This Novel Life

"Live the life you dream." -Henry David Thoreau

Month: February, 2012

8. Sea Bean Hunting

Yesterday we set on an adventure to Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area in Flagler Beach for a sea bean beach hike. Yeah, I had no idea what sea beans were either. But after a twenty minute lesson by the recreation area we learned all about sea beans. It turns out they are seeds from plants and vines in various tropical locations. They find their way to the oceans and rivers where they are carried about until they make their new home tucked into seaweed on a beach. You can find them on the beaches in locations like Florida and South America, and some parks of the UK, among other places. There’s different kinds of them, but we had a lot of luck finding Sea Coconuts, which kind of look like golf balls, and which can be polished to look quite beautiful.

Flags at the beach entrance warning us of medium wind & dangerous marine life.

Maddy kicking around the seaweed to look for hidden sea beans.

Our unpolished collection. The big round balls are sea coconuts, the little red and black thing is a sea hamburger, and the flat maroon thing in the right corner is a sea heart (my personal favorite).

Sea hamburger, two sea coconuts and a sea heart after some polishing.

You can find more information about sea beans at


7. The Creation of a Princess

For Madison’s birthday, we were fortunate enough to have my cousin (who I am finally getting to know after way too many years) and her business partner come face paint at her party. My cousin owns Enchanted Body Art and she is incredibly talented! I got to snap some pictures from the process of turning Madison into the true princess she is.

And for the finished product…

6. The World Through Her Eyes

I wanted to do a little questionnaire with Madison for when she turned five, which of course I didn’t do until tonight when she was getting ready for bed. This is the interview.

Okay Madison, are you ready for your interview? Yes.

How old are you today? Five.

How does it feel to be five? Beautiful.

How was your day? Like, awesome.

How was the weather? Like, um, cold.

What do you think of school? School is fun.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in life so far? My sight words.

What is your favorite sight word? See. Can you write see? S-E-E.

Thanks. What else do you like to learn about? Animals on farms.

How do you think you’re different from last year? Well, I’m five. This is when she rolled her eyes at me.

What’s your favorite thing about yourself? That I have Moe. Moe is her stuffed puppy.

Who is your best friend? Moe.

Whose your best real friend? Andie and Nicole.

Tell me about our family. Well, my dad likes to play Wii with me. And my mom likes flowers.

What about our pets? I have Penny, Surfy and Backson. Cat, turtle, dog.

What is something really big we did this past year? We went to Disney.

What’s your favorite music? I don’t have a radio, but I like the Twelve Dogs of Christmas.

Favorite book? That learning book.

Favorite movie? Scooby-Doo.

What about your favorite TV show? Scooby-Doo.

If you could have one day to do anything with Daddy, what would you do? Play Wii.

What about a day to do anything with me? Go to the store.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A car seller. I’ll get paid.

How much will you get paid? Um, twenty dollars. Wait! One hundred dollars.

How much do you think Daddy gets paid? Twenty one dollars. Or one thousand dollars.

Do you think you’ll ever get married? Yes.

How old will you be when you get married? Twenty one. Because you were.

I was eighteen when I got married. Really? Then she proceeded to stare at me blankly for a few seconds.

What’s one thing you know about boys? They get married.

What’s your favorite food? Cheez-It’s. Are we done?

No. What’s your favorite candy? Lollipops.

Are you scared of anything? Yes. Vampires.

Anything else you’d like to say? Yes.

What? That I like flags, and I love horses. They are beautiful.

Is there anything I didn’t ask you? You didn’t ask me what day it is.

Okay, what day is it? The twelfth.

No, Maddy, it’s the eighteenth. Really?

Yes. Thanks for the interview. You’re welcome. Are we done?

Yes. Great, can you help me find the Twelve Dogs of Christmas?

And that was my kid, ladies & gentlemen.

5. Fairchild Oak Tree

This morning I found myself completely absorbed in all things Fairchild Oak Tree. It is a beautiful old tree on the Ormond Scenic Loop in the Bulow Creek State Park. I discovered it when we first moved but today was the first time I had a chance to really take in how enormous and wonderful the tree really is. It is over 20 feet around, and over 60 feet tall. The most incredible part? Branches have actually grown into the ground & grown back out, with new branches stemming off of them. Covered in Spanish moss, it delivers a whimsical magical feeling when you’re standing under it.

Although the sign states that the Fairchild Oak is over 2000 years old, it is actually around 400 years old.

Beautiful Spanish moss hanging off a branch, with the Fairchild Oak in the background.

A branch that grew down into, and out of the ground.

