What’s in the bag, baby?

So I carry around my beach bag more than I carry a purse. That’s saying quite a lot about where I spend most of my time, right?  I mean, I’m more comfortable in a pair of fins than a pair of flip-flops (or as we say in Hawaii, “slippahs”), I see more clearly through my mask than I do my eyeglasses, and I’d rather wear sunscreen than makeup.  Whether I’m having a relaxing day on the beach and frolicking around in the shore break or donning my fins and kicking out a few hundred feet offshore to explore our ocean, I never leave home without my beach bag.

Aside from the obvious of my fins, snorkel, mask, defogger spray, a ball cap for keeping the sun off my face, and towels tucked inside this large beach tote from TJ Maxx ( ya’ll….super cute, only $7.99, made of heavy-duty cotton and has a waterproof lining in the bottom) there’s a smaller bag inside the SURF. bag that holds a few of my favorite must-have beach items. I always get a compliments on my beach hair and my beach bags, so today I thought I’d share with you what makes my beach hair and what’s inside those bags!

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Beach Bag must-haves! Both of these cute bags are from TJ Maxx.  A Kindle for those lazy days in the chair with toes in the sand. An Olympus Tough TG-860 waterproof camera-crazy settings for underwater scenes (some of my friends with DSLR and waterproof housing are amazed at the quality of photos for this little point and shoot guy!). Sun Bum sunscreen because it smells so good and  with the Hawaiian sun bringing us the most direct sunlight in the country, I never leave home without it. A KIND popped salted caramel bar for that power munchie I need after coming out of the water. SPF 15  coconut flavored lip balm by Kopa Haiku. And lastly, my favorite…Biomega Moisture Mist for my hair after I come out of the water. Scroll down to read about this MUST-HAVE for your summer days at the beach!

As you can see, I’m always in the water. Be it:

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Diving for pin cushion sea stars…..

Or…

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Snorkeling in the shore break to find shells…

 

Or…

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Riding the waves on our giant Toucan float…

Or:

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Swimming with the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

And my hair, my hair, oh my hair!!  You can imagine what it looks like after being in the sun and salt water all day. It’s completely crazy on a normal day, but on an ocean day, forget about it!  This is where I need to tell you about the most AHH-MAZING hair product I’ve ever used. I’m not one for the fuss and muss of makeup and hair products. I’m usually good to go with freshly shampoo’d and air dried hair, a little mascara, a tap of cheek color, and swipe of tinted lip gloss. So it’s kinda a big deal when I rave over something in the beauty department!

It’s that little spray bottle in the first picture of this post. It’s only a 2 oz size, and not the regular 10 ounce size bottle, as it was included in one of my Birchbox subscriptions. The Aquage Biomega Moisture Mist conditioner. Below is a picture of without use and with use…

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Left: Without using Biogmega Moisture Mist Conditioner…wow.  Right: after using it. BIG difference! Soft, springy curls…no frizz.

Once I get out of the water and towel dry my hair, I immediately spray this leave in conditioner into my hair and then give it a tousle with my fingers, finally letting it air dry as I relax in the sun and wiggle my toes in the sand. The scent alone of it is dreamy!  I seriously can’t imagine living without it. I’d rather live without coffee, and that’s, well… wait, did I really say that?

Its  uber-light infusion of energizing vitamins and essential minerals revives dry, fine, or dull hair. Aquage Biomega Moisture Mist Conditioner leaves your hair feeling soft, bouncy, hydrated, helps detangle and gives beautiful beach curls. You can feel a difference as soon as you spray it into your wet hair all the way until after  it dries as you’re soaking in the sun, seriously, you won’t want to wash your hair after you leave the beach!

Usually I buy things from Amazon Prime, for the free shipping and because the prices are better than other sellers on the internet. Today I needed to buy a full size  10 ounce bottle, and was saddened to see that the seller on Amazon will not send the product to Hawaii. Bummed, I kept looking and I found it on another site, they shipped for free AND to Hawaii, AND even better, it was on sale! Amazon had it for $22.00 but LifeCo US had it on sale for $12 a bottle, with FREE shipping! I bought two! Two for only two dollars more than what one bottle would have been on Amazon, provided they would have shipped it to Hawaii even with the free shipping. Sweeeet!

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There you have it! Price comps. $12.00?! Grab it ladies, and make it a part of your summer beach bag must-haves!

