An interesting thing happened on the way home from work the other day. ~ I’m gonna lose some readers with this ~ I was listening to NPRradio when something got my attention so much that I felt I was meant to blog about it.
Now for all of you that are going to comment on how it is a sign of old age that I am listening to NPR on the way home instead of something to help me unwind, relax. Don’t worry–I am already afraid of this.
The story was on ‘All Things Considered’. It was on a Winter Song List of people who wrote in on favorite or most inspirational songs and NPR got to pick a winner. The collage of songs caught my attention. The winning song, and story behind it, made me take notice and actually pull over to write down the author, the title to the song, and the winning contributor so I could follow-up when I got home.
The winning song was Brandi Carlile’s “Dying Day.” It’s an upbeat acoustic song about a writer longing for her love that is far away while she is on the road. Its a real catchy song in its own right but it is not what drew me in. Take a listen while you read on . . . .
You see the author of this winning story on NPR was locked in an adoption. She was going to adopt a darling 5 ½ month little girl from Ethiopia. She was on an international adoption trip where she had the opportunity to meet the potential baby she wanted to adopt.
For those not familiar with international adoptions, usually you sign on for an adoption program, you state what types of children you are willing and not willing to adopt, factoring in everything from race to birth defects to parental drug use and so on. Everything. The agency eventually matches you up with a child and you have to make the long trip to meet the child to see if each one is compatible with the other. Then you talk to the government agency, fly home and wait to hear if you have been approved or not.
The potential mother was Joanna Woodbury of Wauwatosa, Wis. and I’ll let her take it from here or you can listen to the episodehere:
“It was awesome, and probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, all in one,” Woodbury says. At the time, the little girl the couple was applying to adopt was just 5 1/2 months old. “We got to be with her for about 45 minutes. I held her for 20, and then she fell asleep. We had to put her down and leave the room, and then take a 4 1/2-hour bus ride back to an Ethiopian court and say, ‘Yes, we want to parent this child.’”
A few days later, they were back in Wisconsin, where there was nothing to do but wait to hear that the adoption had been finalized. It would be a trying 11 weeks before word came through — and during that time, Woodbury says, she found a new appreciation for “Dying Day.”
“I was in the car listening to this song, which has always been a favorite of mine, and all of a sudden the lyrics just meant something different,” she says. “The lyrics are, ‘I just want to kiss you, and I’m going to love you till my dying day,’ and that I should be there to take of you and I can’t be. … It’s all about longing and a little bit of hurt, and just waiting until you get back to that person. And that’s how I felt.”
Meet ‘Nettie’ — short for Netsanet, an Amharic word for freedom
I got it. I knew exactly how she felt. In fact, I couldn’t even listen to that song without tearing up a bit. If you are a parent you probably know too. Now, if any of you are followers of my blog you have to know how I feel about my two little girls. They are a gift from God that have far exceeded my expectations of what being a Dad and raising two toddlers could have ever been. But I think only a few may have guessed by now that our kids are adopted.
My ‘Dying Day’ moment, similar to Joanna Woodbury, was not pre-adoption though. We met our potential birthmother in a meeting prior to the adoption She was beautiful inside and out, as was her mother that came with her. We waited another 10 days ourselves until we found out we were finally going to be parents.
Parents with 10 days to prepare!
But it was so much more before those 10 days. I found out in my early 40′s that we could never have children; Think about it, could never have children. Ever. We tried the IVF procedure several times and while hopes and prognosis always started off high they always ended in tears and silence.
And so, sitting in my car, on the side of a busy roadway, I knew exactly how Ms. Woodbury felt. When we finally were able to receive our new daughter, then about 2 ½ weeks old, we were the happiest people on the planet. But as all you parents know, the magic is only just beginning at that point.
Receiving our new baby girl. The answer to our prayers!
You see I got to stay home on my company’s FMLA plan, to be Stay At Home Dad for the first time, actually seven years ago next Wednesday. I was left with our new beautiful daughter who just slept and ate and pooped and occasionally smiled. And I knew I was going to love her until MY dying day.
