Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Aaaaaannnnd We Tacked...

(Author's note: obviously this post will be published WELL after 12/18 and MANY things have happened since 12/18. It will take me a while to get caught up. That's part of being a new mama!)

As I sit here in my living room, listening for my newborn to cry out for mama between clicks of the keyboard, I cannot help but reflect on the last three weeks. It's December 18th and, if things had gone "according to plan" Peegie and I would be brand-new parents as of YESTERDAY...not seasoned, veteran parents of nearly one week. But, as the saying goes, "if you want to make God laugh, make plans!"


Over the last three weeks, I found myself thinking a lot about summer vacation...but, not because of fear of imminent child birth!


Every summer, Peegie and I travel to Hope Town, Abaco, for summer vacation. We usually plan our vacation to coincide with Regatta Time in Abaco...a five-race regatta that starts in Green Turtle Cay and ends in Marsh Harbour. Since 2002, we have been privileged to crew for Jeff Gale aboard local favorite, Abaco Rage.


The Rage is a traditional Bahamian work boat with a loyal crew. She is 28 feet long, constructed of wood, boasts heavy cotton canvas sails and relies on human ballast sitting on sliding prys to perform sailing maneuvers. It's the most exhilarating fun you can have in a regatta, and also the most precarious fun as one wrong move will send you off the end of the pry into the Sea of Abaco.


So, what does all this have to do with being pregnant or giving birth?? Tacking.


Tacking is a sailing maneuver performed during an upwind run, when your mark is straight ahead of you, and the wind is on your nose. Suddenly the wind shifts, and you have a choice to make: tack into the wind, or be blown off course and not hit your mark.


Jeff Gale is a veritable legend in racing circles in the Bahamas and beyond. His tactics are extraordinary and generally correct. As a skipper, he does not lose many races. Sailing with Jeff is a both an honor and a privilege, and it's extremely fun. Except for tacking. The same maneuvers that usually haul in the hardware are the most challenging aboard the slippery surface of the Rage because it's just not easy to scramble across a wet deck and 15 other humans to stake a claim on the high side of the boat - especially when you don't even know you're tacking until the boom hits you in the head. Jeff is particularly soft-spoken, and tacking maneuevers are usually announced in the following manner: "aaaaaaaannnnnd we're tacking..." all while he is pushing the tiller to turn the boat.

That's what the last three weeks have been like: one tack after another - all without any kind of warning, yet necessary to keep us on course to hit our mark, and not be blown off course.
It all began with the diagnosis of the evil Toxemia on November 27.
A regular Tuesday, a normal appointment with my OB doctor, resulting in bedrest. Each week thereafter brought a new wind shift, and a new tack.

On December 4, my blood pressure "had not responded to bed rest as expected" so my doctor informed us he wanted to "monitor [me] on an inpatient basis." Our charge nurse told me the chances I would leave the hospital without a baby were slim and none. Hooray! Two weeks of bed rest in the hospital. Exactly what I did NOT want. Tack.

On December 5, both my OB and my perinatologist agreed I could be discharged (despite blood pressure readings that really didn't change much...). I felt like I'd been let out of jail free - with a date to return for a nicely planned, scheduled delivery by C-section on Friday, December 14th. Tack.

On December 11, my OB cheerily answered our questions about the surgery, listened to the baby's heartbeat and examined my overall well-being. I was positively giddy: for the first time in two weeks, I'd had an appointment with the doctor without being surprised by a tack. As it turns out, the maneuver was only delayed by a day, and it was the mother of all tacks.

On December 12, my sister fetched me at 1:15pm to make a 1:30pm pedicure appointment. After our feet were scrubbed and massaged and our toes polished and shined, we were off to the perinatologist for a final sonogram before baby was to be delivered just two days later. Not so fast. I walked into the hospital for a routine visit with my doctor, and I walked out three days later (yes, I WALKED out of that hospital) with a precious, beautiful and, most important, healthy baby boy. TACK!!! (It's a really good thing I'd had a pedicure...)

Looking back, we could not have planned Zane's arrival any better. In the end, we got everything we wanted: a healthy baby, a healthy mama, and Christmas at home as a new family. We've learned so much since that day - about each other, about our new son, about the infinite depth of love, and how children make a great life so much better. But mostly we have learned that letting go, and letting someone else call the tactics, is part of the fun; and we still brought home the best trophy of all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This Wasn't Part of the Plan

It was bound to happen. In my case it is later rather than sooner (thankfully...)

As my doctor wrote in the note for my employer, "Paige is experiencing a complication of pregnancy that requires bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy."

Toxemia. A wicked disease for which the only cure is delivery of a baby. In the meatime, it's Game Over. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go straight home, lay on your left side, and do not attempt any activity that will elevate your blood pressure. To-do lists, loose ends and plans be damned.

This is so not fun, but it could be worse. MUCH worse. To wit:
  • I could be 26 weeks along, instead of 36 weeks.
  • I could be situated in a job without flexibility, benefits, an understanding boss, and technological resources for telecommuting from home.
  • I could be alone, without a loving and doting baby-daddy to cart me to my "social outings" (i.e. weekly prenatal visits) and keep me company.
  • I could have had a challenging pregnancy from Day One
  • I could be woefully behind in planning for Baby's arrival
  • I could be in the hospital

As it stands, I am resting comfortably in my own home, enjoying the company of my beloved, surrounded by all of my own creature comforts, feeling well and taking it easy. Not bad. And, as Peegie reminded me on Tuesday, we may get to meet our kid even earlier than we thought. Again, not so bad. In fact, life is pretty good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks...in a Family Way

For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been about Grandmama's House. My mother grew up in Fort Deposit, a tiny town in SW Alabama, and most of her family still lives in or near there. After she and my father married and moved to Florida, my mother started the tradition of returning to Grandmama's every year at Thanksgiving, to celebrate the holidays. She missed seeing her family at Christmas, but felt strongly attached to the new Christmas traditions we - as a family - shared in Clearwater. So, the Thanksgiving extravaganza was born, and so it continues. This year marks 33 years.

As the oldest grandchild, I am clearly the most delinquent for I have missed the celebration twice.

