Category Archives: Outside the Garden

We said goodbye too soon.

After six months and thousands of dollars, Joe at Mazda said what my mechanic wouldn’t, “You have to cut your losses with this car.”  I immediately launched into the seven stages of grief.

  1. Shock – There’s NOTHING you can do???
  2. Denial – No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
  3. Anger – My mechanic’s name has been changed…Bob, that bleep, bleep, mother bleeping bleep, bleep, bleep!  I’ve been riding a bleeping bike for six bleeping months!
  4. Bargaining – Could I drive it just a little longer?  It only stalls when stopped.
  5. Guilt – Why didn’t I bring you into the dealer? Why? Why? Why?
  6. Depression – No words just sobbing.
  7. Acceptance – Buying a new car.

Here’s John transferring the contents of the wagon into the new car…sniffle, sniffle. 

{this moment} Driving

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -Soulemama

Sarasota is # 1

And that’s not just local boasting.  First Dr. Beach named Siesta Key the number one beach, and now American Style Magazine readers voted Sarasota the number one best small art city.  John Ringling would be so proud.

The Tampa Bay area as a whole dominated the magazine’s poll.  Bradenton came in second to Sarasota in the small art city category, and St. Petersburg came in first in the mid-size city category. Tampa came in third.

The Ringling Estate was the main focus of the American Style article, and rightly so, but there are so many other reasons Sarasota deserves the title.  There’s ballet, opera, and theater.  Festivals cover the gamut – blues, film dance, and chalk.

And then there’s the art that just surrounds us lucky residents in our every day lives.  Mosaics are inserted into the sidewalks under our feet.  Sculptures line the bayfront, and murals are scattered throughout the city.  This one greets visitors heading into the city from the airport; it’s on the east side of U.S. 41.These two murals can be seen from Pineapple Avenue.  The camera was painted during last year’s Chalk Festival.

This is the most talked about mural of the moment – “Dr. Robin” by artist MTO.It’s painted on the side of Sarasota Architectural Salvage on Central Avenue and is a replacement for MTO’s first mural “Fast Lane.”  The building’s owner painted over it after much local controversy.  Some interpreted the image of two hands with the words fast life written across the knuckles to have gang-related undertones.  “Dr. Robin” is MTO’s response; the doctor’s badge leaves no need for interpretation, “Dr. Robin – Specialist for leaders and haters bullshit oooops crisis – City of Sarasota” Art isn’t art without controversy, or is it?  This is an abandoned building on the corner of 10th and Central in the Rosemary District.Even the boarded up windows look good to me…life is pretty in Sarasota.

Cat Cycling

I covered an event for the newspaper this morning that had 500 adults covered in mud careening down a Slip ‘n Slide, yet that was by far not the strangest thing I saw today.  This was…

If only I could get Luke to do that and life would be back to normal with or without a car.  Although it did appear the cat was having the same reaction I would expect Luke to have…the screaming bunny comes to mind…And FMSI (for my sister’s information), I did not ask this woman’s permission to take her picture!

{this moment} One Wheel Away from Amish

Soulemama, {this moment} needs words.  Without them, years from now, I could forget what’s missing in this photograph – me on my bike.  This is the third week of blogging my biking experiences, and since I live in Sarasota, to leave out the Amish would be remiss.  We live in Southgate but are close to Pinecraft, a mixed Amish and Mennonite neighborhood where matching clothing and a slower pace are the norm.

Drive Bahia Vista Street between Tuttle Avenue and McIntosh Road.  You’ll pass by two Amish restaurants, three markets, an ice cream shop, and Everence Federal Credit Union, formerly named Mennonite Financial.  There’s even a teeny-tiny Amish-run post office.  And I’m not sure what goes on at the corner of Bahia Vista and Tuttle, but there are two dozen plus tricycles gathered there at times.  Although a few are equipped with small motors, wheels don’t exceed three in this neighborhood.

So I fit in really well…well, not really and that’s what’s missing from this photo.  I was riding home from the doctor’s office this morning and pulled up to the corner of Bahia Vista and Beneva next to three young Amish girls wearing matching blue maxi dresses and white lace caps.  I smiled; they smiled back.  As we waited, three more girls dressed in similar clothing pulled up–two on tricycles, one on a bicycle.  The girls greeted each other, and for the first time in my Florida life thus far, I felt out of place wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

As my bright yellow bike rolled over the crosswalk in between the two sets of girls–behind the riders and in front of the walkers–I wished that the car sitting at the light would snap that picture.  It would have been a good one.  Instead I grabbed my cell phone and took a photo from my place in the line.

My Valentine

What would your valentine do if both of your cars broke down at once?  If he was my valentine, he’d borrow a limousine, of course.  But not just for today, John’s been driving this diesel-chugging beast of a 1980′s limousine around town going on three weeks now.  I’m driving his car, and my car is in pieces on the mechanic’s garage floor.

Since 1980 was a long time ago and driving a limousine is not nearly as fun as riding in a limousine, John and I are both tolerating the situation.  Cooper, on the other hand, is loving it.  Where I refuse to sit in the back, Cooper would have his place no where else.  Here we are driving home from school when the front was too stuffed with stuff for me to fit.

