Tag Archives: Florida

Equations with the Stubbly Good Witch

“Think about what things mean.” This was my advice to my son as I drove him to his little slice of hell — school.  That particular day would be more hellish than usual as he had both his Geometry and Science final exams.   Like me, he would almost rather have a colonoscopy, including the dreaded prep, than be forced to learn math or science.  I felt for him, so I offered him the words of advice that got me through high school math.  Mr. Scott said them almost daily.  Whenever he would write a super long equation on the board and look out at sea of confused dog looks, he would simply say, “Think about what things mean.”  This simple philosophy has gotten me through a lot more than math.

 Mr. Scott was my favorite teacher even though he taught my most hated subject – math.  I had him for Algebra in ninth grade, and again for Integrated Math my senior year.  As a teacher, he was the perfect combination of firm, professional, and funny.  He knew his subject, but he didn’t just stand there and drone on and on about variables and the order of operations.  No.  He always kept our attention, even if he had to wear a dress.

 Yes, I said a dress.  No. Mr. Scott was not a drag queen, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  He was a Vietnam veteran with a permanent five o’clock shadow who usually dressed like a gas station attendant.  I’m serious.  He had a bunch of gas station attendant shirts with his name, Frank, on the front.  They were from all different stations.  I used to sit there and try to imagine where he got them.  He couldn’t have just ordered them on Amazon because it was 1987 and Amazon, or the Internet, or laptops, or iPhones, didn’t exist yet.  No.  He would have had to work at all of the gas stations to get a shirt. Either that or he toured the country finding gas station attendants named Frank who needed some extra cash.  No matter how he got them, I wasn’t sure why he wore them.  Maybe it was to remind himself that no matter how horrible high school students were, teaching was still better than pumping gas.  (Young people, gas station attendants used to pump people’s gas for them.) Whatever the reason, he wore them almost daily, except, as I mentioned, when he wore dresses.

 One particular Halloween (See, I told you he wasn’t a drag queen.), I remember walking into his class on the second floor of the old 600 hall at South Broward High School and almost walking right into his magic wand.  That’s right.  Mr. Scott, Frank from the Shell station, was dressed as Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  I couldn’t help but laugh all the way to my seat.  He just stood there and looked at me like, “What?”  I took my seat expecting an easy day of not really doing math.  I was wrong. 

 Mr. Scott began class by walking carefully across the classroom in his sparkly shoes and shiny dress, and pointing to the board with his wand.  He called on me, of course, and said, “Lisa, what is the quadratic formula?”  I looked at him like he was nuts, but he insisted that I say the formula out loud while he grabbed a piece of chalk with his wandless hand.  I’m happy to say that I got it ALMOST right.  I forgot to say “the opposite of” before I said “B.”  I’m sure at age 41 I still know MOST of the quadratic formula because of this experience. 

I never grew to love math, but I sure remembered it better after watching a man with a five o’clock shadow in a dress teach it.  Over the years, Mr. Scott donned many costumes, some of them dresses and some of them more masculine, like when he was Vince Fontaine in the school’s production of Grease.  No matter how he was dressed, he always took the time to slow down and show us HOW to think about what things mean.

 I kept that in my head during the SAT and I actually scored higher in Math than in English.  (Note: I ended up becoming an English professor.) I kept thinking about what things meant through college, marriage, caring for a baby, a divorce, a new marriage, moving across the country, and a host of other experiences.  Basically, whenever I was getting frustrated or taking things too seriously, I would stop and think about what things really meant.   Usually, they weren’t as bad, or as serious as I thought, once I really THOUGHT about them.  Sometimes, all I needed to do was put on a sparkly dress and laugh.  That always helps.  Thank you, Mr. Scott, wherever you are.

