Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Orlando Watersports Complex - Central Florida's Hidden Gem

My family was invited to check out Orlando Watersports Complex. Every time I drive to the airport, I catch glimpses of this place that's situated off 528 in Orlando, but I really didn't know what it was. I could see people on the water and it looked like they were skiing, but I rarely saw boats which led me to the only logical conclusion - the boats were invisible. Or the people had magical powers. As it turns out, they were wakeboarding using a pretty cool cable system.

My kids and I had never been wakeboarding before so we were eager to give it a try. Actually, my kids were very eager. I was a little more scared silly umm, apprehensive what with me being nearly 50, very out of shape, and possessing no discernible athletic ability whatsoever.

My kids had varying degrees of success. Lexi took off and made it halfway around the lake on her first try. Brooklyn face-planted about .8 of a second after taking off. An hour later, however, everyone was doing well. And me? Well, I opted to knee board instead, believing that I'd have an easier time balancing on my knees than attempting to stand on a board. In the water. While it was moving. And I had a blast!

OWC has been here in central Florida since 1999 and not only do they have wakeboarding on their standard cables, but they also offer classes, paddleboarding, advanced cables with jumps, summer camps, and their new Aquapark which just opened earlier this year. The Aquapark features a modular series of interlocking obstacles, a climbing tower, monkey bars, slides, pathways, and more. When we checked in at the Aquapark, there was a birthday party going on, and I thought what a fun place to have a birthday party! I looked up the prices for parties and found affordable options like $15 per kid for a session (50 minutes) for 10-24 participants.

OWC has all sorts of great specials including Ladies Day on Thursdays when ladies 18+ get a FREE 2 hour cable pass, Wednesday Happy Hours where you can take advantage of half-price riding from 4PM to close, and Kids' Day on Mondays where kids 16 and under can ride all day for discounted admission.
If you have your own equipment, bring it! If not, never fear, OWC provides life vests, helmets, and boards to rent. Feel free to pack a lunch and stay all day, or grab a bite at their snack bar when you need to take a break from riding.

My talking about this hidden gem here in central Florida doesn't do it justice so I put together this short 3 minute video from our time at OWC. Check it out. And see proof that I actually did it! And let me tell ya, I discovered something about myself that day. I have the upper body strength of a hamster. Oh my arms! They're still sore today! LOL! But I would totally do it again! It's a pretty cool feeling flying across the surface of the water like that.



If you live in central Florida or if you're planning on visiting, this is a must-see attraction! Take a break from all the theme parks and have a fun relaxing day at Orlando Watersports Complex. And to that end, I have an awesome giveaway courtesy of the folks at OWC. I will be choosing 3 random winners!

The 1st winner will receive 2 Aquapark tickets good for 1 free session each

The 2nd winner will receive 2 all-day cable passes including basic gear rental

The 3rd winner will receive 3 all-day cable passes including basic gear rental

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Make A Splash To Stop Childhood Drowning

I recently wrote a post about 20 ways in which Florida will kill you. Admittedly, it was a little tongue-in-cheek. I mean, a needlefish falling from the sky, thanks to a hawk with anger management issues, probably hasn't actually annihilated anyone. But I maintain that it could happen! In this post, I talked about how Florida is number one in lightning strikes, pedestrians hit, motorcycle fatalities, red lights run, and shark attacks. Well, I learned another disheartening fact today - According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida's drowning death rate among children ages 1–4 is the highest in the nation. Florida has really GOT to stop striving for number 1 in these categories! But in all fairness, it's not just Florida. Child drownings are still the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 14, and the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 nationwide.



Today I was invited to a press conference where Olympic swimmers Rowdy Gaines, Cullen Jones, Ryan Lochte, and Caeleb Dressel, ambassadors for Make a Splashspoke about the initiative to raise awareness of the preventable tragedy of childhood drowning. In the 10 years since the program's inception, they've helped 6 million children get swimming lessons! And it's an excellent accomplishment as swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by a whopping 88%!


Rowdy Gaines likened swimming lessons to car safety seats. You wouldn't drive your child around without first strapping them in their car seat because you want to keep them safe. Learning to swim isn't just about having fun, or keeping busy with an activity over summer break; it's about helping to keep your child safe. He stated that there's no such thing as being entirely safe in the water, but swimming lessons make you safER and that's the goal.

At the age of 5, Cullen Jones almost drowned at a water park. It was 30 seconds. Only 30 seconds under water. That's all it takes. He was lucky that his parents and lifeguards were around to pull him out. He joked that after being resuscitated, his first question was, "What ride are we gonna go on next?" His mom got him signed up for swimming lessons after that. And now look - he's one of the fastest swimmers on the planet and he's using his platform to speak out for a cause in which he believes. It doesn't always have such a happy ending. Olympian Bode Miller's 19 month old daughter drown over this past weekend.



