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?

 

Beginner Surfers: Getting Started

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Rip Pics Surf Contest, Cocoa Beach, Fl, 2009 – Women’s longboard competitors

Hire an instructor or have a knowledgeable friend teach you.

Three things your instructor should do:

  1. Safety: before you put a toe in the water, you should learn about safety in order to prevent injury.
  2. Waves: your instructor should push you into waves so that you experience the exhilaration of the sport. Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll be willing to do the work to paddle to the outside. Surfing is mostly paddling.
  3. Board: your instructor should talk about you and your board, you and the ocean, and you, your board, and the ocean together.

After a personal crisis, I decided I wanted to learn to surf. I had always wanted to surf since I was a girl, but living in northern, inland Florida offers limited opportunity. My dad had surfed often in the 60s and he enjoyed it. We never got around to it, and 16 years later, it was my time.

Nine years ago, when I began surfing, I lived in Orlando and was fortunately only 45 minutes from Cocoa Beach, home of famous world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. I got online and looked up surfing in Cocoa Beach. I found a group of surfers who met up on weekends to surf and I contacted them. The wife of the organizer was very nice and suggested I hire an instructor and learn all about safety. The first time she surfed, she stepped off the board and broke her ankle – never step off the board! Fall off. So, I hired an instructor. If you’re in the Central Florida area, I suggest EZ Ride Surf School, and Marcello Loureiro, the director and head surf instructor who taught me is an excellent teacher. If you’re elsewhere, google surf schools or surf instruction.

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Me, center, with friends at Rip Pics Surf Contest, Cocoa Beach, FL in 2009

Marcello sat on the beach with me, and talked about paddling, popping up, stances, turtle rolling (getting under waves on a long board or a fun board), duck diving (short boards), wiping out, and other technical safety concepts.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how the ocean is never-ending. It is the most powerful force of nature that is always moving toward you that we choose to play in. There is no other sport or pastime where a force of that power constantly comes at you. Always be aware of your surroundings.

 

A few safety and etiquette tips:

  1. Have a landmark on the shore. Be aware of your surroundings on land and in the ocean.
  2. If you wipe out, which you will, always know where your board is and know where the next wave is. Bad wipe out? Roll with the waves, and forget about your board until you can get air and know when the next wave is coming.
  3. Best not to surf at dawn or dusk to avoid sharks. Also, if you see birds diving in one spot, they’re fishing. A school of fish means other underwater feeders, like sharks. Avoid that area.
  4. As a novice, don’t surf where there are lots of swimmers. Likewise, don’t surf where the experienced surfers are. Talk to another surfer. Be honest that you’re a beginner and ask where you should surf.

You control the board with your torso and upper part of your legs. When you’re on your board, and it’s calm, close your eyes while lying down in paddling position on your board. Stretch your arms out over the water and let the palms of your hand barely touch the surface of the water. Feel the ocean’s rhythm and force. The movement. Our Earth is mostly water. So are our bodies. Like a dance, like music and movement, you are part of the rhythm. Feel that. Enjoy the calm and serenity of nature.

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Big Island, HI, 2010, with 8’6″ rented board – first epoxy board I had surfed. Note: Epoxy is lighter and faster than fiberglass. I recommend fiberglass for a beginner.

Of course, you can always do what my husband did. Rent a board and run out into the ocean completely unprepared. You may earn yourself a broken nose like he did.

Aloha!

Hermine Tried and Failed

The craziest night of my life: my 3rd hurricane, 2nd in my hometown, and 1st as a wife and mama. Thanks to my husband, our friend who’s a former PJ special ops, and God, others’ lives were spared. 911 Emergency was not responding.

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From our front door, what we thought was a tree that took up most of our front yard was a branch off a tree from 60 feet up.  

Within 5 minutes: something hit the roof (now I figure a branch), our friend, “Chappy,” called my husband and was on our doorstep, we opened the door, and he burst in asking my husband for help – and to go 10 minutes up the road to load three people into the car and get them to our house to safety. A tree had sliced their townhouse in half, landing on the bed our friend was supposed to have slept on but chose the couch instead. The residents were terrified…too scared to stay, too scared to run. The same tree took out another family’s roof. Water was filling up the house, power lines were down, and all hell had broken loose. My husband and friend looked at me, told me to get our toddler and go to the safest room in the house – the hallway bathroom. I did. Thankfully, I got my family on the phone with me to help keep me calm. 

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The tree branch after it was cut down to the trunk.

 

 

 

About 10 minutes later, 3 people flooded into our foyer, carrying bags, a cat carrier, soaked through. My obedient son sat in the hallway bathroom with his dog, flashlight, snack and juice and peeked around the corner. My husband hollered a tree’s down in the yard. I asked if we had cars. He said yes. I said good and grabbed dry towels for everyone. My husband and Chappy went back to the house to rescue their 4 dogs.

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Four of the five dogs pictured here. All sweet pups. They were troopers. Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Odysseus, shared his home well. 

Seven people, 5 dogs, and 3 cats later, we survived. Grateful for preparedness, our new generator, and can-do attitudes.

Always take the weather seriously. And get yourself a generator. 

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Coffee! Thanks to the generator, I had a fresh cup of brew the next morning. I was prepared to make “cowboy coffee” on the grill, however. 

Gratefully, Janellen