Dutton Island Preserve…

…at low tide, in spring, as afternoon melds into evening. It’s 73 degrees with a cool, steady breeze. The marsh is pungent at low tide.

It’s Tuesday of Holy Week, and also Passover, and the moment feels sacred, and fleeting.



Welcome to Hurricane Season 2014

It was late spring 2010 when Nick and I made this documentary short on hurricanes – history and preparedness – early in our career of working together, and long before the Nick and Not His Mom show was even a thought.

Come along on this short journey through the beaches’ experience with tropical storms and hurricanes, and begin to plan now for the storm season we’re just beginning here.

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A Beachlifer Goes Home


I flew home to Michigan – the Detroit area – recently, and hung out in my childhood home with my old Dad, and my sister. It was a week off from my real life.   She took a week off, too, and traveled home from her California, and so for a sweet seven days we were three Shminas.  Roaming southeast Michigan in search of fall color and Nordstrom, and hanging out with our brothers and their families, in between.

Since moving to Florida in 2000,  finding my little beach neighborhood and nestling right on in, we’ve gone home to Michigan every single year except 2008.  The kids love it.  Going to Michigan every summer (I’ve come to realize) is as much their anticipated summer vacation as mine was for all those years our family trekked to Sleepy Hollow resort in South Haven.  I’d spend all year looking forward to that one week. I’d dream about how great it would be if I ever got to live on the Lake Michigan coast.  It was a terrific fantasy, one I’d marinate in while I waited to fall asleep at night, for years and years.

Imagine my joy when seemingly out of the blue fate led us to west Michigan!  To the wonderful town of Grand Haven!  We found an excellent family home in the wooded, hilly sand dunes above the beach there; it was a blissful two years.  I say I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, and it’s pretty much true.  Nearly every day I drove past the beach, saw my Lake Michigan through the seasons for two whole years.  I thought I was the luckiest.  A wonderful man, two beautiful and happy children, and me – all of us living on the shore of Lake Michigan (with deeded access! – a big deal, real estate-wise! – to the beach).

I still have pangs of longing, and wondering about how our life might have unfolded had we stayed and raised the family there.

But along came an opportunity, and it’s good to take a chance, to say yes to something you believe will be good for your career, your life, your family.  It was so hard to let go of Grand Haven, to leave our parents and families behind,to pack up our tiny children and leave the cold, gray winters (okay, that part wasn’t so hard) behind for a new land (and climate) in coastal Florida.

I’ll admit that I’d sometimes wish I could live in a warm, coastal place, but I only ever had those feelings momentarily, and it seemed so far fetched I didn’t really envision such a life.  I accepted my murky, cold, and slushy winters, while envious of my sister’s life in her California climate.

Then, suddenly, Florida!  Suddenly we lived here, and not only here, but in the charming town of Atlantic Beach, no less.  Within walking distance of the prettiest beach in the area.  Oh yes, my husband and I were both totally happy with our change of venue and climate.  We traded one perfect place for another.  And the next thing you know, it’s 13 years later.

So every year we spend a couple of weeks of summer up in Michigan, our family visiting grandparents and cousins.  It’s such a whirlwind of going here and going there, that it hardly feels we get to sink our toes into Michigan.  Sure, we’ve gotten to spend an afternoon on the beach or swim in Lake Michigan during some of our visits, but not always. And while the visits are great for family connectedness  I’ve felt increasingly frustrated with going, but not getting to feel it there.

Last year, then, I decided to go up in the fall.  I had four great days, just me with my Dad and the Michigan trees.IMG_9010

It was so nice that my sister decided to do the same thing this year,  and make a long weekend a whole week,  so that’s what we did.  A week together in Michigan in the fall, just us with our Dad – in our family home, each in her former bedroom.  It was kind of awesome.  A middle-aged mom gets to be a daughter again.







January Tan

Oh, the weather we’ve been having these past ten days!  It’s beach weather, gardening weather, biking, jogging …. whatever your outdoor pleasure, it’s been fantastic here.   I see lots of cars occupying the nicely discreet (but accessible!) public parking Atlantic Beach offers its visitors; more than usual, for January. The rest of us are taking to the beach on foot, or bike, scooter or golf cart.  It’s been far too fabulous a January to play couch potato this year.

