Jellyfish, Snow Cones, and Tattoos

I walked away on Thursday, but it wasn’t until Saturday that I remembered what I’d been missing.

Driving out to the shores of Florida, I watched in awe and in envy as kite surfers harnessed the wind to help them glide across the Gulf of Mexico on their boards. Immediately, kite surfing was added to my endless list of activities I must try.

Walking along the compacted white sand, I mourned the beautiful white jellyfish whose bodies lay across the shoreline.

As the day progressed, it all started coming back to me in tiny pieces. There is more to the world than what happens behind the walls of a corporation. How could I have forgotten?

Standing on a pier, I celebrated with women and men who were lucky enough to reel in a fish for their dinner.

I watched as a sea turtle surfaced for air.

I bought a sweet snow cone from a food truck to combat the warmth of the afternoon as I delicately danced around the topic of my daughter getting a tattoo.

As miserable as I’ve been, I guess I needed this. It has helped confirm that I got it right the first time around. Once upon a time, the corporate life may have been right for me, but it isn’t anymore. I’m now content when I’m left to my own devices and allowed to focus on my writing.

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Sakura-Con

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An annual anime convention, Sakura-Con takes place at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA.

Excitement hangs in the air. Costumes decorate the city streets. Sakura-Con is here.

My daughter has spent months planning, crafting, and sewing together her costumes. She loves anime, and this particular convention holds a special place in her heart. It is the first, she attended.

Walking into the convention center, I’m instantly transported into a world of imagination and make believe. It is a world, I struggle to understand.

There are throngs of people everywhere. Hesitantly, I follow my daughter’s lead through the crowd. I don’t know what to make of the scene around me.Looking around, I wonder if saying “yes” to this event was such a good idea. People are everywhere in various states of dress – women and men in skimpy outfits, furry creatures, people decked out in armor, women and men in beautiful gowns, and anime characters galore. Moving about the crowd, I’m struck by the overwhelming sense of friendship and camaraderie. People talk, laugh, and pose for pictures with the characters they like.

Picking up a schedule, we map out our day. There are numerous activities, we can participate in – various panels, costume contests, fashion shows, meet and greets with different voice actors, band performances, anime video premiers,  gaming competitions, and more. The options are endless.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. Constantly on the go, the events run from early in the morning until after midnight.I’m exhausted by the end of the first day.This anime world is a crazy, but I’m comforted to know it is all in good fun.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. The events run from early in the morning until after midnight, entertaining everyone and keeping them on the go.

On the second day, I know what to expect and better prepare myself. Bringing my laptop and camera with me, I sit myself at a central location while my daughter goes to the events with her friends. Sometimes, I join them. Surprisingly, there are events that hold my attention. Other times, I simply wander about taking pictures.

By the third and final day, I’ve learned a few things. The panels have helped enlighten me. The anime videos have entertained me. The detailed work put into the costumes have astonished me. The friendly open people have helped to welcome me into their world.

We’ve attended several Sakura-Con’s over the years, and I still struggle to understand the world of anime. I couldn’t begin to tell you which character belongs to which anime. However, I have fun every time I go.

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Homeless America

Do you ever worry it could happen to you? I never used to, but I do now. My eyes were pried open when I began traveling the United States.

Homelessness isn’t an allusive problem, but a reality. It is no longer a problem that exists somewhere, out there. From the smallest of towns to the largest cities, homelessness is steadily becoming more prevalent.

Look around. Do you see it? Has it made its way to your town – to your neighborhood?

Anacortes, Washington:

During the summer months, tourists can be seen milling about the town moving from shop to shop. Once little more than a fishing village, Anacortes evolved over the years into a prosperous town thanks to the tourist industry. Ideally located on Fidalgo Island, Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juan Islands.

Commercial fishing boats can still be found docked at the Cap Sante Marina, but pleasure boats are now the majority. Sadly, the fishing industry has diminished over the year as costs and regulations have increased.

It was in this little, scenic seaport town that we met Perry.

Driving along R Avenue, we were headed down to the docks when we drove past a man slowly making his way down the sidewalk while pulling a metal cart behind him. The cart seemed to be filled with all his worldly possessions. Scuffed and worn, he looked like he’d seen better days.

Pulling off the road, I rolled down my window and offered him some money.

Smiling, he softly shook his head. “While I appreciate your generosity, I never accept something without giving something in return. Will you give me a second?”

