June 28, 2013

Middle names

As I sit here waiting for my kitchen floors to dry, I am surfing Pinterest, my favorite on-line obsession. Today I ran across this...

Nothing could be truer. Although my blog is named Karol Ann, no one ever calls me that. There was a time when, if I heard that called out loud, I kind of peed a little. The hair would stand on the back of my neck, and I would wait for what seemed an eternity for the proverbial "other shoe" to drop. My siblings and I were experts, I mean real experts, at covering our tracks, and staying under the radar. We knew from a very early age that mama don't play. I'm not saying we were angels, we weren't. Our fights were plentiful and legendary. We name-called and hair-pulled, and could spit in each other's eye like a champ. But when we acted out it was behind her back. And it was quiet. Or should have been. I can remember covering my brother's mouth so he couldn't scream out and blow our cover. I got my hand bit a few times pulling that, and if he couldn't bite, he'd push spit out onto my hand. Ah, the fun memories. If mom heard the commotion, this is what followed:  "Ellen Karolyn, ugh... Jan Annette... shit... KAROL ANN!" She'd have to go through all of our names and finally spit out the one whose butt was fixin to get kicked.

Mom was one tough cookie. She was born in the early twenties and was one of eleven children. She had five brothers close to her age and was, I understand a handful herself as a teen. She rolled with her brothers and didn't take crap from anybody. Ironically, she entered the convent as a teen to continue her education. In the 30's, school was free until the 8th grade. After that, it cost money. My grandparents were not wealthy and an extended education for eleven kids was out of the question. The convent offered a free education. She joined with her best friend Mary Ellen (my oldest sister's namesake). I imagine Clarissa Augusta (mom) and Mary Ellen got in plenty of trouble in the years they were there together. Mary Ellen stayed in the convent and was a nun until her death. Mom didn't. She came home to help out with the younger siblings and eventually joined the Navy. She met and married my dad (a Navy man) and we were raised by strong, disciplined, and loving parents. 

Jan and I visited mom recently in her assisted living home. She has a much softer look about her, and seems so frail and fragile now. My sibs see her every day, and I thank God for them for being there for her. They are dedicated children and love her dearly as do I. My distance from her home keeps me from seeing her often, but when I do, she smiles when I walk in the room. This trip, she was in the activity room playing Bingo, one of her lifelong pleasures. I sat quietly next to her as she concentrated on her 2 cards, waiting for each number to be called. Most of the time, she is in a state of confusion and isn't sure what she is supposed to be doing. Bingo seems to ground her and for that hour or so, she is rock solid.

 I'm so grateful you still recognize me, and are in a safe and happy place. I think of you often and laugh at some of our childhood shenanigans that we got away with. And cringe at the ones we didn't.
Love you, mom! from Karol Ann.

June 02, 2013

Tubing the Itchetucknee River

One of my all time favorite Florida things to do is tube the Itchetucknee. I've done it all my adult life, starting probably about the time I got my first car and became mobile. Tomorrow is my husband's 70th birthday - holy crap on a cracker - and I am surprising him with a trip down the river. We live about 45 minutes away, so it is a perfect way to do a watery Florida activity without having to travel to the beaches.  And since we are in central Florida, beaches are 2 hours away in either direction.

This river is spring fed so it remains a constant 72° all year long and is crystal clear. It flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. The current is strong enough to keep you floating without having to paddle, like the lazy river in Disney World. Only you can see live white-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons from the river. I have even seen otters and an occasional snake. Mostly you see dragonflies. They love to hitch a ride on some part of the boat or the tip of your toes, and float lazily along the river. There are a bazillion rental places around to rent tubes and one man boats, which is what most people do. Some bring canoes or kayaks. Some bring their own gear, but if you have ever traveled with a carload of kids and inflated tubes (we have), you'd know that the cranky factor goes way up before you even reach your destination. 

These people are in inner tubes. Ha! Inner tubes have holes in them which means your butt gets wet and cold. We rent one man boats which is, well, a boat... with no open middles, and that means you don't get wet. Theoretically.

Hubby and I each rent our own boats and this is how we roll... he helps me get in my boat at the beginning of the river, he gets in his, ties our boats together, and then we float together until the end where he helps me out of my boat. I can wear shorts and a t-shirt and don't have to wear a bathing suit, which makes me very, very happy. I carry an umbrella and have it open to protect my skin from the Florida sun. We look just like Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in African Queen. I even call him Charlie while we are floating. It's his duty to keep us out of the grasses so snakes can't get to me. Yes, I know they could drop out of trees, but I choose to pretend that can't happen. It is truly beautiful scenery, worth any risk of an up and close contact with any critter. Well, not really. If I ever have a snake drop in my boat, I promise you will see me on CNN.

After we get out of the river, a shuttle bus takes us back to our car which is parked in a picnic area, and tomorrow we will be picnicking. It's the perfect plan, and a perfect way to spend your 70th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Pieface.