In 1999, Peegie and I spent a gorgeous and lovely Thanksgiving week sailing the Exumas aboard Buddy, drinking rum, swimming in gin-clear water, soaking up the sun, eating Healthy Choice turkey from the package and dancing under the stars.

This year, I am at home, 35 weeks' pregnant, STRONGLY advised to stay close to home and my very capable doctors...

Yesterday, as I thought about the goings-on at my Grandmama's house, in preparation for the big day, I got a bit sad thinking, "my whole family is there, and I can't be there, and I really miss being there for this holiday."

Then it hit me: MY whole family is HERE. Peegie, Ziggy and me. That is MY whole family, and here we are, together. I have much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Down in the River to Pray

I'm actually blinking in this photograph, but Peegie said it looks like I'm in prayer. He's talented with a camera, that man of mine.

Friday, November 9, 2007

One Down, One to Go

I am really looking forward to the final days of 2007. By then, all of my big projects for 2007 will be done...well, sort of, since the actual project of childrearing BEGINS at childbirth, but, still...it will be really fun to enjoy a frosty flute of bubbly and reflect on the year that has been 2007. It's been cosmic and harmonic and weird, all at the same time.

Last Sunday marked the finale of the biggest project I've ever done (at least until my water breaks..) In addition to incubating a child due just before New Year, I've spent most of my free time Co-Chairing the 25th Anniversary Taste of the Town...aka the largest fundraiser of the year for the Junior League of Fort Myers. As in, every dollar we need for a year's worth of programming and community projects is raised during a six-hour, outdoor food festival on the first Sunday in November. Yes, it's a lot of work. Yes, I was committed to the project well before learning of my pregnancy. Yes, I am crazy.

But, WE DID IT! And How! All indications point to a record-shattering year in terms of attendance and fundraising...not bad for a group of girls, eh?

Coming up next: Child Birth.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Laugh Before Bed

My sister took this photo of Todd and me last night after their trick-or-treating extravaganza. Todd dressed as a pirate for Hallowe'en, but he has not yet mastered the "Art of the AAARRRRRGGGHHH!" as well as his Auntie Paige. He HAS mastered, however, the "Art of Wrapping Auntie Around a Little Finger." Instead of helping Storm Trooper Kyle pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters, Todd jumped into my lap to hide from the "scare-wy" costumes of the older kids. That was just fine with me!

The Tipping Point

Eight months' pregnant+Co-Assistant Chair of the Junior League's Taste of the Town+Chief of Staff to an overachieving Freshman legislator+NaBloPoMo for not one, but TWO, blogs=Tipping Point. I pledged to post to my blog at least once each day during November, even if it's just one word. Every. Single. Day. The word for today is "tired." I'm going to sleep.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

28.5 or 29.6

At left is a scan of several 3D ultrasound photos from today's visit with my doctors. I continue in wonder at the technology available today, and cannot IMAGINE where we'll be in 20 years.

I love the third shot...the sonographer thinks it is a bona fide smile since "babies don't have gas in utero..."

We both got a good report today: baby is 2 lbs., 14 oz. (+/- .7 oz) and 15 inches long from tip to toe. Heartbeat was a "perfect" 150 bpm. The coolest news is, although I am 28 weeks, 5 days along, baby's development is at 29 weeks, 6 days, which means baby's development is 8 days ahead of my due date. The doctors have not adjusted my due date, but today's measurements indicate baby could make its grand entrance as early as 12/21.

My sister thinks baby will arrive on Christmas Day. I would be okay with that...what greater gift could I ever receive? But, I am NOT okay with her suggestion for a name, should the baby arrive on Christmas Day. Somehow, I'm just not feeling "Hey, Zeus!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Kyle & Todd


I have just returned from babysitting the two reigning "most precious little boys on the planet" - my nephews, Kyle and Todd. My sister has frequently chastised me for the lack of blog space accorded to her children...and with good reason. Not only are they beautiful children, they are just as sweet-hearted as they are cute. As I put them down for bed tonight - amid repeated requests from Kyle for "just one more hug, Auntie" and from Todd, "I kiss you on forehead, Auntie" - I realized just how blessed I am to be their Auntie and how much I love that role in their lives.
I have been told that we cannot know the depths of love until we hold our own child for the first time. We'll see, on or about December 29th of this year. In the meantime, I'm lucky to catch more than rare glimpses of it in my nephews.

*Post script: sheesh! If I'm THIS gushy about my nephews, I may need the Paxil to prevent me from drowning in mush about my own child! My apologies to Senor Scientologist...I apologize for being glib.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

7 Months and Counting


The day has finally come...I can't avoid it any longer...I finally look pregnant. It's good timing because I'm back in Tallahassee for legislative committee meetings and (yet another) Special Session and all of my friends were expecting to see me pregnant. I'm 28 weeks along (that's expectant-mom-speak for "7 months pregnant") and things are still proceeding very well: no morning/all-day sickness, no weird cravings or aversions, no extreme fatigue, manageable weight gain, and decent energy for everyday life. The photograph at left was snapped by Kent LeBoutillier - Peegie's "Wicked Stepmother" - last Sunday. I think she successfully captured my good side.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

26.4 Weeks

Things I have learned:
  1. I require EXACTLY nine hours of sleep each night. If those nine hours are interrupted for, say, an hour at some point during the night, I will sleep right through my alarm for the entire interrupted portion of the nine-hour requirement.
  2. Pregnancy Senility is a very real condition. I hear it morphs into Mama Senility after delivery.
  3. Swimming is the most luxurious form of exercise and stretching during pregnancy. Bonus benefit: quick and true relief for swollen feet!
  4. Sitting in a jacuzzi (heated to exactly 99-degrees) under the stars is the best way to bliss out before bedtime.
  5. Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream tastes better during pregnancy, especially if you mix in a copious number of mini marshmallows.
  6. Fast food really IS as bad for the body as they say it is, and the effects of sodium and caffeine are swift and sure.
  7. There is no point in pre-registering at the hospital for delivery. No matter how many times you dutifully FAX the carefully completed form to the correct FAX number and then follow up with a phone call to confirm receipt, "Susan" will not enter your information into their registration system until "about a month before your due date." Hmmmmm....wonder what happens if labor starts before then?
  8. The "Tummy Sash" from A Pea in the Pod is the best invention EVER. Favorite pre-pregnancy jeans, pants, skirts and shorts are entirely wearable with the simple technology of this wonderful little piece of lycra (as long as your ass hasn't grown as large as your belly...)
  9. Maternity clothes really have gotten a lot cuter since our mothers were pregnant.
  10. Baby's first real kick is the best evidence that there is a God.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy, Me Hearties! Yo Ho!