Here are some other facts I found interesting. I really had no idea so many people can't swim. I guess I've taken my ability to swim for granted, but now I see that I was fortunate my parents signed me and my sister up for swim lessons every summer.


o       79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 have little-to-no swimming ability.
o      64% of African American children in the U.S. have little-to-no swim ability
o 45% of Hispanic children in the U.S. have little-to-no swim ability 
o 40% of Caucasian children in the U.S. have little-to-no swim ability 


Not only does this program strive to bring awareness about the importance of swim lessons, but through the Make a Splash initiative, the USA Swimming Foundation has partnered with learn-to-swim providers in all 50 states, to offer free and reduced swim lessons because learning to be safe around water shouldn't be limited to families with incomes over $50,000. Thankfully my kids know how to swim, but if they didn't, I would be in no position now, as a single mom, to pay for lessons which can be really pricey! ($150 for 8 lessons for preschoolers at the I Drive YMCA, for example.)

To find a provider near you who has partnered with Make a Splash and the USA Swimming Foundation, click HERE and enter your zipcode.

If you're in central Florida and you listen to Z88.3 (our local Christian station), then you know one of the DJs, Ellis has talked about how he never learned how to swim. This year he's decided to take up Rowdy Gaines on his offer of lessons! He'll be at the Oviedo YMCA this Saturday, June 16th if you want to stop by and say hi. Also, the Y is offering adult swim lessons for 50% off if you stop by any Central Florida YMCA to sign up ON Saturday, June 16. This offer is only available on Saturday, June 16.

Please share this because it only takes a few seconds for your life to irreversibly change. Fortunately, through the Make a Splash program, it only takes a few seconds to find affordable swim lessons for your kids also.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

CozyPhones Giveaway

When the folks at CozyPhones asked me if I'd like to review their product, I glanced at Brooklyn who was watching some Disney something-or-other on her phone, and thought - Yeah, I'll review a product that enables me to write in peace without hearing some Good Luck Charlie Bunk'd Bizaardvark show in the background.

CozyPhones are soft, fleece headbands with adjustable, removable speakers that can be customized for a perfect fit. And because they're removable, the headband is washable which is really important with kids because sometimes peanut butter gets in their hair and sometimes they smoosh Playdough on their heads because kids do weird things for no particular reason. 

Your kids can use these when they're allowed technology time. They can watch shows and play games without everyone in earshot hearing. CozyPhones are perfect for waiting rooms, travel, and running errands in the car. For kiddos who like to fall asleep listening to music, or the white noise of ocean waves or rain, for example, these are extremely comfy to wear to bed or while relaxing with no ear buds poking you or a hard plastic band over your head.

And they come in cute characters. If you have any toddlers who are into Paw Patrol, they'll love their new designs including Chase, Skye, and Marshall. And if you have any teenagers, they'll love the kiddie characters too because like toddlers, teens are weird and like to wear kid stuff to be ironic. I have no idea why this is, but trust me. You've seen teens go nuts over little kid character footie pajama onesie things, right? 


I'm going to order one of the plain adult CozyPhones for myself because I have started working out again and the only way I can stick with the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike for more than 2.4 minutes is to watch a movie on my phone so I can temporarily forget about the torture of exercise. But I sweat like a hippo and my ear buds occasionally slide right out of my ears as sweat drips down my head. (I know, I'm super ladylike.) With the comfortable lycra mesh headband, not only will I not have to worry about earbuds sliding out on a river of sweat, but the headband will keep it from dripping in my eyes, and I'll be able to work out until I look like a super-model. Total win!

Have a kiddo you think would love a pair of CozyPhones? Enter here for a chance to win your own set! Winner can choose character from over 10 designs. Enter below by leaving a comment on the blog, visiting CozyPhones on Facebook, and/or tweeting a comment. Good luck!

I was given a pair of CozyPhones to review. My opinions are mine alone.

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Update On Lexi

A few people have asked me for an update on Lexi. (In March, I wrote about Lexi's issues with tachycardia. If you missed it, you can get caught up HERE.)

At that time she was going to be having a stress test with pulmonary function, and was going to be wearing a heart monitor for 30 days so the doctor could get a clearer picture of what was going on. The stress test was normal. The heart monitor she wore for 30 days, however recorded over 150 incidences where her heart rate went abnormally high. The electrophysiologist who originally talked about an ablation because he thought Lexi had an arrhythmia changed his mind and said she doesn't have an arrhythmia after all. He insisted her heart was fine and suggested her high heart rate was all in her head. 

