Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Tale of Two Sams

I have written about the Two Sams before. 
It is not that I am older and starting to repeat myself, 
but rather this story is becoming part of my personal holiday heritage. 
Here's how it goes....

Sam fake reads in a 2002 Country Living "Holidays" shoot
When I worked at Country Living magazine, I would sometimes stick a cute child in my stories. Naturally, I'd stick my own kids in, when appropriate and holiday time just seemed right. Dylan and Sammi have both been in the magazine over the years.

In 2002 Sammi was featured in a "Red & White Christmas" story. She sat in a big Ralph Lauren wing chair, dressed in white with cute red jester-like booties. She was fake reading "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and being a really great model. (she was not always the best behaved!).

Unbeknownst to me, this photograph touched someone else in a very meaningful way.

(Cut to 2004)

Mary's painting included stylistic differences. She darkened the hair, changed the book, and color of the chair.
I go to scout a house in Boca. Mary lives there; I have never met her before. I walk inside her home and notice a large painting over the mantle. It reminds me of the photograph of Sammi. I don't blurt anything out, but ask Mary a few questions and discover that the painting in her living room was indeed inspired by the photo of Sammi. It reminded Mary of her daughter when she was little. There is a dramatic pause before I tell her that the photo was of my own daughter. We both get the chills and hug. We share a unique connection.

So why do I tell this story during the holidays? 

1.  It is rather serendipitous...bordering on magical (at least for me).
2.  It is heartwarming, something that ties two people together for life (OK, that sounds quite dramatic, but I think it's true.)
3.  As Mary painted she was filled with gratitude for the inspiration.
4.  As Mary painted she was joyful, in the flow, and thinking of others.
5.  I believe that all the good energy that goes into creating art is healing and therefore good for the planet.
6.  I like that her name is Mary. Just sounds so perfect for a holiday tale.

Oh, and this time of year is a really good time to call someone up -- someone you have not been in touch with for a while -- and let them know you are thinking of them!

Happy holidays... happy and healthy days ahead, peace, love, and inspiration!

Friday, December 21, 2012


I thought it would be a good idea to take my fascination with past and present factory built housing -- travel trailers, mobile home parks, manufactured housing, modular homes -- and move it to one central blog. MOBIMANUMODU.BLOGSPOT.COM is that place.

Miss Blogworthy will continue to feature random stories of value, heart, and soul.

Thank you for reading my blogs. 

XO Jane  


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

iPhone Battery Life: Some tips

I thought I would pass on some information that I recently gathered via 3 phone calls to AppleCare. I was having serious quick battery draining issues on my phone as in it was fully charged at 2 a.m. and was totally drained by 6:30 a.m. with no apps running but the basics. An in-store appointment at the Genius Bar did not help. It took 3 calls to Apple Care to finally find the problem.

If you are having quick battery draining issues, and don't have AppleCare, here are some things to do. Start by going into your settings. From there:

1. Under NOTIFICATIONS: set to "Manually"; limit # of things IN NOTIFICATION CENTER, I only have "phone, messages, and calendar" in there now. All my other apps are NOT IN NOTIFICATION CENTER.

2. Turn off BLUETOOTH whenever you are not using one, otherwise battery is always looking for it.

3. Under PRIVACY > LOCATION SERVICES, limit what you have running. I am only running Maps and Weather apps with that. I don't necessarily want FB and Twitter to keep tabs on me.

In addition to futzing with my settings, I also restored my phone via iTunes. But this did not seem to help it as much as changing the settings did.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Saturday at Seminole Estates: Shooting with Cheryl Maeder & Practicing French

Skirts off: House in a state of undress.
It has been two months since I first visited the Seminole Estates Mobile Home Park. I participated in the 2nd protest, sat down with the newly evicted residents, and continue to walk the streets of the community and witness its undoing. Despite the demolition on every block, the incessant drone of power tools, and the park's adjacency to the bustling Turnpike, there is something remarkably serene about the site. I see why the residents once loved this place they called "home."

Maeder was particularly attracted to the old statuary and felt somewhat like she did in Italy and Greece where she walked among the ruins.
I like to share the experience of the park with certain friends. On this Saturday, I brought photographer Cheryl Maeder along. Maeder, as I like to call her, has an affinity for subject matter that celebrates American heritage. She says, "I came there to photograph the mobile park as to me it is as Americana as apple pie." Maeder and I parked and set out on our adventure. 

