The Making and Life of a Blogger: A Truly Never-Ending Story: Chapter Five–The Florida Years: Part Two

Well, have you heard of the Oil Crisis in the 1970s? The oil shortage in the U.S. had nothing to do with the Oil Embargo. It was all related to our Gold Pontiac Bonneville. We were single-handedly draining oil wells dry across the Middle East with our fuel usage. There were simply not enough hours in the day that my father could work, so, we finally got rid of the behemoth and the oil crisis soon ended afterwards. So, you can thank the death of my Father’s brother for this. The money he received from his brother’s Will allowed us to get a different car. Note how I didn’t say a better car, just a different car. I am not sure who came up with the color schemes for the 70’s but they must have been either color blind or on drugs. We went from gold to ultra bright green with a white rag top roof. If there was an uglier car out there I defy you to find it. My father had a whole $2,500 to work with. Frankly, I think he was robbed. But at least now we could skip a gas station once in a while and the poor dinosaurs were able to rest a little easier. Earlier in the book, I said I would mention my real Father once more, well, that time has come. Our government used to compensate widows when their spouses died to help pay for their children’s upbringing. My Mother got a $450.00 monthly stipend from Social Security. This was until I graduated from high school. If I continued into college I would receive this money, but only at a lesser amount each year. By my fourth year or when I turned 21 which ever occurred first, the money would end. Thusly, my parents had been putting some of this money away for me. How much, I don’t know. They insisted that they were spending the rest of this money keeping me in appropriate clothes and supplying me with the other things that I needed such as Clearasil, eye glasses, pocket protectors and shampoo for my oily hair and stuff like that. Whatever the case may be, they managed to get me through school. So, for that I am grateful.

Even with the additional funds from Social Security, money was pretty tight for my higher education. We still only had one car and one RV. So when I was at school, my Mother had to drive Dad to school in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon when he was done work using the motorhome. I know it was quite a hardship for them. I car pooled when I could, but it was little help. Due to its close proximity and a lower cost per credit hour, I opted to go to a junior college for my first 2 years. Being that my high school was not that highly rated, as was the norm for most Florida schools, I had making up to do. To catch up, I had to go to school year around, because my placement test scores were low in all the core subjects. I had to take non-credit earning remedial classes in English, Math and Chemistry. I however, was not the only one in this boat. Because these classes were full of my high school classmates. It was like being in high school all over again. Not a very strong testament for the quality of my school or the teachers working there. You noticed I did not say teaching there, right? For most of them it was nothing but a job and they seemed to take little joy in passing on their knowledge. Enough with the school bashing, this book was not meant to act as a source for school reform. Teachers back then were underpaid and overworked as they still are today.

My two years at the junior college ended with little fanfare. I graduated with honors and left there armed with a firm foundation in mathematics and the sciences and was ready to finish my last two years at the state university. Not only was the distance to this school three times as far, the tuition was three times as much as well. Class sizes went from 20 to 30 students up to as much 400 students for my undergraduate genetics class. No longer did you get to talk to the instructor in person, you talked to TA’s or teaching assistants. They were basically graduate students studying under the professor. They also ran all the labs as well. One whole building was devoted to chemistry. This school truly dwarfed my junior college. The college campus covered several square miles. You subsequently had to get to arrive at school much earlier just so you had time to get to class. I am extremely happy that I did not start my college career there first. I would have never survived and I would have quickly flunked out. This would have been partly due to the fact that the school was not only huge and impersonal, it was a party college and the girls were outrageous there. Being in Florida where it is very hot, the girls, in order to stay cool seemed to hardly wear anything at all. How was a young man to concentrate with all these wonderful distractions?

When I went to the junior college, sometimes when I had a morning class and an evening class on the same day I would go home in between , so Mom could use the car to pick up Dad. This however, was not an option at the University. It was simply too far of a drive. So, sometimes I would take a nap in the shade on the school grounds and watch the girls ride their bikes and walk by. It was truly glorious. The only negative that arose from me splitting up my years between two colleges was that the Medical School I applied to only looked at my GPA for the University. In most degree programs, the last two years contain the hardest classes. Pre-med was no different, while my grades in my first two years were very competitive, my grades for the last two years were not nearly so. When I went to see a counselor at the Medical School, I was asked if I knew anyone, I said “no”. He said I could always go to school in Grenada, so that ended my father’s dreams for me being a medical doctor.

