Monthly Archives: June 2012

When Simple Is Simple

When a story starts with Once-upon-a-time, I guess the ending is pretty predictable. Suspense officially wrecked here. Let me make it up to you.

Allow me to introduce you to a little slice of celestial coast on the Florida panhandle called Seaside. If you’ve met this town before, great. Consider this an amble down memory lane. The Truman Show was filmed here. Keep-It-Simple isn’t just a mantra in these parts. In fact, does Seaside even have a zipcode to bind it to the rest of the otherwise hurried world? I’m not sure that it does. Check out the post office. 


Seaside, Florida is tucked loosely away at the top of the Gulf on a road known to locals and guests as 30A. I particularly love that the scenic highway is named in such a way that it sounds almost cellblock-like. 30A. Yet another of life’s unique ironies. Life down here can make even Andy Griffith’s ole’ Mayberry feel breakneck. Tourists who choose this little part of the Redneck Riviera as a respite from the real world will rave about the white sandy beaches. Don’t get me wrong. The beach is all that and more.

Truth? Seaside beats out the Turks and Caicos destinations of the world every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Paradise found right here in the Central Time Zone. The cottage town is one of New Urbanism’s best success stories. It pulls off this superlative with an impressive pile of little reasons as attractive and clandestine as that shell atop the ivory dune.

Seaside’s 10 Best Kept Secrets


  • The wall-mounted rusty bottle opener in the Airstream Food Court. It’s the little things. It always has been. My son was stymied by the fact that his soda wouldn’t twist open. Do you remember the sound that happens when you use one of these? Ah, sweet hiss of summer exhale. If you don’t remember, then it’s been too long for you. Get thee to the ice bucket. P.S. No it’s not the same with a handheld opener. It just isn’t. The same way that a Vespa is not a Harley. Sorry. 


    • The outdoor showers. I can vouch for the al fresco fab factor on showers at two of the cottages. I am certain there are many more. The homes affectionately called Changes-In-Attitudes and Big Pink have exceptionally noteworthy showers outside. If you’ve ever ambled in from a sandy day at the beach with the tangible stench of happy beach body, you know the appeal of an outdoor shower.  Just trust me. It is the closest way to experiment with being a nudist without ending up on the internet. Clean towel? You’re so money (forgive Swingers reference). 

    • Pavilion personality. With street names like Odessa and Ruskin, each gateway to the beach does not disappoint. Noticing travelers (the only kind that should gain entry to this perfect little town) will want to spend a day drinking in the various Pavilions and each one’s unique architecture. There are around ten such unique gateways to the sea. Every boardwalk serves as a specific street’s spillway onto the sand. There is an obelisk one on Coleman Road. A pelican one on Pensacola. And my favorite? East Ruskin, hands down. I am already prepared to wish my marital vows a happy 20th birthday atop it in 2023. Not to mention, the landmarks are great markers for kids drifting with the gentle tug of undertow on the boogie boards. Many times last week, I caught myself saying to the junior beach bums, ‘Come back when you float to the pelican’


    Above: East Ruskin Pavilion


    Above: Sketch of Pensacola Pavilion

    • Bookstore with a sandy floor. True, I’ve never really met a bookstore that I didn’t like. But this one is different. Call it the vibe. Call it the ambiance. This one calls itself Sundog Books and is situated on a charming caddycornered spot in the Seaside square. If the bookstore doesn’t fit your mood, it sits beneath an equally cool Central Square Record Shop. How vintage chic is that? A record shop. Can we go ahead and Portmanteau the words quaint and cool? Very quool. The children’s section at Sundog is superb and the handmade cards are a fantastic loitering spot for stand-up-and-read comedy. 

    • I wear my sunglasses at night. Not quite. But I do ride my bike at night down here. It seems to be the favorite mode of tranport in Seaside. It’s like the Pied Piper (ocean) started playing and everyone is in lazy pursuit of nothing in particular on two wheels. This, of course, means fewer cars. And if you’re like me, cars are a carbon-huff-n-puff reminder of the real world. And the real world is not welcome here. If your tikes aren’t quite roadworthy yet, fear not. Seaside offers weeride rentals wherein your kiddo can co-pilot behind you tandem style. You do the pedaling, they can even ride handsfree and devour the ice cream cone, dribbling it from chin to toe while you provide the tow.

    • Cobblestone streets. What exactly is it about a cobblestone street? I am still trying to figure it out. I think that there is some comfortable rhythm that life reciprocates when you bike or walk on cobblestone. Something that is reminiscent of speed bumps. You know those things we barrel over at home that are only meant to encourage us to slow down. Perhaps the nature of a cobblestone street just screams (or whispers) pedestrian to me. Pedestrian=Beach Pace Friendly. Cobblestone is also not high-heel friendly. I don’t need such a good excuse to wear flip flops day and night but I’ll take it.
    • Rooftop Bar At Sunset: Bud & Alley’s. Let me rephrase that. Rooftop + Sunset + Bud&Alley’s = Bucket List Material. And if you need further convincing that this venue begs your presence, just check out this pic. My kids, your greeters. And no gremlins allowed after 10pm. Next stop, cocktail, mocktail, waves, and a playlist that I would certainly like to hijack for my itunes account.

