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The Worst Job in the World…

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The Worst Job in the World…

is working on an eco-tour boat on the West side of Oahu, Hawaii.

Just kidding! It’s seriously the best job I’ve ever had. When I stated in my last post that I lead an extraordinary life, it wasn’t bragging. It was an acknowledgement to myself of the things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the blessings that I have. This experience working on an eco-tour charter boat certainly been a contribution to this life that I love.

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I traded in a windowless lab with views through a microscope for the open seas, a mask and snorkel!

 

 Being on a boat, basking in the sun, inhaling the salty ocean air, swimming with pods of wild spinner dolphins, and meeting people from all over the world sure was a welcome change compared to spring of last year when  I was working in a windowless 200 square foot lab with 5 others, working 12 hour days testing water samples with the viability of sea urchins.  Long days spent without seeing the sunlight, staring through a microscope counting fertilized sea urchin eggs by the thousands.

What I love most about the boats that I work on is the genuine love and respect for the ocean that all crew members and captains have. Owned by a marine biologist and the founder of The Wild Dolphin Foundation, the crew is a team of  naturalists and conservationists. When we’re sailing up the gorgeous west side of Oahu with its sweeping view of valleys and mountains lining the coast,  if we see debris in the water the captain slows for the crew member to reach out with a hook and grab it, or in some cases, jump in and fetch it. I can attest for the latter. I’ve done it! In 1,400 ft deep blue water, to haul aboard a baseball diamond.

Some tour boats carry 20-40 and even more on these tours along the west side of our island, but our boats carry 6-10. Having so few on board makes it an intimate experience for our guests and also less invasive for the marine life that we observe.

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On a rare day when we actually get to stay close to shore!

Key word: observe. As naturalists, we observe the marine life, and don’t interact with it. We don’t toss food into the water to cause a feeding frenzy of fish around our guests while they are in the water (as one boat does which will remain unnamed), we don’t dive down under the surface with the dolphins as some people do, usually those who hitch a ride with friends on private boats.  Why is this important?

Regardless of the outfit you choose, most tours are in the morning, the best time to see the spinner dolphins. In the late afternoon and through the night, the dolphins head far offshore to a shelf that drops off several thousand feet. There they feed. Small pods coming together as larger pods, spinning bait balls for feeding. In the early morning they make their way back to the sandy bottoms closer to shore where they can go into a state of rest until it’s time to repeat the feeding process.  When you dive down into a pod, you’re essentially jumping into the bed of someone who is sleeping. You wouldn’t like a stranger jumping into your bed, right? I’ve been in the water and watched as people dove down into the faces of incoming pods to get that “perfect photo” only to see the dolphins rapidly split around the person and dart off into the blue. Again, usually these are people who kick out from shore on boogie boards, or hitch rides with friends who have boats. Many people think of the ocean as their personal playground, setting the rules for themselves as though everything else in it is there for their amusement. We are guests of the ocean and all that call it home. It’s our responsibility to educate ourselves about swimming in it with wild animals, for the conservation of its inhabitants as well as for the safety of ourselves. There’s a much larger picture, than the one that many are literally dying (drownings, falls from hikes, being swept off the edge of lava shelves from rogue waves, etc) to get for their social media sites.

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Don’t be this person. Observe, don’t interact. We’re in their home, let’s respect them and their need for rest.

As naturalists we observe. We and our guests float on the surface and watch as the pods swim towards us and as they gently dive below us. No matter how close they get to us, we resist the temptation to reach out and touch them. For more information on spinner dolphins of Hawaii, give this page a read wilddolphin.org. It’s a great read with a wealth of information!

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Look at this baby! While the rest of the pod goes into a resting period, the babies always want to show off and play!

After doing a few drops with the dolphins, watching them ride our bow, and the babies putting on a spectacular show with jumping high out of the water and spinning in the air (hence the name Spinner dolphins), we head over to the turtle cleaning station at Makaha. Here, at about 20-25 foot depth, the Hawaiian green sea turtles,  come to a head of large coral to get their shells cleaned by awaiting fish. It’s literally like a spa day for them. They come and wait in order for their turn. The fish nibble at their shells and their bodies, removing algae from the turtle. Sometimes the turtles go limp, their heads up, eyes closed, flippers relaxed… if they could speak, you’d hear sighs of “ahhhhhh”.

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At the turtle cleaning station off of Makaha. My husband and I love to swim out there from shore, and many of my friends have enjoyed the experience as we can reach it from shore.

 

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Ahhhhh……spa day!

We never know what we’ll see aside from the turtles.  Sometimes we get to watch graceful spotted eagle rays glide across the ocean floor.

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It’s always exciting to see a spotted eagle ray cruising the ocean floor below you.

Other times we see large moray eels shooting from one hole into another. And the fish…oh the fish. Milletseed butterfly fish, Moorish idols, yellow tangs, wrasses of wide variety, trigger fish, Hawaiian sergeants, and more.

 

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Milletseed Butterfly fish just love to keep us company. These fish are endemic to Hawaii. Probably one of my favorites!

During the winter months, we have our special visitors…the Humpback whales. They are here from October to May each year. What special memories I’ll have of being on the deck of our catamaran and being startled by a loud “poooooooooof” only to turn around and see the flume of mist shoot 20 feet or higher in the air from a whale’s blowhole. I’ll do more on whales in a future post as that is a fun topic in itself!

