The Days Will Be Gone

The small hand in yours. The bright eyes shining up at you, inquisitive and sensitive. Curious and intriguing.

The questions. The “why this,” “why that” of your daily life. The swordfights. The tea parties. The requests for tickles and snuggles. The cartoons. The jigsaw puzzles. The days of running through sprinklers. The days when you are their world.

They’ll be gone.

The days when you stop a chore or a conversation to smile down at that bright, sweet face and answer a question, even if it’s not a question but an important comment about the swingset that is really a pirate ship!

They’ll be gone.

What every good parent goes through. What every good parent experiences. The fulfilling, yet fleeting days spent with his or her child. The exhausting, yet priceless, days. The fresh and raw feelings that are so new to each grown-up child – adult – who looks back at his or her parent and says, “Ah…yes…thank you so much for loving me this much. I knew but I didn’t really know.” And that older, wiser parent who is now a grandparent experiencing a wonderful blessing from God: life watching your beloved child raise his or her beloved child.

They’ll be gone.

This is the moment we have. This is our time. It is poignant. It is important. You are important. Your parent is important. Your child is important. Keep them close. Stop what you are doing and spend time with that one child. That one parent. That one spouse. That one friend. Today is your day to stop and listen to your child. Today is the day to pick up the phone and call your parent. Today is the day to be quiet and enjoy the sunset with your spouse. Today is the only day.

For someday, these days, well…they’ll be gone.

J.

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Review – “Fixing Boo Boo: A Story of Traumatic Brain Injury” by Pat Stanford

My well-loved, sticky-noted copy. Only the very best books get sticky-notes.

There is nothing easy for a caretaker who is in the throes of day-to-day, intricate insanities of caring for a very sick family member. To convey the feeling and frustration, the visceral heartbreak, the moments of joy, and sheer physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion is an incredible task. Pat Stanford not only shines in conveying the true, real, and at times, gritty, story of life as the primary caretaker for her brain-injured sister, Barb, “Boo Boo,” but she does what great writers do: she places the reader there.

After stepping over the trash-laden, hoarder-house belonging to Boo Boo, listening to the same incredulous complaints of a brain-injured lady over and over who saw herself as “cracked,” and was sure to use that to her advantage, and feeling amazed at the moments of profound truths Boo Boo communicated, the reader knows the life of the caretaker. The reader has a glimpse into the life of one who is brain-injured.

The injury changes the path. What was once hoped and planned for will no longer be for the patient and those in the caretaking role. There was never going to be a “fix” to Boo Boo. In the attempt to “fix” her, essentially help provide a life of meaning and fulfilment, we instead ourselves become fulfilled by the story Pat conveys: there is no pretty or peace in a life of one severely brain-injured. In the endlessness and enormity of the caretaking task, it seems there is no relief.

But there are lessons. And, those come from surprising places where the brain-injured person has once trod, and the point at which the injury occurred, the point at which Boo Boo’s life changed, is the point at which Pat’s changed, as does ours as readers. The choice to accept the glimpses of directional light, of hope, of understanding – makes all the difference.

Boo Boo made a difference. And Pat, in her openness and sincerity, makes a difference in our lives as readers and for those who want to understand more about brain injury with her first book, “Fixing Boo Boo.”

For an informative and wonderful read, purchase Pat’s book on amazon.com or click here. Follow Pat and see what else she’s writing by following her facebook page.

 

Tips for Fun Boating Days with Toddlers!

 

 

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Second time out on the boat on Crab Island, off season, near Destin Harbor.

Hey Parents! Have boat, have baby…will travel! We bought our first pontoon boat as a married couple when our son was two! If you’re a boater and you have a toddler, and you just aren’t sure how you’re going to get on the water this season with a little one, keep reading. You got this.

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My hubby relaxing on the sun deck!

In our family, we are at home on the water. When my son was just shy of two, I had him in his life jacket and in my lap on our 14 ft. tandem kayak, paddling our favorite river in Tallahassee, the Wacissa. (And I did my research before I took him out…I was nervous, but I knew we’d be okay, being experienced kayakers.) My husband and I are both strong swimmers, observe safety on the water, and understand rivers and currents. However comfortable you are on the water, you always should know and observe the rules of the waterways, whether boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, skiing, swimming. There are safety measures to observe.

That being said, with boating season upon us, I thought I’d encourage boaters with babies or toddlers that you can have a great time on the water with the little one. With all of my experience on the water, I was a first time boat owner, and I had a lot to learn.

