Since the summer of 2007, my family has been vacationing on the 18-mile, Long Beach Island off of exit 63 on the Garden State Parkway at the Jersey Shore. Since that time, I have spent at least one all the way to nine glorious weeks on this stretch of the Jersey Shore. From my very first time on the island until now, the time I spend there always refreshes my soul and it is my favorite home away from home. It was also the place Cody asked me to be his wife 🙂
Three summers ago, I spent a month on the island working at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference and with the help of several of my beach friends, I crossed off my first LBI bucket list item: biking the entire 36-mile round trip to the southern tip of Holgate all the way north to Barnegat Light and back again returning back to the conference center.
This summer, Cody and I took on another challenge: to play all of the mini-golf holes on the island. Surprisingly, in the last decade of vacationing on the island, I only had played at a few of the 10 mini-golf places. We were excited to find our favorite and participate in one of our favorite hobbies together! During our date night on Wednesday, Cody and I set out the terms of our challenge:
We bike to every place.
We play every hole.
We rank each mini-golf place on our self-created scale to determine our favorite place (categories included ambiance, friendliness of the staff, creativity, difficulty, etc.)
We determine the ultimate LBI mini-golf champ based on the scores of five categories (1 pt.-Most Hole-in-Ones, 1 pt.-Lowest Overall Score, 1 pt.-Best out of 10, 1 pt.-Best in Tournament, 1 pt.-Lowest Below Par)
Course #1&2: Mr. Tee’s. (See above) At Mr. Tees we played in our first mini-golf tournament and we were not disappointed. After slaying the first 9 holes, I choked on the second 9 but still enjoyed the competition and meeting some other avid LBI mini-golfers. (We will definitely be participating in a tournament again next year!). After the tournament round, we played the shorter holes behind the tournament course completing the first 36 holes of golf.
Course #3: Mr Tee’s 36 Hole Course. (See below) At our second stop, we were joined by my mom and Josh to play the 36-hole course in the hot noon-day sun. I loved the small size of each hole (except for the longest mini-golf hole which ran a narrow stretch along the side of the ground’s maintenance building) and did very well. Cody on the other hand, was not too pleased with his performance, and when his bike pedal broke off as we were leaving, he had to walk to the next course while we waited for a different bike. This definitely did not help!
Course #4: The Sand Trap. (See right) We quickly breezed through this course (having played it just a few nights prior for Cody’s birthday) and I came out on top, putting me at 3-1 for courses, much to both of our surprise.
Course # 5: Island Golf. (See below) Making it past the causeway (that marks the half-way point up the island) we stopped at Island Mini-Golf and the tides began to turn, both in Cody’s playing and his enjoyment of the day.
Course #6: Sandbar Golf. We thought we had reached the furthest mini-golf stop on the north side of the island when we played at Island Golf, but discovered we were wrong when talking with an employee there. Just a few blocks away lay Sandbar Golf, unadvertised online, which would have caused us to fail our entire mission! Thankfully we made it to this hidden course, and I enjoyed the fact that each hole was dedicated to and given the namesake of a different section of LBI. (See below)
Course # 7: Flamingo Golf. (See below) At this mini-golf course, Cody and I racked up lots of holes-in-ones.The groundskeeper here prided himself in the upkeep and precision of each holes’ contraptions.We loved that if you scored it in the windmill’s bucket or hit right into the “nitro-blaster-thing” your ball would roll into the hole every time! This man also gave us the best ball selection; I played with an emoji and Cody with a golf version of an 8 ball. (See right) No wonder this is the favorite of LBI mini-golf enthusiast, Ray Romano.
(Side Note: You may have noticed that I changed my shirt. This day was a scorcher and Cody and I had to stop for iced coffee and lemonade before running to the Surf City 5 & 10 to buy a tee-shirt with sleeves so that I would not continue to get fried).
Course #8: Hartland Golf. (See below). On our way back down the island, we stopped at Hartland Golf just a few blocks south of the causeway.Here Cody and I tied and we remained at 4-4 in course wins, were even on hole-in-ones, and within 10 points of each other overall. This course was also memorable because after telling the employee about our journey, he gave us free soda pop tickets and an old tournament trophy (that has the wrong date and says 4th place, but we were delighted!)