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Well, hello there! A humpback whale doing a spy hop!

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A humpback whale exhaling through his two blowholes. This was so close to our boat that the mist fell back upon us after traveling in the sky at least 30 feet. Notice the fluorescent blue to the left? That’s the underside of the whale that is white, but the reaction in the water with the light makes it this beautiful neon blue.

It’s always a great day at the end of a tour. My skin looks coated in diamond dust, when it’s dried salt from air-drying after being in the ocean. My hair is a wild mane of beach curls and waves.  As we head back to dock after 4 hours, I replay the sound of the dolphins singing as they blessed us with their presence that morning. I have a smile that stays imprinted upon my face until well after I close my eyes that night. It’s a rewarding job: sharing the knowledge of our ocean life, educating people about ocean conservation, being a part of many people’s “once in a lifetime” experience while on vacation. Every time I get into the open ocean with our marine life I’m amazed at how complex and vast the world beneath the surface of the waves is.

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Off of Makua… my favorite view on the sail back to the harbor. Windblown hair, salty skin…

 

Sometimes I see the unexpected on land once we return to dock. On this particular day, world renown surfer, Jamie O’Brien and his squad were gearing up to head to Makaha for some winter wave action as we were coming back into our slip. There were at least 4 jet skis put in, as Jamie and crew loaded all the boards, supsquatch, and more onto them as they headed out. Boys and their toys! Hahaha !

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Jamie O’Brien and his crew getting ready to put in at our pier. This was during the winter when the shore break was too dangerous to paddle out at Makaha. They had several jet skis that hauled them in from the backside, toys and all. I wanted to go watch from the shore, but on this particular day I was too exhausted  from rough seas taking a toll on my muscles as I fought to keep my footing through the swells.

And then there are other surprises that can await for you back at the pier… like this particular day when just after our guests had safely made it back across, the state-owned pier just collapsed into the water. It led for interesting attempts for us to leave the boat in our slip to get ourselves back to the parking lot!

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Welp…. now what????

I hope where ever you are that this post has added a little magic to your day, provided inspiration for your bucket list, or maybe brought back fond memories of your own experience sharing the ocean with wild spinner dolphins.

Have you ever been on an eco-tour on the water and in the water with marine life? Sharks, dolphins, turtles, dives, snorkeling? I’d love to hear about your adventures! Comment and share! Or if you have any questions and are planning a trip to do so, I’d be more than happy to answer them. Once again, thank you sooo much for stopping in to my little blog. I couldn’t do it without you!

With Aloha and Mahalo Nui!

 

 

 

 

It’s been a long day…

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A metaphor for it’s been a long time. Hasn’t it?

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Peek-a-boo! Hello and Aloha from our new home in Oahu, Hawaii! It’s been too long, I’ve missed blogging, missed making the connections with my readers, and missed sharing the great things of life. With a few setbacks and adjustments behind me, I’m enjoying living the present and looking forward to the future!

Just a quick run down of the events that lead to my absence…all in a span of  8 months.

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Two months after losing my dad, my last parent…my oldest daughter, Georgia, had a two week notice that she was shipping out for Marine Corps boot camp. What a hard thing for a mom. Moms with older children know what I’m talking about. The first bird to leave the nest. You wonder and hope and pray  that you’ve prepared them enough for this point, but realize that nothings ever prepared YOU for this time. Here she is after her graduation. I couldn’t have been more proud. She’s now at her permanent duty station in Miramar, California as a military police officer. I don’t get to see her often. So is life being a military wife and now a military mom. We’re scattered. But always close in each others hearts.

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Home. Home sweet home. Our first home that we bought. 2 bay windows, one in the formal living room, another in the eat-in kitchen, both with original window seats. I’d watch Georgia sit in the front one while she read, and watch my little one, Katie, sit in the kitchen one after school and do her homework. The built-in bookcases in the den. My favorite room of the house. The view of the Neuse River across the street. The original curled banister in the foyer. The smoothness of the bamboo floors. The apple tree in the backyard that the kids would pick from. The variety of birds that came to the feeder in front of the living room bay window. It was hard to say goodbye when I shut the door for the last time, knowing we’d never live here again. We thought we had two more years here, but were given unexpected orders to relocate in the summer to Oahu, Hawaii for our second tour there.

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My Aunt Marge. What a wonderful woman she was. Not having my mother for the past 20 years, she was one to me. As well as a grandmother to my children. In the most recent years, as we were only 16 years apart, she became more like a sister and a best friend than anything else. Three weeks before I was to leave for Hawaii, I was blown off my feet that she was unexpectedly losing her battle with colon cancer, and losing it rapidly. Just weeks before, I heard from the mouth of her oncologist that she was nowhere near end-stage. One night she went out for dinner, then had to be admitted to the hospital for pain, three days later, she was discharged home and never recovered. I went home to NY and stayed with her, helping my cousin’s wife take care of her daily, sitting beside by her bedside giving her water through a sponge lollipop, doing crossword puzzles aloud. We used to do crossword puzzles and ask each other for help when we were stumped.  One morning while I was there, God called her home. Her death hit me harder than my fathers. My father had accepted what lied ahead of him. My father was at peace with that knowledge. But my Aunt…she wasn’t done yet. There was so much more life that she wanted to live. That made a huge difference in how much grief I carried afterwards. Still, to this day, when I talk about her or think of her, my eyes start to burn and a knot forms in my throat as I hold the tears back. She was one of those people who only come into your life ONCE.

