Ten Things I Learned From a Hurricane



I probably should have evacuated.

My house on the north end of St. Augustine is in evacuation zone B, but literally a stone’s throw from the border of the mainland area that doesn’t ever have to evacuate.

Still, I had a total freak-out moment when it looked like we could have a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane. My house is not concrete block, it’s wood frame, and I don’t have storm shutters. Sure, it was built to the safety codes upgraded after Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida. But who knows if it could survive a Cat 5?

By the time the evacuation order was given for zone B, thousands and thousands of people from the coastal areas had already made plans to evacuate—from at least as far as Cocoa Beach to northern South Carolina. Hotel rooms were scarce, roads were clogged, gas stations were running out of fuel. It seemed more dangerous to leave than to stay. No one wants to get stuck on the side of the road in a hurricane!

So we stayed. And the house held together, and my nerves held together, barely. I learned some important lessons in my first close encounter with a hurricane, and here they are, in no particular order.

1. Preparedness is key. I wish we had stocked up on D batteries at the beginning of hurricane season. Because in the days leading up to the storm, everyone ran out. And it was stupid to have to go back to the stores every day for 3-4 days for supplies because we thought we had everything we needed, but then we realized we’d forgotten something else.

2. If push comes to shove and you have an actual breach in your structure, you can put stuff in plastic bags and stash it in your dishwasher—built-in waterproof safe! Also, you can use your wash machine as a “cooler” for as long as you can keep adding ice. It has a built-in drain!

3. Stuff is just stuff. What really matters when you think you could lose everything is your life and the lives of your family and loved ones. Being together with my family gave me much strength and reassurance.

4. We really do create more suffering for ourselves than is necessary. Leading up to the storm, while we still had power, I was watching news clips and social media updates on my computer. I understand that it is at times necessary to use fear tactics to get people to evacuate. But at some point, the sensationalism is just crazy-making.

It’s what led up to my freak-out moment. So many what ifs. What if we stay and the house blows apart around us? What if even a small part of the roof blows off—and not only is the house damaged, but the contents? What if I didn’t protect things enough? Should I have lifted everything up off the floor? Should I have covered everything with tarps? What if we really are without power for a long time—did I get enough food and water? What if my place of business is damaged—am I sure I have enough insurance?

I had to take a deep breath and talk myself off the ledge. I asked myself: what if everything is OK? What would THAT look like?

And I realized that if I screened out the noise of worst-case-scenario speculation and looked instead at real data—such as wunderground (weather underground), which is a compilation of weather sites and is JUST DATA with no hyperbole attached—the prediction wasn’t so dire.

In fact, as the hours progressed, the forecast improved. The top wind speeds went from 110+ mph (as suggested by panicky lay persons), to in the 80s, to 75, to 68, to 62 mph. Not quite so scary.

We put the brace on the garage door. We created a couple of small window-free zones in case we needed them. We piled all the food, water, important documents and storm supplies on the kitchen table so we could grab them in a hurry. There was nothing more we could do, and worrying about it wouldn’t help.

Worrying never really helps anything, does it? It just compounds our problems and creates unnecessary suffering. I just kept visualizing everything being OK. And in the end, it was.

5. It’s very strange to be in the midst of a disaster and not be able to know what’s going on because you’ve lost power and internet and cell phone service.

6. I made a smart decision when I bought my house (from my own perspective, anyway) to live a good distance away from any body of water. As much as it is lovely to live close to the beach or a riverfront, it is also risky. Flooding is smelly, nasty, filthy business.

7. We probably should all have our trees assessed and groomed by professionals every year. Even though the winds of this storm weren’t nearly as strong as they could have been, a lot of trees toppled. Some took down power lines. Some crushed cars or buildings. Trees and tree limbs reach a point where they are just ready to go, and it probably wouldn’t be that hard to have them trimmed up and thinned out before storm season starts.

8. It was evident that the county, city, state and beyond had rehearsed for this. Crews came in immediately after the storm and started moving obstacles and restoring power. The National Guard rolled in to help secure areas from looters. A central public field was set up for vehicles including campers for responders to spend the night. Shelters were opened, information was disseminated, roads and buildings were systematically inspected for safety. I have never seen a more well-coordinated effort to help people and get a whole town back up and running.

9. There is so much goodness in people! Sometimes people get angry and lose their patience when stressed, and there are always going to be looters and scammers preying on the vulnerable. But love outweighs ugliness. People reached out to check on each other. People offered to help—neighbors, friends, even strangers. There were literally people driving around to see who needed help, offering assistance to folks they didn’t even know. It’s so important for those of us who escaped damage to help those who need it.

