Dutton Island Preserve…

…at low tide, in spring, as afternoon rolls 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.

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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

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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.

 

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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.

Riverside Arts Market

After a few months’ hiatus, the Riverside Arts Market is back. The farmer’s market carried on without interruption; the Arts Market debuted its 2011 season on March 5 under the Fuller Warren Bridge, with a great view of downtown Jacksonville, on the St. John’s River.

It was great.  I watched people watching art and was on an inspiration mission.  The street is inspiring.

This girl wandered from textile booth to textile booth, sporting a handmade bag of her own.

I stopped at every photographer’s booth to see how my work  holds up to theirs.  It was fun to see that yes, if I wanted, I think I could have an exhibition too.  While I’m not at the top of my game yet  ( neither are many of them), who cares?  Aren’t we always striving? It was fun to talk shop with a few photographers there.

There was the requisite street performer, whose  act I’ve witnessed before.   This man gets himself tied into a straightjacket and wound up with chains by random audience members. Then he’s hauled to the top of a pole, upside down, and sets a time limit for himself to break free, adding to the suspense of his performance.  He’s got the crowd-banter down pat.  I’ve watched him do this three times.  He always gets out, of course, and the crowd loves it.   He always says something like, “This is what happens when a guy loses his job at Goldman Sachs,” meaning, now he earns tip money from doing his act at RAM.  I’m a sucker for the backstory; next time I’m going to ask him. I also wonder what he does make in tips, too.  What do you think?  Too personal a question?

This enthralled child watches him as he’s tied, chained,  and strung up, seemingly helpless.  But this dude is anything but helpless.  He manages by sheer force of core strength and practiced skill, to wriggle his way free.

Then there was the food.  Arts market fare ranges from meat-on-a-stick, which had the longest line, to the juiciest turkey burger I’ve ever tasted.  Ever.  I guess you know what I ate; this is what I photographed:


This musician stood alone and played beautifully.  I took several pictures of him.  I grabbed a card from the table nearby, thinking it was his, and that I’d email the photos to him.  Regrettably it wasn’t;  now he’ll never see them.   All these performers really make the ambiance; without them, the outdoor art and farmer’s market just wouldn’t be complete.

Then there were the people with the large snakes.  Curling around the neck of this girl, who quite loved her pet.  She encouraged everyone to approach him, and touch him, which freaked out some of the kids but I figured if she let the thing wind itself around her body, touching him would be no problem.  I realize this seems absurd to snake lovers, but I don’t know snakes.  They are enigmas to me. I’m not fond of  long limbless reptile that have no eyelids, a short tail, and jaws that are  capable of considerable extension.  Still, this snake seemed friendly enough and its handler, a serene young woman.

I touched him.  Many of the kids were tentative but intrigued.

The snake’s body was warm and smooth.  His skin was beautiful.  The next morning in church,  I saw a woman wearing shoes that could have been made from this snake’s twin brother!   Yikes.  Snakeskin shoes. That gave me a start.

The Riverside Arts Market is really great for people of all ages.  Whether your interest is produce or art; oddities or music,  wandering about under the bridge with the local community in a weekly gathering of artists and farmers and performers is something special.  It’s just right: neither too small, nor overwhelming in size.

It’s all about the community-minded people, their creativity, their local farm-to-you produce, and fun.

One of my very favorite parts of the Riverside Arts Market is the Imagination Squared art project.  The link will take you to its Facebook Page but basically, here’s the deal:  for $36 you get two wooden squares and the chance to have your artwork displayed (and maybe, sold!) at RAM.  The squares are the canvas for your imagination and creativity. Get your artist on and go for it.  I’ve seen many squares on display and the coolest part is that anyone can get involved.  Some of the square are obviously made by seasoned artists, others by those with a love for art.  Either way, your work will get four weeks on display and whether it sells or not (heck, maybe you’ll just create one for yourself and another to give as a gift…), isn’t so much the point of the project. It’s the community involvement, and giving a platform for the artist in everyone a chance to be showcased.

Don’t even ask me why I didn’t take a few pics of  my favorite display!  I’m captivated by the concept and inspired to try something myself. It might come out looking like kindergarten artwork but who knows?  I feel a collage brewing…

See? Even the beachlifer loves life on the street.  I definitely give the Riverside Arts Market a ‘must do’ on your list of activities close to home.  Diversity is the catalyst to inspiration. Get out and come explore next weekend – at RAM.

Macro Monday


I learned something today. I was informed that fairies eat pollen. Like, for their food. There are many kinds of fairies; I cannot keep up with all of them. But the family fairy expert was delighted to see I’d photographed fairy food.

I Can Hear The Waves From My Pillow

I can hear the waves from my pillow
(double click for a 30 second audio of the wave-sounds at night, at 1,300 feet from the beach)

I can hear the waves from my pillow most nights. It’s the time of year when I sometimes leave the windows open for fresh, clean air and the sound of waves soothe as I fall into sleep.

So much of the time it’s too humid for me to keep the window open; or too cold. But on those nights in Spring and Fall and even Winter when it’s not? Oooh, it’s so worth it.

Awesome House – My Favorite Colors

So this was my inspiration house for the colors I yearned for in my own home.

I drove past this house for weeks. It’s on Beach Avenue, a unique and prominent street, where the oceanfront homes are situated in Atlantic Beach. This house is on the opposite side of the ocean. It’s almost like a promenade, Beach Avenue, with cars moving only one way, and lots of bikers, skaters, joggers, trikes, baby strollers, power walkers, dog walkers – you name it – ambling up and down this street.

Beach Avenue has the most interesting houses lining both sides of the street. Many of the oceanfront homes are set away from the street; their garages with carriage houses at street’s edge and often used as rentals. Anyway, it’s a really interesting street and very unique. It’s fun to travel it (slowly; it’s the ONLY way to go) to gaze at what people are building, renovating, or selling here.

This house grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. When I entered its swinging, slatted door and was up on its side porch, knocking on the owner’s door, it had a whole different feel than I experienced, looking at it from the street. It was even better, more charming than I’d imagined.

I was invited into the house when I asked about the paint colors. I wanted a tour (of course!) but how rude of me! I didn’t know these people! (No, I didn’t ask.) They were nice enough to fetch the data from the paint cans and the name and number of their color consultant while I craned my neck to see what I could from the foyer. The interior suited me. A more modern esthetic.

I love this house, still.

I love the ambiance of Beach Avenue. If you’re ever in Atlantic Beach, you must drive it, starting right in town, from the resort One Ocean, heading north on Beach Avenue and go all the way to 20th Street, where it ends. It’s two miles long. It wends its way about, and you’ll be treated to an eclectic view of homes of various price points; some still in their original humble beginnings and others, obvious tear-downs replaced by Majestic Mansions.

Either way, it’s total immersion in Atlantic Beach oceanfront living.

Now that I look at this house out of context, I wonder if it will speak to you like it does to me. But whatever. I’m bringing you a glimpse of houses I love. And I love this one.