Summer of 2015: Celebrating the Last Day of 100 Degrees

As I mentioned before, I normally don’t go crazy until Saturday night when I must get out of the house and go some place fun away from the sun. The good news is, there are a zillion casinos to choose from. The bad news is, after awhile enough is enough – no more casinos!

But this week, I went a bit crazy on Wednesday. I knew that if I was going crazy mid-week that I’d never last through a 3-day weekend and we’d better go some place after work. Rich has a long commute and I wasn’t sure if he’d be up for going out after work, but, thankfully, his day wasn’t as crazy as some days so he was up for it.

So we went to Southpoint, our favorite locals casino nearby, and ate some happy hour sushi at Zenshin. We’ve written about that before. And then we went to the Silverado Lounge and Rich got us a couple of dirty martinis. They are simply the best there. Seriously!

After sipping for 90 minutes, the sun went down and it was safe to go back to the house. The cats were a bit crazy – Skipper yelling for his late dinner and we finally found Shadow hiding behind the couch the way he does when we’re gone and a pet sitter comes to visit.

Our outing helped me get through Wednesday but this is Thursday and we have a 3-day weekend coming up. We were going to go to SoCal this weekend but we ended up booking a cruise for later in the month and we have a church event on Saturday here in town.

We’ll probably hide out in the casinos on the Strip throughout the weekend even though they could be quite crowded but way more “cool” to hang out in, or maybe we’ll drive to St. George Utah for breakfast. It’s a 2-hour drive each way and if we’re really desperate to get out of town, that’s a real possibility.

Over martinis we did talk about our future. And we realized that if Orlando is the place that calls, it’ll have to be Orlando, even though our hearts are in Tampa Bay. But Orlando has Disney and Tampa doesn’t so it’s probably pretty even.

But, at least, the 100 degree temps are most likely over for this year. Whew! We survived another summer in Las Vegas.

Diary of Those Tampa Bay Days: Part 1, “The Job”

Feelings for Tampa Bay have been growing stronger every day – at least in the morning. As I said before, by the end of the day, I’m exhausted and can’t imagine disrupting our lives here, especially because we fought so hard to get back to the house we still owned in Las Vegas. But it was all about our house and we really do want to sell it and move on – but where to move on to?

Lately, I’ve had the desire to blog the journey but I already did that. One part of that was an overview of the Tampa Bay years – check out the first Tampa Bay post here, as part of “The Journey.” I love that we’ve shared this journey together but, truly, the best part was the Orlando to Tampa Bay leg. So I thought I’d revisit that time and add some of the details.

When I think of Florida now, I think of Tampa Bay. After all, it’s on the West Coast – the West Coast of Florida. My head feels right being there. The sets on the Gulf in the west – the way it’s supposed to. :)

But Orlando – it’s “Inlando” – closer to the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. That just doesn’t feel right for a California girl.

When we landed in Orlando in September 2003 without a job, I was so disappointed the job opportunity was in Tampa. I couldn’t wrap my head around Tampa. What did I know about it? I’d visited Tampa as part of my first trip to Florida, my first cruise, my first trip to WDW in 1982, for the opening of Epcot. That’s all I knew, although Rich seemed quite knowledgeable about the whole Tampa Bay area. He seemed to be leaning toward Tampa – not Orlando.

Before Rich accepted the job, a recruiter called him for an interview with an Orlando company. Rich turned it down – he wanted the job in Tampa and he had an offer in hand. It was too risky to wait to see what would happen in Orlando. Rich and I are soulmates, and there are only 2 times I’ve been disappointed with a decision Rich has made. This was one of them. Who knew it would turn out to be one of my biggest blessings?

This morning I was recalling the day Rich and I drove to Tampa from Orlando for the interview. The job was with a software company located on Busch Blvd. in Tampa. It was a low-rise building, our preference from our favorite companies we’d worked for in Silicon Valley. It usually offers a more relaxed work atmosphere.

We parked the SportTrak under the trees and I hung out while Rich went inside to interview. I remember driving down Busch looking for lunch and I ended up at Burger King. I had lunch and then drove back and waited. Somewhere along the way, somebody’s car was broken into and the cops were there. Hmmm…. was kind of a sign was that? lol!

I can still feel the excitement of that day and the trees and the overall super-excited feeling. It really felt like home and I was surprised because I’d thought that only Orlando could be home with its California Disney connection.

Rich came out of the interview feeling very positive about it. Later, he had to return to meet the team but then the offer came in and he accepted. They even paid to relocate us from Orlando. We’d only been in Orlando for 7 weeks but we knew it might be temporary and didn’t completely unpack in case we had to move to a different part of Florida for a job.