International "Talk Like a Pirate Day" is the perfect day for sharing the adventure of my 37th birthday. Having been reared in the Greater Tampa Bay Area, I am a long-suffering Buccaneers fan. You may know of the loveable losers - some of us call them the "Yucks" for their tendency to dwell in the cellar of the NFL - or, perhaps you remember the unfortunate branding of their early identity: a very clearly gay buccaneer "Bruce" outfitted in creamsicle and white. Absolutely yucky! Anywhoo, in a very clear case of the "clothes make the man" the Buccaneers - yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - actually won the Super Bowl four years ago after changing their entire identity: pewter and red uniforms, a menacing pirate logo and a fancy, shmancy new stadium in which to destroy those who dared to field a team.

When the Bucs started winning, all of Tampa Bay - and her natives - rejoiced, and they actually started going to games. All except me. I was living in the ATL by then. So, for my birthday this year, my love took me to my very first game at Raymond James Stadium. It was the home opener for the 2007 season and, in a stroke of positive universal energy, the Buccaneers played like defending Super Bowl Champions and beat the New Orleans Saints (and their Heisman-Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush...) by 17 points!

It made me think of the song that the Morning Zoo on the old Q-105 wrote for the Yucks of old..."Hey hey hey, we're the Buccaneers!...Ho ho ho we're the Buccaneers! Offense, Defense, now we're here to say, Make the Saints walk the plank and throw 'em in Tampa Bay! Hey!"

These are the pictures from our really fun day at RayJay...

These pirates were on-hand for a corporate party on the pirate ship in the north end zone. They were very kind to pose for a birthday picture with a 37-year-old pregnant girl drinking an O'Douls. Not quite the grog to which all worthy pirates are accustomed, but a refreshing, festive beverage nonetheless!

The pirate ship is super cool...there is a cannon that fires whenever the Bucs enter the "red zone" and whenever they score. We heard that cannon a LOT on Sunday, and the BEST part was that it was fired for FOUR touchdowns. Peegie took the picture at right while the sun was obscured by a cloud. I think the background makes the ship look even more menacing. Just before this picture was snapped, the cannon fired at a moment when we were not watching the action on the field, and not expecting the boom...pretty funny involuntary reaction from Peegie.

At right is a close-up shot of the figurehead...I couldn't help but wonder if Blackbeard is a football fan...


One of the coolest things about Raymond James Stadium is the fan-friendly atmosphere. Fans are allowed to wander freely along the main perimeter of the field on the second level of the stadium. Peegie and I spent the second half of the game taking in the action from "50-yard line seats." We also visited the south endzone just in time to see a Buccaneer touchdown. The photograph at left was taken just after the Bucs scored their fourth touchdown. And, for good measure, our signature ending.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Icing on the Cake

On my way back to the office after a lovely and delicious birthday lunch with friends, I stopped at home to drop off birthday balloons and (hopefully) give my man a quick peck on the cheek.

As I entered the house, I heard water running and assumed Peegie was taking a shower. But, oh no, this is the scene that greeted me.

So, what DO you do when you walk in on your boyfriend as he is shaving his legs?? Laugh, of course, then take pictures and then post them to the internet!! At least he is a hottie.

Ode to Joy

Today is my birthday and, at 37, I can honestly say that I cannot imagine how life could be any better. I'm happy, healthy, madly in love with my best friend and a baby is on the way. Life really is good. I thought about that this morning when my eyes opened to another sunny late-summer day, my beloved right next to me and baby doing somersaults. If this is what it means to "grow up," I am all about it!

Shy Baby

It's been exactly two months since Peegie and I got the biggest surprise of our lives. On or about December 29th of this year, "we" will become "three" when we welcome a child into our lives. It's a good reason to (finally) figure out the scanner feature on the printer in my office. I'm a little slow on the technology curve. Clever, but slow. Here is a picture of the wee tot we are calling "Ziggy" (a term of endearment for Zygote...) Baby looks shy in this photograph but, then again, the poor dear had to endure an hour-long torrent of ultrasound waves that day.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Michigan - A Final Reverie

Aunt Ford's LOVELY cottage in Leland...I LOVE Leland. If ever I were to move north, to Leland I would point my sails. A tiny town situated on a peninsula between two lakes - Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Leelanau to the east. Summers are warm and sunny, but temperate and non-humid. The best part of Leland is Peegie's Aunt Ford. She is just awesome...that's the only way to say it!



Everywhere we looked along the M22 Corridor there were wildflowers. I thought these were lilacs...they certainly smelled sweetly similar to lilacs; but I think they are just a variety of pretty wildflower.



Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The park is so named because the dunes resemble a sleeping Mama Bear and Baby Bear. I couldn't "see" the bears (I also can't "see" the Man in the Moon...) but, even so, the park took my breath away. We are standing on a dune that is 450' above the shoreline. There is a path to the beach below, but I was terribly afraid I wouldn't be able to make the strenuously steep climb. I love this picture for two reasons: 1. it illustrates the steepness of the dune in comparison to the lake and horizon; and 2. I appear as tall as Peegie.



Don't FALL! If you look closely, you can see people climbing the dune from the beach. Oy!



Space Monkeys. That's all I have to say about that.



A way of life: Life, Liberty, Beaches & Pie. This is a picture of the famous Cherry Republic where everything is all about cherries. Remember that scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba describes to Forrest all of the different preparations of shrimp? Imagine a similar scene with cherries as the star ingredient, and Bubba is on crack. THAT'S what you find at Cherry Republic. You also find Cherry Butter (yum!) and Cherry Snickerdoodles (double yum!). We left $170 with the gracious and helpful ambassadors and they kindly shipped lots of cherry goodies home to us.