 

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August 2014: A week after losing my Aunt Marge, a best friend and I started our cross-country road trip from North Carolina to California where I’d drop my car off to be shipped to Hawaii. The pink dots on the map above highlight our route. The details and pictures of this adventure will be a separate blog post! Oh the places that we went, the laughs that we had, and the stories that I could tell!

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Mid August 2014: Back to living on base, but with a view like this, one can’t really complain about base housing. Probably the closest we’ll ever have to an ocean view! We have a beautiful plumeria tree in the front yard that blooms gorgeous white and yellow flowers. The scent of them, intoxicating! We’ve even hung a tree swing for Katie, and a have a hammock on the side of the house to enjoy the view that lies behind it!

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ANNNNNDD……. in late October, my “wheels fell off”.  A term that my therapist likes to use. Since my dad had died, Georgia leaving right after, the limbo of where we were moving to, Marge’s unexpected death, etc, etc, etc… I hadn’t really dealt with any of it. I felt grief, and sadness, by tremendous amounts. I felt like I had to just keep going with the flow in order to get from one thing to the next. The toll it took on me resulted in severe depression and anxiety. Anxiety of having a 24 hour dread that more awful things were going to happen or could happen at any moment. When the family was at school/work, I hid under my blankets in a dark bedroom. Watching tv or sleeping. Getting up within minutes of them coming home, to brush my teeth, look like I’ve been productive, and put on the best smile I could. I didn’t want them to know that I was “broken”.  thankfully, Katie was too young to understand the depth of my grief and the endless worry I felt. My husband was beyond supportive during my 8 months of intense weekly therapy and continues to be my biggest fan and supporter.

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A part of my grief was also grieving  for the loss of who I was before the sadness of 2014 started. An instrumental part of my healing was accepting that I’ll never be that person again… before the gut wrenching sadness and the loss.  I had to rediscover myself in the present, and the future thereafter. It took a long time. But I did it. I’m smiling and laughing again. I feel kindness again instead of anger. I’ve embraced life again instead of being afraid to live it for fear of more loss. I’m back, I’m better…and I’m stronger.

So here I am!  I’ve started a post so many times, only to delete it. Lately, it all seemed to start to come together again.

I’ve realized that I lead an extraordinary life. Everything about it with nothing being mundane. Though the sadness of loss and unexpected transitions happened, I believe that without those events, I wouldn’t be so appreciative of the joy and the awe in the rest of life.

Over the past year, I’ve had an amazing journey getting to this place in my life. I’ve worked in a lab studying sea urchins, volunteered with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Foundation, explored the land and the sea, worked on an eco-tour charter boat where we swam with wild spinner dolphins in the Pacific Ocean, and so much more that I can’t wait to share with you! Whether it be an experience, a sight, a product that I just LOVE, a story or a memory, or a place visited… I am chomping with excitement to start sharing again.

I’ll end today with a thank you. Thank you readers-to those, old and new. Thank you for those who have continued to leave comments for me over my period of inactivity. Thank you for those of you who have followed me faithfully and didn’t give up on me. Thank you to those who just stopped by for the first time, I hope you continue to visit my blog. Thank you, to each and every one of you. You’ve inspired me to keep exploring and to keep sharing.

I’ll see in the next not so distance post!

Much love to you all!

The new and improved mom with sandy feet….

April

A Bench Fit for a Princess

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As I mentioned in the previous post, I needed a project that I could really get my hands busy with. With knowing that we will more than likely get stationed again in Hawaii this summer, I wanted to do a project in which the materials needed would be easier to find here on the mainland than on the island.

I decided to make a reading bench for my 8 year old daughters room, but I also wanted it to be versatile in the event that should she decide she no longer wanted it, “outgrew” it in taste, or her next room (in whatever town the Marine Corps sends us next) ends up being too small to have it, that I could repurpose it in another room.

 After perusing Pinterest, while watching my DVR’d shows for a few weeks, I found a few ideas that came together to make my vision a reality. The main material: a used twin size head board and foot board!

 Coastal North Carolina has no shortage of thrift stores and antique shops. The scouting of these venue’s seemed endless, as I was looking for a particular style of head board/foot board. I didn’t want anything “blocky”, nothing too detailed.  I wanted simple but with character. Nothing seemed to stick out, until I stopped looking.  Like they say about romance… you’ll find it when you’re least expecting it! And that’s exactly what happened! I was in an antique store killing time before an appointment and there it was. Sitting in the back, unassembled, stacked against each other, leaning on a lone wall, all by itself.  I swear there was a lit arrow pointing down at it from a cartoon cloud in the air! AND it was within my budget, priced perfectly. $35!

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Just the right look for what I wanted!

 

I loaded it up,  brought it home, and stared at for another week. Going over the blueprint I had in my mind and making any adjustments to it. With my design planned, it was time to get the project put into motion. Thus starts the fun!

 First the foot board was cut perfectly down the center. These two pieces would be the “arms”, and would be mounted to the head board.

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Once they were cut, I started to “rough” the surface up with a medium grade sandpaper. This removed the thin layer of lacquer that was on top of the stain. I had intended on just roughing it up enough to have good cohesion with the paint.  Due to the lacquer being sanded off, it left the stain underneath looking “crackled”. If I had painted over it, eventually the paint when dried, would look the same way. Sooo…I had to completely strip it.

