Dec 21, 2013

Here in America: Lean Times

Most of my favorite blogs have dwindled over time.  Some post only rarely now, others have stopped posting all together and their blogs have lain dormant for years now.  There are voices that I miss, windows on the world that I enjoyed looking through and whose views enriched my life.  But I get it.  For a lot of reasons, a blog can fade away.  Maybe Facebook becomes an easier way to share your life with friends and family.  Maybe the reason for writing the blog in the first place disappears with a change in residence, work, or philosophy of life.  Perhaps a life change (like getting married or having kids) just makes it hard to keep up with a regular blog anymore.

So, even as I've seen with so many others, I feel like my blog has withered a bit.  I have no intention of shuttering the blog, but I am willing to frankly admit that posts will likely be fewer and farther between for the foreseeable future.  The nature of my life right now simply doesn't allow for the carefully constructed, text and photo heavy posts that have been typical of this blog since I began it more than seven years ago.  I have some ideas about how I might revamp the blog in order to continue posting regularly, but I'm not going to commit to that right now either.  I will simply see how things go.

One thing is certain though.  I've been writing a journal since 1985, and the journal has survived multiple dry seasons through the years.  Given my track record, even as the posts dwindle to the occasional entry here andt there,  Here in America will likely stick around for a good long while to come.

Dec 7, 2013

Family Time

A lovely Sabbath afternoon with my older son, coloring next to the pond in our neighborhood

The three of us out for our regular Sabbath afternoon walk.  This was taken in late summer, I think?

On the first day of November 2013 I had to run an errand right after school got out, around 3 in the afternoon.  I was amazed by the gorgeous fall colors along my route and I found myself wondering when this all happened.  It was then that I realized that I hadn’t driven in the daylight in almost a week.  I had been leaving home before sunrise and leaving work after dark, and the changing of the leaves had always been shrouded in darkness.

This is my life right now.  My day begins around 5:30 A.M. when I get up to make breakfast for the family.  By 7:00 A.M. I’m at morning latchkey.  That’s followed by a full teaching day.  The afternoons are full with various extracurricular activities, staff meetings, and tutoring.  I’m doing well if I get home by 7:00 P.M.  The evenings at home are usually busy with planning and grading, running loads of laundry, folding clean clothes, and ironing.  I’m doing really well if I can get to bed by 9:00, but more often I’m going to bed around 10 or later, and getting through the next day on a 32 oz  McDonald’s sweet tea.

Sundays are busy too, with lesson planning, grading, and a couple of hours at Kroger to boot.
It’s not that I just love working.  I’m doing this for my family, and every time Babs sends me photos of her latest trip to the park or library with the boys the work is worth it.

But with all this work for the family sometimes I feel like I barely get to see my family.  So now, more than ever, family time is vital and extra special. 

Three days a week I have Ezra after school until Barbara finishes her shift at the afternoon latchkey program.  Elijah is old enough to be part of the after-school program with the CAA kids, so Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays are my special time with my second son.  He occupies himself in the playpen while I do a few after school tasks, we go to the store together to buy supplies for the 8th grade, and sometimes we just hang out together.   While sometimes I wish I could just focus on school tasks during that time, I also know that this is irreplaceable time with my younger son and I try to treasure it.

Elijah and I also have some special time together every day too (at least in theory—lately it seems we miss this time more often than not because either he or I or both of us get home too late in the evening).  While Barbara is putting Ezra down, we sit in Elijah’s oversized easy chair in his room and read stories together.  Sometimes he wants to color or play a game so we’ll do that instead.  It’s only 15 or 20 minutes before Babs comes in and it’s time for bedtime prayers, icy water, and his cozy time with mommy, but it’s probably my favorite part of every day.

