Finding My Way Back :)

Hey everyone, welcome to (almost) fall–hope all is well with all of you! Believe it or not, I’ve missed you!

Yes, I’ve been missing, and thankfully, for no particular (bad or unfortunate) event. The fan in my ‘puter (as a long ago student referred to the computer) went on the fritz in early summer. Took a couple of weeks before the correct fan came in (via Ebay and USPS—God bless both) and Older Son got the ol’ Acer up and running for his ma.

That kind of put me in a holding—and, yes, I’ll own it: avoidance—pattern. (I was sort of in one anyway, typical of the rather chaotic feel working our school’s summer academic program promotes.) Then August came and went. Before I knew it, summer was over and school is back in session!

I was blessed, though, with a restful and productive time. What I’ve been up to:

*Allowing myself to rest and enjoy the time off I am blessed and privileged to have every summer. Usually, I start mourning August’s end before it starts. This year, I got myself in check fast. Got to the beach a few times; enjoyed a free concert there one night and two spectacular sunsets on the other occasions. (Next up: getting there—with Hubby, of course—in time for a sunrise.)

Sunrise--Wildwood

Morning at the “bend” in North Wildwood.

Sea wall Wildwood

Sea wall, North Wildwood–now that’s a “serenity space.” 

me--5-2015

The gardens at the Hereford Lighthouse, North Wildwood. 

Sunset--8-2015  sunset-8-2015-2

Sunset–Sandy Hook (both images)

*Reading: I got in about seven books since in the last 5-6 weeks. (That’s an accomplishment. My attention span has been next-to-nothing for a while now. As with everything else, I blame hormones.)

Tennis: Practicing my shots and playing with Hubby, Older Son and anyone else willing to hit the court with me. Kept up with a teenage neighbor for an impromptu practice session. He quit before I did—how cool is that? Made it to the qualifying rounds of the US Open Tennis Championships! Awesome to watch the speed and power behind the ball as it flies live off the players’ racquets!

US Open--2015

*Cleaning/Purging/Organizing: Took me at least ten hours to clean the desk/office area in my semi-finished basement. (Younger Son thinks it’s his space, but his ma is willing to share.) I dumped notes and evaluations dating back up to 20 years, folks. I even found one of my very first, handwritten evaluations. Now I’m happily utilizing this space again—hopefully, more so as time progresses—for creative endeavors!

desk

*Sewing: I love making small quilts as baby gifts. I keep them very simple, and currently have four (?) in the works, started on a day when I dragged the Singer in front of the TV (during a Masters 1000 tennis tournament—what else?)

Quilting

sofa

Disguising cat-damage to the sofa arms is another art form I incorporate here and there.

*Writing: Some. Got inspired at the beach and got back to a work-in-progress started 3-4 years ago. I also signed up for an online novel-writing class and hope to be working through that in the upcoming weeks. (More on that in a future post.)

Best news of all: Booked my first two (PAID) speaker gigs!!! The first is my parenting workshop (10/8) and the second is about sensory strategies (1/12 and 1/19 of 2016). Go figure: an adult school in my area is going to pay me to talk—how awesome is that????

That’s what’s going on with me these days. What are you all up to?

Cheers!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Comeback Kid: Asbury Park, NJ

Yep, summer has wound down to its unofficial close. (Feeling sad.) It’s been a really nice one, weather-wise for sure, and in other ways). BTW, it’s not just the back-to-school part that impacts me—it’s the readjusting to the schedule, bringing work home again and shorter days. (And I hate Eastern Standard Time. Just sayin’.)

Since it’s Labor Day, I figured a post about the beach would be appropriate. (And Tess’ posts about her recent visit to China might have inspired me a bit too. Hi Tess!)

Finally made it to recently refurbished Asbury Park last week. The revitalization process of this one-time East Coast resort is still in progress. Revitalization on many levels got underway in 2002.

Quick fact: At the onset of the previous century, Asbury Park’s only competitor in the beach resort department was Atlantic City.

From Wikipedia:

Quick fact: ~600,000 folks vacationed there during the annual “summer session.”

Quick fact: Musicians Bruce Springsteen and actor Danny DeVito hail from Asbury Park.

Quick fact: The very cool Stone Pony venue is opposite the boards on Ocean Avenue. Bruce Springsteen—with his E-Street band, featuring the awesome (but late) saxophonist Clarence Clemons—rocked that watering hole on many an occasion.