Sunset over Lake Michigan. A perfect ending to another perfect adventure.

The Arcadia Series

One of my most favorite memories of our trip to Michigan is Camp Arcadia, a Lutheran Family Retreat along the shore of Lake Michigan. Peegie spent two weeks there every summer from the age of 9 until he was a sophomore in college. I have heard about this magical place for longer than 8 years now, and it was high time that I see it for myself. It was nothing like I imagined it would be. It was better. The grounds are lush and green and shaded by beautiful trees. The beaches are sandy and the dunes and bluff ripe for climbing. It was easy to see why Peegie, Mom LeB, Aunt Rochelle, Aunt Marlene, Uncle Marlowe and Derek and Dawn love it so. More than just the natural beauty of its location, I loved seeing my beloved's face light up as we walked the grounds and he recalled stories from childhood - raging bonfires on the beach, climbing the north bluff, petoskey hunting, playing games in the Wigwam...


The picture at the top right is titled "New Friends Familiar Places" because we are standing near the family plaque that Peegie and Mom LeB installed in the main building. I love the photo because Peegie's face radiates light and joy. Below is a close-up of the LeBoutillier Family Plaque. It boasts a starfish from Miami and the woodworking skills I have come to know and appreciate so well.
Another really cool thing about Camp Arcadia is the Cottage Colony. The Cottage Colony is where Peegie forged a friendship, at age 9, with John Neff. They became fast friends, and are still best friends today, at age 41. John and his wife, Dixie, live in Columbia, SC with their two boys, Zack and Parker. Happily, our vacation dates coincided and we were able to rendezvous with them in Arcadia. The picture at left is titled "Old Friends Familiar Places" - for obvious reasons. The one right below it is titled "Seems Like Old Times" because as soon as the boys, er, men, saw the box hockey, they cracked sticks and started playing as if no time had passed.



Arcadia, MI is nearly the southernmost boundary of fertile petoskey-hunting grounds. Petoskey stones are fossilized coral and are found only in Michigan. Hunting for them is much like hunting for sharks teeth on a Florida beach. It requires a lot of patience, and a lot of focus. My focus was distracted by all the OTHER pretty-colored stones, so I found only one petoskey stone. Peegie found three. He's a show-off like that.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

We Now Interrupt Our Regular Programming...

It is not like me to do things out of order. I'm a Virgo, and just a tad perfectionist, so it really pains me to interrupt the never-ending tale of our motorbike trip through Michigan for a non sequitur. But when I read this story I had to make an exception. It seems some yahoo from San Francisco decided to torch the Man four days early. What a selfish lowlife! He deserves a swift kick in the shins with a pointy-toe slingback.

Right now in Black Rock City humans from all over the world are participating in an experiment in temporary community. They are covered in playa dust, costumed, painted, naked, drunk, sober, happy, sad, contemplative, expressive, dancing, standing still, singing, crying, they are hot, they are cool, they are weird, they are beautiful, they are hopeful, they are fearful, they are shy, they are outgoing - they are all of us, at our best and our worst, all at once. But most of all they are are coming together to live for one week in the REAL WORLD: a desert...a barren, blank canvas on which everyone is equal.

During our week on the playa Burners are reminded of the power of true human-to-human interaction and what it means to really be part of a community. It's not about status, it's not about power, it's not about beauty, it's not about wealth; it's about participation, appreciation and love for our fellow human, no matter their attire, their status, their beauty, or their wealth. The Man is often dismissed as an effigy, but really he is so much more. It is a powerful symbol of the default world and the Burn is a deep, almost spiritual, affirmation that sustains all Burners through their year-long sojourn in the default world and guides them back home again.

I really miss being there this year; it is the first year since 2003 that we have not made the trip. And though I'm not hot and dusty and painted and costumed and dancing with the love of my life at the Deep End, I still feel the same hurt and disappointment and anger at this selfish act. BMO has vowed to rebuild the Man in time for Saturday's Burn, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the Burn will be even more spectacular and powerful than ever! Burn, MF, BURN!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Big Scary Bridge and Beyond

The Mackinaw City Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Uppper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. Interestingly, the Mackinac Bridge is one of only two segments of Interstate 75 that is tolled. The other segment is Alligator Alley, nary 30 miles south of where we live. Yet another Florida-Michigan connection, but I digress...apparently crossing the Mackinac Bridge is really scary...or, so we had been warned. Upon seeing the bridge, I really didn't get what all the fuss is about. I mean, I live in Florida, surrounded on all sides by water and I regularly travel across long, tall bridges that span deep water. And crossing the Mackinac bridge, even on the back of a motorbike, proved to be no big deal (sorry, Mom LeB!)
The picture at left shows our perspective as was traveled south from St. Ignace into Mackinaw City. See? Nothing scary about. Well, there was one sort-of scary thing about the bridge: the inside lane is constructed of grate. It's not so much fun to ride on a motorcycle in a roadway lane made of grate...especially when you can look straight through the grate to the 55-degree lake below the bridge, and the driver of the motorcycle has removed one hand from the handlebars to snap (yet another) photograph. We arrived in Mackinaw City safe and sound (and we have great photos to prove it...)

I love Mackinaw City, not only because the people are especially friendly and accommodating or because it's the world headquarters for homemade fudge; but because I learned a new definition of the word "pasty." Since leaving Wisconsin earlier that day, we kept seeing roadside signs advertising "homemade pasties." Finally, in Mackinaw City, we enjoyed a delicious chicken pasty - basically a homemade chicken pot pie in a dough pocket. Yum!!