Now you can honestly say “Beach hair, Don’t care!” and look amazing while saying it! No more hiding it under a hat. Just let it air dry, and enjoy the benefits of this life changer in a bottle!

What are some of your favorite beach bag must-haves? I’d love to hear what they are, so leave me a comment sharing your faves!

As always, thank you for stopping in and giving me a visit. It always means so much to me! Happy Summer, y’all!

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The fish weren’t feeling the paparazzi today, so I just enjoyed the watching the waves from another perspective.

Sea Glass-Trash turned Treasure

My name is April, and I’m an addict. A sea glass addict. Every single day I wonder what treasures along the shores of this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that are waiting to be found. There’s something therapeutic about walking along the beach, the salty air in each inhale, the wind in my hair, the sound of the waves crashing on shore.

As I just hit a milestone of having hit over  10,000 pieces of sea glass that I’ve collected in the past two years from this little rock of paradise known as Oahu, Hawaii, I thought I’d spotlight the topic for today’s post.

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Usually at the start of my excursion..a hat, glasses and a long sleeve shirt (my FAVE from Project Aloha!!) and layers of sunscreen as Hawaii gets the most direct sunlight of anywhere on the mainland. By the time that I’m done, my core body temperature is through the roof. If I’m lucky and at a remote place, desperate times call for desperate measures. Shedding it all to be at one with nature in a cooling tide pool!

 

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At the 3,000 piece mark…a pile of clears, whites, amber, browns, limes, kelly, and other greens.

Then there’s the excitement of finding a gem of a piece of sea glass, and the mystery behind a piece that has great markings or is an unusual color. Sometimes I spend hours through a week investigating online the origin of a single piece. Besides the jars of greens, browns, blues, aquas, and whites being beautiful to display in front of a window, each piece can have it’s own story. What it once was, where it came from, how long it’s been tumbling in the ocean, and more. Many pieces, to reach a state of readiness, have been tumbling in the ocean for anywhere between 20-30 years, sometimes even 50, or even longer… a 100 years!

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Speaking of 50 to 100 years!! How about even longer?! This is a good size piece of black sea glass. At first look I thought it was a rock, but once I picked it up I knew by the curve that it was a piece of the bottom of a bottle. A very lucky find!! Black sea glass usually has a tint of dark olive when it’s held into the light. This piece has excellent frosting and “c” marks abound. Black glass was likely produced before 1880, when certain medications or liquids like rum, beer, or wine needed refridgeration but as we know, that wasn’t available during that period. Black sea glass made it difficult for light to penetrate, therefore hard to spoil the contents inside the black glass bottle. Black sea glass is virtually impossible to find, due to the rarity and also due to how it is easily overlooked as pebbles or rocks. See? Sure am happy that I decided to bend down and observe this piece a bit more closely!

Perfection is when it’s completely smooth, no shiny or sharp areas, frosted and full of “C” marks. Pieces that are still sharp get sorted through and I throw them back into the ocean to continue the process for another few decades…unless it’s a piece that’s really unusual, then I can’t help but keep it! Here’s an interesting read from Juniperaveryseaglass on Instagram about “C” marks and sea glass authenticity versus fake sea glass.

 

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Yes, sea glass originated as trash however to many it’s viewed as treasure. A majority of those who have a bowl of sea glass sitting on a table for display in their home are unaware of just how special sea glass is. Many have no idea about the origins and history of the pieces to the process of how they become these beautiful finds, and are even unaware that some colors are more rare than others.

If you are just starting out as a collector, I’d recommend ordering one of the sea glass color and rarity guide charts from Meg Carter as you see below on my display table. You can order it here: http://www.madebymeg.net.  Since I’ve ordered mine some time ago, she now offers them laminated for those who don’t wish to put them in a frame. How convenient is that, just unroll it on the table, put your glass pieces on it for comparison and simply wipe it clean afterwards! I think I’m going to need to order one, just for that purpose while keeping the framed one for display on the wall.

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Just a few of my jars on top of a cabinet that my father started to make for me before he fell ill with cancer. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to finish it before passing away, so I picked up where he left off. What a wonderful piece full of sentimental value to display my cherished sea glass. If you’re on Instagram, follow me @sandyfeetmom to keep up with my adventures!

