From Meeting to Marco – My Writing Group

IMG_20160330_174106181_HDROnce upon a time, about 13 years ago, I was an aspiring children’s book writer. On my journey through the world of writing and publishing, I discovered some of the best friends a person could have. It all began on a forum.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: SCBWI forum to be exact.

In the huge, international world of writers, by some random quirk of fate, six of us found each other, and we’ve been close friends and critique partners ever since. Linda Stanek lives in Ohio, Jen Funk Weber lives in Alaska, Linda Covella (we call her Elsie to differentiate her from the other Linda) lives in California, Dale Ibitz lives in Connecticut, Mary Beth Schewitz jumps between Chicago and Florida, and I jump between northern and western NY.

A group does make one stronger. In writing and real life. This week, I have a really special treat. Three of the six of us were able to wend our ways down to Mary Beth’s house on Marco Island in Florida, along with our spouses. We got here the day before yesterday, and I’m blown away by the beauty of this place. There are times when we are out and about, but we women always feel the call of the keyboard and find ourselves sneaking off for a bit of writing.

I hope you don’t mind humoring me by not getting upset by my impending influx of posts this week 🙂 There are a lot of thoughts I want to get out, and lots of sights I want to share with my loved ones.

This is post is part of my leisurely week of writing while on vacation.

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From 29 to 82

IMG_20160329_06221930129. That’s what the temperature gauge on my car read at 2:30 Tuesday morning as Chris and I began our trek to the Buffalo airport to catch an early morning flight to Fort Lauderdale where our friends would meet us and bring us to their house on Marco Island. It was a nice journey to the city. With our unseasonably warm winter, it was a relief to not have to worry about lake effect snow on the way and we marveled how nice it was to not have to pack coats. That ease-of-travel continued the rest of the day.

We had to scramble to get our backpacks out of the back of the car because the airport shuttle bus saw us and was sitting there waiting for us to load. We breezed through security in spite of the fact that out tickets did NOT have have the TSA-pre-check option printed on them (my second trip in a row where they “randomly” selected for me to not have that option. Arg.) Then we headed to the Delta gate where we discovered they were passing out granola bars and cookies to passengers. In case we didn’t have time to grab breakfast. How sweet is that? And pretty much unheard of in this day and age of airline cutbacks.

The dream trip continued as we sat on the east side of the plane and got to watch the sun rise. Magnificent. Yay, God! You did it again! Thanks for that eye-treat! Being a person who can sleep anywhere, I napped for the rest of that trip, waking up only to have some peanuts and tomato juice and a bit of a yak with the nice man beside me. In Atlanta we only had to transfer one terminal and easily got to our next plane about five minutes before loading. Got another nice nap on that flight, too. Along with another pack of peanuts and some orange juice.

We landed in Fort Lauderdale (where the temp was in the 80s) and decided to go find our friends from Alaska who were landing in the terminal next to ours. Chris and I momentarily forgot that I tend to be directionally impaired on a regular basis, and we let me lead. It was a bit toasty out there, and after a five-minute walk we realized we should have gone right instead of left when we left the terminal. Oops. The good news is that it ended out being somewhat of a sauna experience along with our exercise. Quite the spa.

After a bit of doing, we met up with Jen and Mike then texted MaryBeth and David who were picking us up. As Jen commented, they could find us easily since we all were the once obviously overdressed. I thought I was off with jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirt wrapped around my waist, but Jen had me beat in her turtle neck and wool socks.

Next we went off to lunch. I’ll stop here ‘cuz this is getting a it long.

 

 

Grub, Good Friends and Gators

IMG_20160329_155644421Before we headed from the airport to the house, Mary Beth and David took us to a dock where we had some lunch. The atmosphere was casual, and we enjoyed watching the teens next to us feeding their dog then carrying him onto a boat before they motored off.

It was fun reading your comments on my Which Would You Choose? post the other day. That image came from the menu at the restaurant. I enjoyed grilled cheese on sweet bread, bisque and some fried scallops and clams.

After lunch we headed towards our new home. I truly tried to stay awake, but drifted off again. I woke up to find that David and
Mary Beth were taking us to a spot where we could see alligators.IMG_20160329_161132468That was pretty awesome. Not gonna lie.

We also saw a woodpecker, gorgeously-colored fish and some wild-looking trees. I’m not used to the Spanish moss on trees. It’s beautiful!!!

The funny/fantastic part of our perfect day of travel was that it poured! Yet only when we were in the car. Every time we got out to eat or walk or whatever, the skies cleared.

I was feeling pretty dang blessed.

We wrapped up the day by watching the sunset on the patio and savoring a supper filled with cheese, crackers, melon, wine and lots of laughter.

 

Docks and Dolphins

deckHow am I doing with the alliteration on my titles? Somehow this week seems to be lending itself to that… I was pretty tired by the time we hit the hay Tuesday night and had grand plans for sleeping in. Apparently my body defined that as 7:30 am. Why, I do not know.  Continue reading

Holy Mackeral! I Love Fishing!

The things I discover after all these years…Thursday broke at the crack of 7:30, my body and brain still not comprehending the concept of sleeping in. But that’s okay. It gave me the luxury of writing time before the others awoke. Mary Beth had gotten up before me, but she was at the stables since her horse, Cal, was getting shoed that day.