Mackinaw City was also the gateway to our "Trip Through the History of Peegie." He was born at Cheboygan Memorial Hospital and lived the first 3 years of his life in a charming duplex on a quiet side street in this quiet little town along the shore of Lake Michigan. Peegie's Pop, "Boot", was stationed aboard the USCG Icebreaker "Mackinaw."
While in service, the Mighty Mack ensured the safety of vessels crossing the Great Lakes in the winter time. Apparently it gets pretty cold there (says the girl from Florida...) and the lakes freeze, making passages difficult and dangerous. During the non-winter months, the USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw served as the PR ship for the Coast Guard. They did all kinds of cool stuff like delivering Christmas trees to needy families across the lake in Chicagoland, earning the name "The Christmas Ship"; and raising the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. As macabre as it may sound, I have always been fascinated by the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (I think it's because it happened during my lifetime and because Gordon Lightfoot's haunting ditty really scared me when I was a child. I was always terrified that the ocean might become too rough for my mother to feed us during our weekend boat trips.) The Mighty Mack was decommissioned in 2005. She is now a permanent floating museum. Touring the Mackinaw was super cool, especially for Peegie. Not only is he all about all things boats and nautical, he was really struck by the fact that he was actually re-tracing the steps of his father on that boat. Particularly cool was calling Boot from the bridge of the boat and hearing him narrate the bridge to us in exacting detail while we actually looked and touched each instrument he described. We were really giddy when we left the Mackinaw - in the same way a child might be giddy after their birthday party, but without all the sugar!

Mackinaw City is ALSO the jumping off point for visiting Mackinaw Island. Wow! Mackinaw Island is known, of course, for the graceful and lovely Grand Hotel - although I'm not convinced "grand" is a "grand" enough term to describe this gorgeous corner of the world. Unlike the experience at many "grand" hotels, the Grand lured us with her beauty and and welcomed us to stay as long as we wanted, to sit on the expansive porch and enjoy the general loveliness of the day. Given that it was nearly lunchtime, we also enjoyed a Grand lunch buffet (for a GRAND price of $90, sparkling water extra...) I'm a sucker for dining in beautiful old dining rooms, especially when my dining partner is Peegie, the service is gracious and friendly, and the food is widely varied and simply delicious. We ate our fill and practically waddled out of the hotel en route to the ferry and the new adventures awaiting us along the M22 Corridor.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part II, Act I.

Life really IS a bowl of cherries (and blueberries...and raspberries...), especially if you happen to be touring Northern Michigan on a BMW GS 1200 in mid-July.

As a native Floridian, my impressions of Michigan are largely shaped by the enormous flock of snowbirds that annually flies south on Interstate 75, usually in some form of van or minivan moving at a snail's pace in the left lane. My one and only trip to Michigan - a short weekend trip to Detroit for the Auto Show in early January - did little to convince me that Michigan is anything other than a cold, dirty, grey, industrial wasteland where people speak with a terribly unfortunate accent and suffer from a severe case of sour grapes in college football.

On the flipside, I have many good friends who hail from the Wolverine State and wax poetic about the natural beauty of their home state. My love was born in Cheboygan and spent the first three years of his life there while his Pop was stationed aboard the USCG Mackinaw. He also spent a great deal of time in Arcadia as a youngster. Still, when Peegie suggested a motorbike tour of Northern Michigan for Summer Vacation - Part II I was very skeptical. But, I am always game for a new adventure and, what the hey?, it couldn't be any worse than what I already imagined!

Michigan is, in a word, spectacular. I could not be more thrilled that my impressions were forged anew. Who knew it would be so stunningly beautiful? Who knew the Great Lakes are as expansive and endless as my beloved ocean? Four of the Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan, Erie and Huron - border the state. And it's pretty neato that Michigan is the only bi-peninsular state, even if the U.P. didn't live up to our expectations. Well, we DID encounter MANY archetypal "yoopers."

In many ways, our trip through Michigan was all about Peegie as we traced the steps of his life history in the places we visited. The fact that our vacation was spent with dear friends and family - HIS family - made it all the more special. It's an amazing experience to be with someone you love as they rediscover their past and reconnect with people who dearly love them.

What follows is a pictorial retrospective of our trip. In many "Acts." Blogger is good, it's not great, but it IS free. Beggars can't be choosers, and beggars also cannot post more than four or five pictures within a single posting to Blogger.

The adventure began at 7:00AM on July 5th in our driveway. That's the love of my life in the photo at the top of this post...posing with his bike, all packed and ready for the long journey to West Bend, Wisconsin for the BMW International Motorcycle Rally. He gave himself a week for traveling; as it turned out, he only needed three days. Peegie had a big time consorting with all of the rally attendees and doing all things BMW motobike. He met several new friends and especially enjoyed being among the youngest attendees at the rally. It doesn't often happen anymore that we are the youngest anywhere!

After the rally, Peegie explored the Wisconsin shoreline and Washington Island. He also practically ate himself sick on cherries and, specifically, cherry butter...a cherry variety of the apple butter we southerners adore.

My adventure on motorbike began in Green Bay, Wisconsin...the most convenient rendezvous point, although possibly the most ironic destination we could choose. Not only do we thrive on the hot and humid languidity of summer in the tropics, we are also long-suffering fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The weather in Green Bay on the day we visited Lambeau Field belied its famous moniker "The Frozen Tundra" - site of so many heartbreaking Buccaneer losses in the snowdrift. Seriously, Lambeau Field is hallowed ground in the same tradition as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. I was happy to see Coach Curly standing guard. It was cool, but I'm still a Bucs fan so it was time for us to set out for parts north.
Despite being loaded down with gear and an extra human, Peegie did a magnificent job of handling the bike. He even did a little showing off by snapping the self-portrait at right. During the rally he took an advanced rider course wherein he learned, among other really important things, how to snap photos while riding a motorcycle.*
In this photo, we are riding along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, approaching Mackinaw City, our stopping point for the day. We were really happy in this photo because we had been riding for a long time, in and out of light, chilly rain. At this point sunshine was in full effect, the temperature was much warmer, the landscape was gorgeous and the promise of rest was only 20 minutes away. But, first, we'd have to cross the big, frightfully scary Mackinaw Bridge.
(*He did NOT, however, learn how to not drop the bike when coming to a stop at a red-light. On balance, I think the photo-snapping skill is more useful; after all, I do have two hiney cheeks to cushion a fall. )

Thursday, July 5, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part I.

Around here summer usually begins with a bang. A bang of a large wooden gavel, that is. As soon as someone says "adjourn sine die" and bangs a gavel on a rostrum, my (fried) brain immediately switches from "all legislature, all the time" mode to "VACATION!" mode. Not so this year. 2007 is a year of different. As soon as the gavel struck the rostrum to end the regular legislative session in May, "VACATION!" mode was postponed by six weeks to accommodate a special legislative session. In the middle of June.