Mildly surprised, I nodded in agreement.

Turning to his cart, he dug through it until he found what he was looking for.

Smiling, he held out a baby carriage for me, he’d built out of a beer can. “I saw your little one in the back, and thought you might like this. Be careful, don’t let her play with it. The edges are sharp.”

Taking the carriage, I admired his work. “Thank you. It’s beautiful.”

Visiting for a few minutes before parting ways, I learned that Perry had made the streets of Anacortes his home for the last three years. He loved the area, but would like to move somewhere a little warmer. The damp winters make his arthritis act up.

Washington DC:

Home to the President of the United States, Washington D.C. is a beautiful hustling city that lies along the Potomac River. Well-known for its monuments, museums, and galleries, the city is rich in culture. However, it is also well-known for its homeless problem.

It is here in our Nation’s Capital that 12,215 people were found to be homeless on January 28, 2016, by the COG Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee.

The problem is only too evident when you drive through the city. Tents and tarps set up under a bridge create a temporary community. This makeshift tent city is one of hundreds popping up around the United States.

Orlando, Florida:

This past Christmas was our first on the road. We spent our holiday season at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake in Orlando, Florida. A hundred and eighty-three acres of rich green land adjacent to beautiful Turkey Lake, the park was a lovely change from the cold Alaskan Christmas we had experienced the previous year.

Exploring Orlando and the surrounding areas, we spent approximately a month at the park. While there, we came to meet a nice young family who also happened to be staying there. On the surface, their family appears similar to mine. Like us, they are a family of five and they are a mobile. However, that is where the similarities seem to end.

We are an extended family with grandparents, parent, and two teenagers. We made a conscious choice to give up our stationary lives and adopt a nomadic traveling lifestyle. Our home is a thirty-four foot RV that we navigate around the highways and back roads of the United States. We live doing what we please.

They are a traditional family with a father, mother, and three young girls. Their mobile life isn’t by choice. They are a homeless family who primarily live out of their car. They expand their home to include a small tent when they are fortunate enough to be able to afford the fees of a campground or park. They live in fear that someone will find out they live out of their car, and will tear their family apart.

How desperate would I have to be, to knock on someone’s door to ask for help?

I’ve turned this question over and over in my mind, but I still don’t know the answer. It is something I simply can’t imagine. Perhaps, it is one of those situations where you just need to be there to understand.

In the last year, I’ve heard that knock four times. It comes as a surprise every time. Although, I imagine it’s easier and less intimidating to approach an RV than it is the door of a two story home. We do what we can to help – providing sack lunches and warm blankets. It isn’t nearly enough, but I like to think it helps.

Homelessness happens easier and faster than many of us realize. The reality of it is, it can happen to anyone for any reason.

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Juneau, Alaska: A Photo Essay

Nestled along the Gastineau Channel at the base of glaciers and mountains, Juneau is a remote town that can only be reached by boat or plane. Reminiscent of the old mining town it once was, Juneau flourishes in the summer months, but basically shuts down during the winter. Armed with a camera, I spent time exploring Juneau’s unbound beauty.

 

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The Musings of a Mom Raising a Teenager

 Raising a teenage daughter has been one of the scariest experiences of my life, but the end is in sight. At nineteen, my daughter and I can almost close the book on these years. At this point, I’m feeling pretty confident. My chances of surviving this war and coming out the other side without any significant wounds seems to be extremely promising.

The teen years aren’t easy. There were many times I wondered if I’d make it through unscathed. I happened to be one of the lucky ones. Many parents aren’t nearly as lucky. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. There is no predestined parenting path anyone can take to guarantee your child’s safety, well being, and happiness.

When my daughter was younger, I’d worry and stress over nonsensical things. Anxious that her head size wasn’t within the normal range for other infants her age, I worried that this would somehow affect her ability to learn. I drove myself crazy wondering if she was getting enough protein in her diet because she would refuse to eat meat. A working mom, I didn’t want to be an absentee parent causing my daughter to resent me, so I’d kill myself trying to juggle and rearrange work to make it to every recital, play, and soccer match. If only I’d have known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried quite so much. Perhaps, I’d have a few less grey hairs or gotten a little more sleep.

