Category Archives: Beach Life

Turtle Tales and Flippers TOO

loggerhead 2011

Loggerhead turtle nest boil Arch Street Kill Devil Hills August 2011

In mid-August 2011 just as we are leaving the beach two of the three original Camp OBX campers, Martin and Jake, and I get a real treat. The turtle nest that is due to boil any day begins to do just that. We have literally packed our things and are headed towards the steps when we look over at the nest carefully cordoned off by the hard working N.E.S.T folks. This is done from the time the eggs are laid until hatching, or boiling, in turtle lingo. As time for a nest to hatch approaches the volunteers also add a path to the beach carefully brushed smooth and blocked off with stakes and tape.

jake and martin 2011

Jake and Martin playing in the surf 2011

Most nests boil after sunset but before midnight. Because N.E.S.T volunteers are so protective of the new hatchlings no one is allowed to use a flash light to view a night crawl. The odd lights might confuse the babies headed to the more often than not moon lit sea. So on that rare occasion when a nest goes off in the day light hours witnesses get to actually see the process. We have come to play at this part of the beach every day of camp in hopes of seeing a boil knowing realistically that our chances are pretty remote. Lydia, the remaining original camper will be along next week. She is at German camp in Richmond this week or she would have been with us too. We really did get lucky.

aquarium turtle photoAugust 2015 brings another turtle adventure for Camp OBX. The aquarium on Roanoke Island is planning on releasing three green turtles that have been rescued and rehabilitated at their facility. Campers and I at various times throughout the past two years have seen all three turtles and Edward even got to chat at length with one volunteer about Augie’s broken flipper and how students at NC State made a custom cast using a 3-D printer.

The release is scheduled for Monday morning August 3rd at 8:30AM. Donald, Terri & Sebastian are at family camp and they decide that it is worth getting up and out for to witness. I drop them off and begin a search for a parking place. Car secure, I head to the beach access. There are already hundreds of people gathered on this pleasant overcast morning.

sea biscuit and info: augie info too crab info and augie cast augie in box AugieAs I cross the street to meet up with DTS, I hear an aquarium volunteer tell the Nags Head police officer helping everyone safely get across the beach road that the turtles are not here yet. Barely have I relayed this information to DTS when I spy volunteers with three plastic containers headed from the beach access to the area roped off a few yards north. The boxes are so small. Surely they cannot be holding the turtles. But they are. The turtles looked so much bigger to me in the hospital tanks.

goodbye augie

Goodbye Augie!

Sebastian and I wiggle our way to the front of the roped off section and watch while the turtles are paraded around for everyone to see. It is a well organized event and everyone gets a chance to see at least one turtle up close. We get a view of the special cast off of Augie’s flipper.

And then it’s time for the release. First Sea Biscuit all 6.16 pounds of him. After he is safely beyond the shore break, it’s Crab’s turn. He’s the middle child today, middle in weight at 11.88 pounds and middle to be released. And finally frantic to get out of the box is big bruiser at 13.64 pounds, Augie. It’s been two whole years. He’s grateful for the helping hands but he wants to get back to the sea.

And hour and a half from when we started our adventure we’re home getting breakfast. Should have been flipping pancakes but we settled for biscuits, in Sea Biscuit’s honor.


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Filed under Animal Antics, Beach Life

The JETT Set

cottage sideReedville, Virginia calls our name in the summer. Home to generations of Jetts since Peter first stepped off of the boat near Leedstown with his wife, Mary, and their two sons and two daughters in 1663, we head there like migrating monarchs year after year.