The Sabbath hours constitute the bulk of our family time.  Recently we’ve started a Friday night tradition.  We have a short worship to welcome the Sabbath and then color together as a family.  Truthfully, we’ve only done it three times so far as various Friday evening appointments—dinner at a colleagues house, practice for the children’s church program—have interfered.  But those two nights were wonderfully peaceful:  the three of us coloring in a selection of Elijah’s favorite Bible themed coloring books while Ezra played happily nearby and Twila Paris’ Sanctuary gently serenading us in the background.
These photos were taken just last night...our first such Friday night family since October.

A page I completed on an earlier Friday night

 Sabbath afternoon is the other chunk of family time during the weekend.  After a late lunch, Babs will take her afternoon nap while I take the boys.  Our usual practice is to take a walk.  We are blessed with lots of grassy space and even wooded areas to walk in our neighborhood. 

We call this our secret place.  Naturally, I can't tell you where it is, but it is walking distance from where we live.

Fall fun!

We came upon this black water snake while walking on a Sabbath afternoon in late summer

 On rainy days we might choose to stay in and build one of the pieces of Elijah’s City Lego set that his “godmomma” Carol Paez sent him.

While rain might keep us inside, snow demands a Sabbath walk! This photo was taken just today. Note our totally cool unfinished igloo/snow fort that we built on the right.

Of course, a crucial part of keeping the family happy is having time for just Babs and me.  And that’s what Saturday night is for.  Most Saturday nights consist of a hot date on the couch, eating bean dip and watching an episode or two of Mad Men.  With a life as busy as ours, those hours for just the two of us are as nice as any fancy dinner date.

The work is needed to keep the family fed, clothed, and sheltered, but the family time is necessary to feed our spirits and shelter our hearts.  After all, the years will fly by all too quickly, and when we look back we may regret that we had to work as much as we did, but we’ll never regret those special family times together.

Oct 24, 2013

A Night for Heroes

The 2013 100 Heroes honorees at the 3rd Annual Heroes Reception at the King Arts Center ballroom, Saturday  night, February 9, 2013.  The one hundred people recognized by my seventh and eighth grade students included a few world famous names such as Martin Luther King and Malala Yousafzai but also many lesser known, but perhaps even more influential local luminaries. Of the one hundred nominees we had 57 attend the reception--an excellent turn out.

Ever since 2009 when I first conceived the idea for 100 Heroes (modeled after Time Magazine's annual Time 100) I'd dream't of my students and I hosting a gala event to honor these heroes.  I looked at the pictures of Time's annual Time 100 Gala and imagined something just as glamorous and memorable for our own honorees.

A cross section of heroes: This segment of the group photo highlights the diverse group that made up this year's honorees.  In this photo are parents, grandparents, teachers, students, neighbors, pastors, public servants, and community activists (that's Marie Moreland in the upper center, a crucial figure in the revitalization of the historic American Addition neighborhood).  These are people who often go unrecognized by the world at large, even as they, through their everyday heroism, make it a better place.

For the first two years we gathered in the church gymnasium, and while we did our best to spruce it up with metal-looking plastic flatware, fancy paper plates, and heavy plastic tablecloths, it was still a gym. (Click here and here to read about our first two Heroes Receptions).  Our guests were still awed by the care and effort the students put in to creating a special evening, but we weren't satisfied.  We wanted to do more.

This past February we finally began to realize the dream.  This year for the first time we hosted our heroes in a real ballroom.  The tables were covered in real linen tablecloths, the professionally catered meal was served on real china and consumed with real silverware.  The heroes and their guests were waited on by uniformed waitstaff underneath shimmering lights.
Two former students from Columbus Adventist Academy enjoying their meal.  Both students, now high school sophomore, were 2012 honorees and now serve on the Heroes Board of Directors.  The Heroes Board serves to help my students realize their dreams for the Heroes Reception, and it's been great to have two  young people joining the team of adults on the Board.

The 7th and 8th grade class set a new bar in virtually every category.  The posters of the one hundred heroes were now displayed on standing easels rather than taped to the wall.
Reverend Bismark Akomeah, honored by one of my seventh grade students poses with his poster featuring his photo and the student's personal tribute to him.

