This year is this blog’s fifth anniversary, which is a major milestone for me. (This blog is the longest I’ve ever spent time working on and I’m still not close to even contemplating quitting it or anything like that.) But I haven’t done much about it since January. (I know I can be lame at times LOL!) It was on the actual January 6 anniversary itself when I wrote two posts—one was a mega-long post all about the ups and downs that had happened to me since I started this blog and the other was how I tried to make a special celebration of this occasion despite the fact that a snowstorm along with sub-freezing temperatures had blanketed the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

As a way of making up for the lack of bragging about the fact that this blog is now five years old, I hit upon an idea that I could do until the end of this year.

The first year I started this blog I was very picky as to what images I would allow on this blog. That’s because I was new to and I didn’t know how many pictures would fill the allotted storage space that’s on the blog’s free account. I decided to limit images only to photos of my own arts and crafts. Whenever I went on any trips I would just provide a written journal of what I did. Even though I took photos during these trips, I didn’t post them in this blog because I was worried about using up too much photo storage space.

By the second year I realized that if I optimized my photographs, I could include my vacation photos. This definitely intensified when I got my first smartphone with the included camera because I could now take snapshots of something that caught my eye without worrying about carting my older, heavier DSLR Cannon Digital Rebel camera.

The addition of more photos have resulted in more followers to this blog. For me it’s generally easier to just put in pictures than to write a paragraph or two or three on what I’ve just saw. (Like the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.”)

So I’m going to spend the next few Throwback Thursdays posting those photos from 2010 that I didn’t post the first time around along with the link to the original blog post from 2010 in order to provide some context.

The big hassle is that some of the photos I took in 2010 were lost when my previous MacBook laptop went through a major hard disk crash. I stupidly didn’t backup a lot of them so I’m afraid that some of them may be lost for good. 😦

Among those that were lost were the photos I took when my then-husband and I went on our first vacation just a few weeks after I started this blog.

In late January 2010 we went to Florida’s west coast in order to fulfill an auction item we had won from a couple who used to be active in our Unitarian Universalist congregation until they decided to move to a retirement community in the Tampa-Sarasota area. Their way of keeping in contact with our congregation was to offer an annual auction item where they would serve as hosts for any member of our congregation for one week in their home.

In 2007 this item was up for bidding in the live portion of the auction and my husband decided to make his bid without even consulting me prior to the auction. We had a standing agreement that if we needed to spend more than $200 for whatever reason, we had to discuss it with the other spouse before making that purchase. The few times I violated that agreement turned into a horrible argument with my husband and he would be furious with me. Yet he found no problem with bidding on this auction—which went way over $200—without even telling me that he was interested in this. When I tried to call him out on it, he said “But it’s visiting Ed and Al!” and he continued bidding until we won.

The trip was originally for 2008 but that was the year when my left hip began to deteriorate so badly that I had to walk with a cane and the orthopedic surgeon said that I needed a hip replacement. I had the surgery in late 2008 and I spent most of 2009 recuperating from that surgery.

It wasn’t until early 2010 when we finally went on the trip. Ed Kobee and his partner, Al Usack, were very active LGBT activists in our congregation (they even wrote a chapter about their relationship in this book Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists) until they decided to retire to a new retirement community, the Palms of Mannasota, near Tampa. This community sought to be one that was exclusively for retirees who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender. In fact, Ed and Al told us that, in order not to violate any housing code against discrimination, the community would tell potential heterosexual residents up front that it was one that was very open towards same-sex couples and if they can’t handle living next to such people, then they should go somewhere else. Ed and Al told us that there were a few heterosexual couples who lived there.

Ed and Al were among the first residents who moved into that new community. The developers had managed to finish building the first few sections and they had just put out the building materials along some empty lot for the homes that would soon be built. There was also a plan to eventually build a community center for all the residents that would include a swimming pool, an exercise gym, meeting rooms, and much more. That community center would be built after some more of the homes were erected.

Then the major 2008 economic collapse happened. Soon afterwards the original company responsible for the Palms of Mannasota filed for bankruptcy. All that building came to a grinding halt.

I remembered when I took a walk around the neighborhood and I saw building materials that were still at a few empty lots that were waiting for someone to put them together so a new structure can be created. They were literally just sitting there while the empty lots began to grow tall weeds. There were some lots where a cement foundation had been laid but nothing else was done since. It was a pretty surreal scene—like something from out of one of those post-apocalypse science fiction movies where very few people were left after a major calamity (such as a plague) killed a bunch of people but left the buildings and other structures intact. This New York Times article about the bankruptcy filing by the company responsible for the Palms of Manasota has a photo showing one of the unbuilt lots with building materials and a cement foundation waiting for someone to complete it.

Ed and Al ended up having to join a nearby gym a few miles away so they can use a swimming pool since the developers behind the Palms of Mannasota didn’t build one before the company filed for bankruptcy.

During that trip my husband and I did a lot of exploring of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Ed and Al accompanied us on some of the trips while my husband and I went alone on some of the others.

Of all the photos I took, I’ve only found a few that survived. I had better luck with the video footage because I uploaded on to YouTube soon after we returned to Maryland.

Here are the surviving photos and videos I took on that trip along with links to the original entries I wrote about my time in Florida.

January 24, 2010—The original entry announcing my upcoming trip.

January 26, 2010—The entry where I discussed the first night in Florida along with showing a photo of this Moon Chalice ornament that I had finished a while ago.

January 28, 2010—My husband and I visited the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida. Here’s footage from that visit.

January 29, 2010—My husband and I went with Ed and Al to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens then to Manatee Beach, where I saw the Gulf of Mexico in person for the first time. Here are photos of this glorious sunset I shot at Manatee Beach.

Manatee Beach 1

Manatee Beach 2

Manatee Beach 3

January 29, 2010—We visited The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art. None of the photos from that trip survived. At one point I managed to shoot video of this oddity that our hosts owned. It was an animatronic Abbott & Costello figurine. When you pressed the button, the figures moved while you hear their most famous comedy routine, Who’s on First?

January 30, 2010—We visited Sarasota. During some downtime back at the house where we stayed at, I was looking through the back glass door when I saw this blue heron that was close to the house. I took a few photos of it before it flew away.




January 31, 2010—We visited the South Florida Museum, home of Snooty the Manatee (the oldest manatee currently living in captivity). Here’s a video I shot during that visit, which focuses on Snooty.

February 1, 2010—On the way to the airport, my husband and I stopped at The Dali Museum for a few hours. Then we went to the airport and flew back home.

That would be my first and only trip to that area. I would love to go back someday and visit but I really need to raise a lot of money first since finances have been tight since my husband left me.

Recently I heard from a few friends at church that Ed and Al no longer live at the Palms of Mannasota. They have since moved to a different retirement community—one that’s similar to ones that have sprouted up all over the country. (There’s even one such community that’s located near my Unitarian Universalist congregation called Riderwood. We’ve gotten a lot of new members from there in recent years.) This retirement community have small apartments (instead of small cottages and townhouses at the Palms of Mannasota) for the seniors who are more agile and are in relatively good health. As these seniors age and their health declines, they will eventually be moved to assisted living facilities right in the community, where they will get more and more supervised care as time goes on until the day they die. This community has even more amenities than what their former community had—including a gym, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, and all kinds of classes ranging from water aerobics to painting. From what I’ve been told, their new residence isn’t touted as being made especially for LGBT persons but apparently it’s very tolerant towards same-sex couples. My friends report that they seem to be very happy there even though they can no longer offer to host anyone as part of our annual church auction due to their apartment’s small size.