Since this is my story, there was, of course, a slight mishap. I missed my deadline for graduation in the spring of my fourth year, so I had to wait until the Fall of my fifth year to graduate. Only me, but not to waste this time I opted to take teacher certification classes. Now with my career path considerably reduced I was left with few options. With a degree in biology, teaching was the best and pretty much only option left to me. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I had always wanted to be a commercial scuba diver. I had, however, several choices for the subject matter I would teach. Since I had enough credit hours in chemistry, biology and in mathematics I could teach school in any of those three subjects. I also had the option to teach in high school or in junior high school. So, I gave it a shot. I easily aced all three classes but I soon realized that I had no interest in teaching at this level. If I was going to teach, I wanted it to be at a university where the students there actually wanted to learn. Well, at least most of them did. I also decided that I was frankly tired of the sciences and being that history had always been my first love, I switched gears. Before I could enter into the graduate program in history, I had to fulfill the undergraduate requirement which was only four additional classes. I easily aced all four of these classes and proceeded into the master of arts program in history. My area of specialty was the industrial revolution and the great depression. I thought I knew what was ahead of me but little did I know how poor of a career path this would be as well.

When I turned 21, my parents were pretty much worn out and I was no longer receiving my government stipend, so I had to get a job and buy a vehicle. Knowing how my luck runs, you would probably expect that I would end up with a piece of crap…and I did. The Ford Company had two absolutely terrible years…1985 and 1986 for their Ford Ranger line of pickup trucks. Look up these vehicles for these two years and you will find nothing but a big lemon instead of a picture of the truck. Pretty much every part of the vehicle had issues. Not that I had much in this truck. Money was limited, so I bought a used truck with no AC. After the first year when the warranty was over I had a car payment, insurance bill and garage bill from my local mechanic. When I finally could not take it anymore and my truck was finally paid off and the heap of junk had broke down one final time, we towed it into the dealership, so I could use it for a trade-in.

It was during this time that I decided to take up a hobby. I only had money for one hobby. Since high school I had been interested in both scuba diving and photography. I figured I could take photos anywhere, so I chose photography. Thirty-seven years later, I am still an avid photographer. Latter in life I would also take up scuba diving.

After two years of going to school part time, I was only half done my masters degree. The part time job I had taken to pay for my schooling was actually paying off. As it turned out, I was making as much money now as I would be making as a starting professor in a junior college with a masters degree. So, I simply said enough is enough. After eight years of college and two worthless degrees, I decided to cut my losses. I wanted to live life and not study life. I had no serious girlfriend, only acquaintances. So, that is what I did, I started living my life. I had a brand new Isuzu Trooper II and I also had plenty of time on my hands.

Since high school I ran on a regular basis to stay in shape, but I was getting a little bored with it, so I purchased a 14-speed racing bike. Soon afterwards, I saw my first triathlon on TV. I immediately became intrigued by this sport. So, I immediately started training for my first triathlon. I was also involved in organized bike rides and I continued to enter running races including completing three marathons. My best time was two hours and 52 minutes which comes out to a sub-7 minute mile. Not too bad. Before I retired my speedos, I had completed over 50 triathlons and one biathlon. I also completed three half Ironman races and one full Ironman length race. I laugh at my paltry performance in my first race, I was so unprepared, it was a wonder that I did not drown. But I survived and even flourished in the sport. Running was always my strongest event. I was also a strong biker. Swimming took the longest for me to show signs of improvement. It wasn’t until a master swimmer gave me some training advice that I finally started showing improvement. The final piece fell into place when I got prescription swim goggles. In the shorter races, it was not much of a problem as the buoys were fairly close together. As I progressed to longer events, this was no longer the case and much to my and my parents’ exasperation, I routinely swam off course. This would greatly increase the distances I had to swim which put me at a disadvantage. But you know what, it didn’t matter because I was having fun. Another benefit that I became aware of, is that during the five years I was training for triathlons, I never once got sick. I could train any time of the year, rain or shine, it didn’t matter. This is the first time in my life I have been so healthy. I never experienced it before nor have I experienced that kind of good health since.

