Owl Haven

I love our new apartment. Condo by the beach. Whatever you want to call it. I call it home.

The exterior is straight-up 70s with a fake, jagged flagstone walkway and mezzanine. (We call it the mezzie, lol) It’s sculpted or stamped cement with painted grout lines. This collection of condos has a horseshoe layout, but horseshoes are lucky, right? Brady Bunch styling, dirty-brown doors, flat roof with shingled, shallow gables. It looks like any roof from a 70s fast food eatery or miniature golf/arcade complex. But it’s surrounded by lush, well-kept palm trees and tropical flowers. Well-trimmed bushes and exotic vegetation. Rock garden with multiple pristine spiral-shaped shells. AND when you walk through that dirty-brown door? The entire interior has been remodeled. New carpet, new appliances, new vanities, new bathtub/shower. New ceiling fan. New granite countertop in the kitchen on top of??? The same old cabinets. Wah-wah. The cabinets are well-worn, but clean-ish. I can work on that. Who has dazzling cabinets? “Put your crap in and shut the door! Worry about it later…or not at all,” is what I tell myself. (Which is something I never tell myself!) Everything else is too beautiful to care. I am not complaining!! Plus, the beach. Sigh. I’m not going to be in my kitchen enough to care what the cabinets look like inside.

I love the old feel and design. New apartments don’t feel like a home. They feel like a big rectangle-ly box with lights. A space that you must carve out on your own. Some people love that. And I get it. But new apartments come with problems, too. Like badly installed plumbing and sinks. Like thermostats that tell YOU what the temperature should be. Like drunk people at the pool. Most Missourians that I’ve met assume Florida is one, big Margaritaville where everyone relaxes on the beach or at the pool with a lady cocktail, tiny umbrella skewering multiple citrus fruits and olives. They pretend to be Floridians by the pool, downing mas cervezas and burning their skin until they’re a dark-golden, fried Twinkie. They don’t do that here. At least on our beach. We go out after 4 pm. We wear sunscreen. We don’t drink on the beach. And we don’t have any tiny umbrellas. It’s usually just our little family of 3 on the beach. It’s nice. All to ourselves.

New apartments come with noisy neighbors. I haven’t heard one person make a peep here. Except a few workmen during the day downstairs. I’m sure it’s different during the busy season. But we have 6-8 months of peace.

At my old apartment, I had a rude upstairs neighbor who used to dance on my head. Dance is too graceful a term for what she did up there. It’s nice not having Twinkle Toes on top of me.

Our apartment building feels like a summer camp dorm on a lake. When all the campers have left. I feel like a kid again on vacation. I feel like I did when we stayed at the Owl Haven Motel in Stockton, MO.

The Owl Haven. Kitchenettes. Wood paneling. Outdoor pool! The Owl Haven still stands.

We stayed at The Owl Haven a few times. Once or twice as a kid, once when I was a bit older, a teen.

I loved it. It was one of the few times that my dad would venture on vacation. He usually had 4-6 weeks off during the year as he was a long-tenured diesel mechanic. He worked at the same company for 25 years. It was a hard job, but came with a few perks. One was a good amount of vacation time.

I think my dad loved fishing. He at least loved being near water. Maybe love is too strong a word for a man like my dad. He enjoyed it. As much as a man with 2 young, noisy kids could enjoy the logistics of making our way to the lake.

It was a 2-3 hour drive. Most Kansas Citians (and KC suburbians), at some point or another, make their way south to enjoy the lakes in Missouri. Truman, Bagnell Dam, Osage Beach, Ozarks, and Stockton. I never heard many kids talk about Stockton as their vacation retreat, but as I said, we went there more than once.

Beautiful. Serene. Not a lot of people. That’s what my dad liked. Not a lot of people. He liked having elbow room. At the dinner table and in life. We moved to 14 acres when I was 5 so Dad could have some elbow room.

