Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Birthday Bro...

Happy birthday to my little brother, Nathaniel (Nate)!

(Here he is trying on Japanese apparel!)


As I write this, he is enjoying his pool party at mom and Rich's new house with all his friends and some of our family. I wish I could be there to celebrate with him, but I did send him this for his birthday:


So, happy birthday little bro!





Monday, June 23, 2008

Annistonian panorama

You should really try not using air-conditioning in your car for a summer in Alabama. It's sort of the summertime equivalent of what those polar bear clubs do. But instead of jumping into freezing water, you immerse yourself in a metal box that's been baking in the sun all day. If you don't feel life rushing through your veins after that, you're not alive.

Anyway, my car sucks. But the heat situation does help with one thing -- convincing you to get out of the car every once in a while. On my way back home tonight from a community meeting about youth crime, I made a one-block detour to a bridge where you can get a great vista of downtown Anniston. I've been meaning for quite a while to take a picture from that vantage. And, with the setting sun painting the sides of the buildings, all the elements were in place tonight.

Now, if I could have figured out something to do with all those pesky powerlines.

Golf Yourself

If you like hills, you'll love Indian Oaks Golf Club just west of Anniston. Jen and I went out for a day of hacking and swearing. And we have the pictures to prove it.

Jen strikes a pose -- golfsta-style!



It was only a matter of time before I'd find some sand...



... and find reason to curse the gods.



Luckily, Jen had her game going. She beat me by three strokes on the front nine. I beat her pretty well on the back, but I don't think we tallied it up.



Golf lesson: Keep your head down, like this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jeremography, Part III

Editor's Note: This is the third part of a series aimed at shedding some light on AYT's newest blogger, Jeremy.

Another decade passed before Jennifer and I wound up in the same building. This time, the setting was a sports bar instead of a sports stadium.

A colleague of mine buffeted e-mail inboxes across South Florida with invitations to join a club for young journalists. Similar organizations were popping up across the country at the time in reaction to the bad name we were getting because of the Jayson Blair scandal.

My colleague rented a room at a bar in Broward County. I showed up fashionably late and sat next to my then-roommate (and current T-U staffer), Larry Hannan. After a few minutes, it struck me that I should probably try to mingle.

I found an empty chair on the other side of the room and started a conversation with a Sun-Sentinel copy editor. But I soon found my attention gravitating to the young woman on her left.

Jennifer, then the lone metro writer for The Jupiter Courier, was more gregarious and could speak more deeply on a subject that was of particular interest to me that day: the degree to which Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler sucked.

After a while, we exchanged business cards and parted.

I e-mailed Jennifer the next morning. She e-mailed me back.

Later, we discovered we had been together before: 10 years earlier in a stadium, separated by a sea of orange seats and a crush of humanity. Perhaps that decade-long delay is the reason we don’t like to be away from each other for long.

Jeremography, Part II

Editor's Note: This is the second part in a series aimed at shedding some light on AYT's newest blogger, Jeremy.

In its wisdom, the state of Florida required undergraduates to take at least six hours of science instruction at its universities.

Scanning the University of Florida student catalog, I found a course that seemed easy enough. Plant identification, it was called.

My mom was an avid gardener who had managed against long odds to instill in her son an enduring fascination in all things green. I was sure I could identify some plants.

“What’s that?” the professor would ask.

“An orange tree,” I would reply.

If only it were so easy. In actuality, the course involved memorizing long lists of plants, their generic and Latin species names and their Latin family names. And you’d have to know what you were looking at on sight.

It was the hardest I’ve ever worked for a “B” before or since.

On the first day of class, the professor asked how many of us were botany majors. About three-quarters of the hands shot up in the air. How many turf grass majors? About 10 percent went up. Ecology? Forestry? And so it went until the instructor finally asked if there was anyone else.

I raised a hesitant hand and said I was in journalism.

“Oh,” the professor said, searching his Latin-name-filled mind for something nice to say. “Well, we need people who can write about plants.”