The plaque, with the wonderful 20+ foot trunk in the background.

And then, tucked off to the side, is a patch of bamboo. It seemed strangely out of place until I did some digging online and found an article about the tree, which says that the name “Fairchild Oak” came from David Fairchild, a botanist who visited the tree, and coincidentally also introduced bamboo to the United States.

More information about Fairchild Oak can be found here: Fairchild Oak’s history, name a mix of myth, fact.

4. You Will Always Be My Baby

In just fifteen & a half hours, my little girl will be five years old. In her mind, this is just a stepping stone until the “big birthday”, which of course she states, is six. Okay, Maddy. But for me, this is a big birthday. Five really begins the rest of her life. Five means kindergarten screenings, taking the bus for the first time, saying goodbye to my little girl. And of course, the reminder of July 2006 and the moment that changed my life forever.

But it all starts before that. Everything has a story. I was sixteen. I thought I was a big kid, all grown up. I was not (who are we kidding, I’m still not). I was head over heels in love with a guy who thought he was the greatest thing ever. We had a whirlwind romance that started in April of 2005 with a big black brand new car and an afternoon that neither of us thought would amount to anything. He was older, cockier, and I hated him more than anything. Eventually, (and I’m still not sure how) I ended up falling for him, which probably made me hate him even more. When we started dating in April, we fought worse than my cat and dog fight. I yelled, screamed, cried, threw things, stormed out. He threw some candy out the window once (don’t worry – I chased after it). Ten minutes later, but usually five, we made up. We broke up a few times. By April 2006, a couple weeks after I turned seventeen, he proposed on the ninth hole of a mini golf course (Martel’s in Saco, Maine, if you were curious). He put the ring on the wrong hand, I squealed yes, and put the ring on my left hand while I hugged him. I had dreams of graduating high school the following year, us having some big, beautiful studio apartment in some gorgeous historic city, and me sleeping all day until he got home from work, when of course we would go out to dinner. Big dreams, I know. Life wasn’t perfect, but to me it was. We spent the spring driving around in Benjo, his 1996 Geo Prizm. I named it after the radio popped out while driving down a bumpy dirt road in Maine. We laughed a lot. We ate too many boxes of Fruit Roll Ups. We spent afternoons watching too much Sopranos. It was by far, the happiest time of my life. We didn’t fight, we snuggled and made up ridiculous pet names for each other.

In July 2006, we went to Florida on vacation. I slept a lot. We went to Sea World and Busch Gardens and played mini golf. We were young and silly and thought we knew everything about life. Halfway through our two week vacation, I felt terrible. No, I announced, I was definitely not pregnant. A few hours, two trips to Walmart and five negative pregnancy tests later, I got a positive result. My entire life changed. I cried, cried, and cried some more. Threw up a little bit. Announced that there was definitely, absolutely no possible way I was going to get fat, get responsibilities and have a BABY. Not. Going. To. Happen. It was the fourth of July.

We got back to Maine a couple weeks later and the doctor confirmed it, I was eight weeks and seven days along (which, if you do the math, puts eight weeks before on the week of my junior prom). I was still against the whole baby concept. I hated kids. They made me feel uncomfortable. I had been around maybe two little kids in my entire life. In September, just after the start of my senior year, we took a drive up to Rockland to spend the day exploring and visiting lighthouses. There was a little toy store in town and we took a look around. In the back corner was a big wall with bins of stuffed animals. We both spotted a little stuffed golden Gund puppy, who we would later to come to know as Moe. We bought it. I spent the next months working really hard to graduate from high school by January, he spent the next months working stupidly long hours. There were a few ultrasounds thrown in there, including the one where the tech announced “it’s a girl” & he announced “holy shit”.

Eventually, 2007 came. Our doctor warned us that the baby was pretty small, and I was pretty dilated, and she would definitely come early. We went to the doctor for an ultrasound every other week. February happened, and two and a half weeks before my due date, on a cold night, halfway through a game of Yahtzee, Madison decided it was time to make her entrance… a few hours later in the afternoon. We sleeplessly struggled through the first few months, with lots of help, lots of tears and lots of stress.

In April we got married, right after I turned eighteen, on our third anniversary. But our hearts didn’t belong to just each other anymore, that little baby with very little hair and big blue eyes controlled them. We spent our honeymoon weekend talking about her and shopping for her. We watched her grow up, roll over, sprout teeth, bite, cry, crawl, walk… all while holding that little stuffed dog. We heard her first words, witnessed her first holidays, and her first birthday. We drove her around in Benjo when we couldn’t get her to sleep, and she was roughly two when we took her for her first late night trip to L.L. Bean. We had money sometimes, we had no money sometimes, we had a car that liked to die a lot, and we had Benjo. We had each other. It wasn’t ideal, but it was definitely perfect.