Actually, in reality my song was Jimmy Buffett’s, “That’s What Living Is To Me”. The lyrics went,
“..the world’s too big to understand.
Be good and you will be lonesome.
Be lonesome and you will be free.
Live a lie and you will live to regret it.
…that’s What Living Is To Me.”
We had this new tropical DVD version of this song at the time, possibly one of the most scenic videos ever.
We had just gotten back from vacation about 3 months earlier and I was still riding the tropical high. Knowing that my daughter was going to grow up loving Jimmy Buffett just as I did (she has little choice living close to the beach) I would play the scenic DVD for her as we passed the days at home. And when this song came on I would pick her up and hold her gently close to my chest until I could smell her baby’s breath, slowly dance to this song, and quietly sang in her ear,
“That’s what Dylan is to me.
That’s what Dylan is to me.”
So, like Joanna Woodbury, we found our little girl(s), or did they find us? We will continue to love them until our Dying Day. Being flesh and blood means very little to us. These girls are a precious gift to us from God and some very special Angels. That’s what Dylan and Skylar are to us.
I warned you I had a few more beach photo’s from Ocean City with the new camera. So I wanted to unload some for my family and friends and be able to retire this beach vacation theme here in the middle of October.
So bear with me here. If I haven’t scared you off with the pics from our kids on the first two episodes, this won’t hurt much either.
Again, we took a trip to Ocean City, New Jersey, which calls itself America’s Greatest Family Resort. And if you have a young family this is a great place to escape to when the time is right.Well we visited on the shoulders of the off season and so the main attraction of Ocean City, its 2.5 mile boardwalk looked something like this:
The boardwalk is a great family destination for a number of reasons, not least of all is fun, great tasting, and completely unhealthy food. That’s why, literally, the first place we stopped every morning was:
For a breakfast that resembled something like this:
That’s right, there are two warm fresh made, partially eaten donuts for my oldest one, along with some Bavarian Waffles all topped with strawberries. A good father might have suggested she try something a little less ambitious for breakfast. But I was looking forward to finishing it!
And I did!
Then every day, after we finished breakfast, we would peddle on down the boards for some shopping; or probably more food.
Go Dylan Go!
Let me introduce Johnson’s Homemade Popcorn!
Anybody who has ever had fresh, warm, sweet smelling caramel popcorn knows what a treat that is. And Johnson’s makes it ways with about 4 different stands on the boardwalk, each making their own in-house, much like these Popcorn elves, hard at work one beautiful morning.
Manko and Manko Pizza is another Ocean City establishment with a huge reputation on on the boards.
One particular chilly afternoon, I rode my bike down the boardwalk. It was empty. But as I rode past Manko and Manko’s there was maybe three empty seats in the whole place. Its that good!
The other must try, and we did, boardwalk treat is Kohr Brothers Frozen custard. Dylan tried to con me into taking her there every day as she knew it was my favorite spot on the boards.
Our girls HAD TO HAVE the sprinkles EVERY TIME!
Friends if you go to OCNJ and try just these four places then leave it would not have been in vein.
FROZEN custard’s my favorite
The other big reason for the great family fun on their boardwalk are the two big amusement piers.
There are great, carnival style rides here for all ages. I think I have documented them enough so here are just a few more pics
The Casio camera was not so good with fast moving shots. That didn’t stop the guy in the second car from posing though.. I never met him before!
And the customary Pirate, “Arrrgh matey” pose
Of course I am a beach bum. Any vacation of mine has to include some sand and some waves.
I showed a few pics over the weekend of the poetic surf to be found there. I would be misleading if I left you with the idea it was always like that.
One day the ocean was just plain flat
And two days we had rain and storm type winds creating a different look for the beach and the ocean.
But half of our stay the weather did cooperate with us and the girls didn’t mind the chilly ocean temperatures ( as much as I did) to let them get in the way of their fun….
my little surfers..
the camera lens must have been about as cloudy as I was that morning
It must have been a sea monster or Queen Ursula
And as I sat their one afternoon, not worrying about blogs to write, or to-do lists, or finances, or health my eyes kept coming back to these two.
yes, RETIRING like this some day…
I sat there watching them thinking, ‘yea that is the life in retirement for me. I could get use to this life I think; come out on the beach every day and read whatever suits my fancy, while warming in the sun and the crash of the waves for my backdrop. I hear it calling me….’
