Thursday, February 4, 2010

Old Friends are Still the Best!

Another lovely day in paradise and lunch with a friend. This time my former boss, who moved here when our company tanked 18 months ago. While the rest of us scrambled for new jobs in our "old" city, she and hubby took off for warmer climes and moved to Florida. They do have family here, including a mother who is happy to help look after two active little ones, but it also gave them a chance to start over with new priorities and new plans.

In the past, hubby had been Mr. Mom, while she was VP of our corporation and worked like it. Later as the children grew older, he joined us as a part time employee, while still coordinating the family schedule. Now, they have switched jobs. It is he who works full time outside of the home, and she who coordinates it all and spends the extra time with the kids. A win for both, I would say!

We met for lunch and a long stroll in Downtown Disney - only the mouse folks would find a way to provide food and shopping in a Magic Kingdom-like setting, so that one could enjoy buying over-priced food and trinkets.

It was fun to catch up after more than 18 months of the occasional Facebook exchange and a few brief emails. Her life has changed way more than mine, but I enjoyed hearing her new insights and seeing her so relaxed with her life and her plans. I was never sure that she would be happy as the stay-at-home mom, but she has carved out a new niche for herself, just as she did years ago when promoted to VP. A new side for this multi-faceted woman, who now collects projects to do, like she used to collect proposals to write.

Perhaps the most important thing she told me tho, was of her new appreciation of her husband and his work. After years of being the primary bread-winner, she has a new respect for his role as main provider, and for how hard it is for the single income family. Like many others she is learning to live within her means in this new economy, and to find that it really fits well and is a comfortable place to be. Another Wise Woman.

And, I really did need those mis-matched socks!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Livin' Easy in the Tropics

Life really is different in Florida. There's a different quality to the air, to the sun, and to the flora. For those of us who live north of Florence, South Carolina, it's like living in a dish garden on steroids - big time steroids!

Think of any dish garden you've had, or the ubiquitous indoor plants in your office lobby - you know philodendron spilling over something, a few palms or dracaena somewhere, an umbrella plant stuck in the back... now multiply that by 1,000 and you have Florida. Here in the Orlando area they are trees - you know Umbrella tree, philodendron that four feet tall, dracaena trees, and those little 10-inch palms are 20 feet tall.

In central Florida you can throw in some pine trees, but as you go farther south there of fewer of them and more types of palms. Likewise the blooming plants jump out and surprise you. I know Crown-of-Thorns, just not as a three-foot tall foundation plant! It boggles the mind and adds to the feeling of magic that exists well outside the Magic Kingdom.

We drove from Naples to Orlando on Monday in the rain, but when we arrived it was still warm enough to sit on the porch and enjoy the warm, rainy afternoon. Children were playing in the swimming pool outside, and I saw plenty of adults coming from the heated pool, too. Yesterday it poured rain all morning, while Mitchell slept in. I grabbed the opportunity to pamper myself and sought out a pedicure nearby. Was it the vacation spirit, or really the best one I've ever had? It's all in the perception!

When it cleared up after lunch we drove to nearby Lake Wales to visit the Bok Tower and Gardens. Very interesting, but you will have to visit It's My Garden next week for the details and pictures.

Back in Orlando, we spent the early evening scoping out the roads to the various places we need to go today and tomorrow for the conference. Our first event is tonight, so we only have one more day to enjoy the sun, and we plan to make the most of it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What is it about one's "old" friends that makes them so special? I guess it's the long shared history, but it's that ability to walk into the room and pick up right where we left off that makes the relationship so special.

We just spent four days with Elizabeth and her husband in Naples, Florida. Altho we had only seen them a few nights over the past few years, it was like a continuation of our last visit nearly four years ago and for the two of us it was a continuation of a friendship of 45 years. We have been friends since college - rooming together from time to time and staying in touch all those years by mail, phone, email and cell. I never thought of "us" in terms of modes of communication before, but our first summers were spent in letter-writing - certainly not the expense of calling long distance!

Naples is a lovely city. One can see how the early Italian settlers thought it resembled their city of Napoli, and modern builders have done all they can to enhance that look. Mediterranean buildings predominate in all the new development, and even many of the older structures are painted a light terra cotta or the pastels that we all consider Floridian.

It's a lovely place in other ways, too, with little ponds and pools everywhere and the wonderful variety of palms and plants that grow in delightful profusion. When it sun is shining it's the kind of light that sparkles and makes everything glow - not Virginia light at all! Altho we were there in the coldest, most winter month there were still plenty of lovely plants to see. I'll post photos from the botanical garden at It's My Garden in the next couple of days.

We had time enough to start exploring the area this trip, with a visit to the county museum as well as the botanical garden. The museum is a charming little space on the grounds of the county administrative center. They have collected historical structures from various cultures and time periods and brought them together into an historical village surrounded by small ponds and shaded walks. There's an early train engine and a very well done exhibit on the history of Collier County, Florida. The most interesting exhibit, tho, is about the Big Cypress Swamp - which is next to (and perhaps considered by many to be part of) the Everglades. If you check a map, you will see that about half of Collier County is Everglades and Big Cypress, so they play a huge role in the decision-making and life of that county. The exhibit contains both photos and a great video of the swamp. It explains the unique ecological system found there and its role in keeping many plants and animals alive in our world. Made me want to take a walk (slog?) in the swamp!

The highlight of our trip - eventwise - was a concert in the downtown park by the Naples Concert Band. Elizabeth's husband is an accomplished drummer, who not only played, but also gave me my first drum lesson - theory, not practice!

The true highlight was, of course, spending time with my old friend - catching up on her family and seeing her new home, but touching base on all those things that women do. Asking the hard questions about health or plans for the future, relearning how tough the band is that unites us, and knowing that we will do this again. But until we do, being sure that our hearts will lie close together ... even at at distance.

Now, off to Orlando for a conference. More tomorrow.

Technical note: Cannot get photos to upload properly this morning. It may be a weak wireless connection or just the technology gods are unhappy with me this morning. So, no pretty buildings or palms today. Maybe tomorrow.