He liked being outside, but he also liked A/C. He kept the air conditioner so low that all you had to do, if you were too hot in the summer, is run inside, lay your face down near the floor vent and let the air blow on your hair, teeth and eyeballs for about a minute. Good as new. And he kept the shades drawn most of the time. Our dark-wood paneling and drawn curtains made the inside look like…well, The Owl Haven! lol

The Owl Haven offered an outdoor pool. A coveted asset of the 70s and 80s. In-ground complete with a diving board and slide. For a south-Missouri motel to have such a delightful treat was mind boggling. How? Me want.

My mother allowed us to go to the pool if our older brother went with us. Can we go now?

Can we go now?

Mike?? Can we go now?

We finally went.

Within minutes of being in the pool. I threw up. In the pool. I don’t know why, but I did. It could have been because I just had lunch? It could have been because I usually swallowed a bunch of pool water on accident? It could have been because I was so excited and keyed up for swimming that I bubbled over? I don’t know.

I wasn’t the kind of kid who threw up. Quite the opposite. If it went down, it stayed down. Forever. A lot of food went down, too.

I hated throwing up. Still do. The awful feeling of knowing your insides are about to come outside. I fight it. I fight it for hours. But this urp came out of nowhere.

I just remember everyone being completely disgusted. Mainly because it was chunky. Sorry.

Mike made me sit out for a while. THAT was excruciating! I’m very near a pool and I can’t go in. What a living hell. Cool, clear water. Slide. Diving board. Water, pools and swimming were some of my favorite things. Especially water you could see through.

I didn’t so much like swimming in a pond. We had a pond at home. Turtles. Frogs. Spiders! One summer, our pond had hundreds of dead spiders curled up and floating on the surface. Very strange. But I still went swimming. That should tell you how much I like swimming. I swam with hundreds of dead spiders. Gah!

I eventually got back in the pool. Perhaps when my mom finally arrived. The cold water took her breath away when she dunked herself and her hair back. I thought she had hurt herself. No. Just cold.

“It’s cold??” I thought.

I never felt sick and I never threw up again that day. So strange.

My mom would make balonie sandwiches in the kitchenette. We would take a johnboat out for fishing on the lake. Smell of gas from an outboard motor on the water. Watching Dad steer the boat. Being quiet and watching the trees on the shoreline. It was peaceful. Fun. An adventure. And I feel like that all over again at our little Owl Haven.

Thank you, God, for such an opportunity. I’m so happy.

apartment
There’s that fabled, gabled flat-top roof, but look at that sky! Sigh.
Advertisements

Twisted, Sister

I am eating healthy. I am exercising (stairs/cleaning/non-stop unpacking/moving boxes/cooking/laundry/beach walking/shell hunting–does that count?). I am doing all the right things. And I’m not losing weight.

We just moved from KC to Florida. It’s been hectic and my eating hasn’t always been what it should be, but! I am not eating too much. I can’t. I get very full at the drop of a sandwich and I just can’t physically put much food in my stomach. My stomach is still so tiny after surgery. So, why no weight loss?

I ran out of my furosemide. Generic Lasix. Water pill.

We lost our insurance at the end of May. My husband left his job and we just don’t have insurance yet. I was too busy to call the doctor or see someone before I left Missouri. So, I’m out. I know, I know! But. I had good reasoning for this decision. Let me explain.

I went on furosemide almost 5 years ago. It was a miracle drug. It helped me drop massive chunks of weight. The first week I lost over 30 lbs. I was full of juice. I was at 513 pounds and I dropped like a rock as soon as they gave it to me.

I was in the ER, diagnosed within hours, “Ms. Maggio, we think you have congestive heart failure.” They immediately gave me an IV. Pumped Lasix in and the juice came out! Immediately! I almost did not make it to the bathroom it was so fast. I lost over 10 lbs. of liquid (probably more) the first 3 days in the hospital. I felt like I could fly!