I tried to be as prepared as I could be when we first took our son out on our boat, and I have learned a few things along the way. This information is strictly from my own, personal experience.

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My munchkin chillin’ on our boat (with his dog).

Life Jacket: The most important instruction I can give is get a properly sized life jacket for your child. You absolutely must have a true life jacket that fits your baby or toddler, and you must have it on your child the moment he or she is on the boat, before you take off. We have our son in his right when he gets on the boat, before we untie from the dock. Also, those “swimmies” for arms, or the ones that have a floatation device across the chest in combination with the swimmies, are not life vests. You have to have the baby or child in the life vest while the boat is under motor or in motion. If you are anchored up or beached someplace, it’s okay to take the child out of the life vest, but use caution! Currents are swift and weather is unpredictable. You can’t be too safe with the life of your child.

Boat Safety/Communication:  Have an adult who is hands-on with your child and can tend to the child if you’re needed to help with the boat. Also, communicate to your little one (if he or she is old enough to comprehend, listen, and follow directions). Establish basic, simple rules he or she can follow. Maintain those rules. If the child doesn’t follow the rules, implement a “time-out” or some consequence they are familiar with, so they understand the importance of following rules on the boat. Boating is fun, but it can be dangerous. Keep a balance with communicating that to your child.

I recommend having the following while boating with a toddler:

Potty: If you don’t have a built in bathroom on your boat, for the potty-trained child (congratulations!), have a toddler training potty and sanitation baggies if your child is potty trained, as our son was. (By the way, I had great success with the 3-day method and you can read about the prep for it here and the results here if you’re considering it.) Kiddo not quite potty trained, yet? Have your diapers, wipes, and Ziploc/sanitation bags (for stinky diapers to eliminate oders prior to putting in boat trash bag).

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Paw Patrol toddler potty. Don’t leave home without it!

Clothing/Gear: Good water/boat shoes. I recommend Crocs or a similar brand that covers the toes (for you) and for your youngster. Have an extra bathing suit and a change of dry clothes. Purchase child sunglasses and a good sun hat with a wide brim all around to protect face, ears, back of neck. Sunblock…of course!

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Mickey Mouse crocs with Woody and Buzz Lightyear. 

Entertainment: Have a bag of plastic toys, more than beach toys. If you drop anchor someplace where there isn’t a beach for your child to play on, beach toys can be boring. Bring along some old toys that are plastic. If the toy gets lost or (hopefully not!) swept away, the child won’t be too upset. Don’t bring anything metal. It’ll rust, and boats are too unsteady for toys with sharp corners.

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Toys!

 

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Entertainment!

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort: If you don’t have a carpeted floor, an outdoor runner is perfect for the floor that isn’t protected by the bimini. (Not my idea, but friends did this on their boat, and on very hot days, it saves your feet while walking on the boat. Also, we have outdoor throw pillows that are nice for everyone, and our son enjoys them when he’s tired and ready for a nap! Just be sure to stow them while driving.

Cleaning: wipes, wipes, wipes! You have the ocean to rinse in, but that’s salt water. Wipes, hand sanitizer, and even a water jug of fresh water really comes in handy.

Food: favorite snacks and juice boxes – sanity for the ‘rents and nutrition for the kiddo (Cheetos are considered nutritious, yes? lol. Kidding.) Favorite healthy snacks and yummy not-so-healthy treats are great for a boating day.

Playpen for Baby: On a pontoon boat, a collapsible playpen can be handy. Once the boat is beached or anchored, a playpen can easily be set up and used for a child to play or sleep in. My son was too old for a playpen when we got our boat, but I’ve seen how it helps with smaller children on others’ boats. Be sure you don’t have too many people on the boat, however, for space purposes.

Don’t lose your spirit of adventure! Have a “can-do” attitude and do your research. You can have a family fun-filled day with the right preparation and realistic expectations!

Bon Voyage!

J.

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Our boy, all tired out. 

 

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Me and my honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Relaaax…

 

 

Yoga Evolution

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Royal Dancer balance position

In the last year, yoga has come to mean more to me than simply a way to exercise or a way to de-stress. It has become a grounding point for me. The lessons we learn on the mat carry over into life off the mat. The muscle memory we learn in yoga help us when pursuing sports and allows us to perform better, physically. The calming breathing techniques keep us calm in the midst of the crises that bombard our day. Are their times I practice a nice, loud lion’s breath exhale? Admittedly, only in certain company (or no company)! But, it’s the consistent practice and the experience that can keep you as cool as Patrick Swayze in the midst of a massive, ugly bar fight, Roadhouse style.