Five years later, we have a big, gorgeous apartment (although not a studio in a historic city), he has a big, cushy job, we have an SUV, a sedan, a black lab, a cat, and a turtle. I have been dubbed a soccer mom by most (all) of my friends. We spend some free afternoons playing mini golf and going out to dinner. I don’t sleep all day (okay, sometimes), instead I feed the animals, clean the house, pick Madison up from school, and realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

She has changed our lives for the better – in so, so, so many ways. And now she’s five. And I remember all those nights I thought “great, I’m a teen mom, this is just the worst thing that could happen”, but it’s not. Without her, we wouldn’t be as happy as we are. I owe my heart being so big to that little girl, who now has lots of blonde hair and still has big blue eyes, and her father’s attitude. Again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to see where the future leads her, but you can be certain it will be something amazing and great, because she is amazing and great. And smart. And beautiful. And the perfect combination of her mom and dad.

Happy birthday, Madison, I love all that you will be, and everything you are.

3. Exploring: Blue Springs State Park

On this rainy, lazy morning with the puppy sleeping at my feet and Jack Johnson on Pandora, I thought it would be nice to share some photos I took on a trip a couple weeks ago to Blue Springs State Park in Florida. Blue Springs is an amazing place, not like anything I’ve ever experienced before. During the winter months, it serves as a home to manatees because of it’s steady 73 degree water. Visitors to the park can walk the boardwalk that runs next to the spring and see manatees playing, eating and swimming around. I thought it was incredibly enchanting and can’t wait to go back.

2. Friendship And Memories

Cleaning out my closet always results in finding some misplaced items or long forgotten documents. This morning as I picked up a photo album, a stream of old photos came pouring out onto my lap. At a time when I’m rethinking relationships and dealing with homesickness, this is either what I really needed to see or didn’t need to see at all.

A best friend, someone you can grow to call family, is a really special thing. You meet a stranger and somehow they become so close to you that they know you better than yourself. I’ve had this a few times in my life and I am happy to say I haven’t lost those friends, although we’ve had trouble keeping close over the years as we’ve grown I know that they will always have an incredibly special place in my heart, and I hope they feel the same way about me.

I was fifteen when this particular friend and I became close. We were both silly and young, thinking that the end of a relationship were going to be the complete end of life. We consoled each other in tears by her locker, and I had no idea she would become one of the most important people in my life. Months later, as I stood in the driveway bawling my eyes out after a breakup, she was the one who talked me down from near hysteria. She supported me through a roller coaster of a relationship, assuring me that if he & I loved each other we could make it work. When I got pregnant at seventeen, we became closer than ever. She was there when I had my daughter, and a witness when my husband & I eloped. In turn, I was there for her with loud music and dark car rides though many broken hearts and bad days. I was as excited for her first pregnancy ultrasound as I was for my own.

Eight years, hundreds of photos and memories later I wonder when it all changed as I sit looking at these photos of a person I thought I would share everything with through my entire life. Now I’m over a thousand miles away, and while there’s still photos of us hanging on my wall and sitting in my lap, we’ve got from talking more than once a day to texting once or twice a week. Over the course of a month, our lives took completely different paths and I’m stuck wondering where I went wrong to not keep that friendship closer, or how such a deep connection has become so thin.

I hope that over time, we can get back the friendship that I so desperately miss, and I wonder how to teach my five year old daughter how to truly appreciate friendships in a way that took me so many years to understand. One of my biggest wishes for her is to have the kind of friendship where they stand by each other through life’s many obstacles, a friendship like the one I had. I just have to have hope that she won’t make her mother’s mistake and let that friendship fall apart.

1. Well, Hello There

Hi. Here’s what you need to know about me.

Photography is my passion. Writing used to be, but I’m much better at taking pictures. I would consider my life a success if my photos evoke emotion in people, and maybe even let them look at life a different way.

My family is my heart. My husband, daughter, our dog, cat and turtle constantly make me smile. When they’re being good.

My therapist told me that I owe the pieces of normalcy I have to my grandparents and a box of letters my father wrote me.

Nothing is better for taming my emotions than a nice long drive with my camera and some music.

My oasis, my quiet place, my sanity… I owe it all to hours spent thinking at my beach.

And finally, without every challenge (which will be described in great detail here, no worries) I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And you know what? I think I like that person.