Aside from the "most significant property tax relief in Florida history" (snore...), special session produced three most excellent things: 1. more comp time (aka more free vacation days); 2. a grateful boss willing to grant vacation requests, even on short-notice; and 3. a feeling that we got to start summer all over again. Not too shabby.

Within a week of returning from the sweat box that is Tallahassee in June, Peegie and I were happily on our way to the Florida Keys for a 10-day interlude at Quiet Water, my mother's house in Marathon.* Towing my mother's 19-foot Mako, "Sook" behind us, were were giddy with anticipation, looking forward to new adventures in the Keys. And what an adventure it was!
Sook proved to be the perfect boat for exploring the Keys. She performed flawlessly - except for one small incident involving a disconnected oil line, a plastic bag and a healthy dose of profanity. (Peegie: When all else fails, try profanity. Paige: Trust me, it works.) We visited old favorites: Sparky's Landing, Cabot's on the Water, Dockside Lounge; and discovered new favorites: Islamorada Fish Company, Wahoo's, Smuggler's Cove, the D.A.B. (aka "Dead Animal Bar" or Safari Lounge) at Caloosa Cove, and the Chiki Tiki at Burdine's Waterfront in Boot Key Harbor. All by boat! It was a good thing we brought along a substantial supply of boat stickers...

Our good friends, Jimmy, pictured at the far left with Peegie...

and near left with the catch of the day...
and Melissa, enjoying a frosty beverage in the picture to the right, joined us for two days of nonstop fun. We obligingly initiated them properly with boat drinks, and trips to Coffins Patch, the sand bar, Sparky's Landing, and the Brass Monkey. Oh, the Monkey, a last little piece of authentic Marathon. Peegie treated us to a yummy supper of BBQ chips and Chili Fritos, and it was a good thing! We needed the energy to fuel our groovy dance moves to the vocal stylings of Freddy & Co. And, making good on an earlier promise to Peegie, and despite being filled to the brim with liquid courage, I did NOT attempt to sing Mustang Sally with Freddy.

At left is the view of the southernmost point in the continental United States. Cuba is 90 miles due south of that painted concrete monument. As we arrived in Key West (two hours running time, with an hour stop at Looe Key for snorkeling and lunch), I wondered how Cuban refugees feel when they see the southernmost point from the water, knowing that if they step onto dry land they can stay in America.
It was a fleeting thought, however, as just in that moment my frosty beverage ran dry and, well, when in Key West...plus, it was getting later in the afternoon and the Schooner Wharf Bar was beckoning me to enjoy a mahi melt. And the sunset celebration was drawing near. And there were too many more fun adventures ahead of us...

*We did NOT go on vacation WITH my mother. She's a lovely person, and we delight in her company. She was not in residence at Quiet Water during our visit and we were happy for the alone time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

We're not supposed to be here. It's summetime, when the the living is supposed to be easy. My definition of "easy living" does not include a 10-day Special Session in Tallahassee. In June.

It seems like we never left; only five weeks have passed since the 2007 Regular Legislative Session adjourned sine die with a veritable fit of congratulatory back-slapping and self-praise for a (do-nothing) "effective" and "successful" Session.

The Session was so successful that the Legislature called itself back into Special Session (the second Special Session of the year, so far...) to enact "
the most significant and historic property tax relief in Florida history." I mean, really, why do in 60 days what you can put off to a 10-day Special Session?

This week promises to be loads of fun. We START floor session tomorrow at 6:00PM. I'm looking forward to all the compensatory time I will accrue this week. By the end of 10 days, my comp time balance will earn me at least three weeks of easy living.




Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Tropical Storm That Wasn't

It's all over. Actually, it was over before it even started. Tropical Storm Barry, the area of "disturbed weather" that sent The Weather Channel team into a frantic twirl of giddiness on Friday, limped across Florida today with so little oomph that all weather warnings were cancelled before the squall even made landfall. Whew! Dodged that bullet!

All kidding aside, I'm hoping all of the "tropical systems" we experience this season will be rainmakers a la "Tropical Storm" Barry and not horrific monsters like Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. That list is already too long.

Barry dumped more than 7 inches of much-needed rain on the Sunshine State, dousing rampant wildfires, clearing the atmosphere of the acrid smoke, and drowning the exceptionally large swarms (and when I say "swarms," I mean SWARMS!) of lovebugs that have invaded Florida during the past three weeks.

Closer to home, the rainshowers lovingly nourished our gorgeous, lush landscaping and my newly-planted herb garden. I may be just a wee bit crazy, but I SWEAR I heard our thick carpet of Bermuda grass singing a chorus of Halleluia and I just KNOW my herbs are greener and more perky since the rainshowers. Let's hope they stay happy - I can't wait to make like Ina Garten and Giada DiLaurentis and snip fresh herbs from my own kitchen garden for use in my culinary adventures. Yummy yummy yummy! Plus, Peegie says when I "get good at the gardening thing" I can dig up a plot of our backyard and plant all manner of vegetables. Oh Happy Day! A true kitchen garden! Oh, the tomatoes, the beans, the squash, the eggplant, the peppers, the watermelon...my Grandmama will be so proud! Of course, then, she will have to give me a refresher course in canning and freezing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Raining...


...and it's windy...but, contrary to what The Weather Channel would have you believe, we're not all going to die. As a matter of fact, most of us (including hundreds of weary firefighters who have spent the last two months bravely fighting massive, widespread wildfires...) are doing a happy dance in anticipation of Tropical Storm Barry. Sure, sure, it's the first day of hurricane season and, okay, yes, it IS a tiny bit unnerving that an actual Tropical Storm, with a name and everything!, has formed so early in the season. But, in the days before insta-news, Jim Cantore, and the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Tropical Storms were considered just slightly more serious than the summer squalls that typically roll in at 3:30 every afternoon. To be sure, weather can change quickly during hurricane season and it is important to pay attention and be prepared - with adequate non-perishable food, water, batteries, flashlights and gasoline for the generator. If you've lived in Florida for a while, you will add a well-practiced eye-roll to your hurricane supply kit.