(photos below, except where noted, taken by Maeder)

I passed this house often and admired the deer. Today I met the owner who will soon be abandoning it.
Preparing to go: Packing up 30 years worth.
Barbara (left) is moving back to Ohio to be with her family. Kim came down for a few weeks to assist.
First we spied Kim who came down from Ohio to help her mom empty a house. With blond hair and a royal blue outfit, Kim was a bright spot amidst a pile of garbage bags and boxes. Her mom Barbara is 79, and has lived at Seminole Estates for 30 years. Her husband was a supervisor in the community before his death 10 years ago. Barbara remembers the good old days of dances, bingo, and going to the gym. She will be abandoning her home this coming Friday - turning over the titles, gate pass, and keys in exchange for the $3,000 grant given by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to those full-time residents who qualify.

Recent knee surgery makes the rigors of packing a challenge.
Guy Johnson is preparing to move his 3 bedroom 2004 home
Maeder and I continued up the street where we met Guy. He was on the porch enjoying the fresh air. We approached and were soon invited in for a house tour. Boxes are stacked in every room; packing tape and wrapping paper are out on the dining table alongside a bottle of vodka and wine. Guy and his wife have lived at Seminole Estates for 8 years; they are not full-timers. Two years ago he resurfaced his entire driveway and fixed his roof. Guy was not surprised by the closing; rumors had been flying for years. He feels badly for the people who have nowhere to go and no means to get there. They will be relocating their home to Maralago Cay in Lantana.

Bubble wrap decor chez Yvanhoe et Monique.
Guy introduced us to his Canadian neighbors. It was here, in the company of several French-speaking persons that I unearthed my rusty francaise (and it actually felt kind of good!). Yvanhoe and Monique took us into their renovated 1972 home. They bought the house for $25,000 and invested another $30,000 into it after Hurricane Wilma. Improvements included sheet rock, ceramic tile floors, new kitchen cabinets, and new bathroom fixtures. Yvanhoe and Monique spend their winters here and are not seriously affected by the community closing. They will abandon their home and move to Maralago Cay. "I'm OK," says Yvanhoe, "But lots of the Americans aren't."

(photos below by me)

Besides the laundry room, the mailroom is the only common area left to the residents.
Some residents wanted to host a community wide yard sale, but said management would not allow it.
Next Maeder and I visited the mailroom. 

 And then we drove around some more.

I asked Maeder how she felt about the closing of Seminole Estates. She said, "What I find ironic is that the settlers came and took away the land from the Indians and now the reverse is showing up.. the ebb and flow of life.  But who really loses in this and who are not honored are the ELDERLY... that is what saddens my heart deeply.. that they are misplaced and forced to leave their homes and lives... they lived and loved there and the place is full of memories of their lives.  Now they are displaced and dont know where to go and there is no one to help them. That is what angers me." 

Photo: Cheryl Maeder

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Reporting from Seminole Estates Mobile Home* Park,
7 weeks post-eviction notice.

It's been said that "pictures speak louder than words" and I think
that applies to pictures of words as well.
 I found this sentiment sprayed inside of a nice-looking home.
You can even read it clearly in a drive-by.

That's what my friend Kathy and I were doing,
driving around surveying the manual ruin.
As we drove down one street, Kathy blurted, "This just makes me so angry."

 There's lots of furniture out on semi-deconstructed porches,

 and remnants of peoples lives left out for the taking,

and there are mixed piles of trashed stuff everywhere.

We stopped at Joyce and Pop's house.
They are moving on the 7th.
Joyce hadn't slept all night and didn't really want to take a picture. But I begged a little bit, told her it would be from a distance, and she obliged. (thank you Joyce) She began telling me about moving to the park, and how her mother passed away, and then... she started to cry.  I have seen many tears flow at Seminole Estates out of fear, anger, sadness, disbelief, and sympathy for others.

This is Pop's shed. With his bad shoulder and knee, he's emptying it slowly. The shed will come down before the move.
(btw, i thought this could have been a good blog opening shot too, being on the eve of the election and all!)

There goes the neighborhood... literally
 post by post.

