A Wisconsin Yankee Adrift In Dixie Waters – A 10 Year Voyage

Posted on Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Ten years ago today, on December 2, 2002, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, our ship landed in Pensacola, Florida.

Well, actually it was a Volvo, but judging by our surroundings, we had just come off a long, long, voyage.

These were uncharted waters, to be sure.

So how did we end up here and why?


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We picked a spot on the map.

Okay, maybe not quite that easy. It had to be near water and warm. So, we did a little research, liked the area, sold our businesses, packed up, and drove off… with a tear or two in our eyes, but off we went anyway.

On a dark and snowy morning, with our 2 cats in the back seat and a trunk filled with just the necessities, we headed south… no jobs and no place to live. We wanted an adventure. I guess we got one.

My Hubby and I were both born and raised in the same little town in Wisconsin. He had lived in other areas, but I had always lived in the same little town. Before I turned 50, I wanted to live somewhere else… anywhere else.

The balmy weather of Florida and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico were calling my name.  The panhandle sounded appealing since we were looking for a little change in seasons and less traffic than further down the state.  We also wanted a ‘real’ town, not a strip mall to live in. That’s how we decided on Pensacola.

So, today we’re looking back and asking ourselves a couple questions.

Was it worth it?

  • When we’re able to sit around with our daughters and sils and share stupid stories, it’s worth it.
  • When we’re able to see our grandson and granddaughter both in ordinary times and special events, it’s worth it.
  • When we’re able to sit out on our balcony almost every day of the year, it’s worth it.
  • When we’re able to go to the beach at the drop of a hat, it’s worth it.
  • When I’m riding my bike in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, it’s worth it.
  • When we’re able to jump in the car and go, without scraping ice off the windshield, it’s worth it.
  • When we’re able to run to Joe Patti’s fish market any time and get fresh seafood for the grill, it’s worth it.
  • When we’re able to run to Apple Market and be back home with anything we need in 5 minutes, it’s worth it.
  • When I’m able to enjoy Facials by Charlotte at Skin Couture, my dear friend, it’s worth it.
  • When we think about all the interesting people we’ve met here, and the friends we’ve made, it’s worth it.

What have we learned?

  • We learned many new words and phrases; two of my favorites are “might could” and “fixin’ to.”
  • We learned to beware when someone says; “Bless her heart.” It could get “ugly.”
  • We learned the word “ugly” is perfectly suited to describe someone’s behavior as well as appearance.
  • We learned that they call the panhandle “lower Alabama,” and rightly so. This is the South, not Florida.
  • We learned what shrimp really tastes like.
  • I learned how to make gumbo, and have been perfecting it through the years, much to my family’s pleasure.
  • I learned a good roux takes about 3 beers… if you know roux, you know that means time, not ingredient.
  • We learned we like “Miss” or “Mister” being tacked on to every name.
  • We learned we like “Ma’am” and “Sir” tacked on to every answer, as in “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Sir.”
  • We learned that Bull Frog sunscreen (the original stuff) is the only stuff that works at the beach.

There are many, many more good things about the move here. Just living here we have been able to explore this region. We’ve spent many happy times along the Gulf Coast, in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, down to Tampa, Tarpon Springs, up to Savannah, to Memphis, and all sorts of places north, south, east, and west. I was able to go to Epcot and on a cruise with my daughter and grandkids.

And, there are many, many more things that we have learned.  Probably one of the most important things I learned is the most elusive, the hardest to put my finger on…

I learned that I could change.

After 49 years of living in the same place, I could pack up and go. I could navigate a new town, new city, new everything. I could find a place to live and I could find a job without knowing a single thing about a city. I learned I could even get in my car and drive myself back to Wisconsin for a visit.  I didn’t learn this when I was young, but I’m sure learning it now.

Yes, this experience has taught me a few things. I feel more confident when I try new things. Maybe I’m a bit more independent than I was. Some of that comes with age, but some comes from jumping in the car and driving off to points unknown.

Is there a downside to our adventure? Yes. We miss our family in Wisconsin. We spend a lot of time, and money, going back to visit. These 10 years away have been difficult at times. Very difficult at times.