As plastic has replaced glass rapidly over the past few decades and as the hobby of collecting sea glass has gained popularity, sea glass is becoming harder and harder to find. A great example is at two beaches in the United States. Both called Glass Beach, aptly named! One is in California at Ft Bragg, and the other is on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Both beaches were once treasure troves full of various sizes and colors of sea glass. As the hobby for collecting grew, the glass on the beaches dwindled, leaving mostly little sand shaped pebbles of sea glass.

There’s a wealth of information across the internet on sea glass and a handful of books printed on the topic. There’s informational pages, Facebook groups dedicated to collecting, Ebay and Etsy are chock full of listings for sale, and Instagram has hundreds of collectors sharing photos of their loot. With all the information that’s available out there, I’ll forego a lengthy wordy post and opt to share a few of my favorite photos. If you’re interested in the mystery of sea glass, check out the links I’ve posted at the end of this post.

So let’s take a virtual walk together as I share some of my favorite places, pieces and a story or two!

Here’s a few of my favorite beaches on Oahu to look for sea glass.

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North Beach on the Windward Side. This is a calm day, but after a good winter swell there’s all kinds of goodies to be found washing ashore.

 

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My home office. Along Ft Hase beach on the Windward side, facing Kailua Bay with a view of the Mokes in Lanikai. Often times after scouring the crevices of this stretch, I stop at this spool which serves for a perfect table and take a peak at my findings.
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I stopped to take this picture during a walk along an area known by locals as “Zombies” because of the wave crashing upon the shelf. Never turn your back on the ocean in Hawaii. Rogue waves have washed many an unexpected tourists off the shore and many don’t make it back out.  It can take hours to look inside all these crevices. It’s also a popular place to find Japanese glass fishing floats that have washed in from the waters of Japan. I usually take a screw driver with me because some pieces get really wedged in these grooves and it can take a bit of finagling to get them out. All a part of the adventure and exploration!
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It’s just me and my shadow on this day at Sandy’s looking for sea glass.

Here on the island of Oahu, it’s not as easy to find sea glass as some areas of the world like the long stretches of California coast, the banks of the Great Lakes, or the shores of England and Scotland where beachcombers can just walk the tide line and see the treasures laid out in front of them. Sometimes I find the glass scattered across the shore line from a good days ocean swell, but most of the time, I’m wedged into crevices of sharp limestone. Inside these crevices is where there can be inches deep of coral bits, broken shells, rocks, and if I’m lucky, a few pieces of sea glass mixed in.

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Scouring my favorite spots for sea glass is a family affair. From my visiting cousins to each of my daughters, and even my husband- we get down on our hands and knees, sifting through layers of coral washed ashore and crushed shells together.

These are a few of my favorite things…

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Excited to be filing this new display case with a few favorite finds… coca-cola bottle pieces, ones with unique patterns or writing, an area for my peaches and purples, also cobalt blues and smokey ones…. pieces of Japanese glass fishing floats that broke before washing ashore, military ammo casings with beautiful patina and rust, fossilized Samoan crab claws, and a handful of sea pottery.
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Every haul gets a bath, then sorted out while wet to see the true colors as the frosting on pieces can have an effect on the coloring.
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Look at that beautiful little purple piece … I’m in heaven when I’m sitting outside after a morning of combing the beach, listening to music, and looking at my treasures.

 

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These are my favorite finds. I love, love , LOOOVE this color. The large piece on the left and the one in the rocks on the right are both from Japanese glass fishing floats.
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Lets talk about Japanese glass fishing floats. These are the beachcombers Holy Grail. To find of one these, count yourself blessed, as I did when I found my first one (above). These fishing floats are no longer in production. They were made with recycled sake bottles and hand-blown, thus forming the bellybutton or nipple as seen above. In the above two pictures, the left is the bellybutton of one that I found, the one on the right is a collage of one piece of another fishing float that obviously broke before making its way onto the rocky shoreline.

The below is of the beauty that I found pictured above.  I couldn’t believe my luck that day as I had walked 5 miles along a rocky shoreline and was within 100 feet of my car when I looked down and saw this gorgeous girl floating at my feet. Look at those air bubbles in the glass!

