Sweet “Home” Alabama

Yes more-than-faithful readers, its time for the next installment of my Semi-Annual blog. I’d say, “Buckle Up”, but that would imply a vehicle’s forward movement. That has not happened for one hundred days since Lynn, Bella and I arrived in Foley, Alabama for what was supposed to be a one month visit. Two days after Christmas, we rolled into Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, thinking that on February 1 we’d set sail for Galveston, Texas. Silly wabbits…

On Sunday morning, January 10, Lynn received a call from her mother and learned that her father Jack, was in the hospital. The night before, while heading to sleep after watching three Wild Card football games, Jack slipped on the tile floor in their Florida home. Hitting his head and torso on a heavy piece of furniture he suffered four compound rib fractures plus a punctured and collapsed lung. An ambulance brought him to one hospital and then he was quickly transferred to a Level IV Trauma Center about 40 minutes from their home.

Lynn flew from Pensacola to Sarasota the very next day. What was supposed to be a one week visit turned into three weeks. Although I’ve lost count, I think she’s made 4 or 5 return flights to support her parents. Rather than continue with our Western travel plans, we decided to stay put so that Lynn could best help Jack and Marianne. It’s been quite ironic to see my wife turn into the frequent flyer that I used to be. Lynn now has her favorite airport bagel shop, is familiar with Pensacola TSA agents and has figured out how to wrangle first class upgrades and open seats next to her. While I polish the wood work and scrub tile floors. I’ve gained an appreciation for what Lynn went through when I travelled so much for work. We both agree that it’s easier to stay amused or at least occupied when you are the traveler.

Due to the damage to his ribs and lungs, Jack was placed on a ventilator. Due to issues like elevated heart rate and blood pressure, they were unable to wean him off the vent and he remained on it for eight weeks. After the first three weeks, it was medically necessary to transition him to a ventilated tracheotomy and that was in place for nine weeks. Finally, just yesterday, the doctors were able to remove the trach and he is finally breathing regularly on his own for the first time in eighty eight days. It seems that he is finally making some progress, but he has a long road to recovery. Football season has turned to baseball…Marianne traded their Honda Accord for a CRV, which will be much easier for Jack to get in and out of…her iPhone 6 is now an iPhone 12… and she’s again spoiled with hair styling / coloring from Lynn! (And, you should see the beautifully shiny tile floors and wood surfaces of our rig!)

Bella Terra Motorhome Resort (Bella, the kitten’s namesake) has been accommodating to our ever-changing reservations needs. We are now on our fourth site here as we’ve had to move around in their busy Winter season. After advice from Cummins, the manufacturer of our engine, a few weeks ago we took the rig out for an hours drive to get all of the fluids and engine / transmission parts moving again. We were advised to fill the tank completely with fuel to reduce the risk of getting algae in the fuel system. Since our first annual maintenance last June, due to Covid / hunkering down in Northern Michigan and now Jack’s situation, we have logged just 3,000 miles on the engine (as compared to 12,000 the first year). Bella Terra remains our favorite place to stay. Daily, the thought of ownership here enters our minds. Like a friend suggested though, this is the right resort, but not the right part of the country to own a lot. I’m done with living in a hurricane / tornado region and we’ve lived our entire lives on the East Coast. We want to explore out West and having a “home base” out West makes much more sense than Alabama. But we SO like it here!!!

We purchased a stainless steel 19 inch Flame Genie wood pellet fire pit and talk about a roaring fire! It’s smokeless, until it isn’t but Lynn finally got it figured out. For $5.00 per 40 pound bag of pellets, its a bargain and we don’t come inside smelling like a campfire.

After some extremely tense weeks of Bella and her kitten claws versus Newmar interior fabrics, she had a trip to the vet. Out came a slightly more mellow kitten with front paws that could co-exist with leather and fabric (and my psyche). Our scrawny / scruffy brewery walk-in stray is morphing into a beautiful long-ish haired kitten. She’s sprouted tufts of fur on the bottoms of her paws and tufts behind her ears that are growing into almost a mane around her head. Unless the rig is in motion, she’s not (yet) a lap cat and she still pisses me off squeezing behind the dashboard and behind the sleeper / sofa, but she always manages to wiggle out. We have a 10” x 14” screened porch on our current site and she’s fallen in love with spending time out there. Some days, she’s lounging on the porch for 5+ hours, watching the numerous mockingbirds, herons and geckos on and around our lot. She’s fascinated with water, hopping up on the bathroom sink and swiping her paws through the water, over and over and over and over again. Lynn’s even conditioned Bella to stand somewhat comfortably in the shower while Lynn shampoos and rinses her with the handheld sprayer. I still miss Spangler very much, but Bella is wonderful and I’m so glad that she found us. The weirdo’s latest adventure is playing hide and seek on the screen porch when we come to fetch her.

Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort remains our favorite RV destination, with the Sun Resort in Petoskey, Michigan in second place. One of the nice parts about being here for so long is not having to use the GPS to find the local grocery store or gas station. It’s even nice when the check out person at the local Publix recognizes me behind the red, white and blue face mask and asks how I’m doing. Almost feels like home (whatever that is). We can leave our bikes unlocked at night and the sky is dark and clear and it is quite quiet and tranquil at night.

We still eat mostly at home but occasionally get out to eat. We hit Acme Oyster House, a N’Awlins-based seafood / creole restaurant recently and enjoyed Chargrilled Oysters and some crawfish tails. We’ve visited Lamberts a few times, home of “Throwed Rolls” and their catfish is the best I’ve ever tasted. At this zany spot, young people push carts of double-sized rolls. If you want one, just put up your hands and inbound, they arrive through the air. As soon as you sit down, they bring complementary fried okra which I adore. Then, a few days later, our sodium levels return to normal.