So I was released with a dose of generic Lasix that I have taken steadily since 2012. I was even put on two pills in 2014. After weight loss surgery last December, my surgeon took me off furosemide. No dose. Not sure of his reasoning, other than he knew I wouldn’t be getting the water intake I needed, at first. But I wasn’t losing like I should. So his partner put me back on one dose. That seemed to do the trick.

I can usually tell if I’m retaining water. My feet swell. I’ve learned to keep an eye on my feet. That’s typically the first sign. Obvs. It’s the lowest point in your body. That’s where liquid is going to go. Thanks, Gravity. Plus, with poor circulation (Thanks, Heart Failure!) that’s where most of the liquid is going to stay. I usually have cold hands and feet, too.

So, since I’ve run out of my furosemide, I’m retaining more water. It’s nothing like ER Martha at 513 lbs. My feet had ballooned to 3 times their normal size. Scary! That’s one reason why I headed to the ER. Nothing like that. I can just tell, I’m a little squishy.

So, I’m going to call one of my Missouri doctors today and see if they can help me out until I can find a primary care physician here. Without insurance yet, that could be tricky.

Thankfully! I am doing okay. Still have great energy. More than ever. I still have all my other meds. I was trying to get off the furosemide anyway and my doctors agreed. Plus, I have not gained any weight! That’s the great part. I’ve just stalled. I thought I was losing, but no. Every day I wake up and it’s the same.

True, I could be in a plateau. I hit one before. It happens. But I am doing everything I can to break it. Eating even less than what I’m hungry for (usually never hungry, but I am lately more hungry at night due to more activity during the day). I want to break this plateau, if that’s what it is. I want to only drink water. Working on it. I mostly do, but I like an occasional low- or no-calorie soft drink. Like half a mini Coke or Crystal Light.

I also feel my carb addiction creeping back in. I love carbs. Pasta, flour, cereal. I don’t really eat these, but I have a weakness for bread. I take little bites of a roll and I only have one, especially if we are eating out and they have free bread or something. But it’s so tempting to eat the whole friggin’ basket. I couldn’t even if I said, “Yes, more bread please!” as I wiped the crumbs from my very-full cheeks. I would totally throw it up or have to find the nearest bathroom and be miserable for hours. No, thank you. Plus, it would just stop up the whole works for days! So, I can limit, but I shouldn’t have it at all! AT! ALL! NEVER!

I am back on the straight and narrow. Mainly because I want to see that scale keep moving. I have a finite window here to lose most of it and I am very aware of that clock. It’s 12-18 months. It’s different for everyone. I went through hell to get that surgery and I’m not going to waste it.

Over the past few days, I’ve been back to salads, eating lean and limiting portions. It’s not hard, I just had to get my head back in the game and really focus. Moving just spun my head around like a Twister dial and my brain landed on all four colors.

This morning I am right back where I was when I left KC, 338.2 lbs. THAT is nothing to sneeze at! It used to be, my weight fluctuated drastically from day to day. 10 lbs. or more. So THIS is good. Not great, but okay! 🙂

Back on the very strict wagon! But glad to be here.

Moved

Haven’t written in a while! Finally moved, halfway through unpacking. Got internet service back! Phew. Feeling like a human again.


I knew I wouldn’t be able to write on the way down to Florida. That bothered me a little. I was driving through Missouri, making our way toward St. Louis to head down south, and I could feel the pull to write. That was cool, but at the same time–anguish. I have blogged so much lately, I couldn’t process my feelings without writing them down. All I could do is think and form perfect, evaporative sentences that would vanish with the miles behind me. You know, what non-writers do while driving. 🙂

I relearned my pre-writer meditation of sorting out problems and quieting voices without written letters. It was hard to adapt, but accept it I did. It was frustrating at first, but I settled into churning waves of beach-pounding thoughts of what-if and what-not. Regret, remorse, remembrance. Sorrow, love and forgiveness. For myself and others. A photo album of feelings to flip through while Florida-bound.