By the time she came home, the others were awake so we packed some food and headed to the dock to load onto the boat. It was fun seeing different personalities emerge in the unique way we made sandwiches. Chris and Jen are quite meticulous, and layer everything just so. Jen added some basil flair. Mike wraps his cheese on the outside of his meat and cheese sandwich, and I opted for Peanut butter and butter (a favorite of mine in spite of the fact that one of my co-workers had just publicly labeled this delicacy as one of the strangest things she had ever eaten. For the record, I find that fact strange).

We headed out to the Gulf of Mexico, stopping to get some shrimp for bait along the way. There was a house boat next to us on the dock, and it had cool art on it. There was a chair I could imagine Chris making, and some people designs that were reminiscent of Jen’s Kokopelli people.

Although I grew up on Long Island, I had more of a beach/sand upbringing than an actually out on boats upbringing. And while we have sailboats on Lake Ontario, I’m not really used to motor boats. We kicked the motors on and flew, and I loved it. When I was standing, it felt like snowboarding as  I adjusted my balance according to wave, speed and turn. And I really loved the wind on my face as I looked around at jumping fish, playing dolphins and diving birds.

We anchored and started fishing. I remembered most of my lessons from the day before. About one minute after casting my line, I got a bite. And it scared the heebie jeebies out of me as I hauled in the mackerel. It was huge (in my opinion), wiggly and mad! Everyone was reminding me to stay away from the teeth.

Our hosts were impeccable (as they seem to be in every arena), and they kindly and calmly walked me through the steps of staying safe as they got the fish off the hook and into our ice bin. We spent hours hauling in trout, pompano and mackerel as well as some ladyfish, blue racers and jacks (which we didn’t keep). Poor Jen was feeling a bit sub-par so she rested while we hauled, but she was a great sport and is willing to try again. Maybe with some meds ahead of time.

After a few hours we went back to shore.

We were humored as we motored in to find a crow yakking away to a stationary carved owl that guarded the marina. It had a swiveling head so we wondered if the bird thought the owl was real.

The guys cleaned the fish while we girls cleaned the boat.

We headed back to the house and had a swim and soak in the hot tub before eating our catch from the day.

hot tub

Lionel and Sheila (David’s parents) joined us once again, regaling us with tales from life in South Africa, where they grew up. Another delightful day on Marco Island.

dinner

 

 

 

Friday Fun in Florida

We saw Whelk eggs, a bald eagle (no pics of that), lots of shells, sandpipers, other birds, and I got to swim in salt water for the first time in way-too-long. Not too much to report on that day. It was simply relaxing and beautiful:

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Bobcats, Panthers, Tigers and Coons

I didn’t see the bobcat that was kitty-corner (see what I did there?) to the house we stayed in, but Mary Beth and Mike saw its tail as it headed into the bushes away from us. So I think that counts. Mary Beth regaled us with tales of other sightings in her neighborhood–down by the docks and right in her own driveway as she gardened. So cool!

On Saturday we decided to head to the sanctuary where a woman had been surprised by a panther a few weeks prior.

As we headed out, we stopped off to meet Cal (short for Calusa) on the way. Jen and I have heard a lot about Mary Beth’s horse over the years so it was a treat meeting him live. And what a beauty he is!

Jen MB and Cal

 

So we didn’t see the panther, either, but saw a ton of other awesome wildlife specimens along the way.

I was reminded of the limitations of my cell phone camera when I realized that my pics of several birds, great frogs, a huge alligator, a smaller alligator, a lizard, and a huge snake didn’t come out. But the beauty is still there in my mind.

I did, however, get a pic I love. Why is it that raccoons are so adorable in the wild, and not-so-much when they are in your garbage can at home?

Coon babies

Chris, being the goof-ball he is (I saw completely endearingly ‘cuz I love that man!) “rescued” sunglasses from the swamp and an alligator. The alligator became a group effort, as you can see in the clip below. Later, he gave it to some kids, and they happily clacked it ahead of us, scaring off pretty much all wildlife for a while 🙂 But their smiles were worth it.

Chris got Alligator

We were enjoying nature so much it took us about three hours to walk about a mile. We had to hurry through the last bit since they were closing. Ah well, it was still amazing.

Mary Beth mentioned several times that you don’t need much imagination to fabricate stories in Florida. Apparently bizarre things happen all the time. We witnessed this as we were going down the road. I looked out the car window to find myself almost face-to-face with a tiger. That was a bit startling, and definitely very cool. The tiger seemed very relaxed and happy on its perch.

Eventually we parted ways on the highway, and we continued into the main part of Marco for some dinner at the Snook Inn. There was a 45 minute wait so we yakked on the dock. Remind me to never put my back to the water again. I felt a splash and heard the sound of a pretty big animal. We searched for it, and my friends saw a tail a bit off shore. I had been splashed by a manatee, but never saw it. What a treasure I missed! But still fun to know it was there.

I had a grouper sandwich for dinner and loved it. I don’t know why I suddenly like seafood after 44 years, but I’m just thankful. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized it’s a bit like wine. Every bite has a fun story behind it, and each nibble is unique. Flavors and textures swirl around the mouth and tongue making every morsel a new adventure. How have I missed out on this so long?

  • If you love nature you might want to see the extended version of the coon watching –