Helpers even came in from out of town. One friend, still displaced from Hurricane Hermine, brought a whole crew in from Cedar Key to help for a few days. Other friends had grown children visiting who, once they had finished helping their own parents, were willing to stay on to help anyone else who needed it.

One food truck offered to cook up their stored food and give it away, thinking that they would provide a free service only for a few hours until supplies ran out. But then more and more people kept coming, donating food to be prepared and given away! This went on for at least 10 hours, and then started up again the next day.

One group sprang quickly into action to organize a fundraiser for first-responders who had themselves lost their homes to disaster.

The stories go on and on. Politics and petty things that usually divide us were forgotten. People’s kindness is astonishing. I saw one fortunate business owner—who survived unscathed—offer to pay the next month’s rent for the less fortunate business next door who flooded and would need some time to recover.

My faith in humanity has been restored.

10. Anticipating the storm, weathering the storm, and then the very next day dealing with a terrifying pet emergency (which, I’m very happy to report, looks like it’s going to have a happy ending), was an emotional roller coaster ride that left me as drained as if I had battled a bad case of influenza. But the best feeling of all (right up there with relief!) is gratitude.

I’m grateful that we made it through the storm with no loss of life, no serious injuries, much less destruction of property than we could have had, great plans that were executed to perfection by the authorities, bonds between neighbors strengthened, hope and determination restored.

I know soon we’ll all “get back to normal,” and we’ll start bickering over nonsense again, but for now, I’m grateful for all the good things that have come out of this storm.

I’ve heard a few people complain about it taking too long to restore electricity, or how city officials aren’t doing everything exactly right (if there is room for improvement, could we just work on that rather than gripe about it?). I reminded one guy that the storm could have been worse. And he said, yea but it could have been better!

But focusing on the negative is a choice, and I’m not willing to go there with the complainers. I choose gratitude.

Category : Blog &Events

Exercise Is Good for Your Heart—and Your Wallet!



Do you need more motivation to exercise regularly?

What if someone offered to pay you $2,500 per year?

That’s what you could, in effect, pay yourself in healthcare savings each year if you exercised on a regular basis. recently reported on a study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, which found that “On average, someone who met the exercise guidelines paid $2,500 less in annual health care expenses related to heart disease than someone who did not walk or otherwise move for 30 minutes five times per week.

“Those numbers included annual savings of about $400 on prescription medicines and far fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations for people who regularly exercised.”

Even those who had already been diagnosed with a heart disease or had multiple risk factors saved significantly on health-related expenses.

There were more than 26,000 persons in the study, and researchers were involved from universities and hospitals around the country. In trying to look at costs related to inactivity, they decided to limit the scope of the survey to expenses related to cardiovascular disease.

Which probably means that people who exercise regularly save even more— because they’re not developing Type 2 Diabetes or certain kinds of cancer, they’re not missing work, etc.

And here’s the best part: all we have to do to improve our health and save $2500 (or more) per year is engage in moderate exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week!

Just a half hour a day, five days out of seven, of moderate exercise like brisk walking, gentle bike riding, or raking leaves.

Fall is a great time to get moving. Even my dog is friskier as the weather cools off! If you’ve fallen off the exercise wagon during the dog days of summer, start up again with just 30 minutes of moderate activity. You’ll feel better, and you can take that to the bank!


Category : Blog &Health

Holistic Massage & Reflexology Moves and Adds Therapist

Julie Wesling, LMT has moved her practice—Holistic Massage & Reflexology—to a new location at 2820 US 1 South, Suite J, in the Century 21 office complex.

Joining her in the new location is registered dietician Amanda Perrin RDN, LDN, with her nutrition consultation practice, Peace of Nutrition.

Seasoned therapist Shawn Nerveza, LMT will also be offering massage therapy at the new location.

“We’re very excited to have more space,” says Wesling. “And, between the three of us, we can offer relaxation, therapeutic and medical massage therapy, reflexology, and nutrition counseling to clients virtually 7 days/week.”

The office plans to hold classes as well. The first one will be a foot reflexology workshop open to the public over 4 evenings in late November and early December.

An open house is planned for Monday, September 26th from 5 – 7 pm. Everyone is invited to stop by to check out the new space and enjoy refreshment and networking!

For more information, contact Julie Wesling at 904-377-6696 or [email protected]
MA 56383 MM 38038







Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Art Abandonment—Random Acts of Beauty

girl releasing heart balloon

Today I placed a beautiful bracelet in a baggie—a piece I consider to be of real value because it’s unique, and because I made it with genuine semi-precious stones and sterling silver—and I took it to the Mission de Nombre Dios, set it down next to a big statue, and walked away.