I have praised the youtube yogi sensation, Yoga with Adriene in a previous blog post. I still follow her and highly recommend her to anyone who is interested in yoga – whether a brand new yogi or an expeirenced one. She is professional, fun, and free. It’s hard to find the time to get out of the house and get to a yoga class. Parents need to take care of their bodies, minds, and souls. We have an incredible job of raising our youngsters, and raising them well. This is perfect!

Right now, I am following Adriene’s new series, True. I love that her dog, Benji, is just hanging out in the video with her. Usually, I have my dog, likewise, sleeping nearby, a little 2-year-old cat rolling around next to me, trying to attack my arms or my mat, and my 3 year old occasionally taking breaks from playing legos and jumping next to me on the carpet wanting to do “his exercise and his yoga.” His downward dog is solid. And what better way can I teach my kiddo a healthy lifestyle than by living it and being an example to him from the get-go?

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My short board praying for bigger waves. Shaped by famous board shaper Ricky Carroll at my friend Cliff Millender’s old surf shop back in da day. B-day gift from my husband seven years ago who bought it from Cliff.

We’re in surf season around here in the northern gulf. Winter/spring kicks up some good storms and some nice waves. Hurricane season will, too, but we don’t have to fear the weather channel right now. I’m a longboard girl, mostly because I started surfing later in life, and I live in Florida, but I’ve ridden my short board, and while I don’t really shred and won’t be trying as a wild card in any major surf competitions at the age of 41, surfing is something I can do the rest of my life, unlike other sports. And yoga supports my surf addiction, love for kayaking, as well as my newfound love for paddle boarding. Yoga helps my balance. I remember to lift up from my center and correct the alignment of my core while paddling. I can control my surfboard and my paddle board better because of my yoga practice and muscle memory. I can run around and play with my son, Mac. I throw a football better! I can help my husband move a piece of moderately heavy furniture. I no longer suffering from lower back issues, like I used to. None of us is getting younger, but we can feel younger in our bodies through the practice of yoga.

Whatever your workout regimen, work in a little yoga. You will not regret it.

Namaste,

J.

First-Time First Mate: Driving

Heading out on our first ride the day we got our boat.

Driving a boat is exhilerating! Think Leo and Kate: “I’m the king of the world!” The salty spray of the water, navigating the waves, the bounce of the chop is always a fun adventure. The wildlife that you see is spectacular: playful dolphins, racing batefish, slow, sweet sea turtles, and massive manatees. Did I mention dolphins?

Dolphins down at Destin Harbor.
My spirit animal.

After about two months as a boat owner, my husband told me that I was looking more and more like an “Old Salt.”

Old what? The wife never wants to be “old” anything, but I figured this was a compliment. I have learned that term means “an experienced sailor.” I’ll take that. As a Florida girl, I have been on boats all my life, but we never owned one, so APG has been training me on all-things-boat. And I love it! From readying the dock lines to navigating waters, “old salt” is a name I’ll proudly wear. I have learned a great deal in the last few months as a new boater.

On Chocktawhatchee Bay right after we bought the boat. I have learned so much since that day!

After years of cruising up and down North Florida rivers, enjoying the flats down at St. Marks in Panacea with friends on their boats, and looking at getting a boat, we moved to Destin and decided to finally pull the trigger on buying our own. We had looked at fishing boats, deck boats, and pontoon boats over the years. APG grew up on boats and his family had boats, so he knows what he’s doing. We decided to go with the party barge. We love to entertain and have friends and family around, so that was our primary reason for going with a pontoon.

We’ve had our boat, now, for about 7 months. The best lesson I can tell new boaters or new first mates out there is this: listen to your captain.

It has been years since I handled a boat, and it was so weird driving our boat for the first time. Driving our pontoon is like driving a car in England (the wrong side of the car) in Jamaica (the wildest-driving country I have been to – and I have ridden on the autobahn in Deutschland) or another foreign country with no, or few, road rules. Now, there are rules to driving a boat, but people can be crazy, like some drivers, and ignore the rules. There are no traffic lines on the water, people. Various water craft will zoom up in front of you and cut you off at any given moment. They can be jerks…or ignorant. It’s up to you to know the rules of the water and pay attention at all times. You have to be on. Like surfing or paddle boarding – you’re in the ocean, and the ocean’s unpredictability is the only predictable thing about it.