 

Parallel Parking — The Final Frontier

I recently served a two-month grand jury term.  In addition to learning that there are a lot of trashy people in my town, I learned that I am a coward when it comes to parallel parking. Every Wednesday, my jury days, I would get to the court over an hour early so I could park in a real parking lot. If I didn’t get there early, there would be no spaces in the lot and I would have had to, gulp, park on the street. Confession: I’m 44 and ½ years old and I do not know how to parallel park.

I learned to drive in South Florida, Hollywood to be specific.  Back in the day, in Hollywood, I never had to parallel park.  Even the street meter parking in the down town area was diagonal pull in parking.  Every place I ever wanted or needed to go had a parking lot.

I got so little practice with parallel parking when I had my restricted that I failed my first try at getting my regular driver’s license. When I attempted to park between the two poles, as instructed, I backed into one of the poles. The screechy old woman who was administering my test screamed, “You failed!”

That was my final straw with her. She hated me from the moment she got in my driving instructor’s small Toyota. The license examiner had me press the horn and it made a pathetic, sick frog noise.

“I could fail you for that horn!” She yelled.

My heart immediately started beating faster.  “It’s not my car. It’s my driving teacher’s car,” I told her.  I could tell by her face that I probably shouldn’t have talked back. Oh well.  Too late.

After that rough beginning, it’s no wonder I failed the test.  After I banged into the pole, the examiner had me drive back to the license office.  I shook the whole way.  When I pulled into a parking space in front of the office, I got out and got in the passenger seat.  I started crying as soon as I shut the door. My instructor told me not to worry about failing. He assured me we would try again in a week or so, at a different license office.

https://lisarpetty.com/
This is about my speed when it comes to all things driving.

True to his word, a week later we went to a different driver’s license place in Fort Lauderdale. This time I got a youngish, around 30, man. Since this office was smaller than the other one, the actual driving test took place on neighborhood streets rather than a driving course.  So, there were no poles when I had to parallel park.  There were also no other cars because everyone in the neighborhood parked in their driveways.  Parallel parking was easy with nothing to hit.

After I aced parallel parking, I did a crappy, off road three-point turn. The examiner still passed me in spite of that turn. He even had “safe driver” added to my license.  Honestly, I think he just had a creepy grown man crush on me.  During the test, he told me I was pretty.  He also asked if I had a boyfriend.  I didn’t say anything about that to my driving instructor or my parents.  I was just so happy to have my license, and to not have to parallel park ever again.

Since that day, I have not parallel parked unless there were no cars on either side and I could just pull in.  Whenever I make plans with friends, I tell them to pick a place with “real parking.” If all else fails, I valet park or park really far away. I hear there are cars that can parallel park for you. Until I have one of those, I won’t be attempting any street parking when there are actual cars parked within a block.

Feliz Thanksgiving!

sorry-hungryThe first Thanksgiving I was with my now ex-husband we were invited to his aunt and uncle’s house for dinner. Growing up in South Florida, I had heard the phrase Cuban time a lot, but I never really got it. Basically, the theory is that Cuban people are usually late. So, I should have known to have a snack or lunch before going to their house, but I didn’t. Since it was Thanksgiving, I assumed we would eat early, like at dunch or linner time. I didn’t truly understand Cuban time until that Thanksgiving in 1992.

Ask any of my family or close friends and they will tell you epic tales of my hanger. I don’t do meal skipping well. I’m pretty sure that I could become a mafia henchman if I just skipped a meal or two. Breaking legs would be therapeutic with my level of hanger. So, it was a huge mistake to skip lunch. Huge.

Want to read more about my HANGRY, bilingual Thanksgiving? Come on over to Knot So Subtle. 

My First Bad Book Review

I just read a really negative review of my YA novel, Misfit Academy. I’m sorry I haven’t paid more attention to my Amazon reviews. I had missed this little Christmas time gem because I was doing all of the other things writers have to do nowadays, like:

  • Pin award winning graphics to Pinerest.
  • Tweet ever so funny yet not offensive things on Twitter every 42 seconds.
  • Build a solid Facebook following of loyal readers.
  • Post cat pictures on Instagram.
  • Write a blog at least once a week, if not more often.
  • Cry while reviewing my blog’s Google Analytics.
  • Create a media kit that attracts sponsors.
  • Still work a day job.
  • Take care of the family by cooking, doing laundry, and everything else.

