Passion ignited again

Passion ignited again

I’ve been on cloud nine since June 8 when I started working full-time again as the new editor of the Sanibel-Captiva Islander on beautiful Sanibel Island. Every day as I drive over the bridge there’s a calmness that takes over as I take in the scenery. On more than one occasion I have stopped on the causeway at the beginning and at the end of the day, just to take in the beauty, take a deep breath.

My passion for my craft has ignited again. I absolutely loved working from home creating my own hours, well running my own show. But . . .  I have to admit that I love working in an office outside of my home even more. It’s nice having that interaction with others face-to-face instead of just over the phone. It’s nice to leave work and officially leave my work at the office.

The best part are some of the assignments I have given myself to fill my paper.

My assignments have been fun over the last month, especially when they take me outdoors to further enjoy the tranquility of the island. This week I went on the Tarpon Bay explorers nature cruise and loved every minute of it because of the wildlife I was able to capture.

Here are a few pictures of what I was able to capture . . .

FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers3FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers4FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers8FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers9

FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers5FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers6P1050851FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers2FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers12FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers10P1050830FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers11

FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers1P1050858FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers7The best part was spotting dolphins, which are in the above two pictures.

County to consider raising impact fees

County to consider raising impact fees

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Feb. 27, 2015 issue

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners will begin its discussions about a possible impact fee increase this Tuesday during a public hearing.

“I can only hope that it goes well,” Commissioner Frank Mann said of the public hearing. “I’m nervous to say the least.”

The current fees are set at 20 percent of the estimated cost of constructing such things as roads, parks and schools necessitated by growth.

Building Industry Association Executive Vice President Brenda Thomas said they would love the impact fees to remain at 20 percent because they feel the market is still emerging.

“People who have been struggling for more than five years to find a job are now going to be threatened. That is hard to take,” she said.

The biggest issue the Building Industry Association is having right now is the uncertainty of where the impact fee rate will fall.

“Builders are in contracts with homeowners right now and they don’t know what to put in the contract,” Thomas said of impact fees.

The fees were reduced 80 percent two years ago when the commission agreed to a temporary reduction to spur the economy.

“The reason we changed it (was) while the building industry was on its back, but those days are gone,” Mann said. “Permits for construction are flying off the shelves. The industry is very healthy and alive and the impact fees need to be restored.”

The starting point for Tuesday’s hearing would bring the charges on new construction up to 45 percent of cost or more than double the current amount charged.

While commissioners will start their conversation at the 45 percent rate, county staff is recommending that the commission provide a 15 percent discount, or 85 percent of cost, which would bring the fee from $2,900 to $11,000 on a new home.

If the county commissioners approve 45 percent impact fees, Thomas said it will have a very negative impact on the building industry at this point.

“At 45 percent, you are looking at almost a $3,200 increase for a single family home, depending on which is the basis point for 45 percent,” she said.

Mann said he is in favor of restoring back to 100 percent because Lee County desperately needs revenue for new infrastructure because thousands of people are moving into the area and permits for new homes are up again.

Thomas, on the other hand, said although they are seeing an increase, they are not on “fire yet” regarding the number of permits pulled. She said a lot of the permits have been for multi-family apartments and commercial properties.

Mann said where ever he goes, he has 100 percent support on his position from the residents of Lee County.

“I knew it was the right thing to do from the beginning,” Mann said, adding that overwhelming support from the community it only reaffirms his belief.

Mann voted against the one-year reduction with the option for a second year in March 2013.

At 100 percent, including a cost adjustment, the fee would be $12,985 to build a new home. At 85 percent the fee would be $11,116 for a single family home. Currently, at 20 percent, the fee is $2,942.

“It worked very well for 20 years, so why would we change that?” Mann asked. “It needs to be a part of our revenue stream now. Impact fees have never kept anyone from moving here. The 20 years we have had them was the fastest expansion period in the history of the county.”

Mann said he does not see how it is fair to ask residents of Lee County to subsidize its growth requirements when there is a perfect example of a program that works – impact fees.

“It’s only fair that growth pays for growth, and the new people coming here pay for the roads and school classrooms they are demanding,” he said.

School Board member Steve Teuber said the school board voted unanimously to support 100 percent restoration.

“We had three things happen over the last five years, which was kind of the perfect storm,” he said.

