The New Normal


How Are You Getting By?

The Island Sand Paper asked four people associated with Fort Myers Beach how their lives on going now that the coronavirus pandemic has us all in “A New Normal.” Nicole Weigold, age 24, is a senior in Marine Science at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) who assists the Town with its “What’s In The Water” program as well as being an ice cream maker at Love Boat Ice Cream. Michele Kalka, 38, is a bartender at the Lani Kai Island Resort; Don Hutchinson, 59, is a well-known island photographer and Ceel Spuhler, 90, is a Fort Myers Beach icon!

Q: Working or not working?

Nicole: I still work at Love Boat Ice Cream and FGCU’s Vester Marine Research Field Station, though with reduced hours at both. At Vester, we must continue our research projects, though our director, Dr. Michael Parsons, knows exactly who is there at any one time, so he operates a very strict schedule. After we do our research, we conduct a thorough cleaning so we can keep the laboratory open for the next person.

Michele: The Lani Kai bars are closed, so I am presently not working.

Don: I am still working.

Ceel: Working at my age mean volunteering, but I sadly can’t do that now.

Q: How are you passing your time?

Nicole: Many different ways! I still work, of course, and we have animals, so I pay a lot of attention to them! Also, budgeting is a big one, not only money but time. My roommate and I do a lot of cooking and cleaning as well.

Michele: I am helping my oldest son Anakin, who is in First Grade, with his online learning, while watching my 10-month-old younger son, Ezra, learn how to walk! We go for walks around the neighborhood, swim in our pool and play games with the kids.

Don: Staying busy with projects, but also allowing for quiet time to reflect on all our current changes.

Ceel: Mostly I walk, and when I do, I try to see different things than ever before, to discover new treasures! It is wonderful I can walk to the Bay and our safe sidestreets. When I speak to friends up north, where it is still cold in many areas and they have trouble getting outside, I am careful not to rub that in!

Q: What chores, projects, games, binge-watching, etc., are you doing now that you did not have time to do before?

Nicole: Yes to all those! That is one of the advantages of our current situation – you have time now to do those things we did not before. I also spend a lot of time with my own thoughts, as I am sure everyone else does too.

Michele: I am trying to learn about the Stock Market. I am also trying to get my kids’ Memory Books together, and my oldest son and I are learning sign language!

Don: Actually, I have used the time to connect with family and friends more often.

Ceel: I am mostly writing notes to and calling people; in some cases, to those I have not seen in a long time. To those who live here, I enjoy sneaking notes under their doors!

Q: What do you miss most about life as it used to be?

Nicole: Freedom! That may sound strange but at 24, I don’t like to be told what I have to do, but then I remind myself there are people in other countries all over the world who do not enjoy freedom on a daily basis at any time, while one day our freedom will return to us. It is tough right now but you just deal with it.

Michele: Freedom! To go where I want.

Don: The freedom to refresh and rejuvenate using our public lands and beaches!

Ceel: I miss the structure! I would map out all my days, and on this day I would volunteer at the Mound House and on that day, I would attend the Council Meeting, and so on. Each day had a specific purpose and “purpose” is a very important word; when you have a “purpose,” each day is very full!

Q: How do you remain in contact with the outside world?

Nicole: My cellphone, mostly because almost everyone else has one too. That includes Facebook and apps, and it is easy to video message people. I still see some coworkers but not as many as before, because some do not feel comfortable working at this time, so it tends to be the same ones over and again!

Michele: Facebook, texting, Snapchat & Zoom.

Don: Through social media outlets like Facebook.

Ceel: I am so fortunate that a few days ago, my grandson became the father to a little girl they named Sophie Lucille! The fact that her middle name is from her Great-Grandmother tickles me to no end! I am grateful that due to technology, I can see her photos and they send little videos of her, and that makes me feel close to her already. My daughter is also named Ceel and we can already picture her running around as a two-year-old, with everyone calling her “Sophie Ceel!”

Q: How will you celebrate Easter?

Don Hutchinson, enjoying one of the over 100 bicycles in his personal collection.

Nicole: I usually do not celebrate Easter because at my age, I tend to work that day, so it will really not be a big difference this year; maybe I will eat some candy!

Michele: We will have an Easter Egg Hunt in the backyard for the kids. We haven’t decided what we will make for our family dinner yet.

Don: Quietly with a family member.

Ceel: I was going to host my nephew, Dr. Darren Rumbold from FGCU, and his entire family with a takeout meal from Francesco’s Deli. Now that we cannot do that, I will still get the meal from Francesco’s, divide it into thirds, and deliver it to everyone’s door.

Q: For whom are you social Isolating?

Nicole: My parents and little sister. My Stepmom has immune-compromise issues.

Michele: For my sisters who are nurses and my Mom who is immune-compromised.

Ceel: I am in a condo so I follow the rules, but we have a nice enclosed area with a tidal pool that we can still access as long as we remain 6 to 8 feet apart, where we can see the water, feel the breeze and watch the sunset, so I really don’t feel isolated.

Q: Has Cabin Fever settled in yet?

Nicole enjoying an ice cream treat at one of her employers, Love Boat Ice Cream.

Nicole: No!

Michele: Yes!

Don: Yes, since this is the first time in Florida that it is tough to enjoy outdoor activities!

Ceel: No, because of the beautiful weather! I can still walk outside and our island is so narrow, with all our marvelous sidewalks, you can easily go from the Bay to the Gulf and back, though of course I stay off the beach. Yesterday was quite windy and the pelicans were riding the waves, having the greatest time, so I thoroughly enjoyed that. It is not hard because this is a great place to live, so I count my blessings!

Q: How are you keeping your spirits up?

Michele, with the men in her life, (L to R): Ezra, Gabriel, & Anakin.

Nicole: My roommate and I clean and cook together and when we clean, we play music all through the house. Of course, we keep each other company.

Michele: The kids keep my spirits up. I think not watching the news helps, too!

Don: By hoping that when this passes, people will have a new respect for their environment and those around them who grind it out on the front lines of society every day.

Ceel: My spirits are usually up, and now is no different! I lived in some places, like Boston, Kansas and Ohio, where you went weeks without seeing the sun, so every day here, where you wake up and see bright sunny days almost every day, it is not hard to keep your spirits up – this is a wonderful place to be!

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Nicole: Some people struggle with being alone, or alone with their own thoughts, but there are still places where you can turn, so don’t be afraid to reach out, including to professionals who know how to treat what you are going through. Make sure you take care of yourself!

Don: Yes – mental health! Please reach out to others with care and ask how they are doing. We are truly in this together!

Ceel: At my age, you like to get up first thing in the morning, make coffee and breakfast, and enjoy reading the newspaper, with that feeling of the newspaper in your hands. Sadly, The Island Sand Paper is not publishing a hard copy now, but I just learned I can read it online, so that is what I am going to do today. At 90, you must always find new ways to keep your grey matter working and that is going to be my new way today!