While coming back into the channel, keep your boat between the channel markers where the channel is the deepest, and remember the phrase, “red, right, return.” Your red channel markers are always on the right when you are coming back in. By default, the green markers are on your left. Conversely, when you’re heading out of the channel, the green markers will be on your right. So, you have to understand the water you’re in. The first time I drove the intracoastal, we were heading from Santa Rosa Island/Okaloosa Island to Destin Harbor and Crab Island. I thought we were heading in because we had originally come from that direction, and I was confused because the red markers were on the wrong side…my left. Actually, we were heading out because the channel to the open ocean is by Destin Harbor. So, it’s good to really know the waters you’re in or have good maps and charts. You need to have the big picture. Thankfully, my hubby knows what he’s doing. I have a great captain and teacher.

The captain and the true first mate!

You always want to keep to the right, on the side of the channel marker you’re following. People go all wackadoo and cut you off and don’t follow the rules of boating, so you need to pay attention to your surroundings. Sail boats always have right-of-way. You have a motor, yield to the boat under sail. (Some sail boats do have motors, though, but always pay attention.)

Some channel markers may not be up in certain areas. Storms take them out, and if you’re in a less populated area, they might not be up. You may have a green and no red or visa versa. If you don’t see what you think you need, keep with the markers that are present. On the intracoastal near us, there are not always green markers; the bank/dock lines of houses are the obvious barrier and the water is very deep.

Watch out for those shipwrecks! Yes, where we put in on the Chocktawhatchee bay, there are a few boats that lost a fight with a storm or hurricane and have grown so many barnacles they could be the Flying Dutchman, complete with weird, fishy residents. And birds. So, don’t hit ’em. At least they’re visible. Back home in Apalachacola, we’re used to looking out for oyster beds. Those babies will tear up a boat, and they’re not as visible.

Right after we purchased our boat. We found a great deal on a four year old boat that hadn’t been used much. We looked at brand new boats, but it pays to glance at used boats, too!
Our first sundowner on Chocktawhatchee Bay the day we bought the boat.

A few months back, after a relaxing day on the water, APG suggested I drive the boat onto the trailor. What? Give me my ropes and let me tie off the boat…that’s my job. I was good at it.

Drive the boat onto the trailor? No way.

APG had more confidence in me than I had in myself. Did I mention boating can be great for your marriage? Talk about trust in your spouse. So, I went for it, totally relying on his confidence in me. We had calm waters and we were near our house on the bay – not at the harbor or closer to open water. He was right. (He usually is.) I was ready, and I did it. It wasn’t that difficult, either. Glad I have that skill under my belt.

Those are my few basic tips for other newbie boaters. Anyone else out there who is learning, keep your ears open and take direction, and soon you’ll be an old salt as well!

Smooth waters out near Okaloosa Island on the Intracoastal.

Happy Boating!

A LuLu’s Weekend

Right off the Mid-Bay Bridge in Destin, Fl, any vacationer or local resident can be transported to Margaritaville in North Florida: live music, white-quartz sand, blue-green waters, a view of the Choctawhatchee Bay, “shrimp beginnin’ to boil,” and a refreshing cocktail. LuLu’s – where the food and atmosphere are each of an equal standard and do not disappoint: a more-than-satisfied palate, belly, and a family-fun feel with a splash of party. It’s a true southern seafood paradise where Ms. Lucy Buffet’s policy is they stay open until the last customer is ready to go home, whether that’s midnight or later.

In the nine months we’ve lived here, we have heard about LuLu’s and have been meaning to check it out. It has an amazing reputation as an establishment, not to mention that it’s Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s restaurant – Lucy “LuLu” Buffet, so we knew it would be good food and good fun.

At the front of house, there is a gift shop to the left, full of LuLu’s merchandise with a side of all things Florida/tropical – not the cheezy stuff one sees at the standard Florida souvenier shop, but cute paraphanaila one may actually want to purchase – even the Florida local. The hostess counter is dead-center, and the bar is to the right. The restaurant is indoors with a large porch/covered outdoor seating area right on a beach, which has plenty of games and entertainment for kids or kids-at-heart.