Anyway, I’m not going to use the reviewer’s real name.   Instead, I will call her A, which is her first initial. Yes, the reviewer is a woman. Who else would be vindictive enough to waste time writing a somewhat lengthy review of a book she hated? A man would toss the book in the trash, or delete it off his Kindle, have a beer and watch TV. So, I will call her A. I want to protect her privacy and I think it’s really funny to call a Canadian A. See what I did there, eh?

Though A’s review was harsh, I did learn some valuable things, and of course I’m going to share them with you all. I hope you are fluent in sarcasm. A isn’t.

My main character did not have a name. I thought I had named him Scott Price, but not according to A, “We follow (no name), a bitter teenager is convinced that the world is working against him. He claims to be a victim of bullying.”

Lesson learned. The next time I write a novel in the first person I should make the character refer to himself in the third person, like Bob Dole, so his name is evident even though the OTHER CHARACTERS talk to him and call him by name. In the case of Misfit Academy, “I, Scott Price, drove to school” would have worked. Noted.

A, if you had not read the book at all, and it sounds like you did more of a skim than a read, you could have learned SCOTT’S name from reading the other reviews. Just sayin’.

I might be schizophrenic. According to A, I grew up in a town that does not exist. Yikes. Here is her evidence, “Although, I’m pretty sure she said it was in Florida, but she keeps referencing Hollywood. So I either I misread (which is possible) or geography is an issue.”

In a panic, thinking my entire childhood and young adulthood was one big hallucination; I did a little Google research. BIG sigh of relief. I found that not only is Hollywood, FL real, but Alabama, Maryland, and South Carolina also have Hollywoods. So, it’s not just California. I can cancel my psychiatrist appointment now.

On a related note, I was both shocked and thrilled to learn there is actually ONE Canadian out there who has never heard of Hollywood, FL. When I was growing up, I could have sworn that the entire country of Canada came to Hollywood every winter. This made parking near the beach a real bitch, which is why SCOTT (THAT IS HIS NAME) complains about Canadians a lot in the book. Almost all residents of beach towns like Hollywood complain about the tourists. They are not racists; they just want parking spaces.

Misfit Academy is not Anime. I would likely give A a bad review, too, as she writes some sort of Anime books. Anime is totally not my genre. My book is realistic fiction, so it is totally not her genre. I’m wondering why she bought it, half-read it, and wrote a review. I’m guessing she either lost a bet or A was drinking and Amazoning.

Teens in Canada are WAY different from American teens. Either A doesn’t get sarcasm at all, OR she was a perfectly kind teen with no doubts, hormones, or mood swings. She never had a bad thought about anyone, and she embraced all nationalities like a United Nations on legs.

Buildings are people, too. A gave me many helpful hints, like the fact that I should have developed the school as a character. She suggested, “The author misses out on developing one of the most important characters of the book, the school.”

Wait. What? You want me to make a building into a person. Either you’re doing more than booze or you are actually a Republican member of the U.S. Congress. This sounds a lot like the whole corporations are people thing.

I have 50 Shades of Punctuation going on. According to A, “Writing wise, there’s plenty of comma abuse, meaning she could have used a period and the writing would have been cleaner and less rambling-like.”

I pictured myself whipping poor, little commas. Then, I realized she was talking about the fact that I use a comma before and in a serial list.  Those are OXFORD commas, A. We use those over here in Murica. OXFORD. Also, here’s a free grammar lesson for you. There is a space in a lot. I noticed you wrote “alot” a lot in your review. That’s not a word. Check out this site for more information on a lot.

Teen boys should behave like eunuchs. Good teen boys do not notice breasts or if a girl is good looking. It is wrong to notice anyone’s looks, and everyone should walk around wearing a blindfold.