Well the summer is over. School is in full swing. Football is kicking in on the weekends.
Good Bye Ocean! Good bye coastal weekends! As the King of Somewhere Hot I thrive in the summer. As the temps start to cool I become more of a normal guy I am afraid. Life can be a beach some times.
I went to bed with this dilemma on my mind and the summer solstice creating odd moods and weird dreams.
Like last night, I had this dream where I woke up to a spectacular sunrise…
My family and I rode bikes down to our favorite breakfast joint, Brown’s Donuts, home of the fresh, homemade, warm donuts. It was wonderful! So many choices! So little time…
‘Brown’s Donuts are good but don’t finger them all Skylar
After breakfast we peddled our bikes down to a miniature golf course. Our daughters tried to figure out the difference between putt-putt and hockey while I got to strut my stuff and the King of Somewhere Putt!
‘how hard did you hit that Daddy?’
Later on our ride down the boardwalk we ran across these lowly pirates, begging for more money for the likes of hot caramel popcorn, frozen custard, or yummy fudge.
My favorite letter is ‘Rrrrr’, matey…
We rode our bikes back to the perfect beach! ….just as I thought my summer was over.
The water was nice. The waves were perfect! There was a coastal breeze coming off the mainland making the waves stand up and casting picturesque spray off as they crashed towards the beach; ahhh…shore.
The only thing keeping me from slipping into Margarittaville was a horse fly caught me off guard early in the afternoon, keeping me from completely relaxing with my Jimmy Buffett Ipod. Other than that odd twerk in my dream the beach afternoon was truly classic; a beautiful day on the edge of the continent.
What do you think it means in my dream?
My girls loved it too. The day was so clear we could see all the way to Atlantic City it seems. My girls only noticed this surfer dude, asking me what he was carrying and what’s it for. I told them to stay away girls! Stay, far, far away! In order to take their mind off this peculiar dressed surfer boy I took them to the local amusement pier on the boardwalk. Here they could find rides galore!
They got to ride some of their favorite spinny, thrilling rides….
Plus, some old favorites like engineering Thomas the Train…
Cheer up, the ride will be over soon…
My girls really love trains!
The setting sun cast a spectacular view of the ocean at dusk.
We took a moment in awe of the beauty that this world has to offer.
A well manicured beach…a gift
We thanked God for allowing me to have this special time with my family, in contrast to how I was feeling a year ago. And we decided time was short so we needed to celebrate with one of the greatest gifts known to man…
FROZEN custard’s my favorite
Kohr’s Frozen Custard!
What a dream! If only…
If only it were real. If only I could relive it tomorrow. If only these stupid dreams weren’t dictated by some odd lunar effects.
If only this was not a dream and we could relive all this fun tomorrow!
This past week somebody reminded me I was the King!
Yea, the king of someplace hot!
like every man should be!
the king of someplace hot!
Cause I am melting right here in my spot….
the King of someplace Hot!
So its the weekend of the Fourth of July and I wanted to take you on a tour of my Kingdom….
My Kingdom is adorned and kept with my favorite Wild Flowers to surround me with beauty….
Actually this is the path on the way to our beach where we spent the better part of the morning on the 4th of July. I know, we must be CRAZY to go to the beach on such a touristy weekend. But I was off and so was she. So we loaded up the sled and we drove to the beach at 9am.
We love mornings on the beach. The sea and the weather are more peaceful. We can often beat the traffic and the crowds. And can often find a front row, ocean side seats to the great big blue sea.
Our youngest, Skylar, had a great time playing in the sand and tidal pools
She may be a Princess but she is not afraid to get her hands a little dirty..
This past week she had just finished graduated her first swimming lessons. (Hurray!) Accordingly, she had no fear tearing off to the much larger and louder waves armed with new found confidence and her old reliable floaties…
She had buckets of fun! She even humored Daddy and danced a little jig to his Pineapple Wine Song (she thought she could dance to it better than Daddy)
When it comes to dancing, or looking cute or just being silly old Skye is a natural!