The seafood is wonderful, and the smoked tuna dip is the best I’ve ever had. No oysters on the half-shell or snow crab, here, however. It’s more of the southern seafood style: food prepped grilled, blackened, or fried. As a seafood lover, I feel compelled to make that distinction about the menu as I always want oysters steamed or raw (in the appropriate time of year) or snow crab! The kid’s menu is reasonably priced and has a wide array of foods fit for a young palate, including two of my toddler son’s favorites: mac & cheese and grilled cheese. The mac & cheese is homemade and is scrumptious – like what my grandmother made! It is not a boxed store brand, which is always so disappointing to see on a menu.

 

Mac waving at the acoustic guitarist. He loves music and bands.

 

We had dinner last Saturday night, and we saw boats anchored off the beach. We confirmed with staff that we could drive up in our boat, drop anchor, and come enjoy all LuLu’s has to offer. We have several places we like to go boating, and we always look for a beach or shallow area where we can get Mac out so that he can play.

Since season has been in full force, we have avoided going to our normal places when we boat on weekends. We tend to go on shorter trips in the bay to avoid seasonal traffic on 98, and we were thrilled to find that LuLu’s is boat friendly. So, the next day, we went on our “Sunday drive” and took the boat the thirty minutes over to LuLu’s, anchored up, set up the floating island, and played. We went in and got lunch for McCarty, and APG and I split an appetizer. It was the perfect blend of beautiful sunshine, delicious food, refreshing drinks, fun live music (again), and the perfect company on the bay side of Destin.

Cardio? Playlist, Play On!

Wake me up before you go, go because I’m going to arise and win! Last night we were maniacs, maniacs on the floor and wild in the streets and went to bed singing drunken lullabies, but it’s good morning, Baltimore because here comes the sun burining like the eye of the tiger and it’s time to get physical, physical. We can’t stop the beat on our way to vacation – it’s all I ever wanted! Time for our surfin’ safari (yeah-oooo), surfin’ safari and we load our boards on top of Greased Lightnin’ and head to destiny – it’s calling me and it opens up my eager eyes to the reality that at 6:00 a.m., we’re the kings of Kilburn High. And, please, don’t you…forget about me. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t….

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” ~ Victor Hugo


Where on this beautiful, green and blue planet was my Nano iPod? Ten years ago, this thing was hot! I knew I was on the cutting edge of music devices because I had asked experts of technology the question: “I need an ipod music thingy to play my music when I run. What should I get?”

“The NANO!” Some of my high school students nearly jumped out of their seats to advise me and sell me on why it was the best and why I should get it and what its features were and who had one and who was getting one because that’s what darling, young rays of sunshine – teenage high schoolers – do whenever their English teacher asks an off-topic question…or when there is a fly or any sort of insect in the room.

Recently, after my husband had resurrected my Nano that I thought was dead – by plugging it in and charging it – I lost it. Couldn’t find it anywhere. And I needed it to start my, ahem, interval training…on the elliptical. I only have 12 pounds I want to knock off. Twelve. That’s all. Fifteen wouldn’t be bad, either. But twelve – that has been my goal. I needed that ipod with that playlist.

“My Why.”

Videos have been boring me to death. Yoga is awesome, but I needed cardio. Lower back issues keep me from running. So I am going hard-core, man. The elliptical.

“Shock your body,” APG, my hubby, tells me. “Go down to the gym and run-”

“Run?”

“Glide. On the elliptical. Interval training.

Awesome. Great idea. Where is my Ipod? I need it to get started on this.

Gone.

I am a first time iPhone user and haven’t loaded any music onto the phone, yet, so while on the elliptical, searching my YouTube app for running playlists, I was thoroughly unmotivated by bland, boring electronic music. Seriously? I already agree with Fat Amy – I am all about the horizontal running. (Check out the Anna Kendrick flick Pitch Perfect if you’ve been living under a rock the last eight years.)

I mean, who wants to do cardio? I don’t like the during, but I love the after. I want to be fit, not skinny. I want to keep up with my kid. I want to hike, surf, paddle board, and kayak. But, I don’t “like” cardio, lemme tell ya. And the monotonous hum of that electronic music was not for me. I needed my playlist to get going again! Next, I searched 80s/90s running playlist. First song up: “Whip it Good.” Okay…um…no.

I tried to watch the tickertape on the tv. The news. Instead of good music, I listened to the sound of my own breathing. I was approaching the 10 minute mark. Time to kick it up a notch. How was I going to get through 40 minutes?

