Morning Bike Rides

Watermelon.  Key lime. Tangerine. Lemon.  Cranberry.

These were just a few of the whimsical house colors that lined the beach and road opposite us a we rode our bikes daily along the street running alongside the ocean in Emerald Isle, NC.

Mid-20th century bungalows are situated next to statelier, multi-level clapboards,  all overloaded with balconies and scattered widow walks overlooking the Atlantic and the Bogue Sound. Some had amusing names like “Vitamin SEA” and “R&R” and “Mermaid’s Cove”, others marked with fluttering flags, scrubby gardens, gates open and closed.  A stately white home with black trim stands tall above the rest looking more like it belongs on a New Orleans boulevard than in a sleepy beach town.

It amazes and impresses us the non-motorized traffic along this road each morning.  There are thicker, thinner, high school, middle aged runners, dog walkers, a family biking, then another,  multi-generational families walking, several groups loaded with gear crossing to the beach already, fishermen returning from shoreline solitude.

It is wonderful to see so many people outside, getting some exercise, being together  or releasing stress before hitting the beach, the store, the mini-golf, the arcades, the boats.   Maybe work? If only everyday could be like this.

Slate. Sand. Forest green. Twilight.  Snow.   C

RIP Aunt Lorene

My Aunt Lorene passed away this week, her final months spent in home-care hospice.  It seems a cliché of being sad, but also being a blessing to let her go.  It  is also ironic that this now Midwestern girl was just several states south of her New Jersey, vacationing along the NC southern Outer Banks in Emerald Isle, NC when she passed away.

 

Mixed within the joy of our trip, a tinge of unexpected sorrows as many memories of my childhood at the Jersey shore summers with she and my family were refreshed in my mind.  With thirty-plus cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents we vacationed at the shore many years running.

 

What simple yet incredible times we had with extended family dining outdoors with her husband (my Uncle Walt), my father and other uncles playing horseshoes and spitting watermelon seeds in an epic battle, card games, riding waves, catching crabs from a boat and flounder from the shoreline, her sons  Paul and Mike trying to teach us to surf,  her daughter Margie our summer girl several years running, shell seeking with Nana and the aunts.

 

As we grew older, my family’s trips to the Jersey shore became less frequent, but I have different memories of Elaine’s birthday with us wearing tacky paper hats for long after the cake disappeared, happy hours, my father and his siblings louder than those of us who rented the house, beach umbrellas, more crabbing and boil,  dancing with Diane,  sandy naps, and a myriad of cousins, spouses, kids descending upon our house.

 

I have not seen my aunt in several years, since another family trip to the Seven Springs resort in PA.  But my rememberances are strong, as I now create beach memories with my own children.  What they remember some twenty, thirty years later, I cannot tell, but I hope they remember the fun, the positive, the challenging, the hopeful.

 

Rest in peace, Aunt Lorene, with the family gone before. You deserve it. C

Relentless

Unexpectedly, I- the long-time water bug and ocean lover–was afraid to join my kids in the Atlantic Ocean riding the waves on an extremely windy day with huge, rough waves.  I grew up at the Jersey shore, don’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to swim.  Several days ago, it took me over an hour to move past waist deep.

This was so unexpected, how standing in the churning waters took me immediately back to a similarly rough ocean, on the Pacific coast by Del Mar CA, when my friend Joni* almost drowned while we were swimming.  The flashback was so absolute, so real, I was stunned.

I could so vividly remember that afternoon in Del Mar, on a business trip, Joni* and I swimming out , playing and  laughing,  the sand almost too deep to touch.   After some great long rides atop the careening waves, we realized the current was pulling us further and further from the shore.   We tried to freestyle in, making a little progress before the current pulled us away from the shore, waves continually crashing above us. And what exactly was the useless lifeguard doing? Nothing.

Starting to tire, Joni began a slow rise to panic mode.  Her eyes wide, she exclaimed, “I can’t do this anymore.”

“Yes you can,” her fear keeping my own fears at bay.  “Swim over here.  I will help you.”

She grasped desperately at my neck, pulling me under, feet flailing.

“Stop!” I screamed.  “That will kill both of us.  Put your arms around my neck.  When I tell you, as the wave is breaking, hold your breath.  We are going to dive under the wave and work our way in.”

So we began the excruciatingly slow journey of movement towards the beach. Entangled with each other, I would watch the waves breaking above us, yell “NOW!”, we would duck under the water, and I would try to push off the churning bottom directing us to the shore.  It was exhausting, overwhelming, trying to remain strong with a very fearful (thankfully, very thin) friend.  I wondered if we would finish the journey, but I was definitely not going to let Joni drown.

As we got closer to shore, our friend and co-worker started swimming out from the short, a smile on his face. I urgently waved him over, trying to hide my wave from Joni, just continuing our movements towards the shore. We were now out of the break zone, but I was holding her while swimming in.  Mark’s smile vanished as he realized I was holding Joni up, and he swam more urgently in our direction as we continued our trek towards the shore.