Property values declined over those five years, the school district’s capital millage was cut from 2.0 mills to 1.5 mills and the County Commission reduced impact fees, including those for schools, by 80 percent.

Teuber said $640 million was lost in potential income. He said the district is carrying a $450 million capital debt with an annual debt service of $42 million.

“We need money from any source possible,” Teuber said.

He said if the school district gets $9 million from impact fees, they still need $300 million more.

“Nine million isn’t going to make the road,” Teuber said. “We need about $40 million a year.”

Even with an increase in impact fees, the school board’s needs still are not met.

“I certainly know that whatever the Board of County Commissioners do is not going to be the answer,” he said.

With that said, Teuber expressed that the school board wants the county commission to do what they feel is right based on their collaborative work.

“If they give us 55 percent, we are going to say thank you very much,” he said.

Thomas said the biggest issue is the commissioners have a big infrastructure need in Lee County and Southwest Florida. She said impact fees are just a small portion of solving that problem.

The impact fee covers only the new infrastructure that would have to be built to accommodate additional population.

By law, the money collected from impact fees cannot be used for maintenance or regular government operations. The money can only be used to add capacity. In other words, the funds can be used to add a lane to a road, but not to repave a road. They can be used to construct a new bridge but not repair an old bridge.

Thomas said the amount of money that it would take to fix road congestion could not be solved with impact fees. She said the traffic congestion on 41 or on the way to the beach could not be fixed with impact fees.

“Many issues we are facing cannot be solved with one solution,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to solve a problem by hurting someone else. A true community solves the problem together.”

Thomas said another issue with raising impact fees is the effect it will have on the valuation of all properties in Lee County.

She said the issue at hand is how do they manage growth in a productive way that leads to a better, more user friendly community without taking the No. 1 economic drivers and throwing them under the bus.

“Raising impact fees to the maximum will not fix the problem,” Thomas said.

The board will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Chambers, 2120 Main St,. Fort Myers.

 

 

Breathtaking fall afternooon run

Lucy and I have taken way too much time off from running these last few weeks, due to my parents coming into town (we went hiking instead) and Jason and I moving into our new home. Plus, it has been nonstop raining for the last I don’t know how many days making it difficult to go anywhere.

Today is the first day I can look out my office window and see Bays Mountain. I hope the sun stays for a little while!

With the blessing of the blue sky, I laced up my running shoes, hoping the path would not be flooded, and we headed to our favorite place, the Kingsport Greenbelt.

I felt myself calm down as we pulled into the parking lot. The stress of work got the best of me the last couple of days. I could feel myself needing to be outdoors and releasing some of that negative energy. Yes, running + being outdoors is the best therapy.

My sweet little Lucy was beyond excited when we arrived in her favorite parking lot. Of course, I could not get my stuff together fast enough for this little squirt. Eager was definitely an understatment. With all the rain, it’s been very hard getting her outside for any kind of exercise.

Our drive to this area of the Greenbelt is much further than where we used to live, but I love this stretch of the path.

20141013_122346

I will definitely have to do some research and see if there is a closer portion of the Greenbelt to where we live now. But until then, I have no problem making the drive.

20141013_123449Although the path was wet in some areas, it was not flooded at all. Last summer around the 4th of July Jason and I walked the path, which was completely under water in some sections.

As we ran our 2.32 miles, we moved to the music of leaves crunching. Lucy was not a fan of the extra noise, but I loved the crunching, as the wind brushed over our faces keeping us cool.

20141013_123501

We stopped mid-way, so I could give Lucy a little rest. Her pace was slowing tremendously and I didn’t want to over heat her since the temperatures were in the high 70s.

I of course didn’t mind the stop . . . it gave me a chance to take pictures of the scenery I was admiring as we ran the path.

20141013_123703

The current of the water was moving at a steady pace today and much higher than usual.

20141013_125508Last year, I spent this time of the year running on a treadmill at the gym. Wow, never again will I run indoors during the fall. The weather is perfect and the colors that surrounded us played a part with calming me down and encouraging me to enjoy every step we took.

20141013_123736

I think Lucy enjoyed the stop too. Every time the wind picked up, leaves of every shape, size and color started spinning to the ground at different speeds, which kept Lucy’s attention for quite some time.

20141013_124236

I hope the weather will allow us to run for the rest of the week. I know better, running has to be a part of my life. Without it I feel lost, without it, working from home becomes too much. I need that outlet to escape from my office for an hour or so.

Mood changer

Last night was a perfect ending to a frustrating day . . .