After Hartland, Cody and I biked over seven miles against the ocean breeze back home for dinner (Now it was my turn to be grumpy, 5 month pregnant legs were not thrilled and I now understand why it’s better to be the goose flying in the back of the V). I constantly had Cody go in front of me to face the brunt of the wind. After dinner, we were back out to our most familiar mini-golf hotspot for the last two courses.
Courses # 9 &10: Thundering Surf. (See above) We finished up our day with the Waterfall and Cave CourseS at Thundering Surf in Bay Village. The holes are the most popular, yet most difficult and haphazard on the island (to my demise).Cody, completely decked out in golf attire, garnished many the odd-look and stare, but came out glaringly on top in our competition. He ended up with all five points and secured the title Island Mini-Golf Champion, after I had put up a good fight all day long.
Our day, which began at 9 am finally ended at 11pm, but we were successful at playing all 198 holes of mini-golf on Long Beach Island!!It was a day on my precious stretch of shoreline that I will never forget. And despite both of us having our moments, whether from near heat-exhaustion or the competition of the day, I’m so glad to have a partner in this life that’s as quirky and up for this kind of silly-fun! It was a day for the Long Beach island memory books!
How can I end my summer 2017 memories and not say something about the profound and unseen mystery inside of me? In early March I got some unexpected news. I’d be lying to you if I said I was excited right at the start. But over the course of this summer I’ve come to cherish the miracle unfolding beneath the belly bump.
This summer, I’ve delighted in finding out the gender of our little guy, getting countless surprise gifts from excited friends and family, and picking out paint colors for the bedroom. I’ve enjoyed feeling the kicks and twists and turns in my tummy (one time I placed my hand on my belly and enjoyed the little bumps for the duration of an entire movie!). I snagged this photo above (courteousy of Laurel Creative) while out picking blueberries with our wedding photographer and friend. Cody and I celebrated one year of marriage this past July and have been settling into a love-life-groove that makes it exciting to consider sharing that with another person. I’ve begun pondering what life will be like with our new little guy.
I do still have questions, like: How do you give a baby their first bath? What’s it going to be like to balance being both mom and teacher? and Am I going to do a good enough job if I choose not to stay at home?
All of these questions still linger, but what I’ve learned from quiet mornings on the Adirondack chairs out back and porch swings in the front is that I will continue to listen to the voice of my Heavenly Father and to the small voice that’s inside of me through times of stillness and the silence. It’s in these spaces that I can hear the most important Voice in my life instead of listening to the crowded and chaotic ones telling me how I should be as a mom. As I embark on the start of a new school year and say goodbye to summer, I will continue to make this time to discover who I want to be as mother to my little dude as I listen to the voice of my Savior (and the Savior of my soon-to-be child).
One of the most special parts of this summer was the chance to reconnect with old friends and to continue to develop relationships with new ones!
First, I celebrated the upcoming marriage of my longest friend, of 15 years, through her bridal shower and bachelorette party and in less than three weeks, we will celebrate her wedding. At her bachelorette weekend down in Dewey Beach, Delaware we marveled that the dreams of two pre-teen girls planning to be in each other’s weddings would be coming true in back-to-back summers! (See right)
I also spent a wonderful day with my college friend, who has been a great confidant
ever since graduating as we seem to share similar life journeys: graduating from Messiah as education majors, becoming teachers, buying houses and getting married all within a similar time frame. While we often connect via text messages, it was a delight to spend time face-to-face with our new spouses, enjoying a homemade lunch of quesadillas, playing “Jack-box tv” games and then being treated to dinner in their cute town of Winchester. (See left)
This summer also provided the neat opportunity to begin fostering relationships with other newly-married couples in the area. Both Cody and I enjoyed inviting people over for board games (like Settlers of Catan and a newbie Forbidden Island), dinner and a walk to Maggie’s the Italian Ice and Custard Hut just down the street. We watched as our “Friday Night Board Game” friends got married, and helped them celebrate by making their guest book, housing the groomsman the night before the wedding and just generally being available to help them with last-minute details (like making wristlets for the mothers at the flower shop and quickly turning a slice of our Christmas tree into a ring box for them to use in the ceremony). Last Sunday, we enjoyed some last summer memories (particularly for Cody who started back-to-school training this week) by
packing up a picnic dinner of Chinese food, watermelon, candy and snacks galore and driving the ’88 Bronco to Haar’s old-fashioned drive in for back-to-back movies (even if one of them was “The Nut Job 2-Nutty By Nature”). We laughed, tossed a frisbee, ate our picnic dinner, and even played a round of Catan in the open back of the truck before settling in for the movies. They continue to be friends that we love getting to know better and getting to share the joys and challenges of being newly married, including encouraging one another in the process. I know I am just so thankful for these new friendships and can’t wait to watch them continue to grow! (See top).