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Elbow Grease!!! And a LOT of hand stripping when it came to the nooks and crannies of the posts!

 

I then attached the sides with two heavy 3 heavy duty screws, built in an extra side board so the seat could be raised higher, cut a few pieces of wood into planks for the seat, added support “scabs” around the base of the seat, used a nail gun to attach the planks, and voila’. The frame was done.

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My neighbor (with the heavy power tools and various saws) and I had set up shop in my garage. We had to work mostly in the driveway while I sanded and he sawed, due to the sawdust and ventilation.  The constructing of this bench took almost a week, only because we worked 2 or 3 hours a day on it, and it was always COLD outside! 30 degrees for the high, and winds coming off the river that dropped the wind chill. Some days I sanded so much that it wore the fingertips right off my gloves, and other days it was so cold that when I came in and showered, my exposed skin burnt in the heat of the water.

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Getting ready for more sanding!

 

Once the frame was completed, I brought it into the warmth of my breakfast nook for the painting and the making of the seat cushion.

 

I didn’t think about it when I bought the paint, but I but flat paint, and it was very dull once dried and kind of rough feeling. I applied two coats of polyurethane, high gloss, and what a difference it made!

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Final stage: I used a piece of foam poster board for the base of the cushion and wrapped a 4 inch thick piece of foam around it, then wrapped my chosen fabric around it, securing with a staple gun.

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Not even 3 inches of ice on the road and snow would keep me from completing this project!

 

Add a little fringe to the bottom, and a pillow insert and choice of pillow cover and we are … DONE!

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LOVE the turn out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

My daughter loves the bench! It’s sitting in her room against her windows, where she sits and looks over the rooftops at the river across the street.

 If she loses interest in having it in her room, I can always reupholster the seat or just remove it, and put it in the guest room, my room, or in our foyer or entry!

 I had a lot of fun doing this project and wish you the best of luck if you decide to do one of your own! If you make one, please share a picture with me! I’d love to see it!

The Loss of My Father…and a continued journey with grief.

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On October the 9th, I lost my father, my friend… from his 5 month long fight with Stage 4 asbestos related lung cancer.  I went home to upstate New York to visit him on Oct 5th for the weekend. He seemed in great spirits. He was asking for Pepsi and coffee, things he loved before he got sick, and hadn’t had the taste for them during his battle with cancer. I spent the days, sitting on his bed, holding his hand, having wonderful conversations. I left on Oct 8th, and when I called to check on him that following day on Wednesday, Oct 9th I learned he had taken a rapid turn for the worse. He was unable to talk, but could open his eyes and know when people were present.  Hospice was called and we were told he wouldn’t make it through that night. My stepmother put the phone to his ear, and I told him how much I loved him, how I had never taken a moment for granted with him.  How I learned so much from him, and how I cherished the days I had just spent with him. And I told him if he was ready to go, it was okay. At roughly 11:30pm that night, I was awoken by a call from home, saying that he had passed with my stepmother, his brother and SIL by his side at 11:18pm.

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The road in front of my Dads house…. on Scotch Mountain in upstate NY. While he was sleeping, I took a walk…the day before this pic was taken, the sun was out in all it’s glory, and the leaves shown like gold in it’s rays. This was my fathers paradise… and where he wanted to pass at. So many memories of him and I walking this road together….

The next morning, I remember it was cold  and raining.  I opened the garage door and sat in one of my beach chairs, watching the rain fall, the last of the leaves of Fall dropping from the trees …and I cried. All day. In that chair. Watching the rain.

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When my father was admitted to the hospital in June, he just wanted to go home…sit in his chair on the porch…be with his wife, and see his dog. For as long as I can remember, he’s always had a wingback chair in the corner of the porch. We would sit out there together, over a Budweiser in a can, and marvel at the view across the valley, watching the birds, talking about life. On that last visit home, I sat in his chair… and cried at night…knowing that he was becoming too weak to probably ever sit there again. Little did I know how soon “never” came. In my mind, this is where I’ll always see him.

Three days after he passed, the tears stopped. I still felt like I needed to have a good fit of crying, so I hopped a ferry and drove to a remote area outside Oriental, NC. I sat on the water, with a can of Budweiser (my dads favorite), and in my own way, shared it with him through thought. I tried to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. I tried as hard as I could… and nothing. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t cry.

That same week, I hopped in the car to drive to a gas station at the front of our neighborhood-not more than 2 miles down the road.  I realized I had long passed the gas station, traveled across a dangerous intersection with no red light and was about 4 miles away from where I was headed. I had no recollection of how I arrived there. With a blink, it was as though I snapped back to the present, wondering how I had gotten where I was.

Among other experiences during October, I had realized I was in shock. When I would talk about the passing of my father, I found myself continually saying “I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how I left him in one state, and the next day he passed?” I just kept saying that over and over, and over again.

Starting at the end of October and through the New Year marks my families busiest time of the year. We’re attending holiday functions at my daughters school, various social functions through my husbands’ unit and command, and of course, it was peak shopping season for my Origami Owl customers. Needless to say, I had a lot to keep me distracted and busy through the holidays.

However, two days after Christmas, I felt an overwhelming sadness that I hadn’t yet experienced. It was a longing to talk to my father, to see him one more time. It was a sadness of the reality that he was gone. My father…my friend…a man I adored and looked up to. No more phone calls talking about the weather in detail, the behavior of the birds in our yards, advice and opinions on DIY projects, listening to his projects in the yard and around the house, talking about politics. And hearing him say “Hi baby!”. The man I thought was tougher than nails and larger than life, was gone. And the tears came and still do, without rhyme or reason, and without effort.