I met and dated a couple of girls during this time, however, they were mere dalliances. I met my first serious girlfriend since high school not in my sporting events but at work. We eventually became engaged and lived together for one year. This trend would also hold true for my next two wives.

Needless to say, that prior to my meeting my future fiancee, my love life had not been that memorable. That would all change, this girl was a 6-foot tall flaming redhead. So, you can imagine that she had a fiery disposition and temperament. Our fights were frequent and our make-up sex amazing. She had a bit of an issue…with sex, unless it was risky, she did not enjoy it. So, basically we christened every park in a fifty mile radius including amusement parks, beaches, friends’ parties, drive-in theaters and regular theaters, pretty much any place that had just a bit of privacy. Needless to say, I was in hog heaven and I truly enjoyed this roller coaster ride. However, when a flame burns too brightly, it burns out quickly. So after a year of this life, I had enough and I broke off the engagement. This was probably the smartest thing I did in my life. Because I had found out a year later that apparently, I had not been enough for her. She had been cheating on me with one of our neighbors. I will discuss this neighbor in a later chapter. He definitely was an interesting individual and it also shows how little quality of character my fiancee really had.

One good thing came of this relationship was that I started my career as a wedding photographer at this time. My fiancee had a lot of friends and she introduced me to a couple whose daughter my biggest by far. There were over 200 guests in the wedding. Since I had never done a wedding before, they made me do a test trial gratis. So, I agreed to do the bridal shower. The work was satisfactory, so the wedding was on. The night prior to the wedding I was becoming quite anxious. So my fiancee who liked to partake in smoking pot on occasion cajoled me into trying some. This was the one and only time I partook of this activity. I guess because I was so anxious , it took five puffs on the joint before I felt anything. The next thing I knew was that I was talking incessantly and experiencing a euphoria that I had never experienced before. Another side effect of note, was that I had the worst case of the “muncies”, I had ever experienced. We virtually emptied the refrigerator and freezer. The “high” lasted for a couple of hours. It lasted so long that I started getting anxious for the feeling to end. Eventually the feeling wore off and it did in fact accomplish what it was supposed to do and that was to get my mind off the wedding. The next day came soon enough, and the wedding went surprisingly well for my first go. One other aside while I am discussing my photographic career. I had four coworkers who worked with me, stocking groceries at night at one of the local grocery stores. Even after we went our separate ways we stayed in touch, and it was only after I moved out of Florida did we finally lose contact. I told them that as they got married I would do their weddings for cost. I ended up doing all four of their weddings. I thought that was pretty cool.

I had always thought I was a good judge of character but I guess that did not carry over into my personal relationships. After I had been engaged for a while, I found out that I needed more money than I was bringing in with my one job. So, I picked up a full time job at large gas station chain that also served sandwiches and such. This is where I met my next girlfriend. I had never taken notice of her but apparently she had noticed me. As soon as I broke it off with my fiancee, I found myself in another relationship. This woman introduced me to the wonders of Kegel exercises. I am trying to keep this book clean, so I will leave it at that. All I will say about, it is “Oh. My. God”. She was recently divorced and her husband had been an abusive paraplegic for the last 8 years of their marriage. She fell hard for me and I felt really bad about breaking it off, but she had picked up a bad coping mechanism during her marriage. She had become an alcoholic. She was a wonderful person but I was simply too young and immature to deal with this. She was also eleven years older than me, so, this might have also been part of my decision making process. So, I moved on. Soon afterwards I got a promotion at my primary job and was transferred to another grocery store. This is where I met my first wife.

We hit it off immediately and the one criteria that I had for my women besides being warm was that she did not snore. My fiancee had snored like a damn tractor trailer. The only problem that I could see with her was that she smoked. She promised me that she would quit smoking. So I agreed to give her two years to quit smoking. After a whirlwind courtship of one month we got married in the oldest city in the country, St Augustine, Florida.