The gift bags included smalls bottles of hand lotion donated by the Limited, Inc. as well commemorative pens and keychains in addition to the usual candies.  For the first time, we had soft music playing throughout the evening and several outstanding musical numbers from some of the heroes themselves.  Jonathan Nwabunike played a showstopping number on the saxophone, and Tamaria Kulemeka graced us with a beautiful vocal performance.
2013 honoree Jonathan Nwabunike

2013 Honoree Tamaria Kulemeka

  In addition several of the students shared their own musical talents.

This young man is actually a high school freshman but a graduate of Columbus Adventist Academy, and a 2013 Honoree nominated by his brother who is in the seventh grade.

This year we even had a professional photographer who took keepsake photos of the students with their heroes throughout the evening.

The highlight of the evening was the tributes.  This time with a good sound system and solid acoustics, each heartfelt tribute was heard with crystal clarity.  Particularly moving were El-ryck Kendrick's tribute to the Columbus Police department and Myia Ferguson's tribute to a former schoolmate who has battled through a number of crippling surgeries over the past few years.
El-Ryck with one of his heroes, a member of the Columbus Police Department

One of the students present her tribute to her heroes

We were honored by the presence of guests who traveled from out of state for the reception, including the founding principal  of Columbus Adventist Academy,Sharon Lewis who returned to Columbus for the event, and my own hero Mai-Rhea Odiyar who flew in all the way from Vancouver Canada.
My heroes, from left to right, master teacher Wayna Gray, resource teacher Pat Fountain, former student Benin Lee, my  mother-in-law Carol Leen, father-in-law Bill Leen, and friend and former colleague, Mai-Rhea Odiyar.  I've been recognizing the heroes in my life for the past seven years and each year I invite a handful of them to join my students and me in our annual celebration.

All in all it was a truly memorable night, one I know none of us will ever forget.  And yet as amazing as our third annual Heroes Reception, I have even bigger dreams for the fourth reception coming up in February 2014.  Even as we wrap up the first quarter of the school year, the students have already selected their heroes and written first drafts of their tributes.  Our goal is to be able to provide a truly special notification to each hero this fall of their nomination  to accompany the official invitation to the reception. We hope to be able to create a keepsake book featuring the tributes and accompanying photos of all 100 heroes that can be included in the gift bags.

The students have also chosen their planning committees too.  Some will be responsible for designing the invitations,others will take charge of planning the program, choosing the caterer and menu, determining the decorating scheme, and organizing every other aspect of the evening from gifts to music.  In the coming weeks we'll be scouting locations and sampling from caterers in effort to raise the high bar we've already set even higher.

And of course the students are working hard to raise funds to pay for this glamorous evening.  The 8th grade class will donate a good chunk of the funds that might otherwise go to their end of the year class trip (Last year's class spent almost everything they'd raised to pay for the Reception, and then started all over again to raise the money for their trip to Canada).  In addition the Heroes Board members and I will be looking for individuals and organizations interested in supporting the Heroes Reception.  If you are such an individual I encourage you to contact me at and let me know how you'd like to help.

The reality is most of the heroes that make this world a better place, who change the world one life at a time, will never grace the pages of a national news magazine.  They won't be feted by celebrities at diamond-studded celebrations. But our goal with the annual Heroes Reception is to let our heroes feel, if only for one night, as important, honored, and influential as they actually are.

A hero poses with her tribute

Dr. Donald Burden and the student who nominated him

The students presented their tributes in a variety of ways.  This student wrote a poem, entitled "Blossoming," and created an illustration to go with it, to express how her heroes have enabled her to blossom and grow.

I present a bouquet to my father-in-law, during my turn to pay tribute to my heroes

Sep 28, 2013


It's been about two months since we returned from our annual visit with my mom's family in Florida, and more than a month since my dad's family held their family reunion.  That means that this blog is long overdue.  But my life is such right now that blogging time is harder to come by then it's ever been.  The chances of completing this entry in one sitting are slim at best, as I've got two little boys playing nearby as I type.  We'll see how it goes.