As children get older the dangers compound. My mind swirls with the possibilities of dangers lurking out there threatening to damage or destroy my daughter’s well-being: peer pressure, bullying, depression, a destructive unhealthy self-image, eating disorders, cutting, underage drinking, drugs, smoking, texting while driving, sexting, car accidents, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, rape, fighting, school violence, being kidnapped, shop lifting, an over-inflated ego and a sense of privilege, and my list of worries goes on and on. Ever vigilant, I was often accused of being over protective, but it didn’t matter. I simply didn’t care. I would do everything within my power to ensure my daughter’s well-being.

A relatively good girl, my daughter is a sensible, intelligent, and beautiful young woman who has the world in the palm of her hand. After taking this last year off, she’ll be attending college in the fall. Some would say my vigilance paid off, they’d be wrong. The truth of it is, I simply got lucky. My daughter could have easily fallen prey to any number of the dangers I feared. There is absolutely nothing any of us can do to guarantee our child survives the tumultuous teenage years. All we can do is watch out for them, love them, and hope we get lucky.

A Small Town Festival

watermelonI’m a collector – a collector of experiences, not possessions. For me, there is nothing better. As a traveler, I’m always looking for opportunities to add to my collection. In every small town, big city, and state we visit, I keep my eyes peeled for anything that promises to be interesting: events, museums, workshops, parks, exhibits, fairs, trails, galleries, festivals, beaches, and the like.

You never know when opportunity will present itself, but you must always be ready. Recently, I had such an opportunity.

On a quiet Saturday morning, we were headed to the store to restock our groceries when we came across a festival. No wonder the small town was so quiet, everyone in town seemed to be here. There is no time like the present to seize the day. Groceries were quickly forgotten as we pulled into a designated parking lot. Setting off to enjoy the local festivities we were presented with a question – How much watermelon can you eat? You can test your stomach’s holding capacity for the pink meat of this sweet fruit at the Watermelon Festival in Chiefland, Florida. Held annually on the first Saturday in June, this small town festival has something for everyone.

Festival goers can try their skill at the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest, watch the floats in the Watermelon Parade, and enjoy intelligent, beautiful, young women square off against one another in hopes to win a scholarship at the Watermelon Pageant.

Children race from activity to activity. Some gravitate towards the giant wading pool with inflatable ride-on toys. Splashing about, they enjoy the cool water against the stifling heat. Others forego the water to jump on the bounce house.

Artists and craftsmen lay out their wares trying to entice customers into shelling out their hard-earned cash for items they just can’t resist.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more substantial than watermelon, you’re in luck. Food vendors are prepared to offer you the finest foods…gator, gyros, cracklins, snow cones, kettle corn, sandwiches, sausages, lemonades, and so much more.

How much watermelon can you eat? It is a question, anyone can easily answer at Chiefland’s Watermelon Festival.

However, it is a question I could’ve answered even if I hadn’t attended this event. None. I don’t actually like watermelon. Weird, I know. There is just something about the fruit, I’ve never cared for. My family all adore watermelon, and have never been able to understand my distaste for it. Nevertheless, I had fun adding the 62nd annual Watermelon Festival to my collection of experiences.

Watermelon Festival Information

 

 

Mother Nature’s in a Playful Mood

 

Tropical Storm Colin | Monday, June 6, 2016

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Are you ready?

Mother Nature is feeling playful. She has let down her hair and stretched the weariness from her bones. She is ready to dance. She whirls and sways out along the water. Moving with an easy grace, Mother Nature picks up momentum. Her dance takes on a life of its own: Tropical Storm Colin.

Will she continue to dance towards us? The weather stations seem to think she will. We are under advisory for a tropical storm watch with significant impacts. Torrential rainfall leading to major flooding. Strong winds from 35 to 45 miles per hour with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. Possible hurricanes and scattered tornadoes.

News crews hoover at Cedar Keys, hoping to capture the events as they unfold. Tuning in, we wait and watch. Will the storm veer away from where we are hunkered down, or will it continue on its path.

We’ve prepared for the worst, but we’re hoping for the best. We brought in and secured our awning, tucked away our camp chairs, and replaced the batteries in our weather radio. We went grocery shopping two days ago, so our cupboards are full. Thankfully, the kitchen stove and hot water tank in our RV are powered by propane. If we loose electricity, we’ll still be able to cook and bathe. Battening down the hatches, we’ve done what we can to be ready.

Watching, we wait…

 

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