The rest of the time was spent talking to my daughter, laughing about silly signs and license plates and even having the dreaded chats about sex, physical maturity, venereal disease and tampon use. UGH! Hard conversations in a car with your teenage daughter while looking for the nearest bathroom. Road trip!

It was great though. Except for Nashville traffic. The highway interchanges in the bowels of the Country Music Capital of the World were hellish. I almost crashed my car and caused my husband to crash the U-haul truck and trailer he was driving. Not fun. But we had to keep going. I was confused, tired and snarled in traffic with my husband behind me. I just wanted to stop, but we were behind schedule and had to make it to Valdosta, GA that night. We only made it to Dalton.

My husband and I agreed to stop and rest. He rose before us and headed out early from the motel. God bless him. I don’t know how he did it. I was not able to catch up to him (I could go faster than he could with a truck), but he made it here to Florida just a little late. He’s my hero for that. We (mainly he because he had the truck with our stuff) had to meet the movers and he hauled house to get here. No speeding, no tickets, no accidents and our furniture made it with only a few scratches. I’d rather my dining table legs suffer a few scrapes than any of my loved ones.

We followed up just a few hours later, but the movers were already done when I got here. 10 minutes before I rolled up to the door. The timing was perfect because if I had to look at the messy back of a truck any more, I would flip bat-guano-crazy out. Movers paid, showers taken, food eaten, lights out.

Here are some pictures of our trip and first week here in sunny Venice, Florida. I am so happy.

martha laughing
A little out of focus, but Lilli’s first time shooting a human subject. Not bad! And I love that I’m smiling so big. Happy to be out of the car for a few moments on the road.
taking a break
Taking a break on the curb at random gas station. Happy to be out of the car as well!
eyes in the bush
Lilli took this one! Cool! Looks like eyes in the bush. Yikes! It’s some intersection stoplights though. Phew. 🙂 Good shot! Nice bokeh!!
lilli park palm 2
She’s a Floridian now!
happy
My uniform. I am not beach-body ready, but it gets hot! Gut bare, don’t care. Too happy and busy to worry about what I look like to others. I’ve seen worse.
raccoons
Aggressive raccoons! Stealing fellow beach-goers unsecured snacks. Dang! Funny to watch, but the picnickers were nervous and irritated. Lock up yer snacks!!!
guilty raccoon
Filthy, guilty raccoon. But so darn cute.
green rocks 2
Have you seen anything so gorgeous? Rocks below beach platform we viewed the Gulf and sunset at Caspersen Beach (shark tooth capital of the world?)
guy beach
A rarely-requested snap for his mates back home. Truly at peace. :*
sunset 2 marino beach
Gorgeous sunset from our private beach.
sunset marino beach
More.
sunset marino beach 3
*Angels singing*
wonky shot sunset
I love this wonky angle.
sunset almost gone
Almost gone.

My daughter watched the sunset; she was still and quiet. As we got up to head home, she looked me in the eyes, “I am so thankful to God.”

Not to me. Not to her parents. Not to anyone or thing but God. That touched me so deeply. That’s what you want to hear as a parent. Not pats on the back of “You’re the best, Mom.” But deep-down gratitude to our Savior and Provider.

I am so thankful to God, too. Glory be.

Bye-bye, KC! We love you.

The sun sets on our time in KC.


I’ve lived in KC my whole life. I was a proud Missourian. I will always be a Kansas Citian, deep down in my heart. And I will always bleed blue. ❤ Royals!

My time in KC will be a love letter. One that I read over and over for the rest of my life.

KC, you made me. Cradled me. Rocked me to sleep on the shores of your streams. And carried me down on your soft, rolling hills. Sweet, cut alfalfa in the spring and hickory smoke in the fall. Worlds of Fun. Town Topic. Fort Osage. Grain Valley Eagles. Hair curlers on top of Bartle Hall. And friends. And Mom.