“Mark! Help us!” she yelled when she saw him, throwing her arm around him and pulling him briefly under the waves as she grabbed for him.

Lightened of my load while Mark helped her in,  and in now a calmer section of water, I was able to easily now swim the rest of the way in to where I could stand.  Mark got Joni to the beach, and shakily we both sat on the sand,  caught our breath.  My muscles ached, my brain exhausted as I realized one or both of us could have truly drowned that gorgeous day.  I truly think Joni’s panicking helped me not to freak out.

So this nearly-forgotten day of maybe 18 years passed was bouncing in my brain as I stood in the waves, bile held back.  I could feel the loss of breath, kicking in the sand, visualize the relentless waves.

Today is a respite. Large but not overwhelming waves with a friendlier current, we rode waves for over than hour this morning.  No breaks.  As the day should be, kids laughing, salt mustaches, freestyling to the crest of the wave, then flipper kicks to keep the momentum to shore.  Still got it, after a day of remembrances, and a story to tell my kids about how important it is to respect the ocean while playing in it. C

*name changed

Our San Diego Excursions

For those who asked me what to do in San Diego, it is a candy store of adventure: playlands, beaches, shopping and  phenomenal sunsets for those who seek it. The entire western border of beaches, tidepools,  dolphins riding waves with surfers unending beauty itself.

We stayed in a lovely condo in Oceanside, about 40 miles north of San Diego, right on the beach.  My son and several of his cousins ventured with the dads to Legoland–as Bob calls it “Crack for Kids.”  Being the Legomaniac, he was obsessed.  Kids over 12 might be bored, but the younger set can play for hours with the legos, ride the rides, see the amazing Lego exhibits.

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Everything was set for the Lego innauguration.

 

 

You could spend each day at a different park, with an unending budget–which we did not have.  We made the right choice and spent the day at San Diego Wild Animal Park, since there is nothing like that around here.  On the tour around the park you feel like you are seeing the animals in the natural habitats, as you learn about how many are endangered or almost lost from civilization.  All the kids and adults loved it!

imgp5513There were also mini-habitats for birds and monkeys.  And fun (shhh..they’re educational) programs.

 

The older girls wanted to shop, shop–ick. But they found a couple stores in La Jolla to spend their money in, after I made them hike in Torrey Pines State Reserve.  Not the most spectacular place I have hiked, but pretty enough, with relatively easy, but hilly 1 hour hikes. 

jumping tide pools
jumping tide pools

But even with all the explorations we did, the kids really wanted to just head to the beach and play in the sand, find shells and rocks, jump the waves, grab the waves, play volleyball, and hang out with each other and us.

We adults looked forward to the evening sunsets on the deck, drinks in hand, an array of food and cameras spread on the table.

sand time!
sand time!
view from the deck!
view from the deck!
It was a wonderful place to visit.  Hope you enjoyed your 70th, mom! C

An Oceanside Day

What a way to energize in the morning, as you meditate, exercise, lose yourself,  find yourself, forget yourself

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waiting for the perfect wave with the dolphins circling and then catching your wave,

then as the evening approaches, an explosion of colors

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morphing into cotton candy clouds

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another sun-kissed day. C

Weekend Getaway #1

Nine children, ages 2 to 13, climbed up the hill from the Lake Michigan beach to the rented villa at Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, WI.  They had a very busy morning of playing in the tall grasses, building forts with old branches and weaving grasses together for the sides then jumping in the frigid water to cool off. Ah, the creativity when the TV and ipods and video games are turned off is amazing.

We parents relaxed on the beach,  strolling to the water’s edge, then wandering to see the kid’s project in creation, enjoying the slow weekend.  Blue Harbor was a fabulous nearby family getaway–only a 2 hour drive, where we could enjoy the beach in the morning, the indoor water park in the rainy afternoon, and sneaking to the outdoor pool when the sun reappeared.

We had as much fun as the kids on the twisty slides, racing each other on tubes and without.  When the bell sounded, everyone hustled to stand under the boat where 1000 lbs of water would dump on our heads.  And then finishing the waterpark time with a stint in the hot tub.

We had fascinating evening weather–enjoying cocktails on our deck while there were lightening storms where the horizon joined the water, clouds miraculously appearing as the thunder rumbled, then streaks of lightning crashing down to the waves.  After several hours of this fascinating sky, an orange orb cautiously arose from the water, peeking behind the clouds, then the moon lit the beach as it finally rested proudly above the receding clouds.

Having vacationed with the other 2 families before, we easily shared the food and drink preparation throughout the weekend.  It was great to have an extended time to spend with each other, catching up.  While running one morning, Sara and I saw many fisherman with their recent catches laid out on the dock for purchase. 

On our departure we shared a picnic of all the leftover food in a park, donning sweatshirts and hoping to avoid the raindrops. We then started to plan for next year, hoping to explore the town more.  C