Side note: Having an ice cream shop just down the road has become the perfect avenue for sharing in fellowship with others. Twice this summer, I was invited to an on-the-spot ice cream run with friends who texted, “Hey just stopping by Maggie’s and wondered if your free to join”… I’m so thankful that I have had the margin in my life to drop what I’m doing and say a resounding “YES, I’ll be there in a minute.”
This past spring, as my school year began to wind down, I wondered what I would fill my summer days with. I’ve learned from the past that I thrive on a schedule and would do best with part-time work to bookend my days. Last summer was full of wedding planning, the honeymoon, and settling into a new home so finding a summer job was off the table. As I began dreaming about this summer I had a few criteria in mind: something that would be refreshing, where I could leave work at work, and NO KIDS! As a teacher and soon-to-be-mama, it’s pretty apparent that I love children but I knew in order to bring my best self into another year of teaching I needed my summer to be child-free (besides the one growing in my belly!).
I don’t know what sparked the idea of working with flowers, but I do know that it was Cody who suggested that I email the florist who did our wedding flowers last summer. My wedding flowers (see below) were simply stunning and were one of the highlights of that special day. To me, it seemed like a shot in the dark to ask such skilled crafts-women, but Cody continued to urge me and after a few phone calls and emails, to my surprise I was accepted!
Many of these summer days, I have stood in the flower shop marveling at the beauty that surrounds me, engulfed in buckets of beautiful blooms as I worked.
Sunflowers. Roses. Gerber Daisies. Hydrangeas. Lilies. Carnations. Anemone. Dahlias. Coral Charm Peonies. Hypericum. Lisianthus (effectionately known as “lizzy”). Freesia. Baby’s Breath. Ranunculus. King Protea. Italian Ruscus. Eucalyptus in all varieties. The yellow pom-pom flowers I can never remember the name of. Mountain Mint. Buckets and buckets full!
When I go into the shop, I often watch my coworkers with wonder, being heard too often saying “That’s beautiful,” or “Wow, I just love that!” unable to contain the simply breathtaking sights of their creations. Opening a giant walk-in fridge to the sight of wedding bouquets and arrangements is one that even in August I have not gotten over. I was thrilled to spend hours creating beauty alongside these other women, learned some pretty neat tricks (like how to make all the stems go in a circular order so that they can almost stand on their own!) and witnessed some true creativity that stretched my mono-or di-chromatic way of thinking.
This summer job at Foster’s Flower Shop definitely makes my top 7 of summer 2017! I have had the privilege of watching others create beauty and have been thrilled to be invited to create beauty myself.
(P.S. This is a King Protea, and I was pretty blown away when it came in with our order the other day, and if you are as flower crazy as I am, watch this time lapse of a Coral Charm Peony transforming from brilliant coral to white!)
In the early spring one of my dearest, “bestest” friends and post-college roommate disclosed inklings that she was considering moving out of our south-central Pennsylvania town that had become the home of our friendship of seven years. I was excited and proud of her courage to pick up her life, take it down south, and pursue a relationship she had always desired.