According to A, “He’s intensely homophobic and objectifies anything resembling the female sex into two categories: sexually appealing or ugly. As long as you’re hot, a woman’s faults are okay.”  Yep. I have created a monster. Scott Price notices when a woman is attractive. That makes him homophobic somehow, even though one of his best friends is gay. Interesting.

MisfitCoverI’m very thankful that A took the time to write the most scathing review of Misfit Academy to date. Clearly, I have learned A LOT about myself as a writer and a creator of schizophrenic, homophobic racist characters.  If you would like to read her entire review, it is located here. Here is a link to Misfit Academy’s Amazon page. If you have read it, please leave a review. I don’t mind constructive feedback. Just be sure to Google things like “Hollywood, FL” if you are accusing me of being geographically illiterate. Hugs all around.

Fusian – Not a Bait Shack

Dania Pier ©2014 Tobie Ackerman
Dania Pier
©2014 Tobie Ackerman

I have spent most of my adult life HATING sushi.  Any time I tried it, I was reminded of the Dania fishing pier near my hometown in South Florida.  The place was an old wooden pier that reeked of cheap beer, bait, and fish.  My friends and I would swim at the beach near the pier, and I would never fail to get smacked in the mouth with seaweed filled waves.  My eyes would burn from the salt water, and of course some of the wave would manage to get in my mouth. The taste was like rancid spinach and saline solution.  For many years, sushi was a combination of face-smacking waves and bait to me.

And yes, sushi lovers, I tried sushi EVERYWHERE: the mid-west, where I live now, California, Hawaii, and Florida.  And yes, I tried the California roll EVERYWHERE.  I hated that, too.  The worst thing I ever tried is called “toast and jam.”  It’s raw fish on rice.  I had to spit that out.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when my son wanted to go to a fast food sushi place for his birthday.  Couldn’t the kid pick a fancy steak house or Italian place like a normal teen?  Well, it’s a good thing he chose Fusian because last Saturday, my opinion of sushi changed forever.

Here’s the thing about Fusian.  You can create your own roll.  It’s like Chipotle for sushi. Plus, they have two kinds of wraps, traditional seaweed (barf!) or soy.  Hello, sushi without the ocean after taste.  They also have a variety of meat and veggie fillings.  No more bait scented fish only options.  I had a soy wrap, STEAK, veggies and sweet chili sauce.  And it was SO GOOD.  Just for fun, we also tried a peanut butter and jelly roll on soy.  That was awesome, too.

So, I don’t know if they have Fusian where you live, but if they do, go try it.  Even if the thought of sushi gives you the urge to vomit or go fishing, I promise you will like sushi at this place.  And no, they are not paying me to write this.  Like all chubby girls, I just get super excited about food.

2014@mrsergmeister That's the PBJ on the bottom.
2014@mrsergmeister
That’s the PBJ on the bottom.

Bite Me, Polar Vortex!

I have had Life in a Northern Town, the original version not the countrified remake, stuck in my head for a few weeks.  The same two lines, over and over:

He said in winter 1963

It felt like the world would freeze

Only I change it to:

In two thousand and fourteen

It felt like the world would freeze

Because this winter has sucked.  Well, every winter has sucked since 2008.  I willingly moved away from South Florida, where I spent the first 35 years of my life, and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in January of 2007.  It was magical.  The snow looked like glitter.  Since our house backed up to the woods, deer would walk through our yard.  I felt like I lived in the North Pole.  I loved it.

That crap got old in 2008.  I was done with shoveling the driveway so I could leave the house, driving with sweaty palms at speeds of barely 25, and waking up early to make breakfast for my son only to find out there was a two hour delay or cancellation.  Sometimes the school board makes a decision the night before, but most of the time it is at the last possible minute.