Now, back to that happy dance...

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

On Champions and History

Say what you will about my Gator Mania...

Florida is the first school to hold National Championships in both college basketball and college football simultaneously. Moreover, the 2007 basketball championship is historic in its own right: this team is the first to win back-to-back championships with the same starting lineup. They dissed the NBA's riches for a shot to repeat as National Champs. They got what they wanted - and HOW!

It's a great time to be a Gator in Tallahassee. I can't WAIT for Gator Day at the Capitol!

Priceless

Ticket for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship - $112.50

Chipping in Gas Money for the Road Trip to the Game - $47.00

Celebratory Accoutrements, including good-luck kamikaze shots - $80

Cheering from the upper deck as your alma mater, the defending National Champion Gator Boys, slash down the court, shoot the lights out and demolish "THE" Ohio State University, leaving their drunk, camouflage mini-skirt wearing, "Hang on Sloopy"-singing fans in despair for the second time in four months - PRICELESS

All Hail the Mighty Gators, the best in basketball. Again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Couldn't Make Up This S*&T If If I Tried

Vignettes from 1003 Capitol this morning:

...health insurance salesman from Miami towering over a fellow aide in a (closely) neighboring cubicle and loudly explaining the "tricks and techniques" for conceiving a baby girl. Apparently, the trick is 1 TBSP. of vinegar dissolved in 1 Cup of water. I cannot bring myself to repeat in print the techniques. My eardrums are scorched. I can't afford to lose my eyesight, too.

...arrogant, pompous, puffed-out local official moving a chair into the conference room for a meeting. The chair in question? Removed from the workspace of an aide who, at that moment, was ON A PHONE CALL WITH THEIR BACK TURNED. Who DOES that?

WTF?!?!?!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's the Little Things

Despite arriving home at 8:25pm, after spending a full day traffic-copping, tour-directing, hand-holding, babysitting, playing fetch, performing damage control and all other manner of things that constitute the job description of a Chief Legislative Aide in the Florida Legislature, today has been a pretty good day. It's the little things that count, and there were three such things worth noting today.

Thing One: Mr. Earnest was my legislative shuttle van driver this morning. I remember him from my first stint in the legislature; but I was not sure he would remember me. It has been more than ten years since I first met Mr. Earnest, and he sees thousands of faces every session. I've always liked Mr. Earnest. He is a nice man with a shy smile but a quick "good morning" for all the weary souls who travel to the Capitol on the early morning shuttles. He knows everything about plants and flowers and I swear he has the direct-connect to Mother Nature. He can call a cold snap or a rainy day faster than Jim Cantore can sensationalize an area of disturbed weather located 400 miles off the coast of the Leeward Islands. Mr. Earnest made my morning when he said he was glad to see me back at the Capitol; he made me laugh out loud when he asked how many "dish gardens" I had already killed this Session. A fantastic start to a frantic Tuesday.

Thing Two: In a lot of places around the globe, spring arrives with nary a mention. Not so in Tallahassee. In the Capital City, the vernal equinox is heralded by a colorful explosion of blooming azaleas, petunias, pansies, daffodils and dogwoods. Oh, the dogwoods. They are so beautiful with their velvety white flowers that make me so happy! Spring is such a big deal in Tallahassee that "they" have created a festival to celebrate the season. The official
event occurs on March 31st, but today I was overcome by Springtime Tallahassee. I had to escape the Capitol, if only for lunch (a treat in itself...) I persuaded my boss to join me for lunch at Paradigm, located just two blocks from the Capitol, but a glorious ten-minute walk (each way!) in the warm springtime sunshine. Feeling positively restored by the lovely fresh air, a brief respite from the vortex and a yummy Fiesta Chicken Wrap, I wondered, "what could possibly ruin this afternoon?" Nothing, as it turns out.

Thing Three: A shocking, amazing, exciting turn of events in the Junior League of Fort Myers. Thanks, Ashley! I love you. Enough said.

Tomorrow promises to be another grueling day. Hopefully I'll have FOUR good things to write about tomorrow night.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

WTF?!?!!!

WTF? is my new favorite acronym. Not only does it remind me of the scene in Sideways where Jack yells at Miles for "going to the darkside," but it's also a very handy way to express frustration without cussing the cause of that frustration.

My fondness for this acronym has deepened over the last two days. It has become the title of my version of Things You Need to Be Told. I like to think the Etiquette Grrrls would be pleased with this new iteration of their seminal work on the subject. After all, the world is still the opposite of kind and gentle; and more than ever, people seem to be ill-mannered, inconsiderate, impolite - and completely oblivious to their bad manners.

The Florida Capitol is an excellent case-study in the proper use of WTF?, as there are many, many, many people who need to be told many, many, MANY things. Things like, "hey, snot-nose lobbyist, my desk is where I work, so please remove your fat ass from the top of my workspace." Or, "no, dumbass, clueless, illiterate, this is not the information desk; I am working here. Please read the directional signs to find your destination." Or take your pick from any of the following: "my desk is not a garbage bin; it is poor form to stand in another person's workspace and converse loudly on a cellular phone; it is inconsiderate to 'lobby' someone while said person is on a business call; it is plain rude - and a bit creepy! - to hover behind and over someone while they are working; I am working on a deadline, so, no, I can't just stop (for the 100th time today...) for 'just two minutes' to listen to your (non-important) issue." WTF?

Session is in full effect in the Florida Capitol. GRRRRRRRRR!!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Collective Joy

Recent posts on this blog have lamented my extended sojourns in Tallahassee for work at the Capitol. One very good thing about working in Tallahassee is 88.9FM, the local NPR station. I love, love, LOVE 88.9FM. Unlike 90.1FM in Fort Myers, 88.9FM broadcasts NPR programming 24/7. They don't stop talking at 9:00am and 7:00pm in favor of playing classical music. Oh, no. Their broadcast lineup includes all of my old favorites (Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, Car Talk and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me) and entices with "new" shows I didn't even know existed (Studio 360, The Splendid Table).