In the late fifties my grandfather, using free cinder blocks my uncle Dick got from a job, builds us a cottage on the Chesapeake Bay between Reedville and Fleeton, Tibitha to be exact. Other Dad’s (my name for him that stuck) original plan is to buy Bayview at the end of the tiny finger of land the Jett’s call home the family homestead Sunnyside being just around the corner on Taskmaker’s Creek.  A cousin who promises my grandfather first refusal instead sells it out of the family. Decades later a rich buyer razes (my aunt begs him not to do it to the point of laying down in front of the bulldozer) the original home saved from certain destruction during the Civil War by the Sutton sisters, and which was in pristine condition, to build a more modern style. Then he decides the mosquitoes are too horrible and sells. To this day Bayview is still the perfect setting with a yard that slopes to the bay unlike our spot with a steep hill to clamor up and down as well as being a constant erosion challenge. It sits next to the family cemetery where many of Other Dad’s young siblings are buried. The results of two first cousins marrying we are told. Three children survive to adulthood, my grandfather one. He is so sickly his mother promises his life to the church if he is spared an early death. He becomes a beloved minister on the Methodist circuit. He takes his family to Tibitha every chance he can get. The heritage of life on the bay runs deep within his veins.  And he wants his grandchildren to know those same joys so he buys three lots nearby, selling two off to pay down the mortgage on one.

Our cottage is a one level affair, a basic rectangle, with a bedroom in three corners, kitchen in the fourth, a bathroom and one more bedroom between the kitchen and corner bedroom along the back wall. A T shaped open space for dining, viewing the bay through the trees and card playing by the rarely used fireplace make for socializing and overflow sleeping. Rope and pulley stairs to the open attic where we store inner tubes for swimming and snakes seek shelter for sleeping in the off season round out the deal.

cottage backWe have no TV, no radio, no fans, no air conditioning. We use wooden orange boxes from the grocery for clothes organizing and are happy to have real beds to sleep on. Screens only for the big windows. If a bad storm blows in we close the heavy wooden shutters.

We have mosquitoes. We are fair game night and day. We have chiggers. A trip into their territory becomes necessary when the septic system surrenders from overuse by so many people. My uncle rescues us from being total pioneers with a once a day trip to the local gas station.

We measure the success of a night by how strong the wind is blowing the smell of the fish factory away from us. When the ships come in, always at night, we rush in all cars available to see them unload. Such is entertainment. The smell cannot be masked even by perfume held under a nose. There just is no smell like a menhaden fish boat unloading.

reedville beach

Midge Jett (Mom), my uncle Martin Williams, my grandfather Rev Starke Jett II

We spend the entire day on the beach accessible by steps we carve in the sloping sandy drop to the beach dotted with eroding pine trees. Someone goes to the cottage, a short walk through the waving pine trees, to fix lunch for everyone else.

Mom and my aunts, Keese and I.G., make creative shade shelters for nap time. Many years into our summer adventures they haul water washed pine poles from down the beach back to our spot for my dad and uncles to build a dock. We play with black inner tubes that must be constantly turned over to keep from practically scorching a layer of skin off. We never use sunscreen. Sun burns are a rite of passage. Peeling each other’s burnt skin layers a labor of love.


My brother Starke Jett V, me, my cousin Jett Williams, Mom, my sister Suzanne Reynolds, my friend from Whitehall Ohio, Carol Brenning.

We have sea nettles to thwart our best attempts at playing in the water. We have a wonderful tide that bestows awesome sandbars for wading in the already shallow water. We have tricky blue clay on much of our private beach that will humbles us in an instant with a gooey slippery spill. We have endless shards of sharp broken glass that my aunt Keese collects by the bucket full to make our beach more user friendly.

To get to this slice of heaven we, more times than not, hop in the car at our parents command as we spontaneously race to catch the last ferry of the night. We are crossing the Rappahannock River where a bridge now ages. But we only know the ferry. We sit on the dock waiting for it to return from across the river. We spy huge red sea nettles and crabs swimmings. The air is filled with night sounds of crickets and cicadas.

I find a stash of Nancy Drew books one summer and read my way through these originals. I find Ian Fleming another and meet 007. We invent games for our days spent on the beach. Fallen pines are ships and homes. Our inner tubes are boats.

screen with holeDrift wood of amazing proportions is everywhere. Mom loses her bathing suit top trying to hoist a big chunk up the sandy cliff. My uncle pushing from the bottom laughs at his unexpected delightful view. Neither are willing to forgo the goal. They win. Topped with round glass it makes a handsome coffee table.

We thrive on fresh foods. We pick crabs. We savor salt roe herring fried crisp and set aside for the warm roe tucked inside mashed with butter and spread on a hot biscuit. We shell butterbeans. We snap beans. We pop sugar peas. We peel peaches. We slice warm tomatoes. We shuck oysters and corn.