Find more detailed history on the origins and development of Asbury Park here. (It’s pretty cool.) The opening of the Garden State Parkway led to fewer folks needing to take a train to the beach. Legalization of gambling in Atlantic City took a lot of the traffic too—at least, that’s what Hubby says—and the addition of Sixx Flags Great Adventure Theme Park didn’t help the Asbury Park cause either.

My history with Asbury Park:

I’ve supposedly been there as a kid. I’d be lying if I said I remembered.

When my stepsons were little boys, Hubby and I did a day trip there. Honestly and sadly, it was already a ‘welfare’ and ‘ghost’ town. The Casino walkway  linked Asbury Park to Ocean Grove (“God’s square mile at the Jersey shore” and still-dry town). The cleanliness of Ocean Grove and the nice maintenance of its many Victorian mansion/beds-and-breakfast structures contrasted starkly with the littered beach and abandoned boardwalk on the other side. In the Casino, however, at least one shop remained open, but one had to wonder how long that lingering business could last. (I’m sure it didn’t.)

Asbury Park Casino
The Casino–or its skeleton–with some kind of construction work evident inside. The walkway links Asbury Park with Ocean Grove, which borders AP on its south side. The man in the center was playing a guitar and singing. The acoustics were okay.  (Photo by Hubby.)

The other day Hubby and I were looking for a day trip. I wanted to go to the  shore, but wasn’t looking to spend a day on the beach. Due to riptides and a death at nearby Sandy Hook, bathing was highly restricted anyway. (Not that the ocean has seen me in it during the past 20 years or so, but Hubby likes to dive in here and there.)

Inside the Casino walkway
Inside the Casino walkway –photo by Hubby. 

Hubby suggested Asbury Park. Since I hadn’t been near it since my fifth wedding anniversary (that would have been April 29, 2000), I jumped at the idea. I love a place that offers something new I can learn. Yes, I’m nerdy like that.

Asbury Park Casino Mural
How awesome is this mural lining the Casino walkway? The lady might have been painted 5-6 years ago. A I found it quite impressive.

The entire scene—including the ride—changes flavor frequently. One goes from the parkway to the state highway to the main drag, which isn’t necessarily the prettiest of places.

Ocean Avenue, however, has been cleaned up. (So has the beach, beautifully so, compared to how it looked the last time I went.) Several of the original buildings and hotels have been restored, or restoration is in progress.

Asbury Park beachfront
I took this photo from the north side of the restaurant overlooking the beach. Nothing relaxes me more than sitting on or near the beach when the PM breezes come in off the ocean.

There’s a retro-feel to the place, with a few typical beach-style shops and places to eat on the boards, as well as a mini-mall of sorts at the restored convention center.  (It reminded me of the North Wildwood boardwalk, which is much calmer and far less attraction-oriented than the Wildwood boards.)

Restaurants that are open to the water—with sheltered dining available should the weather dictate—are on opposite outside walls of the mall. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the north end, at a wooden table made from an industrial electrical wire spool, sipping from Hubby’s drink while overlooking the Atlantic.

View the convention center and theater and its outdoor seating area.

View the inside the convention center, aka, the arcade.

View Tillie, the (creepy) face (IMHO) of the Jersey Shore. Not sure if Tillie is a he or a she, but that face was painted on opposite sides of the demolished Palace Amusements building. (Tillie has been repainted onto the Wonder Bar, as a tribute to Palace Amusements. )

Asbury Park wasn’t terribly crowded. Granted, it was a Thursday. Hubby made some good points about why the area isn’t the best for the comeback the city hopes to make.

Asbury Park boardwalk
The boardwalk, taken from the Casino, which faces the north side. Think the guy on the bike–with the six-pack–posed?

(1) There are no amusements (i.e., rides or stands)—on the boards or in the immediate area—at present. (BTW, the original carousel was sold and currently resides somewhere in Myrtle Beach.) A sprinkler park, mini-golf and a store that offers crafts-for-a-cost (i.e., sand art, pottery, etc) seem to be the most entertainment for parents with younger children.

(2) Asbury Park is right on the coast. It is not a peninsula. No bay. (No striking sunset over the water, either.) No inlet. No boat traffic. No marina. That also limits chartered boating and fishing activities, I’m sure. (Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, the Wildwoods, Cape May and other more frequented shore areas are peninsulas.)