    • And this. Whatever this is called. Every once in awhile, your bike ride or nighttime walk to Heavenly for a scoop of gelato (how long am I allowed to make this list?) will require a glance up at the cottages passing by. And more than every once in a while, you’ll spy window panes like this one. Call it what you want. Starfish in a series? Silhouette de beachy keen? I call it accidental art. It is everywhere down here.

    • The Meltdown. I’m not speaking of the human/child tantrum. The Grilled Cheese Kind of Meltdown. Seaside has an outdoor Food Court of sorts arranged neatly in toe-to-head Airstream trailers landscaped nicely to compliment the grassy amphitheatre beyond. Honestly, I would drive 16 hours round trip on a monthly basis just to eat from these food trucks. But the grilled cheese menu at The Meltdown is either something sent straight from the heavens or sent from the netherworld to tempt us. Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil & Prosciutto is a perfectly legitimate way to sin if you ask me. Even Anthony Bourdain would be drooling in this well-worth-it line of patrons. The line moves quickly. No such thing as rushed here. 

    • The Porch Swing. Is there anything more quintessentially southern than a porch swing? A place to sit and surrender to gravity. Who can argue with that? If there is any one piece of nostalgia that reconciles the good life to me, it is a porch swing. And there is no shortage of them in Seaside. Have a seat. With your grilled cheese. Or your book. Or both. Or better yet, a boy. 

    Callie and Matt before the walk to Bud & Alley’s. 

    I guess I should go ahead and admit this blog was my way of procrastinating instead of putting away the clean laundry from the trip. It beckons so I must oblige. We all must find that one way to stretch happily-ever-after out a bit longer when we are lucky enough to find it. But make no mistake about it. Henceforth, SPF is a completely new acronym around here. Seaside, Por favor. 

    And finally, a few of my favorite pics. Just a few more won’t hurt. That’s a wrap on Summer Vacay 2012. Don’t for a second think that the countdown hasn’t started to 2013. 


    Olivia & TJ, Age 6 and 8



    The Padre at a Sunset Shrimpout on the beach.


    The man, the myth, the legend…The husband with Liv.


      The Stretch


      I can feel it. Can you? Election tremors. Just here and there. The ground makes a growly sound. Feels like a grip on an aluminum baseball bat in winter. Occasional but serious reverberation. Twitter, Facebook feeds, sermons, signage, and just general brink-of-mayhem behavior pervade the air out of the blue between episodes of Mad Men. I will be the first to tell you that I don’t consider myself a political person. But it’s not because I don’t have strong opinions. Oh, I have opinions. We should all have opinions. Opinion means that we are thinking things over, that we care enough to spend energy exerting our beliefs, that we want to hand this country over to our kids in such a way that their hard work as national and global citizens will be worth the toil. Opinions are important. But opinions take energy AND, unfortunately, energy is a finite resource. I would like to think that if we are going to flail and tumble down the road kicking and screaming about something-  that it really and truly matters to us. But I can already tell that I may need to take an indefinite hiatus from social media until after November. I already feel like screaming CAN’T WE JUST ALL GET ALONG? It is only June.

      After I saw some recent meme out there on someone’s feed aligning Obama with Hitler, I have decided that instead of bitching, moaning and defriending-left-and-right (no pun) about it…that I might write about it?

      Here’s the deal. I don’t care if you hate Obama. I’m sorry to hear that. Hating someone requires high energy expenditure. So does changing a nation in distress. Let’s all cut each other a bit of slack without having to understand each other’s intent fully. Let’s all just say we want what is best for this nation, shake on it and play nice. I’m not sure you can find one American right now that is singing praises of our status quo. I’m not. But this lopsided boat we are in wasn’t built or sunk in a day and slinging loads of mud in it sure isn’t gonna help it sail again.

      I just have a favor (ok, 3 of them) as we head into election ’12 time:

      Can we:

      Assume Goodwill

      Harder than it looks. Let’s assume that we all want what is best for this country even if our stance seems to be an accomplice for sending us all to hell in a handbasket. 

      Frame It In The +

      Tell me something positive your candidate has done or pledges to do. Educate me without making me feel stupid. I don’t watch the news that much. It is depressing and this is why I ration it.

      If you don’t have something nice to say, say it to your wall. My wall here at home doesn’t care. I think it even appreciates that I don’t blow some of my gripecentric mess out into the world. We’ve had plenty of oil spillage this decade to last a lifetime. Let’s clean up a mess- not make one by attacking one another’s beliefs.