But, even with the difficult times, I can’t say we regret moving here, not at all.  There have been way too many good things that have happened to us here. Just getting to be with kids and grandkids has been an amazing blessing.

But…

Again, at times, it’s been difficult.

In our hearts, we are not Home. Home is in Wisconsin.

And, for that reason, we will eventually go back… home.

It’s been a great 10 years though and I know it was a good move.

p.s. Oh, yeah. We also learned that “y’all” is a handy word.  And some southerners don’t at all like the phrase “yous guys” … but some do.

p.p.s.  In Bless Your Heart, Tramp,  “southern endearments,” as expressions like “bless your heart” are called, will either have you laughing or crying – depending on which end of the ‘endearment’ you’re on.  You’ll get a good dose of Southern hospitality in this fun little book and may even learn something new.

You can order yourself a copy by clicking on right here – Bless Your Heart, Tramp

Just grab your glass of sweet tea, sit back, relax, and enjoy, Darlin’!

 

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14 Responses to
“A Wisconsin Yankee Adrift In Dixie Waters – A 10 Year Voyage”

  • Laurie Gaudino says: December 2nd, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Patti,

    I loved your article! And your sense of adventure, and your appreciation of life. It’s not easy to pick up and make such a big change. I think we would all like to at times – but not many of us actually do it. You are an inspiration!

    Enjoy your gumbo … and maybe a good glass of wine!
    Laurie
    Laurie Gaudino recently posted..Pickles Anyone?My Profile

  • Lisa Winkler says: December 2nd, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Nice.. sweet. Home has been New Jersey for me for so long now. But my growing up home is Connecticut. We started our marriage in London and had the boys there; that’s “home” too. Home is where the family is and I’m so happy the boys aren’t too far away!

  • Barbara Younger says: December 2nd, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Fun reading! I dream of this too. Packing up and going someplace new. Glad you’re happy where you are, but it’s good to love the old place so much that you miss it!
    Barbara Younger recently posted..Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part Three–After the SurgeryMy Profile

  • Chris says: December 3rd, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Loved this! I am also a transplanted southerner, VA Yankee. Someone once told me it takes 10 years in a new place to call it home. Still waiting after 7 years…
    Chris recently posted..Drone or Free Range?My Profile

  • Patti says: December 3rd, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you, Laurie!

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading the article. It was an adventure, to be sure. I had lived in the same place for so long that when I did pack up and go, it felt surreal. I think once you make a big change, it becomes more ‘normal’ to change.

    And, speaking of change and inspiration… if I recall right, YOU made some pretty big changes in the last few years, hmmmmm…??? Let’s see, going back to school and getting your college degree, THEN realizing another dream of opening up your greenhouse, Gardening Junky – An Occasional Garden Boutique. AND doing all this in the midst of some serious struggles. YOU are an inspiration!

    Thanks again for your kind words, Laurie. It’s always nice to hear from you. ;)

  • Patti says: December 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you, Lisa.

    I wonder if we had moved here with our family when they were young (if we’d raised our own children here) if it would be HOME to us? I suspect my grandkids will call this HOME, especially since they will graduate high school here. I am just happy it worked out that we got to live near our grandkids, at least for awhile. And no matter where we end up, I know when we return here for a visit, we’ll feel comfortable, so there may be a homey element in the final analysis.

    My daughter and SIL started their marriage and had both kids in Oregon, so they call that HOME, too. You’re right. HOME is where the family is. My problem is my ‘family of origin’ is so big, my HOME is scattered all over the place. And, I think as I get older, the desire to return HOME becomes stronger. We’ll see what happens.

    Thanks again, Lisa, for stopping by and reading. I sure appreciate you!

  • Patti says: December 3rd, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you, Barbara, for stopping by to read and comment.

    I talk to many people who moved away from their hometown (usually to pursue college and/or a career), then returned after retirement. I sort of did the reverse. Late bloomer? Just life happening, I guess. The time must have just been right.

    We’re glad we did what we did, but there are things we still miss. It’s funny how one’s perspective changes when looking from another place on the globe. Sure, Florida isn’t that far in distance from Wisconsin, but in some ways it’s a world away.

