The last three months have been fun, as they have been full of new experiences and new surroundings. Florida is a very unique state, as there is beautiful weather, diverse wildlife, and a wide range of people from varying ages, backgrounds, and cultures. Nowhere is that melting pot more evident than on Florida’s roads, but more on that later. From the beautiful weather to the bugs and the wildlife, Florida has both fulfilled my expectations and surprised me. For example, if you had asked me six months ago what type of wildlife would I be concerned with in Florida, I would have quickly said gators and snakes. Never in a million years would black bears be included in that answer. As of January 2020, black bears are on the list.
The wildlife in Florida is well documented. Gators, snakes, geckos, etc. are all something the average person expects to see (or hopefully not see) while in the Sunshine State. Bears typically do not command a high degree of public consciousness, at least for a non-native Floridian like me. When we moved to our Florida home, a kind neighbor suggested that we quickly get locks for our trash cans, as bears frequently canvassed the neighborhood at night looking for food. What?
Sure enough, a few nights later, I heard a bunch of commotion outside our house around 11 pm. I bravely looked out the window, and I got to see a bear rummaging through both our trash and our neighbor’s trash. He looked quite comfortable and familiar with the process, which did not help my feelings toward the situation. Since that night, we have gotten locks for our trash cans. We have also seen a mother bear and her two cubs about three feet from our front door one evening. It was an equally neat and terrifying experience. After all, this suburbia girl is not used to seeing National Geographic type stuff from the front window.
What is even more interesting to me is the collective attitude towards these bears. It’s very laissez-faire. Most people say things like “they are more afraid of you than you are of them”, or “they are just after the trash, not you”. Well, that may be true, but a bear is a bear. Especially when our little toddler is around. Mama bear isn’t trying to meet a literal mama bear if we happen to be outside the house at the same time (ha)! Also, they are a protected species. Apparently, hunters get in big trouble if they take down a bear and the game warden finds out. The only way bears get relocated from the neighborhood is if they cause harm to humans, pets, or property. It sounds dangerous and logistically difficult to find and relocate a specific bear. So, we keep our trash cans locked, look before we go outside at night, and stay aware when we are playing in the yard. Direct bear run ins have been avoided at this point.
What we have not avoided has been the bugs. Those little (and big) suckers have popped up inside and outside the house. The small bugs inside the house are not a problem; I can manage (i.e. kill) those guys. It’s the big bugs that scurry quickly and crunch when you step on them that really make me squirm. The primary offender has been the cockroach, AKA the bane of my existence. I had never even seen a real live roach until I moved to the south, but I quickly became familiar with these beastly bugs, much to my dismay. They are everywhere, from colleges to assisted living facilities to our home, and it does not matter if the places are kept clean. Obviously, dirty environments facilitate a roach presence, but they are still found in clean places too. It seems that they just find a way to both proliferate and invade. Ugh.
Since finding the occasional roach in our house over the last few months, we have taken measures to make sure these little suckers are not permanent houseguests. The most effective thing we have done was to make sure our drains are plugged up when we are not using them. Since doing that, we have only seen one, which crawled out of an electrical socket (gross). We plugged those up too. With a toddler, we had plenty of extra plug covers laying around, so we just covered every socket. The third thing was to buy a few roach motels, which are just small boxes with roach bait and a really strong adhesive. They are discrete, and they do not have any harmful chemicals. Even better, we haven’t caught a roach yet. I’m choosing to believe we don’t have any more roaches rather than believing the traps aren’t effective (ha).
I know the common suggestion is to to use pesticides to get rid of bugs in the home, but that is not a risk I am willing to take. Having worked in multiple places that treated people with degenerative neurological disorders, the risk of using harmful chemicals is too great. There are many studies that show a causative relationship between chemical usage and degenerative neurological disorders or cancers. Consider the recent class action lawsuit over Roundup, or Agent Orange in Vietnam. These things were deemed safe at the time, but now they clearly are not. There are enough harmful things in our environment, I don’t need to add to it for the sake of killing a bug. I’ll step off my soapbox now, thanks for listening.
Not only are there more bugs in Floria, but they are huge! I have seen some of the biggest, juiciest bugs here, and it’s not even summertime yet. I can’t wait to see what that brings (ha)! Unfortunately, the baby and I have been initiated by fire ants already, so we avoid those sizable anthills like the plague. We are still working on a solution to those little buggers, but there does not seem to be a good one, yet. I did pour boiling water on one anthill after cooking carrots one night, but another anthill popped up nearby the next day. Unfortunately, no success was had with the boiling carrot water.