We spent about 3 hours or so along the edge of the continent and when the beach started to shrink with the incoming tide, and Dad started to get a little crispy (no lotion for this beach bum) and the crowds started to fill in we decided take our ‘turn key’ beach gear and head back to civilization
I saw this South Carolina Gamecock tent on the way out. I mean, Really? A tent, tables, chairs, bartenders? Geez? Even the the tourists at the rivaling Clemson Tiger tent had to give them a stare an a “What’s up?”
So some of my faithful readers may wonder where was our oldest during our beach fest?
Well last week her grandparents and Aunt sue came down to see and spoil them a bit…
Christmas in June
The girls were spoiled with gifts and goobs of attention.
Skye’s new summer wardrobe…
And then like typical grand parents style they picked up and left, but not without taking our oldest with them.
So she had to endure the pains and dining with her grandparents for a week. I mean how much fun can that be?
Oh yea, they bought her a horse… meet Hildago everyone…
She is REALLY going to be hard to live with now, isn’t she?
Its OK. Do you know why?
I am the King!
I don’t care how hard you look
you won’t find me in a book
I could melt right on the spot
I’m the king of somewhere hot
Is it cold where you are? We are under yet another winter storm advisory here. I feel a need to escape t some place Hot! So with this Valentine’s holiday coming up had me reminiscing over past holiday trips, since we can’t actually go on one this year. Its been fun looking at pictures and reliving past experiences. It helps take the chill off! Thinking back, the trip that is the most memorable was the year we spent Valentines in Negril, Jamaica. So if you have a few minutes, can I tell you a funny story? Funny, now, that is.
First I have a few disclaimers! A) This vacation trip was a good five years ago. Any resemblances to this blogger in the pictures is merely coincidental. B) All the rumors you have ever heard about Jamaica are true….It is a beautiful tropical island, yes, there is a ganja drug problem there, and tourists do actually disappear there. C) There are many, many beautiful resorts there, most by the big chains from Breezes to Sandals and more. We unfortunately didn’t stay at one of them.
The view I had from my beach chair
Arrival: We flew into Montego Bay airport. Now for a third world air port Jamaica’s was pretty nice, with no hassles upon arrival, once they staffed the Passport arrival area. In fact, it may be one of my favorite air ports because it is small and there is a Jimmy BuffettMargaritaville right on premises. This is particularly cool for when you are waiting for your flight to arrive on the way home. Margaritaville has a great menu and a gift shop that is sure to leave you cashless, in case you had any funds left at the end of your vacation.
As with any trip when leaving the country, always do your research first! One very valuable tidbit we found was find yourself a taxi driver in Jamaica before you arrive. I can’t under estimate this enough, given what we heard about some. We actually found a few advertised on the Internet with references. Stepping out of the air port, on to the curb with your luggage, this piece of research paid off from the beginning.
The cab drivers were thick as thieves, trying to get you to ride in their cab. I immediately pulled out my sheet and asked for “Juan, our cab driver”. They all quieted down in an instant and one said he is over there. We went over to his cab stand, introduced ourselves, and boarded his cab. Once inside this rustic 4 door sedan, he turns around points to a small cooler on the back seat and asks, “ Would either of you care for a Red Stripe? I brought one for each of you.” Score one for Jamaica! (It took almost 7 hours to get a Guinness in Ireland) Double score, since my wife doesn’t drink beer!
It takes about a good two hours to travel to Negril from Montego Bay. So our cabby asked if we were hungry. We said yes. So before we left Montego Bay he pulls off to a quaint road side café; a locals only type of joint. He asked if we ever had Jerk Chicken before? We shook our heads no. So he said, “come on…”
We had our first taste of Jerk Chicken by some locals that knew how to prepare it. It was great! It was served on paper plates with a big helping of dirty rice. I stumbled upon another Red Stripe. So far so good. The rest of our trip to the resort was very bi-polar. Very beautiful scenery coupled with views of poverty ridden towns, that we have grown accustomed to seeing in the Caribbean. It always leaves you wondering what happens to all the tourist money, taxes and jobs that come into a tiny country like this.