I “abandoned” it.

Why? Because I’m part of a movement called Art Abandonment, a phenomenon started in June 2012 by Michael deMeng and his wife Andrea Matus deMeng. They published a book entitled “The Art Abandonment Project: Create and Share Random Acts of Art,” and started a Facebook group that grew quickly and now boasts more than 33,000 members worldwide. Including me.

Abandoners simply create something for the joy of making it, and then leave it for an unsuspecting person to find. You put a tag on it stating you are leaving the art as a gift to whomever finds it. They can take it, pass it along to someone else they know would love it, or simply leave it there for someone else to find if they don’t care for it. The tag has directions for how to email or post on the Facebook page telling about their experience of finding free art, if they choose to do so. But it’s anonymous—the finder never knows who the abandoner is.

I’ve done two “art drops,” and so far I haven’t heard from anyone who’s found one of my pieces. But it makes me smile to think about how it might make someone’s day a little brighter.

Recently I read a story on the group’s Facebook page about how a woman found a little painting of a cheerful flower at the hospital on her way out of a breast biopsy. She was so filled with happiness, and was so touched that someone would be generous enough to simply give something handmade and beautiful away with love, that she didn’t have any room left in her heart or mind to be worried about her biopsy results. She posted on the group’s page, and soon dozens of strangers were wishing her well, sending her prayers and words of support that she would never have accessed had it not been for Art Abandonment. Her gratitude kept growing, and I was moved by the abundance of encouragement and kindness.

And that’s really what it’s all about—random acts of kindness in a world that desperately needs more of it.

You don’t have to be a “good artist” to get in on the goodness of the movement. Some people paint designs on stones and leave them out in nature near natural rocks. Some people might color a pre-printed design and cut the pictures to make bookmarks or greeting cards. A few fiber artists are crocheting little Pokemon characters and leaving them where players are known to hunt for the virtual counterparts. The art can be almost anything. The intention of creating and sharing is more important than the “value” of the finished work. Who knows what someone else will find beautiful or valuable anyway? These are lucky, random “finders,” not art critics!

Do you think you’d like to join the fun? Here’s a link to the Facebook page:

Happy Abandoning!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

From Tragedy Comes Something Beautiful


Knowing how much I like jewelry, my brother sent me this photo, with this story:

“The daughter of close friends of ours was involved in a serious accident caused by a drugged driver who hit six cars, flipped over and landed on top of this young woman’s car. She suffered traumatic brain injury, carotid artery damage, broken ribs, torn diaphragm and other assorted injuries. One of her surgeons removed this piece of glass from her body and had it made into this beautiful piece of jewelry. We had dinner at their house last night… It was a pleasure to see her doing so well. She is returning to full-time college at IU.” [That’s my alma mater, Indiana University.]

This accident happened several years ago; I remember it well. This young woman had multiple serious injuries. I was happy to hear that she had recovered so well, and I was stunned to see this beautiful necklace that her doctor had made for her.

What a thoughtful and touching gift! In the shape of a heart, of all things. What a perfect symbol of love and life.

The expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is so old and worn that it barely has meaning anymore. But I thought about this saying in a fresh light when I received my brother’s email. When life thrusts a broken piece of automotive glass in you, and you survive the trauma and grow strong again, make that glass into a beautiful treasure.

But the real treasure, of course, is the survivor herself. Truly, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Surviving trauma, overcoming obstacles, living through the trials that life throws at us is what makes us strong and beautiful.

Like this tempered glass heart, we might be imperfect around the edges, but we are tough and we are lovely.

I hope this young woman’s story of achievement over adversity, and her beautiful heart, inspire you as they inspire me.

Whether you’re working through a challenge right now, or you’re a survivor, I hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate the treasure you are.

Category : Blog

Holistic Massage & Reflexology is Moving!!



Holistic Massage & Reflexology is moving!!

By 9/1/16 (exact date TBD) I’ll be seeing clients at my bigger-and-better office:

2820 US Highway 1 South, Suite J (St. Augustine FL 32086)

The office is in a plaza with Century 21, Spherion Staffing, Bryan Bell chiropractic office, Pink Pineapple Boutique, etc.— just south of Shore Drive across from the High Chaparral complex. I’m upstairs on the right side of the building. Until my signs are in place, look for the Pink Pineapple.

My phone number remains 904-377-6696.

I can’t wait to see you in my new healing space. The exact move date is depending on getting an establishment license from the state. I will let you know as we confirm your appointment. As always, thank you so very much for trusting me with your care.