Yes, to a 13 year-old, it’s pretty fun to have a limo on hand.  Cooper had a sleepover, and John drove the boys home in it the next morning.  What a thrill that Cooper’s friend, Jack, lives in a gated community.  They rolled down the window just enough for their lips to peek through the crack, and Cooper said in his most uppity voice, “The McGovern’s, please.”  Hopefully, we’re not still driving it full-time at that point, but they’re already making plans for the eighth-grade dance.

And when John’s friends aren’t quite as impressed by his over-sized ride, he smiles and says, “Hey, if it was 1980, I’d be stylin’.”  That’s my valentine – humbled without losing his sense of humor.  Cupid definitely did right by me.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

After two days of delays and one flat tire, we laughed Saturday afternoon away with spitting apes and peeing alligators at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary.  It was well worth the wait and the $20 Groupon price…love those Groupons!  Just like letterboxing, they’re always taking us to new places.Now some pictures of the other monkeys…

If you’re in the Palm Harbor area, stop by the sanctuary…they’ve been around for 60 years and need the funding.  The sanctuary was different from what I imagined…although my expectations could have been a bit out of whack.  When the Groupon read “admission for four and one bag of monkey feed,” I actually thought we’d be hand-feeding monkeys as if 275-pound apes were suitable for a petting zoo atmosphere.  Instead you put the feed into chutes made from PVC or in cups attached to pulley systems.Another expectation was that the monkey feed would come in some sort of pellet form, but it was Chex mix…literally.  It was a Ziplock snack bag full of Chex mix, Cheez-its, popcorn, and animal crackers.  It took us a few feedings to realize this guy would only eat popcorn.  It’s weird to see animals eating processed food, especially when showing a preference toward one type versus another.  Humans make the choice to eat or not eat unhealthy food.  At the same time, funding is always an issue with non-profits.  If the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary didn’t take these animals in, many would be put down.  The primates come from zoos, research labs, TV sets, and even private residences.  There are a few other animals the sanctuary takes in as well.  We saw snakes, alligators, birds, and lemurs. When John held the alligator, a crowd quickly formed.  It wrested a bit, but John got it flipped over on its back.John was rubbing its belly saying, “Watch, I’ll get it to go to sleep.”  One guy laughed at him and said, “Yeah, I don’t think that works with alligators.”  And then a little kid ran up and yelled, “You’re killing it!”  When John replied, “It’s not dying; it’s just going to sleep,”  the kid shouted again, “You’re making it go to sleep!”

The next thing you know, the alligator’s head and tail are pointed to the ground and that baby was peeing a river.  The skeptic from earlier says, “Well, you definitely relaxed him.”  It was hilarious to the point of a stomach ache.  This is the best picture from the moment; the others are blurred from shaking laughter.      


Having worked at a domestic violence and rape crisis center for seven years, I would never recommend picking up hitchhikers.  It is highly dangerous as a woman and not much less dangerous as a man.  Watch Monster starring Charlize Theron for proof of this; it was based on the true story of a murdering, hitchhiking prostitute.  Still, I’ve had a couple of hitchhikers lately convince me there is such a thing as safe hitchhikers; although they don’t follow the conventional thumb rules.  They just hop on – rude but cute.

My Two Best Tips for Visiting Busch Gardens

  1. Keep your head erect when riding the Gwazi.
  2. Splurge on the nectar.

“Keep your head erect,”  something I read while strapped into the front seat of a wooden roller coaster that boasts 100 mph speed.  I was unaware of that fact at the time and had even gone so far as to comment to my brother how bored the people returning looked compared to the Montu riders from earlier, so I was completely puzzled by the seemingly pedestrian instruction.  How else would I keep my head? 

Well, let me tell you that as my head flipped back like an unhinged Pez dispenser, those four words became all too clear.  I spent the rest of the ride with my shoulders and neck stacked like a linebacker ready for impact.  I was sure my souvenir from the day would be whiplash, but so far so good.  I can turn left, right, up, and down.  Life is good.

And it can be made even better with a shot of nectar in the Bird Garden…although it should be noted that it probably costs less to get drunk.  But for five dollars a pop, you can have birds lining up to your arm like drunks to a bar which is pretty cool…  …and sometimes a little scary!And here’s a money-saving tip.  The birds won’t drink half that nectar, so look around for people leaving the garden.  The kids were given nectar while I was outside buying it, and we also gave ours away when we left.

Sarasota Chalk Festival

Artists from around the world have been crawling around Pineapple Avenue on their hands and knees for a week transforming the downtown street into an outdoor art gallery for the Sarasota Chalk Festival.       John and I enjoyed dinner on Main Street and walked over to Pineapple after.  Many of the artists were still at work.  And as if the street art wasn’t enough, there was street opera too.  The cafe on the corner of Pineapple and Orange had the most delightful opera singer out front.  I’ve never been a fan of the overly dramatic and seemingly depressing art form, so I would have never imagined describing an opera singer as delightful, but she really was.  She was joking and pulling people from the crowd.  It was fun.  After 17 years of living in Sarasota, I may finally check out the opera house.The power-washers don’t start blasting away the chalk until Monday; it’s worth the trip if you get a chance…and one more picture just because I’m jealous of the view; this woman was enjoying the music from the comfort of her apartment above the cafe.  The building was built in 1925 and was originally the home of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.