"But I thought the monitor picked up a bunch of abnormal heartbeats," I asked, confused.

"Yes, but maybe it's anxiety causing it."

"Nope. She doesn't have anxiety."

"She should just exercise more. She's out of shape."

"Nope. She's thin, fit, healthy, and exercises regularly. She's been in sports her whole life. She doesn't get out of breath or have a hard time exercising. Her heart rate just goes ridiculously high."

"She just needs to drink more water and eat more salt. Her heart itself is fine. She probably just has an autonomic problem."

Okay then. We're done with the cardiologist, but still don't have answers.

A couple weeks ago, Lexi was skating when she developed chest pain and dizziness. Her fitbit showed her heart rate was 213. Half an hour after stopping, she was still crying because her chest hurt so much so I took her to the ER, scared that something bad was going on. 

In the end, she wasn't having a heart attack or anything. Her potassium was a little low so they gave her some. Then they instructed us to follow up with a cardiologist. Yeah, been there, done that.

About a week ago, she had an appointment with the neurologist she sees for her migraines. She pointed us to a cardiologist at Nemours who specializes in POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.)

We'll see. Not holding my breath.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Seventeen: College Goals Giveaway

Bluestreak Books sent me a copy of Seventeen: College Goals AND is providing a prize pack for one of my lucky readers!

Things I didn't think through before having a big family:

1.  The amount of laundry it would entail!

2.  The never-ending "but she started it" battles.

3.  The amount of toilet paper we go through.

4.  Being literally unable to keep enough food in the house.

5.  The need to clone myself in order to be at several different places at the same time.

6.  Homework times 6.

7.  Having to teach 6 kids to drive!

8.  I am never alone. Ever. 

9.  How many times I've heard the phrases, "Wow, are they all yours?" "Do you know how that happens?" and my personal fave, "You sure have your hands full."

10.  Sending 6 kids to college!

Lexi, my daughter who will turn 17 this week is thinking about college. She's planning on doing dual-enrollment for her senior year, and has plans right now to pursue a career in nursing. I say "right now" because we all know that can change. Heck, I'm 48 and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

I think that's why she's really enjoying Seventeen: College Goals. It isn't one of those hard-hitting, packed with information about specific schools kind of a book. It's a stress-free guide—part-planner, part-journal—that will help walk your teen through the step-by-step process of applying to colleges. There are pages filled with practical cheat sheets, handy life hacks, thoughtful tips, fun quizzes, inspiring quotes from your favorite celebs and leaders, and prompts that will push you to self-reflect. (After all, that’s what college essays are all about!) 

Lexi likes that it reads like a cross between a magazine and a journal. She likes being able to record her thoughts about schools and about interests and questions she has. If you have a teen, this is a terrific resource to get them thinking about college (and it's never too early to start planting that seed.) I know that college isn't for everyone and you don't necessarily need a degree to have a fulfilling and lucrative career, but like I always tell my kids and students - college gives you options - options you wouldn't have without that degree!

Peek inside and learn more about the book HERE.
You can purchase the book HERE.

Click on the Rafflecopter giveaway to enter for a chance to win your very own copy of Seventeen: College Goals and a $50 Visa gift card (because you deserve a little treat after making it through this school year!)
Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Bluestreak Books.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The One In Which I Sweat, Bleed, And Waste Paramedics' Time

I'm on these two diabolical antibiotics for my recent bout of diverticulitis. They make me feel like garbage. I'm dizzy, nauseated, and it perpetually tastes like I've been sucking on a handful of change that's been rolling around in the back of my van. Plus I'm on Coumadin (blood thinners) for life because of my clotting disorder and history of blood clots. And the thing about Coumadin is that everything, everything affects it - medicines you take, food you eat or drink, being sick, everything.

So at school today I got a nosebleed out of nowhere. That indicates to me that my blood may be too thin. It doesn't stop bleeding for some time so I walk to the front office, holding a bloody tissue to my face. The health assistant, the registrar, and the bookkeeper see me, freak out a little, tell me I look like crap, and threaten to call an ambulance. Despite my protests that you don't call an ambulance for a nosebleed, and that antibiotics are the reason I look and feel awful, they continue to beg my permission to call an ambulance so they can ogle the cute paramedics express concern for my well-being. Finally, thinking that maybe the paramedics could check my PT/INR (blood test to check how thin my blood is from the Coumadin), I relent. Well, that and the fact that I was sweating and dizzy and feeling pretty horrible.

So the paramedics arrive, and much to the delight of my co-workers, they're both attractive guys. Fabulous. I explain that I was in the hospital last week and that the antibiotics I'm on are the reason I feel like a shriveled sausage casing filled with the muck that clogs your shower drain.