Jeremography, Part I

Editor's Note: This is the first part in a series aimed at shedding some light on AYT's newest blogger, Jeremy.

Baseball arrived in South Florida at the perfect time in my life, when my interest in the sport was peaking and my attention had yet to turn toward those adolescent clich├ęs: girls and cars.

The Florida Marlins’ 1993 inaugural season was a month old before my family finally made the 45-minute trip from our bland suburb to Joe Robbie Stadium, which was bigger and more garish than I had imagined.

Through his job at Publix, my dad had secured complimentary skybox seats. I had never known such luxury. Free hot dogs and Sprites? Big, cushy seats? Air-conditioning at a baseball stadium? Tell me I’m dreaming!

The game wasn’t bad either. We exploded into cheering as Jeff Conine, whose workmanlike consistency would earn him the nickname “Mr. Marlin,” bashed a searing line drive over the left-field wall for a grand slam.

I wonder how I would have felt if I had known that amid the stadium’s full-throated din was the voice of my future wife, who was sitting a lazy fly ball away from my too-young-to-know-better self.

Who Could Be Blue When There Are Berries?...

So, a random question for my loyal readers (few, but proud!): What does one do with a gallon of fresh blueberries?

In an attempt to get out of our collective mood funk last weekend, Jeremy and I went blueberry picking. The blueberries were AMAZING!

Last weekend was the first weekend the farm was open, so we were among the first ones to get to the trees. We could have gone on for days! I'd say at least 65% of the blueberries were ripe and huge!

Uh, we got a little carried away, and now we have a million blueberries. I have frozen them, and am eagerly awaiting some good ideas!!

Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tommy Boy

Tuesdays, the Marlins TV telecast reads viewer e-mails. Since there was no broadcast yesterday, they're doing it tonight, with the Marlins playing the (Rime of the Ancient) Mariners out in Seattle. And I totally got my e-mail read on TV.

"Ooooh, this is a good one," the answer began. (I can't tell which one, because Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton sound exactly alike.) The context of my comment was that the Marlins were facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and Hutton, a reserve player in the '70s, was saying he didn't hit knuckleball pitchers all that well.

Here's the e-mail in question:

Hey guys,

Not really a question, but more of an elaboration here. According to baseballreference.com, Tommy DID, in fact, have a tough time against the knuckleball. He was 1 for 18 lifetime against Phil Niekro (hey, but with one RBI) and one for 8 against Joe. Ouch.

Jeremy
Anniston, Ala.


My hometown got the announcers talking, of course, about Jennifer Aniston (one "n" instead of two.) And they misread the e-mail, saying Tommy was oh-for-eight against Joe Niekro when it clearly says he got one hit.

Still, pretty cool.

A new author

Jennifer and I haven't quite been able to share a bank account, but we're going to give sharing a blog a try. She beat me to the blog game, but I came roaring back with the creation of mine about a year ago. You can find it here.

You'll notice I haven't posted there in a while. That's because I realized that Jen and I basically were doing the same thing. We were both fighting over post ideas because we were writing about our lives. Why not combine our efforts?

So, it's nice to be here. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Come-a Knock On Our Door...

As promised, here are more pictures of mine and Jeremy's new place.

Obviously this is the apartment complex's model, as we do not favor a nautical theme!!

Here's Jeremy walking in from the balcony into the living room:


Here's a wide shot of the living room:


One of my favorite features, a kitchen that opens up into the living room: (also note the great ceramic-like tiles!)


Here's the guest bedroom (all this could be yours, visitors!!):


As anyone who has seen mine and Jeremy's last two places can tell you, our bathrooms have a tendency to be rather cramped. In fact, in Everglades City, our bathroom offered the convenience of being able to brush your teeth AND go to the bathroom at the same time!

Not so with this place! Check out our spacious master bathroom!!


Here's an exterior look at our building (ours is on the second floor, the one on the left):


Here's a view from our future balcony of the pool and courtyard:


And here's the lovely pool all you lucky guests can come relax at when you come visit!


We love it!

Our Greatest Gift...

