On Life in South Florida

Happy Friday everyone,

As I said previously, we had spent almost two years in South Florida where I had been working at a synagogue as an Administrator for the majority of it. Technically I was an administrative assistant but I worked full time and was responsible for several tasks beyond the initial purview and job description. I wasn’t compensated as appropriately as I should have been given the scope of work I was required to do but I don’t fully hold it against them. I do not regret my time working there and made several friends and profession connections which I greatly appreciate. That being said, I’m glad I have moved on.

At the shul, I was tasked with many general office tasks (phones, emails, donations, event RSVPs etc.) and, primarily, managing the master calendar. This involved consolidating the Temple, religious school, day school, early childhood center, PTO, youth group, summer camps, men’s club, sisterhood, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and catering calendars and making sure there was space for everyone when they needed it. I digitized as much as I could while still having paper copies for maintenance so they could set up rooms as necessary. I assisted accounting by reconciling accounts and attempted to digitize the membership folders (a momentous task in and of itself and, although I hardly made a dent, am proud of what I did accomplish). Eventually, I became responsible for billing tuition for Summer Camp and for some Religious School families, membership, and related fees. I was involved in making collections calls (something I typically dreaded, but learned to deal with), new hire paperwork/payroll, and High Holiday Ticket management.

Towards the end of my employment, I realized how stressed and unhappy I was. I felt somewhat underappreciated and overworked. There was a lot of inconsistent policy enforcement and ¬†a serious lack in communication. We were constantly waiting on answers or confirmations and never receiving them, didn’t receive them in a timely manner, or got conflicting responses. All of this seriously reduced our work efficiency.

There was more to our time in South Florida than just my work. Kass’ employment changed a couple times (typically for the better) but ended with him driving to and from Boca (over 1.5 hours away) which was causing him serious stress and health problems. Our apartment, which seemed alright on the outside, was awful. The buildings were old and inefficient (especially the windows). The HVAC system was dying but management refused to pay for new ones. Our utility bills, therefore, were astronomical, especially because we couldn’t turn off the HVAC without breaking our lease and having mold grow on our walls. Although they said our unit was pest free, we quickly discovered termite problems when we moved in and bugs would constantly find a way in. Our roof leaked once, but even though they made external repairs, they never fixed the ceiling. The external doors had a weather seal, but it was busted up so bad that you could see outside through it. Therefore water would come in every time they pressure washed outside. Speaking of water pressure, there was basically none in the master shower which also made a horrific sound every time you turned the shower on. The kitchen didn’t have an external hood vent so everything would get covered in cooking oil/residue. When an appliance stopped working, they would take a slightly one from an unoccupied unit and then just switch it out, which didn’t always work either. There was a serious lack of communication from management regarding maintenance entering our apartment, paperwork, and the move out procedures. All the fees were astronomical and they would do everything in their power to get even more money from us. Although there were no soliciting signs posted throughout the complex, we had solicitors from businesses and Jesus/Bible Preachers almost every weekend. They would even park their vans outside our complex and walk around, as if this was their home base. Management never addressed any of this.

The girls who lived below us went through hell dealing with mold in their unit too. It was an absolute nightmare trying to get their place and belongings cleaned. They were accused of turning off the HVAC while they were away during a school break, which allowed the mold to grow. They had the power bills to prove that it had stayed on but clearly wasn’t working. All of their belongings were covered in mold and they complex tried to have them evicted for it but the girls ended up threatening them with a lawyer (after they were threatened first). I don’t quite remember how it all worked out for them (but they stayed long enough to finish their school year) but eventually the remediation and cleaning occurred but the HVAC was never fixed/replaced.

There was one situation that broke the straw with Kass. One morning we work up to what sounded like a car crash or a dumpster falling from a truck and dozens of police/SWAT cars outside in our parking lot. It turns out SWAT used a flash bang at like 6:15ish am while serving a warrant for child pornography. We only know any of this because our friend’s older brother was on the SWAT team there that morning. We received absolutely no communication from management stating “the safety of our residents is our utmost priority” or “working with police on an ongoing investigation” or anything at all in reference to the event.

We didn’t feel safe anymore.

Moral of the story, research your place really well. This was unfortunately the cheapest thing in a relatively safe area. Everything else was well out of budget. South Florida is not an affordable place man!

It didn’t help that where we lived, there wasn’t much to do that didn’t evolve money. I mean there were shopping and restaurants but that was really it. We’re not the type to go to bars and brunch every weekend and the beaches are too crowded to enjoy ourselves comfortably.

That wasn’t to say that living in South Florida was all negative. A couple times we drove out to the Keys or the Everglades and would just hang out and walk around. There were a couple parks we would visit as well. Our favorite place to go was the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. We would go about once a month and just walk around, listen to the creaky bamboo blowing in the wind, and relax. The food at their cafe was really good as well, so we almost always grabbed lunch there. The museum exhibits would change out every few months and were always interesting. Currently they have an exhibit on origami which sounds really cool and wish I could check out. They had classes and workshops you could participate in too. They had different festivals that we would go to as well. Unfortunately the festivals usually ended up pretty crowded (especially the Lantern Festival each fall) which made it harder to enjoy. But they had Fushu Daiko, a local taiko drum group, out for almost every festival in addition to traditional dancers and musicians, martial arts and tea ceremony¬†demonstration, dozens of vendors, and catered food (which unfortunately usually wasn’t that good).

To be honest, when we weren’t hanging out at home, the place we honestly hung out the most was IKEA. We would just go to walk around and maybe buy those $1 ice cream/froyo cones. We honestly ended up there almost once a month as well. Now it almost feels weird not hanging out at IKEA all the time, but at the same time, who seriously hangs out at IKEA?

In South Florida, we were also closer to Kass’ parents, so we were more easily able to go out to dinner, celebrate holidays, and pet-sit with/for them. Although we are significantly closer to them than we were in NY in college, we’re still a good 3-4 hours away from them now, which they aren’t terribly happy with.

All in all, there are a handful of things we miss about South Florida (driving up and down A1A, looking at the water and Morikami being the majority of it) we are so much happier in our unit here in Central Florida. Our commutes are significantly shorter, our stress levels aren’t even half as high, and we’re a lot healthier for it.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and I plan on updating this again shortly.

In the mean time, Shabbat Shalom!