The perfect ending was because of this man who has my best interest at heart all the time. It’s truly a beautiful feeling, an overwhelming feeling, to know and feel how much someone cares and loves you.

Every day Jason shows me that he is the right man for me. He’s my present and future, he’s my everything. I look into our future and I see us growing old together in a beautiful life that we create for one another.

Yesterday when Jason got home from work he sensed there was something wrong, which started a conversation that allowed me to let out my frustrations. As the conversation continued I started to feel a little better.

This man is my rock, my sounding board, my clear skies when I see gray, my strength when I struggle with my own . . .  well he’s just the very best part of me.

When he told me to go for a run and let go of those frustrations, it once again showed how well he knows me.

I was determined to change my attitude. So, as I walked into the gym — by this hour it was too hot outside and I didn’t want to overheat both Lucy, my puppy, and I — my determination set in. I got onto the treadmill and turned on Pandora . . . I was ready.

It’s this time, this me time, that I was able to clarify my thoughts and put them back in order once again. I get discouraged when my thoughts get out of whack, when the frustration builds, because it puts me in funk. As I refocused, I started feeling better.

It’s true running is the best therapy for me. There’s something about exercising and pushing myself that lifts my mood and makes the worries go away. The best part about this run yesterday was I beat my run from the day before by 14 seconds. That felt incredible.

It seems when my frustration is at its peak, my performance is as well.

When I left the gym I felt like a new person. I walked through the door with a smile on my face because all my worries were left at the treadmill. This of course put Jason in a good mood because we feed off of each other’s energy. When he knows I’m feeling good, his smile is beautiful.

The laughter and good times filled our house once again and continued throughout the night. Even Lucy joined in on our fun as she played with Jason and went crazy running around the living room.

Our crazy little home is all I need . . . especially with Jason by my side.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is let things go and let them be. I struggle with this from time to time.

It’s truly a blessing that I have the opportunity to work out of my home and make my own hours while contributing my work to numerous newspaper and magazine publications. With that said, it’s a struggle to find the equal balance of time in and out of my office. I often find out that I need a break from writing after I reached my breaking point.

This morning started off a little rough, but with the right attitude . . .

I put on my running gear, ready to take Lucy and I to the Greenbelt for a morning run, but those plans drastically changed. I hope by the end of the day I can go for my run, hopefully that run will be with Lucy.

Deep in thought

Tonight I decided to give myself some time off from work after I turned in another article, which has left me deep in thought about life in general.

This afternoon when I went to the gym I had a good conversation with Julian about yesterday’s blog. He made me smile because he reminded me just how fortunate I am as an independent, freelance writer, to have as much work as I do. This of course led to the “double-edged sword” conversation. I am beyond happy that I have as much work as I do, enough work to help pay our bills, but often times it leaves me with little “me time.” 

But this is my career, my livelihood, so I’m always taking on as much work as possible, to further my career. I fall in love with what I do a little more everyday. I absolutely love the world of journalism. I love when more article ideas are pitched my way, for the simple fact that it’s another story for me to tell.

So this is where the conflict falls, how do I have that happy medium . . .

I know that happy medium comes when I have some downtime, which I have granted myself these last three days at the gym. I really don’t know how to put into words how this time at the gym makes me feel. As soon I walk through the door and put my headphones in I stop thinking about the work that lies before me and start thinking about what goals I hope to beat that day.Today that success was on the bike, when the end of workout results appeared before me. Today I pedaled the most miles yet in a 30-minute period. That made me feel great!

Life is about pushing yourself, so you can constantly discover what you are capable of doing, which also reveals many new passions of what you may enjoy doing.

I proved to myself that I could work three jobs, something I always said I could not do beforehand. Jason and I had plenty of conversations before we moved about me getting a second job . . . my reply was always no, I don’t have enough time. How did I go from working only one to three? Faith, faith that I can do it, while having a great support system standing beside me.

This hike definitely showed me what I was capable of doing . . . which revealed an incredible view.

Over the summer Jason and went hiking at least once a week. Some of those hikes were rather difficult, this one especially. Jason helped me overcome my fears . . . which revealed this incredible view.

As all this floods my thoughts, I started scrolling through photographs, which always trigger such precious memories and moments. Those photographs stored in my phone gave me a visual of the life Jason and I shared in Fort Myers, as well as our journey here in Tennessee. I won’t lie these are great memories to have.