Our annual family photo, taken Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at Anna Maria Island, FL.  This year grandma, who will turn 90 next month, joined us for the occasion

The Maycock-Benson family reunion in Huntsville, Alabama. Sunday, August 18, 2013.  I along with my cousin Denny, Chuck Dudley and several others are in the photo virtually.  Look closely for the laptop just behind my grandmother who celebrated her 96th year, and who is the person on the right in green.

One of the nicest things about this summer has been the reunions. It was such a  joy to see and spend time with family members and old friends.

Two of my favorite moments were with my brother and sister. As adults we live in separate worlds much of the time; a far cry from our childhood days when it seemed every waking moment was spent together (and every sleeping moment too...given that we three shared a bedroom at my grandparents home on 905 Hart Blvd). The moments where we slip back into sibling camaraderie are rare, precious, and unplanned.  One afternoon, for reasons I can't remember the three of us ended up of us gathered around my mom's workstation in her office area, chatting about old childhood memories.  I can't remember now what we talked about, but I do remember the feeling of closeness I had with Vince and Dawn; the unique closeness that comes from shared history.  I wonder if they remember that brief twenty minutes or so the way I do?

This photo of my mom and my siblings hangs in my mom and grandma's office space.  It was taken in the summer of 1992, not long before I went off to college.

We sought to recreate that same photo 21 years later.  We took this photo on Monday, July 29, 2013, just a few minutes before Babs, the boys, and I began the long drive back to Ohio after a wonderful, restful two weeks with my family.

The second incident, I know they remember as it was much more exciting! A snake had gotten into the room where my oldest son sleeps in my mom's house and armed with brooms and our wits, the three of us came together to drive the intruder out.  Even as we skittered after the snake, I felt a wonderful sense of closeness to my brother and sister. I'd like more moments like these, but at least so far, I'm not sure how to manufacture them.  They seem to just materialize organically when we are together, and for now the best I can do is be mindful enough to notice them when they happen and appreciate them--and Vince and Dawn--for the treasure they are.

Here's a few other reunions of note from this past summer:

On our way back from Anna Maria Island we stopped off in Tampa to spend a few hours with our Saipan friends the Piersons.  Unfortunately, we missed Ken who was away on a bike trip, but it was so nice to catch up with Crystal and her girls.  We've been lucky enough to see the Pierson family just about every summer for the past few years.  Seeing them is like getting a little piece of our island home, and I hope the trend of our summer meetups continue.

You already know she's one of my heroes, but she's also a great friend.  It was wonderful to see Heather Rice, her husband Jerry, and their three boys.  This photo was taken at the first of two visits I had with Heather while in Florida.

At our second visit with Heather, we were joined by some of my oldest and best friends, Greg Wedel (center) and Chris Cotta (right) and his wife Carissa and two of their three kids.  Greg and I get together every time I'm in Florida but I hadn't seen Chris in something like ten years, ever since he and Carissa decamped for Alaska.

Chris is one of the smartest and most interesting people I've ever known.  He is one of the few people I know who really knew what they wanted out of life and actually made it happen.  It was really rewarding to talk with him again after all these years.  Hopefully it won't be another decade before our paths cross again.
Paul Wood is my oldest friend.  I've known him since the third grade and he's been faithful through thick and thin.  We'd missed connecting the past few times I'd been in Florida so I was quite happy that he joined us for Sabbath lunch our last weekend in Florida.  Unfortunately, we didn't think to take any pictures that day, so snipped this photo from his Facebook page.  We enjoyed an afternoon of swapping stories and laughs.  Paul is a pilot (the other person in my life, who like Chris, knew from childhood what he wanted to be in life, and made it happen) so hopefully he'll fly our way sometime for a visit!

I've never known my dad's side of the family well.  They know me, but until recently the reverse has not held true.  This has led to some truly awkward phone calls, visits, and Facebook friendships where it was clear that the person initiating contact knew who I was, while I couldn't quite place them.  I've enjoyed getting to know the Maycock family in recent years, and I really appreciated being able to attend the Maycock-Benson family reunion via Skype on the weekend of August 17-18.  A big thank you to my cousin Jason for going the the extra mile so that those of us unable to be there physically could also take part.