She owned her own house which was a plus but it was a shithole. So, I spent the next year gutting it and remodeling it. The second finally year rolled around and she still had not quit smoking. It was really getting bad, she even smoked in bed. I can’t believe I had put up with her shit for that long. But on our 2nd anniversary, being the ever romantic person that I was, started packing my belongings. She did not initially say or do anything as I packed my truck up. It wasn’t until I said my goodbyes and was getting into my truck one last time, that she realized how serious I was. So, she started balling. We finally came to an agreement, she would not smoke in the house anymore nor smoke anywhere near me. She would always carried Febreze and mouth spray with her. She never kissed me until she had rinsed her mouth and sprayed herself. So I acquiesced . What a wimp. But in my defense, I did care for her and I had after all, put a lot of work in our house. Besides, I was actually happy there, at least for a while, anyways. Also I had been able to quit my second job once we had gotten married. So, I did not really relish the thought of having to get a second job. So don’t criticize me until you have walked in my shoes.

I think this is a good place as any to add a couple of my failed business attempts and to also discuss my stint in the grocery business in a little more detail. While I was working on My Bachelor’s degree and eventually was enrolled in a Maser’s degree in History I started working at a Florida based grocery chain Kash-n-Karry. Even after I decided to not complete my Masters degree I continued working there, with the aspiration of making it a career. My time there lasted 17 years and overlapped with my admission into the nursing school program at Pasco Hernando Community College. I worked on the night stock crews for ten of those years, where I ran several crews in a few of there stores. It was here that I made several close friends. I have already mentioned one of my crews in regards to my wedding photography business. I eventually made it to the position of 3rd man or Customer Service Manager where my career stalled. It was only when I made up my mind to change my career path and had entered into nursing school, was I offered an Assistant Managers position.

During my 17 years at Kash-n-Karry I tried a couple of business plans. One was as a computer consultant, where I actually took classes at a local community college, while I did have a few clients, it never went anywhere. A couple of years later I decided tp pursue my photography in a professional manner. I spent six years trying to grow my business, I built a home based studio, office and even a dark room. I had a designated parking and a special entrance into the office and studio. For advertising, I placed an ad in the phone book and I had car door magnets made up and placed them on the vehicle I was driving. Over the course of those years I had dozens of clients, but again I just could not make it profitable. For anyone trying to start their own business, it is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. However, if you do manage to succeed at it , it is also one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life. One question that was asked when people called me to discuss my services was whether I did videography? So after receiving numerous calls I tied to incorporate the services of my wife as the videographer. Unfortunately she had no aptitude for it. It was at this time that the subject came up when I was discussing my business with one of my night stockmen, Mario an affable and totally competent individual. We even had new business cards made up for him and I placed him on the next years phone book ad. However, not for lack of trying we were never able to make the logistics work out. It was at this time I was nearing the end of my five years of being able to declare a business loss, so I had to either make a profit or shut the business down. Of course I had been trying to run it at a profit, so the chances that I was going to break this tough nut and finally start turning a profit was very slim, so I shut it down. Photography went back to being a hobby for me, which was a place it should have never left. Once you do something for a living , it no longer becomes fun, and that is what happened to my hobby. As I close in on the 60 year mark of my life I am still happily taking photos even after over 35 years of doing so.

In my life, I have done things that I am not proud of and since other people were also involved, I chose not to include these events in this narrative. A man “gots to have his secrets”.

I almost forgot to mention this fact, my new wife was 7.5 years older than me and she had a grown child. I mention this fact, because it played an important part in my decision about starting a family. While my wife’s ability to have another child was not in question, the decision had to be made whether or not it was an appropriate one. After long deliberation, we both agreed that she would only have the one child. At least, we were not going to actively pursue having a child. Initially in my life. I had always thought of myself as being a father, but after my experiences with my previous fiancee, I was having my doubts. Also as you get older, you become more set in your ways and yes, a little more selfish. I was now 30 years old and she was 37 or so. It was definitely doable, so we decided to leave it up to chance but, alas it was just not in the cards. For this, I am forever thankful.