Asbury Park carousel housing
Carousel’s housing. Although empty, it has been refurbished and occasionally used by theater group(s). Note: When Hubby and I brought my stepsons here, this structure had been turned into an indoor skateboarding park. Planks everywhere and a kid charging $8/person to use it. Innovative, but  creepy to hear a thunder-like sound coming from inside there in a relative ghost town.

On the plus side, Asbury Park is RIFE with history and nostalgia invoked  because of the preservation of its many original structures and images. One can easily imagine what it was. With a little effort and some amusements, I believe it can prosper, especially with local traffic. (I heard its downtown district is getting a shot in the arm too. That can only help.) It’s a place where I enjoyed a few hours. I definitely might not mind spending a day, or even a weekend at one of the restored hotels. Chances are, I’d wind up writing about it some more.

Asbury Park heating plant
The heating plant, designed to provide heat for winter activities at the resort’s Casino and Carousel, assuming I read the articles correctly. These were designed by the same team who designed NYC’s Grand Central Station.

Sorry I got a little long-winded, but thank you for indulging me. As someone who has some trouble letting go, I love the preservation of times past.

Have a great week,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Ol’ Days

Greetings! How is everyone?

Yep. We are two-plus weeks into August, folks. Summer has a way of flyin’ by. US Open Tennis Championship qualifying rounds are getting underway. Translation: last week of the month is almost upon us. 😦

“These are the good old days,” says my hubby of nineteen years.

Many times, Hubby talks about looking back on “the good old days,” but when we really stop and think about it, aren’t we living them? Don’t our todays pile into the weeks that amass into the months and years upon which we will reflect and dub “the good old days?”

Hubby got me thinking. When my kids were younger and the days much more mommy-intense, I’d look ahead to the time when they wouldn’t need constant supervision. I would have more time for me. It always bugged me though, to feel I was wishing away not only their childhood but my younger years as well.

Nic n Kev with Kitty small Kitty–aka, Screweball–gave us quite the scare about 10 days ago. I’m happy to report she seems to be back to her 15+-year-old self.

My teenage boys (17 and 15) are quite the independent young men in so many ways. Older Son drives, has a job and can even cook for himself a bit. Younger Son will take off on the bike to go to football practice or just to the convenience store for his Gatorade vs. ask for a ride from either me or his dad. (He’s venturing into cooking but might need a little help in that department.) Alone-time with Hubby is almost the norm.

photo 3 Selfie taken during vacation. (I hate selfies.)

So now I get choked up when I pass a playground and see parents keeping their little ones safe on the equipment. I remember walking behind the boys as they rode their bikes and waited for me to catch up at the end of the block. Occasionally there is a game night, but no more stories read just before bed. They don’t need mom or dad to help with showers, brush teeth, make sure they get to bed on time.

The days when we don’t know how many kids will show for dinner are much more sparse, when Older Son was in middle school. Teens still show and hang out, but not as often—or for as long—as they did before drivers’ licenses became a permanent addition to their wallets and handbags. Luckily, they occasionally seem to enjoy the tennis court—though the regular players nearby might not consider themselves all that fortunate when Older Son’s crowd attempts doubles play.

Joanna 8-2014

I’ve shared holidays with family and just plain ol’ spur-of-the-moment great days. Pulled off one of those just last week, with an impromptu visit to a sister-in-law’s home a few blocks from the bay. Hot dogs, the pool, a bike ride near the water and homemade eggplant parm–eggplant direct from brother-in-law’s garden–gathered into a nice day that will be long remembered.

photo (60)

Hubby was right. Most days are “the good old days.” Sometimes I have to remember I don’t have to recall them. I’m living them.

The Lion Died…

But his memory will linger for a long time–if not always.

Hi all. Hoping all is peaceful with each of you. I was away from Monday through Thursday, so I guess my aspirations for posting twice last week were a tad high.

The lion at the Cape May Zoo died right around Memorial Day this past year. That’s what we heard at the zoo’s entrance as my sons, Older Son’s girlfriend and I embarked on our annual walk-through. (It seems to have become a bit of a tradition during our third-year-in-a-row trek to Wildwood. Is it possible one is never too old for the zoo?)