Then it hit me: Fun music? Upbeat music? Soundtracks: movies and musicals! One YouTube search later, and I was pumping my arms and gliding along like a champ listening to the Riff Off and the finale from the first Pitch Perfect movie. Soon I was singing “Good Morning Baltimore and You Can’t Stop the Beat with Tracy Turnbald in Hairspray, Abba’s tunes in Mama Mia, and Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake from Trolls. No, not out loud. But I wanted to sing like I was center stage on Broadway. I refrained.

Keepin’ up with the kiddo!

I soared through that first day, and I’ve been going ever since for the last few weeks. As with exercise or any goal you really want to accomplish, so much of it is mental. There was a time when I could kill a cardio workout without music during my running years. But boy! Having your jams to kick your booty in gear sure does help especially when your incorporating a different form of cardio again into your workout.

A beautiful sight: rain outside the gym window!

So, whatever that thing is that is preventing you from meeting your health and fitness goals, pump up your playlist and get going. Whether it’s running or walking inside or outside, working out in front of your tv at home, or hitting those weights or machines in the gym, find your rhythm and get your move on.


Oh, and my Nano did turn up. APG found it for me in our cube stereo. I would’ve never looked for it there. So, time to update that little gem and enjoy my old favorites!

 

Adventure Lost: Finding Me by Caring Less

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Driving our boat for the first time through Choctawhatchee Bay.

So, how does this forty year old mother of a very active toddler fully regain her sense of adventure, and in essence, who she is?

I have always been an optimistic person. However, after a decade and a half of loved ones dying, including one concentrated year of the passing of three very important people, my father, my aunt, and my mother-in-law, followed by the passing of a favorite uncle, caution and worry has come to overshadow fearlessness and excitement. Fear came into my life, complete with shiny white fangs and gnarly, pointed horns, growling and hissing words like: Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, Pulmonary Embolism, Chemotherapy; personally, with pregnancy, Gestational Diabetes and Cesarean Section. Throughout the years, fear has chipped away at my sense of “I can do and be anything,” and that is hard for me to admit! Even while writing this, a part of me is still in lotus land going – you are still an adventurer, an explorer, a positive person, and you have lost none of that!

But, my friends, part of the true adventure is admitting when the sense of adventure has started to fade away like watercolor, and then grabbing a paintbrush of bold oils and creating a beautiful new work on a blank canvas.

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Sunset, Seaside, South Walton County

There is a part of me, especially after becoming a mom, that has become so cautionary that I hate coffee tables, corners, and anything with a sharp edge at the height of my son’s head. I try to sit back and not hover, and I think I have done a fairly good job of not being the dreaded “helicopter parent,” especially as a first time mom. I admit it – while my son knows his boundaries – when Mac runs full speed down the sidewalk to the curb’s edge, right to the edge, I have to restrain from shouting out, “stop,” or more likely, “be careful.” Guess what? He always stops. I don’t have to remind him. Finding balance between hovering and letting go is something I think most parents can relate to. It can be tough. And I see so much of myself in my son: I can hear my mom’s amazement that I was always “right on the edge of everything,” and I know her anxiety. But she trusted me and gave me room to be me, and I am determined to do that for my son, too.

To do that, I have to find a part of myself that has been tempered and muted: my gypsy soul, if you will. Yes, I just said that. The adventurer and explorer. I have a feeling she’s right where I left her, twenty years ago…even just four years ago.

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Destin Harbor

My dad used to depart from his friends by shouting out, “Be Careless,” instead of “Be Careful,” and it always got a laugh. I didn’t hear him say that as often until after he had fought cancer for years. He may have said this phrase earlier in his life, but I never heard it much till towards the end. That’s significant. He, like many, in arguably the most challenging part of his life, found laughter, fun, and adventure. Even in a phrase.

So, with a little less care, and filling the glass half full of lemonade, I have started to regain who I am and laugh in the face of fear by doing things that are full of adventure, and doing them with my son!