So started a new stage of grief.

I went back to my roots, and started looking for a project that I could start. It would need to be one that would be labor intensive. Something I could sink my thoughts into. A way that I could process my thoughts, and through working with my hands, feel closer to my father.

I started scouring through Pinterest and looking for the perfect project. And I found it…. See the next blog entry.

I can’t believe it’s only been 4 months since he’s passed.  That cherished weekend I had with him, seems like last weekend. I can still hear his voice and his laughter in my mind. I can feel his kisses on my cheek.

When I was in that stage of shock for two months…I couldn’t find a question as to why he passed so quickly and unexpectedly. It gnawed at me, and there was no one that could answer it for me.

I’ve come to my own reasoning.  He was tired. He wasn’t the man he once was in able body. He was miserable not being able to go outside and work in the yard or on his projects. He wasn’t “living” the way he wanted to, and I think he had willed himself that he was ready to go. However, he waited for me. I knew that the time I had with my dad was a gift, but I realize that it was a final gift given to me by my father. He waited for me to get there, and he used his last bit of will to make it through that weekend, to laugh and share stories. To joke with one another. To enjoy a few small things for the last time. To spend time with me. To also say in his own way, “Good bye” to me.

For that, I’m so very humbled and grateful.

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Dad.. in his young and wild Sailor days. On R&R during Vietnam, playing horseshoes with a close friend. Larger than life….

Sometimes when I miss him and the weather is cooperative, I grab my rod and reel and head to the river to soak in nature. It’s not about catching fish, it’s watching the rays of sun bounce off the water surface.  Sharing the strand of beach on the river with white egrets.  Finding sharks teeth in the sand. Feeling the breeze in my hair, the warmth of the sun on my face. Sharing the beauty of nature…another thing my father and I had in common and shared with each other.

Other times, I break out a piece of sandpaper and start hand sanding spindles and nooks and crannies of old furniture, watching it transform from something neglected into a transformed beauty.  And with each movement of my fingers, I can feel my dad there with me.

I know that grief has several stages. Not all stages happen in order, and nor are those stages brief.  It’s 4 months later, and I just started crying with a broken heart within the past month. Each day, I wake up not knowing what the day will hold. Whether I’ll cry at the sight of his shirt hanging on the back of my favorite wingbacked chair, or if I’ll feel numb, lost, confused, lonely, angry, or sad. But when these feelings come, I put them into something produc

Though he’s gone from this earth in physical body, he’s always a thought away. He’s in every  Henry Thoreau word that I read, in every change of the season, in every new project that I start. And he’s forever in my heart.

RIP Dad… I love you. I miss you. And I’ll see you again one day….

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

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Enjoying father/daughter time, having one of our lighthearted talks when he came to visit me in Hawaii, 2009.

The Longest Wait…for “The Longest Ride”

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The Longest Wait…for “The Longest Ride”

Yesterday my daughter, Georgia, and I went to the release and book signing of Nicholas Spark’s newest novel “The Longest Ride” at the Target, here in New Bern.  One of the many great things about this area is that this town we call home, is also shared with Nicholas Sparks. This means every time he has a new release of a novel he launches it that day with a book signing here in New Bern before hitting the road to the rest of the country!

 

I have always attended past book signings of his alone. It just never worked out where a friend could go with me, and Georgia was always in school so she couldn’t go with me either. Now that she is graduated from high school, I asked if she’d like to go with me. I mean, she loves all of his movies and just this past year started reading his novels.  I often find her going to my built in bookshelves in my den, and browsing my Nicholas Sparks collection on its own designated shelf. When she’s done reading one of his books, we will talk about the plot and the ending and what we liked about the characters. So I thought she’d love to go with me yesterday. When I asked her on Monday night, she wasn’t as excited as what I had thought she would be, and replied casually “Yea, sure. I’ll go with you.”

The book signing was earlier than his previous ones and for the first time in New Bern, at the Target rather than the local mall as in other years. As soon as we got my youngest, Katie, dressed and beautified for school pictures and on the school bus, we headed out the door. The signing started at 8am and we arrived at shortly after 8:30am. The line was already wrapped around the side of the building, around the entire length of the back and starting to go around the other side of the store.

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The line from once we got to the front of the store, which was 4.5 hours after we first arrived. The line goes around the side, the entire length of the back of the store, and around the other side!

Georgia was in complete disbelief and awe at the turn out, despite that I had told her about the lines every time I’d attended the prior book signings of previous years. Still no excitement from her, just happy to be along for the ride I guess!

The time that we stood in line was 6.5 hours!

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Thank God there was a Starbucks in the Target! Loved the chalk sign hanging up!!! Without Pumpkin Pie Latte’s and Turtle Frappe’s at my disposal all morning, I don’t know how I would have managed to gotten by! Thanks STARBUCKS!

During those hours, we got a chance to really get to know those women who were in line directly in front and behind us. In 6.5 hours of being right next to the same people, you can learn a lot of stuff about someone! I had worn two of my Origami Owl lockets and was impressed at the interest that wearing them was generated! Thankfully I had a handful of my new, beautiful business cards and a few take out menu’s (what we call our catalogs) with me!