EVERY winter, I kick myself for leaving Florida.  I miss the weather and I miss my family and friends.  In order to maintain my sanity living here in the freezer, I must constantly list the things I do NOT miss about Florida:

  •  Tourist Season – We don’t have one in Columbus, OH.  I can get a table at my favorite restaurants ALL YEAR LONG.  So, there, Hollywood people!
  •  Seeing homeless people use the restroom on the sidewalk or in the middle of the street –  Let’s face it; it’s too cold to drop your pants in public here.  When I lived in Hollywood, FL, I saw a woman defecate on the sidewalk, and a man pee in the middle of the street.  I don’t miss that.
  •  Having newspaper vendors and other people come up to my car at red lights to sell me crap –  This does not happen here.  It is too cold and I think there are actually laws against it.  You can sit in your car, drink your latte, and play with your satellite radio in peace at the red lights in this northern town.
  •  Having a huge house for less money –  I live in a five level split house and it costs less than anything I could get down in hurricane land.
  •  Hurricanes – Yes we have snow.  No, I do not live in Tornado Alley (That is up the center of the country), but we get them here occasionally. The thing is, hurricanes used to stress me out because the weather people talk about them for DAYS.  “Buy canned goods! Get water! Put on your shutters!”  That is all you hear down there.  Then, usually, the hurricane veers off course and you prepared for nothing.  That is a lot of stress.

So, for the time being, I will stay here in Ohio. I will continue to loathe going out the door from October through April.  I will keep complaining and hating snow.   And I will keep listing the five reasons I don’t miss Florida, over and over and over and over….

Polar Vortex
It’s either snowing, super cold or both.

A Hermit’s Black Friday

“Why don’t we stop by Target?” I asked my husband and my mother, as we pulled out of the parking lot of an apartment complex we were looking at for my mom. “We have an hour until we have to meet everyone for lunch, and mom wanted to look at small Christmas trees.  Plus, I really have to pee.” I HATE public bathrooms, but it didn’t make sense to drive all the way back to my mom’s apartment. My husband looked at me like I’d been huffing Windex, and asked me how to get to Target.  He was driving our rental car around my hometown, Hollywood, Florida.

I asked my mom where the Target in Pembroke Pines was, since we were meeting some of my closest high school friends for lunch at Burger and Beer Joint on Pines Boulevard. Mom told my husband where to go (not like that — she actually likes him), and we arrived at Target.  It was so crowded.  There were not even handicapped parking spaces available.  My mom has a handicapped parking permit.

“Wow. It’s so crowded,” I said, while thinking about how much I missed Ohio.

“Well, it is Black Friday, Lisa,” My husband said, while pulling the car over to one side in the lot.  “You ladies get out here.  I will go fight for a spot.” I totally forgot it was Black Friday, since, as your token introverted friend, I do all of my shopping online.  My husband is a gem for dropping us off out front and not smacking me.

So, my mom and I went into Target, and headed to the restrooms.  Holy cow! I mean. I’ve been in gas station bathrooms before, and Walmart bathrooms, but the Target ladies room in Pembroke Pines needs some kind of honorable mention in the International Nasty Bathroom competition.  If this competition doesn’t exist, it should.  I realize it was Black Friday, but come on, Target.  Don’t make me regret hating Walmart.

As my mom and I exited the bathroom, my husband entered the store, having found a parking space.  We walked around Target, trying to find that tree.  We could barely look at the trees because the folks at Target had carts full of merchandise blocking the Christmas tree display. We squeezed by a cart to get a look at the trees.  The whole blockade reminded me of the liquor section in any grocery store in Indiana on a Sunday.  Prior to moving to Columbus, we lived in Fort Wayne, IN (THE Armpit of America).  So, I know all about carts blocking the items you actually want to buy.  Man, was I glad to get out of there.

So, after an unsuccessful trip to Target, we headed over to Burger and Beer Joint for lunch.  Through the beauty of Facebook, I have kept in touch with A LOT of friends from high school.  Since I am a touch on the introverted side, I made lunch plans with a really small group of them.  Next time, I want to make individual plans with my besties.  I don’t feel like I had enough time with anyone.  Like a textbook introvert, I don’t like to hang out with gobs of people, but I LOVE the friends I do have.