Jason working out the kinks of our Skype connection, Sunday, August 18, 2013

Getting ready to join the family photo via Skype as the laptop is carried out to the photo site in the backyard of Uncle Antoine and Aunt Connie's house.

Well, I did it in a single day, if not in a single sitting. Not bad!

Aug 3, 2013

This is 40

"For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He known your wanderings through this great wilderness.  These forty years the Lord our God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing."
                                                                                                --Deuteronomy 2:7

At 40, on August 3, 2013 with one of the 40+++++++++ blessings I've experienced over the past four decades

This is my story, this is my song.  God has been good to me.  Today I celebrated my 40th birthday and I couldn't be more grateful for the twists and turns that have brought me this far in my journey.  In looking back here are 40 blessings from the past 40 years.

1.On August 3, 1973 I was  born in Portland, Oregon in the U.S.A.  There are many wonderful places around the world, but it's been a blessing to be born a citizen of this country.  The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages as far as I'm concerned.  And I get to claim Oregon as my home state and Oregon is just so cool!

2. My share of "baggage" has been manageable. Everyone has their share of childhood pain, I believe and I'm no exception.  But I'm blessed to be happy and at peace at forty.  I've been able to let go, able to forgive.  I have a talking relationship with my dad.

3. I was blessed with three great siblings.  Though we lost my youngest sister Julie just a few short weeks after she was born, I've never forgotten about her, and I now have an extra special reason to look forward to heaven.  And my brother Vince and sister Dawn provided the lions share of the joy in my life during my childhood.

4. My mom Rosalind Maycock worked from home growing up so she was always there when we needed her.  It was always so soothing to go to sleep hearing her typing on the computer in the next room.

5. I lived in a big old house on 905 Hart Blvd in Orlando, Florida for five years with my grandparents William and Enid Thomson and cousins living just a few miles away.

6. I was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.  Though, as a child it was all I knew, and I wouldn't truly choose and own the faith until I was older I'll always considering growing up in our unique spiritual culture to be a blessing.

7. I have really cool uncles Roland and Robert, that I grew up admiring and wanting to emulate.

8. I learned to love to read early on and started writing stories early on.

9. I started a journal in 1985 when I was just shy of 12 years old and I've been writing ever since.

10. Paul Wood, Christi Snell, and Angie Loveridge--the best friends I could have asked for in elementary school, even though I didn't know it at the time.

11. My mom forced me to go Forest Lake Academy my freshman year instead of finishing out Orlando Junior Academy in the 9th grade.  Only later would I understand how important it was for me to move on from OJA (though my mom just liked that FLA was right around the corner from our house and meant a shorter commute)

12. J Micheal Carlos.  We met when we were 15 years old in Mrs. Gish's earth science class.  Been friends ever since.

13. I was able to maintain good grades for the most part throughout my elementary and high school years, and earned a four year scholarship to Andrews University because of my SAT scores.

14. Chris Cotta, Greg Wedel.  Everyone needs good friends in high school.  I was lucky to have more than a few.  But these two were some of the best.

15. God preserved me through a bought of depression during my senior year of high school and changed the direction of my life through one phone conversation with J Carlos in the summer of 1992

16. I was able to go to Andrews University.  We get a few opportunities to reinvent ourselves in life.  This was one of mine.

17. Kim Juhl.  I don't know that she knows the blessing she was and I'm sure I didn't know it at the time , but nevertheless. . .

18. As part of my four year scholarship I was hired to work for the Behavioral Sciences Department my sophomore year.  I worked there for the rest of my time at Andrews University and was mentored by Dr. Edwin Hernandez and Dr. Oystein LaBianca.

19. In the spring of 1994 I experienced a revolution in my spiritual journey and began, I think, my real adult relationship with Jesus Christ.  It was quiet change in many ways, but it lasted in a way that those "week of prayer" style conversions never did.