Julie Wesling, LMT

MA 56383   MM 32038

julies move

Category : Blog

The Joys of Getting Older

older couple

WebMD recently shared an online newsletter/slideshow on nine surprises of growing older.

A few of them were purely physical things—like growing weird hairs out of your nose or ears (male) or chin (female) due to hormonal changes, or how we actually get shorter because of gravity and degenerative processes in our spines.

But some of the items were pretty fun facts about mental/emotional changes that aren’t all bad. Here’s a summary that hopefully will improve how you feel about climbing “over the hill”:

We are more in tune with other people’s emotions in our 40s than any other time in our lives. This empathy helps us get along better with everyone from family to coworkers.

Older women may have sex less frequently than their younger counterparts, but they enjoy it more! Women 40 and over told researchers their sexual satisfaction improved with age. And women over 80 (over 80!) were more likely than those between 55 and 79 to say they were satisfied sexually.

We get good at using what we’ve learned. It’s called crystalized intelligence (the ability to use learned knowledge and experience, as opposed to fluid intelligence—the ability to solve new problems, use logic and identify patterns), and we get better at it as we get older.

We turn into morning people! Our sleep patterns can change as we age; most people in their 60s get to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. At 65, even people who wake up during the night report feeling like they regularly do get a good night’s sleep.

We don’t all turn into grumpy old geezers. In fact, most people get more agreeable, at least through their 60s. We’re likely to feel happier and less apt to get angry. Scientists don’t know why exactly, but seniors seem to be able to control their emotions better, and focus more on making every minute count.

Retirement is not always the best thing for your health. A study called the Longevity Project found that people who work hard at a job they enjoy tend to live the longest! Having good friends and a good marriage seem to be keys to a long life.

Do any of these findings surprise you? Here’s a link to the full report: 9 Things No One Tells You About Aging


Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Do You Love to Eat?

lady dog ice cream

I love to eat. Sometimes eating makes me feel quite happy. And then sometimes I feel regret allowing an indulgence to make me feel happy. Am I a food addict? Am I a failure for not having more willpower?

I used to say I had an unhealthy relationship with food. For most of my life, I was a stress eater. And a social eater. I’ve eaten out of boredom and used food to try to fill some sort of emptiness that wasn’t quite boredom or hunger. I’ve celebrated with food, I’ve rewarded myself with food, I’ve distracted myself with food, I think I’ve even punished myself for overeating—with food.

It took a lot of work on my end to find out how to deal with unpleasant emotions rather than feed them cookies. I no longer eat for all the wrong reasons, but I still struggle a bit with my love for all food—healthy and unhealthy—and my desire for variety, and my desire for the joy and ease of being undisciplined about food choices. Sometimes I purchase awful and delicious packaged food because it’s affordable, and everyone in my house likes it, and it’s easy, and I’m tired.

And I feel sort of guilty about taking those shortcuts that are not so healthy. Where is my discipline? Where is my health consciousness?

An article in the March/April 2016 issue of “edible Northeast Florida” gave me some real food for thought. Called “Farewell to Food Guilt,” it covered so beautifully the topic of how we feel about food, that I asked for permission to share it in my blog. So here it is, used with permission. Enjoy. And let me know how it makes you feel! Farewell to Food Guilt

Category : Blog &Health

A Victory for Alternative Medicine!

acupuncture points in face

A few weeks ago I was walking downtown—wearing decent shoes, pretty focused on what I was doing, not stepping off a curb or twisting my ankle—and I suddenly and inexplicably felt a strange and very painful sensation in my knee. I can only describe it as feeling like the tendons or ligaments and/or muscles of my knee were literally coming unraveled.

The dread in my head kicked in immediately. “This is NOT good!” I thought. I’ve known people who had to have arthroscopic surgery in their knees because of meniscus tears or ligament damage. I thought about their recovery time. I thought about what that would mean for me…

I finished my errands, went home and elevated my leg and iced my knee. The next day, as great fortune would have it, I had an acupuncture appointment. I told the acupuncturist what had happened, and treating my knee became unexpectedly the highest priority for that session!

For the next three days, I used Frequency Specific Microcurrent on myself at home, using a protocol for trauma, at least once or twice each day.

I took a day off, and then I went back for another acupuncture treatment.

The next day I went to my friend the physical therapist, the one who had helped me rehab my hip. Over the course of four weeks, I have seen both the acupuncturist and the physical therapist three times each.