The one medic agrees that yes, Flagyl is of the devil and will make you feel awful. The other guy gets to work checking my blood sugar, strapping a blood pressure cuff around my arm, and applying stickers to my legs, arms, stomach, chest, face, scalp, and big toe. I'm mortified as he's sticking these leads to my skin because I'm sweating like crazy. My back is stuck to the chair with sweat. Through my shirt. Super classy.


via GIPHY

In the end, it was determined that I was sweaty and disgusting, but I'd live. I started heading back to my classroom as the health assistant came to the determination that she must play matchmaker. 

"What's your number, Dawn? I'm going to give it to that paramedic."
"No."
"Come on. I'm going out there," she said as she grabbed a sticky note and a pen.
"Um still no."
"I'm giving him your number," she trailed off as she headed toward the door.
"What is wrong with you?! No!"

I like to think she's a good-hearted person who just suffers from mental illness.

She actually walked out the door toward the ambulance, so I turned on my heel and headed to my class, confident that she didn't actually have my number. I was wrong. So there's a random paramedic in Orlando who probably thinks that the old, fat, sweaty woman who can't handle antibiotics actually asked the health assistant to give him her number.

via GIPHY

I thought about throat-punching her, but my school has this thing where they frown upon physical violence in the workplace. Plus, if I crushed her trachea, they'd probably call the ambulance back and well, I think I suffered enough embarrassment for one day.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Riding Down A River Of Questions

My phone has been acting all wonky lately and I figure it's only a matter of time until it completely dies so tonight I downloaded over 4000 pictures to my computer. As I was going through and deleting some of them, I ran across the screen shots I took of this conversation between my kids right before spring break. 

[Handy information:  Savannah worked at a water park called Volcano Bay at the time. Austin works at Publix (a grocery store.) Jackson works at a BBQ place. The hand emoji is Austin raising his hand to ask a stupid question. And lastly, they're all insane.]


























In the end, we all did get to go to Volcano Bay and Austin did not, in fact wear a Speedo.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

The One With The Pain, The Stupid Doctor, And The Beans

Tuesday night I went to bed with some pain in my abdomen, thinking it was just a little gas. Every time I began to doze, the pain awakened me. By the time my alarm went off in the morning, I was wide awake, in horrible pain, running a fever, and fully aware that I was suffering from another bout of diverticulitis. My sixth bout of diverticulitis.

Still, I like to live in complete denial of medical issues so I waited a few hours, convinced that, through sheer willpower, I could stave off an infection. My rising temperature and my inability to stand up straight said otherwise, so around 1:00, I headed to the hospital. Because I believe the medical care down here will kill you is subpar like I wrote in my blog post HERE, I debated where to go. There's only one hospital in Central Florida that I've visited and have not hated with a burning passion, so one would think that I would go to that hospital. But I did not.

Now, I have a reason for this! A perfectly good reason! And that reason makes total sense! Hear me out! I didn't go to the not-horrible good hospital because the emergency department in Winter Garden doesn't have any rooms; it's just an emergency facility. So I came up with the brilliant plan of going there because I knew they couldn't admit me; they'd have to send me on my merry way with a couple prescriptions for antibiotics! That idea was foolproof! Only I didn't take into account the possibility that they'd transfer me to another Florida Hospital.


via GIPHY

A white cell count over 20,000, a fever, and a CT scan showing extensive inflammation earned me a fun little ambulance ride to a larger hospital. The paramedics who transported me were all nice and friendly, but none of them looked like this:


When the hospital sends me a survey about my experience, I have some things to say about that.

A surgeon was called in for consultation. His assessment is that I will continue to have attacks and if I do nothing, it's just a game of Russian roulette until my intestines explode and I need emergency surgery. Although they could have done the surgery while I was in the hospital, the surgeon said I'd be better off waiting 4 to 6 weeks until the infection and inflammation were under control. By waiting, according the surgeon, there's less of a chance of needing a colostomy. I thought that was a great suggestion because it combines two things I love: procrastinating and not pooping in a bag.

I will say that everyone, from the ladies who registered me to the nurses and the CT tech, in the Florida Hospital in Winter Garden was nice. They were concerned with keeping my pain and nausea controlled, and making sure I was comfortable. The doctor was friendly, compassionate, had a sense of humor, and checked on me more than once while I waited.  And I will say that the Florida Hospital in Apopka where I was transferred was nice. My room was big and clean. But seriously, with all the advances in hospitals, you'd think they would've realized the beds suck! You'd think that maybe they could've come up with something a little more comfortable. Like a slab of concrete. Or a bed of nails. But the nurses who cared for me were nice and compassionate. They always asked if there was anything they could do for me.