20.  In the spring of 1994 I took a trip to Texas.  That trip was the catalyst for some major and much needed growth and change in my life.

21. J and I decided to become student missionaries and decided to take calls as 6th and 5th grade teachers respectively at Chuuk SDA School.  The 1994-1995 school year changed the course of my life forever and was truly the hardest and best year I've ever lived.  In a life of mountaintop experiences nothing has approached the emotional pinnacle of that year.

22. Barbara Leen.  I met her in the fall of 1995 and we've been hanging out ever since.  She is the best person in my life and ever since I met her I've never felt lonely. To quote the immortal Carly Rae Jepson "Until you came into my life, I missed you so bad."  Many times in the years prior to meeting her I thought I knew who and what I wanted.  Praise God he saved me from my foolish wishes.

23. I was part of the planning team for the Go'97 Missions Conference.  Those few days at the end of 1996 and the beginning of 1997 were probably the most beautiful spiritual experience of my life.

24. Barbara said yes!  July 27, 1997 we sealed the deal in a wonderful wedding surrounded by family and great friends.  One of the happiest days of my life.

25.  I got wonderful in-laws in Bill and Carol Leen and sister-in-law Jenny.  You know all those stories you hear about the "in-laws."  I never understood those stories and for that I'm very grateful.

26. Babs talked me into becoming a teacher and I graduated with my degree in education in the spring of 1998.

27. We took the call to Saipan in 1998. Our life in Saipan was one I didn't have the sense enough to dream for myself.

28. I got travel, some during college to Europe and extensively while we lived in Saipan including Australia (3 times), Bali, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore.

29. I was able to form a traveling drama ministry, REAL Christian Theater with Aaron Knowlton and Kathy Stair that toured for nine years and made a lifelong impact not so much on our audiences but on the kids we worked with.  I got to see several of the plays I wrote come to life on stage with REAL too which was also very rewarding.  The tours to Guam, Palau, Yap, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Rota, and Australia were high points.

30.I was able to co-write and direct my own television series, and the pilot, at least made it on the air.

31. Dan Shor.  His mentorship in film and television were so rewarding.  Acting in his TV pilot State of Liberty was a lot of fun.

32. Vince Asanuma got me into running.  Mai Rhea Odiayr, Judith Edwards,  and Jessica Lee made it fun.  Ken Pierson helped me take it to the next level.

33. I started a blog.  And you are reading it!

34. Grant Graves.  They say that the best friends you'll ever have in life you make in high school.  They were wrong.  I met Grant in 2006.  He was instrumental in helping me realize that even as an adult, life is an adventure.

35. The kids.  Before I had my own--and after--the kids I taught have richly blessed me.  From that first class of fifth graders at Chuuk SDA School through the class of 2013 at Columbus Adventist Academy, the kids have consistently been a source of joy and deep reward. (And knowing so many of them now as adults is an additional blessing)

36. Elijah William Maycock was born August 31, 2008.  There is no blessing quite like your own child.

37. We decided to leave Saipan after more than a decade.  Though we miss Saipan and the friends we made there, moving to Ohio has been the best decision we've made and not a day goes by that I'm not glad we're here.

38. Our dear friends, the Paez family moved to the U.S. at the same time as we did and we were able to continue to maintain our friendship with Carol and the kids through the annual visits to Oregon.

39. I got a job at Columbus Adventist Academy.  I had assumed that the days of deeply rewarding teaching at an Adventist school with a mission were behind me when we moved back to the States.  Praise God I was wrong.

40. Ezra Thomson Maycock was born November 20, 2012.  After the miracle of our firstborn I didn't know how God could create another one that would measure up, but he did!

On my fortieth birthday I am alive, in excellent health, with peace of mind and great joy in my life. I have good friends, a loving family and more blessings than I can count in a lifetime.  Indeed, as I look back I know that I have lacked nothing these forty years in the wilderness of this world.  Now as I look ahead to the next forty, I know that whatever comes He who has led me so far, will lead me all the way.