Florida winters are my favorite.  Having arrived in my little corner of ‘paradise meets dream-come-true’, I do relish cooler weather, the relief from the heat and humidity of May – September.  I like that we get our cold snaps, that we can actually wear our cute jackets and boots and pants, and that our hair can blow freely under a winter blue sky with low humidity.  This is the time of year when the phone calls come: “What are you doing over spring break this year?” from friends and relatives in the dark, gray, cold north.  There, they are surfing the Internet for flights to Florida while my son is surfing the waves on our neighborhood beach after school.

So while I love this weather for many reasons – one is that we haven’t had to run either the heat or the air conditioner (a nice break on the utility bill), I won’t mind if our 75 degrees becomes 55 degrees, either.  Chances are, it will.  Winter here is changeable that way.   As long as we don’t have to endure hard freeze nights, when we scurry to cover those tropical plants we insist on planting despite their not actually being native to this zone (they are so pretty! and most winters we don’t lose any of them anyway!), I find our beaches winter weather quite delicious.   I love biking in cooler temps, wearing a windbreaker but not arctic outerwear.  I love working in the yard and not sweating.  And I also thrill to the spike in temps from ‘normal’ (mid 60s) to warm (73 – 80 degrees!) when we beachlifers feel extra blessed and sun-kissed in January.  Instagram and Facebook are rife with photos that virtually shout, “We love where we live!” —and are implied invitations to our friends far and wide  (whether or not the photographer intends it!)

The other day, we saw our photo posted repeatedly on Facebook…. but it wasn’t just our photo.  It was dozens of people from our little beach town who happened to see the same breathtaking sunset sky, and had to snap, and share.   Yeah.  We love where we live.






And last Saturday, oh boy, did I ever love it.  I got started on my 2013 tan.  I put on sunscreen, grabbed my summer beach chair, an armful of beach reading, and passed a lovely few hours in the warm winter sun.  My black-polish-pedicure was about the only thing that said winter that day.





Girls: On the Precipice of High School

Shooting photos on the beach with teenagers in pretty dresses and funky shoes.

2/598.  A sneak peak, so to speak.


















Beachlife Reflections

(This is Gulf of Mexico water from Florida’s Emerald Coast.  Not ‘my’ water…but I’m going to find this water – hopefully this summer!

Photo courtesy of Visit Florida.com

It’s no secret that this beachlifer loves her water – be it salty or fresh.  Here on the northeast Florida coast, the ocean is rougher (at times, though the surfers would argue for better waves) for girls like me, who like swimming in their water rather than balancing on top of it.

But surfers are hot – boys and  girls.  They’re strong, and to me: brave.

My beachlife is warm sand, a comfy chair, cold drinks, some great reads (brainless mags and a meaningful book), a bathing suit I can be comfortable in (that elusive combo of looking good – I still try – but serving me well in all the … proper zones), and good water.  I love to swim.

Swimming doesn’t have to be going at it hard.  But I like to be able to dive under, swim around and feel the euphoria that underwater immersion gives me; and emerge, twisting my long hair so squeeze as much water out so it will dry with those salty waves that only ocean water can give it.

Then I stretch back out in the chair and let the sun warm my skin while my mind slips back into the words on the page and I’m oblivious to the world around me.

My kids said, “You never play with us.  You only read.”

That hurt because it’s true.  I wasn’t the sand-castle making mom.  But I did go into the water with them, and teach them to dive into the waves.  I’d bring them to the beach practically every single day when they were small; hauling all their toys, boogie boards, drinks, snacks, towels, and even a spray bottle of vinegar in case anyone had a jellyfish sting.

So while I did not play with them, I led them to the best playground I could find.  A place I thought we all  could be happy.  A place we could all get to on foot, within five minutes of home.

Paradise, I thought.


Turns out, maybe it was just paradise for me.  Maybe I was living my own dream.  Okay, not maybe. I was.  I did.  I still will.

We live in this awesome community, a beach town that’s a small town with all the advantages of a larger city since Jacksonville, Florida borders us to the west.  My three kids do love it here:  they enjoy riding their bikes to our town’s small, Wednesday farmer’s market, they love riding into our town and spend their pocket money in some of their favorite shops.  See, it’s a beautiful, pedestrian community with independent storefronts and places where teens and tweens can afford to bring home something trendy or cute.