We catch lightning bugs and fill our mason jars with their wonder. We explore along the lane picking Queen Anne’s lace and yarrow blooms. Even when it rains the days are as hot as expected. We know nothing else and life is good.

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Filed under Beach Life, family

If the Load Gets Too Heavy Sit and Rest a Spell

heavy loadRecently we spy an osprey sitting at the top of our swing up ladder. He has a huge fish in his talon. It’s not moving. The hunting has gone well. But the trip home is arduous. This is a big fish, about a good half the size of the bird. I’m sure the catch is easy because those talons are not to be trifled with. But the trip home carrying that heavy load is another matter.

He’s not nibbling or even pecking at it. Occasionally these magnificent birds do sit on our ladder and have a treat. One does that as I write this post. An appetizer size fish. But this big catch. This catch is dinner for the family. After his rest. And rest he does. He just sits there and sits there and sits there. He looks back our way a lot. Probably checking on our cats.

After a long, many minutes long, restorative break this hawk of the sea spreads his wings and he and his mighty load are airborne. Home is just around the corner and I am pretty sure that is enough of a trip with the mother lode he is bearing. If it were a longer trip he would find another quiet haven and rest another spell. He would get it and himself home without undue risk. That is a given. He knows how to handle a load.

Your load might not be as apparently visible as this sea hawk’s. In fact no one may even know that you are carrying a heavy load. It doesn’t matter. It really is fine to sit and rest a spell when your load is too heavy. True friends will not question or judge you. They will discern that you know what you need and deem your plan a wise one.

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Filed under Beach Life, Colington Island

My Little Sunshine OBX = Success


Val beaming as she heads off to the store.

May 1, 2015 marks the grand opening of good friend and soon to be family, Valerie Netsch’s, awesome store, My Little Sunshine OBX. It’s a blend of new and may as well be new off beat items for that youngster everyone has at least one of or knows someone that does.

When she tells me of her plans I am in awe of all the work ahead. I cannot get beyond the thought of hangers and tags by the hundreds. Plus everything else that goes into opening a new store. But she’s done this before so she knows the drill. Val and Robert knock it out in their impressive to witness work ethic mode. All the while smiling. And being cleverly creative as well as economical.

My job is encouragement plus a plethora of little people SLAPBoards I create just for her shop. And some SandyBands for the younger set of course. And lastly, I need to be sure that she is launched properly. I dream that I am her first official paying customer (she is so successful at marketing she has people begging to buy before opening day). And so I set out to make it so.


My Little Sunshine OBX

I arrive a bit before 10AM. I sit a few minutes in the car and then go up to the door. Val and helper Gail are doing last minute things. Like try to figure out just where the key to unlock the iPad is so music can be played. Tiny panic when Val thinks that she has thrown it away. It’s found. Music floats through the air. I select my items and hand Val paper money. Who keeps their first dollar bill anymore but I think it’s a fun tradition and want her to have all the right karma. She takes a picture of it.

Customers are filling the store. A lady checks out. I’m not sure if she uses cash or credit, but I am next with my real purchase using my credit card. Surprise for goddaughter Haley Rea when she graduates. Donny later tells me that he thought of Haley when he saw the item too.

So I may have been first cash and credit customer on opening day. At any rate my job is done. I have brought my dream to fruition. And brought in customers for Val. Not that she needed me for that. But Donny & I are awesome customer magnets. Everywhere we go a shop can be completely empty and sheer moments after we step inside it fills up. We have considered hiring ourselves out. Customer magnet anyone? We are willing to travel.

Congratulations Valerie! You are a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life and your store beams.




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Filed under Art, ball family, Beach Life, family, SLAP Boards

Progress Can Be a Bitch Especially When You’re in a FOG About It

“We’re in a FOG! I can’t see you!” My friend and I are running behind a DDT truck as close as we can get to the sputtering machine pumping out noxious gas to kill mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that live by the thousands on our tiny island called Guam. We are not alone. Kids from all over the neighborhood join the ritual. It’s fun to be in a fog surrounded by only whiteness. Get as close as you can without keeling over from the fumes. And of course the truck is moving so you need to run, hold your breath, stop to catch a breath, then run some more before you get left behind.