The Resort: We arrived at our resort, Merrills III. It was only our third all-inclusive we had been to and easily the least glamorous. But it was what we could afford at the time, and given what we just drove through, very adequate. We unpacked, cased the joint for amenities and waited for dinner…..Jerk chicken and rice. 😦
We ate. We explored. We went to bed. Hmmmm? I can see through the roof. The ceiling above us was very much a thatched roof. We could literally see some stars. Trying to be positive, we thought very appropriate for a beach side resort…as long as it doesn’t rain.
On the other hand, if the property directly beside you happens to be an outside, midnight beach bar, with absolutely no walls, right on the beach, catering to late night beachcombers because the volume is so loud it draws them in from two miles away, then we have a problem. (Sigh) And, yes we were in Jamaica. And, yes every song was reggae but there are some songs that should not be covered in a reggae motif. The Captain and Tennile’s “Muskrat Love” is one for instance. Even after days of hearing this it still made no sense. Live bands playing top 40 hits to a reggae beat just don’t sound good. Reggae songs sound good. The Bee-Gees do not. This bar started around 12 midnight. It was very loud, like our beds were stage front. And the party lasted until the sun came up. Pretty cool if you were 20 or so. I guess.
The beach and ocean was beautiful though. Our room opened up to the pool area (beside the beach bar!) on one side and above the kitchen on the other We had either Jerk Chicken or Jerk Pork everyday for lunch and dinner. And regardless of which entrée we were having that night, the kitchen side always smelled like pot. When in Rome we thought!
Beach: The beach was nice; coarse white sand and clear blue Caribbean waters. Gorgeous! We were there to tan and snorkel and just relax and figured to spend most of our time there. Considering how much sleep we weren’t getting at night (from the outdoor bar silly person!) It was the place to be. Relax with a Red Stripe and soak up some vacation I thought. My foot had to be wrapped in tape every day from a running injury so the idea of walking far in the sand or shallow surf was really out of the question any way.
A wrapped foot kept me on the beach and out of the water
But what is with the armed guards on each side of the resort? The resort had rental police at each side of the beach along the property’s borders. We soon deduced it was from keeping unwanted locals off the property and harassing the guests. A few hours later we found out they were on the beach to keep unwanted locals from harassing the guest….on the beach.
You see the beach front was open to anybody walking by and the best way to describe the traffic along the beach was think about your last professional baseball game you went to. How many vendors marched by you there, selling a wide variety of goodies?
Negril’s beaches were very similar. You had all kinds of locals parading down the beach, trying to sell you their goodies. They tried to sell relaxing tourists everything from aloe plants, baby bananas, jewelry, bandanas, people-who-knew-people that sold the local crop, souvenirs, and even a Valentines Day dinner and snorkeling cruise aboard a sailboat. They all sounded just like those barkers at the ball parks. If you made eye contact they closed in. If you said no, they tried harder. If you got frustrated and asked them to leave, and they figured out you were an American, they called you a racist (we all must be racists in America evidently). This is when the policemen on the beach stepped in. Now this didn’t happen all the time but you did learn not to make eye contact. It is with this type of mentality, of a local beach peddler, that we were advised not walk very far on the beach at night. ..very unfortunate on a Valentine’s getaway!
Now the beach wasn’t all bad. We walked up to a locals craft market and found some nice things to bring home. We found another Margaritaville beach bar about a mile in the other direction down the beach. This was very nice; like a mini resort. We spent half of our souvenir money there it seems. It turns out half of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville’s are located in Jamaica, which is another story (summed up in the video at the end). But if you are a fan, it was a pretty cool place to be on in barefoot, sun burned, half-naked on vacation.
I blew out my flip-flop
We met other nice people. Ate at some nice beach side bistros we found while beach combing (you can only eat Jerk Chicken so many times!). We were actually enjoying ourselves on the beach, as we should. Did I mention all-inclusive and Red Stripe? We actually had everything we wanted except…. snorkeling. So on Thursday, when the lady selling the Valentine’s Dinner Cruise and snorkel trip passed by we hopped at the chance.
