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This Day of Infamy – Pearl Harbor – An Author’s Tribute

On this day, I’d like to pay tribute to all those who served on that day December 7, 1941, and either lost their lives, or survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Specifically, I’d like to honor my Dad, Joe, who served aboard the U.S.S Vestal in WWII as a Chief Petty Officer.

Taken from the information gathered from the U.S.S. Vestal 1988 reunion booklet, “The U.S.S. Vestal compiled one of the longest records of continuous naval service of any Navy ship. Though the U.S.S. Vestal had neither the appearance or grace of an ocean greyhound, her heart and spirit were an inspiration.”

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She first came into service in 1914 during the Vera Cruz affair, followed by service in World War I.

“At a time when most ships are faded memories, U.S.S. Vestal, at the age of 32, was awaiting the then, unknown attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December, 1941. Anchored alongside the battleship U.S.S. Arizona, where she had moored several days before, some of her crew had gone ashore to church. Others were carrying on the ship’s work and the rest were making the most of a Sunday routine.”

When the attack came, General Quarters sounded, and all hands dispersed to battle stations. The ship’s three-inch gun began booming, even though it was the only gun used in action.

“A bomb hit forward, going through four decks and exploding in the general stores storeroom. A moment later, a second bomb hit after of the quarterdeck and went through the carpenter shop, down through four decks and the double bottoms. By now, the Ole Vesta, was blazing like the goddess she was named for, as the forward bomb had started fires in the hold and was endangering the ammunition in the forward magazines. The bomb hit aft had opened the hull plating and water was gushing in.”

We all know the fate of the U.S.S. Arizona.

Commander Cassin Young received the Medal of Honor, for his heroic efforts. After the U.S.S. Arizona exploded, with extreme calmness, he moved the Vestal to an anchorage distant from the Arizona, beaching it, thus, saving his ship.

Dad received orders after the U.S.S. Vestal was repaired and set sail in August of 1942 to the South Pacific. He told tales of going ashore on New Hebrides where the shipmates traded candy and cigarettes with the island natives in exchange for a good night’s sleep on the beach, while the islanders kept a watchful eye for enemies.

During his tour, Dad visited the South Pacific islands. I imagine those landscapes must have been untouched at that time. Dad spun tales of throwing a boomerang on the beach in Australia, and yes, it did come right back to him! I still have that boomerang – it hangs above the door from the kitchen to the garage, in an upward position – catching all the luck and good fortune it can.

I discovered that as a molder, it was his duty to dive underwater to repair submarines. I didn’t learn this until after he had passed away. Maybe this is why I have such a passion for scuba diving and the underwater world.

Did you know that during the two months that followed August 29, 1942, the Vestal completed 963 repair jobs for 58 ships and four shore installations? Saratoga, South Dakota, New Orleans, North Carolina and five destroyers were just some of the ships.

Anyway, I could go on and on. But I won’t.

All I know was, he was my hero.

I cherish a crumbling photo album he compiled from the 1940’s, displaying photos of Mom, my brother, my aunts, and his friends in the service, places he’d visited, communique’s, and items he cherished – one being the letter Mom wrote to Dad announcing the birth of my brother, Richard.

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I even found a small business-size card inducting him into the “Ancient Order of the Deep” as a “Trusty Shellback” for crossing the equator aboard the U.S.S. Vestal on August 20, 1942 signed by Davy Jones and Neptunus Rex, bearing two red seahorses and an official imprinted seal. (smile)

My only wish – that I knew ALL the stories he had to tell, not just bits and pieces.

People, if you have the time, sit down and listen to your grandparents and parents tell their stories. Ask them details, find out what happened the day you were born, talk about historic events – because time is precious. Before you know it, it’s flown by, like a gust of wind.

If you get the chance, visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii. It’s hard to even comprehend the ‘big’ picture of what happened that day, until you visit.

Oil still surfaces from the depths of the U.S.S. Arizona today in pools of rainbow hues. Some say it’s the souls of those who perished. It’s such a somber and emotional experience.

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My thoughts and prayers go out to all those families today, of those who served in World War II. May you all have a blessed Christmas.

Peace out and Love,

Sheree

 

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A Salty Dog, South Walton, & a Romantic NYE

DSC_0577 Captain Pam Smiile N Wave

On a spring visit to the Destin/Santa Rosa Beach area of Florida, Russell and I, craving a hearty sea adventure, headed west to nearby Destin Harbor for a relaxing gulf catamaran cruise with Captain Pam Kane and Smile N Wave Sailing Adventures.