 

Once we were able to get in the store, we bought our books at the customer service area and then were ushered to another line which wrapped the inside of the Target store.

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FINALLY inside the store! After 4 hours of waiting outside! So worth it though! As always! And OF COURSE! Rocking my Origami Owl lockets!

Not only were we going to be able to get a signed copy and have a few minutes with Nicholas Sparks, but the books on hand yesterday had a bonus! They included a DVD with behind the scenes look at “The Longest Ride” filmed on location at Black Mountain in NC with Nicholas Sparks!

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Just watched this morning, as I was too exhausted last night! Love the narrative by Nicholas Sparks. He’s always so happy and genuine! Very, VERY interesting info on a different part of the state other than the coast that his books are usually set in! This time, the mountains!

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WOOT! Books in hand!!!! One for me, one for Georgia, and one for our daughter, Bri!

As we’re waiting in line and time is approaching 2pm, Georgia is growing weary. She’s losing any interest she had in being there, and says with disappointment that she won’t be able to make it to Green Springs with her friends in time for an afternoon of fun and swimming. Green Springs is a local hang out here on the banks of the Neuse River.  It’s made by a local man and has been a summer staple for the kids for several years. Consisting of several levels of diving towers and rope swings, it’s a place off the beaten path and certainly off of the tourist radar!

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Green Springs!

Georgia has been going there all summer with her friends, at least 3 times a week. She had just went as recent as this past Sunday and had plans on going yesterday. When her friend called her back and they rescheduled for today, she seemed relieved but yet defeated. It had been a long day, with HOURS of standing, for her. As we finally were in position of being less than 20 people away from our turn with Nicholas, she sat down on a low shelf and put her hoodie over her head, and rested it on her knees.  I could tell she was kind of over “it” at this point, but she still kept a happy face on.

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The Pepsi high has worn off, and she’s about two degrees from being “done” LOL!

 

The closer we inched, the faster paced things went. We were getting our camera’s ready and his assistants were taking our books and opening them for him to sign.

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Getting closer!

When it was our turn, I let Georgia go first.  As soon as she sat in the chair next to him, and before his pen even hit paper, Nick started the following conversation with her.

Nicholas Sparks: “Hey there! Didn’t we just have a conversation two days ago?!” said with surprise and cheer.

Georgia: “Um, no sir… I don’t think so.” Looking a little star struck and even more confused.

Nicholas Sparks: “Yea, YEA! We did!!!! On Sunday, at Green Springs! We were talking!” said with absolute certainty and surprise.

Georgia: a long pause, a moment of reflection…followed by eyes turning the size of saucers, a look of “OMG!”, a flushing of red through the face, and her mouth hitting the floor… and said with nervous surprise and laughter “Oh my Gosh! I didn’t recognize you! You had sunglasses on!”

Nicholas Sparks: “Yea!!! You didn’t know who I was, did you!?!” laughing and giggling even more, with pride and a little disbelief, but yet as though he had just pulled off a surprise party for someone.

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Georgia and Nicholas Sparks. Nothing but giggles from both!!!!! Look at that bright and sunny smile she has now!

 

Georgia was beside herself! I was standing there with my mouth hanging open, eyes darting between the two of them, wondering WHAT was going on?! Georgia was hanging out at Green Springs with Nicholas Sparks and she didn’t know it!!! And even more impressing was that HE recognized her and remembered their encounter! Not the other way around!

While were standing in line for those 6.5 hours, his security had briefed us through the time about if he was on a break, how many books he would sign, and had told us that unlike in the past, he would not be personalizing the signings. He would simply sign it “Nicholas Sparks”. I was okay with that, being that the last book “Safe Haven” he had signed with “April, Love Nicholas Sparks”. And when we were in line, Georgia was only coming along to keep me company, and get a book as a secondary incentive, so she didn’t mind just having his normal signature.

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Another pic to add to my others with him:-) I feel like I’m around an old friend every time I am near him!

Once they both stopped laughing like two school kids, he asked Georgia what her name was.  After I had my moment with him, and we were walking away, Georgia had a grin from ear to ear that couldn’t be wiped off, and tears of excitement in her eyes…showing me her book and he had signed it “Georgia, xoxo Nicholas Sparks”.

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MOM! OMG! He wrote my name in my book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She’s very, VERY happy she ended up going with me!:-) Special memories for a lifetime!

It was a perfect day, a perfect memory for Georgia, for me, for us together as mother and daughter, and I believe for Nicholas Sparks!

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The 3 of us:-)

Once again, I have to say that I am always in awe and appreciative of his humbleness. Of how easy he is to approach, how he  makes you feel that you’ve been friends for forever, and how cheerful he is! I’ve stood in line with my children, right behind his wife Cathy and their children waiting for carnival rides at our annual Mumfests. I’ve driven by his house too many times to count.

I believe it’s this town. A place where we all have the grace of the South in our mannerisms, and our relations to one another. He could have picked any other place in the country to raise his family and call home. Yet, he picked New Bern, our small coastal town on the Neuse River. A place where he can take his kids to Green Springs and watch them swing from ropes and drop into the river below, and do the ordinary things that ordinary people do with their families. As stated back in an earlier post about him and New Bern, whenever I get star struck by him, I am always reminded that he’s just an ordinary person like the rest of us, leading an ordinary life, but with an extraordinary gift that he gives to this small town and the rest of the world!

