I decided I didn’t know enough about beer, so why not? Total Wine will pay for me to take the exam twice. If I can’t pass it in two tries, then I’m on my own. I plan to pass the first time. Learning much about original gravity, SRM, IBU, and top vs. bottom fermenting.

So, “what about music?” you might ask. We don’t sing. Church choirs are out. I work every Sunday and Michelle often goes to work on Sundays as well, so she has flex time off when I’m not working. But music isn’t completely forsaken.

I still do transcriptions and editions. My brother-in-law, Randolph Laycock (Ph.D. in music from Case Western) is the long-time director of the Parma Symphony. For his holiday concert in early December, he often features the individual sections of the orchestra – strings, woodwinds, brass – by themselves. In 2022 he asked me to arrange something for the brass. I arranged the Tschenokov Spaséñiye, sodélal (Salvation is created) and Rachmaninov Bogoroditse devo (Ave Maria); completing score and parts and getting them off via email just minutes before Hurricane Ian blew out our electricity and then flooded our home. My attention was elsewhere when the orchestra performed the music (I’m told it went well).

This year he requested another piece for the brass. There are many thousands of public domain compositions that lend themselves to brass transcription (hello, anything from the Venetian School – Gabrielis, Schütz, et al).

But no, I decided to do something that requires 1) asking a living composer permission to mess with his creative work, and 2) navigating the minefield of obtaining permission from the copyright holder to make such an arrangement. Sheesh.

Frank LaRocca is a vastly under-recognized living American composer whose niche is traditional Roman Catholic Latin liturgy. If you have never experienced his music, do some internet searches and listen. It is beautiful, intense, complex, and engaging. Even his infrequent forays outside sacred music are amazing (check out America, the Beautiful). LaRocca’s setting of O magum mysterium is a masterpiece and I long thought that it might lend itself well to a brass transcription.

Luckily, Frank was open to me potentially hacking up his music. I spent two-three months obsessing over it and then tentatively sent him the score. I was relieved when he approved. Whew! Then I showed the score to Rand and he loved it. Next step, the publisher.

Walton Music. Cool. I shared a taxi with Gunilla Luboff when we were both in Stockholm to celebrate Eric Ericsson’s 80th birthday. Well, that was in 1998. Walton was sold to GIA Publications in 2013, and I know no one there. Taking a shot in the dark, I visited their website and sent an email to their VP of publications. Long story short, GIA graciously gave permission for the transcription and performance for a very minimal fee, which the Parma Symphony paid.

When the dust settled, I mentioned to Rand how I was jealous that he would get to conduct the piece. He immediately invited me to come guest-conduct the performance! I was reluctant to accept until Michelle heard about it and said, “Of course you’re going to do it!” So, here I am in June already sweating about a performance in December. Déjà vu, remembering all those summers getting ready to pull off a spectacular December concert in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help cathedral (or at St. Martin’s Academy, or the Rapid City Civic Center). Hope I can 1) find my batons, and 2) fit into my white tie and tails, and 3) survive Ohio in December.

I turn 71 next week. Michelle turned 53 in April. Rachel is now 27 and Jackson will be 31 in August. I turn your attention to the title of this post: It’s About Time. It is, indeed, all about time. Time is inexorable. Do not waste any of it. Enjoy every second. Be happy. Be as healthy as possible. Love one another. Be kind to those less fortunate.

Till next time…… 

Time After Time



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.

Here we go again? Nah…

Checking in as OK in Fort Myers with Hurricane Idalia.

OK, much PTSD here in southwest Florida as Idalia comes up the west coast where everyone is still recovering from Ian last September. Michelle and I are not exempt from these panicky feelings. Thankfully, the local TV stations have recognized this angst in the populace and done a remarkable job of 1) suspending normal broadcasting to replace it with 24-7 hurricane coverage, 2) gone to great lengths to explain what the National Hurricane Center means with their steady updates, and 3) assure the southwest Florida region that this storm is NOT our storm even while giving us steady warnings about what to expect.



We approached this storm as if it might be Ian. 1) Do we need prepare for high winds and heavy rain? 2) Do we need to evacuate? 3) Will we get flooded again?