Some might say Captain Pam is a salty dog. As a girl, she even missed days of school to help crew on a friend’s sailboat to feed her passion.

Her 31-foot custom built catamaran equipped with 43-foot mast, and Bimini top, offers tours for swimming, snorkeling, visiting the grass flats, searching for sand dollars, and romantic sunset cruises. Even though it was a cloudy day for us, we still enjoyed our time on the water, hiking out on the aqua-colored net, feeling the cool sprays of ocean on our legs, and getting to know more about Captain Pam.

Pam started sailing about thirteen years ago and calls the ocean “God’s bathtub.” “If you can’t be happy on the water, you probably can’t be happy anywhere.”

“On moonlight cruises, it’s so peaceful. The dolphins are usually active, and meteor showers are common. What’s neat is that there are more than 30-50 dolphins all local to the area.”

The more Pam and I talked, the more I felt like I’d known her for a long time. She just had one of those easygoing personalities, ocean spirits, and sweet souls.

Her greatest joy is witnessing excitement on people’s faces, especially first timers  – first time sailing, and first time in the gulf.

“People love relaxing, and the quiet solitude of being on the water,” Pam says.

So if you’re in the Destin area, go support a local business. You might just have the time of your life.

(The story on Captain Pam didn’t make it into my published AAA Southern Traveler story, but check out the story below to see what did.)

AAA South Walton Style pg34 Nov Dec 2017

AAA South Walton Style pg35 Nov Dec 2017

A Thousand Sunsets…

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The last week in August, my husband, canine kids and I, spent four glorious days in Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a quaint inn with cabins in picturesque Ephraim, Wisconsin.

Marinas and docks dotted the curvy shoreline, and sunsets were spectacular. We set aside 90 minutes each evening to meander to the inn’s private dock, complete with white Adirondack chairs.

Four evenings brought lively conversations with other guests from the inn – a family with a young boy who loved to fish, a baby boomer couple who wiled away hours during the day searching for the perfect winery, a grandma with her children, and their children who gave the dogs repeated hugs, and a doctor and her husband who hailed from flooded Houston, but were afraid to check texts and voice messages for fear they would be homeless when they returned.

Just as the people we met were unique, so were the sunsets – pastel pink clouds, blue violet strands dancing across the glassy bay, ebony silhouettes set against golden-hued horizons – no two alike, painted by God’s hands.

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And no matter how routine our sunset ritual seemed, I welcomed the hand-holding with my husband, and the dogs’ tags jingling as we stepped lightly across the two-lane road, to settle on the wooden Adirondacks. I never tired of this. It was our time to chill. No schedules. No worries. No expectations. Nature doing what nature does best, in all its splendor.

During the day we visited new coffeehouses, ice crea20170827_192050 cherry crumblem parlors, creameries with homemade gelato, chocolate establishments, gift shops or restaurants or markets selling cherry-themed products – cherry crumble, cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry jam, cherry granola, cherry juice, and cherry spumante. You name it, we tried it.

We hiked along fairy-forest paths that paralleled aquamarine harbors, sank our feet in sandy beaches sometimes tripping over pebbles, stood atop cliff outcroppings with lofty expectations of jumping in (well, at least my husband), traipsed through sunflower fields, visited art galleries, observed an authentic fish-boil from the porch of our tiny cottage, and frequented dog-friendly cafes and restaurants. A special thanks to Buttercups Coffee in Egg Harbor for loving on the dogs so sweetly.

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I’ve not felt this relaxed since our anniversary trip to Pearl Harbor, and the grandiose waterfalls, beaches, and stunning scenery in Maui, Hawaii.

But of course, travel back to that familiar place is inevitable – home.

Last evening, I listened for the beauty at our abode –

It showed me favor in the crisp fall air with crickets chirping, coyotes wailing, the faint sound of a motorcycle revving its engine in the distance, the monotonous hum of our refrigerator, and the sound of voices from the television on the lower level.

Four cats reposed in harmony – one cleaning and preening velvety fur and precious paws while sniffing night air, another curled up on the sofa, one more playing hide and seek in the tunnel of the kitty city condo, and one waiting at the garage door for Daddy to come home from a long day’s work.

Two goofy canines slumbered on the king size master bed complete with tons of throw pillows. They dreamt of running as they yelped and fidgeted.

It’s nights like these I cherish the ceiling fan pushing cool air downward from the open window as I nestle ‘snug as a bug’ under the covers.

It’s times like these that remind me of the thousand sunsets of my life I’ve been lucky enough to share with loved ones, by quieting my mind, and realizing that beauty is universal.

Stop. Listen. Observe. Feel.