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Sometimes debris washes ashore from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. One of the common, but still rare, finds is the red light bulb pictured above. These came from Japanese fishing boats, likely broken off during the tsunami. Amazing that they wash ashore thousands of miles away!  Other pieces featured: a piece of pottery bead, and interesting pieces with words or designs.
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Some days aren’t as bountiful as others, but there’s always a treasure no matter the size of the haul.
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This ginormous haul was from my visiting cousins. I always enjoy sorting through my visiting friends loot and answering their questions about what an item is.
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Sometimes I come across something that I haven’t a clue as to what it is. In a future post I’ll do a beach combing post with more items such as shells, tsunami debris, etcetera but for right now, I had to include this special piece. I’ve sent the photo to a few zoologists and archaeologists and have yet to get a definitive answer on what this might be. Some say it might be a large chunk of Earthenware crock, others say some sort of bone from perhaps a Hawaiian Monk Seal or a humpback whale. If I ever get the answer, I’ll be sure to post it!

And lastly… as we’re on the subject of treasures of the sea, I can’t skip this  bit.  Please think about this below. It’s been predicted that by the year 2050, we will have more trash in the ocean than fish. That’s nauseating. The ocean can naturally recycle items back into the ocean, but it can take years… decades… just for ONE piece of trash to biodegrade. The next time you’re at the beach and see garbage, do the animals in the ocean and our future generations a favor, pick it up and throw it away. Chart_biodegradable.jpg

Are you a fellow sea glass collector or just starting out? I’d love to hear from you: about your experiences, answer any questions, give some tips to those who might be visiting Oahu soon, or let’s just…as we say in Hawaii…. “talk story”!

As always, thank you for taking the time today to stop by my little blog!

For more information on sea glass:

http://www.seaglassjournal.com

http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/travel/sea-glass

http://www.drbeachcomb.com

http://www.odysseyseaglass.com/what-is-sea-glass.html

Compulsive Shoppers – Do not read!

Warning:
If you’re a compulsive shopper, have hoarding tendencies, or just can’t pass up a good deal knowing you that you absolutely don’t need the item…STOP here! Don’t continue on. Do not pass go Just don’t. It won’t be good for you, I promise!

Alright, now that you’ve been warned…don’t say you weren’t!! I have it in the above writing, stored for eternity on my blog post with witnesses from across the World Wide Web*giggle*!!!!

Okay, so yeah… anyway, the purpose of my blog has never been done with the intention of focusing in on one audience. I like to share all good things. Helpful tips, food from my own kitchen, a plate of goodies from the local bakery, advice, experiences, directions…you name it. It’s just who I am and that’s just what my blog is about. Sharing.

I’m busting out of the seams with excitement over sharing this with you. Oh my gosh! You’re going to love this!

Do you like a sale? Not just any ordinary sale for pennies or 10% off an item. I’m talking like a “Crappers, that’s an amazing deal!!!” kind of sale? Even better, do you like to receive items for free? Like good stuff. Not like your local grocery store “Buy one, Get one free” deal, haha.

If you do, you NEED to go… RIGHT now… to http://www.reviewkick.com and create an account. Review Kick works with sellers who are trying to promote their products on Amazon.  The seller gives you a massive discount, sometimes even the item for free, in exchange for your honest and unbiased review of the product.

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A few of the goodies I’ve received: Top L-R: My favorite magazine subscription to read on the beach and an electric air pump for all of our floaties! Bottom L-R: A microfiber towel for drying off on the boat, and a LED wrist band for my husband to wear when he runs at night.

 

I thought there had to be some kind of catch to it when I first learned about Review Kick. It had to be. No one gets anything for free. Not of quality, at least. It had to have hidden costs at the best and at the worst it was a scam. So I did a little research on it, and within a few days later, I was convinced enough to say “What the hell.” and had created an account with them.

 

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More goodies! Top L-R: Chalk markers for getting creative on our chalk memo board and utensil holders (3 pack) that eliminates a need for messy spoon rests.  Bottom L-R: A beach mat for reading Coastal Living mags while the family plays in the water and a set of coasters for entertaining out on the patio in the evenings.                                        

 

Here’s how it works:

Go to the website: http://www.reviewkick.com and create an account. You MUST have an Amazon account in order to register. This was easy for me. Living in Hawaii, Amazon Prime has saved me hundreds of dollars in shipping!!!
Every day there are new items listed. Even in a matter of hours it updates.
I’ll tell you now, there are a lot of items that I wouldn’t find useful. Handfuls of belly button rings, unmentionable adult toys, cheap jewelry, etc. However with that said, there REALLY are some good deals. Every item I’ve received and reviewed, I’ve used and needed. Just have patience when sorting through, and don’t sit long on an item if you’re thinking about requesting it. Sellers only give out a limited number of codes.