I have such a beautiful life, a life that I love!

Before Jason entered my life more than four years ago, my life really didn’t have too much adventure, true adventures that helped me grow as a person. As I sit here thinking of some of the obstacles I have overcome, some personal battles that weighed me down for quite some time, I am grateful for those adventures. Those moments at times pulled me out of my comfort zone, which ended up showing me just what I was capable of doing.

It’s funny when those moments hit you, when that reflection happens. Sometimes it is so out of the blue that it makes you smile.

To think I have been fortunate enough to know this man for 17 years is pretty incredible. My first true love, my high school sweetheart has repeatedly shown me why I fell for him all those years ago. Even through the years that we did not talk, he still entered my thoughts from time to time.

Before Jason clocked in for work tonight he accidentally dialed my cell, which was a good surprise, even if he left only 45-minutes before that call. Sometimes I don’t know how much I need to hear his voice until I get that surprise phone call.

Although life can become stressful some times more often than not, it’s up to me to keep that ball rolling and find ways to make it through while still smiling. This week definitely tried my strength . . . but I made it through with that “me time” and some help from Jason!

Here’s to a stress free, productive week of writing!

I know better

I have found that going to the gym has unfortunately been placed on the back burner these past few weeks.  Although going a minimum of three days is still better than none at all, I would rather go five or six times a week. This is what I’m used to, this is what keeps the stress levels down.

When I worked out with my mom in Fort Myers, my day started off at the gym, yep bright and early at 6 a.m. It’s hard to find excuses of not going when you go first thing in the morning. There was no, “I’m too tired,” at the end of the work day.

Although I work from home and make my own schedule, I’m still struggling with putting my work down for a couple of hours to go to the gym. That struggle comes when I look at my white board and see the amount of articles that are due.

I, of course know better. I know that if I do not make time for myself, I become stressed, which has a domino affect on my writing.

I’ve been waking up and going straight to my desk to start working, which I have found turns into a day without going to the gym. I get caught up in writing, editing, interviews and waiting for call backs that my day gets away from me.

I know better, days like this is when I need the gym the most.

The worst part about this is I am a member of a 24-hour gym, so I could really go at any time. With that said, when I put in a full day in my office, my brain becomes so drained that it makes the rest of my body tired as well. It’s sad, but I would rather walk downstairs and unwind in front of the TV, instead of lacing up my running shoes and hitting the gym.

On Wednesday, I started working around 8:30 a.m. The light in my office was not turned off until 7:45 that night. It was a productive day to say the least. I turned in five articles (three to one publication and one each to the other publications I work for), as well as many hours worth of editing for sections I am responsible for doing. My stress level was pretty high that day as I worked towards meeting my deadlines.

I was beyond tired …

Jason of course helped with that stress. He would pop in every once in a while, sometimes bringing yummy treats to brighten my mood. I would also walk downstairs and sit on the couch with him for 5 or 10 minutes to pull myself together again.

My stress level tends to grow, as the need to walk away from my desk and take a break rises. That day, going to the gym would have been helpful, but I couldn’t tear myself away for the fear I wouldn’t meet my deadlines.

So, Thursday I had Jason make sure I was really awake when he said goodbye before heading to work. Although it was hard to get out of bed, leave my warm covers behind, I did it and left the house before 8 that morning. It felt fantastic to start my day off on the right foot, a morning at the gym. I love starting my day off with a run, some weight training and other cardio training.

My spirits tend to stay high when I have that physical exercise in my day.

The best part about all of this was when I arrived back home there was a message waiting on our phone from Jason. He was checking up on me to make sure I did wake up and go to the gym.

It’s always helpful when you get the encouragement you need to get back into your rhythm again.

So, today I continued that trend and started on the right note again. I was out the door a little before 8 this morning. I was on my way to the gym.

I ran 1.5 miles and did more than 6 miles on the bike before ending my workout. On my way home I stopped at the grocery store to replenish my smoothie supplies, as well as grab ingredients for dinner. Today my smoothie was a mix of frozen strawberries, mangos and pineapples with a fresh banana and kiwi with orange juice. It was absolutely delicious, a wonderful treat after a great workout.

I am determined to keep myself on track, yep that means go to the gym first thing in the morning before I sit down at my desk.