My friend H, who I met at the bus stop on the first day of 8th grade at a new school, brought her adorable son and niece.  The kids colored pictures for Chris and me that I will hang on my fridge as soon as I unpack them.  I will put them here for your enjoyment.  H and her son and niece could model.  Seriously, I told H that, too.  They are all such gorgeous people.

My friend T has not aged one bit and is still the sweetest person ever.  She brought me a card and a Starbuck’s gift card.  T and I met in drafting class in 8th grade, and she still KNOWS me.  I love this girl.

C brought her boyfriend.  It was nice to meet him in person as I had seen pictures and read his funny comments on Facebook.  It was so nice to see them together and see my friend so happy.  They are a beautiful couple

M, who I never hung out with in high school, was thrilled to have a grown-up lunch.  Her two kids, both models, for real, were at home with dad.  M is a prime example of everything that is good about Facebook.  I hardly knew her in school, but she is one of my best, most genuine friends, thanks to this newfangled Internet.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and a little sad.  There was a lot of talking and interaction, which can drain a hermit, but it was with people I adore.  I loved seeing everyone and catching up.  I miss living in Florida only when I think of my friends and family.  I would really like it if everyone would just move to Ohio.  I’m sure all Floridians are jumping at the chance to shovel snow.  I guess I will keep visiting.

Beautiful Art!
Beautiful Art!

 

A Hermit's Black Friday

“Why don’t we stop by Target?” I asked my husband and my mother, as we pulled out of the parking lot of an apartment complex we were looking at for my mom. “We have an hour until we have to meet everyone for lunch, and mom wanted to look at small Christmas trees.  Plus, I really have to pee.” I HATE public bathrooms, but it didn’t make sense to drive all the way back to my mom’s apartment. My husband looked at me like I’d been huffing Windex, and asked me how to get to Target.  He was driving our rental car around my hometown, Hollywood, Florida.

I asked my mom where the Target in Pembroke Pines was, since we were meeting some of my closest high school friends for lunch at Burger and Beer Joint on Pines Boulevard. Mom told my husband where to go (not like that — she actually likes him), and we arrived at Target.  It was so crowded.  There were not even handicapped parking spaces available.  My mom has a handicapped parking permit.

“Wow. It’s so crowded,” I said, while thinking about how much I missed Ohio.

“Well, it is Black Friday, Lisa,” My husband said, while pulling the car over to one side in the lot.  “You ladies get out here.  I will go fight for a spot.” I totally forgot it was Black Friday, since, as your token introverted friend, I do all of my shopping online.  My husband is a gem for dropping us off out front and not smacking me.

So, my mom and I went into Target, and headed to the restrooms.  Holy cow! I mean. I’ve been in gas station bathrooms before, and Walmart bathrooms, but the Target ladies room in Pembroke Pines needs some kind of honorable mention in the International Nasty Bathroom competition.  If this competition doesn’t exist, it should.  I realize it was Black Friday, but come on, Target.  Don’t make me regret hating Walmart.

As my mom and I exited the bathroom, my husband entered the store, having found a parking space.  We walked around Target, trying to find that tree.  We could barely look at the trees because the folks at Target had carts full of merchandise blocking the Christmas tree display. We squeezed by a cart to get a look at the trees.  The whole blockade reminded me of the liquor section in any grocery store in Indiana on a Sunday.  Prior to moving to Columbus, we lived in Fort Wayne, IN (THE Armpit of America).  So, I know all about carts blocking the items you actually want to buy.  Man, was I glad to get out of there.

So, after an unsuccessful trip to Target, we headed over to Burger and Beer Joint for lunch.  Through the beauty of Facebook, I have kept in touch with A LOT of friends from high school.  Since I am a touch on the introverted side, I made lunch plans with a really small group of them.  Next time, I want to make individual plans with my besties.  I don’t feel like I had enough time with anyone.  Like a textbook introvert, I don’t like to hang out with gobs of people, but I LOVE the friends I do have.