We all have secrets in our lives, and boy, did my wife have some humdingers. The only one I will divulge here is the one relating to her addiction to alcohol and of her poor self-esteem. I thought my childhood had been rough, hers was even worse. She is, however, still alive and lives close by me, so I am not going to divulge too much about her life. She was the recipient of abuse as a child and had even run away from home once. Her mother mentally abused her as opposed to physically abusing her. Soon after she ran away from home she became a teen bride and promptly had her one an only child. The marriage was not to last, because he was abusive as well. They soon were divorced and she moved back in with her parents, where they helped raise her child. Oh, one more thing of note, my wife was adopted and never knew her real parents. This may help to explain the abuse she experienced. It was at this time that my wife started drinking. Her self-esteem was terrible. She, of course, blamed herself for all of her failures. While I knew a lot of the story when we got married, I would not learn any additional information until afterwards. In fact, I did not find out all the facts until we got divorced 14 years later. In one of our final fights, in an effort to hurt me even more, she divulged her entire history. None of which I will discuss here. I believe these details should be laid to rest.

When we met, let’s call my my first wife “Tammy”, she had been sober for 1 whole year. So, I thought I was good to go and that there would be no more issues. I was wrong. Addiction is a most insidious ailment. People can be addicted to anything…gambling, smoking, drinking, taking drugs and so on. She was therefore still an addict, it had just changed to tobacco products. Drugs, however, would soon follow. This was when we started having serious problems. Our love life also started withering.

When we first met, we were both working nights. It was during this that Tammy was putting herself through nursing school. By the time she graduated, I was in management at my job. Our schedules meshed nicely, we both worked evenings. When she became a nurse, the trend and change to 12 -hour shifts had not taken place yet. But that would soon change. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I will explain my reasoning shortly. Eventually, this change did take place. Now, our schedules no longer coincided. She worked 6pm to 6am. I worked 2pm to midnight. So, we did not see much of each other at all. She had just gotten her new career established, so it was my turn to make the change. I was at a crossroads with my job, I either had to really take it seriously and give it my all or switch careers. By this time, I had been in retail for 15 years and frankly, I was getting tired of it. Your schedule really sucked and you were on call, you never knew when you would have to pull a double shift. I decided to make the change and become a nurse as well. Of all the decisions I have made in my life, this is the one that I do not regret at all. My father was happy because while I was not going to be a doctor, I was at least, going to be working in the medical field. So, win-win.

The amazing thing, that with the exception of my anatomy and physiology class, all my classes transferred over. So, all I basically had to worry about was the core nursing classes. I also seemed to be able to recall all of my science material from my previous degrees. Over the 12 or so years that transpired, I had kept my mind active with a lot of varied reading. So, the actual nursing classes came pretty easy to me. My years as a customer service manager also came into play. As a result of my work experience, I was much more comfortable and confident in patient and family interactions. I have never regretted my choice in becoming a nurse. It was the right career choice at the right time in my life. In the year 2022, I will celebrate my 20 year anniversary as a Registered Nurse. I am proud of this milestone.

My nursing career started in a Florida hospital that now no longer exists. It was an old hospital that had been remodeled past its ability to handle the modern trends in medicine. It was no longer functional. While I only worked there as a nurse a few months I will always remember it fondly. A lot of good people took me under their wings there, and I learned a lot from my fellow nurses. I could tell you some stories, but I would be violating the HIPA law, which is a Federal law protecting a patient’s confidentiality. Suffice it to say that I could write a book on my experiences in the hospitals I have worked in. I will have to get some legal consultation to see if this will be a viable option later on.

I worked all the way through my nursing school program. During my first year, I remained in my position as a manager. They worked around my schedule at my store. I still put in 45 hours at work while I went to school 5 days a week. When I look back, I don’t know how I did it. I also managed to have a life as well. I guess it was lucky that I really did not have to study very much. All those years of studying and reading about medicine, not to mention my bachelor degree in biology and in pre-med, were finally paying off. It was in my last year in the program, that I worked as a telemetry tech in my future hospital. I was able to work fewer hours and I learned how to read EKGs as well. I found this year to be extremely beneficial for it gave me a distinct advantage over all of my new fellow nurses.