With this being pressed, and looking at the priceless smile on my daughters face, I’m going to walk across my drive and sit on the Neuse River…enjoy the view, the beautiful Fall weather, and count my blessings for us being stationed here and all the wonderful memories this area has given  me over the years!

 

Three Days of Adventure on the waters of the Crystal Coast and Down East

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Have you ever had a day where one of these rooms looked really comforting to you?

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A white padded room… a place away from everything…. peace! LOL!!!!

 

Today is one of those days for me. Not because I think I’m losing my mind or that I am a danger to myself or others. Okay, well, maybe others… like the pesky guys who come by trying to sell me steaks out of a freezer on the backs of their pickup trucks…lol.  No seriously…it’s one of those days when I just want solitude, just to go to my happy place…and think about nothing. So it seems fitting that I start the blog on our holiday weekend along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, where I’m always in my happy place!

I’ve posted a few blogs about various places along our coast. With the addition of todays, it goes without saying that there are so many things to do along this beautiful stretch of our state. All it takes is a little research and equal amount of motivation.

On the 4th of July we had a list of plenty to choose where to watch the firework displays that night. New Bern on the river, Morehead City on the sound, Boque Pier at Emerald Island, the town park in Havelock are a few to name. We chose to go to Atlantic Beach and set up shop at The Circle. 

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Packed! View to the left…….

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View to the right!

The Circle…full of life. It’s our equivalent to the Jersey Shore. And it’s full of characters. Not Ronnie, Snookie, or Mike… but many more! When we go to Atlantic Beach we usually head a few miles north of The Circle to Fort Macon’s beach access. Fort Macon’s beach access is a reprieve from the loud and the obnoxious beach goers, most frequented by older couples and families, compared to its counterpart at The Circle, with hoards of Marines and Air Force, tourists, and those in search of a good time. There’s even a bathhouse with clean restrooms, plenty of showers, and two large shaded pavilions with gorgeous views of the beach from over the dunes. AND it’s run by the National Park Service, so it’s always clean!

I’ve gotten a little off track, but the point being is: If the gates of the Fort Macon beach access and park didn’t close at dusk, we would have opted to have gone there. Yet, I was intent on wanting to view the fireworks from the beach, with my toes in the sand. So The Circle we went.

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Despite feeling like we were the only sane ones in a nest of crazies… I was having a great time! I love to people watch!

 

We set up at about 3pm. Despite the endless rows of beach umbrellas north and south along the beach, we were able to find a really great spot by a sand dune. We enjoyed frolicking in the waves, digging in the sand, and people watching. At dusk we ate a picnic dinner, followed by a beautiful display of fireworks at nightfall. It was breathtaking to see the reflection of the fireworks  in the water of the Atlantic Ocean.  Fireworks from The Circle all the way down through Pine Knoll Shores and Emerald Isle were visible along the coastline, adding to our show!

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Fireworks over the ocean:-)

Despite the crowds, it was the best 4th of July I’ve had to date. It was also bittersweet, knowing that this may be the last year I have my oldest daughter with us for the 4th of July for an undetermined length of time. She’s made the decision to join the Navy in September when she turns 18. I’m proud of her, and support her yet I want her home for just a few more years!

On Friday afternoon, we packed up the car again,and we went crabbing. I first taught Cory how to crab when we lived in Pensacola at the start of our relationship over 9 years ago. Since then, he’s been hooked. Georgia has always enjoyed it, and Katie has always enjoyed seeing the crabs after we’ve caught them, but not being active in the process. Until this trip.

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On the way to the crab grounds:-)

There are several ways to catch crabs, but we prefer to go back to the basics. It’s not all about the catch, but the process involved that makes it so enjoyable for us. When we’re sitting down in the evening, cracking open our steamed blue crabs over melted butter, knowing we caught them from the sweat of our brow just sweetens the meat!

First we find a low lying pier. We tie chicken necks or chicken legs onto thin rope or twine, wrap one end around a pier post, and drop the chicken onto the floor of the sound. We watch the lines, and when it looks like it’s being pulled or is tight, it’s time to pull up the line. Now listen, if you don’t have any patience, this isn’t for you! You have to get comfortable, and settle in. Start pulling the line, little by little. Don’t do it too fast or the crab(s) will drop off! As the bait and crab attached starts to come closer to the surface, have someone waiting to swoop in with a long handled net and scoop it up! You do have to be fast on that part!

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Here’s Katie, exercising patience and pulling up her line

 

On this trip, Katie became interested in being a very active participant. She was an excellent spotter of the lines, helped pull them up, and even netted a few on her own! I smiled at her enthusiasm and relished the pride she felt, knowing that she will continue to do this with her family one day!

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Katie’s turn at scooping…….did she catch one?

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You bet she did! Look at that priceless smile!:-)

We didn’t catch as many as we’ve caught in the past, but we had enough large ones to have a great appetizer! Time for some Old Bay, melted butter, and lots of napkins!

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Oh so yummy!

A day crabbing, is always a great day well spent!

Saturdays adventure: we ventured out Down East. Down East is a very unique place in itself…largely in part due to the High Tider (pronounced Hoi Toider) accent, a dialect remnant of Elizabethan English that was once spoken in colonial Carolina. These communities include: Bettie, Otway, Straits, Harkers Island, Gloucester, Marshallberg, Tusk, Smyrna, Williston, Davis, Stacy, Masontown, Sea Level, Atlantic and Cedar Island.