My friend H, who I met at the bus stop on the first day of 8th grade at a new school, brought her adorable son and niece.  The kids colored pictures for Chris and me that I will hang on my fridge as soon as I unpack them.  I will put them here for your enjoyment.  H and her son and niece could model.  Seriously, I told H that, too.  They are all such gorgeous people.

My friend T has not aged one bit and is still the sweetest person ever.  She brought me a card and a Starbuck’s gift card.  T and I met in drafting class in 8th grade, and she still KNOWS me.  I love this girl.

C brought her boyfriend.  It was nice to meet him in person as I had seen pictures and read his funny comments on Facebook.  It was so nice to see them together and see my friend so happy.  They are a beautiful couple

M, who I never hung out with in high school, was thrilled to have a grown-up lunch.  Her two kids, both models, for real, were at home with dad.  M is a prime example of everything that is good about Facebook.  I hardly knew her in school, but she is one of my best, most genuine friends, thanks to this newfangled Internet.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and a little sad.  There was a lot of talking and interaction, which can drain a hermit, but it was with people I adore.  I loved seeing everyone and catching up.  I miss living in Florida only when I think of my friends and family.  I would really like it if everyone would just move to Ohio.  I’m sure all Floridians are jumping at the chance to shovel snow.  I guess I will keep visiting.

Beautiful Art!
Beautiful Art!

 

Humidified Hermit

Check out the hair.
Check out the hair.

For the third time this fall, I am a traveling hermit. This time, we are visiting the family in Florida for Thanksgiving. Way back when I lived in South Florida, oh say the first 35 years of my life or so before moving to Fort Wayne, IN (AKA the armpit of America — we’ll get to that in another blog), I used to HATE it when the tourists would complain about the heat and humidity.  They would complain in their New York accents. “How do you stand this heat? Ugh, and the air is so thick.”  My favorite was, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas when it’s this HOT!”  I wanted to tell them to take I-95 north if they don’t like it, and that Jesus was born in the desert.  Even your token atheist friend knows that.  I didn’t say either.  I just shrugged and said something about just being used to it.  Friends, a sad day has arrived for me.  I am no longer used to the Florida climate.  I have become, gulp, a Northerner.

I’m coming to you live from the guest room at my father in-law’s house where I am sitting directly under the ceiling fan, which is on the second to highest setting.  It was on the highest setting after I emerged from the steamy post-shower bathroom almost certain that I was going to have a heat stroke.  You see, back up north (Florida people, please don’t hit me for saying “back up north.”) I am used to being a little chilly when I get out of the shower.  I usually have to put on a nice, warm, fluffy bathrobe after I bathe.  Then, I have to blow-dry my hair ASAP.  Today, I decided not to dry my hair, but rather to just give in to the humidity.  I was certain that I would catch on fire if I aimed hot air at my head. So, “beachy” waves it is.

I remember tourists complaining about the clouds, too.  They usually wanted to go home with tans, so cloudy or rainy days were not fun.  Well, after enduring a lot of cloudy days in Ohio, I was looking forward to some sun from the Sunshine State.  It’s not happening today.  It is almost as dreary here as in Ohio, only with palm trees and an ocean.  Oh, listen to me.  I’m complaining like a Yankee again.

So, while I was writing the first draft of this blog (Yes, this is actually the REVISED

The Sunshine State?
The Sunshine State?

version.), my father-in-law told Chris and I to get ready because we were going to “somewhere near the ocean” for lunch.  It ended up being a beautiful place named Pietros on the Ocean. The food was great, and I got a good picture of the dreary beach.  It kind of looks like the Pacific Northwest out there today.