I don't know if I'll ever be ready to say goodbye to Angie. She was such a huge part of my life, even though I didn't see her all the time.

I've been battling the usual mix of emotions that come with tragedy. Obviously there's grief over losing a close friend. Also, there is a sense of anxiety that is borne out of something like this. You start thinking, if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone I love or even to me. It's a terrible feeling.

I'll never get over losing Angie, but I think I do need to move into a new phase of grieving -- one where I'm not afraid all the time. In an effort to do this, I've been focusing on the major impact Angie had on my life, which was not only her giving us Nathaniel, but mainly her friendship.


Angie's best friend, Kyle, gave me Angie's favorite purse, which I recognized immeadiately. I've been trying to figure out what to do with it: use it or just store it as a reminder.

Mom answered that question for me: "You know she'd want you to use it! She'd say you're crazy if you don't."

I laughed, knowing that is exactly what Angie would say.

One day, when I'm able to do so with a smile, I will use it. Just not today.

Below is a column I wrote published in January of 2004 in The Jupiter Courier when I worked as a reporter/columnist there. The last half is all about Angie, and it's the part of her that I will always hold on to.

After this, I'm going to try to return to my normal postings. I know, for my own sake, that I have to.

But, more than that, I know she would want me to.

There's something a little "different" about my family.

I have four younger siblings. My dad and stepmother's sons are the spitting image of me to the extent that our baby pictures are nearly interchangeable.

But my mother and step-father's children don't look even closely related to each other, much less to me. In case you hadn't guessed it already, I'll reveal the "secret": My youngest brother and only sister are adopted.

Don't worry -- I'm not letting any family skeletons out of the closet. They have always known that they are adopted, so it's not going to be a shocking revelation they'll have to face today (or when they're old enough to read).

My mother and stepfather have made sure the kids understand where they came from. They know they were born out of somebody else's tummy. More importantly, they know they were chosen to be members of our family.

People tend to do a double-take when they see us. Our substantial age difference is a one reason. I am 17 years older than my youngest brother and 19 years older than my sister. When people see us together, they assume I am a young, unwed (no ring on my finger) mother. Sometimes people scowl. Other times, they look at me as if I were a living symbol of courage; a real, live Murphy Brown.

Another noticeable difference is our general appearance. What people sometimes have a hard time comprehending about my family is the obvious difference in our skin colors.

Both of my adopted siblings are biracial, though it is slightly more obvious in one than in the other. According to birth records, both had a black father and white mother. But my brother has perfectly tan skin that appears to have been kissed by the sun, and my sister has skin smoother and whiter than a porcelain doll. Go figure.

As for me, I am an Irish-English, freckled red-head.

But external differences aren't the only peculiarities about my family. Truth be told, I think we are a little different, even for an adopted family.

When we opened our doors to my little brother, we also opened them up to his birth mother.

She bravely gave birth to my brother at the age of 17. Even more courageously, she knew that someone else could take better care of him than she could. On the morning of his birth, she handed him over to us.

Through the years, she has become part of our family. She vacations with us, flies in for week-long visits, and shares gifts and greetings with us during the holidays.

Some people might question the lack of boundaries in our relationship, but I never do. I've spoken with her at length about the choices she's made, and I believe the contact she shares with her son has saved them both.

As a boy growing into a man, my brother will never resent his birth mother, because he'll never be kept in the dark about why he was given to us. And she will be free to continue to grow into a successful woman with a wide-open world at her fingertips, because she will never feel the void of not knowing her son.

The birth mother's role in our family may be different from what other families in our position would allow, but I truly cannot imagine it any other way for us. We may be different from each other -- and from other families. But we are as loving and caring as any other close-knit family.

Being different is just one of the many qualities that makes us special.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Angie...

Yesterday we lost a very dear member of our family.

As most of you know, my brother, Nathaniel, is adopted. His birth mother, Angie, gave birth to him when we were both 17. She gave us the most precious and selfless gift anyone could possibly give -- her beautiful son.

Yesterday Angie was killed in a tragic car accident on her way to work in Hickory.