      -Acknowledge Accomplishment Whether You Travel By Donkey or Elephant

      I mean if you really want what’s best for this place we call home, can’t we all just give a little bit of credit where credit is due? I recently heard that there were a few naysayers lined up to dog the First Lady’s initiative to help raise a healthier generation of kids through her “Let’s Move” program? Go grab some kids and start a garden. That’s energy better spent. One of the best ways that we can fix healthcare is to get a grip on this obesity epidemic (and consequently, the skinny jean epidemic, just for me, while we are at it). 

      When I bear witness to folks bickering over politics, it stresses me out. Not gonna lie. I feel like I’m in the middle of a twisted family fight with two stiffarms holding spitting, rabid foes at bay. I’m not naive enough to think that this plea will fix anything. But at this rate, I’ll take one singular amen to agreeing to play this election stretch just a wee bit nicer than planned? It will make a difference to someone, somewhere. I promise. Swear on my voter’s registration card. And if all else fails, I’m just going to wear that helmet you see up there and referee. I don’t like that helmet. It doesn’t go with much of my wardrobe but I will wear it if necessary.

      P.S. I don’t know why this blog decides to switch fonts on its own. It will not permit me make a uniform edit. One minute it’s Arial, the next Times New Roman. I guess to illustrate a damn point, I’m just going to let it have a mind of its own. We can just agree to disagree, Lords of the Font, ok?




      D. Is For Diva


      If you have any doubt that your kids are in command, try finding a way to go to the bathroom solo during their first five years here on planet Earth. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that their longings and aspirations are suddenly your longings and aspirations, the boat tends to right itself a little (maybe every other day) and the sails catch some wind- among other things


      Olivia: “Mom, I want to be in the Nutcracker.”

      Me: “Awesome”

      (That very afternoon)….Adult boots up computer to google local dance schools. Prods the public via Facebook regarding which one is the best. Downloads the entire composition history of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on iTunes. You Tubes Sugar Plum Fairy and forces kid to watch- but she ends up mostly staring at me watching the screen with an overload of goofy grinning and nodding.

      Fast forward.

      Last weekend. Dance recital weekend. 

      Hello. My name is Shannon, and I am a Dance Mom. 

      Mind you, Ballet was one-third of what we ended up signing up for in the end. There is also Tap and Hip Hop in the apparent Nutcracker for which my daughter aspires. And gold hair glitter. And four (counted them 40 times) costumes at $80 a pop. Not including alterations. 

      Yes, that sound is the dear Tchaikovsky pirouetting in his grave. It is also the sound of my pocket change hitting a therapist’s bank account.

      Dance has always been one of my favorite corners of the arts. Never a dancer myself (save a few tables that I choose not to discuss), I love to watch people dance. I wish that the The Nutcracker would run year-round. And all of the other genres are equally fascinating. Name your vernacular. Jazz, Modern, Swing. Michael Flatley, Cirque, Stomp, Line, Belly Dance. Ok, even the Electric Slide. Olivia and I were actually lucky enough to watch the Nashville Ballet troupe rehearse for the Nutcracker last fall. I had chillbumps the whole time. When I yelled, “Look, that’s the guy who plays Drosselmeyer!” about some recognizable guy in sweats and a wifebeater, Olivia turned pink and leaned over to get an imaginary piece of lint behind her seat.

      So, I thought that I knew what I was signing up for with this dance thing. And I did. Not.

      Over the course of the weekend, I:

      -Nearly fainted from lack of time to eat. These performance weekends are no damn joke. Made a cold cloth from the high school auditorium’s inabsorbent bathroom paper towels for my forehead. The first time I have been allowed solo in a loo since I can remember.

      -Hot glued my fingers together trying to mend a sudden hole in another child’s much too small costume. I am lucky that I am not being sued for causing that one some emotional distress. Hoping to rush the statute of limitations on that if possible.

      -Learned that 9 year olds do, in fact, require deoderant. Did not know that. There is just nothing sugar plum-like about discovering this the hard way. It induced what can only be classified as morning sickness on a non-prego person.

      -Learned that other moms are freaking nuts. And if their kid’s tap shoelace flies out during their time on stage, it will be YOUR fault as a backstage mom for not double-tying it tight enough. At age 9. Or as I now like to call it…108 months.

      -Learned that my daughter likes to try to do the worm to entertain others while waiting for her stage call. On a carpet littered with more bobby pins than Joan Rivers has botox pricks. This, mind you, will invariably result in ripped (make that gashed)  tights when it is much too late to replace them. 

      And so while the show was a HUGE HIT after ten months of practice and preparation…and I cried proud tears …and we slept for 12 hours straight on Sunday, I have learned one other irreplaceable truth. That it is fun and HARD work to support someone else’s dreams. Almost as FUN and HARD as chasing your own. 

      Bigger Truth? I would do it all over again and probably will. Does that mean that I won’t make a hard sell with some cleats and a lacrosse stick pretty soon? Yes, I will be doing that. In fact, heading to the sporting goods store sometime this week. Bank on it. And bank on the fact that I can do a helluva Dougie myself now. Free lessons if you want. Bring your own Tchaikovsky and wine. 



      (My dancer, age 8, the morning of the big show. June 2012)