 Some homes are looking swell as if nothing has changed. 

Lawn ornaments are in place as is porch decor and poodle graphic.

 I have never seen a dolphin decoration such as this.

 I always enjoy seeing David and...

None other than...

 Here today, gone tomorrow or by June 30, 2013.

*(Every time I write "mobile home park" rather than "manufactured housing community" I feel like I am doing a disservice to the manufactured housing industry. But then I was reading Alan Wallis' "Wheel Estate: The Rise & Decline of Mobile Homes" (1991) last night. And Wallis also addresses the use of the two terms. Regarding the term "manufactured housing" here is what he says:
"I am aware of the term and appreciate the desire of the industry to use it. The fact remains that most people still think about the housing discussed here as mobile homes, and...I have kept the term mobile home because it conveys better than any other, the basic hybrid character of the innovation and the essential basis for the conflicts it has engendered."


Taking the space here to express my extreme sorrow for the people who have lost 
homes and loved ones in Hurricane Sandy. Hang in there.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treating Gets Politcal

The ladybug rang the doorbell. 

"Trick or Treat," she said in unison with her two friends who were dressed as monsters.

A woman answered the door. She smiled. "Who do you girls want to win the election?" she asked.

The ladybug responded, "Obama."
One monster responded, "Obama."
The second monster offered a different answer. "Romney," she replied.

The Romney supporter got a king size Snickers and the Obama girls got mini candy bars.

The ladybug deemed the behavior unfair, yet the night was still fruitful.

Monday, October 22, 2012


This Saturday when I ventured down to the Seminole Estates manufactured home community in Hollywood, Florida, I noticed a distinct change in its physical appearance. Piles of rubbish and uprooted trees appear on front lawns, the sounds of heavy machinery fill the air, and waste removal trucks, dumpsters, and Uhauls occupy parking spots. Seminole Estates is sporting that unkempt post-natural disaster look, but the residents are actually just responding to a man-made disaster decision to close the park.
Faith remains as residents of Seminole Estates dismantle their lives.
Five weeks ago, the Seminole Tribe of Florida took control of the management of the community and announced the June 30, 2013 closing of the residential community that was originally intended to operate until 2024. Within 24 hours of the STOF's public decision, all recreational amenities and meeting facilities were padlocked. Homeowners, already saddened and angered by the eviction, rendered even more powerless, robbed of any air-conditioned common space where they might commiserate and potentially gather strength to refute the act.

Fit-Mess: With pool and gym locked, residents now build muscle lifting boxes onto moving trucks and carrying parts of their home to the curb.

As the community unravels, some neighbors are sticking together. On one particular street, three homeowners are relocating to Sunshine Village in Davie. Diane Gannett is one of them. When I met Diane, she was up on the roof of her home dismantling her carport. Diane works full-time and deals with all the house stuff after hours and on weekends. She can't ask for anymore time off because long before the eviction was announced, she had reserved time off in November for her children's weddings.  Diane is in overdrive.
Diane Gannett: "They're tearing us apart."

Bud and John help Diane dismantle the shed addition.

Across the street, I see Marilyn looking out the sliding glass doors of her kitchen as a Bobcat takes aim at her front porch. When she comes out of her home, I walk over. Marilyn has lived at Seminole Estates for 41 years, and in her current 2005 Skyline home for five. Recently retired, she does not wish to stay in a place where she is no longer welcome and is motivated to get on with the next stage of her life at Sunshine Village. Marilyn gently stretches the neckline of her top a bit to reveal a tattoo. She says, "I thought about getting a tattoo for ten years and then in 20 minutes I had this one." Marilyn is a woman of action.
Marilyn will spend $2,500 at an extended stay hotel while her home is relocated. The hotel can accommodate her cats too.
Sounds of jack hammering fill the air as Marilyn's porch is about to go down.
Signs of exodus are not only evident in the rubble, they are literally staked into the ground as manufactured home communities in Broward and Palm Beach counties recruit homes for empty lots. Communities such as Coral Cay in Margate, Country Knolls in Pompano, and Rexmere Village in Davie are striking deals that lessen the financial burden on the displaced residents while simultaneously meeting lot occupancy needs. Coral Cay manager Eric Toledo is offering up to $25,000 for relocation plus a few other perks in exchange for each homeowner's promise to keep their home on the lot for 10 years. Homes must first pass inspection. So far Toledo has placed over 30 homes, one of which belongs to Kathy Maynard, the first Seminole Estate resident that I met and now a new friend.