When I finally made it to my desk this morning, my stress level remained low as I kept in stride and turned in article after article to my editors. I was also able to connect with some sources to finish three more articles that are due this coming week, articles I was worried I would not be able to finish. So, when Jason leaves for work tomorrow, I will put in those few hours to finish those articles and turn them in, so I can start next week on a clean slate. This of course will happen after another trip to the gym.

Hopefully then on Sunday I can take a day off, the first since the last Sunday of January.

Exercise is an incredible outlet, one that I am so thankful I found all those years ago.

‘One purpose, One mission, One passion’

Here is a feel good story that I wrote for the Herald & Tribune about teachers in the Washington County Department of Education receiving grants totalling $20,000. A special ceremony was held for them last week, which gave them all an opportunity to share how they will utilize the grant money in their classroom to further the education of their students.  

Innovative teachers receive Quest awards

Published Jan. 21, 2014 in the Herald & Tribune

Seven grants totalling $20,000 were given to teachers of the Washington County Department of Education last week during a special ceremony sponsored by the Quest Foundation.

Quest Foundation President James Harlan told the recipients that it was a privilege to be there on behalf of the foundation.

“We have just one purpose, one mission, one passion, that is to enhance education and learning in Washington County schools,” Harlan said. “We do that at the classroom level.”

The Quest Foundation has made grants to 21 classrooms in 10 schools over the last three years for more than $64,000. Last Wednesday, it added another $20,000 to the foundation’s grant total.

“The last three years have been a journey for Quest,” Harlan said. “Over $84,000 has been put back in our schools to start that lifetime of learning.”

He went on to say that it is rewarding to put that amount of money back in classrooms.

“That’s the kind of good news that makes this community, this city, a place where it is fun to live,” Harlan said. “We live in a very generous area. We care about other people and care about children.”

The foundation provides grant money for programs and materials that are otherwise unavailable to Washington County teachers. Harlan said the board looks for innovative ideas to enhance preschool to 12th-grade curriculum with a focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Harlan said for most educators at the ceremony, being a teacher was all they ever wanted to do.

“Education is the thing that fundamentally differentiates the United States from the rest of the world,” he said. “We have, in the United States, a lot of things against us in terms of being competitive in the world. One thing that levels the playing field is education. That starts right here in Washington County.”

Harlan recalled a fond memory of when he was in third grade and a teacher who sparked his interest and made learning fun.

“Learning to read is fundamental to what these teachers are communicating to their students and what becomes a lifetime of learning,” he said.

Grant recipients included: Robert St. John and David Yates from David Crockett High School who received $1,774 for their project “Where No One Has Gone Before.”

The grant money will help the teachers purchase an aerial photography system that will be integrated between the media and CAD department, as well as the biology department.

Cindy McAvoy, a 6th- grade math teacher at Lamar School, received $1,709 for her project “Parents as Learning Partners – Partnerships Today that Create Success Tomorrow.”

McAvoy said many parents have shared their concern about wanting to help their children with their math, but the parents do not know how. Thanks to the grant, she will now be able to offer a workshop that provides ideas and ways for parents to support their children.

Rachel Horn and Mike Taylor of Daniel Boone High School received $3,600 for their project “Improving Student Learning with 21st Century Data-Collection Technology.” The teachers teach AP physics and physical science.

Horn said the grant will allow them to buy lab equipment for students to craft data in real time during their experiments in physics.

Twana McKinney and the David Crockett High School science department received $4,727 for the project “Technology and Common Core.”

McKinney said they will also receive equipment that will provide real-time data for students to use as evidence for reference in writing skills.

Penny Elliot Lowe, a 5th-grade math teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, received $4,500 for her project “Addressing the Learning Gap in Mathematics using iPads.”

She said she did not have an iPad until last year and was amazed with what it could do. Lowe said she saw many opportunities for using the iPad in the classroom.

“(I can) use the iPads as another way to have a deep engagement with what we are doing in mathematics,” she said, adding that students can develop their own math presentations.

Kristie Payne, a third- grade teacher at Fall Branch Elementary, received $1,689 for her project “I want to be a Mathematician.”

She said the grant will fund iPads for her students, which will allow them the opportunity to develop key mathematical concepts through the use of technology. Payne said there are many apps that help students take concrete mathematical applications and apply them abstractly.

Jackie Mumpower, a 3rd- grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, received $2,000 for her project “Transforming 21st Century Education through Laptops.”

She said her students will use the laptops to create PowerPoint presentations. Harlan said the amount of grants they are not able to fully fund is the reason the foundation continues to raise money.