As the days and months of the spring began to slip away these inklings turned to dreams, these dreams to plans, and plans to reality. Just a few weeks after our school year ended, we were taking our last walk through the cornfields and talking going-away parties and moving trucks. I watched as the apartment on Locust Point that I had never seen bare began to be emptied as she packed her things into boxes. We had shared that precious space for the two-years before I got married; full of watching the Bachelor, decorating for Christmas, late night talks in the hallway, being snowed in the blizzard of 2016 and learning from her cooking as sous chef, a dream come true for two college girls who fantasized about living together. That sacred home held us as we transitioned into teachers, got through the major challenge of learning to be both friends and roommates, fell in love, and eventually even after moving out, it was the place I learned I was going to be a mother.
Mid-June we planned one last friend date, afternoon tea, before her man came into town to begin the moving process. The morning of the date, I was overly emotional. At first I tried to blame the transition from the school year to the summer, and even tried to blame Cody. Finally, I realized what it was. My friend, my true and deep friend of seven years was moving and I was grieving, not the grieving from death but the grieving that comes with good, bittersweet change. After confessing my true feelings to her, I explained that I just didn’t know how I was going to do the day. She replied and said “I know it may be hard for you to see me, but it will be harder if we don’t” to which I responded “Not seeing you is not an option in my book, as hard as it is I’m still going to see you.”
We decided to press in. No matter how hard, we would lean into the pain instead of doing the easy task of pulling out when it got sad and difficult. Pressing into this bittersweet season meant sharing moments of finding boxes behind department stores. It meant making a slide-show of pictures and songs and crying all the way through it. It meant visits with her boyfriend’s family and joyfully (truly joyfully!) third-wheeling as I was given the opportunity to meet important people in her new life. It meant throwing a good-bye party when I wished there would be no-goodbyes. It meant packing up rooms and memories into boxes. It meant sharing a goodbye letter, hugging over and over again in the basement of our old home, and with tears-streaming down my face, turning away from my best friend into the pouring good-bye rain. But pressing into the pain also meant celebrating the joy of having made a true and lasting friend, who made goodbye so hard.
On our last night together on Locust Point we spent a few sacred moments while I read a letter to her. I have since carried the words “press in” and the memories of that night in my heart all summer as we’ve begun to learn the new patterns of being long distance friends. The words of that letter continue to encourage me in this season of pressing in:
“I am not going to pretend that our friendship is not going to change, it is. However, I am glad to experience the grief of watching you move across the country because it means that I let you become so important to me and have such a deep part of my heart and I wouldn’t want it any other way…. I will continue to press into the missing you and the figuring out of this next phase of our friendship…I am here even from miles away, loving you, supporting you, excited for you, and grieving the way our friendship was, and celebrating the new way it will be. I love you so much my very best friend.”
Towards the beginning of the summer, Cody and I took almost back-to-back road trips down the PA Turnpike West. The first stop was an anniversary trip to my dad’s roots: Pittsburgh,PA. While there, we went to a Pirate’s baseball game (complete with a cotton candy beard, see below), toured the zoo, shopped in the Strip District and took a boat tour of the rivers. Three of my favorite moments of the short trip were exploring the Fort Pitt Block House and learning about the woman who used to sell candy from the window of the tiny building (my kind of lady!), riding the Incline and walking the beautiful stretch of sidewalk along the ridge of Mount Washington complete with a gorgeous view of the skyline, and simply enjoying moments by the pool with my husband.
The second road trip just a few short days later brought us through Pittsburgh again, but this time, after scooping up my dad, we continued on to the small town of Cedarville, Ohio for the wedding of a long time family friend. The weekend in Ohio also boasts itself as one of my favorite of the summer. We stayed at a quaint, country inn in the center of down-town Cedarville. Down-town Cedarville consists of a few shops and a couple of intersecting roads and the atmosphere instantly put me at ease. We rode bicycles (Cody and I riding tandem) the morning before the wedding, got coffee at a local shop, played chess in the window-sill bench of the inn and played mini-golf at a place called “Udders and Putters” at Young’s Dairy Farm (which we visited three times in our short 48-hour visit..you would think it was the only thing to do in the small town.) During the wedding, I laughed and laughed as I square danced hand-in-hand with Cody, my parents and our family friends. What was truly delightful was reconnecting so closely with childhood friends, getting to share it as young adults, discussing marriage and jobs and dreams, all the while watching them come to appreciate Cody so much! It was a truly wonderful weekend!