However . . .

Late Wednesday night they took me for an MRI. I asked why they needed it since the CT scan had shown them what they needed to know. I was told, "Just to get a better look." Okay. As it turns out, I learned the next day, they wanted a better look at a mass they'd seen on my liver in the CT. If anyone had bothered to tell me this, I could've let them know that I was already aware of the mass and had already had an MRI like a year ago, and already knew it was a benign hemangioma. But thanks for bumping up my bill, guys. Appreciate it.

On Thursday evening, I was allowed some clear liquids. The surgeon takes a look at the clear liquid diet sitting mostly untouched on my tray and says that I shouldn't be eating or drinking anything at all for another couple days. Okay. TMI alert - Infection in your colon + strong antibiotics = massive diarrhea. Or well, I guess not massive exactly if you haven't eaten for 2 days, but still. In the middle of the night I had a little um, accident. (It takes a while to get out of bed when you're hooked up to a heart monitor and an IV!) I cleaned up and was changing into a new pair of underwear when a male tech walked in. Yeah. I have super-lucky timing that way. He was concerned my heart monitor had come off, so in the dark, before I had even finished pulling up my undies with one hand because my other hand had a death grip on my IV pole so I didn't fall over from overwhelming dizziness, he grabbed my hospital gown, pulling it out from my neck as he messed around with the leads on my chest. Awkward. He didn't even buy me dinner. 

On Friday, the PA from surgery told me I could try a liquid diet. About 2 seconds after she left my room, someone came in with a tray of spaghetti and meatballs, grapes, and milk. I told her I couldn't eat that because I was on clear liquids. She argued with me that no, I'm on a regular diet. Ummm no. I literally just talked to the doctor! She didn't believe me, but agreed to bring me a new tray with vegetable broth and tea anyway. No sooner did she bring me a new tray than the nurse came in telling me I'm on a regular diet and I'm ready to be discharged.


via GIPHY

Then a person, who I can only surmise was Frank Abagnale Jr. impersonating a doctor, came in and told me I couldn't leave until I could eat a regular diet. When I asked him, "Why?" he didn't have an answer. Since he had apparently never encountered someone with diverticulitis, even though it's a very common problem, I enlightened him a bit. "Listen buddy! I have had this SIX times. And EVERY time, I have been discharged from the hospital on a clear liquid or perhaps a bland brat diet. I will not be able to eat SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS for some time!" (There is much debate on what kind of diet can prevent diverticular disease and/or flare-ups of diverticulitis, but everyone agrees that when you're healing from an infection, you need a bland, low-fiber diet for a couple weeks.)

He left and I burst into tears because that's what I do. I missed Clay's band concert on Thursday night and I was stuck there missing his 8th grade dance. I felt awful that my Littles had been left to their own devices for what felt like a week and a half. I felt sorry for myself because being a single mom when you're sick sucks. No one to take care of me. No one to take care of my kids. But I've got to say that Lexi is the awesomest! She took care of Clay and Brooklyn. She bought them dinner and made them go to bed before 2:00AM. She brought me clothes and toiletries and came to visit me every day. I'm so grateful for her help!

Anyway, while I was bawling, the nurse supervisor person came in and talked to me. I expressed my frustration that no one seemed to be on the same page, and I just want to go home. I shouldn't be expected to eat a regular diet in order to leave. I asked why on earth would they bring me spaghetti and meatballs. Why not just plain noodles or mashed potatoes or white rice or a piece of bread? She was sympathetic and said she'd do her best to get me discharged that night. She came back in with some mashed potatoes and said if I tolerated my dinner I could go home. Those were the best mashed potatoes ever!

Want to know what they brought me for dinner?



Corn. And black beans. Because everyone knows how easy it is to digest corn and beans. The perfect food for a person healing from a vicious intestinal infection.


via GIPHY

I didn't eat it, of course. I left anyway. (Thank you Austin and Codi for picking me up!) I'm home and the pain is much, much better, however the nausea and dizziness from the evil antibiotics is in full force. And I guess I'll be scheduling surgery for this summer which is good timing since I won't have to take time off from the school at least. But I'm still not looking forward to it for oh, so many reasons, not the least of which is the colonoscopy-like prep.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

I Made Healthline's 2018 List of Best Single Mom Blogs!



I got this email yesterday while I was in the hospital. It definitely brought a little cheer to me!


Hi Dawn, 

Healthline would like to congratulate you on making our list of Best Single Mom Blogs for 2018!  