Somewhere along the way, I was also called for a job in Tampa. I interviewed in Clearwater while Rich hung around but I didn’t get the job. Instead, I began writing my second and third novels.

Rich found an excellent mover and we finished packing up the things we’d unpacked. We’d bought a new loveseat in Orlando to replace a couple of chairs we’d brought all the way from Oregon. With the truck loaded, we turned in the apartment keys and the cats and began the drive to Tampa. We thought we’d stop for lunch along the way. Unfortunately, Buddy, well, how can I say this? Well, he couldn’t hold it and there was no way to clean him up until we arrived. So we weren’t about to stop for lunch.

Poor Rich – he had to clean up Buddy as soon as we got the keys to the Palm Harbor apartment in Tampa Bay. We were able to transfer our rental contract because they were with the same company. I don’t remember now if I ran off to get us some lunch or if we waited until the movers had unloaded the truck.

In that same post, we talk about the apartment with a photo of it. It really was a nice little townhouse. We kept saying, “Wow! We would have been thrilled if we could have lived in something like this in the SF Bay Area.” What I liked about it was the downstairs den where I set up my computer and wrote my second novel, “Lies! Camera! Action!” I’m thinking I should get it out again and rewrite it/edit it and prepare it for publication.

Agents loved the opening chapter and my most recent song was “Everybody Lies.” I’m starting to see a pattern with writing a song that matches a novel I’ve written. For example, my third novel was “Real Women Wear Red” and one of my first songs was “Candy Apple Red (Shoes).”

It’s so fun for us to recall those exciting days of Tampa Bay now. Moving to a new state without a job is something I wouldn’t do now. As you get older, it’s harder to compete for those same jobs. But back then, we were young enough to pull it off. We also realize our days of pulling it off even with a job are growing shorter so if we’re going to make a move, we need to make it soon.

Summer of 2015: Last Hot Desert Vegas Weekend in August

I’ve lived in many different climates including those known for rain, snow, t-storms, and hurricanes. But living in the desert has its own challenges. And by August, I’m so done!

The afternoons are just so brutal – way too much sunshine and heat and the afternoons seem to go on forever. And that keeps me cooped up in the house, which I can’t stand. I curse Daylight Savings time and President Bush for extending DST.

I’m pretty much okay during the work week but by 5 p.m. on Saturday night, I’m about to flip out. I need to escape from the house and the brutal sun.

Casinos work really well as an escape destination. They’re a great refuge from the sun, and you don’t really know what time of day it is inside. But we don’t gamble. So that leaves eating and drinking. :)

One of our favorite escapes is to drive to Primm and walk the Outlet Mall. It’s right on the California border, about a 30-minute drive from home. Our favorite store is Tommy Bahama. The mall even smells like Florida. Last night we strolled the mall and then stepped into the attached casino. We looked around, took in the characters and the interesting shades of humanity, thought about having a drink but ended up just having an ice cream. I had peanut butter fudge ice cream, which was totally scrumptious, but I forgot that eating chocolate that late at night will keep me up all night. And it did.

We hung out until the sun slipped behind the mountains and then drove home, listening to ‘Soundtrack Saturday Night” on the Sirius XM Elvis station. Having such a blast, feeling energized, we said we could drive straight through to Florida on a night like that. So no worries that we’d made that trip too many times and weren’t up for it one more time. And once we spotted the Strip all lit up at night, “Viva Las Vegas” played on the radio – talk about perfect timing. There’s nothing quite like nights in Las Vegas (read “Everything in Vegas Looks Better at Night.”)

The good news is, by the time September rolls around, our temps hover below 100 for the first time since June. And that’s an improvement over Florida’s longer hot, humid summers.

But, honestly, I can’t take any more desert summers. There’s really nothing to do. How many times can you visit a casino? It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year. Will it be Orlando or Tampa Bay? In spite of the rain, tropical storms, floods, and hurricanes, I have a feeling we’re on our way.

The Skipper Daily: Adventures of a Well-Traveled, Pampered, and Beloved Cat

We’ve had 9 interstate moves with 3 cats and Skipper has participated in 8 of them. When we first moved to Las Vegas, I was inspired to write a picture book about Skipper’s neighborhood adventures (in mind only), and I called it Scooter’s Big Adventure.

Similar to Geppetto longing for Pinocchio to become a “real boy,” we’ve felt something similar about Skipper – he is a real boy, isn’t he? He certainly runs this house with his strict schedule. So now it’s been documented in the Skipper Daily, similar to a cruise ship daily. Hope you’ll get a kick out of this one.