It was a good exercise in emergency planning. I booked a pet-friendly hotel for two nights. We readied pet carriers and supplies – all three cats have medical issues including diabetes, thyroid medication, and special dietary needs, not to mention litter boxes, etc. Dogs are easier. “Are we going for a ride? Yey!!!” “Do I get to sleep in the same room as you? Yey!!!” “Do I get to go for walk and smell new things? Yey!!!” “Is there food? Yey!!!”

Then we monitored the storm and waited for the 11:00pm update on Monday night. When it became apparent that Idalia would remain west of us, we cancelled the hotel and began to prep the house.




So, today I cleared the lanai. All tall plants went against the house. Boat plug was pulled in preparation for tons of rain. Sprinkler system turned off for same reason. Boat lashed to boat lift. Boat lift lashed to dock pilings. Lanai furniture moved up against the house. Precious things moved indoors. I am running the washer and dryer constantly, so everything is clean in case the electricity goes out.


About 2:00pm the first waves of the storm hit. Grey skies, rain, wind. More worrisome is the possibility of tornadoes. As I write this, there are already reports of funnel clouds south of us in Marco Island.

The other worry is the storm surge, as always. This storm is not producing much surge, but it (naturally) comes on top of the August full moon, which brings the highest tides of the year. So tonight (Tuesday night-Wednesday morning) about 3:00-4:00am will bring the highest water. That is Michelle’s and my biggest fear. We are constantly assured by the newscasters that we have nothing to fear, but this photo shows the current status. Taken at 2:45pm, high tide is at 3:30.

So what happens at 4:00am Wednesday with both the highest tide and the highest storm surge? No sleeping tonight. All authorities tell us not to worry, but they aren’t watching the water creep up on our dock!

In other News

After Hurricane Ian, during Jennifer’s illness; Michelle had been a “show up when I can” employee at the Florida Civil Commitment Center. As a team leader, she was responsible for other clinicians and, in actuality, had been running TWO teams in the absence of an appointment for her original replacement.

Not surprisingly, she was somewhat apprehensive when she returned after six months of part-time (although totally understandable) work. “Are they going to still want me here?” “Do they consider me reliable?”

Evidently, they missed her.

Shortly upon returning, she was asked to consider becoming the Assistant Clinical Director – one of the top four administrators for the entire facility. She was previously in charge of four other clinicians. Now she is in charge of all clinical work in addition to several other areas of the facility. 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.

On behalf of the Clinical Department, we are grateful for Ms. Feiszli’s passion for sound, competent, and ethical clinical practice. In addition to her years of accomplishments as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Ms. Feiszli was recently accepted into the National Association of Forensic Counselors and is quickly on her way to earning recognition as a Qualified Supervisors for Mental Health Counselors in the state of Florida. Her innate clinical and supervisory abilities, coupled with her drive to continue her studies of innovative research and clinical practice, are appreciated and respected by her supervisees and her peers, who often speak to the degree of support and confidence her clinical advice and guidance provide.

Please join me in extending appreciation for Ms. Feiszli’s commitment to our mission and congratulations on this deserved accomplishment. 

Michelle continues to amaze and achieve as she develops in her chosen career path. So proud of her.

And me? I plug along. During my recent annual evaluation I was graded as “exceeds expectations” in every category. Cool. I got to choose to take home a $100 bottle of wine (2016 Levendi Stagecoach) and a $100 bottle of spirits (25yr. Barrowman’s blended Scotch). 

I was recently asked to step in on short notice (24 hours!) and teach a course on Old World Wines at the Naples Total Wine store. We explored Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, and Portugal over four hours. I was able to throw in a lot of history and culture in the process. It was fun to be in front of a classroom again – especially one in which the students (wine-loving adults) were all eager to learn about the subject matter. Evidently I did OK, since the store manager told me to let him know my availability for future possibilities. Meanwhile the Port Charlotte spirits manager is also asking me if I want to do some classes up in Port Charlotte.  Bourbon, Scotch, Gin, etc.,

So, we muddle on, hoping to survive the 2023 hurricane season with no loss. We’re happy, healthy, and hopeful that our life here will continue to be blessed with good friends, good fortune, and good health. Hope everyone reading this is blessed with the same.

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.