We carefully selected each blog based on the quality of content, the frequency of posts, and a connection to their community. We feel Because I Said So! And other tales (Mom2My6Pack) specifically earned this accolade by using your wit and humor to build not only a fantastic and authentic parenting resource but a hilarious read as well. 

We’re excited to showcase Because I Said So! And other tales (Mom2My6Pack) on Healthline and help empower users with Single Mom. Keep up your amazing work! 


In health, 
Lauren


Check out the whole list here!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Beyond the Sun and a Free Trip to Rome

I think the most awesome adventure I've had with my kids was the time we went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina back in July of 2010. This was the first trip I took with all 6 kids by myself. I rented a house right on the beach and we made ourselves at home there in Corolla for a week. When I reminisce about this trip, I recall the good times we had all together. I remember the fun stuff - driving down the length of the Outer Banks, boiling shrimp and eating it out on the deck, the ocean a few yards away, playing on the beach and in the water. Although my memories are fond and make me miss those days now that my older kids are out of the house, when I really think back to our little adventure, I recall some things that were less-than-perfect about the trip. We'll call those moments "life lessons." For example:

It will take you 12 hours to drive through Virginia. When it's over 100 degrees outside, your AC isn't working, and you have 6 kids who have been cooped up in the car for 2 days, that's the same as 492 hours on the Standard Parental Conversion Chart.

If you car is equipped with child locks, use them! It was on this road trip from Chicago to North Carolina that I learned that little tidbit when my kids, bored out of their skulls from sitting in a hot van for 2 days, started throwing stale donut holes out the window and into the bed of a pick-up truck next to us at a red light.

If you are driving a big ole "church van", do NOT drive on the beach. You will get stuck necessitating a team of good-natured strangers to alternately dig around your van, let air out of your tires, hook cables up to tow you, and laugh at you for being stupid.

Spaghetti tacos may sound like a good idea when iCarly talks about them, but in real life - notsodelicious.

It's never a good idea to play baseball with the dead jellyfish washed up on shore.

Pack ammonia for jellyfish stings.

Don't run barefoot on an old wooden deck.

Pack tweezers.

While, looking at a map, you might think you can drive from one end of the Outer Banks to the other in about half an hour. You can't. It will take you approximately 492 hours (incidentally the same amount of time to drive through the state of Virgina) to get from Carova to Ocracoke.

There's such a thing as chocolate peanut butter at a grocery store called Food Lion. (This was back in 2010 when it wasn't commonplace. This may actually have been the highlight of the entire trip.)

And speaking of adventures, BEYOND THE SUN, a family movie that chronicles the adventures of four young friends in search of God, debuts on multiple platforms like iTunes, Amazon, and TUGG today, May 15th. A heartwarming family film, distributed by AMBI Distribution, BEYOND THE SUN, is a modern day tale of hope, faith and courage based on stories from the Bible. This delightful family film features a very rare special appearance by Pope Francis.

In support of the film, AMBI Media Group is holding a special contest where one lucky person will win an Exclusive Private Tour of the Vatican and Front Row Tickets to an Audience with The Pope For Four! For anyone who has ever wanted to visit Italy and The Vatican, this is your chance!  For additional details about the contest and to enter, please go to: www.freetriptorome.com



Back in 2010 my kids and I all loved our adventure in the Outer Banks. But now that my kids are older and it takes a month of complicated scheduling just to try and get everyone together for an evening to celebrate a birthday, I truly appreciate the experiences we had together there. I would absolutely love to go back and rent a house again some day so all my kids, plus their fiance, boyfriend, girlfriend, and my grandbaby could create some new memories of fun times, lazy beach days, laughter, and meals shared in the same house. Except maybe not spaghetti tacos . . .

Share the memory of your favorite adventure for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Target! And don't forget to visit this page to enter for a chance to win a trip for 4 to Rome, including airfare, a 5-night hotel stay, a private tour of the Vatican, and front row tickets to see the Pope. 

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Monday, May 14, 2018

20 Ways Florida Will Kill You

I went to the dermatologist last week because my arms have been itching for nearly a year. I know, I know, I'm super-expedient in taking care of health problems as soon as they arise. The dermatologist's assessment? I have PMLE (polymorphous light eruption.) In layman's terms: I'm allergic to the sun. It's a good thing I live in Florida. The Sunshine State. 

This news just made me think - Well there's yet another way this state is going to kill me. And this state will kill you at some point which really makes you wonder why on earth people continue to move here. As far as I can tell, the main only reason is "for the weather." But let me tell you a little secret. The weather sucks! From April through October the temperature ranges from the-surface-of-the-sun hot to the-devil's-attic hot with the kind of humidity that feels like you have a wet blanket fresh from the dryer over your face. So the "good weather" people move here for is really basically 3 weeks of moderate weather during the winter. When you look at those facts, it seems pretty silly to stay in a state that will kill you 20 different ways just for the reward of a couple nice weeks of weather in December. 