Credit goes to Rich, inspired by Skipper, and a comment I made yesterday that Skipper was eating second seating for lunch.

The Florida/Disney Dream: Missing Tampa Bay

In the morning, I’m open to moving back to Florida. By evening, I’m tired and I don’t want to give up my home here in Las Vegas. It’s too much work, it’s too expensive, we’ve done it too many times.

But this morning I was especially missing our home in Tampa Bay. Maybe it’s just a matter of missing our younger selves off on our new adventure in Florida, watching our first single family home being built (we’d owned a new townhouse in Oregon), and experiencing “the Florida dream” for the first time. Or maybe we actually really like Tampa Bay.

We love the water-based lifestyle and Tampa is a real city, unlike Orlando, and, because of that, the service is much better. There’s more diversity and real estate is less expensive. Orlando prices are jacked up because it’s so popular with starry-eyed Disney fans moving to Florida. We love Disney but, having experienced both living nearby and coming in from out-of-town, with its pros and cons, we’d have to say we prefer staying far enough away to justify staying onsite, especially when you can still do a day trip when you’re up for it.

But I (we) also miss our cute little house in Tampa. It was just the right size, single story, with a great flow. And the view behind the house was awesome. We also had a lovely community pool and other recreation amenities.

The funny thing is, I miss our mailbox in front of our house. Every place else we’ve lived, including our house in Las Vegas, has keyed community mailboxes. Okay, so that might be more secure but there’s something so old-fashioned and friendly about having our mailbox in front of your house. Often a neighbor would wave or say hi or stop to chat when I was out at the mailbox. This was so new to me.

In my childhood home in SoCal, our mailbox was right up against the front of the house so nobody was aware when you picked up your mail. I was envious of the Johnsons across the street who had one of those mail drops right in the door. I thought that was so cool back then.

Exciting things, both good and/or not-so-good (or maybe just “challenging”) happened in that house. I signed with my first literary agent. I still remember standing in the kitchen talking to her on the phone.

I also remember walking to that mailbox, hoping for a manuscript request but preparing myself for the “rejection” at the same time. I’d tell myself, “You’ve been through harder things than this,” remembering when I finally confronted my step dad about his inappropriate behavior when I’d sent him a letter while we were living in that house, which was my haven on the opposite coast. My legs were shaking and I’d have to say that was the hardest thing I’d ever done. And then there was the day I walked to our mailbox and found his letter denying the whole thing, of course.

I remember exchanging emails with my mother on our laptop in the family room. And at first she was on my side and was going to send him packing. But the very next morning, she turned things upside down and somehow blamed it all on me. Typical mother behavior – always blaming me for her guilt, throwing me under the bus.

Still, I’m proud of myself for finding the courage to confront him – finally, it was no longer a secret that lived inside of me. I’d set myself free, regardless of his denial.

It seemed that so much of my life revolved around that mailbox in front of our house and I miss it the most.

Florida was very triumphant in so many ways!

Florida_SportTrakHouse with the mailbox out front with our cross-country SportTrak

FLviewbackView from the back of the house (before we screened-in the Lanai)

Mustang_KathyFlorida red Mustang – our Christmas present the first Christmas in our new house

Grand_Oaks_Pool2Community pool

While living in Orlando gave us access to WDW and we discovered favorite things we would not have known if we hadn’t lived so close in, it was really too close. We loved our Tampa Bay lifestyle, close to the Dunedin Causeway, beaches, and just an hour or so to WDW.

Missing My Little Buddy

One of my friends wrote a blog post in tribute to one of her furry kids who died 4 years ago. She couldn’t believe that 4 years had passed. I know the feeling. Recently, I was browsing some two4disney posts and I ran across one about losing Buddy when we were living in Orlando the last time around – it’s been 3 years now. And as much fun and precious as Shadow is, he can’t take Buddy’s place.

When I look back on our last move to Florida, of course I’m concerned that we can never make Florida our home. The last time was disastrous. We lost Buddy, I got sick, and Rich landed in the hospital. And Skipper had asthma. We figured that was due to the Orlando area. Unlike Tampa Bay, Orlando – or “Inlando” – feels hotter and more stifling. I get migraines in Orlando. We were much healthier in Tampa Bay. We’d never intended to move back to Orlando because we prefer Tampa Bay. But a wonderful opportunity appeared in Orlando, and we took it.

Unlike the rest of the family, Buddy seemed to thrive in Orlando. When we lived 2 miles from Cinderella Castle, a pet sitter stopped by to meet the kids and she walked right up to Buddy, kissed him on the lips, and said, “Hey boyfriend!”