Two of my three kids are not beach lovers.  They state they don’t like the beach and while I know – we all get to love what we love – it’s really hard to believe how anyone could say and believe that!  They won’t go to the beach with me anymore.

Well, they’re growing up and developing interests of their own. My middle girl loves to bike to that farmers market – she’s the foodie around here.  And if she moves away (sob) when she grows up, I’m guessing she’ll realize that the lifestyle of a beach town is precious and rare, and she’ll treasure the other aspects of it that may not include the coast itself.  Because yes, while the beach is its focal point, there are so many cool, indie things going on here that there really is something for everyone.

My son: he’s our surfer.  I took him to surf camp at age five and again age nine but it wasn’t until he was 15 – last summer, really – that he caught the surfing bug.  When I watch him run off down the street, one of his boards under his arm, to catch up with his pals who are running toward good surf I know that he, of all my kids, gets it.  He gets why it was so important to me that we find a house within walking distance to the beach.

And he loves it.

Heaven Couldn’t Wait

I’ve watched a community grieve online twice, in the past year or so.

This time, the community – our community – has lost a beloved teacher.  Although I’d known Mike Tetlow for several years, it was a superficial acquaintance; he was my kids’ religion teacher at St. Paul’s in Jax Beach.  I’d see him around the middle school and stop to say hello, to give him a fist bump – his version of a handshake, I suppose.

Quadriplegic, Mike lost the use of his athletic body in a car accident while on his honeymoon, several years ago.  He spent the following years strapped into a power-driven wheelchair, and resumed the teaching career he’d started as an able-bodied younger man.

Word of his unexpected death Sunday spread across cellular networks and Facebook faster than parents could take their children aside, and do the telling, properly.  But such is the social community of today, and I’m as big a part of it as anyone.  I was able to get to my daughter just before her cell phone began to bleat with text messages from friends:  ‘OMG, Mr. T died, for real’ *bleep* ‘Mr. Tetlow died I just saw him in Mass last night’ *bleep* I was the one who told her that her religion teacher, the man who reviewed Monday’s scheduled test with her class on Friday, had gone to sleep on Saturday night, and woke up in Heaven on Sunday morning.  His was a blessedly peaceful passing, and I cheered for that, while choking back tears for this gentle guy whose masculinity was not diminished by his disability.

Others knew Mike Tetlow as a baseball player, a coach, and a teacher of history, social science, and religion at Catholic schools in Jacksonville.  Our family knew him only during his life in the chair, teaching Catholicism as a course as tough as any other.  He told us, “I want these kids to know their Bible as well as the Protestants, to understand the Biblical basis of their Catholic faith!” And so he taught his classes with both an intellectual and spiritual focus.  He held help sessions after school before each test: he was a kindly reviewer of the test material; no student could claim not to know what was coming.  And he made it fun: yes, he was generous with the candy, and why not? He gave candy when a kid would get the right answer during a help session, and, I’m told, sometimes in class; and always, when the test review was finished everyone there got a piece.  His help sessions were always popular with students at St. Paul’s.

Mike was in and out of the hospital frequently, battling assaults to his physical body in one form or another for many years.  Last year, he missed several months of teaching, but was finally welcomed back for the spring quarter.  He seemed to fight for life, and his demeanor was always cheerful, but I guess I had to have known that his life expectancy could not have been great.