Just a handful of friends in Columbus were on hand to share the sentiment with me in person, but I've felt the love from precious people from all four decades of my wonderful life across the country and around the world.  Thank you!

Jul 31, 2013

Beach Therapy: Anna Maria Island Family Vacation 2013

I can't tell you what a tonic it was to drive across the bridge on to Anna Maria Island after an aborted departure due to a car break down, over $600 in repairs, and twenty hours on the road.  We pulled up at around 5:30 P.M. Monday evening at the Anna Maria Island Inn (our third year in a row at this wonderful property; it looks we've got a tradition going!) and literally got right into the water.  The rest of the family was already there: Uncle Roland and Aunt Colleen, cousins Landon and Nicole, along with her son, Grandma, Mom, Vince, Dawn & Jim and the kids, and we couldn't wait to join them.

Our oldest son racing down to the beach just minutes after we arrived on Monday evening, July 15, 2013.

What a joy to rest in the soothing water as the sun dropped low on the horizon.  What a pleasure to gather around the table for a meal with all the family, to just sit and enjoy their company. In a very busy summer that was less time off and more of change of venues for work, this was the long-awaited rest, the real vacation.

But the next morning, after sleeping late to recover from the drive (I drove through the night and slept for only a few hours in the morning while Barbara drove, before I took the wheel again for the remainder of the night), I found my beach buzz seemed to be slipping away.  There were a few reasons, the chief of which was the ongoing debates on Facebook about the verdict in the Zimmerman trial which had concluded only a few days earlier.  One particular post really bugged me and left me feeling hurt and stressed.  I realized two things.  One, I needed something to soothe my frayed nerves. And two, I needed to take a break from Facebook and Interference and all the other usual online activities that took up my time.  The latter was simply a decision.  I made it and I honored it, ignoring the Facebook notifications and my e-mail inbox for the rest of our time at Anna Maria Island, only checking in Thursday evening when we returned to Orlando.

The former, the balm for my soul came in the form of a jaunt on my cousin Landon's sea kayak. He was getting ready to head back to Orlando, but offered to go out on the kayak one more time, if anyone was interested.  I jumped at the chance, and after lunch, we headed out.  It was just what I needed.  The quiet of the sea, the rhythmic pull of the paddles, the vista of the island when we looked back--so reminiscent of my Saipan days, swimming out to the tank and looking back on the shore.  Landon and I talked easily and enjoyed silence as well.  I don't know how long we were out, it can't have been more than 30 minutes or so, but it was enough to restore my spirit.  The perfect capstone to the moment was seeing dolphins,surfacing both in the distance and just a few lengths from our kayak.  An afternoon storm was brewing and Landon had to get work, so we paddled back as the first drops of rain began to fall.

My cousin Nicole posted this photo on Instagram of her brother and I after our sojourn on  the sea in his kayak

The rest of our time at the beach, and indeed our entire vacation in Florida was restful, restorative, and just plain wonderful.  For the stresses and strains of daily life I can attest that, if you can swing it, there's nothing quite like a little beach therapy.

My brother-in-law Jim and I with all the kids--our sons and my cousin Nicole's son. The Anna Maria Island Inn has a pool too, at additional units located across from the beachside units we stayed in. Uncle Roland & Aunt Colleen had a unit adjoining the pool, and we spent a lot of time back and forth between the pool and the ocean.

Our youngest napping on the beach.  His onesie says it all.

We're not dressed up, our hair isn't done, but this is one of my favorite pictures of our little family.

On our last night at Anna Maria Island, Wednesday, July 17, 2013, we got the gang together for our annual family photo.  The Official Photo will appear on this blog in an upcoming post. Below are some outtakes from that photo session that Barbara grabbed with the phone on her camera.

I know our little one looks a little silly in this picture, but I love Barbara's eyes in this photo!

Me and my little boy.  As part of my beach relaxation, I decided not shave during our time by the sea so I was looking suitably scruffy by the time this photo was taken.