He revelled in that attention because, until then, Skipper and Lovey had received all of the attention. Whenever somebody sees Lovey, they immediately say, “You’re so pretty!” We do it so often, she probably thinks that’s her name. And with Skipper, people say, “What a beautiful cat!”

The staff at the Orlando Cat Hospital treated Buddy like he was king – they took such care of him and loved on him. But the vets were puzzled by Buddy’s reaction to the insulin when he was being treated for diabetes. I think we all blame ourselves for failing Buddy. Me for going to the doctor the day I found him passed out by the litter when I got home, Rich for being the one who administered the insulin, and the vet for prescribing the treatment. Soon after, the vet got married, moved away, and retired. We wondered at the time if Buddy had anything to do with that.

The last night of his life, we let him out on the screened-in Lanai and he thrived out there. He loved to sniff the air from open windows and when he was a kitten, he’d escaped into the backyard. I called him, all panicky, but he came running up the backstairs with a leaf in his mouth – he was so proud, as if to say, “Mommy, this is for you!”

On the last morning of his life, we were so broken up, but he dragged his leg to get to us to comfort us. The first evening he was gone, Skipper and Lovey were so sad. And Skipper, his brother, paid homage to his brother by stealing 2 french fries just like they’d done when they were kittens. It was as if to say, “This one’s for me and this one’s for you, bro!”

We all loved him so very much.

our_little_buddyLittle Buddy, April 9, 2000 to March 19, 2012

Disneyland: Local vs. Tourist POV

We’ve been catching up with Disneyland through videos such as Mouse Steps and realizing it’s definitely time to plan our next trip to Disneyland. We’re shooting for the Christmas season. As somebody who grew up near Disneyland and visited often ever since, it’s sometimes good to get an “outsider’s” POV.

There’s always something new to learn or different perspective to gain. Especially after we lived near WDW a couple of times – there’s a different way to look at Disneyland as in the following video. Check it out – I’m actually quite excited by Star Wars Land.

One thing remains to be true: the culture of Disneyland and WDW are quite different and, therefore, the experience is a bit different. But I’ve also been thinking that FP+ might be a good thing should it actually come to Disneyland for both locals and tourists.

But there are inherent difficulties in it working at Disneyland and Theme Park Tourist nailed it in “6 Reasons Why FastPass+ Won’t Work at Disneyland Without BIG Tweaks.” Here are some of my favorite comments from each point.

  1. Planning Months in Advance: 
    A MASSIVE percentage of daily Disneyland visitors are locals who visited the park when they were kids, and live in the area. For them, it’s a family tradition and the place you go on Sunday afternoons every week, not a getaway vacation. Many locals and Southern California residents have annual passes, and stop by at the park on a whim. The idea that they’d pre-plan their visit a day, a week, or a month in advance is preposterous. It’s just a different dynamic. Disneyland trips are spur-of-the-moment.
  2. Big Perks for Resort Stays
    With such a lean toward local visitors, Disneyland doesn’t need two dozen hotels. Even if it had them, staying off-property is a lot easier since Disneyland is so small, with TONS of hotels along the park’s perimeter. To give perks to guests staying in Disneyland’s Official Resort hotels would be nonsensical. It may literally equate to the 1% of visitors getting 60-day advanced bookings, with 99% held off until later.
    (This is where our living near WDW experience has influenced our Disneyland experience – we now prefer to stay onsite.)
  3. MagicBands
    With so many local visitors making sporadic and spur-of-the-moment trips, Disneyland visitors would be altogether unlikely to warm to the MagicBand. Imagine having to remember to wear your Mickey Mouse bracelet to work that day so you can stop by the park afterward for dinner. LOL!
  4. Tiered Attractions and Limits
    If you could even convince Disneyland guests to embrace pre-booking or limiting the number of FastPasses they can have, presenting them all and saying “choose two” would incite riots. And probably for good reason. Disneyland doesn’t have too many “naive tourist” types, and a local being forced to choose a FastPass+ reservation for the vacant Muppet*Vision 3D might implode.
  5. One Park per Day
    Again, we doubt Disneyland guests would accept pre-booked FastPasses at all, but if they did, being limited to one park per day would make them hot under the collar.
  6. Gateless Entries
    It’s not that we expect the masses to revolt and start pushing their way in, but the reality is that gates might be necessary at Disneyland, where the Esplanade can be a madhouse of activity.

But after warming my heart reading an article from somebody who actually “gets” the local Disneyland experience, I have to say that living near WDW in Florida has changed me forever. While I will mostly approach Disneyland like a local because that’s how I grew up, I’ve also enjoyed being a WDW tourist and a WDW local. I love both places and just wish I could get to them more often.