Mac, who can climb up ladders like a boss, but going down is a different story. At the top of the ladder, he has been nervous like a kitten in a tree. However, he decided the other day that he could climb back down with my help. Finally! And it was on a tall ladder at the top of a tree house that he made that decision. Yesterday,  I was invited to paddle board while with friends, recently. It was in the morning before work, and my husband was at the office. I jumped on my friend’s paddle board for a quick ocean ride after assuring Mac he could watch me and would be fine with our dear friends whom he knows very well. He was fine and even sat on the paddle board after I returned from my short jaunt; this is huge, considering his newfound understanding of sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish: all the big bads in the water. We have a beach camping trip we are planning – our first time camping with Mac. We’ll be roughing it on a small island, but with all the accommodations of a true glamping experience. 😉 May wanderlust and exploration abound.

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Treehouse on the walk to Baytowne Warf Marina in Sandestin

I have firmly reset my adventure compass to find that girl from twenty years ago, from four years ago, and with a little luck and a sprinkling of fairie dust, I’ll morph into a healthy combination of the three.

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My favorite beach somewhere on 30A. The second time I went paddle boarding. Dolphins came to chat.

What about you? Have the difficulties in life dampened your spirit of adventure? What healthy ways do you keep a positive attitude?

 

Helen McCall Park

We love this park! It’s off 98 in Santa Rosa Beach, right near 30A, and the playground is well-designed.

I have written about two other playgrounds that we frequent in the Destin area. This one is not as visible. When I first heard about it, I knew it would be good because when I asked a 6 year old on our neighborhood playground the location of other playgrounds nearby, he told me about it.

There is a toddler section of the playground that is completely shaded. Much of the playground is shaded, offering respite from the bright sun.


Across the playground is a larger structure, complete with rock walls, ladders, slides, and bridges. It is nice because when toddlers graduate to this side of the park, the structure is built for various developmental stages and stimulates different levels of growth.



The swings, rope tower, and see-saws keep the kiddos moving. My son never tires of this park, and it is our favorite.

The park also has a picnic area and bathrooms that are kept clean, so it’s perfect to bring lunch, snack, or to plan a child’s birthday celebration.


One of the best features is the splash pad. As most splash pads, it only runs when it’s warm. This park is wonderful for a morning, or afternoon, of playground time and then a cool-off in the splash pad.

Play hard,

J.

Gulf Coast Surfing

Yes. Yes, you can surf the gulf coast.

I started surfing when I was 30 years old on the East Coast of Florida, Cocoa Beach. I was living in Orlando, 45 minutes from Cocoa Beach, single, and ready to take charge of my life in a brand new way after some personal discoveries. Surfing had been a lifelong dream and taking action was a result of inner change.

For the first time in my life, I now live two minutes from the beach. Two minutes! I still can’t believe it. It’s the result of ten years of hard work and sacrifice by my husband. I am thrilled to live closer to the water, knowing I have more of an opportunity to play on the water. Before we moved over here, I figured I’d get to surf occasionally, when there was a storm in the gulf. In the meantime, I’d learn to paddle board, and I’d body board, play and swim. It’s the ocean – my place of peace on this earth.

My dad grew up in Tallahassee, and I used to hear him tell stories of surfing in the ’60s on the gulf coast. It was always fascinating to me – a dream world of adventure and fun. There was the most exciting story about a shark. Dad was out surfing, and all of a sudden all of his buddies on shore were jumping around and waving at him to come in. He turned and saw the shark and never paddled so hard in his life to get into shore. We talked about surfing together, but being two hours away from the nearest surf  spot before the internet existed made surfing more difficult. Dad taught me how to swim and how to body surf and ride waves; he gave me a strong foundation. He also was thrilled when I started surfing. Unfortunately, he only saw me surf on video since he was in the last years of fighting cancer and we lived 4 hours from each other. That video was of me surfing waves at Big Island, Hawaii. Pretty epic.

Thanks to my friend, Cliff Millender, I surfed the panhandle gulf years before I moved here, but it was when I came up from Orlando and a bunch of us piled in the car and drove together from Tallahassee. The first time I surfed the gulf, it was different surf than East Coast and what I was used to. The waves were more mush than even the east coast. Cliff’s so good, he got barreled several times because he’d been surfing for 12 years or more at the time and got outside to the cleaner waves. I’d been surfing less than a year, then, and I was happy to ride the wash. 

A beautiful thing: living here, having the ability to view the beach daily, I know how wrong I was. Again. This place has frequent and decent surf, and I don’t have to wait for storms. With the jetties around, there is almost always a place to catch a wave.


So, if you love to surf and you want to make your home in a beautiful area of the country, don’t forget about Florida’s gulf coast. Pristine, crystal water, friendly folks, and nice waves.

Aloha.