Wildwood sunset 2014 Sunset in Wildwoodpicture doesn’t do the sky justice 🙂

Uh, that’s when I originally started this post: three years ago. Yes, it had to do with the lion. Until this past Saturday morning the original sat on the notebook laptop that lives in my beloved Camry’s trunk—in case I need to stop on a random road to work on a laptop whose battery won’t recharge anymore.

Anyway, my only problem with family vacations—you moms of boys can probably relate—is that my guys (Hubby included) want to do stuff that doesn’t generally interest me. Boardwalks, beaches, restaurants—they’re okay but none of them floats my boat. Call me a stick in the mud but if there is nothing to actively engage my mind—i.e., learn—most of the time I’ll pass. (BTW, I’m bad at relaxing too.)

Boards at Wildwood 2014

Night-time on the Wildwood boards. As busy as NYC. 

So, the first year, after a family ride on the go-carts followed by brunch on the famed Wildwood boardwalk, I started thinking about how I might like to wile away a few hours. I’d done Cold Spring Village with Hubby years ago and liked it. I also thought about taking a ride to the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a ten-minute drive from our hotel. (The gardens behind it are ridiculously gorgeous and quietly peaceful. Follow the walkway pictured below and–surprise!–you’ve stumbled onto the inlet, where the view of the inlet and beach are stunning. BTW, double-clicking on the photos to enlarge them will provide sharper detail, as much as my lowly iPhone 4’s camera can capture.)

Hereford lighthouse front (1) Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse back

Back of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse gardens

Hereford InletLighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse gardens (2)

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse inlet

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse inlet

IDKY, but I also kept toying with the notion of a trek to the Cape May Zoo. I’d never visited it, but had always heard nice things. I chose door number three and texted the kids an invitation.

My guys were a couple months shy of 16 and 14 at the time. They came simply because it was “something to do.” (Yep, even the boards and rides get old after a short while. And Older Son probably felt badly his ma was doing something alone. Nah. No such issues. Me-time rocks.)

photo_2[1]   Joanna ‘n’ her boys. Y’all can decide who is who. BTW, this photo is from first trip to zoo, in 2012. Didn’t take any group shots this year. 😦

I certainly enjoyed that afternoon, and since the kids asked to go again on both subsequent trips to the area, I assume they did too. The zoo is pretty danged big, beautifully maintained and packed with about 550 creatures, most of who are easily viewed in their exhibits. I particularly like the zebras; their markings are so stark. I also enjoyed the quiet calm surrounding the giraffes and their new baby.

Aside: the zoo is always free, with non-mandatory donations accepted. (Cash gets tossed into a ‘mailbox.’)

The lion ties into this recounting how, Joanna? Well, it involves Younger Son, who can be the best kid going on his better days. Oy. Not so much when he gets himself in a mood, thinks he’s right or (wants to be). Those are the days I offer him up for Lent, rent, or to the lowest bidder. Hubby and I are much improved reacting to him, but he’s often brought out a side of us we don’t very much like on many occasions.

photo_3[1] This boy be reachin’ the bear’s mouth by now. Bet he could get a live version to growl, too. Just sayin’… 😉

He might have been in that kind of humor that first “annual” trip to the zoo. Guess he couldn’t wait or might have wanted some space from the rest of us when he asked if he could walk ahead to see the lion. (Three years later I don’t remember such minor details.)

Gave him the okay. He was 13+ and old enough to do so.

He was just out of sight when a roar rumbled through the zoo. We surmised it was the lion.

“Figures,” I told Older Son. “Your brother probably got on the lion’s nerves already.”

We caught up with Younger Son, just outside the lion exhibit. Ironically enough, on that very hot day, Younger Son thought the lion was dead. (He wasn’t.)

We made our way through the rest of the zoo. Just before the last leg, Younger Son asked if he could go see the lion once more.

“Sure.”

I kid you not: the kid took off and the beast roared for a second—and only other—time that trip.

We were really saddened to hear that incredible creature was no longer there. But Younger Son will never shake being known as the boy who could inspire the lion to roar.

Do you do repeat vacations? If so, where do you go? Are there ‘traditions’ or go-to activities that are part of every trip, or do you devise new ways to pass the time? Do you have a “challenge child?” Were/are you your parent(s)’ “challenge child?”

Thanks for stopping in and for SHARING if you choose to do so. Have a great week!

All the best,

Joanna