I love social media for many reasons, and when someone dies, it’s good to have a space to share memories, photos, anecdotes, tears, and sometimes, despair. It links hundreds of people in an instant who can support one another, and it’s helped me to understand more about Mike Tetlow than I had ever known.  Someone posted an old photo of Mike as a softball coach; I had never seen him as an able-bodied guy.  To consider how a person would have to adjust to a physically constrained life is overwhelming, and we know it was hard for him, too.  But in the end, he told me – and others, I’m sure – that he was at peace with it.  His teaching career remained vigorous and he never balked at speaking the truth about love, life, and human relationships, to his students.  I was glad to know my kids – a son, and a daughter – had Mike Tetlow as a male teacher, a role model.  He spoke with the boys during their ‘love and life’ curriculum and was firm about impulse control, respecting themselves and others, and keeping the Holy Spirit within their budding male-female relationships.  He gave the girls some practical advice as to how to resist a guy’s physical advances!  As a parent, I’m happy to hear this.  He wanted our kids to make the choices that would not harm them, and would draw them closer to God. He encouraged conversation, and sharing of music; he’d sometimes give students extra credit if they shared a song that honored God in some way.  It didn’t have to be a church hymn; in fact, one of his current favorites was ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay.  He often played this version in his class this year.  Read the words as you listen to the song (and ignore the misspelling, as Mike advised his students, too) …you’ll hear what Mike heard.  I believe it.

I ran into Mike and his sister two years ago on Thanksgiving Day at the festivities on the street in front of Pete’s Bar.  Although he was no fan of drunken foolery often seen at open parties, he enjoyed the afternoon outside…Thanksgiving at Pete’s is a beaches tradition, and has grown to become a block party over the years. But the weather was lovely and the sun shone brightly; it was our first time at Pete’s on Thanksgiving, and we chatted about it for a bit.  I snapped a photo of him and his sister, and published it on in a post about Thanksgiving at Pete’s.  I later gave him a copy of the picture, so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my sharing it here.    


Mike Tetlow was pro-life.  He believed that life begins at conception and ends at natural death.  He certainly embodied the dignity of life, the way he lived and worked during his latter years.  He was an iconic figure around the school. It’s tough to realize we won’t see him anymore – until we meet again. That’s what he truly believed, and how he lived.  He influenced so many: his current students, and hundreds of alumni over the years.   Reading the stories and memories being posted on his Facebook page flesh out so many aspects of Mike Tetlow that I simply didn’t know.  His teaching colleagues have scores of memories of Mike that go back for years. Really, the whole community will miss him.  The Angie’s Subs sign, which always seems to have its finger on the pulse of the beaches and/or the culture, paid tribute to Mike this week.

Beach Teens 4 Life is a pro-life youth group that Mike supported.  They’ve created wristbands in his honor that they’ll distribute at his viewing, from 6:30-8:00pm on Thursday, and before his Mass of Christian Burial on Friday at 11:00am.

I’ve used social media for many years and many reasons, from personal amusement to legitimate social networking.   And twice now, I’ve watched, and participated in social media as a group reacting to the sudden death of a precious person.   Mike Tetlow has quite clearly made an indelible impression on the lives of so many. Not a Facebook user during his life, he has 728 members (at this writing) of his Facebook Memorial Page in just one day’s time.  Colleagues, students, and friends are posting wonderful memories that give the rest of us a more complete understanding of the life of Mr. Tetlow.  What would he have to say about that?

When our family suddenly lost A Beautiful Boy we ran into Mr. Tetlow as we were making frantic preparations to leave town for his funeral, and shared our sorrow with him.  The Beautiful Boy’s personal Facebook account remains open, and his friends are still posting to him, several times a week, fifteen months later.  He was a life force among his friends in life, and is quite clearly influencing them for the good from Heaven, today.   The social media can help keep our relationship with them feeling tangible, even after their physical deaths take them from this earth.

As one of Mr. Tetlow’s students posted, a few days ago, “…now I have an intercessor in Heaven.”

We believers accept that eternal life is a mystery, but if we take the time to look and listen – the Bible, the Mass, in online communities, in groups for fellowship with, and service to others – the evidence we yearn for is there.  I see it on A Beautiful Boy’s Facebook Wall still, week after week.  Let’s keep Mr. Tetlow’s Page going, too.

I believe that he will be honored to be your intercessor to the Lord.  Go ahead and ask him.

Live in Atlantic Beach: A Newborn Sea Turtle Finds Its Way to Sea

Atlantic Beachlife was live on the scene last night when a nest of loggerhead sea turtles hatched.  Arriving with our crew as the final group of turtles were at the shoreline,  we followed the last straggler of this sibling group of more than one hundred find its way to the water’s edge.  It was waddling gamely but seemingly confused, while the trained volunteers of the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol assisted. They gently turned and guided it several times, until the tiny marine reptile finally found the water’s edge and was carried away by an outgoing wave.