The fog came in today while I was dashing around the monument. (Yes, yes I did dash on the runway.) And made me think of those evenings on Guam when we chased the DDT truck. Our kids wonder that I’m alive. They also wonder why they don’t all have six legs or three eyes.

Tumon Bay Guam

This is MY Tumon Bay

Life on Guam. In the fifties. Perfect in every way. Mom said it. Dad said it. We live it. We three and baby sister Suzanne, born there mid-tour. It really is perfect. The weather is always warm, we have no windows or even screens, only louvers to close for privacy. Rain comes in showers and leaves just as fast. Flowers are everywhere. The war is over long enough that living standards on the AFB are comfortable.

mom on reef

Mom on the reef at Tumon Bay. Look how far away the beach is!

We are cautioned to not stray too far away from civilization because Japanese soldiers still hid in the hills. We mostly stay on base. There is hardly any civilization to stray away from anyway. Agana, the capital, is a tiny village. There are a couple of public beaches. You have to wear shoes because the coral will cut your feet. But the shallow warm water with no dangerous marine life is a child’s playground. It only gets deep beyond the reef.

We are warned to never get on the reef. A rogue wave can wash you off. Into the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. Of course Dad has to urge Mom has to take on the challenge. Tumon Bay (you don’t want to click on that link, you really don’t) is our favorite beach. Dad can take our jeep (no seat belts, no doors) from the top of the towering limestone cliff to the sandy beach at the bottom in seconds flat. Beats any roller coaster I’ve ever been on. We swim. We bring our own lunch and snacks. We find incredible shells in tiny caves along the shore. We gather coconuts that fall from the palms. Take them home and after way too much work get to the succulent meat inside. The folks that visit Tumon Bay today haven’t the foggiest notion what slice of paradise they’ve missed.

The Little Shop of Sass


Filed under Beach Life, family, Life on Guam

Why Is EASY so Hard?

easy goingIt’s not really.

1. Unschooling is the home school term. Provide the materials and motivation for the basics and let the rest fall in line. As a young teen, Stephen read an article in 3-2-1-Contact on Basic programing, kept following that thread until now he is a lead developer for PhishMe. I hadn’t a clue until recently. Unknown to me until all was said and done, Andrew decided that Lewis (middle school) needed to take college level Calculus in summer school  at College of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City where he was directing the theater department and also taking classes before heading off to UNC-CH. And so he made it happen.

2. Bare butt training is the potty transition technique. Warm weather, or even a warm house, and a naked toddler body go together. Skip the diaper, provide a convenient porta-potty, clean up the mess (you do that anyway) and they’ll soon figure out the better way on their own.

3. Running on your own clock is the jogging lead. I used to run for set miles or set miles within a set time and drove myself crazy if I didn’t measure up. Now I run for a set time, never check the miles and really enjoy myself. I sprint, jog, walk occasionally but mostly to answer a text, or observe wildlife. I write. This blog, all the kids’ books I have in my mind. And I make up great stories about all the folks I pass.

4. Tossing a mixed salad and adding in some protein is the dinner throw down. After child number four was born I quit cooking. Not completely. But planned meals became a thing of the past. We ate healthy. I made a salad every night. The rest just fell in place. Pasta some night. Grilled cheese. Bean tacos.

Designed by soon to be dil's brother's girl friend's dad. Got that right? Thanks Staples!

Designed by soon to be dil’s brother’s girl friend’s dad. Got that right? Thanks Staples!

5. Making your own choices is the Camp OBX easy. When the grands come here for summer camp we provide a safe environment, a comfortable bed, lots of food options and transportation where ever they may want to go. The balance is up to them. They call all the shots. When they eat, what they eat, when they sleep, whether they get dressed. The ball is in their court.

6. Vacuuming every month or so is the new Tina Tidy’s advise. That is what my avatar name used to be. I was a zealous cleaner. Then when the last child rose from the floor (mano a mano with dust bunnies daily is a bit much) and walked in earnest I locked the vacuum in the closet. I let it out occasionally.

If you thrive on structure that’s your easy. If it drives you to tears, press the button. It’s that easy.


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Filed under Beach Life, family