 

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And yes… MORE! Top L-R: Hammock tree straps for my travel hammock, you know…for those palm trees here in Hawaii! Solar LED lights for the front porch. Bottom L-R: lightening fast usb charging cord for husbands Iphone and a waterproof bag with waterproof phone case for those days on my kayak exploring the bay.

Once you find something that you’re interested in, you click to request the offer. If you’ve been approved, Review Kick will send you an email with a code. You’ll click on the Amazon product link, which directs you to the Amazon website with the said product. Simply put it in your cart, and at checkout, paste the code given in the email and ta-da, you’re done.
The important part is to promptly leave a fair and unbiased review after you receive your item. You will need to state in your review that you received the product at a discount in exchange for your review. That’s really important…but if you read the terms at Review Kick, you’ll know this by that point in time.

Most of all the products I’ve gotten from Review Kick were anywhere between 50% to 90% off, even at times a 100% off.

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This life jacket just arrived yesterday! I was so excited to get this. My little man here, Finn, loves to go on adventures with me. He’s a perfect companion in my kayak, but just as my own safety is important, so is his. He doesn’t look thrilled in this picture, but I promise you, he was jumping up in the air  and ready to go!

Once you start leaving reviews on Amazon, other sellers will seek you out to review their products. This is where it gets really, really good!

I’ve been noticing an onslaught of emails from unrecognized senders in my inbox as of late. They are from sellers who have noticed that I post active reviews on Amazon and they are hungry for mine. So hungry, that all items they’ve requested that I review, have been free. That includes the shipping. Honestly, 8 out of 10 I have no interest in and have to pass, BUT there are those times that something really good comes along!

For example. I bought a ginormous (I know that’s not an actual word, but you know… between giant and enormous, it works) inflatable swan from Amazon for my 10-year-old to ride the waves with at our neighborhood beach. It’s a hit with everyone on the beach, watching this giant white swan gracefully float over the top of 3 foot waves. It’s fun for the rest of the family and for our visiting friends as well. We’ve had so many laughs riding that swan! Most of the time they range between $50 and upwards of $100 on Amazon, depending on the seller. I was lucky. I had it on my list with Amazon and when it went on sale for $29 with free shipping, an alert went to my phone immediately. My daughter loves riding it with her best friend, it’s that large where two 10 year olds can ride it, and even 2 adults, easily. I had been thinking maybe I should have ordered two. One for her and a friend, or to have when we have friends and family visiting the island. It was still on my mind this morning.

 

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Good times on the great white swan… or as Katie calls it, Sir Marshmallow! As you can see in the top right, I’m not as graceful as the swan, or as agile as the girls!!

This afternoon I was sorting through my email when I came across a seller who wanted to send me a similar float but instead of a white swan, it’s a black toucan bird! Same size, same dimensions, but even cooler, it has the ability to be blown up with cold air from a hair dryer. The swan I had to take down to my neighborhood gas station and use the air pump, and when fully inflated it was so large that I had to use tie downs on our surf racks to get it back home. Can you imagine that sight??? So this was a definite plus. Just grab the hair dryer, inflate, and walk it down to the neighborhood beach.

I looked it up on Amazon, and it was being sold for $59 and some change. With my code that the seller gave me, it was FREE. Yes. FREE! And with my Amazon Prime free shipping… more free goodness!

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Before payment on the Toucan, and after with the sellers code applied. FREE! Heck yea! Can’t wait for the invasion of the giant bird floats at the neighborhood beach!

I can…not… wait to get this float! Tomorrow the kids get out of school for summer break, and what else do we do in Hawaii during the summer? Umm, go to the beach every day! My daughter will be riding the waves with her best friend, each on their own bird, oh the laughs they’ll have. It’ll be arriving just in time for another wave of mainland friends coming to visit during June, July and the first of August. Our little cove beach will look like a petting zoo!

So, here’s my point. If you like a good deal, sign up on Review Kick. If you like to get free stuff, keep leaving reviews on Amazon. It’s like a domino effect. Thankfully, I have a healthy dose of discipline and self-control and don’t buy things that I don’t need or won’t use. No matter the deal or how great it is. Just like a yard sale or garage sale, sometimes with Review Kick you have to weed through the junk to find a keeper.

As always, I love to get your comments, experiences, and questions! So drop me a line and let me know how it works out for you!

Happy savings, y’all and have fun!

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…

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

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.

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.