I know you're probably asking - How will Florida kill me, Dawn? Isn't that a tad bit dramatic? 

Let me tell you. 



1.  DRIVING
photo: Creative Commons
Driving is about the most dangerous thing you can do in Florida. When I first moved here, I was shocked to find that my car insurance had doubled. DOUBLED. No lie. It didn't take me long to figure out why. Florida has the 5th highest insurance rate in the nation. I-4, the highway that runs east and west through central Florida was named the most dangerous road in the nation. Not in the state. In the entire country. Although Driver's Education was a graduation requirement where we lived in Illinois, it isn't even offered at the high schools around here. So you have idiots teaching the youth of Florida how to drive. It's a never-ending vicious circle of stupidity. 

People who live here like to blame it on senior citizens and tourists, and I'm sure they play a part, but the real problem is the entitled people, and the idiots, and this state has an overflowing abundance of both. Floridians don't feel the need to wait for their turn at a 4-way stop. Some of them don't even know what a 4-way stop is! They also see nothing wrong with throwing it in reverse when they realize they're on the wrong exit ramp. Making u-turns from the far right lane is perfectly acceptable to these people. And let's not forget all the jaywalkers because really, who has time to walk those extra couple feet to cross at the crosswalk? I mean, the cars will stop for them, right? Florida has the second highest number of pedestrian deaths. And lastly, Florida is number one in motorcycle deaths. Yay, Florida! Congratulations on those accomplishments. 



2.  LIGHTNING

photo: Dawn Meehan
Florida also wins the award for the most lightning strikes per square mile with an average of 24.7. There were 463 fatalities from 1959-2011, more than any other state. Perfectly understandable why people move here FOR THE WEATHER, right? 



3.  HURRICANES
photo: Dawn Meehan
Which brings us to the next thing that will kill you. Experts are predicting another active hurricane season for 2018. I, for one, am not looking forward to this. Hurricane Irma hitting last year was the scariest thing I've ever gone through. (And keep in mind, I've taught 4 kids how to drive!) I honestly don't know what the worst part of that experience was: fighting with strangers for the last can of clam chowder on the shelves at Publix, waiting in line for gasoline, the uprooted trees outside my apartment, or being enclosed in a small bathroom with a farting teenager while waiting out the storm. 



4.  SINKHOLES
photo: Creative Commons
Being comprised of porous limestone, Florida has always had sinkholes, but since Hurricane Irma, sinkholes have increased exponentially. It would probably suck if you came home after work only to find your house 12 feet below ground. Although I suppose it might be okay if a sinkhole swallowed your workplace . . . 



5.  WILDFIRES
photo: Creative Commons
When people move here for the amazing weather, they don't realize that part of that amazingness is rain every single day during the spring, summer, and fall, followed by not a single drop of rain all winter. The result is death-by-lightning in the summer (see number 2), and uncontrollable wild fires during the winter and early spring. When the fires reduce visibility on nearby roads, they're shut down causing more death-by-traffic problems (see number 1.) 



6.  HEAT
photo: Creative Commons
Since moving to Florida my most time-consuming hobby is complaining about the heat. This interest truly does take up a good part of my every day. If the heat (or being allergic to the sun :::eyeroll:::) doesn't kill me, I'm bound to eventually be knocked off by someone who doesn't appreciate my new hobby of incessantly complaining about the heatwaves coming off the pavement, my hair which has frizzed to Hagrid-sized volume, or the fact that sweat is covering every inch of my body. 



7.  TORNADOES
photo: Creative Commons
When I think about tornadoes, I think about Kansas, but Florida is number 3 in the country for tornadoes. The reason the kids and I hung out in the bathroom during Hurricane Irma was mostly because of all the tornadoes that touched down as the hurricane ripped through. And incidentally, basements are pretty much non-existent in Florida what with the average altitude being 6 feet about sea level. A basement in Florida would pretty quickly turn into an indoor swimming pool so there's no safe place to hide from these beasts. 



8.  RIP CURRENTS
photo: Creative Commons
I love the beach. It's my favorite thing about Florida. But the beach may be more dangerous than the weather. Every year, rip currents kill more people than thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined. 



9.  JELLYFISH
photo: Dawn Meehan
My kids and I have all been stung by jellyfish. A few months ago, some of us got stuck with creatures called Sea Butterflies. Seriously. Sea Butterflies. It sounds like something from SpongeBob, but nope they're real and they look and feel like little slivers of fiberglass jabbing in your skin. Man-of-Wars wash up on Florida beaches all the time and although they look like pretty blue balloons, they HURT. 