We are all shocked and devastated. There are no words to describe it.

Angie had one of the most beautiful souls of anyone I've ever met. She did what was best for her son, whom she loved, and, even though it broke her own heart, she gave him to us.

Over the years, Angie became a very real member of our family, joining us on trips and coming to Florida for regular visits.

She will always be in our hearts and minds, for she touched everyone who knew her with love and generosity.

I could explain to you how she became one with our family, but I think no one could say it better than she did. Here is a blog posting from her MySpace page she wrote about 2 years ago:

The love of my life

I would like to share a piece of my life with all of my friends here on MySpace. Some of you are aware of this beautiful story and some are not that is why I want to make sure everyone is aware. On 6/28/97, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was 21 inches long and weighed 7lbs and 11ozs.... (Barb, make sure I have that right...) He was perfect in every way, 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 arms, 2 legs, perfectly normal in all aspects. The only thing not so perfect was the decision at hand. I was very young and had experienced very little of life to even begin to know what it would hold for me and my newborn son. I had given it plenty of thought and had already made the decision to allow another family to take my son as their own. With that decision written in stone in my mind, my heart yearned to reconsider. You never fully understand unconditional love until you look into the eyes of your child. It is a love that surmounts any feeling for another human. It is a little piece of your heart you never new existed. It is like an epiphany for the soul. It creates a whole new world of feelings you never felt before. As I looked into his little eyes, barely open, I promised him a good life and that I had his best interests at heart. I said a lot of things to that little baby, most I don't remember verbatim, I just poured my heart out to him and hoped that somehow he knew I loved him very much. I knew that he might never understand and that I may never see him again. I knew that I may regret it and that I may never be the same. I also knew that I was responsible for making sure he would have the best life possible and if that meant that he must go live with another family, so be it. If that meant that I would have to wonder where he was, so be it. If that meant that he may never know me but know a life much better than the one I could offer, so be it. The decision was made. So I told myself, SUCK IT UP!! Get on with it and left it at that. My heart stood still for a couple days so I could get through it. People often ask "How did you do it?" I have no idea. I just had this feeling that everything was going to be okay and that I would have this little boy in my life if it wasn't more that pictures and postcards. I knew that somehow someway he would make it back to me and he would know everything I told him was true. He would have a good life and I loved him more that anything in the world.


I placed my son with an agency that would agree to open communication between families. I had 5 profiles to choose from. My mom and I poured over these files, just flat papers and grainy pictures of my "choices". At first glance, none of them stuck out. They all seemed like nice families wanting to add a pivotal part to their family, a new baby. I don't know what made me choose the family I chose, if it was a "sign" or if it was just a "feeling". Maybe in my stomach, Nathaniel made the decision for me somehow, I have no idea, it just happened that way. I picked a family that like the others had nice smiles and nice profiles but that just seemed right. I don't know what I saw in those papers or in those eyes in the photos but somehow I seen my son's future within. So the time came to meet my son's new parents. They were so happy to finally find what they had been searching and waiting so long for. I felt a kin ship immediately. Never once did I look at these people with doubt and never once did they look down or judge me. We held a dedication service with pastor who was a friend of the family. Everyone gathered round the bed as I held Nathaniel close to my heart for what I thought would be the last time. To be honest, I barely remember the moment. I think I was trying to be strong and do what I needed to do for my son and that was not cry and make it harder on everyone as well as myself. The time came for me to hand him to Barbara….Her eyes were bright and shining as she looked at his little face and I knew she would be a great mother to him. Richard rubbed his head with his hand, which where HUGE in comparison to Nathaniel's head and I could see the love in his eyes as well. I knew those hands would nurture, protect and guide Nathaniel through life. The service concluded and we talked a few moments, as I said before, it was all a blur at this point. All I remember is it was time to go home now without my son. During the ride home, I could feel my mom looking at me every so often, I suppose waiting on the break down. Being the good mother she is, she wanted to catch me should I fall from my rock. I stood fast though, knowing that everything would be ok. My son would have a wonderful life and that was comfort enough. When I seen other moms holding their children I longed for that feeling. I seen other moms kissing boo boos and fetching binkies. All the while, I knew there was a mama holding my baby and kissing boo boos and fetching sometimes 2 binkies at once.