We’ve also visited the quirky and unique Flora-Bama for live music on Sunday afternoons. This sprawling establishment, constructed in 1964 is literally ON the Florida / Alabama state lines and offers five stages for country, rock, dance and beach music. The thousands of bras hanging from the rafters suggests that its a wild ride here at night, but we are the matinee crowd. By the patrons ages that I see, I’m not quite sure if I want to see the sweet old lady from Alabama slink out of her sling shot bra. Just sayin’.

We’ve seen lows of 20 degrees two nights in February and despite my alarm every two hours, our outside spigot froze. Normally in this kind of weather, we’d unhook our water hose and use our 105 gallons of fresh water, but as luck would have it, the water pump died a few weeks earlier. So, I wandered out at 23 degrees at sunrise with my hair dryer and electrical cord and thawed out the spigot and all was good. Alabama had severe tornados in March, but thankfully for us, they were a few hours to the North.

Lynn and I both received dose one of the Moderna vaccine two weeks ago. She got hers while visiting with her Mom and Dad. I had to drive an hour to Pensacola to get mine, but it was time well spent. Lynn had no side affects, but I had four days of a moderate headache and a sore neck. Some people have told me that people with reactions to Dose 1 probably had Covid earlier and despite my negative antibody results in March of 2020, I have my suspicions that I left the deplorable Havasu Regional Hospital with something worse than pneumonia. So, this year, I received vaccines for the flu, tetanus booster, shingles, pneumonia and the China flu. I’m really hoping that shot two on April 22 does not knock me out.

As most of you following this blog have figured out, the last 18 months have been difficult, mental health-wise. I was almost fully tapered off Lexapro, and down to 5MG every other day when I again really felt “off”. My emotions were not aligned to the situations at hand. So, at my PCP’s advice, I RELUCTANTLY agreed to remain on 5MG daily. A few weeks later, I was feeling more balanced. While I detest having my mood altered by a pill, I remain on a small dose. While my original trauma has been fully resolved, therapy has a funny way of bringing out other stuff to the surface. Christina, my wonderful psychologist, asked me to read a book. I took the easy way out and picked it up on Audible and it continues to blow my mind. The title is The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD and it is heavy, deep, complicated and technical…but at 15 hours long, I’ve listened to it twice, going on my third time. For anyone that has suffered military, childhood or other traumas, this book is to me, a masterpiece.

For the past eleven weeks, Christina and I have been doing (well, I’m doing…she’s coaching) something called CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy). It’s work….it’s not fun….and frustratingly for my brain, I don’t quite understand it. But, I trust Christina to the fullest extent, so I press on. Embarrassingly, I used to sort of scoff at mental health issues and diagnoses, thinking, “Come on! Deal with it and get over yourself”. Talk about seeing things full-circle. I could imagine all sorts of maladies affecting me, but not mental health. Never in a million years. So, its humbling and eye-opening for sure. Hopefully, I can get back to feeling more joy in things, enjoy single moments and begin to figure out who I am in this stage of my life. (And…blog more)

Talk to you later…

Here’s this morning’s sunrise from our site…

Lynn’s 2 cents – These last few months have been a challenge to say the least. This is the first time my family has had to deal with a potentially life threatening issue. Having my dad in the hospital for the last 12 weeks has been a rollercoaster. It is amazing how the smallest things, like opening his eyes or speaking his first words after 10 weeks, bring about pure joy. Then there is the leaking feeding tube, bed sores and constant lung infections to bring me back down to earth. I am happy to report that he finally seems to be out of the woods. We are looking forward to transferring him to a rehab facility soon so he can hopefully get some of his strength back. For now though – one day at a time.

12 Comments on “Sweet “Home” Alabama

  1. thanks for the update. So glad Lynn’s dad is improving. Prayers for continued improvement.

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  2. Wow what a roller coaster you guys have been through!!! Praying Lynn’s did continues to recover! Stay strong and Jim I always need a house keeper if u need a hob!

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    • For a guy that utilized a cleaning service for 15 years, I absolutely love cleaning windows. But, that’s about it. Thanks for the kind thoughts!!

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  3. I really love the flow of your writing! I have heard about that book, I think I even own it 😂……guess I need to stop and read it!!

    So glad to hear things are finally looking up! Prayers to you both always!!

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  4. Jim and Lynn,
    Hope things continue to improve with your family…so challenging.
    The site you are at looks amazing….and, as always….you make me feel that I am beside you….images are great!
    Continue good thoughts for all….look forward to next installment.
    Thinking I need to read that book!

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    • Thanks for the sweet words, Janice. As much as I’d been hoping to re-find the love of photography and start using my D750 and lenses, everything’s been iPhone for a while. The book is an intense, heady read (my case, listen) but every time I pick up again, I’m captivated. When I asked my therapist for other recommendations, she explained that for this subject matter, nothing she knew of compared. As an aside, lots of New England is woven into the book as the author was a lead at Mass General and now resides in Stockbridge. Other than the closing notes, which I thought showed some political biases, it’s in the Top 5 books I’ve ever read (Illusions, Jonathon Livingston Seagull, Tao Te Ching are in that list). Your comment about feeling you are right besides me really hits me in all the best ways. Hoping to incorporate more of my old wittiness / cleverness / irreverence and then I’ll know I’m back.

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  5. Love the update and the site looks magnificent! So peaceful and relaxing. Stay well and strong both of you! Hope you can make it to upstate NY one of these days! Would love a big ole hug from you both and would love to share a drink and catch up.

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    • Thanks Sandy. It’s been too long since we stood awkwardly in Babci’s living room thinking how to toast each other. There’s so much to see out West, but we will hit the North East and upstate NY is one of the key aspects. XO

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