Signs of mass exodus: Lakeshore has an office at Seminole Estates and offers complimentary shuttles to its Pompano Beach community twice a day.

While Diane, Marilyn, and Kathy are proactive and own homes built after 2000, there are plenty of others whose lives still hang in the unknown. Many of these folks own old homes (one of my favorites below) which are more prone to damage in a move. And some communities won't accept these older homes anyway. Tim Kirby, manager at Deerfield Lake in Coconut Creek, says "For us to move a home it has to be wind zone 3 and that means it has to be a 1995 or newer." Tim has placed 2 Seminole Estates homes in his community which was practically full to capacity at the time of the eviction.

At the pop-up Lakeshore Community office here at Seminole Estates, Bunnie is minding the desk. She is friendly and open. This is not her usual gig, but Bunnie is a seasoned land-leasing pro and now a self-confessed consoler.  "I listen, I feed them, and they usually leave in a better mind set. They're not angry at us," says Bunnie who assists people through the overwhelming process of moving a manufactured home. Bunnie continues, "I've seen it all, but nothing like this. These people are not beggars; they just need some help."

Monday, October 15, 2012


One month since getting notice of eviction, residents of Seminole Estates scramble to find alternate shelter while others count their losses. I continue to share their stories with the hope that anyone with legal knowledge, muscle, money and/or compassion can lend a hand to those in need of assistance greater tan the $3000 offered to those who qualify.

Sometime last week the weather shifted in South Florida.  The humidity is lower and delicious breezes are blowing. Fall is in the air. Last October, the residents of Seminole Estates were decorating their homes for Halloween. This year, few took the time because they just don't have it. They are too busy packing up their lives.

Jamie Doyle: "Fighting takes too much energy."
I meet up with Jamie Doyle as she is exercising Rambo on a little plot of grass near the entrance to the Estates. A security guard for the neighboring Seminole casino parks nearby and engages her for a few moments, giving his two cents about the situation. He describes the eviction as "being kicked to the curb." Jamie prefers not to get into it. She merely suggests that the Seminoles could have showed more compassion. She doesn't want to dwell in the negative; she's got to stay focused on figuring out her future. At this point she knows that any move will increase her living expenses by at least $200 a month.

Jamie tells Madame Michelle that she can sell the aluminum before she moves.

A box spring  now occupies Madame Michele's kitchen.
Madame Michele is also looking at a sizable rent increase. She is 76 years old and lives on social security. She was a former home care assistant and says she was often voted employee of the month. Between her heavy Haitian Creole accent and my poor French we communicated as best we can.
Madame takes a moment to give thanks.
She plans to get out of the park before the end of the month and has started turning her house upside down. Her son is not too well and she is doing most of the work herself. While she is certainly put out by the move, she holds strong to her faith. She has bad arthritis and wants to make sure she gets to her local doctors one last time before the move.

Darrell Coe is dismantling all the work he did on his home.
Darrell Coe is disassembling the carport on his 1975 mobile home. "You can never get it back right," he says hoping to get something for the scrap metal. He and his wife Carol bought their home in Seminole Estates 10 years ago for $26,000 and put roughly $12,000 into renovations. Darrell did most of the work himself.

Carol Coe: "We're hoping our house makes the trip."
Carol and Darrell will be out of the park on the 26th. Their home is being relocated 25 miles north to Highland Village in Pompano Beach and should be livable again within 6-7 weeks. They are not sure where they will stay for the duration but need to make a plan so they can continue working. Once resettled, their commute to work will be three times longer than it is now. Despite that change, the Coes are relieved that they finally found a community that would arrange to take their older model mobile.

Others are starting to take homes apart too. Unwanted furniture and piles of debris are common lawn ornament now. Via email Teri Vasterling writes, "Under cover of night and in whispers behind closed doors, folks are planning their move out of a place we once called 'home.' I'm not waving a white flag...my personal fight will continue after I make my escape."

Via email and personal visits, I am grateful to those sharing their stories with me and look forward to gathering more. Thank you.