10.  SHARKS
photo: Creative Commons
You know what other category Florida is number one in? That's right - shark attacks! And I'm not entirely convinced that number 7 (tornadoes) and number 10 (shark attacks) won't combine to make a Sharknado one day. 



11.  ALLIGATORS
photo: Dawn Meehan
You know when you walk out to your car in the morning, coffee in hand, ready to begin your commute to work, but you can't actually get IN your car because an alligator is blocking your path? No? Well, you obviously don't live in Florida then. You would probably call this scenario crazy. Floridians just call it Monday. 



12. FALLING FISH
photo: Dawn Meehan
A couple week ago I was sitting at the football field, watching my girls' cheer practice, and minding my own business when a fish fell from the sky. Let me say that one more time. A fish. Fell. From the sky. And not just any fish, but a needlefish. Now there may not be any records of a cheer mom having her brain impaled by a needlefish launched by a hawk, but I have no doubt it could happen. 



13.  NAEGLERIA FOWLERI
photo: Creative Commons
You may think it's a smart idea to avoid oceans what with their rip currents, jellyfish, and sharks, and head to a lake instead. You'd be wrong. Every year, people in Florida die from this brain-eating amoeba that thrives in warm fresh water. (I suspect many more survive with only part of their brains eaten away. That would help  explain number 1 on this list.) 



14.  SPIDERS
photo: Dawn Meehan
This is a picture of an actual Black Widow that had stupidly thought to make her home on my lanai. The picture was taken after it had been bombarded with a series of bug spray, bleach cleaner, hairspray, fire, and a size 13 shoe. (You can never be too careful.) I recommend you read the whole story here. 



15.  SNAKES
photo: Creative Commons
According to my sources, of the over 50 species of snakes in Florida, only 6 of them are venomous. Well, that certainly makes me heave a sigh of relief! (Roughly translated from sarcasm to English, that means, Who cares??? It's a snake! A SNAKE! Does it matter if it's venomous? No, it does not! If I see one, I will be making tracks like a triathlete on crack!) Oh, and don't forget that we also have ginormous Burmese pythons in the Everglades as well. 



16.  RED ANTS
photo: Creative Commons
You know that scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where the bad guy is carried away by an army of red ants? I remember seeing this movie in the theater and laughing my head off because it was just so ludicrous. And then I moved to Florida. It could happen. 



17.  COCKROACHES
photo: Dawn Meehan
So maybe there aren't any deaths by cockroaches on record, but on more than one occasion, I have nearly caused a 5 car pile-up because a cockroach crawled across my foot while driving. One time, I pulled over, jumped out of the car, and did a little freak-out dance in the middle of the street. Don't judge. The cockroaches down here are the size of Golden Retrievers. 



18.  ASSORTED CREATURES
photo: Creative Commons
In this state we have bears, panthers, Sandhill cranes that are as tall as Big Bird, armadillos, and vultures by the dozen. It's like living in Jurassic Park. 


19.  MEDICAL CARE
photo: Creative Commons
If a doctor can't get a job anywhere else, he goes to Florida where he can work an hour a day and spend the rest of the time on the golf course. Since living here in Florida, a doctor told my son he had HIV. He doesn't. They mixed up the tests. Two different doctors on two different trips to the ER missed the blood clot in my leg until it traveled to my lung. Another doctor told us my son needed immediate surgery on his broken knee cap. Nope. If you really need medical care while in Florida, I suggest you hop a plane to literally anywhere else. Hmmm, now that I think about it, has anyone actually heard of a sun allergy? Questioning my dermatologist's diagnosis . . . 



20.  FLORIDA MAN
photo: Creative Commons
One day, several years ago, my kids were watching a show on TV called I Almost Got Away With It. Every time I walked into the room, I caught the narrator talking about how the crime took place in Florida or how the criminal escaped to Florida. After several hours of this I Almost Got Away With It marathon, I asked my kids, "Is this a special Florida edition?" to which they replied, "No." Nope. It just so happens that every news story that makes you wonder What the hell? starts with "A man from Florida . . ." Or "A Florida man . . ." Or sometimes, "A woman from Florida . . ." For example: A man from Florida tries to marry a squirrel because he says it looks like Beyonce. Florida man tries to wrap a flamingo around his neck like a scarf when temperatures plummet to 72 degrees. 

But hey, let's not forget about those 3 glorious weeks of nice weather in December. I mean, that's worth being attacked by sharks, being impaled by a fish falling from the sky, and having Florida man eat your face off, right?

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