With all due respect to Terry Gross, my new favorite is the weekly broadcast from The Commonwealth Club of California. In the last three weeks, I've managed to coincide my departure from the Capitol with the broadcast of this wonderful intellectual conversation. Yesterday, I found myself particularly rapt listening to Barbara Erenreich discuss her newest book, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.

Publisher's Weekly offers this review: "It is a truism that everyone seeks happiness, but public manifestations of it have not always been free of recrimination. Colonial regimes have defined spectacles as an inherently 'primitive' act and elders harrumph at youthful exultation. Social critic and bestselling author Ehrenreich teases out the many incarnations of sanctioned public revelry, starting with the protofeminist oreibasia, or Dionysian winter dance, in antiquity, and from there covering trance, ancient mystery cults and carnival, right up to the rock and roll and sports-related mass celebrations of our own day. 'Why is so little left' of such rituals, she asks, bemoaning the 'loss of ecstatic pleasure.' Ehrenreich necessarily delineates the repressive reactions to such ecstasy by the forces of so-called 'civilization,' reasonably positing that rituals of joy are nearly as innate as the quest for food and shelter. Complicating Ehrenreich's schema is her own politicized judgment, dismissing what she sees as the debased celebrations of sporting events while writing approvingly of the 1960s 'happenings' of her own youth and the inevitable street theater that accompanies any modern mass protest, yet all but ignoring the Burning Man festival in Nevada..."

And there it was: the intersection of the "real" world and the "default" world.

I have been a Burner since 2003 and I would bet my last dollar that Barbara Ehrenreich has never set foot on the playa. To be fair, I haven't read her book; but I would bet she "ignores" Burning Man based on second-hand anecdotes and judgments of others. A popular phrase in our home is, "when you don't know, you're making stuff up." That is a common trap for non-Burners who talk about Burning Man. They don't know, so they make stuff up.

Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community where radical self-reliance is imperative and radical self-expression is revered and expected. Isn't that the point? Participation? Isn't that what drives rituals of joy?

During her conversation with The Commonwealth Club of California, Ms. Ehrenreich related a story about the origin of her own inhibitions around dancing. She seemed to say she became paralyzed by a fear of "not doing it right." She followed that account with a story about her young granddaugthers who, in marked contrast, "know how to do it." They dance and sing and giggle and act silly. They participate. In a way that brings them joy. The dedication of her book, "To Anna and Clara, who know how to do it" underscored for me the importance of participation and made me wonder: if her point is to bemoan the decline of rituals of joy, and to suggest that we as a culture rebel against attempts to suppress this innate quest, then why would she seem to suggest that only certain modern rituals of joy are worthy of our attention? That suggestion is not only contrary to her point about participation, it seems to be her way of saying, "you're not doing it right."

If the point is to pursue joy collectively, then I invite Barbara Ehrenreich to step outside the "default" world of "shoulds" and "ought to's" and join us in the "real" world. I know the 38,000 citizens of Black Rock City would welcome her home with a bear hug. And she may even learn to dance again.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, My Love!

I miss you, 143, xxoo

Birthdays and Milestones

Today is Phil's birthday. He is 41; though, to look at him, you would swear he is not a day older than 31 (and I'm not just saying that because I think he's the hottest man on the planet...)

Last year, we celebrated the big 4-OH! with a swanky party in Tallahassee. It was the first time Phil had been feted on his birthday and, since it WAS a milestone birthday, I went all out: yummy catering from M.A.D. About Food; boozy libations; sweet tunes from our favorite local band, The Recliners; and legions of friends and family surrounding the birthday boy with love and good wishes on his special day.

Today, on the day of the big 4-ONE! I am in Tallahassee and Phil is at home in Fort Myers. The key clause in that sentence is "Phil is at home in Fort Myers." Yes, HOME. In FORT MYERS. The irony of that reality struck me as I was driving north on the 75, heading to Tallahassee for yet another week of Special Session/committee meetings.

In the year since the "40 Is The New 30" milestone birthday party, more than just ages have changed. It was just before his birthday last year, during a trip to Key West, that Phil announced to me his intention to move to Fort Myers (from Tallahassee, natch), and that he had already begun house-hunting in earnest. He was so earnest, in fact, that he almost bought a house two days before we left for Key West. Whoa! Just a month after returning from that trip, we found "our" house and set about planning for cohabitation (the SAT word for "living in sin.")

Life is good; but, after 6 years and 6 months of living long-distance, some habits die hard. To wit, I'm still EXTREMELY protective of our time together (it's a vestige of that long, long time when we could only spend weekends together.) During the past four weeks, I've been home for exactly 6 days. That ratio of time takes me right back to our time in long-distance exile. Being apart for extended periods is never fun, but it is especially not fun when you have to be away from the one you love on their birthday. Thus my abject sadness at having to leave, yet again, and miss celebrating with Phil on the actual day of his birthday
. The more things change, the more they stay the same. A cliche, sure, but so very, very true in this case.

Still, I know how very lucky I am. When I return to Fort Myers Thursday night, I'm going back to a beautiful home, and the love of my life will be there, and all will be right in the world (at least until I have to leave again...).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Birthday Shout Out

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ED! We all love you and miss you.

Conjunctivitis

I have pink-eye. I shouldn't be surprised. I'm in Tallahassee this week for work and I always contract this particular plague at least once. It's an occupational hazard of working at the Capitol, a veritable vortex of disease. On any given day, thousands of people roam the halls spreading all manner of germy ickiness via handshakes and hugs, with nary a 3 oz. bottle of Purell in sight.

This year it happened early: this is just the first of six committee weeks in January and February, in advance of the Legislative Session that begins on March 6th and runs for nine weeks. Fifteen weeks of work in a petri dish. Oh joy!

Pink-eye is not fun, it's not at all pretty (especially when disease travels from the right eye and also infects the left eye...when that happens, I look like Kate Moss at the height of heroin chic) and it's expensive. In addition to the cost of the medicinal eyedrops, ridding oneself of the pesky pink-eye plague requires tossing every bit of makeup and every makeup tool that has been in contact with the virus. Lovely (read: pricey) Chanel products are not exempt. Sigh.

Fortunately, as a state worker, I have excellent healthcare benefits. Unfortunately, I haven't figured a way to force the Chanel counter to accept my insurance.