    Thanks again, Barbara, for coming by. It means a lot to me that you took the time.

  • Patti says: December 3rd, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks, Chris! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Well, I’m not sure about the 10 years mark to call a place home. I’m at 10 years and 1 day and I haven’t planted my feet here yet. I suspect I will always consider myself a transplant as long as we live here. There are a lot of reasons, I suspect, that we still call Wisconsin home.

    I think ‘putting down roots’ is something that is getting more scarce. I can’t imagine my grandkids longing to create a ‘homestead’ somewhere for generations to come. I know when my grandkids are out of school, my daughter and SIL will grow wings. My daughter is already getting rid of ‘stuff’ and not interested in acquiring any of my ‘stuff.’ It’s going to get harder to find somebody to pass our heritage (baggage?) down to. Nobody wants it. Anyway, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion, eh?

    Thanks again, Chris, for visiting me here. I sure appreciate the time you took out of your day.

  • Anne Marie says: December 5th, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Don’t forget the DAMNED YANKEE!! Reading your words is just like listening to you talk. Thanks for the chat! :)
    Have you received your Wisconsin evergreens for Christmas decorating yet?? I still feel like I should decorate a door…if I had one. :) How about you?
    Hope all is well!

  • Patti says: December 5th, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Hey there, fellow Yankee! Miss you!

    I haven’t received my Wisconsin evergreens yet. I am expecting a wreath any day now… I hope I hope I hope. I do have a hankerin’ to hang some roping (also known as garland to the casual shopper) around a door, too. I think my kitties would get a big kick out of that. Because you know I’d have to hang it inside where it would stay cooler. Florida is not exactly greens friendly, even in December, as you know.

    We need to catch up, my friend. You and Nightingale still preventing that moss from gathering? Hope all is well with ‘yous guys!’ Talk soon, eh?

  • Dianne Hughes says: December 8th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Great story! Since I am a born and bred Southerner, Mississippi coast, I enjoy reading how folks from up north interpret our ways down here. I have been on a car trip, up the Eastern Seaboard, and I found that we seem to be friendlier and trust folks more. I would just wave and say “hi” in New York, and most folks ran like I was gonna attack or something! LOL Anyway, glad you have enjoyed yourselves so much….we are a nice and friendly group down here, and we just love ya’ll’s accent! LOL

  • carmel@skinnycatblog says: December 9th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    LOL You took the words right out of my mouth!! I came to The Golden Isles, Brunswick,St Simons Island, Georgia, 10 years ago with my hubs, and 2 of our 3 kids from the Bay Area of California! I still can’t eat cooked greens though. How ’bout you?

  • Patti says: December 9th, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Dianne! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    I’ve gotten some looks that would curl your hair from folks in New York, but I attribute that to big city more than north. In my little hometown up north, if you say ‘Hi’ most everyone will say ‘Hi’ back. BUT, I DO believe that the extreme cold will affect a person’s friendly demeanor, or lack thereof. When you’ve got your head down buckin’ a 20 degree below zero wind, you don’t look up to say Hello! But when summer comes, things get a lot friendlier. And yes, when we moved here everyone was super friendly.

    Funny you should mention my “accent” – accent? what accent? Just kidding. Anyway, the first job I got here was in customer service in a big department store. Well, they had me record the ‘voice overs’ (store specials, announcements, you know, that kind of stuff over the p.a. system) because shoppers would actually take notice. It’s amazing what a ‘strange’ accent will do to make shoppers sit up and take notice. I actually had shoppers and workers alike stop at customer service laughing their butts off because they loved the funny accent coming over the loudspeaker and had to see who was talking. tee hee!

    Thanks again, Dianne, for reading and sharing your thoughts. I sure enjoy the company here in the blogosphere!

  • Patti says: December 9th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. Yeah, it is another world down here. I have grown to love greens, but I do cook them with quite a bit of bacon and add balsamic vinegar. Kale is my favorite, but collards are just fun, simply because I can say to my family; “I’m making collard greens for supper” and they laugh their heads off! ;) Thanks again!

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