Quiet your mind, and look for the sunsets in your life. What you’ll discover might just be amazing!

Peace out and love,

 

Sheree

 

 

Just Listen for the Beauty

This has been a popular post; so I’m sharing with you again.

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I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

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I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

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Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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The Spirit of Aloha

My husband planned a surprise trip for our anniversary, and presented me with the itinerary at my birthday dinner. We’d be traveling to Hawaii – three nights on Oahu, eight nights on Maui.

Maui garnered a spot on my bucket list for quite some time, and I was truly excited to visit the land of breathtaking landscapes and exotic flora. Along our journey, everyone we met greeted us with a warm Aloha – a Hawaiian expression of love, hello, and goodbye.

Here are some examples of Aloha I experienced while visiting the islands.

  • The Arizona Memorial – 1,177 men lost their lives on December 7, 1941. The somberness and quiet solitude touched me as I observed the oil still spilling to the surface of the water from the ship. Some say it’s the souls of the lost sailors. I’ll always remember the feeling that overcame me – one of emotion, one of loss – an Aloha goodbye.20170428_092710 oil copyr
  • Al Rodrigues, the 97 year old Pearl Harbor Survivor, we met outside the Arizona Memorial gift shop signing his book. He hugged us so tight when I told him my dad was on the USS Vestal that was moored next to the Arizona.
  • The wild, windy southern shoreline of Black Sand Beach and Makena Beach was a welcome ‘hello’ as we strolled the seashore for shells and photo opportunities.
  • A warm Aloha evident in the latte art in a cup of espresso from Bella Surf Café.
  • The exotic coastline, mixed with the cool evening air at Surf’s Up, a hidden gem and lookout point on a mountaintop. It’s so peaceful there, you can hear your voice echo. The sunsets on the west side of the island are phenomenal.

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  • Rachel and Anthony, a young couple we met at sunset at Surf’s Up. They were loving life traveling this great land, spreading the spirit of Aloha.
  • The white, friendly dog and smiling lady at Julia’s Banana Bread roadside stand along a dangerously, curvy mountainside street.

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  • The brackish cliffs near the Nakele Blowhole, and the untamed ocean.
  • The road to Hana with 617 turns (some hairpin curves) and infinite drop-offs.
  • The hike to the pristine pools beneath Twin Falls, and the way my body felt when I stepped gingerly into the midnight-hued cold water. The rushing sound of the falls was delightful.
  • The tangy taste of a Lilikoi tart at Kula Bistro.
  • The refreshing dessert, named ‘Coconut’ at the Mill House Restaurant. A mix of white cake, chilled coconut sorbet, and coconut meringue mirrored the look of a mini Baked Alaska, and tasted like a cool slice of heaven.

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  • Our farm to table anniversary dinner at Pacific O Restaurant while gazing at the sunset.
  • The fragrant aroma of eight varieties of lavender at Ali’I Lavender Farm high in the Kula Mountains.

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  • The foggy mist on the side of the mountain near the lavender farm.
  • The King Protea in bloom.

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  • The paragliders floating along the mountaintop in Kula.
  • The wind in my hair, and the sun on my face aboard the Trilogy catamaran.

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  • Ladies with plumeria, gardenia, and pikake tucked behind their ear lobes.
  • The romantic sounds of the Hawaiian language and their meanings conveyed through song.

These things and more, I find to be the spirit of Aloha for me – a lingering and everlasting feeling of love, hello, and even goodbye.

For Hawaiians, the Spirit of Aloha is a way of life – spreading kindness, compassion, and grace. Their values – ‘to care for, and do what’s right’. Sustainability to all natural resources is key in Hawaiian life – evident in the vegetation, the flora, the food, the people, the farms, the animals, and the waterfalls. I felt refreshed by the universal beauty around me, and invigorated by the friendliness of the Hawaiian people.

And isn’t that what life’s about — embracing our aloha, giving back to community, to the environment, and each other?

Peace out and Aloha,

Sheree

Lighthouses, Beaches and Waterfalls – Oh My!

Last year I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, not once, but twice!

I was invited on a press trip by the Pure Michigan group (puremichigan.org) to visit the Keewenaw Peninsula with a group of journalists at the beginning of summer. At the end of August, I visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond, with my hubster and two canine kids. Many of my adventures included lighthouses, beaches, waterfalls, and great food.

Here’s my 5-page feature story with photographs published in May/June AAA Midwest Traveler. It’s also online, as well.

Hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did!

Peace out,

Sheree

AAA Midwest Trav - What's Up in MI 001 copy

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Just Listen for the Beauty

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

DSCN1326 sunrise copper harbor copyr

I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copry