I won’t forget you. In fact, I will miss you. Deeply.

I’ll miss your flowers and birds. Your trails and trees. Your friendly people and amazing places. BBQ and steak done right. Your simple way of doing things and your down-to-earth/down-to-business demeanor.

But I won’t miss your snow, ice, roads, bridges and freezing temps. Sorry. LOL

It is time for us to go. We will now be beach bums in Venice, Florida. 400 yards from the ocean and sand. Every time I get near the ocean, I feel like I’m home. I can breathe here. I can relax here. I can LIVE here. It’s certainly a fountain of youth and tranquility.

I love you, KC. But the beach got me like dis.

turtle beach red hoodie

We are moving today. I haven’t said anything because I couldn’t handle the enormity of it. It’s a relief to finally say. We love you, Friends, Mom. We’ll be back for visits. Wish us well. :*

Courage is Required

An excerpt from Volume 2 of my book, Present Tense. I haven’t published Vol. 2 yet, but here’s a taste. Find Volume 1 here this week for free!


We move into a small, cold, temporary house just in time to celebrate my Christmas #5. Christmas includes new nightgowns, an Easy Bake Oven for my sister and a “courage” (carriage/baby buggy) for me.

I can’t say carriage. I also can’t say commercial or spaghetti. Mah-ker-shull and pa-sketti.

This is the house my mother wallpapered for my grandmother. This is house where I pooped on the floor. This is the house of smoke and blood. This is the house of clawfoot-tub swimming.

There are Tarzan cartoons, Peanuts TV Specials, Hee-haw overalls, jingling reindeer hooves on the roof, cold winter mornings, mattresses on the living room floor. There is laughing/choking at late-night dinners. There are ABC-TV special presentation family movie nights of Deliverance, urine-stained pillows that I fall asleep on, cradling parents who tuck children who fall asleep on wet pillows in bed. And there is falling out of the top bunk at night.


At some point, my grandmother bought this home as a second, third or fourth property to build her empire of real estate. She buys many properties and rents or sells them for profit. She also runs a coin-operated laundry mat and washes people’s clothes for money. She is a woman who works hard and seldom rests. She does not tolerate humor or fuss. She is a force of will.

Grandma’s hair is yellowish white, faded from stress, time and negativity. She keeps it tight in a bun and hairnet. Her face is just as faded. Her beauty quickly spent on marriage, children and hard times. She always wears a dress. Not a fancy frock, but a well-worn print. The only days she didn’t wear a dress, were those spent in a factory during the war.

She has a large, round nose and large, droopy Buddha-like lobes. Those earlobes were made for clip earrings, but she never wears them.

Hard, metallic eyes that saw her father’s mistreatment of her mother. Grandma saw his fortune taken away as well. She saw her comfortable childhood home revoked and replaced by a dirt-floor shed.

She marries, only to quickly lose her husband’s farm to the tax collector. She rears 3 children through the depression, Dust Bowl and WWII. She raises and kills chickens, she milks cows, she sews, she cleans (not well), she cooks.

She hardens; she resolves. She is determined to forbid fate from having its destructive way again.

She works hard because she doesn’t know anything else. She works hard because she learned that you can’t rely on anyone except God and yourself.  She works hard because that is her pathway to happiness.

If I stop moving, I’ll die.

These are her lonely, driven thoughts. She is an ever-swimming, scarred-up shark who’s tired of the frenzy and bloodbath.


Grandma lets us live in the house on 15th Street while we wait to move to the country.  Our home near the lake has sold and the new house is not ready yet.

We lose our cat during the move. We drive for the last time from the lake to town with all our things. Grandma is holding the cat in the station wagon. Shark holding a lion. We arrive at the new place: the car door opens, cat scratches, takes off for parts unknown.

Never seen again. Tiger is gone.

Lucky cat.