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Heading onto Harkers Island

Our destination: Harkers Island for a Down East local fish fry. Harkers Island is a short 40 minute drive passing farmlands, over rivers and through marshlands. The drive always seems to fly by, maybe because I’m always looking out for my favorite birds of the coast, white egrets and great blue herons!

Harkers Island is where we catch a small ferry over to Cape Lookout (accessible only by ferry) and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the ferry that we use, Calico Jacks, is in its last year of operation and all future ferries to the Cape Lookout National seashore will be run by the National Park Service. Such a shame, as the folks at Calico Jacks are some of the most down-to-Earth and kindest I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Driving along Harkers Island, I always look at the houses on the water and the view of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse not far off in the horizon. I always have the same daydream, that I’m ending my evenings on my back porch on Harkers Island, with a glass of wine in hand, watching the rotation of the light at the top of the lighthouse in the twilight sky. It’s not a daydream for long, as I’m usually jarred back to reality by the sound of “mommy” coming from the backseat!

At the far Northern end of the island, is the Core Sound and Waterfowl Museum and the Cape Lookout National Seashore visitors center, and it’s the end of the island.  Literally, the end. You are prevented from going any further by a barricade at the water’s edge and the road suddenly ends.

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Core Sound and Waterfowl Museum

We grabbed our fish fry plates to-go and walked across the street to enjoy our lunch under a shaded picnic pavilion. Toes in soft grass, seagulls perched on the next pavilion, waiting for a crumb to fall, the cool ocean breeze, sounds of the water splashing on the bulkheads, and the view of the lighthouse in our horizon.

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A million dollar view to have lunch at!

Let…me…tell…you! The folks of Harkers Island come from a long line of fisherman. By trade and by necessity to feed their families. They KNOW how to cook some fish! I’ve had my share of fish along the coast of NC and nothing compares to the fish we had on Saturday!

Local grouper and mahi, cooked just right, until it flaked apart with a touch of a toothpick. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and simmered in melted butter and enough lemon to make you get a small pucker of the lips! Our plates came with coleslaw, baked beans, hush puppies, and a variety of homemade cake slices to choose from… and who can forget an ice cold cup of iced tea!!!

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I nearly foam at the mouth when I think of how out-of-this-world the fish was!

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mmmm mmmmm delish!

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all smiles from the Katie Bug!

As I enjoyed the feast, I was lost in my happy place. I was watching boats race past us, and kayakers paddling back to Harkers Island. The water was gorgeous, with shades of blues and greens. I watched Katie run around the picnic grounds, herself lost in exploration.

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My little explorer!

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LUCKY DUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After eating, we walked the soundside nature trail. It was such a beautiful walk through a well-maintained trail, with views of the sound the entire way. At one point there was a little beach area, perfect for getting “lost” in your surroundings, and my favorite point of interest was a long pier stretching out over the marshlands, ending over the sound. I took my shoes off and sat on the edge of the pier, enjoying the smell of salt in the air, the view of nothing for miles…and the feel of the breeze flapping my sunhat.

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A perfect soundside beach to have a private picnic!

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Katie and I taking a breather on our walk…whatever possessed me to wear chino’s on a day like this day…. .I have no idea!

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Wanna take a walk?????

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My idea of ……forever.

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For a happy wife, just add salt water and ocean breezes:-)

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A race to position with the self timer set for a family pic!

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The soundside of Harkers Island…where the grass meets the sound.

It was a slice of heaven. A moment where time seemed to stand still and the absence of cars, houses, and people added an unearthly tranquility.

But alas, all things must come to an end, and it was time to go home. Once we made the return walk back to our car, I stopped to stare at Cape Lookout in the distance… and with sweat glistening skin, longed for a dip in the clear turquoise blue water and to taste the salt on my lips. But ahh, sigh… The day was getting late and swimming wasn’t on the agenda on this trip.

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Katie and Daddy, the perfect end to a perfect day

 

My Aunt and Uncle from New York are coming for a visit the first week in August. I’ve been to Cape Lookout a few times, but never with them! Last visit, I took them to Shackleford Banks. They don’t know it yet, but I’ve already penciled in a day to take them exploring Cape Lookout, and to enjoy my day in the turquoise water, tasting the saltwater on my lips….the countdown has begun!

You can shake the sand from your shoes, but never from your soul….

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A stop by the shrimp and fish boats on the way home….an islands generational backbone.

 

Propping up my Sandy Feet

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Hello my friends, family, and followers! I hope you each had a spectacular July the 4th!

The past three days have been absolutely amazing! The family and I have taken advantage of the extra time off for the holiday by enjoying a different activity in a different place along our beautiful Crystal Coast. One thing each fun filled day had in common with each other, is that they were spent by the water! What these activities were, will have to wait until tomorrow for details and photos! 

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Showing love Thursday…. from SandyFeetMom while at Atlantic Beach,NC

 

I had enthusiastic intentions on punching down a blog tonight, but after stepping out of a much needed hot shower, my body has other plans for me…like turning off my laptop, crawling under my comforter, between my soft sheets, and resting my head on a mound of soft pillows. My bed.. my second favorite place, after the beach:-)

Til tomorrow… sleep tight… and Good Night all!

As always… warmest wishes, from…………………..

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Atlantic Beach, NC July 4th, 2013….. wish you all were here!

 

 

 

 

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