Now here we are, less than one month from the original incident, and I’m almost 100% better. Not pain-free yet, but down to a barely noticeable discomfort level. I have an exercise and stretching routine that I follow, and a plan for how to increase the duration and intensity of the exercises gradually at home to build strength, stability—and work on my flexibility!

As I was leaving the PT’s office and I happily told him I didn’t need to come back, he commented that this was a remarkably quick turnaround for me. His experience with me was that I was slow to heal.

Is it because the original injury wasn’t as bad as I feared at first? Maybe. But I have to think that the acupuncture and microcurrent had a lot to do with it. I believe that getting regular massage and reflexology played a part as well.

I would never discourage anyone from seeking out mainstream medical doctors—there certainly are times when that would be the most appropriate course of action!

But in addition to medical interventions, I’m a big believer in complementary therapies!

Category : Blog

Yes, And

ladies laughing

If you live in St. Augustine and you haven’t met Amy Angelilli yet, you probably will soon. I think she’s on a mission to meet and engage absolutely everyone here.

Amy is a new staff person in the education department at the Limelight Theater. She teaches improvisation. If you’re familiar with comedy improv such as in the TV show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” you know the hilarity that ensues when people extemporaneously make stuff up. It’s unscripted, outrageous, creative fun.

Some of Amy’s students are really interested in theater and performing comedy. But Amy has tapped into something so authentic and positive, even non-theater people want to meet and be engaged with her, too. People from all walks of life are signing up for her more casual workshops, or “hang-outs,” where she presents light-hearted, easy activities designed to help folks simply be spontaneous and playful. She literally refers to it as recess for adults.

And perhaps the biggest benefit, aside from the fact that it’s tons of fun, is that it encourages participants to be completely, wholeheartedly, and genuinely in the current moment. She even refers to it as “mindful improv.” What a great way to let go!

For example, you have to let go of control. I don’t think there are very many rules in improv, but there’s one important one: you must allow things to unfold. And the way you do that is by saying “yes” to whatever crazy suggestion(s) the people around you put forth. If anyone says “no,” it simply shuts down the activity. You cannot move forward with a “no.” And it’s really un-funny.

What Amy discovered when she started studying improv—and what she’s so brilliant at sharing with virtually everyone she comes into contact with—is that saying “yes” and going with the flow opens a direct line to our authentic, playful, creative, child-like selves—and not just in classes.

In a workshop, Amy creates a safe place for people to experiment and be vulnerable. Participants quickly see how joyful it can be to let their inner child out to play. And the unplanned things that happen by simply allowing them to, are humorous and very, very positive.

That’s because “yes” is a positive communication tool. Even more powerful is saying “yes, and.” Amy came to our Rotary club meeting last week and led an exercise that took less that five minutes, and we quickly saw for ourselves the beauty and the impact of positive communication.

The activity had four parts. In each one, the small group sitting at each table brainstormed for one minute about things we could do together during the upcoming weekend. For the first round, whenever anyone suggested anything, our response had to be “no.” Just “no.” It felt yucky to have your ideas shot down, and also to shoot down everyone else’s good ideas.

For the second minute, as we suggested things to do for the weekend, the responses had to be “yes, but…” For example, “We could go fishing!” “Yes, but it’s supposed to rain this weekend.” This also did not feel good. You kinda got your hopes up thinking you were getting a “yes,” but ultimately you were getting a negative response.

The third time, we simply responded to every idea with “yes.” No elaboration, just “yes!” This felt better, but kind of silly. There was no depth, there was no way to build on an idea or take it a step closer to actually happening. It was a positive response, but it didn’t lead anywhere.

For the fourth and final minute, we responded with “yes, and… .” This felt terrific! “We could go fishing.” “Yes, and maybe Todd could take us out on his boat!” “Yes! And afterwards, we could have some time at the beach!” “Yes, and we could all bring some food and drinks to share!”

During this last round, everyone—at every table—got louder and more animated. You could actually feel the energy in the room shifting into a more positive atmosphere. Everyone was laughing and smiling. Everyone agreed that it felt much better to say yes, and… It was fun!

So Amy encouraged us to continue saying “yes, and” in our daily lives, and see if we could have a positive impact in virtually any situation. Just as in comedy improv, “yes and” opens the door to possibility.

Do you think you could do that? Let’s do it! Let’s say yes… and see what happens!!

Here are links to more articles about “Yes, And”—one written by Amy and one by Scott McDowell. Enjoy, and let me know what happens when you allow for positive communication and spontaneous fun!

How Improv Made Me a Star on Life’s Stage. ~ Amy Angelilli

For more on Amy and her classes and retreats, here’s a link to her website:

Category : Blog