Even while faced with the heart-wrenching reality of potentially losing her home, Anne Cobb still sports a smile wherever she goes — along with her bundle of homemade postcards that have become her sole source of survival.
The 51-year-old Tarpon Springs resident known as the Postcard Lady says that when the going gets tough, she quotes her favorite saying in her head: "make do 'til you get through."
Her head is part of the problem.
As a chronic migraine patient, Cobb is unable to hold down a job. She says that the painful fits can put her out of commission for days at a time with no warning.
Even with the unfavorable condition, Cobb manages to crack a joke.
"I tell everyone I'm a vampire because everything has to be pitch dark when it happens," Cobb said with a chuckle.
She applied for disability, but the process is a long and grueling one that leaves her with no choice but to do what she can, when she can in an attempt to save her house.
One Setback After Another
Loss is something that Cobb learned to deal with early on in life. Her father passed away when she was just 9 years old, and when she was laid off from her job at a Madeira Beach mortgage brokerage firm in 2010, her bright spirit dimmed.
"I'm a very strong person, but the last few years have been mentally very hard," Cobb admitted.
Before the job on Madeira Beach, Cobb was a certified nursing assistant at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, which is now Florida Hospital North Pinellas. She was on duty one night when she lunged to catch a patient who was falling out of bed.
The sudden movement caused an unusual popping sound and a crippling surge of pain.
Cobb had completely torn her Achilles' tendon.
There were no surgeries, and after a small stint of physical therapy, Cobb was no longer able to meet the demands of the position. After more than a decade, the career she loved was over.
It was back to the drawing board.
Tapping Into Her Creative Side
Creativity was a natural gift for Cobb, but she had never considered using it to get by.
One Christmas in the mid-'80s when times were tough, she constructed a fireplace and a Christmas tree out of paper bags, scrap paper and tinsel. A box of used books she picked up from the library were nestled beneath the tree with a note to her two sons, then 6 and 8, that read, "To: Raph and Lou, From: Santa — Don't let Mom see."
There was no better time for Cobb to explore her creative side again than in 2010 when her back was against the wall, as her house fell further from her financial grasp.
With a small point-and-shoot camera, Cobb started taking photos all over Tarpon Springs. She turned the photos into postcards that she sold around town, usually for $1 a piece unless a business bought a bulk amount at a negotiable price.
Eventually, Cobb expanded and began to find solid business in Dunedin and along the Pinellas beaches.
Tarpon Springs, however, has been less supportive, according to Cobb.
"The thing that really gets me is that I'm here in Tarpon and I have people from Dunedin and Oldsmar buying my postcards," Cobb explained. "But Tarpon, they want to pay me two cents a card."
Cobb says that most of her business in Tarpon comes from the beaches, where tourists and snowbirds are looking to take a piece of the town home with them.
Over the past two years, Cobb has managed to hang on to her beloved home on Locust Street in Tarpon Springs, but she says that time is running out.
Cobb estimates she would have to sell about 60,000 postcards to find solid financial ground as far as her home is concerned.
She has tried other avenues like writing a letter to President Barack Obama; with a stroke of luck, Cobb found a crumpled up lottery ticket in a parking lot that cashed in for $2,500.
But staying true to her motto is key as Cobb makes do until she gets through.
For her, it isn't about saving the house. It's about preserving a home — the place she calls a "safe haven" for her friends and family.
Family like her daughter-in-law Jessica Good, who views Cobb as a Mother Theresa-type with superhero tendencies.
"She is a very strong woman and she is very determined," said Good.
'You Have to Have Faith'
Good, 21, knows first hand about Cobb's efforts to save her home. She will sometimes partner with Cobb on her beach visits to sell postcards.
And what touched Good about Cobb was her openness and willingness to help during her own times of struggle.
"She always wanted her kids and grandkids and anybody else that's around to have a place to come back to," Good said.
Cobb has furthered her postcard expertise and now offers a customization option for paying customers. She will sit down and create sketch of a postcard with the business owner and then replicate it with her camera and a computer before printing it.
No journey is too far, within reason of course. Cobb says that she is willing to drive as far south as Pass-A-Grille beach if it means the possible sale of more postcards.
As the holidays approach, Cobb says that it will take more than selling some postcards to save her home. But she believes that anything is possible.
"It's only impossible if you stop trying," Cobb said. "You have to have faith, and you have to believe in miracles."
Businesses interested in purchasing postcards from Cobb can email her at email@example.com.
Stay connected to your community and get more local headlines delivered to your inbox or smartphone by signing up for the free Patch email newsletter.