St. Valentine’s Dinner Cruise: Our vacation getaway to some place warm had been OK so far. A little sleep deprived, but OK. But it was Valentine’s Day coming up and we hadn’t had a chance to swim with the fishes yet. We thought this was just what we needed to make our trip …memorable!
The plan was to sail on this large sail boat, sail down to a snorkeling spot, swim for a while, and then be served a dinner on the boat on the way back while the sun set. It sounded like fun!
We boarded the boat with the other 20 or so passengers. Everything was included , including a bar downstairs in the cabin. We proceeded to sail down to the snorkel spot. Then we heard a voice from the captain’s chair, “Oh no! Pirates!”
A chuckle in his voice kept me from terror. I turned around and here, speeding up to us, was a motorized canoe with two freaky dread lock males aboard. Now, I don’t know Jamaican pirates from Somalian but I didn’t like this. They came on board, went down below for a few minutes, then left the same way they arrived. We were spared!
It wasn’t long after I noticed, couple by couple going downstairs, two at a time, then coming back up. It wasn’t long after that we got wind of that familiar cash crop of Jamaica’s rising from the cabin below. Modern day pirates in deed! Watch out Tubbs and Crocket! (sorry 1980’s refereance) I smiled to myself…no escape!
We reached our snorkel location. It was at the foot of what was called one of the 10 most famous bars in the world, Ricks!
See the local climbing the cliff to get back up to Ricks?
Here was a bar, on the west side of Negril, with perfect sunsets, where the apparent draw is cliff diving! Can you imagine? Getting all Red Striped, feeling invincible (or invisible) and jumping two stories into the famed Caribbean Sea? With no apparent way to get back up to the bar…unless you can climb the cliff wall. Have you ever been THAT drunk? Not me. I’ve done some crazy things
Watch out below!
We grabbed our snorkel gear and hopped in the water. The water was nice and clear. Their were enough fish swimming to keep it from being a wasted dive. We explored the caves and tried to stay clear of the drop site from above. Not too bad really. We enjoyed it.
We finished and climbed back in the boat, toweled off and prepared for our Valentine’s Dinner Cruise dinner. You guessed it, Jerk Chicken and rice of course 😦
We ate our modest meal, happy to have finally been able to snorkel. We watched the coastline as we motored back home. Not a bad day all in all. Even met some pirates!
We soaked in the scenery along the coast. Oddly, I noticed we were slowly being left alone. Did I smell? Whassup? It seems everyone had migrated over to the ocean side of the boat. I stood up and looked over and then grabbed my wife by her hand. As we were cruising home without a doubt the most beautiful sun was slowly setting on the horizon. Nobody talked (they were all stoned…..just kidding). We just watched as something beautiful was happening before our eyes. Then someone pointed to a solitary sailboat was on a collision course with the sun on the horizon. The timing could not have been better scripted. As the sun slowly dipped halfway into the sea the silhouette of the sailboat cut across the orange ball, sailing directly in front of it before our eyes. It was like it was a scheduled perk of the V-Day cruise. It was a Valentine’s Day gift to us.
Our Valentine’s sunset. Can you see the sailboat approaching?
With apologies to myself, my family and all future readers, I was not going to spoil this moment by whipping out a camera. I decided to take a picture early, tuck the camera away, put my arm around my wife and just enjoy this moment unfolding at sea. The camera doesn’t come close to capturing the moment anyway. It was a special moment, at least to me and few future Valentine’s moments could ever stack up to it.
We got back to our beach, walked hand-in-hand back to our resort. Resolved to be forced fed yet another midnight version of Muskrat Love, and remember that day for a long time. Pirates for crissake!
Jamaica left us with some wonderful memories of a beautiful island yet inhabited by hundreds of panhandlers. We resolved never to go back because of that. Many of the locals were just too nasty if you ventured off the property. And we like to walk on the beach at night. There are too many other Caribbean islands out there, just as beautiful, we thought.
And we resolved to explore every one of them for some more memories.