It seemed like all of my life experiences and hard work all served to facilitate and smooth the transition into my new career as a nurse. I believe that your experiences make you who you are. In this case, all of my career choices seem to have aided me in my new career.

By all measure of things, this should have been the happiest time in my life. I had a lovely new wife, I was living in a nice but small house. I was also starting a new career in a job I had been groomed my whole life for.

But, alas, it wasn’t the case. I was suffering for the first time in my life from depression. I also now had two sets of parents that we had to divide our time between. My oldest brother constantly wanted me to work on his computer network for one thing. One of my failed career choices had been in computer consulting and repair. So he kept on trying to get free work from me. I always seemed to be involved in working on some project for either my parents or my in-laws. Not to mention, I was working full-time and going to school as well. I just did not have time to spend in building my relationship with my new wife. So, I guess that is why I became depressed. I told my wife Tammy that we should consider moving to get away from our families. She said that she felt the same way, but she made me agree to wait till her terminally ill mother passed away. Things gave a little when I graduated and passed my nursing boards.

I was in a unique situation that I never interviewed for my job in my first hospital. I simply took a 2-week telemetry class and when I passed the test, I was hired. I was a tech on the floor I eventually would work on. As soon as I graduated and passed my boards, I was hired by the hospital as a nurse. The nurse manager already knew me from my telemetry work, so she hired me without a formal interview. I thought that was pretty cool. It was the one and only time I did not have to do an interview for a job. After I graduated, my mother-in-law soon passed away. My wife, true to her word said it was time. So, we flew to Las Vegas to look for a job and a house.

I need to digress a little to explain how we settled on Las Vegas as our destination.

Before I started nursing school, my wife and I used Las Vegas as our hub, because the tickets were simply cheaper. We rented a car and drove to Arizona. We were soon disillusioned with Arizona, the salaries were not that great for retail or even nursing and the houses were not that cheap. So, we ruled that state out. True to my nature, we messed up our itinerary. When we planned out our trip, we allocated driving time based on Florida not the west. As a result, we ended up seeing and doing everything sooner. It was only when we drove back to Las Vegas, to return our car, that we realized we were a whole day early.

When we flew into Las Vegas earlier in the week, we had scoffed at a couple talking about living there. Little did we know that we would fall in love with that city in just one day. We explored the city and the surrounding areas and realized that it was so much more than just about casinos. So we vowed to go back after I finished nursing school and when her mother passed away.

Back to the story…we immediately started looking for work. After looking around at some of the hospitals, we settled on Sunrise Hospital. It was just what we were looking for. It was large and had plenty of room for lateral and vertical movement. We both were hired after our initial interviews, though we had to go through the formality of two more interviews. We then hired a realtor and in just two days, we found the house of our dreams. So, in just three days our future course was set. They agreed to give us a month to not only to be able to give notice to our hospital in Florida but to move to Las Vegas as well.

Over the years, I have helped move just about everyone in my family. When it came time for us to pack and move, the only person that offered to help was my poor sickly Father. Well, such is life. We ended up getting $10,000 for moving expenses, which basically covered the moving truck and the movers. My father-in-law paid to have our vehicles shipped over to Vegas. So, we flew there and started prepping the house. We paid for my wife’s best friend to help her unpack and get the house squared away. When I had packed the boxes in Florida, I had marked them with the room names where they were going. In Vegas, I just put signs over each room door. While the movers won’t unpack your boxes, they will put them anywhere you want them. It was incredibly smooth. Once the moving truck arrived, it only took a few hours to unload. One week later and just in time for us to start work, we were totally unpacked. Not too bad, just in a little over month, we not only found jobs, bought a house and moved 2,700 miles. My oldest brother Ronnie, who was a real estate broker was able to sell our house within a few weeks. Since I had been working on his computer network for quite some time, he didn’t charge me a commission. Boy, what a peach. So, thus ends my Florida adventure and began my Nevada odyssey. Be prepared for a bumpy ride.

My story will continue in chapter seven. The next chapter is going to cover some fun little side stories involving some interesting characters in my life, as well as some family members that don’t need any introduction. I hope you enjoy the brief interlude.