In a couple of days, we are heading down to where I grew up, Hollywood, where it will likely be hotter, more humid, and have more tourists.  You know how we introverts adore crowds.  The good news is that I will get to see family and close friends.  The bad news is that I will not be there long enough to see everyone, and I feel bad about that.  I will continue to “see” everyone on Facebook, though, where weather and tourists do not exist

Equations with the Stubbly Good Witch

“Think about what things mean.” This was my advice to my son as I drove him to his little slice of hell — school.  That particular day would be more hellish than usual as he had both his Geometry and Science final exams.   Like me, he would almost rather have a colonoscopy, including the dreaded prep, than be forced to learn math or science.  I felt for him, so I offered him the words of advice that got me through high school math.  Mr. Scott said them almost daily.  Whenever he would write a super long equation on the board and look out at sea of confused dog looks, he would simply say, “Think about what things mean.”  This simple philosophy has gotten me through a lot more than math.

 Mr. Scott was my favorite teacher even though he taught my most hated subject – math.  I had him for Algebra in ninth grade, and again for Integrated Math my senior year.  As a teacher, he was the perfect combination of firm, professional, and funny.  He knew his subject, but he didn’t just stand there and drone on and on about variables and the order of operations.  No.  He always kept our attention, even if he had to wear a dress.

 Yes, I said a dress.  No. Mr. Scott was not a drag queen, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  He was a Vietnam veteran with a permanent five o’clock shadow who usually dressed like a gas station attendant.  I’m serious.  He had a bunch of gas station attendant shirts with his name, Frank, on the front.  They were from all different stations.  I used to sit there and try to imagine where he got them.  He couldn’t have just ordered them on Amazon because it was 1987 and Amazon, or the Internet, or laptops, or iPhones, didn’t exist yet.  No.  He would have had to work at all of the gas stations to get a shirt. Either that, or he toured the country finding gas station attendants named Frank who needed some extra cash.  No matter how he got them, I wasn’t sure why he wore them.  Maybe it was to remind himself that no matter how horrible high school students were, teaching was still better than pumping gas.  (Young people, gas station attendants used to pump people’s gas for them.) Whatever the reason, he wore them almost daily, except, as I mentioned, when he wore dresses.

 One particular Halloween (See, I told you he wasn’t a drag queen.), I remember walking into his class on the second floor of the old 600 hall at South Broward High School, and almost walking right into his magic wand.  That’s right.  Mr. Scott, Frank from the Shell station, was dressed as Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  I couldn’t help but laugh all the way to my seat.  He just stood there and looked at me like, “What?”  I took my seat expecting an easy day of not really doing math.  I was wrong. 

 Mr. Scott began class by walking carefully across the classroom in his sparkly shoes and shiny dress, and pointing to the board with his wand.  He called on me, of course, and said, “Lisa, what is the quadratic formula?”  I looked at him like he was nuts, but he insisted that I say the formula out loud while he grabbed a piece of chalk with his wandless hand.  I’m happy to say that I got it ALMOST right.  I forgot to say “the opposite of” before I said “B.”  I’m sure at age 41 I still know MOST of the quadratic formula because of this experience. 

I never grew to love math, but I sure remembered it better after watching a man with a five o’clock shadow in a dress teach it.  Over the years, Mr. Scott donned many costumes, some of them dresses and some of them more masculine, like when he was Vince Fontaine in the school’s production of Grease.  No matter how he was dressed, he always took the time to slow down and show us HOW to think about what things mean.

 I kept that in my head during the SAT and I actually scored higher in Math than in English.  (Note: I ended up becoming an English professor.) I kept thinking about what things meant through college, marriage, caring for a baby, a divorce, a new marriage, moving across the country, and a host of other experiences.  Basically, whenever I was getting frustrated or taking things too seriously, I would stop and think about what things really meant.   Usually, they weren’t as bad, or as serious as I thought, once I really THOUGHT about them.  Sometimes, all I needed to do was put on a sparkly dress and laugh.  That always helps.  Thank you, Mr. Scott, wherever you are.