The birth of any baby brings out the best in people, and sea turtles are no exception.  Tonight, families were seen hugging, tearful with joy to be part of this rather rare and fleeting moment (a nest can hatch and baby turtles dispersed within 10 or 15 minutes), and snapping photos with camera phones.  Everyone on site was careful to observe the no-flash photography rule, and no one even tried to touch a baby but the gloved specialists who were on hand for the hatching. Unfortunately not everyone who lives at the coastline understands (or cares?) that dimming or dousing their ocean-facing window lights is de rigueur along our beaches during sea turtle season, which runs from May 1 to October 31.  This year, there appears to be an abundance of nests in our area, and we observed that several were wrapped in the rear with blackout sheeting.  We have observed in the past that many of the oceanfront homes and condos have lights blazing inside which can confuse the little ones, who have a long and treacherous journey to maturity.

Only one per one thousand live births will actually live to maturity. At the ripe young age of fifty years old, a surviving female, will return to lay her eggs at the site of her birth.  That means that of the hundreds of sea turtles born during this season, probably just one will be back, nearly two generations from now, to perpetuate the species.  Perhaps you will be on this beach with your (great?)granchildren, and will pass on the lessons of caring for these endangered creatures.

Enjoy the video shot by our reporter, Jeannie Greenwald.

Eastern Market Summer Saturday





Detroit, Michigan’s Eastern Market has to be one of the country’s older farmer’s markets.  It’s in downtown Detroit and Saturdays is its largest draw.  There are restaurant supply companies and little specialty markets in the district, but Saturdays is when it comes to life, and has been the only day of the week I’ve ever gone there.  Now that I live in Florida, it’s been ages since I’ve been to Eastern Market.  I’ve been reading this guy’s blog with fascination for his life in the city with his wife and kids (they live in a small historic district called Lafayette Park which is a pleasant area surrounded by decrepit Detroit (here’s an article about the architecture in the city in the Lafayette Park area); his elegant writing, his adventures and creative projects with his kid, and his trips to Eastern Market.  He and his wife have made a rich and satisfying life within the city that my Michigan family think I’m crazy to want to visit.  Hey, I used to work with kids in that city, back in the mid-90s. I went into the neighborhoods, into their homes, and saw dwellings so foreign to me that I had to feign nonchalance.  Surely I stuck out like a white girl in a Pontiac Sunbird, but never did I feel threatened despite the fact of the locale,  and the people I worked with who were (almost) always nice to me.  I also spent four years in a different Detroit career, downtown, playing with the big boys, although I was callow and naive at that time in my life. Later, I drove to Wayne State University for my Master’s degree, and loved it.  So I’ve been on these roads and walked the city streets, and I met my husband in a Detroit bar.  I’m not exactly a Detroit virgin.  I was born in Detroit, and grew up in a suburb that bordered Detroit. While I did not  grow up in the city with the city experience, quite different from my own, neither was I immune to it.

So this blogger used to post weekly pictures of his fresh food haul from these Saturday trips to Eastern Market,  and I was amazed by how much locally grown produce he got for such a small amount of money.  Since I’m in Florida, I’m stuck, pretty much, at Publix, but during my past few summer trips to Detroit (well, a close western suburb) during the annual Michigan trip with the family, I’ve longed to go into the city and have a look around.  Eastern Market was definitely on my to-go list.  But my desires were met by family resistance (“Oh, forget about that. Why would you want to do that?”  “Oooh, you don’t want to go there,” and so I acquiesced, and sat on the couch, instead.  Until this year.  (Well, I still sat on the couch, but I went into the city, finally.)  One Saturday I said, “I’m going to Eastern Market,” and took my foodie daughter and showed her the place.  You should have seen her face when confronted with all that fresh, colorful produce.  Here are some pictures from that day.  On another day, I went into the city again…but I didn’t tell anyone until afterwards.  Oooh, so daring!  But here are some pictures from the best farmer’s market around, with a great Saturday vibe.
























Three Endings

Do three endings make a beginning?



Three?  Yes, three.

Do you dwell on the ending or use it as fuel for the beginning?  No; we make choices.  It’s the future, and that’s that.