Not all the creatures found in the Sunshine State are offensive. The little geckos that run around are really quite cute. The toddler and I love finding them and watching them when we can. One actually got into our house a few weeks ago. I went to open the blinds one morning, and I saw a pair of little gecko eyes looking back at me atop one of the blinds! Cute as they are, they are not welcome inside our house. The toddler got a great kick out of watching me try and catch that thing. After approximately ten minutes and twenty failed attempts later, I finally had the little guy in a Tupperware container. After showing the boy the little gecko, I released him outside to his natural habitat. He was a bit stunned, but we were both happy to be rid of each other. A larger gecko has taken to sunning himself on my car every morning, which is fun to see. The baby really enjoys this, as do I.
Speaking of sun, it is beautiful down here. We have been able to get outside nearly every day in January and December! This is great for any average adult, but especially for an active little toddler! Outside is our happy place, and it’s so great to be able to just walk outside without having to worry about bundling up. Now, I know come summertime, it will be center of the sun hot for months on end. However, I am enjoying living in Florida during the winter. I see pictures of snow online, and I am so glad that is not our reality. That being said, my husband insisted we bring our snow shovel to Florida with us. He must know something I don’t (ha)!
The outdoor lifestyle is something I thoroughly enjoy, and it can be found in abundance down here. The many parks, lakes, trails, and ocean access all lend themselves to a culture of spending a lot of time outdoors. I love it. There are so many fun places to walk, run, and just let the kiddos be wild and free. The best part is that these things can be utilized all year round. Now, we will see if I am singing that same song in a few months. I hope I am.
Taking a turn to the humorous things about Florida, let’s start with the drivers. No one can drive down here, literally no one. You have four kinds of drivers: 1) the older folks who drive slowly 2) the college kids who are reckless 3) the people who have moved here from elsewhere (domestically or internationally) with a totally different driving style, and 4) the drivers who are trying to avoid the three other types of drivers. It calls for defensive driving in every sense, as you never know what you are going to see. A lot of people would say Florida has the worst drivers, and I am one to agree. Red lights, common courtesy, and all general traffic regulations are optional.
College pride is a huge deal, and this is coming from someone who lived near Raleigh, aka home of NC State, and informal home of UNC and Duke). Whether it is Florida, Florida State, Miami, or even UCF, people are very proud of their teams, and they hate the other teams. None of these football teams were really good this year, and I can’t wait to see what the team pride is like if any of these teams are impressive come next fall. Football tends to pull band wagoners more than any other sport, which is why I singled it out. Not to say that football fans are all band wagoners, but that’s a discussion for a later time.
Something that we have really enjoyed about Florida is the diversity. It’s great to live in a place where not everyone looks like us, and we want the baby to grow up around in that environment. While we certainly enjoyed North Carolina, it was pretty homogenous in the area that we lived. Having grown up in the very diverse Baltimore/Washington DC corridor, it’s been fun to return to that, especially with a little family.
People are really what make the difference, no matter where you live. As I write this, I am on a short return trip to North Carolina. We lived here for four years, and we just left this past November. It’s where we bought our first house, and it’s where we brought our baby home. North Carolina is where so many things in our lives changed for the better, although there were twists and turns along the way. While it was fun to see the old house, the buildings where we worked, and the places we used to visit, that wasn’t what mattered most. Seeing these things made me feel like I was driving through a museum of our lives, looking at inanimate objects that held significant value at an earlier point in time.
While those objects depreciate in value and worth, relationships do not. The real thing we miss about North Carolina is the people, not the house, the buildings, or the places. While connections with inanimate objects are static, connections with people are dynamic, as long as effort is applied to endure the normal changes of life, that is. Distance need not be an obstacle to maintaining a relationship, as we tend to make time for the things that we value. Opportunities arise to show people they are important to you, and taking advantage of those chances serves to further strengthen the bond. That’s what this trip to North Carolina showed me. We left a lot of good people behind when we moved to Florida. However, these friendships will continue, it’s just that the proximity has changed.
While it is sad that we will not get to see our friends with the regularity that we once enjoyed, I am thankful that we had those opportunities, as it allowed strong relationships to be forged. We were created to be in close relationships with one another, not islands on our own. Moving to a new place can make you feel like you are on an island, and only time plus effort will change that. This trip reminded me that God put wonderful people in our path in the Raleigh area, when we moved there without knowing a soul. It encouraged me that He has and will continue do that in Florida too. Instead of losing friends from North Carolina, we get to add friends from Florida. For that, and the fresh perspective that time away brings, I am thankful.
Florida, you are alright.