Thursday, September 02, 2004

Natural Born Floridians

As Hurricane Frances makes its way towards Florida, I am breathing a sign of relief that Orlando International Airport will be closing tomorrow (Friday, September 3) at noon. That means that there is no possible way that my insane husband can try to drag me to Celebration.

Don't get me wrong. I love Celebration and consider it my hometown. I'm a 1500 mile commuter who has to take a plane instead of a train or automobile. As the hurricane works its way through the Bahamas and onward to Florida, I will be in a frenzy of worry about our friends and our home. This time, I'll also be saying a special prayer for those poor souls who were battered so viciously by Charley just two short weeks ago. So many of them are still living under tarps, and their electricity and water were only recently destroyed. Now they face the loss of what little they managed to hang on to, and I can even imagine how much worse buildings with already-damaged roofs will fare.

But as much as I want to be in Celebration, riding out the storm in my own home, I'm logical enough to know that I'm very fortunate to have 1500 miles between me and the fury of Charley's big sister. On the other hand, my husband would be perfectly happy to be hunkered down in our powder room with flashlights and a stash of bottled water, as long as he could be in his adopted home state.

His love of Florida borders on the irrational. Even thought I've only got one more class to go to be a doctor of psychology, I just couldn't figure it out. Finally, I came up with the following theory: Even though God is widely believed to be infallible, He occasionally makes a little mix-up. That whole "perfect" thing was probably dreamed up by his team of P.R. Angels. In reality, when creating and sort billions and billions of humans, not to mention all the other assorted life forms on Earth, He's bound to maybe send one to the wrong place.

In my husband's case, it's obvious that he was meant to go south instead of north. He is one of a set of fraternal twins, and he and his brother couldn't be more dissimilar. Actually, he bears no resemblance (at least temperment-wise) to anyone in his immediate family. Even his own parents often joked that he must be adopted.

The whole clan lives on a mixture of cigarettes, Xanax, and Prozac. They all claim to suffer from agoraphobia, which is often characterized by a reluctance to leave home. Interestingly enough, although it impairs their ability to work, it has no impact whatsoever on their ability to do anything else in the outside world.

My husband is the polar opposite; he eschews cigarettes and psychotropic drugs, and he has worked steadily since his teenage years. His insanity is limited to an obsession with Disney cruises (which I share) and a phenomenon that I have dubbed "Homing Pigeon Syndrome," which involves his going through great lengths, even to the point of risking bodily harm, to return to Celebration no matter what.

His native Floridian traits are quite obvious. Like me, he loves water and the ocean, and he would be perfectly content to never see a real snowflake in his life. But he takes the whole concept of Florida-loving much farther. When both the temperature and the percentage of humidity are at 110, I find myself gasping for breath. As my lungs drawn in the oven-baked air, I can feel them sizzle like steaks on a grill. I can easily picture my body melting into a bubbling puddle of protoplasm like the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of Oz."

On the other hand, my husband will beam, "What an absolutely GORGEOUS day. Let's go for a two hour bike ride!" He thrives on the oppressive heat and seems to draw an unholy strength from it.

The blood that courses through my veins must have the taste of the sweetest nectar, as any insect within a two-mile range will seek me out to feast on it. My husband is impervious to their bites. We can spend an evening together on the porch, and my body can be covered from head to toe with welts while his skin is as smooth as a baby's behind.

I burn like a lobster unless I slather every inch of exposed skin with SPF 125 when I even think about spending time in the sun. My husband just takes on a nice, healthy glow unless he stays out for hours on end.

The weird thing is, before we got married, he had never once visited Florida and had no desire to ever do so. At the time, he was an active roller coaster enthusiast, so he probably would have made it to the Orlando-area theme parks eventually. But it was at the bottom of his list because he preferred to concentrate on the biggest, baddest thrill rides rather than family-oriented attractions. Space Mountain is a baby carriage when compared to anything at Cedar Point. Of course, Orlando has wonderful coasters like Hulk at Islands of Adventure now, but this was back in 1991/92.

Then I came along, and Fate (or God trying to rectify His error) was determined to get us together. Our first meeting was totally unremarkable, and after a while, I actually came to dislike him! If someone had bet me that he was my future husband, I would have laid everything I owned on the line. But we had many mutual friends, so for the new few years we hovered at the edges of each other's social circle. Finally we got together and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, being a Disney fanatic, I was soon dragging him to Orlando once or twice a year. Having grown up in a household where I read Disney-related Little Golden Books, saw every movie from from Walt's studio, and plopped in front of the Radiation King each weekend to watch the Wonderful World of Color, I was amazed that he hadn't been exposed to any of that. It became my mission in life to convert him to the Cult of the Mouse.

My mission worked a little too well. Soon I realized that once or twice a year had morphed into once every couple of months, and he was now the one doing the dragging. We visited Disney World so often that we bought annual passes. Then, Disney Cruise Line set sail in 1998 and the obsession surpassed any realistic boundaries. At present, we are scheduled to sail on Disney Cruise #39 on Thursday September 9, but who knows if Frances will change those plans...time will tell.

At any rate, soon we felt more at home in Florida than we did back north. We decided to implement a 10 year plan to move to the Sunshine State, figuring that a decade would give us plenty of time to map out a sensible strategy. I am the kind of person who tends to plan everything down to the last detail.

Then, in October of 2002 (only a couple of years into the decade), on a last-minute trip to Florida to attend a business conference, my husband and I drove over to Celebration on a lark. We were visiting Disney Cruise Line headquarters, which is located on the outskirts of the town, so we figured, "What the heck." We had some time before our flight, so bumming around Celebration seemed like a good way to spend the time.

Within mere weeks of our visit, we had a contract on a house in Celebration and were anxiously awaiting the ground breaking. We had taken the plunge years early, with absolutely no preparation or financial planning. We hadn't looked at any other neighborhoods, and we still had jobs to tie us down in the Midwest, with no alternative prospects in the Orlando area. Buying that house was probably the most spontaneous thing I have ever done in my life.

But my husband and I have never once regretted it (the only regret comes when we have to return to work; it gets harder to board that airplane every week). Still, it's a little disconcerting that we've faced two major hurricanes after literally only one year of being Florida homeowners (and inland, which I always presumed was mostly safe).

Oh well, even with the hurricanes, I wouldn't change a thing if I could go back in time. I may not be a "misplaced native" like my husband, but I have embraced my new home wholeheartedly, and that means I take the bad with the good.

Now comes the tense weekend of watching the radar, keeping in touch with friends, checking the internet for updates, and praying. Hopefully it will change course so my next blog entry won't be "Virtual Storm: The Sequel."

If you have comments on my blog or questions about Celebration, email me at

Check out my Celebration website at You can also view my Disney-related travel agency site at and my seminar/life coaching site at

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