:) Sometimes I questioned myself about my motives and wondered if it was the right thing to do. In my heart of hearts I knew that I would see that baby again and perhaps I would chase a binkie as well.

The days went by, then a couple weeks and then a couple months. I had received several letters and pictures from the agency and had sent several of my own. I would get sometimes 2 at a time but it seemed as if the agency was holding the letters for a period of time so it was hard for us to correspond accurately as our letter were passing each other and sitting a while in someone's office before being sent. We were forbidden to offer any "identifying information" such as last names, work places, etc at the hospital. However, they must have not told the hospital that who pasted my last name all over his basinet which come to find out, Richard who was shooting the video was sure to zoom in on…just in case. My mom had the best idea ever a couple days before I went into labor. We had a set goblets that had been in the family for quite some time and she said we should give them to the family for Nathaniel so he would have part of his heritage. She also included a business card with all our "identifying information", ss#'s, address, full names and an email address. With approval from the adoption counselor, we handed over the box and Mama said to Barbara "Wait til you get home to open it…they are packed tight for the trip home." This was so the counselor wouldn't catch us in our feat. I think Nathaniel was about 9 months old when I was sitting in the living room watching TV as my mom was on the computer checking emails. She called my name and I thought, Oh hell what have I done now? Little did I know, my son's mom had broken the ice and emailed us. I couldn't believe my eyes. The email simply said we would like to communicate person to person if it's okay with you. I get a little choked up writing this as I can say besides giving birth to Nathaniel this was the happiest moment of my life. My heart swelled with joy. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I knew then that I would hold my son again. I would have the chance to see him grow. I would be able to kiss his cheek and tell him in person how much I love him.

We corresponded via email and began talking on the phone and finally arranged to meet. They agreed to come to my house and we would celebrate Nathaniel's first birthday together. He was a little past one but that didn't matter! We celebrated his first year and our reunion. Some of my family came and my mom made a big dinner. Nathaniel opened his gifts in the floor, tearing paper, baby talking and smiling the whole time. I beamed, just shined like a beacon seeing him sitting in my living room floor…MY LIVING ROOM FLOOR!!!! As always, his adoptive family was so nice to me. I felt like I had known them all my life and you know, if you think about it, maybe I have. God works in mysterious ways that is for sure. He knew all along that this family would find what they so desperately needed and knew that with His guidance, I could do possibly the hardest thing any one person can do; give your child up for adoption. The rest is history folks. Not only does my child have a wonderful life and future ahead, but I have gained a circle of family that are some of the best people among us. They have been very open and honest with Nathaniel and he has known from the beginning that he is adopted. This made it so much easier for me and more importantly, Nathaniel. I often wonder who is luckier, me or him. Nathaniel is now 9 years old and growing so fast. He is such a handsome little boy as well, spitting image of his birth mom J (I know, I know but I had to do it) Time has flown by. We spend time together when work schedules allow and remain tight knit. I thank God everyday for my son and his family. Take a moment to cherish your family, the ones you can't pick and the ones who pick you. I know I do.



Angie, you are in our hearts and souls always. We love you.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Home Sweet Home...

Jeremy and I spent the day in Jacksonville hunting for apartments. After a discouraging start (some really awful properties), we found a great place on the southwest side of Jacksonville.

(Ours is the yellow circled one)


It's a 2-bedroom, 2-bath, with an open kitchen, balconey overlooking the pool, and nice walk-in closets. If you're ever out our way, come join us for a cookout at the pool!

More pictures to come soon!

Welcome Baby Girl...

My cousin, Danielle, had her baby girl last week.

Say hello to Abbigale Mackenzie!


Mommy is doing fine. Abbigale is having a few reflux issues, which is affecting her breathing. The doctors are keeping their eyes on her, but she should be fine.

Congratulations Danielle and Jason!